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7 Little Ways To Feel A Sense Of Normalcy Right Now

Who isn’t stressed over all this uncertainty? Here’s how to find some stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and the election cycle.
 
Let’s just say what we all know is true: things are not “normal” right now and things won’t look remotely “normal” for months to come. The coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing down as we inch toward a cold winter, and post-election stress is adding an additional layer of unrest to an already unrestful year.
 
Normal days are something that many took for granted before all of this. Lindsey McKernan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the constants in our world create a rhythm for our day and ultimately build normalcy around us. And right now, the constants that we once knew are gone.
 
“When things are normal … you don’t have to put as much cognitive energy into anticipating what’s next because it’s the rhythm of the day,” McKernan said. “We’re having to put so much additional cognitive effort into what’s going on throughout the day.”
 
This additional cognitive effort contributes to increased stress levels across society, McKernan said. Establishing a sense of normalcy can help reduce the cognitive burden of the day and allow us to feel more in control of our own days.
 
But how exactly can we do that right now? Below, experts offer some of their best advice for creating a sense of normalcy as we continue through this far from normal time.
 
1. Establish a routine for yourself.
“When we’re in a period of heightened stress, we are grounded by routine,” McKernan said.
 
That’s why, in “regular times,” you might feel off if you go to bed later than usual or if you skip your weekend run. This year has been one huge version of that. There are many changes altering our normal routines.
 
McKernan said fighting those limitations that are now part of our day-to-day lives only adds to the struggle. Instead, we should embrace our current reality so we can appropriately respond and plan.
 
“The first thing when thinking about establishing a routine right now is redefining what that means and accepting that our sense of normal isn’t necessarily where we want it to be ― and that’s OK. We have to work to intentionally re-establish a sense of routine,” she said.
 
McKernan recommended looking at four major things in order to adjust your routine: how you’re sleeping, how you’re eating, if you’re moving and to what extent you are able to socialize. Which of those areas could use some extra attention? (Maybe it’s all of them, which is understandable.) Start building your routine around those pillars.
 
That could look like going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. You may also want to try meal prepping as if you still needed to bring food into the office for lunch during the week. Maybe it’s calling your friend every Friday afternoon while you’re on a walk, or planning a cocktail night every weekend with your roommate. Whatever the case may be, build in small habits you can come to expect and make them something you can execute regularly.
 
2. Take part in rewarding activities.
 
In the early days of the pandemic, many of us were all about “bettering ourselves” ― whether that meant learning a new language or learning how to make sourdough. And while those activities were fun in the beginning, the practice of bread-baking and language-learning fizzled out for most. Now, we’re just trying to get through each day without losing it.
 
But there is something to taking on new activities as a way to create some normalcy ― as long as you’re genuinely connected to them, McKernan said.
 
“When you choose activities that connect to things that you value in your life, that actually gives you a sense of reward and meaning,” she said, adding that these activities could be attending a virtual spiritual service, online volunteering, cooking, reading or knitting. Choose something that gets you excited or pulls you away from your stress.
“We might not be able to capture all activities in the way that we’re used to ― for example, if you value fitness and you’re used to going to a hot yoga studio, that might not be safe to do right now,” McKernan said. “So, how can you recapture a little bit of that exercise in your life and in your day?”
 
These activities also lift your mood, which can be crucial as we move into winter, a time when many are faced with lower mood.
 
“One of the things that can happen when our mood starts to get low is that we lose the motivation to do things. And, a lot of the time, we feel like we need to magically have the motivation back in order to re-engage in things,” McKernan said. “But it can work in the opposite way, too, where if you choose … activities that are meaningful, you start to build back your sense of motivation and reward.”
 
3. Find creative ways to connect with loved ones.
 
A lot of the social aspects of our lives have been drastically altered in order to protect one another from the virus. McLean Pollock, assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University in North Carolina, noted that it’s hard to navigate how to socialize and feel close to loved ones without doing the things we’re used to, like handshaking, hugging and seeing people in person.
 
Pollock said that finding ways to connect with others is crucial in the search for normalcy. It will be hard to feel normal if one of our most basic needs ― social connection ― goes unmet throughout the remainder of this pandemic.
 
“This pandemic has led to some isolation. We can bridge that by making connections with other people because that is how we’re getting through this, together, even though it’s in a different way of being together,” she added.
 
But by now we’re used to scheduling Zoom calls and they can feel a little stale. Janine Dutcher, a research scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, suggested finding more unique ways to connect with people. This encourages us to be creative, which can be rewarding in itself.
 
“I think that creativity can often be very difficult to engage in but it can be really rewarding too, because you found a way to beat the system, so to speak, and do something really fun and interesting,” she said.
 
Dutcher added that since the pandemic began, she has been writing loved ones letters and physically sending them in the mail. She has also conducted food exchanges with friends where she’ll order delivery dinner for a friend in another city from one of their favorite restaurants. The other friend will also return the favor for her.
 
4. Decorate your home for seasonal celebrations.
 
While we can’t control the whole world, we can control our own microcosm, specifically our own home, Pollack said.
 
Decorating your home for seasonal celebrations with either store-bought items or handmade décor can help create a mile-marker for time within your own life. And, conveniently, a number of ideal-for-decorating holidays are approaching.
 
“Our days are bleeding into one another because we don’t have variation, so having something that can distinguish this time as different from other times can be helpful in creating that sense of normalcy and creating memories,” Pollock said.
 
5. Plan things for the future.
 
Having something to look forward to adds excitement to our days. And while our plans may have to look different for a while, we still can make them — whether that means a virtual happy hour or a fun night at home with your family.
 
“When you have something to look forward to, each day passes a little bit faster, particularly as you get closer to it ― it’s one of those funny things about time perception. Looking forward to anything, even if it’s really simple, is very, very powerful,” Dutcher said.
 
Of course, this doesn’t give anyone permission to plan something that puts people at risk for contracting the virus.
 
“If you’re at home with family, you can plan for a fun movie night where you watch a movie, pop some popcorn and have some candy,” Dutcher suggested. She also added that, while spontaneous conversations with friends and family are nice, planned phone dates also hold their own type of power when it comes to generating some normalcy.
 
6. Accept that this is not a normal time.
 
Nothing about this period in our lives is regular. Our lives have been upended in many different ways and we are faced with uncertainty nearly every day.
 
“There is no magical solution, part of feeling a sense of normalcy is accepting that this is not normal and that these are really difficult and stressful times,” Pollock said. “Recognize that that’s the context of trying to create some normalcy, first of all.” (In other words, cut yourself some slack.)
 
She added that we are all facing different difficulties as the pandemic, the election and the rest of the year unfolds and we need to adjust our normalcy to fit our own situation.
 
7. If you’re still struggling, consider talking to a therapist.
 
Everyone’s mental health has been put through the wringer this year, and things like routine setting, socializing and planning activities may not be enough to feel “normal” ― and that is OK.
 
“If people are really struggling, it’s always worth reaching out to a professional to make sure that they are getting the care and support that they need,” Dutcher said.
 
Therapy can help you navigate our current reality and give you the coping skills to find a sense of normalcy among the chaos. Seeing a therapist can be incredibly expensive, but there are affordable resources available that may help.
 
If the uncertainty is stressing you out to the point where it has been severely affecting your daily life, you don’t have to manage it alone. You’re also not the only one who feels this way.
 
