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10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

 

Who doesn’t enjoy a walk outdoors in nature? The fact that nature settings are less and less accessible to those who live in cities should be concerning, especially with respect to overall health and well-being. The fact is, however, that continuing research shows nature has multiple benefits for your well-being.

More than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas and that proportion is projected to increase to 70 percent by 2050. Despite many benefits of urbanization, studies show that the mental health of urban dwellers is negatively affected by their city environment, with greater prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders and an increasing incidence of schizophrenia. Finding that bit of green space in cities or spending time in nature visiting rural areas may do more than provide a temporary escape from concrete, steel and glass.

Being in nature improves creativity and problem-solving.

Ever been stumped, hit a wall, unable to arrive at a well-reasoned decision? Most people have, at one time or another. It isn’t coincidence that talking time out to be in nature can result in a subsequent creativity surge and/or the sudden realization of a workable solution. Beyond that, according to 2012 research published in PLoS One, there is a cognitive advantage that accrues from spending time in a natural environment. Other research published in Landscape and Urban Planning found that complex working memory span improved and a decrease in anxiety and rumination resulted from exposure to natural green space.

Individuals with depression may benefit by interacting with nature.

Research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2012 suggested that individuals with major depressive disorder who engaged in 50-minute walks in a natural setting showed significant memory span increases compared to study participants who walked in an urban setting. That participants also showed increases in mood was noted, the effects were not found to be correlated with memory, leading researchers to suggest that other mechanisms or replication of previous work may be involved.

Reductions in anxiety levels may result from green exercise.

While exercise is nearly universally recommended as a means of improving overall health and well-being, the benefits of green exercise have recently been studied relative to how such activity reduces levels of anxiety. Researchers found that green exercise produced moderate short-term reductions in anxiety, and found that for participants who believed they were exercising in more natural environments, the levels of reduction in anxiety were even greater.

Urban and rural green space may help mitigate stress for children and the elderly.

Relief of stress is an ongoing goal for millions of Americans living in urban areas, as well as for residents of cities across the globe. For children and the elderly, access to parks, playgrounds, gardens and other green areas in cities can help improve the health of these groups vulnerable to some of the challenges of urbanization.

Reduce stress by gardening.

Gardening can produce more than food for the table or aesthetically pleasing plants and landscaping. Working in the garden is also beneficial for reducing acute stress. So says the research from Van Den Berg and Custers (2011) who found reduced levels of salivary cortisol and improved mood following gardening.

A nature walk could help your heart.

Among the many health benefits ascribed to being in nature, say scientists, is the protective mechanism that nature exerts on cardiovascular function. This is due to the association between improved affect and heat reduction from natural environments in urban areas. Other research found that walks in nature reduce blood pressure, adrenaline and noradrenaline and that such protective effects remain after the nature walk concludes. Japanese researchers in a study published in 2011 suggested that habitual walks in a forest environment benefit cardiovascular and metabolic parameters. Another Japanese study of middle-aged males engaging in forest bathing found significantly reduced pulse rate and urinary adrenaline, as well as significantly increased scores for vigor and reduced scores for depression, anxiety, confusion and fatigue.

Mood and self-esteem improve after green exercise.

A 2012 study published in Perspectives in Public Health found that study participants, all of whom experienced mental health issues, engaging in exercise in nature activities showed significant improvements in self-esteem and mood levels. Researchers suggested that combining exercise, social components and nature in future programs may help promote mental healthcare. Research by Barton and Pretty (2010) found that both men and women experienced improvements in self-esteem following green exercise, with the greatest improvements among those with mental illness. The greatest changes in self-esteem occurred with youngest participants, with effects diminishing with age. Mood, on the other hand, showed the least amount of change with the young and the old.

Green space in a living environment increases residents’ general health perception.

Not everyone lives in a natural environment, where abundant trees and open space provide welcoming respite from everyday stress and a convenient outlet for beneficial exercise. However, the addition of thoughtfully-planned open spaces in urban environments can add to city dwellers’ perceptions of their general health. That’s according to 2006 research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Nature can improve the quality of life for older adults.

As adults age, they often experience diminished quality of life due to medical issues and mental health concerns. In a 2015 study published in Health and Place, researchers found that nature exerts an influential and nuanced effect on the lives of older adults. They further suggested that a better understanding of how seniors experience both health and landscape will better inform methods to improve daily contact with nature that can lead to a higher quality of life for this population.

Natural environments promote women’s everyday emotional health and well-being.

Sedentary lifestyle in urban environments has been lined with poor mental health among women. Yet, it’s more than just getting up from the desk in an office environment and taking a quick walk that works best to augment overall emotional health and well-being. There’s increasing evidence that public access to natural environments helps women to alleviate stress and anxiety and facilitate clarity, reassurance and emotional perspective.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

Combat Stress With Mindful Walking

10 Ways Stress Harms You

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10 Proactive Ways to Figure Out What’s Most Important to You

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Life offers infinite variety, along with myriad challenges and opportunities. It’s easy to get lost in indecision with so many choices. You want success, yet wonder if you’re on the right path. You’d like to have balance in your life, but there are so many conflicts that you often find yourself spending energy too much in one direction.

What’s happening here is a lack of prioritization, of figuring out what in life is most important to you — and then acting upon it. While not life-threatening, a failure to identify what is most meaningful to you can erode your quality of living. To ensure that you have the most opportunities to live a full, happy and productive life, you must zero in on your key priorities. Here are some ways to do just that.

Identify the most important people in your life.

When you care about someone, they are important to you. Sometimes, however, we take loved ones, family members, friends and coworkers for granted. This does both them and us a disservice. By listing the most important people in your life, you make a conscious effort to recognize and value these meaningful relationships. Since man is a gregarious creature by nature, tending to those closest to you is a practical, effective way to make the most out of life.

Think about what you most enjoy doing.

For some, it may be arranging floral displays, trying out new recipes, walking at sunset with a loved one. Others may most enjoy sports and recreational activities, or reading books, listening to music, participating in spirited debates. Whatever you most enjoy doing is obviously important to you. It is more than passing time or relaxing. If you take the time to identify what you like doing the most, you are more likely to make room in your life to take advantage of those opportunities. In the process, besides identifying what is most important to you, you will also be acting upon that knowledge.

What qualities, skills or talents do you have?

Looking back at your life, what qualities, skills or talents would you say you have? When you were a kid, for example, were you great at marbles, ping pong, sledding, multiplication tables, spelling bees? Did you find you excelled in science or English or math? Are you skilled in carpentry, landscape design, building things, figuring out how to fix what goes wrong? Do you lose yourself in artistic expression, creating something from nothing? There is a strong likelihood that what is most important to you is deeply embedded in these qualities, skills and talents.

List your highest achievements and accomplishments.

In line with analyzing what you believe you do best, take some time to jot down the successes you’ve had. It doesn’t matter if it’s a huge accomplishment or something minor. What does matter is the feeling the result gave you. When you are proud and excited about your accomplishments, you experience joy and satisfaction in life. It is also a good hint that these are important to you.

Ask your friends, loved ones and family members to list your best qualities.

You might think you know your best qualities or strengths, but you might over- or underestimate what you’re good at. Besides, you are not very objective when it comes to self-analysis. That’s why asking those who know you best what they believe are your best qualities is illuminating. You might discover, for example, that you possess keen analytic ability, something you haven’t tapped or put to effective use. Maybe it’s your compassion that is most impressive. Or, the fact that you listen well and are supportive of others in a way that’s empowering and uplifting. Once you know what these qualities are, you can decide what, if anything, you want to do to take advantage of them. There is something here that is important to you. Perhaps asking others to help you identify them is a painless way to figure this out.

While it might be challenging, you don’t have to sacrifice a goal because it’s too difficult.

One of the saddest things to witness is someone giving up just as they are about to reach their goal. We’ve all done this, not that it’s anything we like to admit. Granted, some goals are incredibly challenging. They’re difficult, expensive, take an inordinate amount of time, or require resources and allies that are hard to come by. The secret to holding fast to a goal that seems out of reach is to parcel it into pieces. Take it apart and identify stages or steps. By focusing on the next stage instead of the end goal, it’s easier to make the effort necessary to see this phase through. Over time, you’ll pass through various stages on the way to the goal. That’s how you achieve even the most challenging goal.

You can still pursue your dreams and make ends meet.

Maybe you find yourself stuck in a job you don’t like. You took it because you needed the money and stick with it because things haven’t changed financially, or because you can’t see a way forward. It’s time to ditch this dead-end thinking and map out a plan to make changes that allow you to both pursue your dreams and take care of your financial responsibilities. It may be that you decide to back to school to get additional training or pursue or finish a degree. What you learn in the process, the people you meet, the opportunities you are exposed to can make a profound difference in your outlook. In addition, be sure to maximize your leisure and recreational pursuits. If you love skiing, schedule some ski trips. If painting is your forte, get busy creating in the medium of your choice.

Deal constructively with the depression or anxiety and may have stood in the way of doing what you want.

Fleeting sadness or anxiety is a normal part of life. The emotions, while not without pain, can motivate us to make necessary changes. Prolonged depression or anxiousness, however, will only be alleviated with professional help. Perhaps medication and/or therapy is in order. If you find that these powerful emotions are standing in the way of doing what is most important to you in life, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get the help you need.

Get past the feeling that you’re not good enough.

Most of us have felt the sting of disappointment, either that we didn’t live up to our own expectations or those of someone else. Overt or covert criticism, biting or harsh comments, the gradual shifting away of friends and colleagues just adds to the sinking feeling that we’re not good enough. Yet, others don’t define us and we should never allow them to act like they can. The only way to be good enough is to believe that you are. Since no one can make you do anything and only you make the decision how to live, choose the option that’s affirmative and uplifting. Select what gives you the best likelihood of achieving the outcome you desire. Give it your utmost effort, attention and diligence. If you do the best you can do, you’ll always be good enough. In fact, you’ll be better than just good enough. You’ll be right where you want to be.

What makes you happy? Do that.

Happiness is like sunshine. It makes you feel good, envelops you in warmth, and costs nothing. Yet, how many times do you walk away from happiness and instead involve yourself in some task or activity that’s boring, uninvolving, repetitive, endless or unproductive? If you want to be happy in life, think about what makes you happy. Find a way to insert that pursuit or activity into your everyday life. It might be walking in nature, working in the garden, whipping up a culinary delight, playing with the children, making love to your partner. Whatever it is, this is something important to you, something you value highly. Be sure to do it as often as you can, with full presence of the moment and joy that you can have this experience.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.

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How to Manage Your Anger

how-to-manage-your-anger-photo-sollers-unsplash

Photo by Sollers, Unsplash

Anger is a much-misunderstood emotion. While powerful and often intense, anger can also manifest itself in subtle ways. It can motivate you to act or compel you to take inappropriate action. It’s also somewhat unpredictable, in that you may not always know when you’ll get angry, not understanding the triggers. Pent-up anger can lead to physical complications such as cardiovascular disease. Learning how to manage your anger is important, especially if you’ve noticed you’re experiencing this emotion more frequently or intensely.

Slow down and listen.

Let’s say you find yourself in a discussion with a co-worker, family member or friend and it starts to get heated. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Instead of blurting out an angry retort, hit the pause button. Think of what you’re going to say before it comes out of your mouth. Slowing down will also help you figure out what’s behind the words — yours and the other person. If your partner feels like you’re not spending enough time with him or her, for example, you can adjust your behavior and your words to recognize this fact and do something about it.

Say hello to humor.

Laughter is a wonderful antidote to negativity and anger. It helps you put things into perspective and helps you not take yourself so seriously. When you feel like you are up to the brim with hostile thoughts and must stop yourself from saying or doing something out of anger, turn instead to lighter fare. Watch a comedy. Go to a website with humorous quotes or jokes. Be sure to avoid sarcastic humor, though, as that is counter-productive.

Put some relaxation into your life.

There’s a lot to be said for learning how to relax and how that helps you deal with anger in a much more proactive and constructive way. Whether you engage in deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation or a walk outside in nature, putting relaxation techniques into your daily schedule will loosen you up and help soothe angry feelings.

Switch your routine or environment.

If bottleneck traffic gets you riled up, try driving alternate routes on your regular commute. If you can’t stand the mess the kids leave in the living room that greets you when you walk through the door, go in a side door. Or ask your partner or an older child to clear away the biggest piles so it isn’t so noticeable. Sometimes it’s also about changing the timing. For example, let’s say you and your spouse or partner always argue at night. This could be triggered by stress, because you’re exhausted, just looked at the mountain of bills, don’t feel well, or are anticipating an argument. Make an appointment to discuss pressing matters at a different time so that your evening can be more enjoyable and relaxing.

Change the way you think about things. Psychologists call this cognitive restructuring and it simply means reordering the way you think about things. You replace negative thoughts and words with those that are more reasonable. Instead of saying you failed and will never succeed, tell yourself that this was a disappointing result, makes you feel frustrated, but it’s not life-threatening. You will have other opportunities to succeed.

Here are some other tips:

  • Words to remove from your vocabulary (and thought processes) include “never” and “always.” These are ultimatums that back you into a corner. It’s better to give yourself some leeway.
  • Be conscious of goals. When you always have something to look forward to, it’s a little easier to look beyond an immediate emotion, such as anger. You can take the next step toward accomplishing your goals instead of stewing in anger.
  • Remind yourself to be logical. People aren’t generally out to get you and their words and actions aren’t normally vindictive. Things just happen sometimes. By reminding yourself that this is a temporary rough spot you’ll help to deflate angry feelings before they become unmanageable.

When to Worry

While you can learn how to manage anger, there are some warning signs that should be heeded. You may need help from a psychologist or other mental health professional if the following occurs:

  • Your relationships or work begin to suffer because of angry outbursts.
  • You’re afraid you might hurt others or yourself.
  • You feel like your anger is getting out of control.

 

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Related post:

8 Ways to Let Go of Anger

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5 Tips on How to Get Started When There’s Work to Do

5-tips-on-how-to-get-started-when-theres-work0to-do-photo-geran-de-klerk-unsplash

Photo by Geran de Klerk/Unsplash

“A feeling of aversion or attachment toward something is your clue that there’s work to be done.” – Ram Dass

 

Ever wake up with a feeling of dread about some project or task you’ve got on your list of things to do today? This is a common feeling that no one likes but must learn how to deal with. There are also times when the opposite is true. Sometimes you wake up knowing what you must do today and just can’t wait to get started.

Either feeling – aversion or excitement – is a clear sign that there’s work to be done and you need to do it. The way you deal with either emotion will affect not only your motivation to keep going,

particularly when the going gets rough, but also the resulting outcome.

How can you turn dread or anticipation into action that makes sense, is effective, and allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem? Here are some tips to help get you started.

  • Take a minute to process the emotion – and don’t be overcome by it.

No doubt the prospect of diving into a mountain of tax receipts on deadline is the last thing you want to do, or you might just be so eager to get on the road on your vacation that you slip and fall out of bed. Take a minute to process whatever emotion you’re feeling before you get up. This gives your mind time to arrive at a game plan and put your thoughts in order before you need to do the work. Be aware that conflicting emotions can occur simultaneously. That’s OK. Acknowledge them, then proceed.

  • Learn to separate what’s nice from what’s necessary.

Both will not be true. You might find it pleasant to think about taking a swim in the ocean but you know that report for work demands your immediate attention. It might feel great to lounge around all day in your sweats but you’ve got clients to see, and such attire is no way to make a good impression. It’s fine to indulge yourself in thinking about what’s nice, but don’t dally. Get on with what’s necessary. The bonus here is that by dwelling briefly on what beckons gives you temporary satisfaction before you dive into the work that must be done.

Either take projects in order or arrange them according to a prioritization that works for you. Do the most difficult one first to make some headway at it, or start with some quick and easy ones you can get out of the way so that you feel a sense of making progress. Once you finish one, cross it off your list. This is a visual reminder that effort equals accomplishment.

  • If you’ve fallen behind, work out a plan that won’t overwhelm you.

Everybody gets swamped at times. Instead of tossing your hands in the air and writing off the project or task as hopeless, figure out a plan or approach that will be effective and won’t overwhelm you. This is a case where the intention to underpromise and overdeliver will pay off nicely. You’ll gradually become accustomed to the pace you’re comfortable maintaining and can better estimate the amount of time and effort specific tasks will take.

  • Recognize that work – what you do — is the best way to show who and what you are.

Another way to get started with work to be done is to keep in mind that your output is a clear way to show others who and what you are. Since no two people approach a project the same way, this shows your uniqueness, talent, decision-making ability and willingness to keep going until the job is done. You want to put forth your best efforts. This requires that you jump in and act. Perseverance, willingness to accept responsibility for your output and taking pride in your accomplishments are all part of what it takes to get the job done.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.com http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/01/01/5-tips-on-how-to-get-started-when-theres-work-to-do/

 

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How to Be Flexible With Your Perceptions

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How to Be Even More Effective

Success Means You Make Things Happen

 

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10 Tips to Start the New Year Right

10-tips-to-start-the-new-year-right-photo-by-tim-marshall-unsplash

Photo by Tim Marshall/Unsplash

It’s 2017, time to get off on the right foot. All the procrastination, stuffing yourself, indulging to excess, staying up too late – that’s got to go. Replace those bad habits and pure laziness with healthier behaviors.

Trust me. It’s not that difficult.

If you want to jumpstart a pattern of living life to the fullest, feeling joy and fulfilment as well as peace, some of these tips may be just what you need.

Set Your Priorities

You must set your own priorities. Never let others do this for you. The corollary to this advice is to never allow others to impose their priorities on you. To live according to someone else’s wishes is no way to enjoy life. That’s a charade, not something you want to pursue. When you make your own choices, prioritizing what’s important and what’s not, you’re in control. This is a top recommendation for starting off the new year right.

Be Accountable

Remember that what you do has consequences. Every word and action you take has reverberations, many of which you may never know about. People look up to you and model their behaviors after yours. Live with integrity, owning your responsibilities as well as your faults, making good on the mistakes you’ve made.

Prize Self-Improvement

Make it a point to continually improve. Whether it’s learning a new skill, taking a class, getting involved in a hobby, working on interpersonal communication or something else, self-improvement is integral to living a vibrant, purposeful life. The goal is to achieve the best you can, to be the best person you can be. Accept nothing less.

Know Your Limitations

In your drive to improve yourself, keep in mind that you must know your limitations. This doesn’t mean that you don’t push past your comfort zone. You need to do that to grow. Push, but not too far.

Recognize Opportunities

You can train yourself to recognize opportunities. In fact, being able to identify an opportunity is the first step toward success in any new endeavor.

Rely on Your Strengths

There are going to be rough times, periods when the only thing you’ve got going for you is your inner strength. This is what you call on to get you through problems, tragedies, pain, sorrow and suffering. It’s also your inner strength that will help you navigate complex situations, difficult challenges and obstacles.

Maintain Balance

It’s important to maintain a sense of balance in life. If you veer too far out in one area, rein it in. It doesn’t matter if its work-home balance, or diet-exercise-sleep balance, or another kind of balance. What does matter is keeping things in harmony. Lack of sleep and pushing yourself mercilessly won’t result in success. Just the opposite, in fact. But maintaining good self-care, recognizing stress and employing adequate coping strategies, taking time for fun and relaxation – these will help you maintain balance. Now’s as good a time as any to get started.

Be Genuine in Relationships

One of the most powerful resources you have can be summed up in one word: relationships. But just having mere acquaintances isn’t enough. To gain the most from relationships, you need to be genuine always. No phoning it in. A key aspect of being genuine is learning to be an active listener.

Speak Clearly

How many times have you thought one thing and said another? It’s no wonder others misinterpret your intentions. You’re not being clear. People aren’t mind readers. If you want to convey something, speak clearly. It’s also important to say what you mean and do what you say. This builds personal integrity, inspires trust and makes others view you as reliable.

Dream Big

If you’ve given up on something that you once thought important, maybe it’s time to revisit that dream or goal. Just because the time wasn’t right before doesn’t mean it is lost for good. With respect to goals and dreams in general, dare to dream big. Nothing inspires and motivates like a heartfelt goal. Consider the fact that if it means so much to you, it’s something to aspire to and figure out ways to bring the dream or goal to reality. This last part is vital. It’s not enough to dream. You must be willing to act on your intention.

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Related articles:

5 Ways to Find Peace of Mind

10 Quick Ways to Take a Much-Needed Break

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

 

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10 Ways Lies Hurt You

 

Photo by Matt Sclarandis/Unsplash

Photo by Matt Sclarandis/Unsplash

Who hasn’t told a lie from time to time? Maybe just a half-truth, but still a falsehood? Whether you’ve learned from experience that lying gets you ahead or destroys what you thought you had, lying will always have a profound effect. What you may not realize, however, is just how negatively lies and lying are. Here’s a look at 10 ways lies hurt you.

  1. The more you lie, the easier it gets.

Like a sled rocketing down an icy slope, repeated lies begin to spew out of your mouth without any effort. You’ve gotten away with it, suffered no ill consequences and have no governor on your tongue to keep your lying at bay. After a short time, it’s just easier to lie than tell the truth.

  1. The more you lie, the bigger the lies you tell.

What begins as a small lie never stays that way. One lie begets a slew of offspring, sometimes related, often just hanging around like ill-tempered friends. Think of a lie as a snowball, first small and accumulating in size as it rolls downhill. It’s also impossible to make a lie smaller once it’s begun to grow. Thus, the more lies you tell, the bigger they get.

  1. Lies destroy relationships.

No relationship can flourish on a foundation of lies. If you can’t rely upon a partner, loved one, close friend or co-worker to tell the truth, how can you put your trust in that person? When you know someone is a liar, it creates a chasm across which you’re increasingly reluctant to travel. In the wake of lies, relationships founder and fail or become quashed before they have a chance to begin.

