Life

What We Are Learning About Ourselves From the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Some say that life will never be the same again, that we’ll forever be haunted by the tragic loss of life, untold suffering, mental anguish, diminished economic prosperity, curtailment of basic human freedoms and so much more. On the other hand, what’s unfolding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is a reawakened sense of life’s meaning and purpose, recognition of our hidden strengths, and willingness to tap into our core goodness and generosity. We are learning a lot about ourselves, which benefits everyone.

Learning to quickly adapt

There is no doubt that what America and the rest of the world are experiencing is a reality that no one could have anticipated. Despite the fact that some in the medical community and those who’ve extensively researched viruses and past pandemics provided warnings of collective ill-preparedness for any pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19, most people went about their lives unconcerned about potential catastrophic and widespread illness and death.

Now, however, since there is a new reality forcing a reassessment of how to live everyday life while maintaining social distancing, businesses, factories, and public and private places closed, we’re learning to quickly adapt. Long-held habits changed overnight. Commutes evaporated, replaced by the recommendation to stay in place.

Rediscovering our humanity

While there are instances of hoarding, selfishness, greed, and isolated crime, most people in America are united in a common bond: We are facing the pandemic, doing what we must to survive, and pledging to work tirelessly to find solutions to universally-experienced problems. In the process, we’re rediscovering our humanity.

Adopting technology at an accelerated rate

From online business meetings to connecting in-person and live with family members, loved ones and friends, we’re adopting technology at an accelerated rate. Social media networks, long a technological tool for connection, are even more important during a time when people are inside for weeks at a time. Mobile and online ordering for curbside pickup of staples, food, meals, and medicines is rapidly becoming the go-to way for Americans to conveniently and safely get what they need on an immediate basis. There’s a measure of confidence in adopting technology for these purposes since it means we’re not going to starve, run out of toilet paper, or much-needed medicine. Telehealth is also ramping up, as medical practitioners and patients connect via secure and HIPAA-compliant portals to ensure necessary medical and mental health needs are professionally addressed.

Discovering we are resilient

No one knows when the threat of the COVID-19 virus will subside, or if it will resurface again, perhaps seasonally, or undergo mutations that could be even more deadly. There is an unwavering focus on developing effective treatment medications and vaccines to combat coronavirus. Dealing with such uncertainty calls into question our personal and collective ability to bounce back. Yet, in the face of the crisis, we have discovered just how resilient we are. We have strengths we took for granted, and courage that we didn’t know we possessed. Recognize that resilience is a strength that can be cultivated and can then serve as a reservoir to utilize as needed.

Repurposing factories, tools and processes to meet urgent medical needs

From the automakers to plastics-makers to tobacco companies and virtually every type of business with machinery, equipment, and the processes and know-how to jumpstart an entirely new model, we’re repurposing assembly lines, retooling equipment and revamping processes to meet the country’s most urgent medical needs. These include making ventilators, N95 and surgical masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPEs) so desperately needed by front-line medical personnel, first responders, police officers, and others serving a citizenry affected with coronavirus.

Becoming more generous

Parents raising their children at home during this challenging time can impart invaluable lessons about the importance of generosity by serving as examples. Put together shelf-stable items such as canned goods, flour, and baking items, spices, condiments, packaged milk, and other staples and deliver them to the doorstep of someone who’s unable to get out and shop, or who may be ill, or is scrimping just to buy food. Americans are also showing their increasing generosity by donating money online, funding critical resources for disadvantaged individuals. In times of calamities and natural disasters, people in the United States have always stepped up to the challenge, yet the COVID-19 pandemic is proving just how generous this nation’s inhabitants can be.

Realizing life is precious

A recent story about a couple married 51 years, contracted the coronavirus and died within minutes of each other showcases how quickly life can be snuffed out. The two were in good health until the husband, aged 74, came down with a cough, developed breathing problems, had to be hospitalized, was diagnosed with COVID-19, and was intubated. His wife, aged 72, wracked by stress, became ill and her condition progressively worsened. When doctors told their son his dad didn’t have long to live, he took his mother to the hospital where she was tested, proved positive for coronavirus, and put the couple together in the same hospital room. She died within six minutes of her husband.