“I think a lot of people are probably experiencing a low-level or even clinical-level of depression right now. I think it is, unfortunately, very common and people should be mindful and make sure they’re taking care of their wellness.”
 
By  Jillian Wilson   11/06/2020 
 
 
 
 
normal setting
 
 

The Psychology Behind To-Do Lists and How They Can Make You Feel Less Anxious

1. Wake up.

2. Make coffee.

3. Write this story.
 
 
In a time when it seems like we may have less to do, a to-do list actually could be quite helpful.

As the days blend together for many people living in lockdown, crossing things off a to-do list can feel even more satisfying. To-do lists can be great tools for decreasing anxiety, providing structure and giving us a record of everything we’ve accomplished in a day.

The trick is to reframe your to-do list as a set of miniature goals for the day and to think of your checklist items as steps in a plan.

Research on the psychology of goal-making has revealed that an unfinished goal causes interference with other tasks you’re trying to achieve. But simply making a plan to facilitate that goal, such as detailing steps on a to-do list, can help your mind set it aside to focus on other things.
 
“Goals are interesting as they are almost these autonomous agents that kind of live inside you and occupy space in your mind,” said E.J. Masicampo, an associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
 
“When a goal is unfinished it might be a weight on your mind in terms of anxiety or worry and it colors how you see the world, because it’s sort of tugging at the sleeve of your conscious attention,” Masicampo said. “It can be omnipresent whether you’re aware of it or not.”

People with unfinished short-term goals performed poorly on unrelated reading and comprehension tasks, reported a 2011 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Masicampo and research co-author Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at The University of Queensland.
But when the 2011 study participants were allowed to formulate specific plans for their goals before moving onto the next task, those negative effects were eliminated.
 
“We were able to find that you don’t have to finish the goal to offload it – you really could just make a specific plan for how to attain it to get it to stop occupying that mental space,” Masicampo said.
 
But Masicampo cautioned that it won’t help to offload your mental burden by jotting it down on a list “without actually making a plan.”
 
“To-do lists often tend to be mental graveyards, but that said I think there’s some relief there,” Masicampo said, adding that sub-goals are important. “Something that’s been sitting there for too long is probably just stated in too big terms.”
 
With the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis and the difficulty of making concrete plans, he said it could make sense to have your initial plan be simply to make a plan at a later date.

Stuck in the middle

In order to work effectively, your to-do list’s mini-goals also need to be well defined and have short time frames. That’s because people also tend to give up in the middle of goals, according to psychologists.

The solution is to make the “middles” of your goals and to-do list tasks short.
One place people get stuck is exercise, but a goal to exercise half the days each week will be easier to stick to than exercising half the days each month. Even then, exercise will make it onto your to-do list more often at the beginning and end of the week — but it’s difficult to motivate yourself on Wednesday.
 
“We celebrate graduations at work and cheer when we finish big projects. But there is no celebration for middles. That’s when we both cut corners and we lose our motivation,” said Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago who is an expert on motivation and decision-making.
 
“We will still slack in that middle, and having long projects invites a long middle.”
 
To-do lists also need to be flexible. If your plans change or get interrupted by an endless flurry of Zoom calls, it’s important to recognize that’s not the end of the world.
 
“If we measure ourselves by how much we stick to the plan, that’s not good for motivation,” Fishbach said. “There’s a fine line between keeping structure and keeping your to-do list and also being very flexible. Because things change and they change on a daily basis.”

It’s not a wish list

For all the structure and stress reduction that to-do lists can provide, they can sometimes add to anxiety. That’s because tasks on your to-do list that linger for weeks or months are bad for mental health and motivation.

“To-do lists are interesting because they sometimes become commitments. Once you write an activity or goal down on a piece of paper, it’s work undone,” said Jordan Etkin, an associate professor of marketing at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and an expert on goals.
 
Do you want to complete extra work-related tasks aiming for a promotion and cook dinner for your family that night? Cue goal conflict.
 
“The more things people put on their lists, the more open they are to creating goal conflict and its sort of negative downstream effects,” Etkin said.
 
Conflicting goals can create stress and even that overwhelming feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day, according to Etkin’s 2015 study in the Journal of Marketing Research.

To-doing it right

To use a to-do list the right way, Etkin said people need to clearly define their goals and differentiate the tasks they definitely want to get done today versus tasks they want to do “maybe someday.”

Tasks need to be clearly ranked in terms of importance.

“To-do lists can be very helpful for informing how you should be directing your time and cognitive resources,” Etkin said. “I think where challenges emerge is when people treat to-do lists like wish lists, rather than the things they definitely want to do today.”

Having a productive to-do list shouldn’t make you feel like you can’t take a break, Etkin also stressed, even if you haven’t crossed all those items off your list yet.
 
“It’s also important for people to have protective time in their lives where they’re not striving towards any goal,” she said.
 
To-do lists can be great tools to keep us going during this time of coronavirus boredom, uncertainty, and pandemic anxiety, but it’s important to not fill up your leisure time with productivity. One of the most important tasks we can add to our daily list, Etkin said, is “rest.”
 
By Lauren Kent, CNN      Tue July 14, 2020.
 
source: cnn.com


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Is This The Secret To Achieving Your Goals?

New research suggests we fail at achieving our goals because we approach them backwards.

When we first decide on a goal we are motivated by rewards. But as we put our plans into action, our focus turns to the difficulty of the effort we need to put in to achieve those goals.

That dooms us to failure, according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London.

They suggest the key to achieving our goals is to consider the effort needed when deciding what to do, and then remembering to focus on the rewards once the time comes to put the effort in.

To investigate the relationship between effort and reward, the researchers designed experiments involving two different forms of effort — physical and mental.

Physical effort was measured squeezing a joystick, while solving simple mathematical equations tested mental effort.

Study participants were presented with different options that combined either high or low effort with high or low financial reward, and were asked to select which one to pursue.

The scientists found that when selecting options, participants were guided by the level of financial reward offered, but on execution of the task their performance was determined by the actual amount of effort they needed to exert.

The researchers report the results were similar for both the physical and mental effort-based experiments.

“Common sense suggests the amount of effort we put into a task directly relates to the level of reward we expect in return,” said Dr. Agata Ludwiczak, research fellow from Queen Mary University of London and lead author of the study. “However, building psychological and economic evidence indicates that often high rewards are not enough to ensure people put in the effort they need to achieve their targets.”

“We have found that there isn’t a direct relationship between the amount of reward that is at stake and the amount of effort people actually put in,” she said. “This is because when we make choices about what effort to put in, we are motivated by the rewards we expect to get back. But at the point at which we come to actually do what we had said we would do, we focus on the level of effort we have to actually put in rather than the rewards we hoped we would get.”

“If we aren’t careful our plans can be informed by unrealistic expectations because we pay too much attention to the rewards,” added Dr. Magda Osman, reader in Experimental Psychology at Queen Mary. “Then when we face the reality of our choices, we realize the effort is too much and give up.

“For example, getting up early to exercise for a new healthy lifestyle might seem like a good choice when we decide on our new year’s resolutions, but once your alarm goes off on a cold January morning, the rewards aren’t enough to get you up and out of bed.”