  1. Lies trigger the release of stress hormones.

A lie isn’t just words that come out of the mouth. Precipitating the verbalization of the lie is a build-up of stress hormones. You get excited, releasing cortisol and readying you to combat the effects your lies might create. Long-term spikes in cortisol are bad for your health, creating a perfect stage for developing serious medical conditions.

  1. Lying uses a lot of negative physical and mental energy.

When you lie, you must constantly think of how to spin it, where there’s a nugget that others may cling to, how much they’ll be able to buy before beginning to question the veracity, how to keep others from finding out the truth. In short, it takes a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy to construct this negative and elaborate form of communication. That’s energy better spent doing positive things.

  1. Constant lying builds a false sense of reality.

It doesn’t take much time at all for you to begin to believe your own web of lies. In fact, the reality you inhabit is false. It just seems real to you. The more you lie, the more out of touch with reality your life becomes. You may not even recognize the truth anymore, let alone voice it – even to yourself.

  1. Lying creates a vicious cycle.

It’s often been said that once a lie is out of your mouth, there’s no putting it back. What’s also true is that lying sets into motion a vicious cycle. To exist, knowing that you’ve lied repeatedly, you must perpetuate the lie, rigidly adhere to it despite all proof to the contrary. Lying is a spiral that is nearly impossible to escape from.

  1. Lies are a way to avoid the pain of living.

Many people tell lies to mask the pain they feel in their lives. They don’t like that they have no or few friends, so they create imaginary friendships and boast of their connections. Pathological liars are all over social media, along with everyday fabricators who seek to maximize their made-up accomplishments to make them feel better about themselves and convince others of their superiority. This doesn’t work in the long run as constant lying is a sign of some serious deficit in the liar’s emotional well-being.

  1. You waste time covering your tracks.

While there’s much good you could be accomplishing in life, when you habitually lie, you’re going to miss out on opportunities because you spend so much time covering your tracks. This is time wasted, time you’ll never get back. It’s also increasingly impossible to cover the trail of lies you’ve told. Sooner or later, you’re going to get found out. Dreading that eventuality won’t make it go away.

  1. Lies extinguish hope and trust.

The accumulation of negativity because of lies has another life-altering effect: It destroys hope and trust. Not only is the liar incapable of trusting others or finding hope in any situation, he or she has drained all hope and trust in himself or herself. Life becomes bleak and dreary, indeed, when all there is to look forward to is a never-ending litany of lies.

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10 Tips for Less Stress During the Holidays

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

If the sounds of Christmas carols playing in the malls make you cringe, it could be you’re letting the stress of the holidays get to you. With so much to do and so little time to get it done, this seemingly-innocuous musical reminder just adds more fuel to the fire. You’re primed and ready for these 10 tips for less stress during the holidays.

  1. You Don’t Have to Do Everything

Where is it written that you must be the poster person for everything done and everything right for the holidays? If you’ve assumed this mantle willingly, now’s the time to toss it aside. It’s impossible to be perfect, so why should you pursue perfection? The biggest hurdle for you to overcome is your own self-expectations. Tell yourself – and listen so it takes hold – that you don’t have to do everything. This is the first step to much less stress this holiday season.

  1. Know Your Own Limits

You might think you’ve got everything under control, even after you’ve told yourself that you don’t have to do it all, yet you still push yourself beyond what’s realistic. When you wind up haggard and exhausted at the end of the day, don’t look forward to tomorrow’s to-do list, start shortchanging your own well-being in a constant quest to do more, you’ve got to stop. Here is where you must know your own limits and never exceed them. You’ll be tempted, but don’t succumb.

  1. Make Your Boundaries Clear

If you haven’t let others know what you will and won’t do, you need to make your boundaries clear. Let them know it’s not OK to automatically expect you to host the big holiday dinner, just because you may have done so in the past. Times change, other responsibilities may take precedence, or it’s just not equitable, besides no longer being fun. Don’t think that others can guess what your boundaries are, however, because they can’t. Most won’t want to. You must tell them.

  1. Shop Online

The best thing that ever happened with holiday shopping, in my opinion, is the ability to easily, quickly and seamlessly do almost all of it online. Free shipping, discounts, extra gifts, suggestion lists, cash for purchasing via sites like eBates.com and TopCashBack.com are all excellent for easing this type of holiday stress.

  1. Watch What You Eat

Gobbling a sandwich on the run, skipping meals, eating unhealthy snacks and eating too much are all a recipe for increased stress, if not a serious medical condition. The human body requires nourishment, not junk food. Eat sensibly, in moderate portions, at the appropriate times and regularly. Not only will you have more energy, with good self-care you’ll be better equipped to deal with the stressors you’ll encounter during the holidays.

  1. Get Some Good Shut-Eye

Just as eating too much, too little or the wrong kind of food can increase your stress level, insufficient sleep is a huge contributor to added stress. It might be tough to get 8 hours of sleep each night, especially if you wait until the last minute to wrap presents, clean the house, launder the holiday linens and make sure all the decorations are in good shape, but this is one area you can’t afford to ignore. Remember the tip about knowing your limits and not trying to do everything? When it’s time to go to bed, go. You need your sleep.

  1. Steer Clear of Alcohol

Another big culprit in holiday stress is alcoholic consumption. One drink won’t kill you and probably is fine – unless you are in recovery, do crazy things with the slightest sip of alcohol, or some other reason – but keeping up with the party-hardy folks is just going to land you in a tight spot. Maybe literally, as in handcuffs from drinking and then driving. Just say no. Drink something festive and non-alcoholic. No one will care. And this is a safe choice that will cut down on your stress level as well.

  1. Begin (or End) Each Day with Something You Enjoy

If you want to have something to look forward to, begin or end each day with something you enjoy. Maybe that’s a massage from your partner, a specially-prepared latte, a hot bath or soothing shower, listening to your favorite album, taking a mindful walk outside, working in the garden. What it is matters less than you derive pleasure from doing it. The release of endorphins you get from doing something you enjoy will dramatically reduce your stress.

  1. Enlist Help and Make It Fun

Since there’s a finite amount of time and you only have so much energy to go around, one way that you can reduce your anxiety and stress during the holidays is to ask for help. If you also make it a fun activity, there’ll be less chance others will resent the request. Furthermore, if everyone pitches in, the task or project will get done that much quicker. Be sure to let others know you’ll reciprocate. It’s more than a grand gesture. It makes them even more willing to lend a hand.

  1. Cherish the Moments

Think about what it means to you to have your loved ones and family members to spend time with this holiday season. What you take for granted, others would gladly trade places to experience. Also, time goes by quickly. The moments you cherish and share now will be loving memories later. Love is a healing balm that can magically erase stress. Be open to it and soak up every minute with those you care about.

* * *

Related articles:

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

How Your Memory Suffers with Poor REM Sleep

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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10 Ways to Make Mondays Better

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

Photo by Albert Amor/Unsplash

No matter what you do in life, you can’t escape Mondays. You can dread them, try to avoid them, delay the inevitable by coming up with all sorts of excuses not to do what you must, but Mondays will still arrive each week like clockwork. The best you can do is figure out how to embrace them. Here are 10 ways to make Mondays better that may change your mind about this day of the week.

1. Have something to look forward to when work is done.

Nothing motivates more than the prospect of doing something enjoyable after the workday is done. What that is doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you put it in your schedule. Having fun, spending time with loved ones and friends, working on a hobby, participating in sports or a recreational activity, engaging in an educational pursuit, shopping, writing or whatever gives you a positive endpoint to your Monday that puts a lift in your step and jazzes your spirit. Mondays may even turn out to be one of your favorite days of the week. If not that, at least they’ll be more pleasant.

2. Get to work early.

Sleeping in, trying to grab the last few winks, throwing the alarm clock or jangling cellphone across the room won’t do anything to make your Mondays better. What may give you a leg up, however, is becoming an early riser — getting your legs out of bed a little earlier than usual. Go for a half-hour ahead of your normal wake time. That’s sufficient to help you gather your thoughts, prepare for the day, allow for unexpected traffic, weather or last-minute family details and get to work ready to go. Stopping for your favorite latte along the way is another reason you might want to get up earlier.

3. Go big.

Many employees put off the tough and difficult tasks until they’re smack against a deadline or the boss is banging on their door looking for answers. Another way to make Mondays better that seems counter-intuitive is to charge ahead and tackle something you know is important and demands your full attention. While it causes you to work a little harder than you probably want to first thing Monday morning, the sense of accomplishment and progress you’ll feel be getting to it is a huge boost to your self-esteem, self-confidence and overall well-being. Besides, the boss will likely take notice, and that’s always good for raising your work profile.

4. Prepare with good self-care.

If you’ve made a practice of partying until all hours from Friday night on, chances are you are still hung over or feeling the effects of such disdain for your well-being. You can turn this around by instituting good self-care. In addition to getting sufficient rest (forget the three hours of sleep; go for 8 hours), eating well-balanced meals (and no late-night snacking), cutting down on alcohol and curbing smoking, find other ways to relax, restore and rejuvenate. These include meditation, yoga or Pilates, walks in nature, listening to calming music, self-reflection and prayer. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. Greeting Mondays with a healthy body-mind-spirit makes the day so much better.

5. Map out time chunks.

Instead of looking at your to-do list with a grim demeanor and a sinking feeling that you’ll never get it all done, try this: map out time chunks. For example, if you have a report that’s due tomorrow, allocate one to 1-1/2 hours or so to work on it today. If it’s something critical, move everything else aside until you get it done. Set aside a half hour to tend to emails at a scheduled time, not whenever they come in. If you must answer emails from your boss, give them a priority with an alert. The point is to arrange your day in time chunks. This provides a sense of order and a schedule you can easily follow.

6. Craft a plan.

For any project or task, your best approach is to craft a plan. How will you arrive at the result you’re looking for – or that someone else demands? What resources do you need? Will you need the assistance of others? Are some elements missing? How will these items affect timing or delivery? With well-crafted plans, you’ll boost your self-confidence, knowing that you’ve taken variables into consideration and have a workable approach to pursue.

7. Take mini-breaks.

You can’t go breakneck speed without a break, not unless you want to risk crashing to a dead stop along the way. Exhaustion, physical or mental, work stress, tension, irritability, anger, disappointment and other negative effects from working nonstop will take their toll. Ward them off by the simple and quick practice of taking mini breaks throughout the day. Walk to the water fountain on the next floor. Get up and stretch. Do isometric exercises. Close your eyes and meditate. Take the stairs to your next meeting instead of the elevator. Whenever possible, walk outside instead of within the building so you get some fresh air and a different perspective.

8. Go somewhere different for lunch.

Like having something to look forward to at the end of the workday is the idea of going somewhere different for lunch. If you always brown bag it at your desk, go to a park or somewhere in your work complex to eat. If you go out for lunch only on Wednesday or Friday, switch to Monday to give your first work week day a changeup. Not only will this brighten your day, it will make it speed by.

9. Skip coffee and go for a walk.

Coffee may be a workday staple, but it doesn’t have to be a boring routine you’re locked into. For one of those times you’re headed to the coffee room or vending machine, skip the brew and indulge yourself with a brisk 10-minute walk. Outside is best, but even a walk in the building will suffice. You’re getting up and moving, always good for mental stimulation and physical exercise.

10. Celebrate all the things you accomplish.

While you’re busy working on Mondays, be sure to take the time to celebrate all the things you accomplish today. It may seem like a trivial thing, but giving yourself credit for your hard work is important to your sense of completion, tending to your responsibilities, seeing the fruit of your labors, and making progress. It also helps make Mondays better. What better way to start the work week than with a string of accomplishments?

* * *

Related articles:

10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

5 Tips on How to Make Plans

Time-Saving Tips for Early Risers

How Do You Get Ready for the Day?

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

* * *

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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Forgetful? 8 Tips to Help Memory

Photo by Stefanos Martanto Setyo Husodo/Unsplash

Photo by Stefanos Martanto Setyo Husodo/Unsplash

 

“We try many ways to be awake, but our society still keeps us forgetful. Meditation is to help us remember.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

The days leading up to a holiday are often filled with chores, errands and obligations. Not only do you find yourself with endless lists of things to do, but you often neglect good self-care in the process. No wonder you forget details, fail to live up to your obligations, or walk around in a fog.

Everyone has bouts of forgetfulness from time to time. It’s generally nothing serious and doesn’t linger. If forgetfulness does become persistent and begins to cause problems in your life or that of your loved ones, see a doctor to rule out any medical issue.

For the occasional memory problems, however, here are eight tips that may help.

Learn how to make and use lists.

Far from being a bother, lists are very effective in helping keep track of important tasks and goals. When you take the time to construct a list, you’re removing the burden of trying to keep too many things in your head. By eliminating this logjam, you’re freeing up memory. Listing things on paper is much simpler and more effective than juggling, and dropping, them in your head.

Get a good night’s sleep.

Lack of sleep is one of numerous causes of forgetfulness. In addition to waking up grumpy, insufficient sleep messes with your memory. You forget details, don’t remember what you told yourself the night before was important. The solution is to make it a habit to get a good 8 hours of sleep each night, more if you’re a teenager or young child.

Avoid drugs and alcohol.

As the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) warns, one of the ways alcohol affects the brain is by impairing memory. Memory deficits can occur after only a few drinks, increasing in length and severity with more drinks consumed. Binge drinking – consuming five or more drinks in about 2 hours for men, four for women – causes blackouts. These are serious episodes where you wake up and don’t remember anything from the night or day before.

Drug use, whether prescription or illicit substances, can produce similar impairment in memory. Some drugs also interact with other medications and significantly impair memory when used in combination with alcohol.

The best way to protect your memory is to avoid drugs and alcohol, especially to excess.

Meditate.

Clearing your head of all the conflicting messages can give you more than just peace of mind. It can also aid memory. For centuries, people have been practicing meditation to produce a sense of harmony and balance, as well as the calming influence it bestows. And studies have shown that mindfulness meditation helps with attention span and memory. When you meditate, you’re not shutting off all thoughts as much as you’re acknowledging them and letting them go. The resulting peace of mind disentangles those internal conflicts you felt and allows your memory to recalibrate. Also, try mindful walking to ease stress and help with memory.

Do one thing at a time.

Unless you’re a professional juggler, you can’t juggle more than one thing at a time. In a similar manner, trying to do more than one thing at a time is likely to result in a less-than-favorable outcome for both. Not only that, but you don’t focus completely on the task at hand, thus splitting your concentration and causing your memory to work overtime when it doesn’t have to. The clear solution is to do one thing at a time. Then you can move on to the next item, task, project or goal with a clear head and a sense of accomplishment.

Eliminate distractions.

How can you concentrate on a project that’s on deadline when you’ve got your social media messages flooding in, the phone’s jangling nonstop, you allow interruptions from your co-workers or seek out distractions to keep you from tending to the job? In addition to wreaking havoc with a work, school or home assignment or duty, constant distractions produce a confusing effect that’s bad for your memory. When you eliminate distractions, however, you facilitate full use of your mind without overtaxing it.

Make use of reminders.

Sticky notes, post-its, alerts, reminder calls and emails are a great way to keep from forgetting important things. There’s nothing wrong with using these to ensure you never miss what must be done. That way, even if you didn’t get enough sleep last night, are ill, overstressed, had too much to drink or too much on your to-do list, you’ll have a ready reminder at hand.

Take time to relax.

Not only do you not want to be that dull boy (“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”), but you want to have quality time for yourself. This means making sure that you take time to relax. Whether the relaxation takes the form of a hobby, walking outdoors, going to a movie with a friend, shopping, recreational activity or sport doesn’t matter. You and your memory need some downtime, time that you spend doing something you enjoy.

* * *

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Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

Photo by Kristopher Allison/Unsplash

Photo by Kristopher Allison/Unsplash

Are you stressed to the max at work? Feel like you can’t catch a break no matter how hard you try? The truth is that work stress will kill you if you don’t do something about it. But what should you do? Here are 10 tips to decrease work stress you can begin today.

Figure out what’s causing you stress.

Before you can begin to decrease work stress, it’s helpful to know what it is that’s causing you to be stressed in the first place. Are you taking on too many projects at once? Is your boss expecting too much from you and have you not mentioned any limitations to what you can reasonably do to him or her?

By analyzing what bothers you at work, you’ll be better able to pinpoint ways to effectively deal with the stressor. If, for example, you’re overworked, you must carve out some of those responsibilities and either delegate them or reduce them.

Your supervisor will be a great help in this area, although it might be tough to broach the subject. Construct a proactive approach. If you let your boss know that you’ll be able to finish X project within deadline if Y and Z are either delayed, assigned to a different person or team, or can be consolidated, he or she may be amenable to making some changes.

Take regular breaks.

Working non-stop is going to wear you down, increase stress and make you miserable. The only way out of this dilemma is to institute a practice of taking regular breaks. Even if you only get a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon, you can still stand up and walk around at regular intervals.

Instead of staring at a computer screen for hours on end, avert your eyes and gaze outdoors once an hour. These mini-breaks help you compartmentalize what you were doing and provide a buffer so that stress doesn’t exact too great a toll.

Cut down on tasks.

When your to-do list starts to resemble a phone book, you’ve got too much to handle. No human being can possibly tend to an overwhelming number of tasks, not to mention the unnecessary stress such an accumulation tends to produce.

The quickest and perhaps the only way around this is to simply cut down on the number of tasks. Streamline the entries, combining similar ones and deleting, delegating or deciding others. For example, if you have 30 tasks listed, see how many are necessary and which ones are perhaps holdover items no longer relevant. Cut the list in half. That’s a good start. Shedding this amount of weight will lighten your load and help to decrease work stress.

Prioritize what’s necessary.

No doubt there are some work items that need to rank high on your to-do list. Your boss may demand action on a project, or you’re the head of a team working on a hot development. Some are time-sensitive, while others require the assistance of others only available for a certain period.

But there are also other items on your to-do list that don’t require immediate action. They may be better suited to a lower ranking on the list or even deserve their own list of tasks and projects for when there’s a lull.

Mark each item on the list in numerical order, with #1 being the most important and requiring prompt attention. You might even color code those items in the top five, assigning different colors to those further down the ranking of priority.

By prioritizing things, you exert control over what and when you intend to work on them. This alone will reduce the type of stress that often goes together with work-related duties and responsibilities.

Limit distractions.

When you’re trying to work on a task or project, listening to your co-workers’ conversations in adjacent cubicles or offices isn’t exactly conducive to productivity. Neither is having your email client notifications of incoming messages going to keep you focused on the work at hand. Constant interruptions of any kind drain your energy, scatter your attention and limit your ability to get work done.

What’s helpful is to schedule times to check emails, take or make phone calls. Turn off your email client, put the phone on silence mode and automatic answer. Tell co-workers you’re not going to be available for the next hour while you tend to an assignment. Most of all, don’t allow yourself to search for distractions to keep you from your work.

When you’re less distracted, you can concentrate on what you need to do now. This is a great way to curb stress at work and something very much in your control.

Confide in someone you trust.

When you’ve bottled all that stress inside you, you feel like you’re going to burst. That’s not a pleasant feeling and it won’t go away on its own. A huge help is finding someone you trust that you can confide in. This doesn’t mean you do a dump of everything on your mind. That will just succeed in exhausting you and your confidante. Maybe talk about the biggest thing that’s bothering you, the one causing you the most stress.

Also, be aware that you can go to the well too often. Instead of abusing your relationship with too many instances of crying the blues, balance your time with that person by doing other things. Ask about his or her problems and listen without jumping in to talk about your own.

Sometimes it’s enough that you have someone you can go to and talk over things. It isn’t always necessary to dwell on them when you’re with that person.

Meditate or try yoga.

You don’t have to be spiritual to get value from meditating. Think of meditation to get in touch with your inner self, whatever that concept means to you. Through the practice of meditation, you’re not forcing items out of your mind as much as you’re acknowledging their presence and then allowing them to dissipate. This is a huge boost in reducing work stress. You can take classes to learn how to meditate or teach yourself with the help of books, tapes and information on meditation websites.

Another way to decrease work stress is to practice yoga. Again, there are classes you can take to learn yoga as well as self-help instruction. There are numerous types of yoga, so you can check out what resonates with you.

Eat well and sleep better.

Too much stress at work also wreaks havoc on your health in other ways. You tend to eat inappropriate foods, eat too much or fail to eat altogether. You’re also likely to toss and turn at night, mind racing over things left undone at work, remembering something you should have done but didn’t, endlessly going over in your mind what’s on tap for tomorrow.

A key part of your quest to decrease work stress begins at home. You need good self-care: to eat well-balanced, nutritious meals and get a good eight hours of sleep each night. There’s no getting around the fact that your body requires adequate nutrition and rest to function properly. This includes the ability to fight the cumulative effects of stress.

Start to exercise.

You might think that scheduling time for exercise has no place in your busy life, especially given all your work responsibilities. Who has an hour to devote to something that doesn’t lighten your work load? When you exercise, your energy levels get a boost, your mood lightens, and you’re better able to channel the anxiety and stress you feel at work.

Furthermore, after a quick, brisk walk, riding an exercise bike or working the treadmill – or any other vigorous physical exercise that gets your blood flowing, heart rate increasing and oxygen coursing throughout your body – you’ll likely return to the task at hand with greater focus and a resulting increase in productivity.

Enjoy a recreational activity or hobby.

All work and no play is bad for your health. If you’re so caught up in work projects that you never have time to do things you enjoy, your life is seriously out of balance. It’s time to remedy that by figuring out something you can do away from work that, well, takes your mind completely away from anything related to work.

