Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Putting Off The Important Things? It’s Not For The Reasons You Think

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do now,
especially if you’re holding back in the hope of doing it properly

All you really need to succeed, according to the writer-philosopher Robert Pirsig, who died last month, is gumption. “Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going,” he writes, in a rare part of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance that’s actually about motorcycle maintenance. (Well, and the whole of human existence, too – but that’s always the case with Pirsig.) “If you haven’t got any, there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it, there’s absolutely no way in the world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed.” The biggest dangers, accordingly, are what he calls “gumption traps”: seemingly minor external events, or ways of thinking, that play a disproportionate role in depleting it. There are “maybe millions” of these, he writes. But there’s one I fall into far more often than others. You might call it the Importance Trap.

This is hardly a brand new insight – but then, as Pirsig liked to point out, looking for new insights can be a fool’s errand; what you want are the ones that make a difference. The Importance Trap refers to the way that, the more an activity really matters to you, the more you start to believe you need focus, energy and long stretches of uninterrupted time in which to do it – things that, you tell yourself, you currently lack. And so the less likely you are to do it. Unimportant stuff gets done; important stuff doesn’t.

Take reading. “If you’re only going to open a book on the off-chance you have several hours to kill in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch,” wrote Kevin Nguyen in GQ recently, “it’s only going to happen when you have several hours to kill in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch.” That’s classic Importance Trap thinking. We tend to think of procrastination as being motivated by more melodramatic emotions: fear of failure, the terror of being judged, etc. Yet sometimes the mere desire to do something properly is the reason you’re not doing it.

A close cousin of the Importance Trap – for me, anyway – is the Consistency Trap: the assumption that something’s not worth doing until your life’s arranged to do it regularly. No point going on a protest march, or rekindling a neglected friendship, unless you can turn yourself into the kind of person who does that all the time. This is absurd, firstly because such things are worth doing in themselves, and second because you definitely won’t become the kind of person who does them if you never even do them once.

The irony, I’ve found, is that the only way to obtain the things you imagine are the preconditions for acting – high energy, a sense of concentration – is to start acting. (“Motivation follows action”, as the saying goes.) So when you catch yourself telling yourself you’ll do something later, once you’re refreshed and ready, take it as a prod to do it now. You might think you need to wait for more gumption – but in fact that very thought is a hole in your fuel tank, through which the gumption’s leaking away.

oliver.burkeman@theguardian.com     @oliverburkeman      Friday 19 May 2017


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5 Things To Give Up Right Now (Even If You Don’t Want To)

“Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.”

Ludwig van Beethoven

Giving up anything we’ve come to embrace (consciously or not) as part of ourselves is often a tough endeavor. Compiling a list of things that each one of us “shouldn’t do” is hard too, by the way. But we digress.

It is our sincere belief that giving up the 5 things on this list will lead to a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life. Each item has the potential to eliminate a ton of stress and possible heartache while maybe even providing a renewed sense of freedom.

 HERE ARE 5 THINGS WE SHOULD ALL AIM TO GIVE UP:

1. THE NEED FOR CONTROL
Aside from positive self-control, we should each minimize the need to feel in control of things around you.

People tagged with the “control freak” label always need to feel in control of events, situations, and especially people; this last one strips the right of each individual to simply be themselves. Controlling others is a form of abuse; something nobody should have to experience.

Letting go of this need for control, no matter how hard at first, will feel like a tremendous weight has been lifted. It’s quite likely that your relationships will improve as well.

2. THE NEED TO BE RIGHT
For some of us, the idea of admitting a mistake – or conceding that someone else is right – produces a sense of dread. In this regard, we share the same sentiment as the great Bruce Lee, who once said:

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”

Countless relationships and friendships have ended because one (or both) person ALWAYS had to be right; no matter any facts or evidence to the contrary.

Not only is this erroneous stubbornness a relationship-breaker; it’s a very unhealthy behavior – not just for the individual, but to those unfortunate enough to be exposed to it.

