Motivation

Best Way to Effect Change

Best Way to Effect Change

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

 

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

 

When something’s not right and you want it to change, there are several ways to go about it. No doubt you want to tailor your actions, so they reflect the best way to effect change. While taking the initiative and acting may be the quickest and most efficient approach, there are some caveats to consider. You might not have all the facts, for example, or what you do know may be distorted by perception or long-held belief. It is also quite possible that your viewpoint is skewed, thus leading to erroneous conclusions and poor judgment.

Considering that there are always going to be situations and instances where change is desirable, as well as times when only you can do something about what needs changing, perhaps the best way to effect personal and situational change is by changing the way you look at things.

Granted, this isn’t easy to do, especially if you grew up in an atmosphere of rigid compliance where any testing of authority was not tolerated, and you were constrained to act within certain boundaries. Questioning the status quo may feel like anathema now that you’re an adult may feel like an impossible task, one that you’re loathe to entertain. A little-known yet very powerful way to begin to assert your independence is by thinking outside the box you were put in when growing up.

Suppose you were always called stupid and told you’d never amount to anything. Many well-meaning parents fall into the trap of being overly critical of their children, perhaps projecting their own insecurities while wanting in good faith to ensure their offspring have a better life. That their thoughtless remarks and labels have the opposite effect may never occur to them, at least without parenting counseling. That kind of cruelty on the part of parents, siblings or others is enough to stunt anyone’s growth. Finding your own path under such circumstances was likely difficult because you believed the criticism was right. Difficult, but not impossible.

Maybe you’ve attempted to change things in your life and failed repeatedly. This also tends to put a damper on any motivation to seek further change. Again, the prospects for self-change are difficult, yet not impossible.

It is important to note that there is no directive of human behavior that requires any individual to steadfastly accept their circumstance. You have the power to effect change for yourself above all else. It doesn’t matter if you grew up impoverished, in a dysfunctional family, with no support system, suffering childhood illness, mental health disorder or some other condition. Nor does an upbringing in an affluent household guarantee the ability to enact change, even if such changed is steadfastly desired. What is necessary, however, no matter the circumstances or conditions under which you grew up, is the willingness to put aside old beliefs and negativity and look at the world around you with open eyes and an unbiased heart.

Is there a wrong you seek to make amends for? What about an injustice you believe came about as the result of your actions? What avenues can you take to create a better life for yourself than that which you came into the world to? Can you find the path to follow to achieve greater success? Is it possible to mend your ways, repair your reputation, begin to love again, heal damaged relationships, find a way to balance work and home, explore your true potential and achieve almost any goal?

You bet there is.

If you are willing to cast aside the barriers and suspend judgment so that you can take in the reality that is now, you may be surprised that what you thought was so, what seemed impossible to change, is false. What is available to you, what you can change, will not only astound but also invigorate you.

How to get started with a plan.

Once you’ve cast aside beliefs that may have held you back in the past and resolved to move forward with determination and enthusiasm, you still need a plan. Venturing forth without a firm grasp of the change you’d like to effect, or a timetable to help guide your actions and help you stay the course, or a guide to refer to so you know if you are making progress or not, the mere desire to effect change will stall. To help you navigate effecting change, your plan must consist of the following:

  • The plan must be motivating, a course of action that you can not only see yourself taking, but one that fills you with vigor and excitement. The more internally motivated you are, the more likely your chances of success. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

 

  • It must be workable, a blueprint that you readily accept and believe yourself capable of putting into action. Deciding on a plan that’s going to put you in a position of tackling goals currently far out of reach is not the way to go. You need incremental stages, perhaps smaller goals or ones that are shorter in duration, before you can feel confident of your ability to take on harder goals or ones that require skills you don’t now possess. “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities. Without reasonable but humble confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” – Norman Vincent Peale

 

  • To increase likelihood of success, the plan must consider potential hurdles and contain alternate scenarios and courses of action. Weigh each one according to its merits, gauging how close it gets you to your goal. “I have a number of alternatives, and each one gives me something different.” – Glenn Hoddle

 

  • The plan must also be modifiable, a guide that you can modify as conditions or needs change, or you’ve attained the goal and want to proceed to something else. Being constrained to a rigid plan is a quick recipe for disappointment and abandonment of the impetus to change. “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

Expect the unexpected when proceeding to effect change. To the extent that you can bounce back from setbacks, learn from your mistakes and missteps and find the lesson that’s often hidden within seeming failure, you’ll be developing and enhancing resilience, a crucial self-strength that allows you to overcome life-changing situations and stressful circumstances.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Energy Levels Naturally

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Energy Levels Naturally

Photo by Jared Erondu on Unsplash

 

“You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself, and you’re responsible for the energy that you bring to others.” – Oprah Winfrey

 

I’m all about doing what I can do in a better way. This includes taking proper care of my health and watching my energy levels throughout the day. There’s no denying that a busy lifestyle contributes to a drain on how much energy you feel you have, yet there are natural ways to boost your energy levels that are easy and relatively quick to do. After doing my research, I’ve discovered that science backs up the merits of the following 10 easy ways to increase your energy levels.

Lower stress.