No matter how well you feel at the moment, follow CDC recommendations on the COVID-19 virus to take precautions and stay home, only venturing out with proper face mask, gloves, maintaining the minimum social distancing guidelines. Send one person to the store for food, instead of shopping together. The least contact with others outside the home as possible is the best practice.

While no one knows how long they’ll live, everyone can recognize how precious life is – every second of it.

Living in the moment

Now, more than ever, we’re keenly aware that this moment is what we have. This is what is real, the here and now. There’s less time spent dwelling on the past and no reason to engage in endless self-berating, constantly recycling negative and painful memories. We’re finding constructive things to do, making plans, and encouraging each other to enjoy today.

Reconnecting with family and loved ones

Granted, living in close proximity indoors takes its toll and familial arguments are unavoidable at times. Yet, even with the fact that staying inside is somewhat claustrophobic and emotions can be overwhelming in some instances, we’ve found ways to reconnect with family and loved ones – even those living in the same house. There’s more time to talk with each other at the kitchen table while doing chores in the yard and around the house, helping each other prepare meals, clean up, watch favorite shows and movies on TV. Communicating with family and loved ones honestly and lovingly at this time is more important than ever. For those suffering anxiety and depression, providing reassurance and support is crucial. Indeed, coping with anxiety now demands attention. Ensuring uninterrupted contact with that person’s therapist via phone, telehealth visits, email, instant messaging is another way to show your love and support.

Learning perspective

Things that once were annoying and stress-producing may now seem largely irrelevant. Personal peeves about a co-worker’s behavior or workplace habits are perhaps a distant memory. What siblings and family members argued about prior to COVID-19 have little bearing on what everyone is going through now. In essence, all Americans are learning perspective, as what is really important becomes abundantly clear: each other.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How To Stop Fear From Holding You Back During Troubling Times

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Living life in fear is no way to live, no matter what is going on in the world. Without a doubt, these are troubling times, filled with uncertainty, sadness, perhaps physical pain as well. Much of what has happened is out of anyone’s control. The new reality of social distancing, working from home, constant hand washing and finding innovative ways to stretch groceries, paper products and cleaning supplies is enough to produce anxiety in any sane individual. Yet, coming to grips with fear is essential. Instead of struggling with this powerful emotion and allowing it to grow, do something to stop it. Here’s how.

What Is Really Bothering You?

While this may be the last thing on a to-do list, it’s important to sit down and identify what is really bothering you now. Just answering “COVID-19” is too broad, yet putting this on paper is a good starting point.

Before diving in, however, make sure family or business duties or tasks are taken care of. They must take priority. Then, feel free to devote sufficient time to centering on what’s most fear-inducing.

It may help to do this exercise with eyes closed. Think about what went on today that may have produced fear. Did something someone said (in the home, on TV, during Internet browsing, reading the newspaper) allow that knot of fear to metastasize? Did it mean reticence about doing something or shying away from any personal contact (even at a distance)? Write down specifics, anything that comes to mind.

The list will vary from one person to the next, although there are some common threads people mention about what makes them afraid. These include:

  • I’m so fearful to be around other people, even with social distancing. What if I’m next to someone who’s got the coronavirus?
  • I’m afraid that I’ll never enjoy success again and, with so many millions of people sick and tens of thousands dying from this novel virus, I feel guilty even thinking of personal goal achievement.
  • Others probably think I’m a selfish person, so I’m reluctant to tell them what I’m thinking so they won’t judge me.
  • I’m afraid for our children. What kind of world will they live in? What happens if we get sick and can’t take care of them.
  • All I can feel is fear – about everything.

This May Seem Obvious, But When Did the Fear Begin?

To overcome fear, it’s important to pinpoint when it took over and began to handicap everyday living.

Some fears are universal, such as fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, fear about disease, dying and death. Indeed, some of what’s now identified as fear may trace back to a dysfunctional home, childhood trauma, economic disadvantage, school bullying, the presence of a physical or mental disability.