What the activity is doesn’t matter. It can be a recreational activity you do alone or with others. It can be a hobby you’ve long wanted to pursue or just discovered you have an interest in. Spending free time with friends, loved ones and family members also qualifies if this brings you a sense of contentment, love and fulfillment.

* * *

 

Related articles:

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

10 Ways Lists Rule

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

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Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

Photo by Molly Belle/Unsplash

Photo by Molly Belle/Unsplash

 

Are you lonely tonight? Do you feel powerless about how to combat loneliness? You’re not alone. But there are things you can do about it.

 

Loneliness is a powerful emotion that can be devastating in its consequences. Being alone and isolated has been shown to be an underlying factor in some of the most common health conditions, including depression, substance abuse and chronic pain.

 

This is borne out by the findings of a recent study conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of more than 2,000 American adults surveyed said they have felt loneliness, while nearly a third (31 percent) admitted to feeling loneliness at least once a week.

 

What Loneliness Is…And Isn’t

 

Do not confuse loneliness with being alone. You choose to be alone or solitary, sometimes to meditate or think through problems, sometimes for other reasons. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a state of mind. When you are lonely, you may feel unwanted, empty and isolated. Most lonely people desperately want contact with others but find it difficult to make connections because of their state of mind.

 

10 Effective Ways to Combat Loneliness

 

As dire as loneliness sounds, it can be overcome. Whether your loneliness is situational due to travel, business or other circumstances, or the kind that almost always accompanies the loss of a loved one or close friend, there are things you can do to combat it.

 

Get checked out. To rule out any underlying conditions, physical or mental, it’s important to get a thorough medical checkup by your doctor. This is especially true if your loneliness has spiraled downward into depression that lasts for longer than two weeks. If there is a medical reason at least contributing to your lonely feelings, your physician will be able to offer approaches to remedy the situation, perhaps with professional counseling, a prescription for medication or other treatment.

Recognize loneliness for what it is. Just saying you feel miserable isn’t going to make things change. You need to recognize that what you’re feeling is loneliness in order to make a decision to change.

Understand the effects of loneliness. Talking with your doctor and reading about the effects of loneliness will give you a clearer picture of how loneliness affects your physical and mental well-being. If you’re so lonely you don’t want to eat, for example, your physical and mental health will suffer as a result of poor nutrition. Once you know the ways loneliness is bad for you, you can concentrate on working to change those areas of your life that need attention.

Learn to be resilient. Instead of breaking under the weight of your problems and withdrawing even further into a shell of self-imposed isolation, work on cultivating resilience. Granted, this might seem impossible at first, but learning to bend with the wind and not snapped by its force will help you nurture resilience.

Adopt a positive outlook. When everything seems dark and hopeless, it might appear to be counter-intuitive to look on the bright side. Yet, when you adopt a positive outlook and see life’s possibilities instead of its negatives, you’ll find yourself more willing to go after opportunities. Furthermore, you’ll be more motivated to be with others and end your self-limiting isolation and loneliness.

Be sparing with social media. Connecting virtually with others on social media isn’t the same thing as one-on-one and face-to-face interaction. When you’re lonely, the last thing you need to do is immerse yourself on Facebook and other social networks.

In fact, studies have shown that social media addiction actually contributes to feelings of loneliness and depression. For now, go for a hiatus on using social media. At the very least, limit your time there. Get out and interact with people real-time.

Take care of yourself. When you’re lonely, you tend to ignore good self-care. You likely aren’t getting enough sleep, or the sleep you do get is fitful, interrupted, plagued by unsettling dreams. You wake feeling exhausted and even more lonely.

Sleep deprivation erodes mood, contributes to getting sick, saps energy and becomes an ingrained pattern. Along with ensuring you get sufficient, quality sleep, also work on eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, and getting a good amount of physical exercise.

Create a list of goals and plans to achieve them. Many times, when a person says they feel lonely, they also describe feeling that something is missing from their life. Spend some time to determine what that might be.

o Is it that you have no hobby or interest to devote your time to?
o Do you feel unable to make any progress in your career?
o Is the house just too empty?

Once you know what that missing piece is, you can work on finding potential solutions. Most of them, you’ll find, involve interaction with other people.

Take action. In order to stop feeling lonely, you have to take action. Sitting around the house feeling sorry for yourself is not the solution. If you identify that there’s no one in your surroundings that you can hang out with, join a club or group.
o Connect with others at work with whom you share something in common.
o Go visit your neighbors.
o Volunteer at church.

Making new friends and keeping your social calendar filled will help dispel loneliness.

Consider a pet. For some people, there’s nothing like a pet to help banish loneliness. Why is this? For one thing, pets need nurturing and attention. Along with feeding and grooming and cleaning up their mess, pets naturally gravitate toward displays of affection. They give as well as receive. As the pet’s owner, you benefit from this loving exchange. It helps you feel less lonely when you have your constant pet companion.

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Also see these articles for inspiration and uplifting messages:

7 Tips on Mastering Change
Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of is You
5 Tips on How to Make Plans
Stuck in a Rut? Tips on How to Break Free from Monotony

* * *

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my daily blog and more.

I also invite you to like me on Facebook, facebook.com/suzannekane.net follow me on LinkedIn, on Twitter, @SuzanneKanenet and Google+ .


Featured post

How to Be Fair to Yourself

Photo by Lance Anderson/Unsplash

Photo by Lance Anderson/Unsplash

“You cannot be fair to others without first being fair to yourself.” – Vera Nazarian

 

Are you quick to criticize others? Do you find fault in the smallest things? It might be that you lash out at others to mask what you don’t like in yourself.

And that’s not fair.

It’s not fair to you most of all, because you’re capable of so much more that you’re not giving yourself credit for.

If fairness is important – and it’s a highly desirable trait – what can you do to start being fair to yourself so that you can be fair to others?

This isn’t a trick question. It does, however, deserve some careful thought.

What is Fairness?

What does it mean to be fair?

When you consider a solution to a problem, several options or approaches likely come to mind:

  • You might brainstorm and arrive at these, or they may be suggestions from trusted advisors, friends, family members, co-workers or someone else.
  • Some you might toss out immediately as unworkable, impractical, too costly or time-constraining.
  • Other ideas you may mull over for a while before deciding which category they fall into: toss, analyze further, modify or use.

When weighing the pros and cons of each possible solution, giving credence to fairness should be part of the equation. Often, however, it’s not. Instead, other considerations take precedence, such as expediency, return on investment, instant recognition, catapulting to the top or edging out someone or something else.

Ask yourself, is that fair?

Don’t Sabotage Yourself by Being Unfair

Why do people fail to give themselves a fair chance? Why have you done this? Is it because of a feeling of inferiority or that something’s lacking? Is it that you never received encouragement as a child, have a history of mistakes or failures, or never believed enough in yourself to take a chance? Any or all of these could be underlying contributors to a lack of self-fairness.

And they’re all examples of sabotaging yourself by being unfair – to you, most of all.

Steps to Take to Be Fair to Yourself

But this tendency to self-sabotage can be overcome. You can learn how to be fair to yourself. It just takes determination and practice.

  • Think first. The next time you want to take an action and think about what it is you’re going to do, take a minute to think how this proposed action is fair to you – before you proceed. Are you doing yourself justice? Are you taking advantage of strengths and abilities you possess but haven’t allowed yourself to pursue? Or, are you doing what others tell you without any thought to whether it’s fair or not? Figuring out your underlying motivation will greatly aid in your goal to be fair with yourself. You have to know what’s driving your behavior before you can change it.

 

  • Commit to self-fairness. When you insist on fairness to yourself, you’ll radiate that sense of fairness to others. Indeed, after you diligently practice fairness, you will find it easier to be fair in your dealings with others. For example, instead of demanding employees stop everything to jump on a project you deem important, you’ll consider whether this is a fair request. This means putting yourself in their position, to understand how your request affects them. If it’s not absolutely critical, you may decide to alter the due date or timetable for completion, allowing for other high priority items already on your employees’ work schedule to continue. The positive reinforcement you’ll receive from grateful employees will add to your recognition that being fair to others starts by being fair to yourself.

 

  • Put yourself first for a change. Often, you’re the last person on your list. Everyone else’s needs are tended to before you even think about taking care of your own. That’s definitely not conducive to overall well-being. In fact, it sets you up for disappointment, increased tension and stress, and a general malaise and dissatisfaction with life. On the other hand, when you take your own needs into consideration, in conjunction with or ahead of those you know you need to attend to, you’re inserting balance into your life. After all, you need to do what’s right for you in order that you can do right for others.

 

  • Model fairness to others. Be a leader who models fairness. This type of leadership is inspirational and motivational. When you show others that fairness is important in all dealings, and being fair to yourself is part of that, you’ll be demonstrating an admirable trait of effective leaders. If you need any help with this, take a lesson from some of the world’s most respected leaders, from Winston Churchill to John F. Kennedy to Mother Teresa. They not only knew what was fair, they embodied fairness. Others, seeing such leadership, were inspired to insist on fairness in their own lives.

At the heart of living a vibrant and purposeful life is a fairness to self. Being fair to others will naturally ensue.

 

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Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel/Unsplash

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel/Unsplash

“When you look at the sun during your walking meditation, the mindfulness of the body helps you to see that the sun is in you; without the sun there is no life at all and suddenly you get in touch with the sun in a different way.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

A lot of people are scared off by the words “mindfulness meditation” and likely shy away from anything mindful. That’s a shame, because research shows that the practice of mindful meditation and mindfulness in everyday activities is powerful and effective.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to get involved with mindfulness is to begin mindful walking. To gain some insight into how meditation can work to help manage stress, I got in touch with David Lynch, Namaste Culture Limited, who practices in the United Kingdom.

Is there a simple statement you use to help people be more present – even if they are resistant?

Meditation can seem like a daunting prospect, especially if you’re already feeling anxious or low in mood. When addressing an audience who have little experience of it, I tend to talk more in terms of a practice that helps you still your mind, in the way that a run or yoga might do. I use terms like an invitation to experiment with a new approach to managing stress. I make reference to the findings of neuroscience and the many proven benefits of developing a regular practice.

What is a mindful walk? How do you do it?

It’s like any other walk with an extra focus on all the senses, exploring both internal and external landscapes, and their interconnectedness. It’s walking more slowly than usual, less concerned with the final goal, more engaged with the sensations of the body, and savoring the impact of the external world on the inner experience.

How long does it take while walking to let go of all the “noise” in your head and embrace nature?

Not long at all, although it can feel like a long time, if you’ve come straight from a busy office environment, where you’ve been very goal-focused. Walking outdoors in nature helps you to switch off, to disengage from fast thinking and problem-solving.

Suppose there aren’t any gardens near work or school or elsewhere to walk. How can you get the same effect otherwise? Can you walk up and down stairs, for example, and be mindful? Or do you need some calming influence you best achieve when in nature?

In some ways, it can be easier to walk indoors, either in a circle or in straight lines, where the invitation is to focus very much on your body’s internal experience, without the distraction of nature’s beauty. I think you have to be clear in your motivation to walk purposefully in a room, to be yourself on track, but once you get going, the rhythm of your body and the simplicity of the task soon stills your mind. Even 10 minutes on your lunch break can make a difference.

What are the specific benefits of mindful garden walks?

My experience is that the combined regenerative effects of walking in nature’s beauty, breathing fresh air and practicing mindfulness, results in an immediate uplift in mood and outlook. It’s as if these combined forces offer a fresh perspective on whatever your mind is grappling with.

How long do they last?

This summer, I was inviting office workers to a 40-minute experience, enough time to get back to the office during a lunch break. [This included] 10 minutes [of] instruction, 20 minutes walking and 10 minutes debrief and discussion.

Can you talk about the benefits of mindful walking to relieve stress? How does this work? Do you intentionally shut your mind off from stressful emotions, thoughts, etc., or do you go through a process of letting go?

Mindful walking helps relieve stress because the invitation is to connect with the felt experience of stress in the body and mind, the opposite off switching off from it, or suppressing the unwelcome and sometimes painful sensations of stress.

Walking works on at least two levels to relieve stress:

  • The mind is focusing on the moment by moment experience of the walking movement, the placing of the foot, the shifting weight from leg to leg, and not on the source of what’s inducing the stress response. Just keeping balanced and upright is enough to focus the mind.
  • The invitation is to acknowledge and connect with the sensations, emotions and thoughts, no matter how unpleasant and unwelcome, e.g. I can feel my heart racing, I feel nausea in the pit of my stomach, I notice my racing obsessing thoughts.

The additional benefit of walking in nature is that our mind’s attention falls on the sound of the rustling leaves, on the beauty of the light falling on the path, and gains a broader perspective on our experience. Suddenly, we note that we are part of something bigger and [better] than our stress response.

Is it better to walk with others or alone – or does it matter?

It’s probably easier to practice together when you first start, as it helps motivate you. However, once learned, mindful walking can be done anywhere and enjoyably by yourself; walking to work through busy streets, walking to your next business meeting. You just choose to do it with your attention on your felt experience, slow down and enjoy the sensations of walking.

How long does it take to make mindful walking a healthy habit?

Our program is for eight weeks, because that’s what the researchers/experts recommend to establish a sustainable meditation practice, to embed a change in our daily routine, to commit to a lifestyle shift in how we manage demands, responsibilities and stress.

Of course, it is not enough to learn mindfulness practices for eight weeks and then to expect the change to happen, without maintaining a daily practice, or at least regular practice. We’re talking lifestyle change. That said, I have trainees who have said that although they no longer meditate on a regular basis, they have learned the tools to address stress differently when it arises, and therefore benefit from the skills development, no matter what.

Any final thoughts?

I am no expert in mindfulness. I am a practitioner, a facilitator of learning, a coach, who has combined several professional qualifications (teaching, counseling, management) and 30 years’ experience to create an experiential model of learning that adapts to the learners needs and vulnerabilities. They learn, I learn, and I love my work.

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Also check out My 10 Favorite Summertime Stress-Busters and 10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress.

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10 Ways to Feel Good About the Money You Make

Photo by Jason Chen/Unsplash

Photo by Jason Chen/Unsplash

Money isn’t bad or evil. It’s what you do with it that counts. In fact, according to recent research involving two studies, money can actually contribute to happiness.

That’s money that’s readily available, not funds locked away in pension or retirement accounts or tied up in real estate.

Not that you shouldn’t allocate some of what you earn for either of those. You definitely need to plan ahead and likely want to invest in a home for the comfort and well-being of your family.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Joe Gladstone, a research associate at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and a co-author of both studies. The takeaway from the first study is that a bank balance may be more important to happiness than overall wealth. Meanwhile, the second study found that the things that you buy can result in you being happier, if they are a fit for your personality.

While this all sounds great, for those of us who’ve worked hard for our money and want to spend a little of it now, not 20 years in the future, here are 10 ways to feel good about the money you make:

    • What you earn is a reward for your hard work. Think of the investment you’ve made in your career, in learning new skills, getting a degree or two, pushing past failures and disappointments. The resulting financial largesse – call it your spending cushion or dream account – is very much a product of your continued effort. You deserve it. You should feel good about making it and spending it the way you like.
    • Money gives you freedom. When you have money, there are many things you can do with it. This freedom of choice also means you get to do something with it that makes you happy.
    • It can’t buy love, but it can help you love what you do with it. If you are an ardent skier, having some extra cash on hand can mean you take that ski trip to the Rockies this winter instead of putting it off for another year. If you love music and play it well, the money you put toward that grand piano or guitar will be music to your ears and fill your heart with happiness.
    • Since you can’t take it with you, it’s smart to spend some now. Your life insurance and named beneficiaries on pensions and other investments will ensure you take care of loved ones, but there’s no sense accumulating wealth and never doing anything with it while you’re alive. It’s no good to you after you die, so take some time and take some cash now to enjoy life.
    • Money helps reduce stress. If you’ve struggled most of your life to have two dimes to rub together, you know the value of having some money in the bank. Knowing you have this safety net helps reduce the levels of stress that a bank balance of zero never can. You have the added benefit of knowing that some unexpected event won’t wipe you out, and you’re not living paycheck to paycheck. As stress goes down, you feel the freedom to pay more attention to what matters in life. And that might mean using some of the money you make.
    • Having some makes you less needy and vulnerable. When you’re in deficit mode, having little or no money, there’s a tendency to be dependent on others, even to the point of being needy. You’re also vulnerable when you are penniless or strapped for cash. On the other side of the coin, having some extra cash – the result of your hard work – boosts your self-confidence and makes you feel more in control of your life. That’s a great reason to feel good about the money you earn.
    • A good bank balance can help you sleep better. Tossing and turning over an inability to stay on top of financial obligations is not pleasant. Your slowly growing bank account can benefit your sleep quality and duration since that’s one less problem you have to worry about.
    • Your intimate relationships may improve. Money problems and sex are two of the biggest conflict producers in intimate relationships. When money is not an issue because you have enough, that barrier can crumble. Besides, when you have some funds left over after paying the bills, think of the things the two of you can do to spend some quality time by spending some of that cash.
    • The focus isn’t on acquiring, but enjoying. The money you make has yet another decidedly enticing aspect: It allows you to focus not on acquiring and holding onto it, but enjoying the fruits of your labor.
    • You choose when and how to spend it. It’s your money. You worked for it. Outside of tending to your necessary obligations, what, when and how you spend your money is entirely up to you. At least it should be. There has to be some allocation, some mad money, some do-whatever-you-want-with money that’s yours.

 

After reading these ways to feel good about the money you make, aren’t you feeling better already?

I’m interested in hearing how you feel about the money you make. Do you give yourself permission to do something purely enjoyable with some of that cash?

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7 Tips on Mastering Change

Photo by Roberto Nickson/Unsplash

Photo by Roberto Nickson/Unsplash

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” – Brian Tracy

 

Change is nonstop. Life coaches and proponents of positive thinking are nearly unanimous in recommending that we accept and embrace change.

While that is good advice, sometimes change brings with it uncertainty, fear, doubt, failure and dashed hopes. We may start off with an optimistic outlook, only to encounter some difficulty or unexpected problem that throws everything we had planned off-kilter.

We might just give up on the change we’re trying to make.

Or, we might become even more determined to see it through.

The attitude we adopt is really the key to what comes afterward. Granted, we cannot predict what will happen or what will ultimately be the result of our actions, but we can control how we think about our prospects, what we believe our strengths are and how self-confident we are.

It does take practice to see the hopeful, rather than the dismal, but we can learn how to do this.

Here are some tips on mastering change:

  • Keep your eye on the goal.

While interruptions and challenges are bound to occur, if you have a firm grasp of what you want to achieve, you’ll be poised to weather distractions and detours along the way.

 

  • Revisit your plan often.

Sometimes, with everything being thrown at you, it’s tough to stay focused on the plan. That’s why you write it down, so you can refer to it as often as necessary to remind you of your goal – and the steps you need to take to be successful.

 

  • Be optimistic about being able to find solutions.

Problems will occur, but you have been through these kinds of situations before and figured out solutions. Remind yourself of this and it will help bolster your resolve and maintain your optimistic attitude.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to adapt and revise.

Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean that you have to adhere to it so rigidly that you miss opportunities. The key here is to remain flexible so that you are able to adapt and modify your plan to incorporate new ideas and perhaps take advantage of a different approach. Flexibility is one of the hallmarks of mastering change.

 

  • Surround yourself with positive people.

When you’re embarking on change, or making a decision to change, you don’t need naysayers around you challenging your actions. Choose to be with others who are upbeat, supportive of your ideas and goals, and whose success and demeanor you admire. Positivity is contagious, and you’ll benefit from associating with positive friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances.

 

  • Find the lesson in failure.

No one likes to think about failure, but the fact is that it happens. Should this quash your attitude about ultimately succeeding? Not if you study what happened and discover the lesson the experience holds. This makes you that much more prepared to handle whatever comes next and to take proactive measures to deal with them.

  • Be open to new ideas.

You wouldn’t eat the same meal day after day, would you? Just as variety is the spice of cuisine, so, too, is the willingness to entertain new ideas. Even if what you read, see or hear is a somewhat different way to accomplish a goal than you’ve used before, it might hold some merit in terms of adaptation, revision or addition to what strategies you have in your toolkit. Knowing you have options is a great confidence-builder.

Keep in mind that the way you regard change says a lot about who you are. You can be in control of your attitude and master change, or allow change to master you.

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Success Means You Make Things Happen

Photo by Joshua Sortino-Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Sortino-Unsplash

“There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.” – Jim Lovell

 

Are you a doer, a watcher or a wonderer? The answer may lie at the heart of whether or not you find yourself successful in life.

Granted, sometimes you need to watch for a while to become motivated to take action. After all, what interests you may involve stepping outside your comfort zone and taking a few risks. Well, nothing worthwhile ever occurred without a little discomfort. For one thing, it’s anxiety-provoking to think about taking on a challenge, something you’ve never done before. Maybe you should watch and wait for a while.

But not too long. If you wait until the proverbial time is right, you may still be waiting months and years down the line. At that point, instead of being successful, you’ll be one of those people who scratch their heads in dismay and wonder what happened.

Making things happen sounds too easy. It isn’t. Often, it involves long periods of practice, building skills and acquiring knowledge. It generally takes longer than you anticipate and requires more work than you intended.

But success is worth it if the goal is one that you truly desire.

Are You Ready to Make Things Happen?

Ask yourself these questions to see if you’re ready to make things happen.

  • Is this (goal) something I really want?
  • How much effort am I willing to put into achieving it?
  • What will I do if distractions get in my way?
  • Do I have a plan to follow, or am I just going to wing it?
  • What about resources? Do I need to line them up or are they readily available to me?
  • How will I handle criticism, failure and rejection? Am I strong enough to get past this?
  • Am I willing to learn from my mistakes?
  • What about revising my plan along the way? Have I incorporated that into my strategy?
  • Have I factored measurement into my plan so that I know when it’s a success?