Stress is a huge culprit when it comes to drained energy. When you’re stressed-out, you’re likely worn out as well. If you suffer from chronic stress, the effect is cumulative and can result in worsening physical and mental conditions over time. Most stress is the result of anxiety, worry about things you have no control over or agonizing over making the wrong decisions, even worry about decisions you know are right. In short, living with non-stop stress will zap your energy like an electronic bug killer. Figure out healthy ways to lower your stress levels and you’ll find that you have more energy daily.

How can you lower your stress? Do whatever relaxes you, whether that’s reading an engrossing novel, going for coffee with a friend, watching a favorite TV show or movie, exercising vigorously, gardening, playing sports, working on a hobby, taking a drive, going out for dinner and so on. It isn’t what you do but how relaxing the activity makes you feel that will lessen the tension and reduce stress.

Eat more nuts and fish.

Studies of women with magnesium deficiency showed that the women felt physically exhausted much of the time. Why? When you have magnesium deficiency, your heart beats faster and requires more oxygen to get things done. Natural sources of magnesium that are low calorie and delicious include almonds, cashews and hazelnuts, as well as fish such as halibut. Recommended daily magnesium allowances are 300 milligrams for women and 350 milligrams for men.

Get out and walk.

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to boost energy levels is to go out for a walk. How can it be that engaging in physical activity such as walking increases your energy? It sounds contradictory, yet the science is sound. A brisk 10-minute walk is enough to elevate energy levels and the effects last up to 2 hours. Do regular daily walks and you’ll have not only increased energy and stamina, your mood will also improve.

Drink lots of water.

Another nasty culprit causing lack of energy is dehydration. Simply put, when you’re dehydrated, your body is starved of life-saving water. You may not realize that you’re thirsty, though, and by the time that you do, you’re likely dehydrated. Sometimes, you think you’re fatigued when the truth is that you’re dehydrated. You also might confuse hunger with thirst, thinking you need to eat something when what you really need is water. There is a simple solution: drink lots of water at regular times throughout the day. Strive for eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. If you have trouble downing that much plain water, go for fruit-flavored, sugar-free water. In so doing, you’ll be benefiting every organ in your body, including muscles, which are re-energized with water. You’ll also find that you’ve got a little more energy by exercising your water-drinking habit.

Cut back on sugar.

Besides contributing to a thicker waistline and more pounds on the scale, eating a diet high in sugar will also leave you feeling drained. While sugar initially spikes blood sugar and provides an energy boost, that increased energy is short-lived, quickly followed by a rapid blood sugar drop. You may feel wiped out consequently. If you’re like me, however, adding a natural sweetener to morning lattes and hot tea is an absolute must. I’ve become an aficionado of Stevia, a no-calorie natural sweetener that tastes 30 times sweeter than table sugar. Another natural sweetener I’ve decided to try is coconut sugar, which has 20 calories per teaspoon (the same as table sugar), but it is an excellent alternative to regular sugar for baking.

Meditate.

If you’re a fan of yoga, you might already know that the Savasana pose (also called the corpse pose) is beneficial in reducing fatigue. I was unaware of this, not being very proficient in yoga, yet willing to learn. The Savasana pose is what you do at the end of your yoga session. It looks like taking a quiet nap on the floor while resting on your yoga mat. You are resting, yet fully conscious for the 10-20 minutes you allocate for this restorative energy exercise.

Eat breakfast every day.

Your mother probably told you that breakfast is the day’s most important meal. That advice echoes what nutrition experts have said for years. It’s tempting to skip this vital meal, though, especially when busy schedules mean every minute counts, yet don’t fall for that excuse. It doesn’t have to be a long, sit-down affair for you to gain the benefits of breakfast. Just make sure you eat wisely. Go for breakfasts that help you power up your morning. As Harvard Medical School experts points out, include whole grains, fruit and protein – and eat at home, not from a fast-food eatery.

Add power snacks to provide energy between meals.

It might seem a long way to dinner or your next meal, especially if you’ve been engaged in vigorous physical activity or concentrating on a complex work project. The healthy solution here is to snack on some power foods to give yourself an instant energy lift. Do a combination of fat, protein, a little bit of fat and fiber and you’ll be doing yourself and your energy levels a favor. Try a low-fat, low-salt (or salt-free) cracker with peanut butter or enjoy yogurt with a small handful of nuts.

Try a 1-hour power nap to prevent burnout.

Experimental research conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that participating subjects who took a 60-minute power nap were able to prevent burnout. Like physical effects of stress that cause fatigue, mental performance during repeated cognitive tasks, especially stressful ones, can simulate feelings of fatigue and low energy levels. While not everyone has the luxury of taking a 1-hour nap every day, if you do opt to take time for a snooze, remember that 60 minutes is more beneficial in preventing burnout than a half-hour nap.

Tend to your emotional health.

Depression and anxiety often make you feel exhausted, tired all the time, lacking energy and desire to do much of anything. If you are otherwise healthy, yet you feel constantly fatigued, examine your life for what may be bothering you emotionally. If you’ve experienced depression or anxiety that persists for two weeks or more, consider getting professional help. Psychotherapy can help you overcome these debilitating issues and help regain your normal energy.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

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15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

Life is so busy, hectic and filled with challenges. There are also myriad opportunities for personal enrichment, satisfaction, friendship, love, finding purpose and doing good for others. Still, while the desire for and pursuit of happiness can sometimes seem elusive or fleeting, there are effective ways to increase your happiness.