Recognize that uncovering when and where the fear started and then focusing on the fear itself is likely to be painful. Dwelling on fear is unpleasant at best, yet getting past fear requires going through this process.

Be Willing to Ask for Help

Identifying fear, when it began, and specifics about the fear will likely produce feelings of discomfort and frustration. That’s because there aren’t any solutions as to how to get past fear yet.

Outside help can prove beneficial here. Psychological counseling or therapy may be appropriate, or taking part in online discussion groups and self-help forums. Literature available online on the topic of overcoming fear is another good source for help.

Two other options for overcoming fear are meditation and prayer, both part of a spirituality practice.

Most people are reluctant to ask for help, yet resources are available and no one should feel any stigma about asking for assistance during these troubling times. Indeed, climbing out of the pit of fear may begin with taking these first steps toward a proactive solution.

What Are You Afraid Fear Will Prevent You From Doing?

When thinking about the future, assuming there will be restrictions on personal movement lifted, are you afraid to return to work? Does the idea of interacting with co-workers and supervisors create a rush of fear?

What if you’ve had the virus, or been in quarantine with family members who’ve had it, are you afraid you’ll get it again?

Are you afraid of ever getting physically close with another individual due to uncertainty over how long COVID-19 will be present, or if it will become seasonal and a pandemic that will recur?

The point about looking at what fear may prevent you from doing isn’t how daunting the list is. It is, however, instructive to see in black and white how self-limiting fear is to daily living. Everyone wants to get life back to normal, even if that normal looks quite different than what it once was. Fear, in this respect, can be a powerful motivator to unleash innovation, creativity, and finding new solutions to everyday problems and daily life.

Future Planning: Create Goals

This crisis will eventually subside and things will get back to some semblance of order. Heartening research from the University of Sydney found that if 80 percent of people practiced strong social distancing, COVID-19 could be curbed in 13 weeks. Be ready with goals to tackle once that happens. These may include personal goals that have taken a backseat to others, yet now they take on greater significance.

Whatever these goals may be, put them down on paper. This exercise provides ample material to work from in taking the next step to get past fear.

Construct Action Plans

Action plans are necessary to get moving on goals. Be sure to include a range of goals, some that are more quickly achievable, some that take a bit longer, and others that are long-term.

In the interim, prioritize self-care, since you’ll need to be healthy to resume normal living once the pandemic subsides. Even during self-distancing, it’s possible to ensure you’re taking good care of yourself, according to suggestions from Johns Hopkins mental health experts. The list includes exercise, which helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression while also benefitting physical health.

Each type requires its own set of action plans. Without a plan to follow, there’s no roadmap to pursue the goal. Another crucial part of action plans and goals is that they’ll likely need to undergo revision. Change is part of life, and goals deemed important now may be less of a priority going forward. Live life in the present, always doing your best while remaining true to yourself and your core beliefs.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

5 Tips to Banish Loneliness

How to Help Your Child Banish Loneliness

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

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 blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Loneliness Erodes Your Mental Health – But You Can Get Past This Toxic Emotion

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“Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact.” – Martha Beck

Loneliness is one of the most miserable feelings to experience. Being alone, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a person is lonely. They may be, although they may be quite deliberate in wanting to be alone for a time, and have no negative effects from such solitude. It’s the protractedness and sense of isolation and desperation that can set in that seems to push loneliness to extremes, even potentially resulting in worsening mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Yet, for those who are suffering with loneliness and want to take proactive steps to get past this toxic emotion, there are some things they can do that can help.

WISDOM AND OTHER LONELINESS COPING STRATEGIES

A sobering statistic from the National Center for Health Studies reveals that, by 2029, more than 20 percent of the adult U.S. population will be age 65 and older. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine sought to identify common loneliness characteristics of seniors in retirement or senior living facilities, as well as effective coping strategies to combat loneliness. With the increasing number of senior citizens moving into such facilities, it’s important to recognize that loneliness is considered as bad as smoking and obesity in curtailing longevity.