The study was published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.
Source: Queen Mary University of London
    
By Janice Wood            Associate News Editor        23 Feb 2020

 

goals

 

The Keys to Achieving Your Goals

When I was very new to the collision repair business, I had a boss that always said the same thing on the morning of January 2. He said, “Everyone, the holidays are over; now let’s get to work!”
That boss scoffed at the idea of making New Year’s resolutions and he always seemed to know what to work on to be successful and move his business forward. Making New Year’s resolutions is a long-standing tradition in the U.S. and recent research shows that 61 percent of us admit to making resolutions each year. Unfortunately, only about 8 percent of us are successful in achieving those resolutions. Most people admit that they fail their resolution before January 31.
An article last year in Inc. magazine cited a survey of 2000 people and listed these as the top five resolutions:
  1. Diet or eat healthier (71 percent)
  2. Exercise more (65 percent)
  3. Lose weight (54 percent)
  4. Save more and spend less (32 percent)
  5. Learn a new skill or hobby (26 percent)
It seems to me that we’ve got it all wrong when it comes to making these resolutions and several quotable notables agree. Mark Twain observed, “New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
Why is it so difficult to achieve our resolutions? I think that the resolutions we make are not framed properly to be achievable because they are vague and largely negative. For example, losing weight is a negative construct. Nobody likes losing, even if the losing results in something positive. Most importantly, though, is that resolutions are not S.M.A.R.T. goals.
What do I mean by SMART goals? SMART goals are established using a specific set of criteria that ensures your goals are attainable. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These terms are slightly different than those used by the inventor of the SMART goal setting process back in 1981. The November 1981 issue of Management Review contained a paper by George T. Doran called There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. The paper discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them. Here is a quote from Doran’s paper:
“Ideally speaking, each objective should be:
    Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
    Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
    Assignable – specify who will do it.
    Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
    Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
Notice that these criteria don’t say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management. In certain situations it is not realistic to attempt quantification, particularly in staff middle-management positions. Practicing managers and corporations can lose the benefit of a more abstract objective in order to gain quantification. It is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore serious management should focus on these twins and not just the objective.”
When writing a SMART goal, you work through each of those terms to construct a goal that states exactly what needs to be accomplished, when it needs to be accomplished by, and how you’ll know when you’ve successfully reached your goal. Setting goals this way is obviously better than making resolutions, because it eliminates generalities, guesswork, and negative verbiage and sets a definitive “win” opportunity all the while making it easy to track your progress to the goal.
Let’s unpack each of these terms and apply some real world examples to each one so we can better understand how to use this system.
The first term is “specific” and is the foundation piece of the system. Specific goals are more likely to be attained than general goals and resolutions. To set a specific goal, you have to address the five “W” questions.
  • “Who”: Who is involved?
  • “What”: What do I want to accomplish?
  • “Where”: Where will the actions occur?
  • “When”: When will the actions occur, within what timeframe?
  • “Why”: What are the specific reasons and benefits of accomplishing this goal?
As an example, a general goal or resolution might sound like, “I want to get in shape” whereas a specific goal is, “I will join Gold’s Gym and do workouts every week.” A financial goal that is general in nature might sound like, “I want to save more and spend less” whereas a specific goal is, “ I want to pay off credit card debt.”
The next element is “measurable” and, in a nutshell, refers to the ability to track your goal using numbers. If you notice in the examples above, we don’t have any numbers and measurements in place. A well-constructed SMART goal of doing workouts should sound like this: “I will join the gym and do four workouts of one hour each per week” Paying off credit card debt goals sounds like, “I will pay off $3,000 of credit card debt by applying at least $150 to that debt each month.”
By adding a measurable element to your goal, you can easily track your progress and also be aware when you get off course toward your goal.
There is one very important step
that you must take when establishing your SMART goals.
It sounds so simple, yet most people fail to execute on it.
The most important step is write it down. 
The letter “A” stands for “attainable” or “achievable.” While I believe that your goals should be something of a stretch, you’ll want to make certain that the goal is actually achievable. For example, most companies don’t become a billion dollar enterprise overnight, so you’ll want to gauge the achievability of your goal by asking a few questions: Is this goal something I have control over? Do I have the necessary resources, knowledge and time to accomplish this goal? Are the actions I plan to take likely to bring success?
Here is one of the subtle secrets to successful goal setting: You must make your goal actionable. Use action words and verbs to draft your goal by listing out the exact steps you will take to accomplish your goal. Let’s say you have a goal to exercise 30 minutes per day, five days per week but you want to make sure that is achievable. In this case, you might look at your typical daily schedule and note that you love to watch “Jeopardy” every evening at 7 p.m. and the show lasts 30 minutes. If you then construct a series of action steps, they might look like this: “I will set up my exercise bike in the TV room and will ride the bike for 30 minutes while watching the nightly episode of “Jeopardy.” I will not watch Jeopardy if I am not riding my exercise bike.” This seems to me to be a simple, action-oriented and attainable goal.
The letter “R” stands for “realistic” or “relevant.” I believe that the standard term of “realistic” fits better as a descriptor of “attainable” or “achievable.” For that reason, I tend to create goals using the term “relevant.” In simplistic terms, a relevant goal is one that is worthwhile and is actually important to you right now. Ask yourself these questions: Will this goal make a material difference on achieving my larger objectives? Is this goal closely aligned with the mission of my business or my work team? Will this goal make a meaningful, positive impact on my life, or is this just a random idea that sounds good at the moment? Let’s face it, if the goal is not important to you, it is likely to fail. If you are setting a goal for your own personal development, you’ll know if the goal “feels right” and is relevant.
The letter “T” stands for “timely” or “time-bound.” Now, it might seem obvious, but goals can’t stretch out into eternity. When do you want to accomplish the goal and be able to say it’s complete? Next week, next month, 90 days from now? Robert Herjavec, one of the entrepreneurs on the TV show “Shark Tank” is quoted as having said, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” I think Robert may have been influenced by Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich who stated it this way, ”A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
Not withstanding the semantics of these two aphorisms, it is vital that your goals have a deadline. Otherwise, how will you know when you’ve reached the goal? Deadlines need to be specific. You can’t say you’ll accomplish something by next summer. That’s too vague and allows you too much wiggle room to extend your goal. It’s also too ambiguous for people who may be working with you to achieve a goal. It’s better to say that your goal will be reached by a certain date so that everyone can retain their focus on the action items that need to be completed to achieve the goal. Deadlines create a sense of urgency that stimulates action. If you’ve set a goal to drop 40 pounds and you think you can do it by exercising 30 minutes per day, then the last remaining element is to decide on the date that you’ll achieve the goal. Tie that back to the “attainable” or “achievable” element and you’ll have a very solid goal in place.
SMART
Using SMART criteria for setting goals is a huge improvement over the old New Year’s Resolutions scenario and I hope you will begin to use this method right away in your personal and professional life. Once you’ve set some goals remember to write them down. According to a study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, you become 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate small wins that you make along the way to achieving your main goal. Our brains are wired in such a way that celebrating wins creates a sense of happiness and these accomplishments stimulate further motivation to reach the finish line.
by Steve Morris 
 December 31, 2019 / January 28,2020
-Steve is director of operations for Pride Collision Centers,
 a seven-location MSO located in Southen California. 
He is an Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) and  ASE-certified master technician.


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If you’re going to do one thing for a healthier 2017, choose one of these

Welcome to a new year filled with hopes for a healthy, happy 2017. The same resolutions are thrown around each year – lose weight, save money, and spend more time with family, for example.

Canadians from coast-to-coast may want to lead a healthier life, but don’t know where to get started. Global News asked leading health experts and organizations to pick the top priority they’d like Canadians to focus on for the year ahead.