Find joy in the little things.

For most people, life consists of an accumulation of small moments. There are, of course, momentous events that occur in a person’s life that can precipitate a dramatic shift, changing direction, embarking on a new path. Still, everyday life goes on, populated with small, seemingly inconsequential moments. It is in the little things that you can find your joy and boost feelings of happiness. When you allow yourself to be joyful, it’s easier to find joy. While that may sound too good to be true, it works. Feel the deliciousness of descending into cool water in a lake on a hot day. Savor the aroma and taste of a favorite meal and enjoy the presence of loving family. These are the little things that are too often taken for granted, yet they are great contributors to happiness.

Start each day with a smile.

This is more than a simple suggestion. It’s backed by science. When you smile, you not only trigger smile muscles in others, according to research, you also benefit. Smiling activates neural brain circuits associated with well-being and happiness. It also feels good to smile, especially when you do it regularly.

Connect with others.

The power of social connection to boost happiness and well-being is another area explored by researchers. The construct of time, for example, motivates people to choose being with family and friends more than working – behaviors associated with greater happiness. Other research found that happiness is a “collective phenomenon,” with people’s happiness dependent on the happiness of those with whom they connect.

Do what you’re most passionate about.

If you get swept up in what you do for a living, barely noticing the passage of time, or can’t wait to get to your job or do things with your children or participate in an activity with friends, you’re engaging in what you find most passionate. Pursuing your passions is highly conducive to increased happiness and, contrary to a mistaken notion that to do so is selfish, when you do what you’re most passionate about, you’re helping develop your potential, broadening your horizons and contributing to higher self-esteem and overall well-being.

Reflect on your blessings and be grateful.

Everyone has something in their life to be grateful for. Most of us have many, many blessings. A simple ritual of daily reflection is enough to center in on them and allows us to take a few moments to express personal gratitude for all that we have been given in life. Good health, loving family, satisfying relationships, an enjoyable career – the list is endless and highly personal. There’s also a scientific basis for the statement that gratitude helps increase happiness, demonstrating that it also helps protect you from negativity, stress, depression and anxiety.

Choose to be positive and see the best in every situation.

A positive attitude is scientifically proven to increase happiness and well-being. How can you develop a positive attitude and learn to see the best in everything? It does take practice and a willingness to confront your fears and reject their power to control you. If you’ve always seen life as a glass half-empty proposition, turn that assumption around and strive to see situations as a glass half-full. Other research has found that positive emotions can even counteract the effects of adversity.

Take steps to enrich your life.

Seeking knowledge, exploring unknown areas, pushing yourself to go beyond your current skill set or experience, striving to learn something new – these are steps each of us can take to not only enrich our life but also maximize personal joy and happiness.

Create goals and plans to achieve what you want most.

If you expect or desire to achieve a certain standard of living, aspire to earn a college degree, receive a promotion, buy a house, marry and have children or any other goal you find meaningful and purposeful, you must identify the goal first and then create action plans to help you achieve what you want.

Live in the moment.

Worry about the past or anxiety over the future are both counterproductive and a waste of time. Instead, to add to your happiness quotient, change your mindset so that you live in the present. Another way of saying this is to be present. When you focus on now, this moment, you are more aware of your surroundings, your breath, how you feel, what’s going on with your loved ones, family, friends, co-workers, other drivers and everything in your immediate environment. You’re alive and fully aware of it. Being present is a proactive way to increase your happiness and something anyone can do.

Be good to yourself.

Overeating, drinking too much, staying up all hours and other bad habits aren’t good for you physically or mentally. Instead, embark on a lifestyle that includes healthy behaviors: eat nutritious foods, cut down or cut out alcoholic intake, get sufficient and restful sleep, hydrate well, exercise regularly and take frequent breaks so that you give yourself breathing time between tasks. You’ll be healthier and happier because of being good to yourself.

Ask for help when you need it.

There are times when you know you’re overwhelmed and will not be able to finish what you started. In addition, you may run into unexpected problems or difficulties while you’re working at a task or pursuing a goal and don’t know what to do about it. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. In fact, it’s a sign of good mental health and a positive attitude that you’re comfortable doing so. Another person may have a suggestion that works or discussing what’s perplexing you may stimulate a solution you hadn’t realized before. Similarly, if you’re bogged down with financial problems, asking for assistance to overcome them will help you figure out a path to get past this difficulty. Asking for help allows you to get unstuck and move ahead toward your goals.

Let go of sadness and disappointment.

Why torment yourself with thoughts of how sad you are or how disappointed you feel because you didn’t immediately succeed in a task or goal, lost a friend or loved one, can’t pay your bills or don’t see a clear path to your future? Stewing in sadness and disappointment will only further erode your feelings of self-worth and chip away at your self-esteem, not to mention cause your happiness to plummet. Let go of those toxic feelings. Seek professional counseling if the problem worsens or doesn’t go away after two weeks. Remember, you deserve to be happy. To get there, ditch negative emotions and replace them with more uplifting ones.

Practice mindfulness.