The Caveman Scenario

I’d like to illustrate this with the following scenario. Early caveman enjoyed sitting around the fire with his companions, partner and offspring. Telling tales of hunting exploits got everyone going and lasted well into the night. But some of the little ones fell asleep, missing out on the stories.

The caveman started etching shapes into the earth with a stick, but the images were quickly obliterated as everyone dispersed. This same stick, used to poke and prod the fire, was blackened at the tip. The caveman pondered the sooty blackness on his fingers and noted it was tough to remove. He looked up at the empty cave wall and thought about scratching his pictures there.

First, it was just a rudimentary sketch. Then, the images grew in size, complexity and number. Before long, they told a complete story. Now, not only the little ones, but everyone in the caveman’s group, could enjoy the tale. He was designated as the official keeper of the tales and his stature grew in the community.

Was this a success? Did the caveman make things happen? From a desire to share his tales with his children, he figured out a way to do that and made it happen. It was an absolute success.

If the caveman could do it, just imagine what you can do.


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8 Ways To Let Go of Anger

Photo by Wil Stewart

Photo by Wil Stewart

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha

There are lots of frustrations in life to deal with, many of which ignite angry feelings and a desire for retribution or revenge. Some inconsiderate driver cuts you off in traffic. The woman in front of you in line at the coffee shop gets the last pastry – the one you had your eye on. Your co-worker takes credit for the report you researched and wrote. Neighborhood kids smashed your car with rocks, causing extensive damage.

You seethe with anger, wanting to lash out at the perpetrator, giving them their just desserts. But will this do anything to change what happened? Or, will it only result in you feeling more miserable as you can’t escape the fire of your anger?

No one would ever pick up a hot coal with their unprotected hands. That’s the action of a fool. Fire burns. Yet, when it comes to powerful emotions such as anger, that’s exactly what we sometimes do: We hold onto it. Expecting a different outcome than us getting burned is the definition of insanity.

If the better way to deal with anger is to let it go, how do we go about doing that? Here are some suggestions:

  • Walk away. Putting some distance between you and the situation or people that prompted the angry feelings to begin with is a logical first step. If you aren’t in proximity to the source of your anger, you’re less likely to lash out and do or say something that will cause harm to another. In addition, by walking away you’ll allow yourself time to cool off, so that you can think about what happened in a more rational way.

 

  • Identify why you’re angry. Take the inconsiderate driver that cut you off. This happens all the time. Why is today any different than another day? What is it about being cut off that makes you so angry now? Is it that you’re already late for work? Is it just another in a string of things that went wrong today and this is the last straw? Are you upset with yourself for failing to complete a task or due to an argument you had with your spouse, child, or co-worker? By identifying what’s underneath your anger, you’ll be better able to get past it.

 

  • Let it out. Instead of bottling up your anger and holding it inside like a captive coal that continues to burn, find a place where you can let it out with a scream, a vigorous physical workout, a good cry. Letting go of the anger before you decide to confront the person that prompted the negative feelings will allow you to behave in a more constructive and proactive manner.

 

  • Figure out what to change. Realize that you have three options when dealing with anger: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it. Once you decide that there’s something you can do to change the situation, act on that. It will help you let go of the anger and move on.

 

  • Own responsibility. Secretly, you might be the one who prompted the situation that made you angry. Instead of trying to shift the blame and punish others, take responsibility for your part in what happened. Even if you only acknowledge this to yourself, it’s a huge step. Then, focus on what you could have done differently so that the next time something like this occurs, you’ll act in a more responsible way.

 

  • Calmly talk with the offender. You’ll need to use the walk away technique before you confront the offender about what made you angry. When you’ve put some time and distance between you and the person and situation, you’re better able to tell that person how you feel about what happened. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that you’re not going to be able to control how that person reacts. The only thing you can do is express your feelings kindly and calmly. This will help you let go of the anger.

 

  • See the anger melting away. The anger you feel doesn’t affect the other person as much as it does you. Knowing this, why hold onto it? Instead, visualize the anger as ice that’s melting away in the heat. Feel the sense of coolness that replaces the anger. This will help you regain peace and kindness toward yourself.

 

  • See it from the offender’s perspective. Maybe the person who so angered you wasn’t aware he or she was doing anything wrong. They could have inadvertently done something, not out of malicious intent, just without thinking of the potential consequences. Mistakes happen. People don’t necessarily intend to do harm. Recognize that you’ve probably done the same thing to other people. Have a little compassion. This will go a long way toward your ability to let go of anger.

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Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of is You

Photo by Wilson Magalhães

Photo by Wilson Magalhães

“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.” — Brian Andreas

 

When life swirls around us, it’s often difficult to remember that the first priority has to be taking care of ourselves. Instead, we look to care for others, even to the point of self-exhaustion. While it’s loving and kind-hearted to be so selfless, it’s not good for our overall well-being in the long run. In order to be around and able to help others, we have to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

Good self-care, then, is not only important, but also imperative. Here are some tips on how to take proper care of you.

Eat right. With life so hectic, the temptation to skip meals, scarf down junk food and eat too much at once is sometimes tough to ignore. That doesn’t mean it’s good for your body. Think about what you put in your mouth before you eat. Maintain a well-balanced diet and eat regular meals. Your body will thank you for eating healthy.

Sleep well. In order to be alert and ready to go each day, you first need to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep, according to experts, plays an important role in everything from memory to learning. Adults generally need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. The key is uninterrupted sleep.

Get regular exercise. A healthy body and mind requires regular physical exercise. What you do is less important than doing it. Start with something manageable, such as a good run or walking in a park or through the neighborhood. If you have a dog, this is a natural for both of you. Ask friends to accompany you. Walk instead of drive to a nearby coffee shop. Take up a recreational sport. Join a gym. The choices are endless. The point is to do it.

Drink plenty of fluids. You might not realize it, but your body constantly loses fluids during the day. Such losses occur naturally in urination and elimination of stools, in breathing, and skin evaporation. The more physical exertion you do, the faster you lose fluids. The human body requires hydration for organs to operate efficiently. In fact, the body is about 60% water. The best way to replace lost fluids is to drink water. It’s readily available and the fact is that you can’t live without it.

Manage stress. Allowing the day’s turmoil to eat at you is going to drag you down, physically and mentally. Taking proper care of yourself means that you do whatever you find that works to manage stress. This can take many forms, from meditation to deep breathing exercises, massage, prayer, yoga or other relaxation techniques, to cognitive-behavioral therapy and setting clear goals.

Spend time with friends. You know how much you value friendships, particularly with those who share your interests. Studies show that friendships enrich life and make it healthier. Not only do you enjoy being with good friends, the interaction is good for your overall health and well-being. What more evidence do you need to share some quality time with your friends?

Engage in learning new pursuits. When you pursue something new, something different, your mind is actively involved in a desirable goal. The unknown, while sometimes scary, can also be stimulating, challenging and ultimately rewarding. Learning something new can help you overcome fear, push you beyond self-imposed boundaries, and provide a much-needed boost in self-confidence and self-esteem.

Tap into your spirituality. You don’t need to be religious to be able to tap into your spirituality. Tending to your spiritual needs is as important as getting sufficient sleep, eating well and everything else you do to take care of your body. There is more to life than just existing. You are more than the sum of your parts. Take time to reflect on the bigger picture, using yoga, meditation, self-reflection or whatever helps you get outside of yourself.

Avoid excessive alcohol intake. Using alcohol as a coping mechanism is bound to backfire. The tendency to reach for a drink to deal with problems or forget about them for a while can quickly spiral out of control. If you aren’t able to decrease your drinking on your own, get professional help. Otherwise, cut down on how much you drink.

Don’t smoke. There is absolutely no physical benefit to smoking. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start. If you do smoke, make a decision to stop. Smoking can lead to serious health problems, but you will improve your health by quitting the smoking habit.

Pay attention to your needs. Put yourself at the top of your list of priorities. Remember that you need to be healthy in order to be available to help others. This means being mindful of what you need to do to stay healthy. It isn’t selfish, it’s actually self-care.

Maintain an optimistic, hopeful outlook. Life will throw you a few curve balls, to be sure. And you never know when you’ll be called on to deal with them. The best thing you can do is to adopt and maintain an optimistic, hopeful outlook. If you believe you will succeed, you will. If you see the positive instead of the negative, the results are likely to follow suit. Don’t be afraid of challenges. Be hopeful, prepare yourself to act and follow through.

 

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My 10 Favorite Summertime Stress-Busters

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

A writer by profession and a long-time executive in public relations and communications, I’ve experienced the cumulative effects of stress on more than a few occasions. While each person needs to find their own unique ways to combat stress, I’d like to share my 10 favorite summertime stress-busters here – while summer is in in full swing.

Bicycling on Mackinac Island

Although it was many years ago, the fond memory of bicycling on Mackinac Island (situated between mainland Michigan and the state’s upper peninsula in Lake Michigan) with my mother and my son and daughter still lowers my stress level. It was a wonderful bonding experience between three generations and great exercise to boot.

Go out and rent a bicycle when you’re on vacation or during a trip to an inland lake or other recreational area and see how your cares seem to float away as you pedal along. This is an inexpensive and effective summertime stress-buster that anyone can do.

Going for a long drive

When I’ve had it up to here with deadlines, pressure to finish a task, non-stop phone calls and nagging emails – not to mention all the things left to do around the house – I get in the car and head out for the open highway.

Since I live in California, however, that means timing my escape to avoid the gridlock on the freeways. Still, there’s nothing like cruising along the 101 freeway somewhere north to clear the cobwebs from my mind – and melt any stress that’s built up.

Hiking a new trail

I’m fortunate to live just blocks from the Santa Monica Mountains preserve and numerous hiking trails. This sounds like a lot of work, but there are easy trails to climb as well as more strenuous ones.

An early morning hike – especially when I’m able to check out a new trail – is one of the quickest ways to dissolve stress for me. My family members are equally appreciative. And who doesn’t love to spend some quality time outdoors with those you love?

Taking a well-deserved vacation

Too many times we tell ourselves that we can’t afford to take a vacation or don’t have the luxury of taking that much time off work.

I know. I’ve said as much myself.

The truth, however, is that a vacation is not only deserved but necessary in order to recharge and revitalize, to gain peace of mind and restore a sense of balance.

Thinking back on memorable vacations, I count trips to Cancun, Kauai, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, as well as visits to great national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and more.

Arranging a long weekend getaway

Sometimes a weeklong vacation just isn’t practical. There’s still the opportunity to take a break by going for a long weekend getaway.

Head out to the beach or a cottage by the ocean. Explore what nature has to offer in a national park in the area. Visit a not-too-distant city to sample cuisine and nightlife or other attractions.

Romantic, sight-seeing, educational or pure leisure – whatever inspires you can be the ingredients in a getaway this weekend.

And the stress will just disappear.

Attending an outdoor concert

My daughter and son remember going to Bob Seger, Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac concerts with me at an outdoor concert venue in Michigan. Just recalling those magical nights under the stars gives me a nostalgic rush. How perfect to wash away stressful thoughts?

No matter where you live, there’s probably a venue offering outdoor concerts, music festivals and the like. Check out some of your favorite artists, search for some reasonably-priced tickets and take the family for an unforgettable outing.

Digging in the garden – and creating a lush landscape

Whether I’m yanking out weeds, cultivating an area to plant flowers, shrubs or helping to dig the requisite size hole for a tree, the sheer enjoyment I get from digging in the garden is undeniable.

The fact that the result is something I’m proud of – and don’t mind accepting compliments from others for – is a plus.

Don’t think you have a green thumb? I didn’t either, but years of practice and effort have definitely paid off. Now, even if the plant eventually dies, I know I’ll get something to replace it that will prove equally lovely in my garden.

And there’s something about washing away the dirt from my gardening sojourn that is very satisfying as well.

Reading a good book

I’ve loved to read all my life. Still do, although I don’t seem to do it as often as I’d like. Now that I have Kindle, though, I can quickly access new ebooks from my favorite authors.

Mysteries, true crime, thrillers, autobiographies, inspirational – you name it, I’m there. Nothing like whiling away an hour or so engrossed in a good book. If you get into the habit of reading something you like, you’ll find that the stress you had is gone, faded away like a distant memory.

Seeing an adventure movie

Movies are another favorite pastime of mine. I actually like a number of genres, but for dissipating stress, a go-to favorite is an adventure movie. I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my body and while that seems counter-intuitive to eliminating stress, it actually works.

Realizing the outcome along with the protagonist (or hero) is doubly satisfying. It’s like I’m there. Not bad for a quick escape from stress, right? Best of all, there are always plenty of adventure movies to choose from at the movieplex near you – or available to rent or download from your TV provider or Netflix.

Checking out an amusement park

Do you love roller coasters? I do. When I have the opportunity to check out an amusement park with the family – and occasionally for business, believe it or not – I head straight for the biggest roller coaster in the park.

If you’re going to go, go big or don’t go at all. That’s my motto.

Part of the reason I’m so drawn to this particular ride is that I remember riding a roller coaster with my dad just a week before he died. I was thirteen. He was my everything.

Other attractions in the amusement park are also great stress-busters for me, including the haunted house, dodge ‘em cars, the Ferris wheel and more.

And who doesn’t love the cotton candy, hot dog on a stick, outdoor cafes and other tempting gastronomic delights? You can work out later. For now, indulge and have a good time.

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My 10 Favorite Ways to Waste Time — and Not Feel Bad About It

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

So much has been written about how not to waste time that I thought it might be fun to list some of the ways we waste time all the time. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, so here are my favorite time wasters.

I should add that I don’t feel bad about doing any of these. In fact, I rather get a kick out of how good I feel after I’ve lollygagged, been consumed with and totally exhausted from any of them.

 

Getting Lost in LinkedIn

 

Networking is an absolute must for anyone in business. Whether your business is writing or recruiting or manufacturing electric cars or anything else, who you know can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

Need an introduction? Your LinkedIn contacts may be able to provide that. What about a recommendation or endorsement? Ditto.

Building a LinkedIn network (or any social media, for that matter) takes time. Often, that’s a lot of time.

I know. I’ve spent many hours reading profiles of LinkedIn members, absorbing their posts and likes, commenting on what I see and hoping others will reciprocate.

Come to think of it, LinkedIn is pretty essential to what I do. There’s no way this is a waste of time.

 

Searching for the Perfect Photo

 

When I write a Daily Thoughts or blog post, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect photo to illustrate them. I can literally spend a couple of hours searching for one photo.

I use multiple free and paid sites for photos. And I love discovering new photographers.

Since my profession is writing, it’s not a stretch to say that my time spent in pursuit of just the right photo is far from a waste of time. Yet I do find that I get a little carried away at times, continuing to search through photo albums and recent posting to see what’s new – in case I want to use it sometime.

 

Writing To-Do Lists – and Promptly Losing Them

 

I’m an inveterate list-maker. I’ve gotten it down to a science, in fact. I jot down items, then prioritize them, revise and add or subtract – and then put aside the list for later.

Somehow what happens more often than not is I lose the list.

Then I start over.

All is not lost in this seemingly hopeless endeavor, however. My mind catalogs what I’ve written, cementing it in place. It lets me know that there is a list somewhere, just in case I forget. So I don’t have to worry that I’ve missed something.

And that gives me great comfort.

Just don’t ask me where my list is.

 

Going for a Walk

 

Why do I walk? I used to think it was for healthy exercise, and there certainly is that component to it. But the underlying reason I walk is that I like being out in nature.

To me, a walk affords me the opportunity to connect with life outside the home. I take the time to listen to the birds and watch them flit from tree to flower to bush and back. I particularly enjoy watching the interplay between birds, protecting their mates and nest, doing the courtship dance, feeding offspring, etc.

I also feel good knowing I’m burning fat – but that’s another story. My sore muscles tell me if I’m giving it what I need or not. Still, my 45-minute walk may be considered a waste of time to some people, but not for me. I’ll do it any chance I get.

 

Working in the Garden

 

There’s nothing like getting my hands dirty digging in the garden. Granted, I’m not that fond of some of the bugs I have to pluck out, but wrestling with weeds to give my flowers, bushes and trees room to grow gives me great satisfaction.

It’s also wonderfully fulfilling to see the results of my carefully-tended garden. Worth all the hours I toil in garden, no matter what time of the year.

 

Shopping for Organic Produce

 

I’ll admit I was a little slow getting on the organic food bandwagon, but now I’m a firm believer. So much so that I can literally spend more than an hour just roaming the aisles of my go-to grocery store (even Costco) looking at the newest organic versions of produce I’ve eaten in old form since I was a kid.

If I had to excuse my wasting time on this activity, I’d have to say that putting the healthiest food into my body is a priority. I’m OK with any amount of time I spend looking for anything organic.

 

Doing Price Comparisons on Running Shoes

 

First, a confession. I don’t run – at all. But I am an aficionado of running shoes or cross-trainers or whatever the latest athletic shoe is.

My reason for the obsession is that I want my feet to be well taken care of. Whether I’m hiking a mountain trail in the preserve near my house or traversing the mall in search of a good deal or just driving, I want a great pair of shoes on my feet.

As such, I’m always looking for the best price on shoes and have bookmarked my favorite websites. Time just flies by when I’m on the hunt.

And I don’t regret one minute of it. So, there.

 

Going for a Massage

To some people a massage is an indulgence they can do without. Not me. I learned long ago that my Thumper I bought from Relax-the-Back does a great job easing out a kink, but I’d much rather get an expert to do the work for me.

It feels so much better when I don’t have to exert myself.

And the massage professional can reach areas I can’t.

Besides, the overall effect afterward is simply out of this world. The therapeutic aspects alone are worth the time I take from my day to get the massage.

Come to think of it, I haven’t had a massage for a while. Time to make an appointment.

 

Trying Out a New Recipe

I may not be the greatest cook around, but I do enjoy trying out new recipes. Like searching for the perfect photo, checking out recipes is a real time-hog.

Once I’ve found a recipe to make, I often have to go to the store to get the ingredients. Invariably I’m missing one or more. And I learned long ago that substituting what might work usually results in a disaster.

As a professional chef once told me, stick to the recipe until you’ve amassed years of experience and absolutely know what you can safely substitute without ruining the dish.

Regarding the mess that I have to clean up when I’m done, that’s another chunk of time that necessarily has to occupy my time.

 

Watching a Great Movie

Another one of my favorite pastimes – and a huge time waster – is watching movies. I love a number of different genres, so a drama doesn’t necessarily lose out to suspense, thriller, comedy or horror.

I’d much rather watch a movie that’s gotten stellar reviews, but I’m also game to check out the little-known or obscure flicks as well. This is especially true if they’re by famous directors or ones whose other work I’ve enjoyed.

Get out the popcorn, chips, ice cream and other snacks (OK, junk food, but sometimes you just have to indulge) and I’m good to go – for at least an hour or two.

Chores can wait until later.

* * *

What are your favorite ways to waste time? Comment below and I may do a follow-up blog post mentioning some of them – giving you credit, of course.

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How to Be Even More Effective

Photo by Anders Jilden

Photo by Anders Jilden

Everyone is always on the lookout for a better way to do things, to accomplish goals in record time, to improve effectiveness. While such a quest is admirable, it can prove problematic if you begin to fixate on success instead of searching for ways to be more effective.

Can you improve on your rate of effectiveness? Absolutely, and here’s how:

  • Learn to manage your time. It can’t be stressed enough that lack of time and trying to crowd too may obligations and tasks into a 24-hour day will quickly overwhelm almost anyone.
    • Instead of fighting the clock, trying to cram in that last item on today’s to-do list, put some space between duties and eliminate some from the list altogether.
    • Time management isn’t only for business people. It works for busy moms, students, artists, inventors, scientists and, well, everyone.

 

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” – Peter Drucker

 

  • Keep a list of what worked well before. Making incremental improvements in your effectiveness is the best way to gradually become more successful in whatever you do.
    • One way to do this is to keep track of what you did before that resulted in a favorable outcome. Maybe there’s something about that technique that you can utilize in a similar or even different project, task or endeavor.
    • When you have a reserve of effective approaches (as in, they worked before), you’re never going to be at a loss for ideas.

 

  • Ask for suggestions from trusted others. Just because you generally accomplish what you set out to do doesn’t mean you’re as effective in your approach as you could be.
    • Make use of your network of trusted friends, co-workers, loved ones and family members and ask them for suggestions on how you might improve your rate of effectiveness. Their comments may prove helpful in identifying gaps in your method or highlighting areas of strength and expertise you haven’t yet tapped into.

 

  • Take time to reflect on your accomplishments. Once you do succeed at a goal and before you rush into the next thing on your list, take the time to reflect on your accomplishments. This can be viewed as a small self-congratulation, but it’s actually much more than that.
    • Away from the whirlwind of activity, your mind can calmly assess the various aspects of the now-completed job or task and come up with inventive approaches and ideas you may be able to use the next time.

 

  • Aim for continuous improvement. If a job or task seems too much of an obstacle, but you still want or need to tackle it, instead of fixating on only complete success the first time around, it might be better to aim for continuous improvement.
    • Do the best that you can on whatever portion of the project you’re on.
    • Learn from what you do. Strive to put that knowledge to use when you pick up the project again and move on to the next phase of it. This will help you increase your overall effectiveness.

 

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Why You Need a Vacation

Photo by Faye Cornish

Photo by Faye Cornish

If your days are filled with crashing deadlines, too much on your to-do list and never enough time to get things done, you might be more than a little stressed. In fact, overwork can lead to dissatisfaction in other areas of your life as well.