Focus on your behaviours, not the numbers on the scale

Hide the scale. Losing weight and keeping it off is always a challenge. However, simply focusing on improving your diet, increasing your physical activity levels, getting enough sleep and feeling better about yourself can lead to important health improvements even with no – or very little – weight loss.

But remember, it is easier to achieve and sustain behavioural goals when they are specific, realistic, and measureable.

Also, it is better to focus on changing one behaviour at a time rather than trying to change everything at once.

– Arya Sharma, scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network

Get a pulse on your mental health and well-being

Mental health is key to well-being. It affects every single aspect of your daily life. Maintaining your mental health is a lot like staying physically fit: it requires a little effort, but the rewards are worth it.

Get into the habit of learning to recognize and express your emotions – without awareness it’s difficult to pinpoint why you are so stressed or having problems coping.

– Patrick Smith, national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association

Break a sweat

A healthy lifestyle helps prevent 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke – leading killers of Canadians. The easiest way to reduce your risk is to get moving. Walk, dance, play a sport, take the stairs – make it fun! Even if you don’t have extra time, short rounds of exercise add up: 10 minutes is enough to get real cardiovascular benefits. Over time, you’ll work up to 30 minutes of daily physical activity at a moderate intensity. Repeat five days a week.

– Diego Marchese, CEO of Heart & Stroke

Think of the mental health of your loved ones

Operate on the statistically safe assumption that someone you know – a family member, friend, neighbour, fellow student, or coworker – is currently struggling with some form of mental illness. Take a moment to think about who that person is and then reflect on how you have responded to their experience of illness. Ask yourself if your response was different than it would have been if he or she had a broken leg or a cancer diagnosis. And if there is indeed a difference, then consider how you might support them differently.

The reality is that mental illness can be an isolating, even humiliating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Connecting makes a difference and enriches a relationship – it can relieve the sense of being alone and provide comfort, help and reassurance.

– David S. Goldbloom, senior medical advisor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Add healthy cues to your environment

Look around your workplace, car or anywhere you might be eating. Are there cues like candy bowls and cookie jars? Redesign your environment to nudge yourself towards nourishing choices. For example, put a bowl or fruit or cut up vegetables on the counter and keep all other foods in the fridge or cupboards. Keep a reusable water bottle on your desk so it’s ready for sipping instead of sugary drinks.

– Andrea D’Ambrosio, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians of Canada

Plan your meals

Meal planning is a vital part of healthy eating and makes you happy as there will be less stress around weekday meals. It saves time by eliminating the deliberation when you’re trying to decide what’s for dinner. It will also save you money as you’ll only shop for ingredients you need on your plan. Finally, it saves calories.

When you arrive home from work, you’re less likely to mindlessly munch when you know what is planned for dinner. Keep menu planning simple – set aside 30 minutes before grocery shopping to survey the family. Bookmark favourite meals and reuse them weekly.

– Jaclyn Pritchard, registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Canada in Toronto

Family meal

 

Schedule quality time with your family

Spending time with the family is essential to the health and well-being of both children and adults. Focus on your children by playing their favourite games with them, encouraging conversation by asking about their day at school, and showing interest in their ideas and activities. Share mealtime as an important way to connect and unwind at the end of a busy day.

Even when family members are off in different directions with school, work and activities, be sure to come together at the table at least once a week.

Decide on specific times when everyone’s electronic devices will be turned off. When you’re unplugged, get active – play games like tag, go for a walk, or sled in park.

– Staff at the Canadian Paediatric Society

Reduce your alcohol consumption

Lower your long-term health risks by staying within average levels of alcohol consumption. For women, the recommended daily serving is less than 10 ounces. With today’s wine glasses, your pour should be less than a third of the glass. For men, if you like to try the latest craft beers, keep it to two tall cans.

Always have some non-drinking days each week to minimize tolerance and habit formation.

– Dr. Granger Avery, president of the Canadian Medical Association

Quit smoking for one week

Quit smoking for a week, and then a month, and then a year and beyond. But start with that first week. Setting that small goal can help you with your longer-term goals, and everytime you quit – even if you don’t succeed – you learn more about how to quit successfully. Research shows that if you can quit for one week, you are nine times more likely to quit for the long haul. In some provinces, it could even win you $500 from the Smokers’ Helpline’s First Week Challenge Contest.

Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health. Within 10 years of quitting, an ex-smoker’s overall risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half.

– John Atkinson, director of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers’ Helpline

Don’t fall for gimmicks

Rather than fall prey to this year’s crop of fad diets, or worrying about a particular probiotic, nutrient or scary sounding chemical, focus instead on the bigger picture. Set a goal of cooking more from fresh whole ingredients and eating them around a table free from distraction. Reduce your restaurant usage. Aim for better nights’ sleeps. Cultivate healthy relationships with your friends and family. Don’t drink alcohol to excess and reduce your consumption of all sources of liquid calories. Do those things well and avoid news about the latest fad diet.

– Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute

Feed your brain

Do more physical activity, not for your waistline but for your brain. It gets blood pumping which helps your brain to function as well as possible. The increased blood flow nourishes your brain’s cells with nutrients and oxygen. It also encourages the development of new cells, all factors in reducing your risk of stroke.

Your brain is like your heart. They’re both muscles that need to be given a workout to stay healthy. Challenge your mind with exercise training, learning a new language or joining a book club, as examples.

– Larry Chambers, scientific advisor for the Alzheimer Society of Canada

Take a small step, master it, then take on another

Many of us are familiar with the best intentions of starting off the year with lofty goals when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle – followed by the enthusiasm of resolutions declining a few weeks after.

Take a step back and think of something you can realistically and comfortably accomplish when it comes to exercise, your diet, weight management or stress – and you will be more likely to stick to it.

Try incorporating 15 minutes of physical activity to your routine just a few days a week, and as you progress, move to 30 minutes. When you’ve made that into a habit, remove sugar-sweetened beverages from your diet, for example.

– Joanne Lewis, director of healthy eating and nutrition programming at the Canadian Diabetes Association

Ease your mind and treat yourself

Pace yourself at work. Try not to check your work emails after hours, truly disconnect.

Just like the 12 days of Christmas, practice 12 days of self-care in 2017.

Go for a walk, ski or snowshoe in the woods, treat yourself to a latte, book a massage, take a yoga class or volunteer. Don’t forget that doing something for others not only makes them feel good, but can lift your spirits.

– The Mental Health Commission of Canada

By Carmen Chai
National Online Journalist, Health Global News
carmen.chai@globalnews.ca
source: globalnews.ca


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How To Use Goals To Avoid Depression

Warning: depression linked to setting the wrong type of goals.

People who are depressed tend to use more generalised goals than others.

They tend to have goals such as: “I want to be happy.”

The problem with general goals is that they are difficult to achieve.

Depressed people also give less specific reasons for trying to reach their goals.

People who are not depressed, however, tend to have more specific goals, such as “I want to take a 30 minute walk every day.”

goal-setting

 

Dr Joanne Dickson, the study’s first author, said:

“We found that the goals that people with clinical depression listed lacked a specific focus, making it more difficult to achieve them and therefore creating a downward cycle of negative thoughts.”

It may be that more general goals are harder to visualise, which partly explains why they are harder to achieve.