There are many forms of mindfulness and meditation, sometimes called mindfulness meditation. Whichever style you prefer, when you find one that fits, make regular use of it. One example is loving kindness meditation — opening hearts to positive emotions. Research shows that it not only increases positive emotions, but also personal resources and well-being. This type of meditation has many other benefits, including increasing social connectedness.

Walk in nature.

The benefits of getting outside and walking in nature have long been documented as easy, convenient ways to increase happiness. For one thing, the physical act of exercise releases endorphins in your brain that elevate mood and make you feel better. Walking in nature also highlights other aspects of joyful, happy living such as a greater appreciation of natural beauty, thankfulness that you’re alive and healthy enough to be physically active, helping to tone your body and improve cardiovascular, lung and other vital bodily functions.

Laugh, and make time for play.

It’s almost impossible to see someone else laugh and not be affected by it. Indeed, laughter is not only contagious, it also constitutes a big part of play.  What is playing? It is the act of doing what gives you pleasure, engaging in discovery, letting your creativity flow. Laughter can reduce levels of stress and inflammation and benefit heart functioning.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

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How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

Photo by Alexey Topolyanskiy on Unsplash

Photo by Alexey Topolyanskiy on Unsplash

“You are capable of so much more than we usually dare to imagine.” – Sharon Salzberg

 

How many times do you think about doing something and then immediately discard the idea because you think you’re not capable? It’s amazing how often people sell themselves short. Just because you haven’t done something doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability or capability to do an excellent job. Perhaps some of this reluctance is rooted in fear – principally, the fear of failure. We don’t want to stumble and not complete the job or task. We want to be successful. Anything less is not acceptable. How do you tap into your capabilities? Here are some suggestions.

Open your horizons.

What we often don’t take into consideration, however, is that by denying ourselves the opportunity to show that we are capable, we further limit our horizons. Suddenly, the world is a much more confined space and we may fall into the mistaken belief that we don’t deserve to branch out and learn new things. The solution to this is to strike that barrier that seemed so impenetrable and overwhelming. Live life with no limits and see how opportunities begin to reveal themselves.

Learn from your mistakes.

Another self-limiting behavior is our avoidance of learning from our mistakes. Since everybody makes them, there must be something good that can come from the experience. Experts say that this entails analyzing what we did to find the element of wisdom in the actions we took or did not take. It’s from this that we profit from the undertaking. In fact, there’s something to learn from everything we do, and we learn by doing – whether it was successful at first, only partially successful, or not successful at all.

Seek encouragement from others.

Once the damper of self-limitation is in place, it can be incredibly hard to lift it. The support and encouragement of loved ones, family members, friends and co-workers or concerned others is an instrumental part of overcoming this self-imposed barrier. Besides, others may more quickly see talents and gifts you possess that aren’t clear to you. When you accept, and receive their encouragement, you’re more inclined to be motivated to discovery and self-growth.

Challenge outmoded beliefs.

But we also must be willing to challenge our outmoded and erroneous beliefs to stimulate our willingness to tackle the unknown. This includes going after that which we deem desirable, interesting, and worthwhile or simply to satisfy our curiosity.

Actively pursue new activities.

Maybe one way to approach cultivating our capabilities is to pursue those activities and endeavors that deliberately expose us to something unfamiliar. When we’re so used to doing the same thing day in and day out, not only can life become boring, but we also tend to become lazy. Instead of seeking anything new and different, we remain comfortable just doing our normal routine. The downside of this is that it doesn’t stimulate or motivate. It’s pure stagnation. No wonder it’s hard to discover more of what we’re capable of.

Learn one new thing every day.

Make it a point to pursue at least one new thing every day. This can be as simple as deciding to take a different route to work or talk to someone you don’t know or investigate some area of interest to see how you can get involved. Some of this is preparation and some involves a little legwork, but it all constitutes an approach that can open your eyes to possibilities and further galvanize your motivation to developing your innate capabilities.

Work on building your self-esteem.

While building self-esteem takes time and does involve navigating some detours and overcoming roadblocks, the effort you exert will pay off in the long run. Every small success or project completed adds to your self-confidence level and works to elevate your self-esteem. You must feel good about yourself to grow. It’s also important to never allow anyone else to tear you down. Refuse to internalize their criticisms, although do take to heart any valid advice, even if it goes contrary to what you currently think. You may have a blind spot when it comes to certain aspects of your behavior. Think of this as another learning experience, an opportunity to further grow.

Recognize that you have untapped potential.

Far too many people either fail to believe in or refuse to recognize their capabilities. Instead, they look at their potential as a finite resource. Besides limiting themselves in an unhealthy manner, such misguided thinking detracts from the joy of everyday living and overall well-being. The truth is that you have so much more in you than you even know – or ever believed possible. Start recognizing that you have a wealth of untapped potential. Now’s the time to dip into that, be inspired and pursue your dreams.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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5 Ways to Let It Flow

Photo by Rachel Davis on Unsplash

Photo by Rachel Davis on Unsplash

“The mind is like a river, and, as with a river, there’s no point in trying to stop its flow.” – Mingyur Rinpoche

 

You know when you get into a groove, you just want to keep on going. You might say you’re “in the flow,” “going with the flow,” “in your sweet spot,” or some other catchy phrase.