According to the researcher’s findings, the biggest risk factors for loneliness are losses associated with age, and poor social skills. Losing a sense of life purpose was mentioned by participants as another risk factor. Of course, loneliness is subjective, researchers said, and people feel the emotion differently.

Preventing loneliness or combating its presence, on the other hand, involves exploring interventions of wisdom and compassion. Researchers cited various studies on some of the effective loneliness coping mechanisms:

  • Engaging in activities with others. Finlay & Kobayashi (2018) identified poor health as sometimes providing social engagement opportunities with family, friends and caregivers considered valuable.
  • Keeping busy by yourself. Dragestet et al., 2015 found that occupying oneself was a help in combating loneliness.
  • Time for self-reflection and spiritual activities. Stanley et al., 2010, noted that there are benefits to being alone, chiefly that solitude affords time for self-reflection and conducting personally important spiritual activities.
  • Shared public spaces and communal activities help decrease loneliness. Li et al., 2018, said that acceptance and optimism, informal social support, and promoting independence and autonomy can help older Chinese immigrants enhance personal resilience.

GET  MOVING WITH ALMOST ANY KIND OF EXERCISE

A somewhat concerning finding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), garnered from data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for the period 2015-2018, is that more than 15 percent of U.S. adults are physically inactive. Of course, inactivity levels vary by state, with Puerto Rico coming in highest at 47.7 percent, and Colorado lowest at 17.3 percent. Why is this important? The CDC says that inactive lifestyles are a factor in one in 10 premature deaths in this country. Guidelines for recommended amounts of physical activity call for about 150 minutes of brisk exercise weekly, which can be broken down into shorter periods of time, such as 25 minutes or a 30-minute walk five times in a week. Physical activity offers mental health benefits of improving mood, feeling and sleeping better, reducing certain cancer risk, and lowering risks for obesity and heart disease.

What kind of exercise should you take up to get started? Almost any exercise will do just fine, so perhaps begin with going out for a walk with the dog, riding a bike, or engaging in a brisk walk alone or with others. You mood, mind, and body will reap the benefits.

AEROBIC EXERCISE OFFERS COGNITIVE BENEFITS

While getting up and getting going often involves the ritual of drinking coffee, with the caffeine providing an energy jolt but also jumpstarting the mind, researchers from the University of Western Ontario found that a brief burst of aerobic exercise boosts working memory just as much as caffeine. Furthermore, the beneficial cognitive effects of the aerobic exercise were experienced during and following exercise, and after a short delay. The ability of caffeine to positively affect cognition and mood sometimes come with unwanted side effects during withdrawal: jitteriness, anxiety, headache, fatigue, decreased alertness and reduced contentedness. Aerobic exercise, on the other hand, has none of those side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, especially for those who may be anxious or otherwise unable to consume caffeine, engaging in aerobic exercise can help with safe and effective mood elevation and improvements in working memory. For someone who suffers from loneliness and yet doesn’t venture out much, aerobic exercise may be valuable as an intervention to get them in contact with people again.

TAKE UP JOURNALING

There’s something about the process of journaling, writing your thoughts down on paper, that serves as a catalyst to overcome loneliness. Besides resulting in a tangible document that’s accessible to review later, committing to journaling reinforces a sense of discipline, of sticking to a schedule and doing something proactive for your mental health. It’s for good reason that creative writing instructors encourage their students to take up journaling, since writing down felt emotions and capturing events as they happen often serve as starting points for future action. Whether that action turns out to be making small or significant lifestyle or behavior changes or spurs creativity in another endeavor, activity, hobby or pursuit, journaling is an important foundation for improving mental health.