Depressed people are motivated

One fascinating thing that came out of a related study was that depressed people are just as motivated as the non-depressed.

goals-smart

For the research the depressed and non-depressed listed their goals.

Dr Dickson said:

“…both groups listed a similar number of goals and valued their personal goals similarly.
However the group with depression were more pessimistic about achieving their goals and had more difficulty generating goals focused on positive outcomes.
The group with depression were also more likely to give up on goals they saw as unattainable and at the same time reported greater difficulty in setting new goals to pursue.
While disengaging from unattainable goals is thought to help break a cycle of goal failure, negative thinking and depression this is complicated by the difficulty in setting new goals for people with depression.”

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Dickson et al., 2016).
source: PsyBlog


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The Domino Effect: How to Create a Chain Reaction of Good Habits

Human behaviors are often tied to one another.

For example, consider the case of a woman named Jennifer Lee Dukes. For two and a half decades during her adult life, starting when she left for college and extending into her 40s, Dukes never made her bed except for when her mother or guests dropped by the house.

At some point, she decided to give it another try and managed to make her bed four days in a row—a seemingly trivial feat. However, on the morning of that fourth day, when she finished making the bed, she also picked up a sock and folded a few clothes lying around the bedroom. Next, she found herself in the kitchen, pulling the dirty dishes out of the sink and loading them into the dishwasher, then reorganizing the Tupperware in a cupboard and placing an ornamental pig on the counter as a centerpiece.

She later explained, “My act of bed-making had set off a chain of small household tasks… I felt like a grown-up—a happy, legit grown-up with a made bed, a clean sink, one decluttered cupboard, and a pig on the counter. I felt like a woman who had miraculously pulled herself up from the energy-sucking Bermuda Triangle of Household Chaos.”

Jennifer Lee Dukes was experiencing the Domino Effect.

The Domino Effect

The Domino Effect states that when you make a change to one behavior it will activate a chain reaction and cause a shift in related behaviors as well.

For example, a 2012 study from researchers at Northwestern University found that when people decreased their amount of sedentary leisure time each day, they also reduced their daily fat intake. The participants were never specifically told to eat less fat, but their nutrition habits improved as a natural side effect because they spent less time on the couch watching television and mindlessly eating. One habit led to another, one domino knocked down the next.

You may notice similar patterns in your own life. As a personal example, if I stick with my habit of going to the gym, then I naturally find myself more focused at work and sleeping more soundly at night even though I never made a plan to specifically improve either behavior.

The Domino Effect holds for negative habits as well. You may find that the habit of checking your phone leads to the habit of clicking social media notifications which leads to the habit of browsing social media mindlessly which leads to another 20 minutes of procrastination.

In the words of Stanford professor BJ Fogg, “You can never change just one behavior. Our behaviors are interconnected, so when you change one behavior, other behaviors also shift.”

small-steps-can-lead-to-big-changes

 

Inside the Domino Effect

As best I can tell, the Domino Effect occurs for two reasons.

First, many of the habits and routines that make up our daily lives are related to one another. There is an astounding interconnectedness between the systems of life and human behavior is no exception. The inherent relatedness of things is a core reason why choices in one area of life can lead to surprising results in other areas, regardless of the plans you make.

Second, the Domino Effect capitalizes on one of the core principles of human behavior: commitment and consistency. This phenomenon is explained in the classic book on human behavior, Influence by Robert Cialdini. The core idea is that if people commit to an idea or goal, even in a very small way, they are more likely to honor that commitment because they now see that idea or goal as being aligned with their self-image.

Returning to the story from the beginning of this article, once Jennifer Lee Dukes began making her bed each day she was making a small commitment to the idea of, “I am the type of person who maintains a clean and organized home.” After a few days, she began to commit to this new self-image in other areas of her home.

This is an interesting byproduct of the Domino Effect. It not only creates a cascade of new behaviors, but often a shift in personal beliefs as well. As each tiny domino falls, you start believing new things about yourself and building identity-based habits.

overwelmed

 

The Rules of the Domino Effect

The Domino Effect is not merely a phenomenon that happens to you, but something you can create. It is within your power to spark a chain reaction of good habits by building new behaviors that naturally lead to the next successful action.

There are three keys to making this work in real life. Here are the three rules of the Domino Effect:

  1. Start with the thing you are most motivated to do. Start with a small behavior and do it consistently. This will not only feel satisfying, but also open your eyes to the type of person you can become. It does not matter which domino falls first, as long as one falls.
  2. Maintain momentum and immediately move to the next task you are motivated to finish. Let the momentum of finishing one task carry you directly into the next behavior. With each repetition, you will become more committed to your new self-image.
  3. When in doubt, break things down into smaller chunks. As you try new habits, focus on keeping them small and manageable. The Domino Effect is about progress, not results. Simply maintain the momentum. Let the process repeat as one domino automatically knocks down the next.

When one habit fails to lead to the next behavior, it is often because the behavior does not adhere to these three rules. There are many different paths to getting dominoes to fall. Focus on the behavior you are excited about and let it cascade throughout your life.

FOOTNOTES

  • “Want to Change the World? Start by Making Your Bed” by Jennifer Lee Dukes
  • The phrase, the Domino Effect, comes from the common game people play by setting up a long line of dominoes, gently tapping the first one, and watching as a delightful chain reason proceeds to knock down each domino in the chain. I thought up this particular use of the phrase, but I’ve seen others say similar things like “snowball effect” or “chain reaction.”
  • Multiple Behavior Change in Diet and Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial Using Mobile Technology by Bonnie Spring, Kristin Schneider, H.G. McFadden, Jocelyn Vaughn, Andrea T. Kozak, Malaina Smith, Arlen C. Moller, Leonard H. Epstein, Andrew DeMott, Donald Hedeker, Juned Siddique, and Donald M. Lloyd-Jones. Archives of Intern Medicine (2012).
  • Quote from “BJ’s note” posted on September 21, 2015. It is worth noting that BJ has some fantastic ideas on behavior change on his site, many of which have influenced my thoughts including his idea that “behaviors travel in packs,” which is similar to the core argument of Domino Effect.


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Top 10 Healthiest New Year’s Resolutions

This year, pick one of these worthy resolutions, and stick with it. Here’s to your health!

New Year, healthier you

New Year’s resolutions are a bit like babies: They’re fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain.

Each January, roughly one in three Americans resolve to better themselves in some way. A much smaller percentage of people actually make good on those resolutions. While about 75% of people stick to their goals for at least a week, less than half (46%) are still on target six months later, a 2002 study found.

It’s hard to keep up the enthusiasm months after you’ve swept up the confetti, but it’s not impossible. This year, pick one of the following worthy resolutions, and stick with it. Here’s to your health!

Lose weight

The fact that this is perennially among the most popular resolutions suggests just how difficult it is to commit to. But you can succeed if you don’t expect overnight success. “You want results yesterday, and desperation mode kicks in,” says Pam Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women. “Beware of the valley of quickie cures.”

Also, plan for bumps in the road. Use a food journal to keep track of what you eat and have a support system in place. “Around week four to six…people become excuse mills,” Dr. Peeke says. “That’s why it’s important to have someone there on a regular basis to get you through those rough times.”

Stay in touch

Feel like old friends (or family) have fallen by the wayside? It’s good for your health to reconnect with them. Research suggests people with strong social ties live longer than those who don’t.