It feels good.

You want it to continue.

Why don’t you let it?

The truth is that everyone is surrounded by distractions. Some of them are pesky and quickly swatted away, like a bug you don’t have time for yet keeps coming back. Others, however, are more beyond or out of your control, like your boss who suddenly interrupts your work with an urgent project. Don’t you just hate that?

Once you stop what you’re doing – and this is hard to do, by the way – it’s even harder to get back into the flow. Once again, most everyone can relate to this, some more than others. I know I’ve experienced this nuisance dozens of times in my corporate career.

Still, back to crux of the matter and what most of us want to know is, what can you do to allow the flow to continue while still tending to what must be done?

Interesting conundrum. While there aren’t any hard and fast answers, here are a few suggestions I’ve used with satisfactory results that may prove helpful:

Hit the pause button.

See if you can hit the pause button in your mind. Without completely disengaging, you might consider saying something to your boss like, “I’ll get to it as soon as I finish this document.” Be sure, however, to follow through on your stated commitment. Otherwise you risk getting into trouble with your boss.

Try going it alone.

Since many of us do our best work when we’re uninterrupted, make it a point to do your best work while you are alone. This is harder advice to follow, and it’s especially difficult in a busy office, corporate or otherwise. If you do have the flexibility to work on your own, perhaps by choosing different hours or working at an alternate location for certain projects, I encourage you to do so. When you’re more in control of where and when you work, you’re abler to go with the flow when you’re in the middle of it.

Commit to the moment.

Be in the moment. Instead of allowing thoughts of what you must do next, where you’re going for lunch, or replaying that argument you had last night with your spouse or partner or one of the kids, commit to being here and now. You’re busy working on something. That needs to take priority. You can devote time to those other items later, most likely with better clarity and attention, not to mention effectiveness. Keep in mind that when that time comes, be in the moment then as well for best results.

Eliminate distractions.

If you want to get things done, help yourself out by turning off the notification sounds and pop-ups for email on your computer. You don’t need to be a slave to these distractions. Even better, close out your email client until you’re finished with what you’re doing. Better yet, set specific times to check email, such as 9 a.m., right after lunch, 3 p.m. – and don’t be tempted to check it otherwise unless you’re expecting something to help you complete your current assignment.

Go quiet.

The adage that “silence is golden” is very apropos here. So, silence your phone. Similarly, avoid the temptation to pick up and answer or respond to texts that come in by shutting off your phone. At the very least, silence it. Your productivity will improve and so will your ability to let it flow. In fact, regularly disconnecting will also help reduce information overload.

If you need any more encouragement to let it flow, simply recall how good it felt in the past to be swept up in an activity or project so that the time just flew. That was being in the moment, fully immersed in what you were doing. Like the swiftly moving river, you just let it flow. You can do this.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

“You can never plan the future by the past.” – Edmund Burke

 

I know a little bit about being depressed, having worked hard together with my psychotherapist to overcome the debilitating and frightening mental health condition of depression when I was a young woman. Not only did I have a history of persistent sadness, having failed to effectively deal with the loss of my father when I was 13, I also accumulated losses and failures for the following 15 years to the point where I continually felt bad about myself. I found it hard to plan anything, other than surrendering to spontaneous pursuits, often accompanied by risky behavior. Yet, I did hold out hope I’d be able to change, to get past the cloak of depression that was my constant companion and begin to chart a different path for my life.

That I was eventually able to do so is a testament not only to the wisdom and dedication of my therapist, it shows how tenacious and resilient the human spirit can be when properly motivated, nourished and supported. What I learned is what I share today, with the fervent wish it helps someone who is in recovery from depression begin to believe in themselves and learn how to make plans for a better life.

The past has no relevance today.

Looking toward the future is an exercise many who suffer from depression are afraid to do, principally because they’re held captive by the past. I know I found it extremely difficult to let go of the fear, guilt and pain I’d carried so long. With so much baggage carried forward, is it any wonder that plans sometimes get cast aside for fear they’d turn out to be failures, just like so many did before? With compassionate guidance, I learned that this is shortsightedness in the extreme, for no momentum or traction can be gained when your eyes are firmly planted on the past.

Always learn from mistakes, as well as any successes.

Granted, it takes a certain amount of courage to shut the door on the past, particularly if those memories are recent, disastrous, and painful or one more in a lengthy line of failures. Again, I can relate to this self-defeating behavior, having tallied more than a few perceived and real failures. Yet, the most important thing to take from this is that you are not today who you were yesterday. Hopefully, you’ve learned from what didn’t work so that you don’t endlessly repeat those mistakes.

Lean on your support system as you entertain changes.

Having a good support system is also critically important as you draft plans for how you’ll go about completing goals you consider worthwhile. You must develop and make use of a staunch support system when you’re tentatively exploring options, adopting new behaviors, identifying potential goals and beginning to challenge yourself to undertake them.

You can self-renew.

But do give yourself some credit for having the tenacity to slog through some incredibly challenging work. It’s rough going through failure and disappointment. It stings, saps your immediate energy and puts a temporary damper on plans you’re working on for the future. How can you believe you’ll be successful when you’ve just experienced failure, right? You are here today, however, living testament to the restorative power within you. It’s time now to move ahead, look for new opportunities to get involved in, an interest that fires you up and you just can’t wait to pursue, and people whom you haven’t yet met who may provide that added spark that you need to act.

