Motivation

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

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“Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success.” – Bo Bennett

 

Like most people, I’ve experienced many instances of frustration. Some of them proved exceedingly trying and I found it nearly impossible to get past the episodes, replaying in my head what happened and how badly it made me feel. While I tried different methods to cope, including tipping back a few too many cocktails after a rough day at work, most were ineffective, at best. Worse, some had lingering consequences, such as a reprimand from my boss (after coming in late due to the imbibing). Over the years, however, I’ve made it a point to determine what works best for me to deal with frustration.

First, though, here’s some research frustration, how to recognize it, typical symptoms, frustration’s relationship to anger and stress and other interesting science.

Frustration often leads to recurring nightmares.

Ever wake up in the middle of a nightmare shivering in fear or with a feeling of dread and impending doom? If so, says science, there’s a likely correlation between the frustrations you’ve experienced during the day and the vivid and frightening dreams you have at night. I know that I’ve had dreams where I’m falling from a height and, luckily, wake up before I hit the ground. Dreaming of failure and being physically attacked were also part of my nightmare portfolio. As such, I found fascinating the research of the team at the University of Cardiff that waking-life psychological experiences, particularly frustration, directly tie in to the dream state in the form of nightmares. When study participants were frustrated, they reported having more frightening dreams and described those dreams in negative terms. According to the researchers, the nightmares represent the psyche attempting to process and make some sense of the experiences that were psychologically distressing while awake.

Frustrated people tend to smile more when they’re experiencing frustration.

This finding by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology caught me off guard. I thought people who smiled a lot were generally optimistic and cheerful. Indeed, smiling is typically a characteristic of someone who’s happy. Yet, as careful analysis of smiles shows, not all smiles are indicative of the emotion of happiness. There’s the fake smile, the polite smile, the nervous smile, and so on. According to the MIT researchers, most people don’t believe they smile a lot when they’re frustrated, yet they do, as proven by facial scans in the study. To prove their hypothesis, the researchers had study participants complete two types of task, one designed to frustrate and one not, and scanned their faces after they completed the task and hit the submit button (which deleted the frustrating task but accepted the control task). While the smiles that appeared looked similar, the frustrated smiles disappeared quickly compared to the genuine smiles. Frustration is a fundamental human experience, so it will be interesting to see where this research leads.

Men and women express anger and frustration differently.

In terms of biology, there’s no denying differences between men and women. As it turns out, findings from researchers at Southwest Missouri State University reveal there are even some differences in how the two sexes tend to show they’re angry or frustrated. Both feel anger and frustration, yet men tend to accept and embrace the emotions, using them to their advantage. Women, on the other hand, view anger and frustration as counter-productive. In the study, men felt ineffective when told to hold their emotions in, while women did not feel constricted when asked to do so. Similarly, researchers found a correlation between men being assertive and expressing anger outwardly, but not in women. Furthermore, women viewed their anger negatively, generally calling it frustration, while still using that anger to help bring about change. Due to social expectations, women tend to camouflage their anger and frustration, yet find alternative routes to get results they want.

Frustration stems from stress.

What causes the buildup of physiological and psychological response that results in emotions such as anxiety, overwork, despair, distress, frustration and more? According to the literature, the medical term for the origin of much emotional buildup, which often has physical components as well, is stress. Repeated stress that is not effectively dealt with can cause serious physical consequences. Like a machine that eventually wears down, continual stressors on the body’s activation of the nervous system (chronic stress) results in release of the stress hormones of cortisol and epinephrine and precipitates problems with the heart and other vital organs, along with the potential development of mental health issues.

To better handle frustration and stress, change your perception.

An article in Harvard Business Review discussed the concept of resilience and how everyday stressors and frustration can be more effectively dealt with by reframing perception. In short, change how you perceive frustration and stress. Authors cited two studies, one by researchers at the University of Buffalo that day-to-day stressors help people cultivate necessary skills to tackle difficult future situations, and anther by Harvard University researchers who found that participants told physiological signs of stress helped them better cope with it then viewed stress as helpful. The key takeaway here is to modify the perception of stress and frustration to promote the development of resilience, the ability to handle whatever comes your way in the most effective manner.