In fact, a lack of social bonds can damage your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking, and even more than obesity and lack of exercise, a 2010 study in the journal PLoS Medicine suggests.

In a technology-fixated era, it’s never been easier to stay in touch—or rejuvenate your relationship—with friends and family, so fire up Facebook and follow up with in-person visits.

Quit smoking

Fear that you’ve failed too many times to try again? Talk to any ex-smoker, and you’ll see that multiple attempts are often the path to success.

Try different methods to find out what works. And think of the cash you’ll save! (We know you know the ginormous health benefit.)

“It’s one of the harder habits to quit,” says Merle Myerson, MD, director of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals, in New York City. “But I always tell people to think of how much money they will save.”

Save money

Save money by making healthy lifestyle changes. Walk or ride your bike to work, or explore carpooling. (That means more money in your pocket and less air pollution.)

Cut back on gym membership costs by exercising at home. Many fitness programs on videogame systems like Nintendo’s Wii Wii Fit Plus and Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect Your Shape Fitness Evolved can get you sweating.

Take stock of what you have in the fridge and make a grocery list. Aimless supermarket shopping can lead to poor choices for your diet and wallet.

goals

Cut your stress

A little pressure now and again won’t kill us; in fact, short bouts of stress give us an energy boost. But if stress is chronic, it can increase your risk of—or worsen—insomnia, depression, obesity, heart disease, and more.

Long work hours, little sleep, no exercise, poor diet, and not spending time with family and friends can contribute to stress, says Roberta Lee, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City, and the author of The Super Stress Solution.

“Stress is an inevitable part of life,” she says. “Relaxation, sleep, socializing, and taking vacations are all things we tell ourselves we deserve but don’t allow ourselves to have.”

Volunteer

We tend to think our own bliss relies on bettering ourselves, but our happiness also increases when we help others, says Peter Kanaris, PhD, coordinator of public education for the New York State Psychological Association.

And guess what? Happiness is good for your health. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions were about 20% less likely than their gloomier peers to have a heart attack or develop heart disease. Other research suggests that positive emotions can make people more resilient and resourceful.

“Someone who makes this sort of resolution is likely to obtain a tremendous personal benefit in the happiness department,” Kanaris says.

Go back to school

No matter how old you are, heading back to the classroom can help revamp your career, introduce you to new friends, and even boost your brainpower.

A 2007 study found that middle-age adults who had gone back to school (including night school) sometime in the previous quarter century had stronger memories and verbal skills than those who did not. What’s more, several studies have linked higher educational attainment to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“You are gaining a sense of accomplishment by gaining new knowledge, and you are out there meeting people and creating possibilities that were never there before,” Kanaris says.

Cut back on alcohol

While much has been written about the health benefits of a small amount of alcohol, too much tippling is still the bigger problem. (In fact, binge drinking seems to be on the rise.)

Drinking alcohol in excess affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and can increase the risk of depression, memory loss, or even seizures.

Chronic heavy drinking boosts your risk of liver and heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and mental deterioration, and even cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, and breast.

Get more sleep

You probably already know that a good night’s rest can do wonders for your mood—and appearance. But sleep is more beneficial to your health than you might realize.

A lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. And sleep is crucial for strengthening memories (a process called consolidation).

So take a nap—and don’t feel guilty about it.

Travel

The joys and rewards of vacations can last long after the suitcase is put away. “We can often get stuck in a rut, and we can’t get out of our own way,” Kanaris says. “Everything becomes familiar and too routine.”

But traveling allows us to tap into life as an adventure, and we can make changes in our lives without having to do anything too bold or dramatic.

“It makes you feel rejuvenated and replenished,” he adds. “It gets you out of your typical scenery, and the effects are revitalizing. It’s another form of new discovery and learning, and great for the body and the soul.”

by Alyssa Sparacino


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6 Ways to Set Goals You’ll Actually Achieve

By Anne Harding  Reviewed by Justin Laube, MD   10/2/2015

Explore the psychology behind goal setting and learn how to make it work for you.

Once you set your goal, use implementation intentions to help you grab opportunities to reach it, and overcome or sidestep obstacles that could keep you from achieving it.

Want to make big or small changes in your life?

It may seem like a simple idea, but setting goals is a great first step — and understanding the psychology behind setting and reaching goals will greatly increase your chances of achieving them.

“It’s important to know what you want to do, but it’s even more important to know how you want to get there,” says Peter Gollwitzer, PhD, a professor of psychology at New York University in New York City. Dr. Gollwitzer developed the concept of “implementation intentions,” which are “if … then …” plans designed to help people achieve goals.

Extensive research shows that using this strategy helps people achieve goals ranging from getting more exercise, to expressing themselves more effectively.

Forming implementation intentions makes achieving goals easier because it allows you to anticipate opportunities to move toward your goal, and to recognize potential obstacles and distractions.

For example, if your goal intention is to eat more vegetables, an implementation intention for eating in a restaurant could be, “If the waiter approaches the table, then I will ask him what vegetables they have today.” Another might be, “If I get hungry between meals, then I will snack on carrots and celery.” The second implementation intention (snacking on carrots and celery) requires you to do a little planning and preparation by making sure you have veggies cut up and ready to eat in your fridge.

“For all of these critical situations, you can make plans, and these plans are best when made in an ‘if…then …’ format,” Gollwitzer says. “It’s a different kind of action control: It’s not top down by your good intentions, it’s bottom up from your opportunity. You don’t have to think.”

Here’s more about how you can use the science of motivation and goal setting to achieve your own aspirations:

1. Accentuate the Positive

Before you can implement your intentions, you must set your goals. And the way you set them is important, says Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at the Montefiore Medical Center and associate professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “It’s better to set a goal on something positive that you do want, rather than something negative that you don’t want,” Dr. Rego says. “Sometimes people get caught in the trap of focusing too heavily on the negatives in their lives.”

So for example, if you want to lose weight, rather than having “I want to stop eating junk food” as your goal, it could be, “I want to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.”

“It’s just turning from what’s there that I’m unhappy with to what I want to strive for that would enhance my life in some way,” Rego explains.

goals
Align your goals with your values.
If your goals are in line with who you are
— and who you want to be —
they’re easier to achieve.

2. Be SMART

Goals should also be “SMART,” Rego and other experts on motivation say. This acronym, borrowed from the business world, stands for “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.” A non-SMART goal could be, “I want to weigh what I did in high school.” The SMART version could be, “Over the next month, I want to lose 2 pounds per week.”

A key strategy for building SMART goals is to break a large goal into smaller pieces. “By doing that and setting smaller targets, the goal is within reach, and yet it’s still a challenge,” Rego says. And achieving smaller goals can help push you forward to the next step. “If you can set a goal and achieve it, you get a boost in your motivation, and a general good feeling about yourself and the world you’re living in,” he adds. “If you set a goal and you blow it, it saps your strength.”

3. Align Your Goals With Your Values

Know why a goal is meaningful for you. “It’s important to ask yourself, ‘How does this fit into the bigger picture in my life, why am I doing this, is it really a goal that’s based on a value I have, or is it something I feel I should or must do?’” Rego says.

Ensuring that your goals are in line with who you are — and, especially, who you want to be — makes it much easier to stay committed to these goals, and to ultimately achieve them, says Lateefah Watford, MD, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Jonesboro, Georgia. “Goal-setting has to be a very personal thing. You can’t align your goals with those of your mom or your best friend or your cousins,” Dr. Watford says. “You have to do what works for you.”