How to get started is easy. Find something to write on or in, set aside time each day to jot down your thoughts, write without judgement and keep writing without stopping for the minutes you’ve allocated for this purpose. Remember that this is your journal, and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone else. So you needn’t worry about guarding your feelings. If you do have concerns that others may delve into your journal, lock it away. This isn’t about secrecy, however, but more about opening yourself up and voicing your daily thoughts, even venting, if that’s what it takes. Also be sure to detail the good things that occurred each day, how you felt when something pleasant or unexpected happened, the small successes you enjoyed, what you’re looking forward to tomorrow and so on.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

5 Tips to Banish Loneliness

How to Help Your Child Banish Loneliness

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

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 blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 

How Gratitude Can Affect Your Physical and Psychological Well-Being

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life… makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melodie Beattie

 

Saying thank-you and showing your appreciation does more good than you may think. This benefit accrues both to the giver and recipient. Indeed, these types of expressions and acts are powerful forms of gratitude. Yet, while it may seem normal to be verbally appreciative at certain times and with specific people, there’s much more that you can get out of gratitude at other times. Here’s a look at how gratitude can affect your physical and psychological well-being.

Gratitude Promotes Positive Mind-Sets and Reduces Stress

A 2017 study published in Scientific Reports looked at the effects of gratitude meditation and resentment and mental well-being. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and heart rate at three intervals – before, during, and after interventions – researchers suggest that gratitude interventions modulate heart rhythms in a manner that enhances mental health. Gratitude intervention, said researchers, improves both emotional regulation and self-motivation by modulating resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) in brain regions involving emotion and motivation. Furthermore, researchers pointed to the potential use of gratitude interventions in treating those with mood disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Gratitude Related to Better Sleep, Mood, Less Fatigue and Inflammation

Mills et al. (2015), in a study of patients with asymptomatic heart failure, found that an “attitude of gratitude” was related to better moods and sleep, less fatigue, reduced inflammation, and better cardiac-specific self-efficacy. Authors said this is important because depressed mood and poor sleep are both associated with a worse prognosis in heart failure patients, as well as in other cardiac condition populations. Thus, researchers said, the simple, low-cost efforts to help heart failure patients increase gratitude may have clinical value and be a potential target in treatment to improve patients’ well-being.

Gratitude Predicts Lower Depression Rates In Patients with Chronic Illness

Sirois and Wood (2017) examined longitudinal associations of gratitude to depression in two chronic illness samples, one with inflammatory bowel disease, and the other with arthritis. The study included two timepoints: completion of online survey at start of study (T1), and completion of a follow-up study at 6 months (T2). There were assessments of gratitude, depression, perceived stress, social support, illness cognitions, and disease-related variables at both time points. Study results showed that T1 gratitude was a “unique” and “significant” predictor of T2 depression in both sample groups. Authors noted that gratitude has relevance and potential benefits as an intervention for adjusting to chronic illness.

Various Elements of Well-Being Associated with Gratitude

A white paper on the science of gratitude prepared for the John Templeton Foundation by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley highlights a number of studies showing possible connections between gratitude and various elements of well-being in those with self-reported higher dispositional gratitude. These include life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, optimism, and subjective well-being. Authors also mention studies of university students self-reporting higher-order gratitude also reporting increased life satisfaction and positive affect. Examples of higher-order gratitude include thanking God, appreciating life’s hardships, cherishing the present, thanking others, and cherishing blessings.

How Gratitude Helps Improve Mental Health

Joel Wong and Joshua Brown, writing in the Greater Good Magazine, outlined research showing how gratitude helps improve mental health. The article’s authors also provided insights from their research on what may be the origins of the psychological benefits of gratitude:

  • Gratitude shifts attention away from toxic emotions like envy and resentment.
  • The benefits of gratitude occur even without sharing written gratitude letters with intended recipients.
  • Gratitude’s benefits take some time to occur as they don’t always happen immediately following the gratitude activity.
  • Effects on the brain from gratitude activity appear to be lasting, and may train the brain to become more sensitive to gratitude experiences later, thus helping to improve mental health.

