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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.

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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.