What you really want to know, however, is what can you do to start making plans – and stop thinking and obsessing over the past? Here are some suggestions that worked for me that may be helpful:

Adopt a hopeful outlook.

Instead of condemning yourself to repeated failure, reverse that trend. Tell yourself that this is a new day and you are moving ahead with excitement and purpose. You may need to repeat this mantra daily for it to begin to take root – and it will, it you allow it.

See the lesson in everything.

There’s always something valuable to learn from everything you do, regardless of the outcome. If you train yourself to find the kernel of wisdom in all your actions, you will boost your self-confidence and feel more empowered.

Share what works with your network.

Even when plans don’t turn out to be completely successful at first, there are some aspects of your action that does work. Be willing to share what works with those in your network who support your efforts – and listen to the suggestions they offer. You might learn something incredibly valuable that will further your own efforts.

Embrace change.

You may be fearful of change, likening it to past disastrous outcomes, but the truth is that life is filled with constant change. Without change, there would be no growth. Instead of fearing change, make it a point to embrace it, to eke every bit of knowledge and opportunity from it and make it your own. When you are in charge – and you are – change doesn’t look as formidable. That’s because you’ve put change in your go-to bag and are running with it.

Use the building-block approach.

A house doesn’t get built without going through many stages of construction. Similarly, achieving a successful outcome when working toward a goal almost always involves several steps. It isn’t just point A to point B. You may need to accommodate layers and a building-block approach. Capitalize on what you’ve learned and apply it to the next stage of development of your plan.

Always have a plan for tomorrow.

When you’re in recovery from depression, it helps to have something on your to-do list that you can turn to tomorrow. You need structure and the confidence that you have a ready-made plan to help you navigate what may be emotional or tumultuous times, to give you something you can proactively do when there’s a lull or not much else going on. Plans worked on today may prove the starting point for tomorrow’s activities. They may also lead you in new directions, to exciting discoveries, a means to expand your horizons, cultivate your talents and employ your strengths. Remember that each win is another addition to your self-esteem quotient.                                        

*  *  *

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related posts:

10 Soothing Thoughts on What Hope Is

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

5 Tips on How to Make Plans

How to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Life More

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How to Build Character

Photo by Seth Willingham on Unsplash

Photo by Seth Willingham on Unsplash

 

“Character is a diamond that scratches every other stone.” – Cyrus A. Bartol

 

The desire to be of good character is not only a laudable effort, but also a worthwhile one that pays handsome dividends. It’s unfortunate that more people don’t see the value in striving to achieve character.

There’s nothing like good character for making an indelible impression. When faced with someone with stellar character, others cannot fail to notice and be affected by what’s right in front of them.

It doesn’t take much hard thought to comprehend what Bartol meant by likening character to a diamond. While in the literal sense diamonds do scratch other hard surfaces, including character might at first seem odd, but it really isn’t. Anyone of good character (or bad, for that matter) can make a lasting impression. Just as a scratch from a diamond that endures.

Think before acting.

Keeping this in mind, it’s important to think before we act. This is much preferred to recklessly or impulsively rushing to judgment and acting in a fashion that’s bound to be reflective of something other than true intentions. By allowing time to process adequately, possibly by taking a step back and weigh our options before acting, the likelihood of improving character increases. act.

While some might believe that life is too busy daily to care about character, that’s rather shortsighted. Holding the belief that if someone else finds what we do to be admirable, but we’re not all that interested in building character, is flawed. This line of reasoning is akin to rationalization. It’s like saying we don’t have to be responsible for what we do because we’re hampered in some way from achieving the results we want. But those are just excuses and people of good character don’t make excuses. They take measured action after thinking about what they’re going to do.

Often, however, the choices we make won’t benefit us immediately. Sometimes a certain action may help others, which is generally serves to elicit attention, at least by the recipient of our action. Yet there is much more to it than that. While benevolent action may take some time to show results, if at all, the effort does add to our character.

Think of character like a treasure trove of diamonds. They’re internally stored, they glisten and reflect goodness. The bright light is also visible to others in the form of the good that we do.

Build character in small increments.

Good character doesn’t mean you must be a saint. Everyone can work on this aspect of themselves and make incremental improvements. The secret is to take it one day at a time, one small act at a time.

While everyone is busy, instead of packing too much into today’s agenda, allow some space and time for reflection and play. Think about some small thing that can brighten another’s day. That might be a smile, inviting a friend to coffee, offering to help a co-worker with a project, or setting aside a half hour to play with the kids after work.

Little things add up. It is possible to build character painlessly over time, and realize the benefits of doing so through the admiration and respect of others.

Be patient.

For those who’ve struggled with bad decision-making, especially those who’ve worked hard to overcome problems with alcohol or drugs, trying to build character may seem like a losing battle. After all, there are so many other things to take priority, the highest one being tending to sobriety and working recovery.

Yet even with a string of bad choices in the past, anyone can learn how to restore character or build it from scratch. It does take time and effort, a willingness to persist despite setbacks. In this, it’s necessary to be patient, to keep the end goal in sight.