Gratitude Fosters Well-Being at End of Life

Everyone dies, although not all of them die a quick and painless death. For many people suffering terminal illness, specifically cancer, the end may be a long time coming. During that slow, inexorable approach to dying, the patient generally interfaces with a number of caregivers: family, friends, hospice and other medical and mental health professionals. Not much has been studied about what is termed positive emotional communication in caring for those at the end of their lives. However, a 2018 study published in Patient Education and Counseling found that positive emotions serve as a protective function and are “associated with enhanced coping, meaning-making, and building resilience to stressful events,” which researchers determined was especially relevant to cancer patients and their hospice caregivers. The shared positive emotions, which included expressions of gratitude, created “mutual enjoyment and social bonds.”

Appreciation or gratitude was one of the category codes for positive emotional communication between the hospice nurses, caregivers, and their cancer patients. Included in the category are counting blessings, appreciation of life circumstances, gratitude toward others, and thinking of someone. An example exchange between patient and nurse might be: “I’m so grateful for everything you do for us.”

Researchers said that the results of their study show that a focus on positive emotional communication brings a strengths-based approach to communication with patients during end-of-life care. Other category codes for positive emotional communication include humor, praise or support, positive focus, savoring or experiencing joy, connection, and perfunctory (social etiquette, etc.). Authors said that such communication can “build a sense of strength, connection, and joy despite facing loss and life-limiting illness.”

Conscious Decision to Increase Gratitude Pays Off

Making the choice to increase gratitude isn’t difficult, yet the decision to do so can and will pay off in ways not immediately seen. Think of the immense power of positive thinking, maintaining a positive attitude, and seeing life in all its richness and variety of opportunities. There’s much to be grateful for each day, from waking up to going to sleep. Being mindful of blessings, thankful for all the gifts we’ve been given, and expressing our gratitude to others costs nothing, and is an ongoing benefit.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

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How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

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

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“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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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

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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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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.

 

 

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

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10 Dangers of Always Making Safe Choices

Photo by Elena Prokofyeva on Unsplash

Photo by Elena Prokofyeva on Unsplash

“I don’t want an uneventful and safe life. I prefer an adventurous one.” – Isabel Allende

 

Every day you make choices. Some you make without thinking, part of a routine you’ve become accustomed to. Others you think about for a long time before deciding – if you do – to act. What most of us don’t realize, however, is that the time for making choices is not infinite. You can procrastinate too long in making a decision and the opposite of that, acting too quickly and always going for the safe choice isn’t wise either.

What are some dangers of always making safe choices? You might be surprised. Yet there are proactive steps you can take to modify your decision-making approach, so you avoid these dangers and enjoy the rewards from taking calculated risks.

1.    Life lacks excitement.

A boring life may be safe, yet who wants to live bored all the time? That’s the trouble with safe choices – you’re not likely to get into trouble, yet you’re not likely to find yourself excited about too much either. Think of excitement as a vitamin you need for health and well-being. Life is all about opportunities to sample myriad experiences. Adjust your mindset to welcome the slightly less safe choice with more potential to add excitement to your life.

2.    Growth may stall.

When you stick with what you know, what you’re familiar with and comfortable doing, you may never challenge yourself to add more skills or increase your knowledge base. That can be detrimental to future growth, not to mention current satisfaction with life. It’s tough to venture outside your familiar routine, yet you can take incremental steps to encourage positive growth with some calculated choices.

3.    Fear prevents discovery.

If you’d like to make a bold choice, yet you’re afraid of what you may encounter, you’ll stymie discovery. This is just as bad as stalling growth and usually accompanies always making safe choices. Perhaps you can take a reasonable risk to overcome fear and help broaden your world-view, enhance your experiences, see or try something new. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

4.    It’s difficult to meet new people.

Still seeing the same people, the ones you always know will be the same no matter what? There’s nothing wrong with lasting friendships, yet there comes a time when you must move beyond childhood friends or broaden your sphere of friends to add new ones who share your changing interests, attitudes, values or are in a career or vocation you aspire to. Join different types of groups, from those pertaining to hobbies and recreational activities, to travel, educational, sports and other desirable pursuits.