4. Be Kind to Yourself

There will almost certainly be slips or missteps on the path to achieving your goals, and the important thing is to not beat yourself up about them. “We all have that inner voice that comments on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Rego says.

View any bumps along the way as chances to reassess and readjust your plans. “Maybe you do need to tweak the goal a little bit, but you also need to look at the failure as a learning opportunity,” Watford says.

5. Just Do It

Don’t wait for motivation to strike, or that thing you want to do may never get done. “Rather than waiting until you feel like doing it, the magic is to start doing it and then see how you feel,” Rego says.

So if you’re struggling with a writing project, for example, tell yourself you’ll sit down at the computer and write for five minutes. “Often, people are thinking, ‘I can’t do that.’ It may be that their bar, or their standard, or their goal is too high or big. Just keep reducing it until you say, ‘That I can do right now,’ and do it,” says Rego.

6. Keep Your Goals to Yourself — or Not

If a goal is strongly tied to your identity — say, for example, you want to be fit and attractive, and you set the goal of hitting the gym every day for an hour — you may be setting yourself up for failure if you tell other people about it, Gollwitzer’s research shows.

By “showing off” your goals, he explains, “You feel that you’re already there and that you’ve reached the goal, so you can slack off a little. What we find is that when people announce their identity-related goals, they feel they’ve reached them. There’s a sense of goal attainment or goal completion.”

But Rego and others argue that the benefits of letting other people know about your goals outweigh the downsides — as long as you choose the right people to tell. “By sharing goals and reaching out for assistance, and asking people for support, you not only learn how to do it [work towards goals] more effectively, but you also gain a support team that can help you in achieving these wonderful goals you’ve set,” Watford says.

And here, implementation intention can help. Gollwitzer’s research shows that using this strategy erases any negative effects of publicizing your goals.


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5 Thoughts That Can Get You Through (Almost) Anything

Collected over a lifetime, advice to keep you moving forward. 

Post published by Meg Selig on May 06, 2015 in Changepower

I’ve been given a lot of advice in my life, some good, some bad, most forgettable, and some…outstanding. I’ve previously written about one unforgettable piece of “advice” (it wasn’t exactly advice) from my father. Now I’m adding 5 more nuggets to the list. The words of wisdom below are so concise and powerful that I find myself reciting them in my mind at least a few times a week. See if you feel the same way.

As I wrote down these 5 gems to share with you, I realized they all had some common elements. Maybe you’ll pick up a pattern as you read. If not, I’ll reveal it at the end.

1. “Do what makes you feel best about yourself.” 

A friend once gave me this advice. I took it to heart as a reminder to live up to my own values whenever possible. When your life is in sync with your values, you have peace of mind.

2. “Just do the best you can.”

The mother of a friend of mine gave her this advice. Thanks to this gem, my friend works hard but never feels compelled to be perfect. I’ve adopted this advice as one of my own personal mottoes.

bullseye

3. “Set your own standards and work up to them.”

This piece of advice, offered by my partner, reminds me to…well, first of all, HAVE some standards, and, second, work up to—or in some cases, down to—them. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to have high standards for everything, just the few things of vital importance to me.

4. “Do what makes sense to you.”

This advice, also from my partner, might be my favorite. For a lot of tasks, chores, and choices, there is no one right answer or one right way to go. “Do what makes sense to you” helps you cultivate judgment and problem-solving skills. Whether you are making a large or small decision, this motto can strengthen your unique ways of meeting life’s challenges.

5. “Welcome mistakes and learn from them.”

I learned this from life and from my psychology reading (with a particular nod to the research of Carol Dweck). When I was younger, I didn’t have the courage to take risks and bounce back from failure. I was too concerned with protecting my ego. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that a mistake is just Reality’s way of teaching you something important. (But it’s up to you to figure out what that important thing might be.)

Did you pick up the common threads? All of these advice nuggets help you explore your own identity, rather than directly tell you what to do. This kind of advice strengthens the self and gives you confidence to make future decisions based on what you’ve learned has and hasn’t worked for you in the past. As Socrates said, “Know thyself.” This advice gives you the ways and means to do just that.


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How to Overcome Your Own Laziness

Eric Ravenscraft

You read productivity tips, you’ve used a million to-do list apps, and you promise yourself every month that you’re going to start being productive, but it never happens. Here’s how to break the cycle when you feel like your problem is just plain laziness.

Determine If You’re Really Lazy, or Just Overwhelmed

Many active and productive people self-identify as “lazy” because they spend free time relaxing, or have projects they want to do but haven’t finished. In the cult of “busy”, doing things you enjoy is a cardinal sin, so it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re not focused, productive, or active enough. Before you try to fix your laziness, step back and try to identify your real issue.

Psychologist Leon F. Seltzer suggests that we consider eliminating the word “lazy” from our vocabulary entirely. Or, at the very least, avoid using it to describe someone’s entire personality. He explains that, while we may lack self-discipline, motivation, or a healthy sense of rewards, disguising those problems as “laziness” only makes it harder to fix them:

“My experience, both as an individual and therapist, has led me to conclude that laziness as an explanation of human behavior is practically useless. Referring to—or rather, disparaging, or even dismissing—a person as lazy seems to me a glib and overly simplistic way of accounting for a person’s apparent disinterest or inertia. And resorting to this term to categorize a person’s inactivity suggests to me a laziness more on the part of the describer than the person described. In short, I view this pejorative designation as employed mostly as a “default” when the person talked about is not particularly well understood.”

If laziness is an unhelpful characterization of a different problem, start by identifying what your issue actually is. Try out some time tracking software to see where you spend your time. Or you can simply use a spreadsheet and write down what you do, hour by hour, for a week. Once you’ve got some data, break down the underlying problem into a few categories:

  • Self-discipline: If your schedule is packed, but you’re not getting as much done as you could or should in that time, you may have a self-discipline problem. Solutions may involve removing distractions, but you may also need to find ways to boost your willpower.
  • Unrealistic expectations: If your schedule is packed and you’re actually getting stuff done, but you still feel lazy, your problem could be that you’re being too hard on yourself. We all want to get stuff done, but don’t forget to slow down every once in a while.
  • Motivation: If your schedule is pretty empty, or a majority of your time is spent on sleep or leisure activities, motivation could be the problem. Motivation problems can range from not knowing what to do with your life to battling depression, but everyone deals with it in some form eventually.

Obviously, how you deal with “laziness” will depend on what the underlying issues are. And these issues aren’t mutually exclusive, either. No matter what, you’ll need to tailor any solution to your specific needs. Take time to examine your own weaknesses and come up with a plan that works for you.

Learn How to Value Your Work

The terrible irony of our uber-busy culture is that we often hate our work. As strange as it may be to accept, work can actually be enjoyable and rewarding, even if you don’t find some mythical “soul mate” job. Learning to appreciate the value of work for its own sake is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. However, your mindset about work will have a drastic effect on how much you get done.