Ever had a boss with an insatiable need to be right? How terrible was it to work under the microscope of a borderline tyrant? These same feelings surface in others when we insist on being right.

3. THE NEED TO COMPLAIN
Totally giving up the act of complaining is similar to giving up the need to breathe. Inwardly or outwardly, we will all engage in a grumbling episode from time to time. We all possess enough self-awareness to admit whether or not we’re constant complainers – and whether or not a change in outlook is in order.

The uncomfortable (but freeing) reality is that external stressors are a matter of internal perception. Sir Charles Lyell, in 1863, wrote:

“It may be said that, so far from having a materialistic tendency, the supposed introduction into the earth at successive geological periods of life – sensation, instinct, the intelligence of the higher mammalia bordering on reason, and lastly, the improvable reason of Man himself – presents us with a picture of the ever-increasing dominion of mind over matter.“

In short, our improbable existence, and the indisputable superiority of our species’ innate intellect to adapt in spite of seemingly insurmountable challenges throughout the ages proves the natural power of man.

Complaining is a pointless act. Instead, use your mind and overcome the matter.

4. THE NEED TO MAKE EXCUSES
Excuse making is an act of self-limitation – a behavior that can stunt individual progress.

Instead of putting forth the necessary effort to achieve our goals, finish a task, or follow through on a commitment, many of us will instead take the easy way out. Allowing some baseless excuse to spew from our lips is the easiest way out possible.

Attribute constant excuse-making to ignorance, immaturity, or laziness; the effects are disruptive, even disastrous. But this can all change if we’re able to admit this shortcoming and drive forward.

George Washington Carver, an African-American born into slavery, received nationwide recognition (including in Time Magazine) for his breakthroughs in the areas of botany and biology throughout his lifetime. Despite living in a time of extreme racism, Mr. Carver once proclaimed

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

That’s an eye opener, indeed. Well put, Mr. Carver.

5. THE NEED TO LIMIT YOURSELF
As intelligent human beings, we are aware when something we’re doing is holding us back.

We couldn’t possibly list every single thing that is counterproductive to health, growth, and happiness. We’re all different, which only makes such any attempt to compartmentalize limiting behavior all the more impossible.

Are you a chronic procrastinator? Slowly work on disciplining yourself to get things done on time.

Are you engaging in habits you know to be harmful?

Maybe you drink a bit too much, watch too much television, spend too much money, hang out with the wrong crowd, (fill in the behavior here)…it’s never too late to commit to change.

Admit your shortcomings and work (however slowly) to finding a different way.

REFERENCES: 
BARTLETT, JOHN (2002). BARTLETT’S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS: A COLLECTION OF PASSAGES, PHRASES, AND PROVERBS TRACED TO THEIR SOURCES IN ANCIENT AND MODERN LITERATURE (17. ED.). BOSTON: LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY. ISBN 978-0-316-08460-4.
WIKIPEDIA. (2017). GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER. RETRIEVED MARCH 21, 2017, FROM
HTTPS://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/GEORGE_WASHINGTON_CARVER#RISE_TO_FAME


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5 Life Skills That Promise Success

Here’s good news: If you had a less-than-wonderful childhood, you can still have amazing success in life. How? It comes to do these little life skills.

What makes us healthy, wealthy, and successful?

It’s true that a nurturing upbringing, with lots of love, support, and opportunities for play, learning, and growth, seem to give people an advantage early in life. But that head start only goes so far. The rest of the recipe, according to new research, comes from you.

In a new study published in PNAS, the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, researchers from the University College London followed 8,119 men and women to determine which life skills most directly contributed to their health and success in life—or lack thereof.

What they found was that those who had successful, wealthy, and happy upbringings weren’t necessarily the most successful, happy, or healthy once they grew up. Instead, it was people with specific personality traits who were the healthiest and most successful. And these traits helped ensure that were internally, rather than externally, fulfilled.