What a perfect time for a vacation.

Before you object that you just don’t have time to get away, consider the following very good reasons why you actually need a vacation.

 

Vacations help you disengage and reconnect with self

You can’t hear yourself think when you’re all caught up in forcing yourself to finish this project and begin work on the next. Facts and figures, phone calls and emails, the boss barging in with yet another hot assignment – no wonder you’re feeling frazzled.

Getting away from it all, however, frees your mind from incessant interruptions, constant distractions and self-imposed pressure. What better way to reconnect with self than relaxing in a hammock under a shady tree, gazing out at nature?

How about going out on the river or lake in a canoe, rowboat, sailboat or powerboat? Nothing like being in the outdoors, taking in the sounds of silence and just hanging out to clear your mind.

 

Taking time for yourself helps you unwind and relax

Rushing from one task to another without a break is enough to cause anyone distress. High-pressure office environments and frantic schedules at home and school do nothing to bring peace of mind.

On the other hand, when you physically get away from the normal routine, the picture changes dramatically.

Instead of reacting to what people demand, you can act in accordance with your own wishes. If you feel like doing nothing, that’s just fine. If you want to hike a trail in pristine wilderness, there’s nothing to stop you.

Whether you choose to be alone or in the company of loved ones, family or friends, taking time for yourself is just the right tonic for relaxation and unwinding.

 

Vacations help you free your mind

When all the noise subsides and you’re on the beach, at the lake, hiking, golfing, getting a massage or doing whatever you like, a curious thing happens. Your mind empties.

All the stuff crowding your brain, those urgent projects you told yourself you couldn’t forget, the massive responsibilities you felt you had to shoulder – they seem to melt away.

It’s not that you’re walking away from anything. You choose to be away, and for valid reasons. Research shows that people are more productive after they’ve taken a vacation than those who stick it out at work.

Furthermore, solutions to problems often seem to magically appear when you’ve stopped thinking so hard about them. While you’ve shut down the engine, so to speak, your mind is still humming away in the background, making connections, figuring out creative approaches, relishing the time to arrive at a sound decision.

All this from just taking a vacation? What a bonus.

 

This is the time you can be yourself

A vacation is when you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. Not your boss. Not your neighbor. Not your best friend. Certainly not to yourself.

In fact, one of the great things about a vacation is that you can dress how you like, eat what you want, do what you feel like when you want to. There are no schedules to keep – unless you want to make them, no one you have to impress with your PowerPoint presentation or glitzy ad campaign.

It’s all about you.

Some people have a hard time being alone with themselves. So unused to having time off, too tethered to duties and deadlines and making a good impression they don’t know where or how to begin to enjoy a vacation.

Try it. You’ll soon get into the rhythm of doing whatever you like or nothing at all.

 

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5 Tips to Make the Right Choice

Photo by Dave Meier-Picography

Photo by Dave Meier-Picography

“Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile.” – Bertrand Russell

 

Standing at a crossroads and deciding which way to go is a metaphor for life. No matter who you are, you’re going to be faced with situations where you need to make a choice every day. Even deciding to do nothing is a choice, although not the most productive one.

Still, it can be extraordinarily difficult to know what the right choice is. Here are some tips that may help:

 

Tip #1: This particular choice isn’t life-altering.

Most likely, the choice you make now isn’t going to drastically change your life. It also isn’t generally going to be of long-term duration. So, you can enter into a decision with the confidence that you can revise your actions later, take a different course of action, learn from your mistakes, and keep going.

 

Tip #2: Weigh and balance your options, but do take action.

You can put off making a decision for a long time, but what does that really get you? It’s just a stall tactic that buys very little and may cost a lot. The wiser approach is to carefully review your options and tally up the one that has the most positives going for it. Then, take action. It’s much better than sitting by the sidelines doing nothing.

 

Tip #3: Seek advice from trusted others, but tailor your actions to suit your circumstances.

It’s OK, even recommended, to ask others what they think. This is especially true the more challenging or important the decision you need to make.

After you hear what your network of loved ones, family members, good friends or other trusted individuals have to say, sift everything through the lens of your mind to come up with a plan that will work for your particular situation.

 

Tip #4: If it doesn’t work, do something else.

No one is going to be successful in making the right choice every time. That’s not how life works. But giving up when you encounter disappointment or failure isn’t the way to get the most out of life. Doing something else, however, is.

If you stumble the first time out, it doesn’t mean you’re awful at making choices. It does mean there’s a lesson here you need to learn. Take stock of the lesson and figure out a new approach.

 

Tip #5: Find your best time to think about your choices.

If you try to make a decision when you’re stressed out, tired, hungry, angry or depressed, the choice you make may not be well-informed. Instead, pick a time when you’re well rested, full of energy and receptive to taking action. This may be early morning, a mid-afternoon break, after you wind down at the end of the day.

Whatever time works best for your decision-making process, when you feel you can objectively analyze the various choices and come to a reasonable, workable decision, use that time to your advantage. The choices you make will reflect this proactive approach.

 

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8 Tips to Help Decision-Making

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Do you agonize over choices or waffle back and forth before finally settling on one? Even if you don’t think you have much difficulty arriving at a decision, everyone can always use a few pointers, right?

Here are some suggestions on how to make the decision-making process a little easier, less stressful, and a lot more satisfying. 

Get organized

To get started, you need a clean and clear space. A cluttered desk, sloppy workspace or no space to sit comfortably do not help you do anything productive – least of all make an important decision.

Take the time to put things where they should go, wipe up spills, toss out unused and unwanted items or trash, and for the files and materials you will need, arrange them neatly on your desk or work area.

If the project or task that requires your decision involves specific files, folders, artwork, renderings or other items, keep them front and center. 

Eliminate distractions

When it’s time to think about a decision, you can’t afford any distractions. Simple tips to eliminate them include:

  • Turn off your cell phone or let it go to voicemail.
  • If you’re in a physical office with a door, close the door.
  • Turn off email notification sounds on your computer.
  • Better yet, get out of your email client for the time being.
  • Let co-workers and your boss know you’re working on a project and are trying to concentrate. (It helps if this is something you’re on deadline to do, as the boss will likely understand.)
  • Avoid the tendency to doodle, no surfing the Internet to kill time or game-playing just because you think you can.

Clear your mind

Now it’s time to get down to the business at hand. In order to begin the process of decision-making, it’s necessary to clear your mind. This is often one of the hardest things for people to do, especially in today’s non-stop world.

Since it’s next to impossible to completely wipe out extraneous thoughts, the best way to deal with them is to acknowledge their presence and allow them to go away on their own.

You need a bit of time for all the “noise” in your head to die down, so don’t be in a rush. Gradually, your mind will quiet and your thoughts can become better focused. 

Focus on the goal

Speaking of focus, once you’ve cleared your mind it’s the right time to focus on the goal. What do you hope to achieve? What’s your optimum outcome? Are you trying to solve a problem, brainstorm ideas, come up with a creative approach, make a tough choice involving conflicting ideas or options?

Knowing what you want to achieve as an outcome will help you in selecting various avenues and possibilities to consider.

Analyze the pros and cons

The things that come to mind will each have plusses and minuses that you’ll need to take into account. To get through this part of the decision-making process involves the ability to envision what might happen if you choose option A over option B or C, and so on.

Really take the time to think this through. Jot down into columns what the potential outcomes or ramifications for each choice might be. When you can look at these pros and cons on paper, the decision you need to make will be easier, if not obvious.

Sometimes, however, the decision you make will need to be the lesser of two negatives. Always strive to select the choice with the most positive outcome.

Finalize the approach

By now you’ve probably narrowed down your choices and selected the one that you think will serve your needs and help you arrive at the goal you intend.

You’re not done yet.

This is the time to fine-tune your approach, adding the various elements that will make it stand out and shine. You want it to be the best you can do, to reflect your strengths and talents and the benefit of your experience.

It’s possible that you’ll want to make use of one or more facets of other approaches or solutions you were considering. If it helps solidify your ultimate choice or gives it a better chance of success, by all means add it to your approach.

Factor in follow-up

Once you zero in on your decision, the final step before taking action on it is to spend some time figuring out what you’ll need in the form of follow-up.

Will reports help determine the success or failure of your decision? How will the choice you make affect others in the workplace? What benchmarks are important to achieve in order for the decision to be considered effective, valuable, repeatable or industry-first?

Follow-up is one aspect of decision-making that many overlook; yet it is critical to the success of any major decision.

Make the choice

This is the final stretch in decision-making: actually making the choice and beginning to take action. There’s no turning back now. If you’ve gone through the process in a thoughtful and purposeful manner, the decision you make now reflects your attention to detail, your creativity and vision.

Go ahead. Make the choice. And feel good about your decision.

 

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Leadership Lessons I Learned from Dad

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Among the many articles written about leadership, how leaders develop, if they’re born with the ability to lead, how to nurture and mentor someone to become a leader, I’ve rarely seen one that mentioned the importance of fathers modeling leadership for their children.

Personally, wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the lessons I learned from my dad. So, in celebration of Father’s Day and an acknowledgement of the profoundly important role fathers play in the development of their sons and daughters into leaders, I’d like to talk about my own father.

Clem Harland was the eldest son in a family of four children, one of whom died in infancy. His father was a lumberjack in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, after toiling as a farmer in North Dakota for many years. When Clem’s father died, he had to leave school to begin providing for his mother and two sisters. He took up lumberjacking, the best income potential for the family.

His mother was sickly and died young. This left Clem the sole provider for his two sisters – and he put them both through college, sacrificing his own personal needs and putting the idea of getting married and starting his own family on hold for years.

Although Clem was born with a congenital heart defect and doctors told his parents that he probably wouldn’t live past his teens, nothing deterred the young man from pursuing life to the fullest.

Whether it was lumberjacking in the bitter cold, stinging rain and dangerous conditions (his father died by being crushed between logs jammed up in the water), working a second job as a musician, taking a third job as a cook, or staying up all hours to care for his dying mother, he persevered.

Years later, when he was 31, Clem got married to Mary Jean. By now, he lived next door to her in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They soon were the parents of one boy, lost several infants to miscarriage and finally welcomed their only surviving daughter, me, some four years after the birth of their son.

Clem worked in an automobile factory in Detroit, Michigan. He generally worked the graveyard shift, coming home just as my mother was headed off to work. His health continued to deteriorate, but he never let on.

 

“Everything you want to know is in here.”

While he never went back to school to finish his education, let alone go to college, he taught himself by reading books. When I was about five and asked my dad how he knew so many things, he closed the book on astronomy he was reading and pointed to it, saying, “Everything you want to know is in here.” I thought he was talking about the stars and planets, but he meant that knowledge is readily available to those with a desire to learn.

This was my first leadership lesson from my dad.

Another came following a heated fight I had with my brother. He broke my doll (we didn’t have much, and this was my favorite toy) and I beat on him with my little fists. He was much bigger and stronger than me and just laughed. I ran to my father crying that life wasn’t fair, boys were mean and I hated my brother.

My dad listened to my complaint and comforted me as best he could. He promised to fix dolly (and he did) and told me that I should never let others take advantage of me. Even though he didn’t condone fighting (and my brother had a stern talking-to from dad as a result), he believed that individuals have to stand up for themselves.

This important leadership lesson sticks with me today. A leader doesn’t back down just because there’s opposition. He or she takes a stand and leads by example.

When I was 12, I was fearful all the time. I was aware that my father wasn’t well. I’d heard my mother discussing how the factory put him on a sweeper’s job due to his poor health. But he was still the breadwinner and the factory took care of its employees.

I began having nightmares about my dad dying. I was so frightened that I didn’t dare tell him. All I could muster was a conversation where I asked what he wanted out of life, did he ever regret his choices, and was he happy?

“…Don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from following your dreams.”

His answer still brings me to tears. He said, “I have everything I ever wanted. You, your brother and your mother mean the world to me. As for my life, I am happy and blessed. What you need to know is that you can be whatever you choose to be. Don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from following your dreams.”

We even went to a local amusement park over the Fourth of July to celebrate his 52nd birthday. We screeched in glee as the cars lurched to the top of the roller coaster and flew downward with neck-straining fore.

My father was dead less than a week later. His death was massive coronary occlusion. He died on the job. The personnel people that came to the house to inform us said he died in seconds.

 *  *  *

I also remember long walks on the beach of Lake Michigan, running up and down the sand dunes, catching and cleaning perch and whitefish after being on the frigid lake since before dawn.

And so much more.

All these things happened decades ago, but the memories are as vivid as if it was just yesterday.

My father taught me everything I ever need to know about leadership. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

 

 


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Why I Hate Clutter

DeathtoStock_Creative Community8

If you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to get your head in the game. The deadline’s looming, you’ve got a sore back from doing too much over the weekend, you had to skip breakfast because you slept in, and now you can’t seem to get started. Looking over your desk or workspace, all you see is clutter.

 

It’s enough to make you want to turn off the computer, get up and walk out, right?

 

For me, clutter is a big four-letter word. I just can’t stand to come to work, all ready to go (or not) and be confronted with a pile of disorganized papers, mail someone dumped in the middle of the desk instead of the inbox tray, pens that found their way into corners, empty paper ream wrappers and so on.

 

I think to myself that this is a big waste of time – but I can’t help myself. I have to tidy up before I do anything else.

 

Most of all, however, I’m angry with myself that I didn’t take the time before I left the office yesterday to do what I normally do: clean up my workspace.

 

In reality, it only takes a few minutes to do the job properly. The caveat is, of course, that it’s done regularly. It kind of defeats the purpose if the clean-up task is left undone for a solid week. That just results in a massive job that takes time away from more productive or enjoyable pursuits.

 

Here, in no particular order, are the reasons I hate clutter. Maybe some of them resonate with you.

 

  • Clutter makes me look disorganized.
  • The boss doesn’t take too kindly to a messy workspace.
  • It takes much too long to find what I’m looking for, especially when I need it quickly.
  • I can’t think clearly when I’m surrounded by clutter.
  • If it’s a leftover food container or latte, there’s a smell I have to deal with in addition to the mess left behind.
  • Ever have a problem with ants from something sticky or sweet that didn’t get cleaned up? I have. And I hate bugs even more than clutter.
  • The messier my desk looks, the worse I feel.
  • I think clutter is contagious. It often seems like my co-workers don’t tend to their mess if I don’t keep my workspace clean.
  • When I’m surrounded by clutter, I feel completely unmotivated to get anything done.
  • Clutter reminds me that I need to do a better job managing my time – so there’s enough time to take care of this annoying, but necessary, daily task.

 

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

 

I’m a big fan of Gretchen Rubin and I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from her tips on how to change your habits to live a healthier life.

 

I’ve also read books and blog posts, and watched how-to videos and presentations on time management, simplifying your life, prioritizing goals and how to become successful in everything you do. I think I’ve done my research.

 

What I’ve learned is that not only is cleanliness next to Godliness, the sign of an orderly mind and a good habit to practice, it also feels good to get rid of all that clutter.

 

It really is possible to change your habits and change your life.

 

Now, what happened to my to-do list? It was just here somewhere…

 

What irks you most about clutter? More important, what tactics do you use to deal with it?

 

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How to Deal With Insidious Office Gossip

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

You’ve heard the whispers, caught the sly glances cast your way, felt the cool brushoff from co-workers and people you thought were your friends. No matter how connected and well-liked you think you are, you’re not immune to being the target of gossip.

While it can seem harmless, gossip can also ruin your career, seriously damage relationships and crush your self-esteem. So, it’s never something to take lightly. How do you deal with insidious office gossip? Here are some suggestions.

Don’t Repeat It

You can’t stop other people from spreading gossip, but you can stop yourself from repeating it. This means you don’t repeat it in any form whatsoever, not in person, over the phone, in an email or text or any kind of written communication. Repeating gossip reinforces what may very well be bad information, lending credence or some air of authority to baseless, harmful words.

Never Encourage It

When you ask for more details, nod in agreement, look interested and keep the conversation going with the gossiper, that’s just giving the person the green light to keep spreading such tales. Even if the tidbit might give you some kind of leverage over the person gossiped about, it’s very bad form to be part of this tangle of negativity by subtly or overtly encouraging the gossip to continue.

Change the Subject

Suppose you have coffee with some co-workers before heading into work or dashing off to your desk. In the middle of exchanging pleasantries, talking about the great game your child had yesterday, making plans for lunch or after work, one of your co-workers says with a hushed voice, “Did you hear that Marsha (your boss) is having an affair with Dave (her boss)?”

Instead of immediately requesting details, the best course of action here is to change the subject. Tell your gossiping co-worker that you have to go, you’ve got a project that’s due, you forgot something in your car, or something else. Without an audience, the gossiper will have no one to dish to. And you’ve helped possibly halt the transmission of office gossip – at least with you and for now.

Don’t Make Time for It

It’s not always non-stop work at the office. There are periods of downtime as well. It could be during a coffee break or lunch or walking from one meeting to the next, in the car on the way to an office function or on the phone chatting when you have a minute. It’s during such times that gossip can be inserted as a way to shake things up, keep work interesting or attempt to garner support for someone with an ulterior motive.

You, however, have the power to not be a part of this. All you need to do is not make time for it. When you refuse to participate, the gossiper can’t draw you in. Use whatever statement or action works best for you, but just don’t allow yourself to be swept up in the gossip.

Don’t Confuse Gossip with News – It Isn’t

Most gossipers have a great lead, as if what they’re about to say carries the importance and timeliness of news. You’ll know fairly quickly if what comes after the headline – or even the headline itself – is legitimate news or something else, like gossip.

While the person spreading the gossip wants you to believe and join in the gossip trail, you know instinctively that this is not good for anyone. It won’t help you in your dealings at work, won’t elevate you in the eyes of others (who trusts a gossiper, anyway?), and may very well come back to bite you.

Again, use your most effective tactics here to get away from the gossiper, but never confuse gossip with real news.

Think How You’d Feel

If you want to know the effects of gossip, put yourself in the shoes of the person being gossiped about. Think how you’d feel if everyone was saying these awful things about you. That sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing that others are spreading gossip about you? Multiply that by 10 and it won’t even come close to the damage insidious office gossip can create.

Watch What You Say

If you start a conversation with “You can’t tell anyone…”, it’s almost guaranteed they will as soon as they’re out of your sight. For this reason, watch what you say to others. Before you say anything, think about why you’re saying it, what purpose your words have and what the effect may be on whoever hears them.

Will your comments be taken as literal, fact, rumor or innuendo? Is this something that you really need to say? Suppose you are behind on a project and need help to get it in on time. Ask for help, but don’t blame your shortcomings on someone else on your team, sabotaging them behind their back. Rally those whom you know you can count on, especially people whom you’ve helped in similar circumstances.

Confront the Gossiper One-on-One

When you’ve heard negative office gossip and especially if you are in a position of authority, the best way to stop it in its tracks is to confront the gossiper directly. Do so in a private location where no one else will hear the discussion – and seek to spread even more gossip about the goings on.

Let the gossiper know that what he or she is doing is harmful to others, and can result in disciplinary action or other negative consequences. While the gossiper may have thought their actions harmless, reminding them that gossip is anything but may be enough to quell it.

Model the Best Behavior

If you’re the boss, the leader of a team, or just one of the employees who contributes to the overall company’s success, you can make a difference when it comes to dealing with office gossip. How you do this is to model the kind of behavior that’s proactive, positive and uplifting.

This is called leading by example and is something that every employee can do. By showing through your words and actions at all times what is acceptable behavior, you will be serving as a role model for others.

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How Your Memory Suffers with Poor REM Sleep

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Photo by Jordan Whitt

Do you find yourself yawning during the day? Are you tired, listless and can’t seem to focus on the task at hand? Is it difficult to remember things – like what you have on your to-do list, what you did an hour ago, the promises you made yesterday?

You could be suffering from the effects of poor sleep.

Thanks to a study published in Science by researchers at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute at McGill University, and the University of Bern in Switzerland, there’s new awareness that rapid eye movement sleep, or REM, plays a direct role in the formation of memory.

REM sleep, also called dream sleeping, is actually the fourth and final stage of sleep. This sleep stage is characterized by rapid eye movement back, shallow breathing, heart rate and blood pressure increase, and paralysis of the legs and arms.

Although scientists already knew that the brain stores newly acquired information into different types of memories. These are spatial or emotional memories. After they are stored, they are consolidated or integrated.

But how this brain function performs has remained a mystery until the researchers proved, using optogenetics, that REM sleep is critical for the normal spatial memory formation in mice. Optogenetics is a recently developed technology that helps scientists to precisely target a population of neurons and control its activity by light.

REM sleep has long been considered a critical sleep component in all mammals, not just humans. Poor sleep quality is also becoming increasingly associated with onset of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The results from this study suggest that disrupted REM sleep may be a direct contributor to the kind of memory impairment that those with Alzheimer’s disease exhibit.

But disrupted REM sleep isn’t good for anyone, not in the short- or the long-term.

 

How to Ensure Good REM Sleep

If disrupted REM sleep is wreaking havoc with your memory, there are some things you can do to ensure you get back to having a good night of REM sleep.