As Forbes contributor Erika Anderson points out, if you’re surrounded by people who hate their work and can’t stop complaining about it, stop hanging around them. Your attitude can be brought down by negative conversation, and more importantly, you never hear about any benefits:

In every organization, there will always be some people who take great delight in trashing everything. Ultimate cynics, they’ll regale you with stories of how the boss is an idiot, the company is out to get you, the rest of the employees are chumps, and the work is ridiculous and meaningless. While there’s a certain mean-spirited, self-righteous satisfaction in taking the everyone’s-a-loser-but-us approach, in the long run it will just make you more unhappy. Hearing only the negatives about your workplace makes it hard to see the positives that may exist, and it ultimately will make you feel worse about yourself (if this place and these people are so awful, why am I still here?). Spending time with colleagues who have a more balanced view can dramatically shift your emotional response to your job.

bullseye

Cynical attitudes about your work do nothing to help your productivity. To get back on track, try some exercises to adjust your mindset:

  • Write a list of benefits. There are always benefits to doing work (otherwise, why would anyone do it?) so take a minute to appreciate them. If you get satisfaction from having a stack of clean laundry, an empty email inbox, or a full paycheck, take time to note it.
  • Savor the times you enjoy working. Unless you’re dealing with deeper emotional issues, there are probably some moments when you actually enjoy your work. When that happens, pause (if you can) and describe the moment to yourself or let someone else know. Externalizing it can help you remember it later. Intentionally spotting the moments you like your work can also help with those dreaded “What should I do with my life?” questions.
  • Reframe what “work” is in your mind. While you’re getting stuff done, if you’re feeling miserable about it, counter your own thoughts. Remind yourself that work is worthwhile. Smile on purpose. Just like when you’re dealing with failure, how you treat work sets you up for how you will experience it.

Ultimately, no one can make you enjoy work. But if you actively fight the urge to be negative about it, rather than indulge it, you can turn your mindset around. The quickest way to get more done is to look forward to doing it. If you’re still having trouble looking for a way to start, try filling out this three task checklist to keep it simple.

Disrupt Your Habits

If the first thing you do when you come home is throw your keys on the coffee table, lay down on the couch and turn on the TV, you set yourself up for an unproductive evening right off the bat. Similarly, if you check Facebook or even email first thing in the morning, you might be wasting your best hours.

To interrupt the cycle, make it harder to go about your usual routine. If you head straight for the couch when you get home, unplug your TV at night. If you check Facebook too often, uninstall the app from your phone. Even if it’s just a little inconvenience, disrupting your usual triggers can create a break in your muscle memory and kickstart a new habit.

Create Behavior Chains to Develop Specific New Habits

The road to lethargy is paved with wishful intentions. Everyone has said “I’m going to get more done tomorrow.” The problem with this promise is that it’s vague and depends entirely on you feeling the same way tomorrow that you do now. Except, you know that you won’t. You’ll feel just as unmotivated when you get wake up tomorrow as you did today.

A better way to change is to give yourself specific tasks that are attached to your existing routine. As productivity blog 99U explains, slight alterations to your habits are better than overly ambitious total overhauls. Small behavior changes lead to significant improvements over time:

For instance, instead of “I will keep a cleaner house,” you could aim for, “When I come home, I’ll change my clothes and then clean my room/office/kitchen.” Multiple studies confirm this to be a successful method to rely on contextual cues over willpower. So the next time you decide to “eat healthier,” instead try “If it is lunch time, Then I will only eat meat and vegetables.”

Being lethargic or unproductive is ultimately just a habit. By breaking out of your old habits and creating new ones, you’ll get used to being active as the new norm. Even if you still don’t totally know what to do with your days, you’ll be more motivated to find something to move on to.

Be Consistent and Check Your Progress

Once you get going, stick to it. Laziness, in any form, takes advantage of gaps in your willpower. Much like overcoming an addiction, it only takes one day, one relapse to slip and wind up right back where you started. It’s okay to fail, and you’ll probably miss some days every once in a while, but get back on the horse. Remember, laziness is a habit, not a personality trait.

One effective way to do this is to use a goal tracker. These apps allow you to set specific goals for yourself and mark off when you do them. This provides two major benefits. First, it reminds you what you need to do and helps your past self keep you accountable. Perhaps more importantly, it shows you how often you’ve succeeded.

Many of us can alter our habits without ever changing how we perceive ourselves. That’s why things like done lists can be so useful. Having proof that you’ve built a new habit, or that you’ve improved over time can give you the motivation boost you need to keep going. That moment, when you realize you’ve accomplished your goal, when you’re pleased with your progress and look forward to doing it again is when laziness dies.


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5 Truths About Creating The Life You Really Want

It’s interesting how often we’re asked the question, “What do you want?” Sometimes we’re able to meet this with an emphatically clear, “This AND this, please!” And sometimes we’re not.

Whether limiting beliefs get in the way, or you have too many possibilities to choose from, all of a sudden that carefree gut feeling that knew exactly what you wanted turns into a feeble, uninspired, “Well, I know what I don’t want …”

Knowing what you don’t want is certainly one way of reaching what you DO want, but I invite you to dive into the infinite barrel of possibility for a moment and think about the following five truths to creating the life you really want:

1. Knowing how you want to FEEL is the most potent form of clarity you can have.

When you first find the essence of how you want to feel, and then infuse those feelings into what you want to have, be and do, you become a powerful creator of your own life.

Tip: Get clear on how you want to FEEL within yourself before you design any more to-do’s, goals, or bucket lists.

2. Your desire to begin a new way of life needs to be stronger than your desire to keep doing things the same way.

Ask yourself if your current habits are serving a purpose or solving a problem? This may seem obvious, but if you really want something, you need the desire to have it. It’s not enough for your head to say, “This is a great idea.” Your soul needs to feel it AND it needs to feel safe to you — all parts of you, even the ones you thought you’d let go of when you were 10 years old.

goals

3. You must have the belief that what you want IS possible.

Belief is more powerful than words or mere thoughts. Your belief is what sustains you while you align your mind and your life to achieve what you want.

Here’s a tip for when you begin doubting yourself: Start a “Success Journal,” a notebook in which you keep all of your little successes. Write down all of the times you wanted to do, be or have something and you made it happen. Then continue to write down your achievements going forward. This will become an excellent reference tool for you in those moments when you’re struggling with confidence and about to hit that downward spiral where you inevitably end up thinking yourself a loser who’s never achieved anything. When take out that journal you’ll realize it simply isn’t true!

4. You don’t get what you want, but what you vibrate.

We are all vibrational beings broadcasting our own signals. Think of it as having your very own “Bat Signal,” one that transmits ALL of the time and draws to it things of the same vibrational match.

Remember a time when you woke up, the sun was shining, you were in a fantastic mood and the day just kept getting better and better. Life felt blissful and you probably witnessed a beautiful synchronicity or two, like the right person or opportunity showing up just when you needed it to.

Now think of a time when you woke up feeling not so great, and one thing after another just kept going wrong and before you knew it the day ended up being one of those you’d rather forget.

Ask yourself what vibe your Bat Signal is giving off and how can you change it so it’s in alignment with drawing to you the life you really want.

5. Life is a continuum.

You don’t live only once; you live constantly. Each and every day should be about doing more of the things that light you up and keep you living in integrity with the person you came here to be. That goes doubly for the hard days.

Forget the idea of only going all out for it when circumstances provoke you. Rather, decide on what little but meaningful and consistent daily habits you can cultivate that will have you closer to living the life you’ve been dreaming about, now.

For example, if you want to lose 10-plus pounds, are you letting go of all the garbage, both emotional and physical, that’s keeping you stuck at your current weight? If you want to cultivate a heavenly relationship, are you sabotaging it each time when the going gets tough, with the thought “Forget it — you only live once ! and consequences be damned?”