Emotional stability

To be successful in life, start with your own mental health. “Our ability to stay ‘in check’ with our emotions is one of the most powerful life skills we have,” explains Joshua Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Emotional stability is like a regulator on our life skill set. It allows us to not be falsely optimistic, overly determined, too self-sacrificing, or too controlling. It allows us to experience life but to come back to a middle ground.”

Researchers at the Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus found a direct correlation between emotional stability and future success in a work environment. Those who were more in control of their emotions could handle typical work stressors better, leading to further opportunities at work and less stress overall. Fortunately, this is a skill you can develop.

Another study found that exposing yourself to common work stressors early in young adulthood can have profound effects on your ability to navigate stressful work situations later in life. Of course, less stress leads to better overall health. So, if you want to know how to become wealthy and healthy in the future, you may want to focus on your resilience now.

Determination

The U.K.’s University of Kent conducted a study that outlined the top skills employers look for when searching for new employees. Determination was among the top 10. Very simply, determined people get things done, so it’s no wonder that employers would want them on their teams.

Determined individuals are willing to move past obstacles to reach their future goals. According to the PNAS study, 26.4 percent of people who had four or five of the important life skills outlined here, including determination, were in the highest wealth range of participants.

Determination also boosts health. According to Dr. Klapow, “Determination is critical for health and well-being as the majority of our health and well-being goals require daily prolonged effort.

Determination allows us to move beyond day-to-day living.” Not everyone is born with a fire in their belly, but it can be learned. Self-determination is something therapists and teachers help instill in people every day. In fact, about 62 percent of teachers often plan activities for students that will help them develop self-determination skills.

Many therapists focus on self-determination theory (SDT), which supports one’s personality traits and innate abilities to build their motivation. Of course, you’ll need to find some motivation to stick to what you learn, so sometimes you have to dig deep.

Control

“As we learn to look at the world as a series of events and situations that we can exert control over, we feel mastery and predictability. That allows us to remain calm, to be determined, and to take action,” says Dr. Klapow.

One study that shows the importance of self-control followed 1,000 children from birth to age 32. Those who continued to exhibit the highest amount of self-control through their lives were less likely to develop health problems, have a substance addiction, have low income, or commit a crime. A person with self-control understands that actions make a difference.

“It is not a matter of having false beliefs that we can control everything in our lives, but rather looking at situations and challenges and believing that our own actions can have an impact,” explains Dr. Klapow. “This results in less stress, more proactive behavior, and more opportunities to succeed.” The same study shows that people can foster their own self-control—7 percent of participants dramatically increased the skill on their own throughout the study.

The most important thing you can do to become master of your universe is to start looking at the bigger picture. How will your actions now affect you later? You’re less likely to start something that could drag you down later if you understand the risks now.

Optimism

Just because optimists believe that good things will happen to them doesn’t make them unrealistic; instead, it means they try to find the good in everything they do and see.  The University College London study, led by psychology professor Andrew Steptoe and his colleague Jane Wardle, showed that this key life skill, when combined with at least some of the other life skills, had profound impacts on our ability to take better care of our health and find success later in life.

A study in Clinical Psychology Review researched the impact of optimism alone on health and success and found that optimistic people are more resilient to life’s stressors, allowing them to move past negative aspects of their jobs and everyday lives more easily.  Optimists are also less likely to be re-hospitalized, develop heart disease, and have low immunity, and are more likely to live longer and healthier lives.

When it comes to future success, optimists have a lower college drop-out rate and are more persistent in achieving goals than pessimists. If you don’t always look on the bright side, you can still develop a greater sense of optimism. Cognitive behavior therapy is common for pessimists, as it focuses on changing thinking patterns to be more optimistic and productive. This intervention can even help those who feel they’re spiraling into depression from negative thoughts.

Conscientiousness

By definition, conscientious people are concerned with doing things correctly. They’re typically very organized, pay attention to details, and are generally responsible. A study in Frontiers of Psychology found that high conscientiousness more consistently determined one’s life satisfaction, income, and success than the other life skills examined, including emotional stability and cognitive ability.