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages – particularly in the hours just before you head off to bed. While alcohol may make you drowsy, it interferes with REM sleep. Caffeine, meanwhile, negatively affects REM sleep. So drink that latte earlier in the day.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress that is supportive of your body.
  • Watch out for taking certain medications, including decongestants and diet pills, because they also have a negative effect on REM sleep.
  • Medications taken to promote sleep, both prescription and over-the-counter medicine, work to suppress REM sleep.
  • Cigarette smoking is also counter-productive to a good REM sleep. That’s because nicotine withdrawal wakes the sleeper prematurely, thus disrupting adequate REM sleep.
  • Maintain a comfortable sleeping environment. If the room where you sleep is too hot or too cold, it will interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. That’s because the body loses its ability to regulate temperature during REM sleep. So, if you wake up because you’re shivering or in a sweat, your REM sleep is disrupted. It may be a while before you fall back asleep, and your REM sleep may not be enough.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Retire for the night at a consistent time and wake up at the same time each morning. When you maintain a regular sleep schedule, you’ll be giving yourself more opportunity to cycle between the various sleep stages and experience longer REM sleep later in the night.
  • Get rid of all distractions in the bedroom. Light from electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, television and computers stimulates the brain, cuts down on the production of melatonin that encourages REM sleep, and can mess up your body clock. Technology is a huge culprit in sleep-deprived individuals.
  • Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes daily – but do it 5 or 6 hours before you’re ready to go to sleep. Daily exercise has been proven to both help you sleep and allow you to stay in REM sleep longer.

 

If you try these techniques and still have a problem getting adequate REM sleep, a visit to your doctor might be in order. There could be an underlying medical condition that needs attention. For most people, however, understanding the various stages of sleep and the things that typically interfere with REM sleep, and taking proactive steps to counter them usually works.

 

Now, go ahead and get some good ZZZZs.

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10 Biggest Daily Work Time-Wasters

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There are only so many hours in the day to get things done. Knowing this, sometimes does it seem like you’re constantly chasing down the clock, scrambling last-minute to finalize projects, gather your thoughts and make it home in one piece?
Could it be that you’re wasting precious time doing things that are unnecessary, low priority, out of sequence or simply the wrong things at the wrong time?

Here’s a look at some of the biggest daily wastes of time at work. See if you recognize your time-wasters among them.

Time-Waster #1: Checking texts and tweets

If you can’t bear to miss what could be important texts and tweets, you’re likely guilty of FOMO (fear of missing out). In reality, most of the instant messages, texts and tweets can wait for later. It’s all too easy to become hooked on checking, replying and checking again cycle. No wonder you can’t get anything done at work, home, school or elsewhere.

What to do: Only check texts and tweets on a pre-determined schedule. And don’t make that too often or you’ll defeat the purpose.

Time-Waster #2: Addicted to email

Email is a necessary part of doing business. It’s also the bane of productivity at the office, home business, on the road and so on. If you always have your email client open and notifications pop up on the taskbar or chime to let you know another email’s arrived, you’re engaging in highly unproductive behavior. Not only are you inclined to rush to that incoming email to see what it’s about, you’re also taking your concentration away from the task you’re engaged in.

That’s not conducive to good work habits. And it won’t win you any points with the boss – unless, of course, the email is an urgent one from your superior.

What to do: Set specific times to check emails, say at 9:00 a.m., Noon, and 3:00 p.m. Don’t be tempted to interrupt your schedule to peek. That’s defeating the purpose.

Time-Waster #3: Multitasking

You’re not a superpower. That means you don’t have the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. Somehow, however, you’ve come to believe that you’re really good at juggling several things at once.

You’re not.

What to do: Prioritize your day, setting a specific time to accomplish each task. Work to complete one before beginning another. By focusing on one task at a time, you’ll train yourself to finish it in the allotted time. You’ll probably do a better job at it as well.

Time-Waster #4: Reacting, not acting

How much of your day is spent reacting to something others foist on you, interrupt you with or feel you have to comment about? If you’re always reacting, that robs you of time you could better spend taking action.

What to do: While you can’t stop all interruptions, you can figure out how to deal with them more effectively. Don’t answer the phone when you’re in the middle of a project. Let it go to voicemail. If someone asks you to help them, say you’ll be glad to when you’re finished with what you’re doing.

Time-Waster #5: Doing personal stuff

Everyone does it. That doesn’t mean tending to personal stuff when you’re supposed to be working isn’t a huge time suck. Hoping you can post to your social media or sneak some errands in before your boss notices is not the best strategy. And you’re more likely to extend the time than cut it short.

What to do: Use your lunch break to take care of personal matters, such as updating social media, gabbing with friends, etc. Let others know they can reach you during this time, not when you’re working.

Time-Waster #6: Endless surfing the Web

The Internet is a wonderful resource, but it’s also the perfect venue for wasting time. Not only can you get lost by following different links, the temptation to endlessly surf the Web is almost irresistible.

What to do: Here is a case where you really need to set limits. If you can’t engage in a quick peek when you’re researching something for work, set your surfing aside and indulge in it during lunch break or after work. At least finish what you’re working on now. Otherwise, the end of the day will arrive and you’ll have wasted it.

Time-Waster #7: Looking for things

Where did that report go? You know it was just here, but you can’t seem to find it in the pile on your desk. If your work area – or the area where you do work – is cluttered, scattered and messy, you are wasting time you can’t afford.

What to do: Spend 10 minutes at the end of the day to clear your desk. File what needs to be kept. Recycle or shred documents no longer needed. Make your workspace neat and tidy. This will add to your efficiency tomorrow and cut down on wasted time.

Time-Waster #8: Little breaks that go on forever

Stretching a coffee break into longer than necessary is another common time-wasting practice. That smoke you just have to have (even though you’ve promised yourself you’d quit) seems to take you away from the job far more often than it should. These constant little breaks are adding up to a lot of lost productivity. Not good.

What to do: While mini-breaks, as in, looking away from the computer or getting up to walk around every 15 minutes, are good, heading out for too many breaks is counter-productive. Cut them to mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon and you’ll find you’ve gained back some of that time you lost.

Time-Waster #9: Meetings that go nowhere

Who doesn’t hate unproductive meetings? The fact is that many meetings lack a solid agenda, meander without ever accomplishing their goal, degenerate into argument or reach no consensus.

What to do: Distribute an agenda prior to the meeting (if you’re the one calling it). If you’re an attendee/participant, encourage others to stick to the agenda. Most important, if a meeting isn’t necessary, elicit ideas and input another way, perhaps via email.

Time-Waster #10: Nonproductive in-between time

Your workday isn’t all alone-time at your desk. It’s comprised of meetings and phone calls and time in-between meetings. These windows of 15-30 minutes are often completely wasted.

What to do: Instead of doodling at your desk, using the time to check social media, emails and engage in other time-wasters, try to schedule meetings back-to-back. The time you save can then be grouped into a single block of time, possibly later in the day. That allows you uninterrupted time to actually get something done.

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6 Reasons to Love Routines

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With everything you have to do on a daily basis, it can sometimes get to be a bit too much. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a startup, a small business owner, a home-based entrepreneur trying to juggle kids and family and still tend to your company, everyone struggles to find balance and figure out effective ways to get things done.

Here’s where routines come in handy. In fact, instead of considering daily routines as something boring or to be avoided at all costs, routine should actually be your friend.

I know I’ve come to appreciate the value of routines. Here’s why:

 

Routines are comfortable

Like that outfit you automatically reach for in the closet because you can just be yourself in it, a routine that’s established offers comfort.

You don’t have to worry that it isn’t the right one or try to figure out which one to use. You’ve got it down, know the steps, what to do first and what follows after that.

Less worry, more comfort. How easy is that?

 

Routines are familiar

When faced with something strange, the natural tendency is to shy away, to wonder if this is perhaps out of your league, to procrastinate until a deadline or demand forces you to take action.

On the other hand, even when you know you’re likely to encounter moments requiring you to make a decision today, you can still rely on the familiarity routines provide.

Familiarity in routines is like a dear friend. You know what to expect. There are no surprises. When I’m on autopilot – especially first thing in the morning when I’m not quite fully awake – my familiar routine is a blessing.

 

Routines are easy

While some routines can become unnecessarily complicated, the best ones are simple and easy to follow.

Who wants to think too hard about which part of the routine requires additional steps before you can begin? What you want is the cleanest, most straightforward and basic routine to make doing it as easy as possible.

The key is to break the routine into small, easy-to-follow steps. This helps cement it in your memory and you can pull it out whenever you need it.

 

Routines offer security

A lot of times you don’t get to choose what you have to work on today. Your boss, teacher, parent, friend, neighbor, acquaintance or associate or someone else lays down the itinerary for you. More than likely, they also insist on a deadline.

Not knowing what’s coming when tends to make you a little insecure. Enter the security of your familiar, comfortable and easy routine. Nothing like going back to basics to reestablish calm and give you the sense that you do have control over what you do.

Whenever I feel things getting out of control, I take the time to indulge in one of my favorite routines. Mine is having a delicious latte. The whole process of anticipation, making it and sipping it never fails to make me feel great.

 

Routines help you get started

Pressure to complete multiple projects often results in an unwillingness to begin on any of them. It may seem like the more you have on your to-do list, the less inclined you are to get started.

The beauty of routines is that they serve as a neat primer to get your energy revved up. Consider a routine as the spark that ignites the gasoline to power the car or the fuel in the breakfast that nourishes your body and mind.

Whether you make use of a routine to get up in the morning or go to bed at night – you might even refer to these as rituals — what you do before tackling a difficult or time-consuming project at work, or something you do before having an important conversation, routines are very good at helping you get started.

 

And sometimes we all need a little help doing that.

 

Routines serve as a transition or bridge

It’s a well-known fact that human beings can’t run flat-out for long periods of time. There are only so many all-nighters you can pull before your body gives out.

A routine makes transitioning from one state of energy, focus or concentration to another a little less jarring. It also helps to smooth the way from one task to the next by factoring in a buffer zone to refresh and regroup.

One of my favorite routines helps me do just that. It’s also good exercise. After working on a task for about an hour, I get up and walk downstairs, go outside to do something small in the garden (another familiar, comfortable and easy routine), or take a walk.

 

What are your favorite routines? Do you have some you use only in certain situations or that you find are more effective than others? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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Can You Name Your Top 5 Goals?

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Chances are you want a lot more out of life. And you’re well aware that success requires ongoing effort, a plan and willingness to do what it takes.

So, why are you floundering? Or are you just confused, unclear or unmotivated?

When the thought occurs to you that you’re not where you want to be, the next question to ask yourself is, “What are my goals?”

This basic self-query is essential to achieving anything in life, whether it’s success in business or career, at home, school, in relationships, and in finding happiness and purpose.

Goals are the key.

With this in mind, can you name your top five?

If not, all is not lost. Here’s help to get you back on track.

 

What All Good Goals Have in Common

Goals are as plentiful as grains of sand on a beach. They’re also as unique. Your goal for achieving success at work is different from mine, from that of your friend and co-worker, the neighbor across the street, your best pal in high school.

Yet good goals have a few characteristics in common:

  • They’re meaningful, highly desirable to the individual.
  • They can be separated into smaller, specific goals for different parts of your life (such as career, relationships, health, self-fulfillment, hobbies, etc.).
  • They’re realistic.
  • They’re achievable.
  • They generate inner excitement.
  • They spark enthusiasm and drive to achieve them.

 

How to Understand What Really Matters

Everyone’s heard the story about the patient who learns she has only six months to live. What will she do with that remaining time? A lot gets clarified in a hurry when time is short.

Translate that to your situation – and that means putting yourself in the life and death scenario. Think about the people and dreams that are most important to you. Are you making progress toward doing what makes you most happy and fulfilled?

Suppose you always thought that having $100,000 in the bank would be a sign of success, that this was a worthwhile goal. Is the bank statement showing you’ve got $100,000 in your account a manifestation of what you believe is truly important in life?

Will it sustain you and bring you comfort over the next 180 days?

Granted, it’s painful to envision the end of your life. Yet this exercise may help you drill down to the essence of your values and beliefs. It may be easier to strip away the nonessential and hone in on goals that really do make a difference.

These will be the goals that are meaningful, can be broken into workable parts, are realistic, achievable, exciting and motivating.

 

Step-by-step Process to Achieving Goals

After you’ve completed your self-awareness analysis and gotten to the crux of what means most to you, you’re ready to begin work on goals.

Specifically, this is an eight-step process to achieving goals:

  1. Identify goals. Remember the various aspects of your life that matter? Take the time to write down goals that affect your career, attitude, health, relationships, financials and more.

 

  1. Prioritize goals. Assign a number to each, from most- to least-important. Do this for each category.

 

  1. Create sub-goals. While you have already identified primary goals, each of these need to have sub-goals that you create. A sub-goal is a goal that must be achieved before you can succeed in attaining the primary goal.

 

  1. Develop intermediate goals. Take each goal category and list what you feel you need to achieve in several timeframes: a month, six months, one year, five years and 10 years. Make these intermediate goals specific. Write them down.

 

  1. Do a present status assessment. Next, figure out where you are today relative to your goals. If you find that you’re far short of where you need to be, consider what you need to do to either change your circumstances or reconstruct your goals. This isn’t giving up on your goals. It’s revising them to acknowledge the constraints you’re experiencing while still giving you the opportunity to achieve them.

 

  1. Get used to achieving goals. You want to become familiar enough and comfortable with attaining goals. Once you succeed, instead of considering that you’re done, revise the goal again to the next level up. As you gain more self-confidence with continued goal achievement, you will experience continued growth.

 

  1. See yourself being successful. A crucial part of goal setting and achievement is actually visualizing yourself a success. Engage in a little daydreaming here to see how that success looks, sounds and feels.

 

  1. Set a timeline and plan. Having gone through steps one through eight, you’re not done yet. Now it’s time to put down a timeline and a specific plan in order to achieve each of your goals.

 

The more you go through this process, the easier it will become. After a while, it’s going to become second-nature. Instead of struggling to figure out where you’re going from here or not knowing what really matters, you’ll have an instinctive blueprint.

You may not end up with five top goals. You may have only three, or you could have 10. The number isn’t important. What matters is how these goals help you to live a vibrant and purposeful life.

If they don’t, are they really that important after all?

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Struggling to Reach Your Goals? 6 Steps to Get Unstuck

Photo by John Salzarulo on Unsplash

“Write down your goals, make plans to achieve them, and work on your plans every single day.” – Brian Tracy

 

Do your goals seem too lofty and far-off to reasonably achieve? Do you sometimes feel stymied by lack of discernible progress? Does this dearth of accomplishment make you lose interest and diminish momentum toward doing what’s necessary to get to the next level? It isn’t your goals that may need attention, but how you go about reaching them. Here are some thought-starters on how to make progress without struggle.

1.    Review your list of goals to ensure they’re ones you really want.

“It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than at the top of the one you don’t.” – Stephen Kellogg

Compiling a long list of goals you have no real desire to achieve is a worthless endeavor. Not only will you toss the list in a deep drawer never to revisit it, you’ll likely feel a twinge of guilt that you did so. Why? When everyone seems to want to talk about how much they want to do in life, how long their goal or bucket list is, you know that you’ve given short shrift to what you really want out of life. You have nothing to talk about, let alone motivate you to go beyond what you now know.

The simplest way to get around this is to dig out that list of goals and go through it, weeding out each one that hasn’t a remote chance of ever getting done and retaining those that may spark your interest, if only slightly. There’ll be time to flesh them out later. For now, you need to pare that unwieldy list to one that’s more manageable. In fact, if you wind up with a handful of life goals that you may be able to rework into some that will energize you, that’s making progress right away.

2.    Single out a goal you want to achieve above all others. This is the one to focus on.

“This one step – choosing a goal and sticking to it – changes everything.” – Scott Reed

You must begin somewhere, and that starts when you identify one goal on your pared-down list that you most want to achieve. There’s no sense diluting your energy by trying to go after too many goals at once. By zeroing in on a single goal, the right goal, you’re honing your focus to a laser sharp concentration.

Note that you may need to sleep on this goal in order to allow your subconscious to link threads of possibilities for you to review upon waking. Why is this important? What may be a natural progression of steps might not be readily apparent when you first think about what approach to take with this goal. You may, for example, be tempted to jot down easy-to-do steps that may look like you’ll be making progress when, in fact, they’re more busywork than anything else. What you want is a coherent plan, something that makes sense while it also spurs you to action. This may seem like an impossible outcome, yet you’ll be surprised what your subconscious can come up with. Let it go to work for you.

3.    Fan the fire within.

“When your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.” – Napoleon Hill

When you can’t wait to get started working on your goal, you know this is something you really want in your life. It will not matter how arduous the path or how many times you stumble along the way, the vision you have of success is firmly imprinted in your mind and nothing will deter you. What’s so beautiful about having this fire within is that obstacles that might otherwise stall momentum have little chance. Instead, novel solutions may appear, seemingly out of nowhere.

Granted, there will be twists and turns as you work towards the goal. That’s to be expected and is nothing to worry about. If you find that you’re making phenomenal strides with little effort and no problems, it may mean that your plan was so well-crafted and executed that nothing could stand in the way. On the other hand, it could also mean that the goal you chose was not lofty enough.

It is good to have minor goals, ones that you can work on and accomplish so you have a track record of success. Just be sure you always put in time on the highest-value and most-desirable goal as well.

4.    All goals are possible – even those that seem impossible.

“What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve.” – Norman Vincent Peale

If there was no challenge, there would be no satisfaction in success. The journey to achieving a heartfelt goal is perhaps as important as the realization of accomplishment. Goals that rank as highly impossible, as compared with just impossible, a comment generally used to dismiss difficult, time-consuming or seemingly improbable goals out of hand, may very well be the ones that others will talk about for years to come. After all, didn’t the world’s great inventors put their energy into solving riddles that confounded, perplexed, and for which no answer seemed possible?

They didn’t give up. They did persist, with enthusiasm, determination and follow-through. As a study from the American Psychological Association points out, monitoring the progress made toward goals helps promote goal achievement, especially when such progress is recorded or written down.

5.    Add variety to your action plan.

“The best way to keep good acts in memory is to refresh them with new.” – Cato the Elder

Researchers at the University of Sussex found that pond snails learned and remembered more when learning two totally unrelated tasks. How does this relate to making progress reaching your goals? By adding variety to the action plan you’ve put together for achieving the goal, you’re more likely to learn faster what works and remember it than if you keep doing the same step (or one that’s very similar) over and over.

6.    Recognize that where you live is now.

“Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results.” – Robin Sharma

Attaining that all-important goal may take some time, yet you do make progress on the end result with action you take today. This is, after all, where you live: in the here and now. Put your best work into making little improvements today. Do the same tomorrow. You’re bound to make progress – and it won’t even seem like a struggle. Research shows that immediate rewards today can help with long-term goal achievement.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways to Express Gratitude

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

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E-Cigarettes: What You Need to Know Before You Pick up That Vaping Device

When e-cigarettes first appeared in 2007, little was known about any potential long-term harmful effects resulting from regular use. Touted as a safe alternative to smoking traditional tobacco products, e-cigarette acceptance and use exploded, with sales over the past 10 years increasing nearly 14-fold. Part of the reason e-cigarette use increased so rapidly is that, given their status as consumer products, they were exempt from required regulatory oversight of pharmaceutical nicotine products, including nicotine gum and patches. Today, however, research has uncovered evidence pointing to major concerns related to negative health consequences associated with long-term vaping. In short, e-cigarettes and vaping may not be as safe as you think.

Vaping Increases Risk of Having Heart Attack or Stroke

While it’s tough to pinpoint the prevalence of e-cigarette use in America, estimates from research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2018 found that nearly one in 20 adults in America is a current e-cigarette user, and more than half of current e-cig smokers are under the age of 35. Furthermore, researchers say the use of e-cigs is especially common among LGBT individuals, those with co-morbid conditions, and current smokers of regular cigarettes.

Now, as researchers from the University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita, detail in their study, adults self-reporting vaping are significantly more likely to have a heart attack (56 percent) or stroke (30 percent) than non-users. Other study findings showed that coronary artery disease and blood circulation problems, which included blood clots) are much higher among vapers. What’s perhaps surprising is the finding that e-cigarette smokers were more than twice as likely to suffer from emotional problems, including depression and anxiety.

The University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita study is the largest to-date study of the relationship between vaping and negative cardiovascular health and other health outcomes. It’s also one of the first to establish an association – but not causation, as yet – between the two. Still, researchers note, although traditional smoking carries a higher risk of having a heart attack (165 percent), coronary artery disease (94 percent), or stroke (78 percent), that doesn’t mean vaping is safe. E-cigarettes may contain nicotine (which can increase blood pressure and quicken heartbeat) and release similar toxic compounds that occur during traditional tobacco smoking.

E-Cigs Not Safe for Lung Health

In a study published in Tobacco Control, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that vapers were nearly twice as likely to develop wheezing and other respiratory problems as those who did not regularly use tobacco products. Wheezing, caused by airways that are narrowed or abnormal, noted researchers in this study, is one of the early signs of lung damage. Wheezing is also often a precursor to heart failure, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease and lung cancer.

Researchers said the results are consistent with previous University of Rochester research published in PLOS ONE that showed emissions from aerosols in e-cigarettes and flavorings can damage the cells of the lungs by generating harmful free radicals and inflammation in lung tissues.

USB-type Vaping Devices Deliver High Levels of Nicotine

What should be of particular concern to parents of adolescents and teens is the skyrocketing rate of vaping that’s occurred in just the last few years. Nicotine, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is highly addictive, and most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. But there are special dangers to kids from vaping, since adolescent brains are still in developmental mode, and nicotine wreaks havoc on normal brain maturation. Vaping may also lead to smoking tobacco. But, besides nicotine, vaping devices may also contain other harmful substances: cancer-causing chemicals; volatile organic compounds; flavoring with diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease; ultrafine particles inhaled into the lungs; and heavy metals that include tin, lead and nickel.