TIPS TO COPE WITH FRUSTRATION

Now, as to how I’ve learned to deal with frustration – and what works well for me, here are a few general tips:

  • Take some deep breaths. This will allow you to calm your pent-up emotions and restore a sense of calm. Likely, the frustration you’ve felt has caused you to hold your breath or breathe shallowly. In either case, your body is oxygen-depleted and it’s hard to think clearly. Deep breathing can help slow heartbeat and lower blood pressure, diminishing the negative effects of the stressful emotion.
  • Figure out the source of the frustration. Now that you’re thinking more clearly, use this clarity to focus on what may be the probable cause that you’re experiencing frustration. Without being caught up in the immediate effects of the frustration, you’ll be more prone to identify the source, so you can devise constructive ways to deal with it.
  • Remind yourself that this will pass. Frustration shouldn’t be an ongoing experience. Like the weather, it’s bound to change. By recognizing that emotions are generally fleeting, you rob them of their power and hold on you. Envision yourself in a happier state and recall that things that frustrated you in the past generally didn’t last long. You found ways to get past it, or the experiences causing the frustration weren’t consequential enough to have lasting effect.
  • Work on something else. Distraction is a great method to get past a roadblock. It works in problem-solving, getting past anger and other emotions – including frustration. If you’re stuck in a sour mood due to something frustrating, go out and dig in the garden, pound some nails in wood, demolish cardboard boxes to put in the recycle bin. Involve yourself in a task requiring close concentration. These techniques get your mind off what’s frustrating you.
  • Do something pleasant. Instead of beating yourself up mentally over your frustrating day, do something enjoyable. Take a soaking bath. Read a book. Watch a comedy. Go for coffee with friends. Indulge yourself a little yet be sensible in your choice. Hobbies are also effective for helping dispel frustration.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How to Manage Your Anger

How to Overcome Laziness and Get Things Done

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Best Way to Effect Change

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10 Good and 10 Bad Things About Procrastination

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“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” – Benjamin Franklin

“There’s nothing to match curling up with a good book when there’s a repair job to be done around the house.” – Joe Ryan

 

Everyone procrastinates. Some, in fact, are proficient at it. While I used to count myself in that category, I’ve made a conscious effort to change my ways in recent years and I must say I’ve been quite successful in the endeavor. Still, the urge to put off what must be done occasionally plagues me. So, I found the research on what’s good and what’s bad about procrastination so fascinating I just had to share it. Here, then, are 10 good and 10 bad points to ponder about procrastination.

10 GOOD THINGS ABOUT PROCRASTINATION

While much of the literature about procrastination – and public consensus – is that the habit is bad, there are some studies and research pointing out the opposite.

  • Procrastination helps you learn to manage delay.

The ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about living the good life. In fact, Greek philosophers highly valued procrastination, as much as stating that it is good to learn to manage delay. Of course, there’s a significant difference between active and passive procrastination, where the former can be considered good and the latter – just sitting around doing nothing, for example – is decidedly in the category of bad. Knowing when to act, even though that may mean delaying action, is good advice.

  • Procrastination provides time to reflect on what’s most important.

You need time to think about what matters most in life. Not in the sense that you’re contemplating weighty philosophical issues, simply what’s most important to you. By taking your time to think through some things – or think of nothing at all so that your mind can clear, you’ll discover the kernels of importance that reside in your mind and heart. Then, you can act accordingly.

  • Much better decisions may result from procrastination.

Rushing in to deal with this or that task, project or item on your list of things to do doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be done well or provide any meaningful satisfaction for their completion. You might also find yourself accepting projects and tasks that aren’t right for you, that you’re ill-equipped to handle, shouldn’t do because they’re someone else’s responsibility, or it’s simply not the right time to get started on them. Just because something is on a list is not always a green light to work on them. By procrastinating, your decision may be better informed as a result.

  • Prioritization may be the offshoot of procrastination.

If you’re putting off things, procrastination could help you jumpstart prioritizing. This is helpful to get rid of unnecessary tasks, things you might have begun that weren’t worth your time, at least now.

  • Cooler heads prevail when you procrastinate saying you’re sorry.

While you might feel pressure to apologize when you’ve wronged another and anxious to get it over with, if you push yourself to do it immediately, who knows what might come out of your mouth? This is a case where allowing yourself time to think carefully about what and how (and perhaps where and when) you’ll issue the apology will result in a better, sincerer apology. Even if it’s taking an hour or so and breathing in and out deeply, you’ll be in a calmer state of mind and your tone of voice and body language will be more relaxed.

  • You can get other things done on your to-do list when you engage in active procrastination.