Conscientiousness is a reliable predictor of academic grades, job performance, marital stability, and physical health. University of Illinois psychologist Brent Roberts told businessinsider.com, “Highly conscientious employees do a series of things better than the rest of us. [It] is like brushing your teeth. It prevents problems from arising.” These are people who like sticking to rules and achieving goals.

Determination is often a trait you’ll see in a conscientious person, so they’re more apt to be aware of what’s needed to be successful, stay healthy, and then stick to those norms.

According to Harvard Medical School, you can heighten your conscientiousness by hanging around conscientious people who can encourage positive behaviors. Also, make a specific schedule for yourself and follow it daily. If you have to, set reminders on your phone to get yourself in the habit of sticking to your plan.

BY AMY BOYINGTON
source: www.rd.com


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13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful

Somebody once told me the definition of hell:

“On your last day on earth, 

the person you became will meet 

the person you could have become.”  

 -Anonymous

Sometimes, to become successful and get closer to the person we can become, we don’t need to add more things — we need to give up on some of them.

There are certain things that are universal, which will make you successful if you give up on them, even though each one of us could have a different definition of success.

You can give up on some of them today, while it might take a bit longer to give up on others.

1. Give Up On The Unhealthy Lifestyle

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

If you want to achieve anything in life, everything starts here. First you have to take care of your health, and there are only two things you need to keep in mind:

1. Healthy Diet
2. Physical Activity

Small steps, but you will thank yourself one day.

2. Give Up The Short-term Mindset

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

Successful people set long-term goals, and they know these aims are merely the result of short-term habits that they need to do every day.

These healthy habits shouldn’t be something you do; they should be something you embody.

There is a difference between: “Working out to get a summer body” and “Working out because that’s who you are.”

3. Give Up On Playing Small

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

If you never try and take great opportunities, or allow your dreams to become realities, you will never unleash your true potential.

And the world will never benefit from what you could have achieved.

So voice your ideas, don’t be afraid to fail, and certainly don’t be afraid to succeed.

4. Give Up Your Excuses

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Successful people know that they are responsible for their life, no matter their starting point, weaknesses, and past failures.

Realising that you are responsible for what happens next in your life is both frightening and exciting.
And when you do, that becomes the only way you can become successful, because excuses limit and prevent us from growing personally and professionally.

Own your life; no one else will.

5. Give Up The Fixed Mindset

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

People with a fixed mindset think their intelligence or talents are simply fixed traits, and that talent alone creates success — without effort. They’re wrong.

Successful people know this. They invest an immense amount of time on a daily basis to develop a growth mindset, acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and change their perception so that it can benefit their lives.

Remember, who you are today, it’s not who you have to be tomorrow.

6. Give Up Believing In The “Magic Bullet.”

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” — Émile Coué

Overnight success is a myth.

Successful people know that making small continual improvement every day will be compounded over time, and give them desirable results.

That is why you should plan for the future, but focus on the day that’s ahead of you, and improve just 1% every day.

7. Give Up Your Perfectionism

“Shipping beats perfection.” — Khan Academy’s Development Mantra

Nothing will ever be perfect, no matter how much we try.

Fear of failure (or even fear of success) often prevents us from taking an action and putting our creation out there in the world. But a lot of opportunities will be lost if we wait for the things to be right.

So “ship,” and then improve (that 1%).

8. Give Up Multi-tasking

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” ― Winston S. Churchill

Successful people know this. That’s why they choose one thing and then beat it into submission. No matter what it is — a business idea, a conversation, or a workout.

Being fully present and committed to one task, is indispensable.

9. Give Up Your Need to Control Everything

“Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus, Stoic philosopher

Differentiating these two is important.

Detach from the things you cannot control, and focus on the ones you can, and know that sometimes, the only thing you will be able to control is your attitude towards something.

Remember, nobody can be frustrated while saying “Bubbles” in an angry voice.