In the pursuit of living a life of meaning and fulfillment, working to build character goes together with all of what’s worthwhile and good. The results are also cumulative, restorative and healthy.

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

* * *

Related posts:
10 Proactive Ways to Figure Out What’s Most Important to You
5 Tips to Make the Right Choice
10 Flimsiest Excuses for Not Taking Action

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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.

* * *

Related Posts

How To Stop Worrying And Enjoy Life More

How To Live What You Believe

The Incredible Value of Dreams

How To Keep Frustration From Blocking Your Goals

Success Means You Make Things Happen

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10 Soothing Thoughts on What Hope Is

10-soothing-thoughts-on-what-hope-is-photo-sam-schooler-unsplash

Photo by Sam Schooler/Unsplash

Animals cannot hope, people do.” —  Suzanne Kane

 

Whether you’re contemplating a future where you achieve all your goals, solid A’s on your report card, a big raise at work or an affirmative answer to the request for a date, the common thread is hope. Animals cannot hope, people do. So, this is a distinctly human emotion that nonetheless is somewhat ambiguous. These 10 thoughts may shed some light.

Hope is:

Sunshine on a cloudy day.  

When everything looks dismal and the solutions to problems nonexistent, hope can snake through the darkness and cast a warm, healing light. The fact that it can arrive so unexpectedly makes it all the sweeter. Once you experience hope, there’s no mistaking the profoundness of the emotion. Unlike sunshine, however, hope can stick around. Hope will still be there even when the going gets tough.

Restorative to the soul.

Failure and disappointment can crush prospects like a train wreck. One setback after another tends to eat away at the soul, sometimes reaching a point of seeming no-return. Hope, on the other hand, helps rebuild the weary soul, restoring it to a vigorous, healthy state. If the soul is fueled by love, hope fans the flames.

The driver of motivation.

Ever face a project that seems impossible in nature, takes too long and has an uncertain outcome? Many of us have been there. What gets us going, despite the odds, is hope — the powerful driver of motivation.  We must believe that we will be successful. It’s this hope of accomplishment that pushes us forward and keeps us going.

Source of inspiration.

Where do you find inspiration? When you want to be lifted, does going to an art gallery or trekking through nature get the job done? What is it about inspiration that makes it so elusive? If there’s one word that illustrates where inspiration comes from, it’s hope. Seeing something other than life’s mundane sameness requires hope. Transforming that sameness into something better is hope extending inspiration.

Necessary for creativity.

Without hope, nothing new would ever be created. That means no new art, poetry, writing, music, grand artistic buildings, elaborate bridges and infrastructure, no never-before-attempted recipes, nothing that wasn’t already there before. To create, you need to have hope. The outcome may not be clear, but it doesn’t need to be for the artist, inventor, designer, musician or everyday person to pursue their vision. All that’s necessary is hope that you can bring forth your creativity.

The foundation of love.

No one rushes into love with the certainty of it being reciprocal. For many, it’s this very intangibility and doubt that makes love so deliciously painful and desirable. Yet one thing is certain: the foundation of love is hope. If you didn’t have an inkling that this relationship could blossom into something more profound — and profoundly moving — there’d be no basis for love. That inkling is hope, without which there’d be no love.

Companion to generosity.

Even the tightwad Ebenezer Scrooge eventually fell under the influence of hope to cast aside his stinginess and willingly give to others. One doesn’t become generous because they think it will do them some good. They do it because of an inner desire to do good for others.

Why is hope a companion to generosity? The answer is that the giver can envision a better outcome because of their gift, freely given and without any expectation of reciprocity.

The basis for seeing possibilities.

Life often seems contradictory. Instead of a clear path forward, the way may be blocked with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It takes courage and hope to be able to imagine possibilities amid such distraction and chaos. Indeed, when you are sustained by hope, nothing is permanently impossible. It may take longer than you’d like or require more work and assistance than you currently have, but with hope you can discover original approaches to take that will ultimately help you steer past current difficulties.

The cement that binds friendship.

Think about your best friend, the one you’ve been pals with since kindergarten. You’ve been through good times and bad and somehow are always there for each other. What is the reason you’ve stuck together so long? Could it be that you always see the best in your friend, value the goodness of your partnership?

Hope is the cement that holds friendships together. In fact, hope can keep the bond secure even through the most trying times.

Mysteriously able to heal.

In every family, sooner or later someone gets sick, undergoes surgery, suffers an emotional or physical collapse, gets involved in an accident or experiences an injury. Doctors of all kinds work their professional skills, dispense medications and fix, sew, patch or otherwise mend the damage. But to truly heal? That requires more than just medications, operations and prosthetics, more, even than visits to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.