Not only that, for vigilant parents monitoring their children’s use of substances, including smoking and vaping, it’s often tough to discern the new vaping devices from commonly used school items, such as pens and USB drives. Indeed, JUUL, the maker of the top-selling cigarette brand in the U.S., sells its highly potent vaping devices that are shaped like USB-flash drives. A single JUUL pod has nicotine comparable to a pack of 20 regular tobacco cigarettes. Research published in BMJ says that JUUL, introduced to the U.S. market in 2015, uses benzoic acid and nicotine salt technology to produce nicotine concentration of 50 mg/mL in the standard version, compared to the typical nicotine concentrations in other e-cigarettes of 3-24 mg/mL.

Here’s how the JUUL vaping device works:

  • It’s battery operated.
  • The device heats a liquid containing nicotine.
  • The heated liquid produces an aerosol.
  • The vaper inhales the aerosol.

As noted in the BMJ research, evidence pointing to potential addiction occurring from regular adolescent vaping was scant before 2018. Now that JUUL and nicotine salt-based products have emerged, the trend “might signal a change” and suggests the need for continued monitoring of adolescent vaping behavior, the products they use and frequency of use.

Data from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that past 30-day vaping among high school seniors was 20.8 percent, compared to 11.7 percent in 2017. This is consistent with trends found in the 2018 Monitoring the Future Study which noted that nicotine vaping among adolescents aged 16 to 19 are the largest ever recorded of any substances in the 44 years the MTF has tracked adolescent drug use.

Explosions of Vaping Devices May Cause Serious Injury

Warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on how to avoid exploding vaping devices make it clear that there’s potential for serious injury from such incidents. While the FDA says these explosions are rare, and the underlying causes are unknown, it is suspected that issues related to the devices’ batteries may be involved.

Safety tips from the FDA on how to protect yourself from exploding vape devices include these recommendations:

  • Do not use your phone/tablet charger to charge the vaping device.
  • If batteries in the vaping device become wet or damaged, replace the batteries.
  • Never charge your vaping device overnight.
  • Be sure to protect the vaping device from extreme temperatures, such as leaving it on the dashboard of the car during a hot day.
  • Use proper storage of loose vaping device batteries by putting them in a case and making sure they’re away from metal objects.

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Related Posts:

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways to Express Gratitude

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

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Happiness Is Not Automatic – You Have to Put Effort Into It

Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

 

“If you think that peace and happiness are somewhere else and you run after them, you will never arrive. Only when you realize that peace and happiness are available here in this moment, will you be able to relax.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

 

There always seems to be a lot of talk about happiness. We want to know what it is, where to get it, how to make it better, last longer, how to be happy in the face of illness, pain, despite financial setbacks, lack of progress at work and so much more. While it would be nice if happiness was a vitamin you could take, or something that could be instantly transmitted via a massage, some kind words, even an injection, such is not generally the case. Indeed, the harder we search for happiness, the more likely it is that happiness will elude us. The truth is that happiness is not automatic – you have to put some effort into it.

But how?

Why Not Just Wait for Happiness?

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama

You could decide to wait for happiness to somehow come around. It’s true that lolling around sometimes feels good. It’s not a bad thing to take some time to do absolutely nothing – now and then. After all, everyone needs a little down time, a respite when they can let ideas bubble to the surface and begin to take shape, igniting creative ways to do something new. And brainstorming new ideas is its own form of self-generated happiness. It still takes determination and intent.

Yet the time to take action on those creative new ideas will not be far away and is actually necessary to getting things done.

This is also important in the pursuit of happiness. If you want to be happy, you won’t find happiness sitting on a shelf for you to pick up and own. You’ll only find your happiness as a result of what you do in life.

This doesn’t mean your profession or occupation defines your happiness, although you can be wondrously happy in your chosen career if that’s what is meaningful and purposeful in your life. Happiness springs from within, but it requires your action in order to come forth.

Does this sound complicated? It really isn’t.

Say you want a happy family, to feel comfortable and loved by those closest to you. If you do nothing to inspire and nurture warm and loving feelings from them, you might not realize the happiness you so desire. On the other hand, if you give without expectation of return, always show by your actions that you care very deeply about your family members and let them know you love them with what you say, the likelihood of experiencing a happy family increases. Taking delight in small pleasures is inherently experiencing happiness.

On the work front, if a promotion and the opportunity to lead a team is what you believe will make you happy, you’ve got some work to do in order to get there. It won’t happen by chance. And it may take longer than you’d like. But if you truly desire this goal, if you know in your heart that this will bring you happiness, put together a plan of action and get to work.

It’s worth noting that no one is happy all the time. Some people are even afraid of being happy. There are ups and downs in everyone’s life and that is something to expect. Still, the little moments, the small victories, the shared successes often signal a deep and strong feeling of contentment and happiness in life.

If you want happiness, don’t just sit there. Get out and do something to help you achieve it.

Ready to Go for It?

If you’re all fired up and ready to go, what’s holding you back? After all, if working towards something you value and want to achieve is one avenue toward happiness, why not jump in? If you have a goal in mind and a plan in place, you just need to get started, right? Not so fast. It could be you have last-minute doubts, aren’t all that motivated, or you’re worried that you won’t have enough time, energy or resources to do it right.

This is perfectly normal. You can be eager to begin something, but still have aspects of that intended activity that give you pause. You’d be foolish to disregard cautious thoughts, for those may very well be things you need to pay attention to. In your zeal to get going, you may have forgotten a key component, neglected to take a critical first step, or realized you have a conflict that will prevent you being able to devote your full effort to the task right now.

Still, you can acknowledge the doubts, reinvigorate your energy, calm your worries and remind yourself why this is important to you. That’s when you’ll summon the appropriate mindset and the will to get moving.

And none of this detracts from the happiness you feel about what you want to do. You’re not, in fact, idle. You’re doing all-important prep work. That creates a measure of satisfaction, which is a key component of happiness in the moment.

Happiness in Taking on Difficult Challenges

“I think anything is possible if you have the mindset and the will and desire to do it and put the time in.” Roger Clemens

Even with projects that seem impossibly difficult, that don’t seem to stand a chance, and may be well beyond what others believe you capable of, with the will, tenacity and hard work you’re determined to put in, you can very well succeed.

Take a moment to remind yourself of some of the incredible things you’ve accomplished in the past. Think about the challenges you faced and how you overcame them. As you do so, you’ll recall the skills you knew you had, as well as ones you discovered that you didn’t know you possessed. That memory of the joy you felt when you put your skills to work is another measure of happiness. If you face difficult challenges today, remember that what worked before may help you overcome any temporary inertia you feel now, enough so that you summon the self-confidence you know you have and pick up and get working.

Keep in mind too that there are no easy shortcuts to success. Whatever your goal, if your mind and heart and energy aren’t fully into it, you could stumble. In addition, if you’re looking for a quick result and don’t really give it your full attention, the result may be less than satisfactory. Since that’s not what you want, recognize the lazy way and adopt the proactive and more likely to succeed effort. Also recognize that you may need to embrace some negative emotions (how you felt when you made a mistake) in order to find the way toward successfully achieving your goal (and happiness).

You can be happy when tackling difficult challenges if you look forward with hope and confidence, put your plan to work, do what’s required and then some, and reap the rewards you so aptly deserve.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways to Express Gratitude

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

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Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 


Factors Linked to Psychological Distress

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Psychological distress, a widely-used indicator of the mental health of a population, nevertheless remains vaguely understood. In numerous studies, psychological distress is “largely” defined as “a state of emotional suffering characterized by symptoms of depression and anxiety.” But how do you know if what you’re experiencing is psychological distress or a diagnosable psychological disorder, such as anxiety or depression? If you’ve had a bad day, does that mean you’re suffering psychological distress? If you lose your job and feel anxious and short-tempered, is this a sign you are in a state of psychological distress?

Psychological Distress Vs. Psychological Disorder

Psychological distress is generally considered a transient (not long-lasting) phenomenon that is related to specific stressors. It typically subsides when either the stressor is removed, or the individual adapts to the stressor.

  • In the example of having a bad day, you’re likely experiencing transient psychological distress. Tomorrow is another day, bringing with it the opportunity to see things differently, start anew, employ healthier self-protective measures and more.
  • On the other hand, if you’ve lost your job and are irritable, anxious, quick-to-anger and display other negative emotions and behavior, and such distress continues for some period of time and now interferes with your daily activities, you may have crossed over from psychological distress of a transient nature to a more deeply-embedded psychological disorder requiring treatment.

Distress that is characteristic of psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression, involves functional impairment and “clinically significant distress” (also called “marked distress”). With anxiety disorders, symptoms do not go away and worsen over time. They also interfere with daily activities such as job, school, and relationships. To be diagnosed with depression, severe symptoms (negatively affecting how you feel, think and handle daily activities) must be present for two weeks.

Signs of Psychological Distress

You likely know when something is off with someone you love, or within yourself. It could be transient and resolved rather quickly, or it could be indicative of an accumulation of factors causing psychological distress. WebMD lists a number of signs of emotional distress that equally apply to psychological distress.

  • Disturbances in sleep
  • Fluctuations in weight, along with eating pattern changes
  • Physical changes that are unexplained, including headache, constipation, diarrhea, chronic pain, and rumbling stomach
  • Frequently provoked to anger
  • Developing obsessive/compulsive behaviors
  • Chronic fatigue, excessive tiredness, no energy
  • Forgetfulness and memory problems
  • Shying away from social activities
  • No longer finding pleasure in sex
  • Comments from others about your mood swings and erratic behavior

Junk Food Linked to Psychological Distress

Researchers at California’s Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center found that state adult residents consuming more unhealthy food were also likely to report psychological distress symptoms (either moderate or severe), compared to peers eating healthier diets. The study, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, also found that nearly 17 percent of California adults are likely to suffer from mental illness, some 13.2 percent with moderate psychological distress and 3.7 percent with severe psychological distress. Researchers recommended targeted public health interventions promoting healthier diets aimed at young adults and those with less than 12 years of education.

Goal Conflict and Psychological Distress Linked

A study conducted by the University of Exeter and Edith Cowan University found that personal goal conflict may increase feelings of anxiety and depression. They studied two forms of motivational conflict, inter-goal conflict (which occurs when pursuing a goal makes it difficult to pursue another goal), and ambivalence (when the individual has conflicting feelings about particular goals). Results of the study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, showed that each of these goal conflict forms were associated independently with depressive and anxious symptoms. Researchers said that those with poorer mental health are more likely to say their personal goals are in conflict with each other. Such goal conflicts can contribute to psychological distress.

An earlier meta-analysis by researchers from the University of California, Riverside, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, found that higher levels of goal conflict are negatively associated with psychological well-being (lower levels of positive psychological outcomes and greater levels of psychological distress).

How to Cope with Psychological Distress

The first step in effective coping with psychological distress involves identifying the potential causes for the distress and then resolving to take steps to alleviate or overcome it. This may involve psychological counseling to get at the root cause for the psychological distress. As part of the counseling, the psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional may recommend a number of different therapeutic approaches to help reduce psychological distress.

Getting out in nature – A 2019 study published in Health Place looked at the beneficial effects of greenness (green space) and serious psychological distress among adults and teens in California and found epidemiological evidence of such benefits in the study group’s mental health. While numerous other studies focused on adults and beneficial effects of green space, this population-based U.S. study aimed to fill in the gap with inclusion of teens.

Another 2019 study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, reported that even short-term time spent in an urban park contributed to improvement in subjective well-being. The effect was independent of levels of physical activity. Improvement was reported as stress reduction and recovery from mental fatigue. Researchers recommended a minimum of 20 minutes in the park to achieve benefits from being in the green space.

Try giving hugsResearched published in PLOS One found that receiving hugs on days when subjects experienced interpersonal conflict helped attenuate the negative effects of the conflict on same-day and subsequent day. Researchers said their findings help contribute to an understanding of the role of interpersonal touch as a buffer against negative outcomes of interpersonal conflict and distress.

Identify what you need and focus on what you wantPsychological distress is no picnic and when you’re in the throes of it, you may be uncertain what to do next. Experts recommend healthy ways to deal with such distress that include, first and foremost, identifying what it is you need and then also focusing on what you want. You need to practice good self-care (being kind to yourself), engage in grounding, developing your nurturing self-voice and other proactive coping methods to help deal with psychological distress.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Research Finds New Health Benefits From Sleep

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

Surprising New Pain Relief Methods

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How to Identify and Overcome Frustration

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

 

“I was an accomplice in my own frustration.” – Peter Shaffer

 

While we may not recognize when we do it, or even admit to it when we know we do, we all sometimes have a tendency to sabotage our efforts, thus leading to unnecessary and sometimes disruptive frustration. The key to being able to overcome frustration is to learn how to identify it and then implement strategies to combat it.

Where Does Frustration Come From?

In the simplest terms, frustration is an emotion that comes from being blocked from achieving an intended goal. There are internal sources of frustration, as well as external sources.

Internal sources: If you are not able to get what you want, the disappointment and frustration you feel may well be the outcome. This may be due to a loss of self-confidence or self-esteem or you may be afraid of certain social situations.

External sources: Often, it’s the conditions you encounter outside yourself that are the sources of some frustration. These include the people, places and things that serve as roadblocks to getting things you want done. Perhaps the most universal source of frustration is anything that causes you to waste time. We’re all familiar with and likely have to deal with on a regular basis the time lost due to traffic delays, waiting in line, getting to a store or establishment only to find that it’s closed or doesn’t have what you want in stock.

How Does Frustration Make You Feel?

People react to frustration in a number of ways. In response to frustration, they can:

  • Get angry
  • Give up or quit
  • Lose self-esteem
  • Feel a loss of self-confidence
  • Experience stress
  • Feel sad, uncertain, depressed or anxious
  • Turn to substance abuse
  • Engage in other negative, self-destructive or addictive behaviors

A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience analyzed facial expressions and brain-activation mechanisms using functional near-infrared spectroscopy to detect frustration in drivers. Researchers found that frustrated drivers tend to activate mouth region muscles, such as chin raiser, lip pucker and lip pressor). Frustrated driving can result in aggressive behavior, as well as having negative effects on cognitive processes important for driving, including attentiveness, judgment, and decision-making. Another study published in 2016 in Frontiers in Psychology listed some of the emotional and affective responses in the aftermath of frustration, including acute stress, lasting anger, rage, and sadness.

Do Certain People, Places and Things Make You Frustrated?

Sometime, just the sight of a person you’ve had disagreements with is enough to trigger feelings of frustration. Another instance where frustration might crop up is passing by or having to go to a place where you’ve suffered frustration in the past. Maybe it’s trying to help your child with homework that’s a source of frustration, or some other activity that regularly ends with you being frustrated.

Knowing when and where you get frustrated is important to your ability to devise effective strategies for removing and/or coping with the sources of frustration in the safest and most effective manner.

Do You Get More Frustrated at Certain Times?

Undoubtedly, if you’re keeping a calendar or making notes on instances where you’ve experienced frustration, you may notice a pattern. For example, are you more frustrated when you have to pay bills, knowing that you may have to move some finances around or are over-budget this month? Do you become more frustrated on Friday at work because you know you haven’t accomplished key goals for the week? Or is it Monday that frustrates you because you know of important deadlines looming and you’re not sure you’ll be able to fulfill your obligations.

Like taking notice of the people, place and things that cause you frustration, you need to be able to see the patterns in timing for your frustration. This will better allow you to construct coping mechanisms that will be readily available to employ the next time you get frustrated.

What Other Things Contribute to Frustration?

Even after you’ve made a list of the people, places and things and certain times when you’re likely to become frustrated (based on experience), there may be other things that serve as contributing factors to your frustration. Certainly the level of frustration may be affected by:

  • Your state of health, and any physical or medical conditions
  • Financial situation, including bankruptcy, being overextended, wasteful spending
  • Emotional difficulties or loss, including bereavement, a diagnosable psychological condition, loss of a friend
  • Stagnation at work, or loss of a job, losing a promotion

Indeed, knowing how some of these contributors to frustration affect you is instrumental in putting together a plan to overcome further frustration. It isn’t avoiding the source of the frustration, but approaching it with optimism and a carefully-constructed strategy.

When You are Frustrated, What Works to Get Past It?

Perhaps one of the greatest quotes about wisdom is one from Oscar Wilde: “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” The takeaway here is that as you get older, you have the ability to learn from prior experience – positive and negative ones. And older brains are not necessarily slower brains, since older adults are able to benefit from accumulated wisdom. In other words, they cope better in certain situations because they know what works or has worked in the past, they’re more impervious to criticism and have the confidence to know how to make the right decisions.

Various coping methods for frustration recommended by psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals include some that are no-cost or low-cost, as well as some that may involve a financial expenditure from consulting with a professional.

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation practice
  • Yoga
  • Communications skills
  • Emotional and/or physical techniques to release frustration
  • Physical exercise
  • Relaxation activities
  • Travel
  • Taking up a hobby or pastime
  • Cognitive restructuring
  • Learning how to release emotion
  • Psychological counseling or therapy

Why not take up exercise as one of the first lines of defense against frustration? A 2015 study reported in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that exercise offers an acute stress-buffering effect. Besides, it’s quick and convenient to take a walk outside, getting fresh air into your lungs and gaining a fresh perspective, all of which may temper your frustration and boost your mood.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways to Express Gratitude

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.  

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 

 


Kindness Counts: Here’s Why

Photo from picography

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” – Dalai Lama

 

In my opinion, there isn’t enough attention paid to the recommendation to be kind. While we may read or hear the advice to “Be kind to yourself,” or “Be kind to others,” how many times do we take the words to heart and act accordingly? Kindness, research shows, has many benefits to both body and mind. It also makes the giver and receiver of the kindness feel better in most reports. A deeper dive into how and why kindness counts reveals the following relevant (and hopeful) points.

All Kinds of Kindness Acts Boost Happiness

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social Psychology looked at a week’s worth of kindness activities intervention and how they affected changes in subjective happiness. In the study, researchers did a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine if performance of different types of acts of kindness resulted in differential effects on happiness. They found that kindness boosts well-being and happiness. Yet, noted researchers, rarely had other researchers done a specific comparison of kindness acts to different recipients, such as strangers or friends. In this study, researchers used a single factorial design to compare kindness acts to the following: strong social ties, weak social ties, observing kindness acts, novel self-kindness acts, and a control of no acts. Results showed increased happiness over the 7-day study period, that the number of kind acts and happiness increases had a positive correlation, and the effect did not differ across all groups in the experiment. The key takeaway is that research strongly suggests acts of kindness increase happiness to strong and weak ties, to self, and to observing acts of kindness.

Kindness Helps in Cancer Care

Those undergoing cancer treatment, as well as their families, often experience intense turmoil. Not only is there uncertainty over treatment success, worry about levels of pain, functionality and quality of life, the setting and personnel involved in cancer care may seem impersonal, not conducive to well-being or even optimistic over outcomes. In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, researchers from Texas A&M University, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Henry Ford Health System, and Monash University proposed six types of kindness care for cancer patients. The six types included: deep listening; empathy for the cancer patient; generous acts of discretionary effort going well beyond what’s expected; timely care using tools and practices to reduce anxiety and stress; gentle honesty, and support for the cancer patient’s family caregivers. Researchers said these manifestations of kindness by clinicians are mutually reinforcing and can help temper cancer’s emotional toll on all concerned.

Altruistic and Strategic Kindness Both Provide Benefits

Researchers at the University of Sussex analyzed existing research on the brain scans of over 1,000 people who made kind decisions. Their findings, reported in NeuroImage, showed activity in the brain region for both those who acted with strategic kindness – kindness when there was something in it for them – as well as in those who performed kind acts altruistically, expecting nothing in return. Both gift types (altruistic and strategic) benefit others, and both, according to this research, are consistently rewarding to the giver. Furthermore, although they share many neural substrates, the decisions to give aren’t interchangeable in the brain. Altruistic kind acts, however, also sparked more activity in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, showing that there’s something unique about altruistic kindness. Researchers concluded that the fact “that any region is more involved in altruistic decisions suggests that there is something additive and special about giving when the only benefit is a warm glow.”

Being Kind to Your Partner Helps Improve/Stabilize Relationship

While many studies of relationships between partners look at how they deal with negative experiences rather than positive ones, researchers from the University of California found that feeling that your partner is there for you when things are going well and will actually be there when things go right is important to the health and stability of the relationship. They also found that capitalization, sharing news of positive events with close others, plays a likely central role in the formation and maintenance of a relationship. The researchers, whose work was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, said that sharing positive emotional exchanges may form the basis of a stable and satisfying relationship. In other words, be conscious of being kind and sharing good news, positive feelings, and hopes/dreams with your significant other. So, while this study focused on partnership relationships, the results seem somewhat appropriate to extrapolate to how kindness affects other close relationships as well.

WAYS KINDNESS IMPROVES WELL-BEING

Looking at things in a positive light and deciding to act in a likewise manner has many benefits to overall well-being, both for you and the recipient of your kindness. Among the many ways kindness helps in this regard are the following:

  • Kindness boosts happiness.
  • Being kind improves the body’s immune system.
  • Acting in a kind manner has been shown to lower the rate of depression.
  • Creativity gets a helpful assist when you are kind.
  • When you are kind, it may motivate you to work harder.
  • Kindness increases the brain’s natural supply of endorphins, creating the so-called “natural high.”
  • In addition, kindness produces a kind of emotional warmth, itself the by-product of the hormone oxytocin, which helps lower blood pressure and pulse rate.

Besides, wouldn’t you rather show kindness than the opposite? And, as research demonstrates, kindness is contagious. Kindness may be religion, as the Dalai Lama’s quote states, yet it’s part of the human condition, is it not? Mankind has evolved to be more than merely a survivor in the species, due perhaps to the extraordinary ability to show kindness and caring for other like beings, as well as animals, the environment, and the planet on which we exist.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

10 Ways to Express Gratitude

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

How Practicing Compassion May Help You Feel Better

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

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Realistic Ways to Achieve Happiness: An Interview With Tim Bono

Photo by Michele Hohner

Photo by Michele Hohner

Every year, many people make themselves promises to engage in healthier behaviors, to jumpstart in earnest a pursuit of personal happiness. Resolutions notwithstanding, the pursuit of happiness is not only a worthwhile endeavor, it’s also life-affirming and can result in lasting change to overall well-being.

