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Why We Procrastinate

Last minute taskers rejoice: psychological research proves that procrastinators are not necessarily lazy. Often, they are people who fear failure and rejection but don’t know the right strategies to reveal and conquer that fear.

Oh. Well that’s not much better than “lazy,” but at least we have a legitimate excuse.

One of the more obvious reasons why people procrastinate is to avoid doing something unpleasant. However, this is actually not as simple as it may sound. While some tasks are the embodiment of boredom, others may lead to procrastination because they scare you, on a subconscious level. Psychologists call this contributing factor to procrastination “fear of failure” and outline a few important dimensions. As a result, we can see that procrastination is not necessarily the product of laziness or lack of motivation. Deciphering the fear that lurks at the back of your mind is what really counts.

According to one of the most popular therapeutic approaches, called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), we all have certain basic assumptions about ourselves, either positive or negative, known as core beliefs. Core beliefs are a part of the subconscious and start to form at a very young age, as soon as you are able to perceive yourself and the world. As you grow, your experiences and interactions with others, and how you internalize them all contribute to building and solidifying core beliefs. According to CBT, our thoughts, emotions and actions are the effect of these self-perceptions. Nonetheless, since they are buried deep in the subconscious mind, often we don’t realize what our core beliefs are unless we work toward understanding them.

Even when we know that fear of failure causes procrastination, that’s too broad of a concept. Apprehension may be brought about by a variety of core beliefs and so, in order to clean up the sticky mess that is procrastination, we need to look into some research-based triggers, behind that fear.

We Seek What We Believe

According to self-verification theory we behave in a way and connect to people who verify our own beliefs about ourselves. If those self-perceptions are positive, then we engage in productive behaviors and seek people who evaluate us positively. If, however, one’s self-beliefs are negative, then this becomes a steppingstone to procrastination. In short, we self-sabotage rather than engaging in productive work. That is why procrastinators tend to occupy themselves with meaningless tasks. Have you noticed how some people remember to clean out the fridge, binge-read all of their bookmarked articles and go on endless YouTube loops, just when they’ve got some less appealing chore to do? According to professor Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., who has been studying procrastination for years, this self-handicap is the direct result of fear. Procrastinators swap out important tasks for futile activities because when you don’t engage in that something scary, there is no chance to fail at it. Thus, self-handicapping is a way to verify our own negative self-perceptions—we deprive ourselves of opportunities because of a deeply rooted belief that it is impossible to succeed.

Are You Good Enough?

How you perceive your own competence and ability to deal with a task on your own is also a contributing factor to fear of failure. Self-determination theory, which deals with people’s motivation, explains the importance of intrinsic incentives. When a person is keen to engage with a task because of internal stimuli, such as beliefs and needs, they become intensely invested. In contrast, motivation that comes from external sources is short-lived and inefficient. Feeling competent and autonomous builds intrinsic motivation and people are, therefore, less likely to procrastinate. On the other hand, when you doubt your own abilities and fear that you can’t handle the task on your own, you are more likely to put it off.

What Will Others Think?

Doubts about one’s self-worth may lead to an intensified need for the approval of others. If your core beliefs include a suspicion that you are not good enough and that you should continuously prove yourself to others, in order to feel deserving, this may contribute to fear of failure and therefore, procrastination. Fearing shame can lead to putting off a task, or even avoiding efforts to improve your skills. Often, the subconscious belief here is that the longer you dodge a task, the longer you’ll protect yourself from negative evaluations by others, as well as shame. On the other hand, procrastinators who fear shame, often strive for perfection, so that others view them as worthy and competent. In that way, if they feel they can achieve anything short of perfection, they put off a task for as long as possible.

What Can You Do About It?

As you can see, procrastination is not a simple behavioral problem. In fact, it can be viewed as a symptom of deeply rooted fear and self-doubt. Using CBT techniques on your own, or working with a therapist, can help you reveal your negative core beliefs and therefore understand what it is that you fear. Furthermore, you can benefit from the principles of self-regulation theory. Monitor your thoughts, emotions and behavior, see how they impact your tendency to procrastinate and experiment with different behavioral strategies to see what works best for your personal case.

Liya Panayotova is a clinical and counseling psychologist, 
with interests in the cognitive-behavioral sciences. 
Her experience includes working with anxiety, depression, difficult relationships, 
addiction, motivation, children, grief and many more.

 

By Liya Panayotova   March 24, 2017  
 


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8 Chores With Unexpected Scientific Health Benefits

Why washing dishes, making your bed, dusting, and other common chores can lower stress, boost happiness, and protect against heart disease. You’ll never look at your To-Do list the same way again.