5.    Intimate relationships may suffer.

No doubt you know some individuals whose partners or spouses left them for someone more exciting, a companion who knew how to keep their interest and was brimming with life, active, happy and engaged in proactive pursuits. Who wouldn’t want to be with such a vibrant personality? When your daily life and interaction with the man or woman closest to you is just so-so, expect some turbulence ahead. Besides, life consists of change, some good, some heartbreaking, some in-between. Wouldn’t you want to share your deepest experiences with your loved one in a forthright and loving manner? This, however, requires that you step off the safe choice path and embark on a bit of a risk-taking journey. Most importantly, you must be willing to be vulnerable for true emotional intimacy. That’s a scary choice, yet one worth making.

6.    Potential goes unrealized.

How can you ever reach your true potential if you stay in the same course you’ve always taken? Not only do you forego the many opportunities that come your way because you won’t allow yourself to entertain them or don’t see them in the first place, you also have no idea just what you can become or how good your skills and talents are. Instead of wasting your potential, create your ideal scenario, what your life would look like if you achieved everything you ever wanted and more. This isn’t the end of striving to achieve your potential, just the beginning.

7.    Happiness remains an elusive goal.

If you remain stunted, lacking excitement, fearful of what you may discover by making bolder choices, still sticking with a safe daily routine, you may find that you’re always somewhat less happy than you’d like to be. This may be because happiness involves energy, involvement, challenging yourself and working to achieve desirable goals. Think of something you’d like to be successful at. Then, craft a plan and a strategy to achieve it. Start small, keeping in mind that success builds upon success. There’s plenty of time to get more creative after you’ve embarked on a path of smart and motivating choices in your decision-making.

8.    You’re never the go-to expert, only the go-along guy.

The employee who always takes the safe route, never going beyond what’s acceptable, customary and familiar, will never be a leader. Others will gravitate toward the individual who dares to be bold, who is engaging, or who is smart enough to recognize that what’s needed are new ideas with a likelihood to succeed. To counter a tendency to be middle-of-the-road in your work decision-making, try stepping a little outside your normal safe course of action. You won’t know how much of a difference it will make until you try.

9.    Nothing motivates you.

Like boredom, lack of motivation is a quick way to smother joy of life. Doing the same safe thing every day starts to look like a lifelong pattern. No wonder it’s difficult to get motivated to do anything, especially anything new. Remembering how jazzed you felt when you enthusiastically went after something you really wanted? Recapture that feeling and apply it to some new task or pursuit today. Positive motivation can be powerfully rewarding as a stepping-stone to success.

10. Success seems unattainable.

Speaking of success, if it always seems just out of reach, could the reason be that you’re always taking the safe route, making choices destined to create no waves – or cause any excitement? To succeed in anything, you must be willing to entertain risks – calculated ones, that is – to do the hard work despite minor or major setbacks, and to keep on even when you’d rather quit. The results will be worth the emotional journey you may experience in the process. For, as Socrates reportedly said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

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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

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+.

 

 

Can You Sleep Too Much (or Too Little)?

Photo by Ryan Hutton on Unsplash

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties our health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker

 

I used to think you could never get too much sleep. Of course, that was years ago when I was chronically sleep deprived due to working full-time, going to college at night, raising my kids as a single mom, and trying to have some sort of social life when they were with their other parent. Turns out, there’s a growing body of research that points to the negative effects of either too much or too little sleep.

Too little or too much sleep can affect metabolic health.

Concerned about an expanding waistline? Prone to getting less sleep or more than you need? There’s scientific basis for the link between too little and too much sleep and metabolic syndrome and increasing waistlines in Korean men and women aged 40-69 years in one recent study. Researchers said the study’s observational nature did not allow for cause and effect conclusions, noting that participants provided sleep duration data and estimates may reflect time in bed and not necessarily time slept. Other studies have reported that short-duration sleepers (less than 5 hours per night) are up to 45 percent more likely to be obese.

Excessive and inadequate sleep can affect memory and cognition.