To delve deeper into realistic ways to achieve happiness, I recently spoke with Tim Bono, a psychology lecturer in Arts & Sciences who teaches courses in happiness at Washington University in St. Louis. Bono is the author of “When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness.”

You say “life-changing” and that there’s a science to happiness. Can you explain what you mean by that?

TB: People have been interested in pursuing the good life for as long as there have been people. Over the last few decades, the field of psychology has applied the scientific method to the age-old questions around how we can increase our well-being and strengthen our psychological health. Beyond just intuition and conventional wisdom, the scientific method tests hypotheses by collecting data on large groups of people to identify the behaviors and mindsets that are most effective at increasing our happiness.

What are your top tips for making this a happier year – by doing something proactive to get a handle on personal happiness?

TB: I have a few I recommend, as follows:

  • Get outside, move around, take a walk.
  • Get more happiness for your money. Buy experiences instead of things and spend your money on others.
  • Carve out time to be happy, then give it away. Thirty minutes helping others is more rewarding and actually leaves us feeling empowered to tackle the next project, helping us feel more in control of our lives and even less pressed for time. This translates to higher levels of happiness and satisfaction.
  • Delay the positive, dispatch the negative. Anticipation itself is pleasurable, and looking forward to an enjoyable experience can make it all that much sweeter.
  • Enjoy the ride. People who focus more on process than outcome tend to remain motivated in the face of setbacks.
  • Embrace failure. How we think about failure determines whether it makes us happy or sad.
  • Sweet dreams. Get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis.
  • Strengthen your willpower muscles. Exercising willpower muscles in small, everyday behaviors strengthens our ability to stay focused at work.
  • Introduce variety into your day-to-day activities.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Reach out and connect with someone.
  • Limit time on social media.
  • Use your phone in the way phones were originally intended.
  • Practice gratitude.

The most effective interventions in my view are gratitude, sleep, exercise, and social connection.

Are most of your tips on how to achieve happiness – like going outside for a walk – more physical than mental? That is, do you initiate the code to happiness by doing something physical? Or is it more of a balance between the two?

TB: We know there is a strong link between our psychological health and our physical health. One of the most effective ways to take care of our minds is to take care of our bodies. Physical activity releases neurotransmitters like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which are the brain’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. There’s also a feeling of accomplishment (what psychologists call “self-efficacy”) that comes from completing the hard work of an intense exercise or workout routine. In this way, exercise is a very important way to strengthen psychological well-being. But there are, of course, many other ways to increase happiness that aren’t predicated on physical activity. Gratitude, meditation, and prosocial behavior are chief among them and do not require physical labor of any kind.

Do different stages of life have anything to do with how easy or difficult it is to achieve happiness?

TB: On average, there doesn’t seem to be a strong relationship between age and happiness. However, there is evidence to suggest that older adults tend to be slightly happier than younger people, which could be due, in part, to a tendency to savor life more during its later stages instead of striving for the next promotion or worrying whether their career is on the right track for optimal future success. Older adults are more likely to live in there here and now, and that kind of mindfulness is important for our well-being.

What additional methods, if any, do those in recovery from addiction (alcohol, painkillers, polydrug use) and/or mental health disorder (anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorder) need to employ in order to get on the road toward feeling happier?

TB: One of the most important ways to recover from addiction or disorder and get back on track toward mental health is with a strong social support system. Caring people who provide a shoulder to lean on during the inevitable difficult times along the way, as well as people who are there to help you celebrate your successes, are extremely valuable on the road to recovery. When people you trust know about your goals to improve your well-being, they hold you accountable and provide support, both of which can go a long way toward making progress.

Any advice on how to deal with obstructive others – that is, those closest to you (family, loved ones, friends, even co-workers) who try to dampen your enthusiasm or are critical of your efforts to prioritize you and work on your personal happiness?

TB: As difficult as it may be, bring sympathy toward your interaction with that person. Anyone who stands to obstruct another person from improving their own happiness and well-being is likely battling their own inner demons. If someone criticizes you or otherwise attempts to derail your efforts, you might choose to acknowledge that you’ve heard them, but do not modify your behaviors to accommodate their negativity. Find friends or colleagues who support you—or better yet, want to join you in these efforts—and spend more time with them. Negative people are unavoidable in our daily lives but that does not mean that we have to allow them to dictate our behaviors. As you make progress toward your own psychological health goals, you might also consider serving as a model for those who were not initially supportive. Don’t do this to show off, but merely to show that it can be done. I’m a strong believer in the sentiment that we should be kind to unkind people—they’re the ones who need it the most.

How best to cope with disappointments? Maybe you’ve been on a great trajectory, but some unexpected glitch or problem has suddenly derailed your progress. How do you get back on track and not feel like you’ve failed?

TB: First, use failures and setbacks as learning opportunities. Like a lot of other things, failure is neither inherently positive nor is it negative, but the beliefs we hold about it make is positive or negative. As Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Maybe something didn’t turn out as we hoped or expected, but there are likely important lessons that could be gleaned from the experience, which can serve us well in the future. Plus, we are gaining more and more awareness today of how successful people have gotten to where they are, and we now see that for most it has involved a circuitous path with stumbles along the way. The most successful people will tell you that in order to achieve their success they had to learn a lot along the way. Often, a very effective way to learn where there’s still work to be done, or to figure out what needs to change in our approach, is through failure–trying things one way, identifying what doesn’t work, and then making the appropriate modifications.

Second, acknowledge that failure is important for growth. There’s other research showing that adults who had to overcome a moderate level of adversity while growing up tend to have the greatest outcomes later in life because they have had to engage their social support networks and develop the coping mechanisms that are necessary to negotiate life’s challenges. Developing these skills early on comes in handy for bouncing back from later hardships and responding to future adversity. The people who have the strongest psychological health later in life are often those who have learned how to fail. They’ve learned how to pick themselves back up after being knocked down, reflect on the experience, grow from it, and soldier on.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways to Express Gratitude

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Can You Sleep Too Much (or Too Little)?

How Your Memory Suffers With Poor REM Sleep

In Search of Better Sleep

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

The Incredible Value of Dreams

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.  

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 

 

 

 


Research Finds New Health Benefits From Sleep

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

“To die, to sleep — perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

Every human being requires sleep in order to function properly. Sleep is known to aid in healing, in memory formation, reducing stress, eliminating toxins – literally wiping the slate clean of the day’s experiences to begin anew. The subject of decades of research, sleep science continues to amass evidence of new health benefits from sleep.

SINGLE GENE INCREASES SLEEP NEED WHEN SICK

A newly discovered single gene, called nemuri, increases the human body’s need for sleep, according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine whose work was published in Science. Studying over 12 lines of fruit flies, researchers found direct links between the immune system and sleep, which provides a possible explanation for how sleep increases during sickness. In their next phase of research, the scientists plan to investigate the mechanism by which nemuri drives sleep.

LEARN NEW VOCABULARY DURING DEEP SLEEP

While it may seem mysterious, it’s actually logical. Researchers from the University of Bern found that the introduction of new foreign words and their translation words could be associated during deep sleep in a midday nap and stored. Upon waking, those associations could be retrieved unconsciously and reactivated – essentially learning a new vocabulary during sleep. Researchers said the memory formation seems to be mediated by the same brain structures mediating wake vocabulary learning. The research was published in Current Biology.

GAPS IN LIFE MEMORIES CREATED BY SLEEP APNEA

An estimated 936 million people worldwide are affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and OSA sufferers have memory problems and depression. A study by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia built upon known links between memory and depression and found that untreated OSA leads to problems recalling specific life details. Researchers said their work suggested that sleep apnea may impair the brain’s capacity to encode or consolidate certain types of life memories, which explains why it is difficult for people to recall past details. Since sleep apnea is also a significant risk factor for depression, researchers hope that a better understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms at work may help improve the mental health of millions of people. The study was published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

VIRTUAL REALITY MAY COMBAT RECURRING NIGHTMARES

Nobody likes nightmares, especially recurring ones. Indeed, researchers have found that recurring nightmares are significant predictors of mental health problems – especially for children. About half to two-thirds of kids and up to 15 percent of adults have frequent nightmares. A consequence of recurring nightmares in kids may be adolescent and adult psychosis, including anxiety, depression, stress and suicidal ideation, while in adults it may signal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet there are few effective and easy-to-use treatments for nightmare disorders. Two researchers from Boston University, one from the School of Medicine, the other from the School of Theology, co-founded the Center for Mind and Culture and created a pilot study using a virtual reality program to help combat recurring nightmares.

The study used moderately frightening virtual reality imagery, such as underwater environment with an approaching great white shark, to stimulate a manageable fear level in participants. By exposing them to disturbing and arousing images, but not very scary ones, the goal is to treat distress, not inflict more. Participants used a joystick and gesture controls to modify the visuals they saw. At the end of a month of two sessions weekly, during which participants were monitored for anxiety, nightmare distress and nightmare effects, researchers found significantly lower levels in all three. What’s really exciting about these results, say researchers, is the potential to bring this to kids suffering nightmare disorder. Treating them early with such technology may ward off or slow down conversion to psychosis.

LOSS OF SLEEP CAUSES ANGER

You know you’re out of sorts after a fitful night’s sleep, or when you’re not able to sleep your regular amount of hours. Now researchers from Iowa State University have found evidence that sleep loss causes anger. For the study, participants were split in two groups, one getting their normal 7-hours of sleep, while the other was restricted to about 4.5 hours per night. Anger was measured before and after sleep manipulations by having participants listen to noise products creating uncomfortable conditions, which tend to provoke anger. In the sleep-restricted group, anger was “substantially higher” than in the unrestricted sleep group. Next, researchers plan to study whether loss of sleep causes actual aggressive behavior toward others.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION RESULTS IN STARK JUMP IN ERRORS

In the largest to-date experimentally controlled study on sleep deprivation, researchers at Michigan State University found that small distractions can result in serious consequences for people who are sleep deprived. The research differs from other sleep deprivation studies in that it focuses on the impact of sleep deprivation on completing tasks. The study involved requiring people to complete a task which needed a number of steps in order, and periodically interrupting them in the process, after which they had to remember the steps in order to proceed. Members of the sleep-deprived group had roughly 15 percent increase in errors the following morning when they were asked to perform the step-by-step task again. In addition to showing more errors, the sleep-deprived group showed a progressive increase in errors that was associated with memory while performing the task. The non-restricted sleep group did not show this effect.

PURPOSE IN LIFE CAN BE A DRUG-FREE WAY TO IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY

Researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine conducted a study including 853 adults without dementia, from age 60 to 100, in which they were asked to complete a 10- and 32-question survey on purpose of life, and sleep, respectively. Those who felt their lives had meaning were 63 percent less likely to report sleep apnea and 52 percent less likely to say they had restless leg syndrome. In addition, the study participants who felt a purpose in life had moderately better quality of sleep, a global sleep disturbance measure. Researchers said that although the study involved older people, they believed the results would be applicable to younger ones as well. The next step in their research, said study first author, “should be to study the use of mindfulness-based therapies to target purpose in life and resulting sleep quality.”

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

Can You Sleep Too Much (or Too Little)?

How Your Memory Suffers With Poor REM Sleep

In Search of Better Sleep

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

The Incredible Value of Dreams

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.  

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+.

 

 


How Practicing Compassion May Help You Feel Better

 

Photo / Picography

Photo / Picography

 

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop

 

Think about the most disagreeable person you know or ever met. This might even be you on one or more occasions. If you ask people who are a little rough around the edges, those individuals who seem gruff, know-it-all, smug, superior and can’t be bothered, they’d likely say they don’t need anyone else. While compassion is an admirable and fairly basic trait, some of us either lack it (we’re short on empathy) or could use a little help on how to best show it.

Even the Most Disagreeable People Benefit from Showing Compassion

Yet, research into learning how to be compassionate shows that even the most disagreeable people – who are often suffering from depression – can benefit from the simple training.

Researchers at York University engaged 640 mildly depressed individuals in online training to boost their ability to behave with compassion toward others. Average age of the study participants was in the mid-30s. For the study, they were asked to engage in one of three online “compassion intervention” exercises, complete their exercise and log back in to record their reports every other day for a three-week period.  The exercise called Acts of Kindness resulted in the most benefit to study participants: those who performed acts of kindness in their close relationships showed the greatest reductions in depression and greatest increases in self-reported life satisfaction.

The lead researcher for the project said that highly disagreeable people often lack empathy, they’re hostile and don’t cooperate well with others, with the result that they may be ostracized or rejected. Giving these individuals specific suggestions, some practical things they could do each day to express “empathic concerns” toward their close relationships, proved “tremendously helpful.”

The project was easy to implement and, from the perspective of the study participants, quick (10-15 minutes every other day), and easy to complete. Another exercise called Loving Kindness Meditation was also helpful, said researchers, but it didn’t result in the same level of improvements as the Acts of Kindness exercise.

Evidence Proves Neanderthals Showed Compassion

Further evidence that compassion is instrumental not only in affirming quality of life but also in overall survival comes from research that shows that Neanderthal man was compassionate and knowledgeable in their care of others experiencing injury or illness. The study, from the University of York, showed that Neanderthals were genuinely caring for their peers – no matter what their level of illness or injury.

The research involved pathological analysis of injuries that would have occurred long before death and would have required caretakers providing careful hygiene, facilitation of sleep and rest, staunching wounds, maintaining posture, maintaining and assisting mobility, ensuring safety, monitoring and control of fever, and massage, among other types of care and accommodation. Bioarcheology of care analyses suggest that the injured/ill “likely received extensive care in response to their experiences of pathology.” Neanderthals provided The scientists argued that “organized and caring healthcare is not unique to our species but rather has a long evolutionary history.”

The Brain Can be Trained in Compassion

Earlier research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, sought to determine if compassion could be trained and learned in adults. They wanted to know if practicing a compassionate mindset could cause adults to be more caring. The results of their study showed an affirmative yes.

The study made use of an ancient Buddhist technique called compassion meditation, in which study participants (young adults) were trained to increase caring feelings for people who were suffering. After training, they were asked to show compassion for loved ones (those for whom they’d easily feel compassionate towards), then themselves, then a stranger, and lastly for a difficult person, such as a co-worker, with whom they had conflict. Researchers said that this “weighted training,” in which study participants actively built up their “compassion muscle,” helped them respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.

What researchers determined with this and other exercises designed to measure compassion is that compassion, like academic and physical skills, is not something that seems to be fixed, but rather can be enhanced through training and practice. The suggest that compassion training could be employed in schools to help combat bullying, and it may prove beneficial to those who have social anxiety or antisocial behavior. Furthermore, researchers said they’d be excited to see what compassion training could do for the general public in terms of seeing what changes they notice in their life. Training to boost the compassion muscle is available on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds website.

Additional research from these same authors was published in 2018 in Frontiers in Psychology. According to their findings, researchers suggest that compassion meditation training may help to decrease aversive neural responses to suffering at the same time as visual attention to suffering increases. This may have prosocial benefits, as in a doctor tending to a patient, or allowing individuals to remain calm in the case of suffering and more willing to lend aid. Researchers said further research with larger sample sizes should look into whether compassion intervention strategies could prove helpful to caregivers and healthcare workers who are often exposed to others’ suffering.

How You Can be More Compassionate

While research continues on the benefits of compassion, what can you do as an individual to help boost your compassion muscle? First, be attuned to the fact that your actions and behavior have consequences. How you behave toward others, what you think about before you speak or act, makes a difference.

Simple compassion strategies you can employ include behaving toward others the way you’d want them to act toward you – with kindness, empathy and basic humanity. Practicing meditation and consciously intending to be more compassionate can also put you in the frame of mind where expressing yourself verbally with compassion and acting compassionately will become easier. Furthermore, think of compassion as being loving, caring and supportive – as in a parent nurturing and helping a child.

Of course, compassion toward others also means learning how to be self-compassionate. This example of self-care may take some practice to become comfortable being kind to yourself, yet the results in your overall well-being and life satisfaction will be well worth the effort.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Why It’s Good That You’re Not Perfect

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To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+.

 

 

 


How You Can Be More Confident

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.” – Peter T. McIntyre

 

I suffered from a lack of self-esteem and little confidence when I was an adolescent. The feeling of loss and not being good enough, or smart enough to get things done and fearful of trying anything new lasted through my teens and throughout the early part of my adult life. It wasn’t that I was brought up deprived of love or lacking a comfortable environment, for my parents loved me dearly and I never knew hunger or felt diminished by our standard of living. I did, however, take notice of the confidence my peers at school and wanted desperately to be so confidant myself. Thus, my journey of building my self-confidence began.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you can benefit from some of the tips that helped me become more confident.

Reward yourself for little victories.

I didn’t have much to start with, especially after my dad died when I was 13. I was utterly bereft, couldn’t even cry, tossed and turned every night and had horrible nightmares for years. At the core of my sadness was the mistaken belief that I had somehow caused my father to die. Nothing even close to that was true, as he died from a massive myocardial infarction and was dead in minutes, yet my teen brain and devastated heart didn’t process reality.

Being numb to life, I went to school and pushed myself to do my homework, knowing that my dad would want me to continue getting good grades. I did love learning, so pursuing my studies seemed like a way I could honor my father and do something valuable for me. Like he did when I came home with top grades, my mother praised my efforts. I incorporated that habit and began to give myself small rewards for these victories. For example, if I exceeded my previous grades by getting more A’s than B’s, I allowed myself more fiction books to read in the coming month. Maybe I wore a brightly-colored ribbon in my hair braids that week, or took pleasure watching a Sunday movie with my mom so we could both be together and begin to heal.

Years later, even though I am long past having to deal with no self-confidence, I still find it worthwhile to reward myself for the little wins. For one thing, it feels good to do so. For another, it’s a healthy behavior that can help reduce everyday stress and tension. Besides, every little win boosts your self-confidence – even if you have plenty – during particularly challenging or stressful times. Everybody can use a little help in such instances.

Do more of what you’re good at – and what you enjoy doing.

We all have certain responsibilities and obligations that necessitate us doing things we’d much rather not do, or that we’d like to get through quickly, so we can get on to doing something else. If it’s a job that isn’t very rewarding, involving or exciting, such everyday drudgery can exact a toll on your self-confidence. Even if you’re a top-notch bookkeeper or budget analyst – as I was at one point in my corporate career – it may not be your avocation. Furthermore, perhaps your talents lie elsewhere. For my part, I was always a writer. I yearned to be able to do that in my career. Eventually, I did. Of course, there were the inevitable setbacks (call them downsizing, budget cutting and layoffs) when I had to return to financial duties, but those didn’t last forever. I was able to return to the kind of work I loved: writing.

Now that I’ve left corporate life and have my own business freelancing, I do what I’m good at and thoroughly enjoy. This doesn’t mean my work isn’t work, for it is. It’s not always easy and certainly not quick. Yet, the time doesn’t matter when you do what you love. It’s also a tremendous self-confidence booster. I highly recommend it.

If you can’t do what you’re good at and enjoy in your job, find a way to indulge your talents and dreams in your free time. Take up a hobby where you can exercise your gifts, meet others and share companionship doing something the community enjoys. Find your passion and make it part of your life.

Learning from your mistakes makes you stronger and more self-confidant.

You’re not always going to be right, yet you cannot fear making a mistake. If you do, it will eat away at your confidence. You’ll always wonder if there’s another mistake around the corner ready to set you back. That’s no way to live. Furthermore, when you fear making an error, you’re less likely to give your full effort to whatever task or activity you’re doing. In a way, it’s like being open to vulnerability when you’re putting yourself out there in a relationship. Sure, it may feel a little uncomfortable, even risky, yet that’s the only way to truly experience life. If you stumble, making a mistake, figure out what happened and why. When you learn from what you did and determine how to avoid that mistake the next time, you’re stocking your emotional recovery toolkit with useful information that helps increase your confidence that you have what it takes to get the job done.

In addition, when you make a mistake and own up to it, if you have good supervisors, they’ll recognize the value of an employee who has the courage to do so and the sense to learn from their mistake. In this case, everyone wins. If your bosses don’t like mistakes and ding you for making them, maybe you can work on finding work elsewhere somewhere down the line. I know that sounds hard to do, but it happened to me and I did put together a plan to find new employment – more suitable employment – and eventually was successful. Another self-confidence booster – and it works. If I can do it, you can too.

Get help from therapy.

If you’re seriously lacking in self-confidence, have low self-esteem – and particularly if you experience prolonged sadness, grief, depression or anxiety, get professional assistance in the form of counseling or psychiatric therapy. How do I know this works? While I wasn’t clinically depressed, after years of feeling I was performing at less than my full potential, and making some decidedly wrong behavioral choices to cope, I sought counseling and benefitted immensely from it. Note that this was years before getting therapy was considered socially acceptable and was something you hid from friends, family and everyone else. Today, actually for quite a few years, it’s considered healthy to seek counseling when you have emotional and/or compulsive, dependent or addictive behaviors that are wreaking havoc on your life.

Therapy can give you a significant boost of self-confidence when you stick with it and truly make the kind of lifestyle changes that add value, bring you to a fuller realization of your life’s purpose and help you pursue your hopes and dreams.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

Why It’s Good That You’re Not Perfect

How to Keep Frustration From Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Overcome Laziness and Get Things Done

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Best Way to Effect Change

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

The Incredible Value of Dreams

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+.