People who lack hope don’t heal as fast as those who do have hope. But hope is also mysteriously able to heal even when the prognosis for recovery is nil. “Against all odds” is the expression. Others may say it just wasn’t his or her time. But the truth is that the underlying reason for recovery — or at least a powerful contributing factor — is hope.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.com https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/03/20/10-soothing-thoughts-on-what-hope-is/

 

* * *

Related Articles:

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Life More

Success Means You Make Things Happen

 

* * *

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

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How to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Life More

How to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Life More-Photo by Jakob Owens/Unsplash

Photo by Jakob Owens/Unsplash

“Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” — English proverb

 

No one ever came to the end of their life and stated they wished they’d worried more. Indeed, worry is probably the last thing one would want to hang onto, especially during the last moments of life. Yet far too many of us cling to worry like a well-worn blanket, afraid to let go. It’s not exactly comforting, but it is familiar. That doesn’t mean worry adds to quality of life. It’s frankly time to stop worrying so much and learn to enjoy life more. Here are some thoughts on how to do just that.

Determine the source of the worry, so you can do something about it.

Do vague thoughts plague you? Are you unable to pinpoint just what it is that makes you feel so anxious and out of sorts? Maybe it has a physical cause, something you can readily address. Perhaps what you feel is the result of accumulated stress, an overflow of powerful emotions that’s left you drained. Before you can rid yourself of worry, you need to take some time to figure out what’s causing it.

Take out a pen and paper and jot down whatever thoughts come into your head. For example, if you have a headache, write: I’ve got a headache. I wonder if it’s anything serious. This zeroes in on what you’re concerned about now, identifies it, and robs it of the power to continue to gnaw at you. Maybe finances cause you uneasiness. You can’t seem to get them out of your mind. Write: I’m worried about making ends meet. This both acknowledges the root of the worry and takes the anxiety from the realm of something’s not right to knowing just what it is.

Put some space in your life.

When we worry, we jumble everything together. Unlike the ingredients in a stew that naturally go together, however, a pile of worry does not result in a comfortable or satisfying meal. They’re too close, too disparate, too useless to be any good. This is when you need to put space between the various activities in your day. By adding brief pauses during your waking hours, you’re giving yourself time to reflect, to take a break to do something you like, to exercise, rehydrate, have a meal, socialize, daydream or just relax.

It’s not necessary to go to elaborate lengths or to feel guilty that you’re robbing your employer, loved ones, family or friends by adding space to your life. The simple act of inserting space is very self-liberating and self-empowering. It reinforces the fact that you make the choices in your life and you reaffirm your commitment to living life wholeheartedly and well.

Ditch the small stuff.

The detritus of ruined dreams is rife with mounds of little problems, annoyances and petty grievances that don’t amount to anything worthwhile. All they’ve done is add to a mounting load of negativity, unhappiness and unrealized goals. The key to making room in your life to find the time, energy and motivation to pursue what matters most is to let go of the small stuff. It’s not worth your effort to agonize over every little thing. Besides, in a year’s time, you won’t remember, much less care, about those trivial details.

Put things in perspective.

How many times have you felt the crushing weight of worry on your shoulders? This heaviness literally drags you down, both physically and mentally. No wonder worry never seems to leave. It’s pushed and trampled you until you feel you can’t move. Maybe what’s happening also is that you’ve lost a sense of perspective. Instead of rationally and logically being able to separate what’s a legitimate concern from an amorphous worry is a lack of perspective.

Think about how you approach a task. The best way to be successful in any endeavor is to have a goal, create a plan and get to work. You’re not deterred by obstacles, since you’re committed to seeing the effort through. You can see that what you do now will net results in the long run. That’s perspective, understanding that your input will equal the output.

When it comes to separating the real from the unreal or unnecessary, envision the long view. Imagine how what you do today will affect your life six months or a year from now. Is it worth doing? If so, work on plans to get underway. If not, release this burden so you can focus more on what you find truly empowering and satisfying.

Give in to laughter.

Much has been written about the healing power of laughter. It’s true. When you laugh, you’re releasing feel-good endorphins that contribute to an overall well-being. Like vigorous physical exercise, which also releases endorphins, laughter helps smooth out rough edges, calm overwrought emotions and deliver a sense of peace, calm and contentedness.

If you’re not prone to belly laughs, that’s fine. Chuckling will do, along with smiling, crinkling your eyes, feeling the joy across your face. Let the laugh bubble up without censoring it. This is something you give yourself permission to do and it’s worth every second you’ve got a smile on your face or hear yourself laugh. Worry has no place in a space filled with laughter.

Engage with others.

Ruminating endlessly over what’s troubling you won’t do a thing to change the situation. Neither will stewing over problems and worries alone. What will make a difference is making an effort to be with others, socializing, talking over the issues or problems, participating in a mutually shared activity, even working on a project together. This serves as a distraction and allows your subconscious to put some distance between the worry and what you’re doing now. Besides taking a bite out of worry, you’ll feel better and take some pleasure in life.

Employ relaxation techniques.

Excessive worrying can lead to increased anxiety and stress, neither of which are good for the body. Make use of proven relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, listening to soothing music, yoga and tai chi, even walking in nature. The relaxation response triggered by relaxation techniques produces a physiological state of warmth and quiet alertness. When you start to relax, brain blood flow increases, shifting brain waves to a relaxed alpha rhythm. Relaxation techniques can help reduce the debilitating effects of stress and excessive worrying.

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.com https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-stop-worrying-and-enjoy-life-more/

 

* * *

Related Articles:

10 Ways Stress Harms You

5 Tips to Make the Right Choice

How to Keep Frustration From Blocking Your Goals

The Incredible Value of Dreams

* * *

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