Chronically sleep-deprived people, says Harvard Health Publishing,  are more likely to have high blood pressure, narrowed blood vessels, and diabetes – each of which cause less blood flow inside the brain. Since the brain requires a good flow of oxygen and sugar to work optimally, too little sleep can contribute to memory problems. Those who get too much sleep, on the other hand, aren’t off the hook memory-wise as their quality of sleep may suffer, which could add to thinking and memory problems during the day.

Excessive daytime sleepiness can be particularly troubling for older adults. Researchers found that cognitive deficits and cognitive impairment may be predicted by excessive daytime sleepiness among the elderly. Excessive sleepiness, or hypersomnolence, has two main symptoms: excessive amount of sleep, and poor quality of awakening. Hypersomnolence is the leading cause of road accidents, and is responsible for increased risk of mortality related to neurodegenerative diseases.

If you’re an early riser, you may be less prone to depression.

Researchers are delving into pertinent data showing that middle-aged to older women who get up early may be significantly less likely to develop depression. The largest observational study to-date looks at the link between chronotype (also known as sleep-wake preference) and mood disorders. Researchers found that, even after accounting for such factors as work schedules and light exposure, chronotype, partly influenced by genetics, seems to have a mild influence on depression. The four-year study involved nearly 33,000 female nurses who were free of depression at the start of the study. Thirty-three percent self-described their sleep pattern as early-riser, 53 percent intermediate, and 10 percent evening types. After four years of follow-up, researchers found that early risers had 12-27 percent lower risk of depression than intermediate types, while late-riser types had a 6 percent higher risk of being depressed, although this was not considered statistically significant.

One study found that excessive sleep is “highly associated” with dysthymic disorder and major depressive disorder. Those researchers also found that many anxiety disorders are “associated with prolonged sleep episodes accompanied by consequences/distress.”

Better cardiovascular health is associated with early-rise behavior.

More good news for early risers is the apparent association such behavior has on better cardiovascular health. Researchers in the UK Biobank study found that those who are early to bed and early to rise are “more conscientious and are goal-getters.” They also spent less time in front of electronic devices, ate more fruit and vegetables daily than late chronotypes. Survey participants categorized as evening persons also tended to watch more television and were twice as likely to smoke tobacco than intermediate types and 45 percent more likely to smoke than adequate sleepers. Researchers noted that more study is needed to determine if sleep metrics can predict better cardiovascular health behaviors and if sleep behavior modification can enhance heart health.

If you sleep too much, you may have a sleep disorder.

For those who constantly sleep too much, sleeping longer than 8 hours a night, often napping during the day, finding it difficult to stay awake, the underlying cause may be a sleep disorder known as hypersomnia. Besides excessive sleepiness throughout the day not relieved by napping, hypersomnia sufferers may also experience anxiety, memory problems and low energy. The American Sleep Association states that more men than women have hypersomnia, with prevalence at 5 percent of the population. The ASA also reports that 50-70 million adults in the U.S. have a sleep disorder of some kind.

The most common sleep disorder is insomnia, affecting about 30 percent of the adult population with short-term insomnia, and about 10 percent suffering chronic insomnia. Other forms of sleep disorder and sleep-related breathing disorders include, narcolepsy, snoring, and central sleep. Circadian-rhythm sleep disorders include jet lag, shift work, and delayed, advanced, irregular and non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm. Parasomnias and sleep-movement disorders round out the category of sleep disorders.

Insufficient sleep over a prolonged period can affect your mental and emotional states.

If you’re perpetually sleep-deprived, your brain is exhausted, unable to adequately perform its duties. Besides difficulty concentrating, your brain’s ability to send signals to other parts of your body may be delayed, which could prove fatal when driving, using dangerous equipment, trying to avoid life-threatening situations. Lengthy periods of sleep deprivation can result in other problems with your mental and emotional states, including hallucinations, trigger mania in those with manic depression, or amp up risks of paranoia, depression, impulsive behavior, and suicidal thoughts.

If you suffer from the effects of too much or too little sleep, help is available. Besides tips for getting better sleep, make an appointment to see a sleep professional or your general practitioner to have tests to determine the cause of excessive or insufficient sleep, as well as how to get back to getting the right amount of sleep you need nightly.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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