10. Give Up On Saying YES To Things That Don’t Support Your Goals

“He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.” — James Allen

Successful people know that in order to accomplish their goals, they will have to say NO to certain tasks, activities, and demands from their friends, family, and colleagues.

In the short-term, you might sacrifice a bit of instant gratification, but when your goals come to fruition, it will all be worth it.

11. Give Up The Toxic People

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
― Jim Rohn

People we spend the most time with, add up to who we become.

There are people who are less accomplished in their personal and professional life, and there are people who are more accomplished than us. If you spend time with those who are behind you, your average will go down, and with it, your success.

But if you spend time with people who are more accomplished than you, no matter how challenging that might be, you will become more successful.

Take a look at around you, and see if you need to make any changes.

12. Give Up Your Need To Be Liked

“The only way to avoid pissing people off is to do nothing important.” — Oliver Emberton

Think of yourself as a market niche.

There will be a lot of people who like that niche, and there will be individuals who don’t. And no matter what you do, you won’t be able to make the entire market like you.

This is entirely natural, and there’s no need to justify yourself.

The only thing you can do is to remain authentic, improve and provide value every day, and know that the growing number of “haters” means that you are doing important things.

13. Give Up Your Dependency on Social Media & Television

“The trouble is, you think you have time” — Jack Kornfield

Impulsive web browsing and television watching are diseases of today’s society.

These two should never be an escape from your life or your goals.

Unless your goals depend on either, you should minimise (or even eliminate) your dependency on them, and direct that time towards things that can enrich your life.

source: medium.com


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How To Unlock Meaning In Life: 4 Proven Secrets

There’s no shortage of tips about what brings happiness, but what gives your life meaning?

“Meaning in life” is one of those things everybody insists is vitally important — yet nobody tells you what it really is, and directions to get there never seem to come up on Google Maps.

I had to take geometry to graduate high school but knowing what a rhombus is has never helped me. Nobody thought it was important to teach me about meaning. Seriously, my air conditioner came with better instructions than anything that’s important in life.

Thankfully, somebody took it upon themselves to get to the bottom of this by looking at what the research has to say.

Emily Esfahani Smith has written a wonderful new book entitled The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. And it has many of the answers we need.

So what makes for a meaningful life? How does it differ from just being happy? Let’s get to it…

What’s The Difference Between Happy And Meaningful?

People commit suicide because they’re unhappy, right? Wrong. They do it because they lack meaning.

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

When they crunched the numbers, they discovered a surprising trend: happiness and unhappiness did not predict suicide. The variable that did, they found, was meaning — or, more precisely, the lack of it.


So there’s more to life than “pleasure good, pain bad.” (Sorry, Epicurus.) But that ain’t the half of it…
Research shows meaning and happiness can be at odds with one another. People with the most meaningful lives were “givers.” But those with the happiest lives were “takers.”

Best example? Parenthood. Cleaning poopy diapers makes nobody happy. Kids are really expensive. They crash your Mazda. (Sorry, dad.) My MBA friend Vlad loves his kids but also adds, “They’re definitely ROI negative.”

And the research agrees. Kids don’t make you happier:

Using data sets from Europe and America, numerous scholars have found some evidence that, on aggregate, parents often report statistically significantly lower levels of happiness (Alesina et al., 2004), life satisfaction (Di Tella et al., 2003), marital satisfaction (Twenge et al., 2003), and mental well-being (Clark & Oswald, 2002) compared with non-parents.


However, I’m guessing you aren’t rushing to schedule a vasectomy or a tube-tying right now, are ya? Why?

Because as Emily points out, research also shows children bring enormous meaning to people’s lives. Getting zero sleep for the first year of your child’s life does not make you happy. But as we saw, happiness isn’t everything. Parenthood is the ultimate form of giving. And givers lead meaningful lives.

So it seems we’re in a real sticky wicket here: do you have to be unhappy to have meaning?
Thankfully, the answer is no.

A life focused exclusively on happiness is like that container of ice cream that quickly brings a huge dose of pleasure — followed by a stomachache, regret and a root canal. A meaningful life does produce good feelings — but it takes a while to catch up.