Wash dishes: Reduce anxiety

People who cleaned their plates mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature, and touching the dishes) lowered their nervousness levels by 27 percent, found a recent study of 51 people out of Florida State University’s psychology department. People who didn’t take as thoughtful approach to their dish washing did not experience a similar calming benefit.

Dust with a lemon cleaner: Be happier

A citrusy scent is a potent mood booster, according to a 2014 Japanese study. When participants spent as little as ten minutes inhaling yuzu (a super-tart and citrusy Japanese fruit), they saw a significant decrease in their overall mood disturbance, a measure of tension, anxiety, depression, confusion, fatigue and anger, PureWow recently reported.

clean-windows-lemon-cleaner
iStock/petek arici

Make your bed every morning: Boost productivity

Your nagging mom was right: Starting your day with a freshly made bed is what Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, calls a “keystone habit”; one that has a ripple effect to create other good behavior. In his book, Duhigg notes that making your bed every morning is linked to better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking to a budget. Bedmakers also report getting a better night’s sleep than those who leave their covers messy in the morning, per a National Sleep Foundation poll reported by WebMD.

Clean up your yard: Prevent a heart attack

Need motivation to break out the vacuum cleaner? People who did the most yard work, housecleaning, and DIY projects had a nearly 30 percent lower risk of a first-time cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke compared with those who were the most sedentary, according to a new Swedish study of 3,800 older adults.

Banish kitchen clutter: Lose weight

A recent study showed that people with super-cluttered homes were 77 percent more likely to be overweight or obese. The likely reason: It’s harder to make healthy food choices in a chaotic kitchen. Organizing guru Peter Walsh, author of Cut the Clutter, Drop the Pounds, has been inside of hundreds of people’s homes. He says once people get finally get organized, they tend to experience a number of other unexpected perks, including weight loss, without strict dieting!

Mow the lawn: Feel more joyful

There’s something to that grassy scent. Australian researchers discovered that a chemical released by freshly cut grass makes people feel more relaxed and more joyful.

Grow flowers and vegetables: Lower depression risk

In a study out of Norway, people diagnosed with different forms of depression spent six hours a week gardening; after a few months, they experienced a notable improvement in their depression symptoms, and their good moods continued for months after the study ended. Doing a new activity and being outside in nature can certainly help, but some experts believe that dirt itself might be a depression fighter, according to Health.com. Christopher Lowry, PhD, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has been injected mice with a common, harmless bacteria found in the soil. He’s found that they experience an increase in the “release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood, much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do,” the site reported.

Share chores with your spouse: Have a better sex life

When men perceived their contribution to household chores as fair, couples have more frequent and satisfying sex, according to a 2015 study from the University of Alberta. “If a partner isn’t pulling their weight in housework, either one will have to pick up the slack, or the chores will remain undone. This will develop tension and bitterness in the relationship, which will transfer into the bedroom,” according to MedicalDaily.

By Lauren Gelman

source: www.rd.com


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Why You Shouldn’t Procrastinate Reading This Post

Don’t procrastinate reading this post … it’s bad for your health.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers had participants (some healthy and some with cardiovascular disease and hypertension) fill out questionnaires about their health and personalities, including their tendency to procrastinate. The results found that higher procrastination scores were associated with cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

The study didn’t explore the reason for the link, but previous research has found that students who procrastinated not only earned lower grades, but also reported higher stress and more illness. And it turns out a lot of us may be susceptible to the negative effects of the bad habit. A previous survey of over 24,000 people found that as many as 25 percent were chronic procrastinators, and that we spend a quarter of our days at work procrastinating.

So how do you overcome it … now, not later?

Think small. Researchers have found that when a deadline is too far into the future, we don’t see it as a “present” task. Instead of telling yourself you want to get in shape by summer, create goals for each week, like losing two pounds or taking three classes at the gym.

procrastinate

Schedule mini-goals. Take it a step further — instead of thinking “I need to finish this work project by Monday,” break it down into the steps you’ll take each day to stay on schedule.

Visualize your goal the right way. Sure, it sounds more fun to just dream about having a new amazing job rather than to dream about editing your resume, emailing your contacts, and polishing your cover letter, but research has found that the latter approach works.  Don’t just fantasize about the end-result — visualize the steps you’ll take to get there.

Raise the stakes. Put your money where your mouth is with a website like stikk.com, which has you place money on the line for your goal—fail to meet it and it’ll go to a friend, a charity of your choice, or an “anti-charity,” a cause that you’re against (those who choose the “anti-charity” option have higher rates of success).

Be nice to yourself. Slip up? Forgive yourself when you procrastinate — it’ll reduce the chance you’ll procrastinate on that same task in the future.

Diana Vilibert     April 1, 2015