Sure, there might be some doozies on your to-do list, tasks or projects that are complex, complicated, time-consuming or just difficult, onerous and not something you want to dive into. You know you’ll have to deal with them eventually but tending to the half dozen or so small items on your list allows you to get a lot done, be more productive and feel a sense of accomplishment. This might be all you need to then tackle that big one you’ve been putting off.

  • Procrastination allows your mind to process.

Even when you’re not consciously thinking about what’s on your do-to list, your subconscious is. This may lead to an innovative or creative solution to the issue, task, project, errand or chore you’ve put off doing.

  • Active procrastination offers health benefits.

Research by Chu and Choi in 2005 found that active procrastinators were not paralyzed by worry. They also had lower stress levels, exhibited less avoidant tendencies, and had healthier self-efficacy.

  • Your most creative ideas may come through procrastination.

There is a school of thought that the first ideas or solutions to problems aren’t the best ones. Those are often the result of deliberating for a time to sort through different options and arrive at the most appropriate. Call this dwell time or mind-wandering or an example of the creative process. If it works, use it – sparingly. Some things can’t wait while you procrastinate.

  • Procrastination is normal.

Instead of agonizing that you’re guilty of a bad habit by your procrastination, embrace the realization that procrastination is normal. If it doesn’t get out of hand or become chronic, you shouldn’t have a problem.

 

10 BAD THINGS ABOUT PROCRASTINATION

The list of what’s not so good about procrastination includes some well-known (and likely quite familiar) observations that each have some measure of truth.

  • Procrastination can lead to poor academic performance.

While this may seem like a no-brainer, a study by Case Western Reserve University determined that college students who procrastinated experienced higher levels of stress, increased episodes of illness, and poorer grades by semester’s end.

  • Higher levels of stress associated with procrastination may be linked to poor self-compassion.

Research by Sirois published in Self & Identity suggested that lower levels of self-compassion could explain some stress levels procrastinators experienced and observed that targeted interventions to promote self-compassion could be beneficial for those individuals.

  • Procrastination promotes negative feelings.

A study by Pychyl et al. reported in Personality & Individual Differences examined the phenomenon of negative feelings arising from procrastination by students. Negative affect resulted from the first instance of procrastination before an exam, yet self-forgiveness tended to reduce procrastination and negative effect on a subsequent exam.

  • Procrastination may have a genetic component.

Are you destined to be a procrastinator because of your genetic makeup? Several studies debate this origin of procrastination, or at least whether genetics is causative. A study by Gustavson et al. published in the journal from the Association for Psychological Science found confirmation for their postulation that procrastination is a by-product of impulsivity. Not only is procrastination heritable, both share a great deal of genetic variation, and an important aspect of this shared variability is goal-management. Even though you may be predisposed to procrastinate, however, doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it.

  • Procrastination is self-defeating behavior.

While the debate goes on over the good versus bad points about procrastination, some scientists say that procrastinating conflates positive behaviors such as pondering and prioritizing. Furthermore, procrastination for any number of seemingly good reasons leads to the self-defeating habit of genuine procrastination, which is the absence of making progress.

Some say that procrastinating helps motivate them to do their best work under pressure. While that may be true for some small number of people, it isn’t the general outcome. Crashing to accomplish that oh-so-important project or school paper or business presentation at the last minute will probably not be your best work. Self-talk to the contrary is just an excuse.

  • With procrastination, you get things done, but they’re the wrong things.

Shoving the important task to the bottom of the list and focusing on several easy and quick-to-do ones you could do any time gives you the false reassurance that you’re accomplishing a lot. Granted, this example of procrastination allows you to get things done, yet they’re the wrong things – or are out of priority.

  • You add to the workload of others when you procrastinate.

No one likes having work dumped on them that another employee fails to do. That creates resentment, adds to the dumped-on employees’ workload and sets the stage for feelings of anxiety and piled-on resentment.

  • Procrastinators may be paralyzed by fear of making a mistake, a loss of self-worth.

People aren’t inherently lazy when they engage in procrastination. Just ask them. They’ll come up with a dozen distinct reasons for their delay to act. At the heart of the problem of procrastination, at least for some individuals, may be a paralyzing fear of making a mistake and thus suffering a loss of self-worth.

  • The end-product of chronic procrastination may be mental health issues.

A longitudinal study of the costs and benefits of procrastination, performance and stress found that procrastination is a self-defeating behavior pattern characterized by short-term benefits and long-term costs, including an increase in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

How to Overcome Laziness and Get Things Done

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

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Best Way to Effect Change

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How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

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How to Overcome Laziness and Get Things Done

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“Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.”Anne Frank

 

Does your to-do list today fill you with the desire to chuck it all and chill out somewhere? Maybe you’ve gotten so jammed up that your schedule simply has no breathing room, no time for you to do anything you want because you’re overcommitted, unable to say no, or way behind on projects, tasks and chores already. You might, indeed, feel downright lazy. This laziness doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible or that you lack skills and abilities. Rather, it may mean that you need to do a little prioritizing, let some things go and learn how to get what matters done.

Do a needs-based analysis of your workload.

How much of what you’ve allocated to do today – or that others put on your schedule – is an absolute must? Is it a task or project you could delay for a time and focus on something else that’s more pressing, that has an urgent deadline, or you’re pressured to get done? Not everything you’ve penciled in on today’s list must be completed today. Some items can wait. The key is to carefully analyze everything to determine what’s necessary and what’s not. This isn’t an idle exercise. It’s an essential part of organization and crucial to getting things done.

Give every task a number.

After you’ve examined every item on your list, some stand out as more pressing than others. These are the ones to prioritize. Go through the list again and assign every task a number, with 1 being the most important to get done, and 10 and beyond less time-sensitive. Hopefully, your list doesn’t go much past 10, since that’s a clear sign you’re overcommitted.

Have a work list and a personal list.

One way to avoid getting lost in numerous tasks in one list is to carve out two lists: a work list and a personal one. What’s important here is to draw the line at the end of the work day and don’t allow work to cross over into your personal time. When work intrudes on home, family and relationships, or vice-versa, there’s bound to be unnecessary conflict. You’ll also get little accomplished as you waver between tending to one area of responsibility at the expense of the other. Clear work-home boundaries help a great deal.

Take a break – literally.

Feel your chest getting tight? A bad headache coming on? Jitters or queasiness? These may be signs of stress from internal and external pressures to perform, be the top achiever, nail the contract, settle the dispute, or find the optimal solution to a problem. The best way to relieve stress in this instance is to do a hard stop and get some fresh air. This is a literal recommendation, as being outside in nature is well documented to reduce stress and increase a sense of overall health and well-being. After your break – and it needn’t be much more than 15 minutes to a half-hour – you’ll return to your responsibilities feeling refreshed and more motivated to tackle what must be done. You may even find you’ve come up with an ingenious solution or idea.

See the end game.

Sometimes you can’t envision what your efforts contribute to the desired outcome. This may or may not be your own goal. You may be so tied up in minutiae of details that a successful result is not easy to see. Here is where it helps to step back and separate the individual pieces of the project or task and put them into perspective with the ultimate goal in mind. When you can better see how everything links together, it can serve as impetus to get moving again. While it’s better to focus on the positive aspects of your part well done, it can also be motivating to recognize what might happen if you fail to deliver on your responsibilities. In any event, seeing the end game can be a powerful tool to overcome laziness.

Ask for help.

Suffering with a piled-on workload or shouldering more-than-your-fair-share of responsibilities is enough to make anyone stall in enthusiasm. No wonder you feel lazy. One of the most effective ways to pare down a heavy workload is to ask for help when you need it. Be sparing in how and when you request assistance, though, as you don’t want to appear as whining, incompetent, shirking your duties, or lazy. Also, be sure you reciprocate by helping others when they ask, if you’re able to do so. Once you’ve asked for and received help, your mountain of assignments or tasks won’t seem such a hurdle. There’s a lot to be said for cooperative spirit in getting things done.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

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

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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,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+.

 

 

 

 

 

Best Way to Effect Change

Best Way to Effect Change

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“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.

Related Posts:

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

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

How to Live What You Believe

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

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Success May Be Elusive, But It’s Possible

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

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10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Energy Levels Naturally

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Energy Levels Naturally

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“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.

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10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways Stress Harms You

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7 Tips on Calming the Noise of Life

8 Healthy Reasons to Ditch Your Bad Habits

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

 

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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.

Related Posts:

7 Tips on Calming the Noise of Life

8 Healthy Reasons to Ditch Your Bad Habits

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Can You Name Your Top 5 Goals?

 

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

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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.                                        

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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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