For a 10-day period, researchers told one group of students to do things that make their life meaningful. They helped people. They studied hard. They cheered up friends.

The researchers told another group of students to just do stuff that made’em happy. They slept in, played video games, and ate candy. (My guess is they probably also did other stuff the study did not discuss but to my knowledge, nobody got pregnant or had their liver explode.)

So what happened at the end of the study? Initially, exactly what you’d expect. The “be happy” group got happier. And the “be meaningful” group got meaningful-er. But three months later, things changed. The happy feelings of the second group faded fast. Meanwhile…

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

The students who had pursued meaning said they felt more “enriched,” “inspired,” and “part of something greater than myself.” They also reported fewer negative moods. Over the long term, it seemed, pursuing meaning actually boosted psychological health.


Parenthood can be a pain in the ass. But it also brings tremendous meaning to life. Don’t sell your kids on the black market just yet. Meaning is the tortoise. Happiness is the hare. You remember who won that race? Exactly.

So over the long haul, meaning beats happy. But how do we get there? Emily’s book covers 4 things that came up time and time again in the research on meaningful lives…

1) Belonging

Remember how it wasn’t unhappiness that led to suicide but lack of meaning? When Emile Durkheim, the father of sociology, looked at suicide demographics the numbers initially seemed all over the place and didn’t make a lot of sense. For instance:

  • Living in a country in the midst of war actually reduced suicide.
  • Being educated increased suicide.
  • Jewish people were more educated — but somehow were less likely to kill themselves.

What the heck was going on?

It was about belonging. War is miserable — but it bonds people together against an enemy. Education often means leaving friends and family to go to school or that fancy job. Jewish people were educated, but they often lived in strong communities.

I am lucky enough to belong to a group that gets together as often as three times a week. Chances are, I’ll see Andy, Justin, and Charlie tomorrow. Bob’s outta town but should be back soon. And we’re still coaxing Drew to move back from Montreal.

What groups do you belong to? Quickest way to add meaning to your life is to see them more often. Not part of a group? Join one. No groups to join? Start one. It’s as easy as texting people to get together regularly around a common interest.

Alright, so you gotta belong. But you can’t just sit around “belonging” all day. What do you actually have to do?

true-meaning-of-life

2) Purpose

The word “purpose” is downright intimidating. Relax — you don’t have to strive to cure cancer. Purpose is less about what you do and more about how you see what you do.

In her book, Emily tells a story I love. It was 1962 and President Kennedy was visiting NASA. He runs into a janitor. The President asks the guy what he’s doing. The janitor replies, “Helping put a man on the moon.”

That’s purpose. He didn’t say “emptying trash cans” (and he didn’t make a Marilyn Monroe joke like a certain blogger who has issues with authority might.)

“Helping put a man on the moon” has both of the qualities that Stanford developmental psychologist William Dawson says we need for purpose:

First, it’s a stable and far-reaching goal. “Make it to the end of the workday without getting fired” doesn’t cut it. You need something that motivates you and that you can organize your actions around.
Second, it involves a contribution to the world. It makes a difference in the lives of people who don’t happen to be you.

Wharton’s Adam Grant did a study that looked at over 200 million people in 500 different jobs to figure out which careers are the most meaningful. All of the ones at the top (surgeons, clergy, educators) were roles that helped other people.

So how can you redefine your role at work to find more meaning? What’s a bigger goal it contributes to? How does it better the lives of others?

In school I hated writing term papers. Now, one could argue, I write them for a living. But I don’t see it that way; I’m helping people learn.

Alright. You feel like you belong. You’ve got a purpose to what you do. But that doesn’t seem to sum up a deep “meaning” in life that you could explain to others. And, as it turns out, that’s vital…

3) Storytelling

No, you don’t have to write a novel or anything. But you need to remember that your brain is wired for stories. It’s how you make sense of the world. And you have a story you tell yourself about your life — whether you realize it or not.

My story is that I was a nerd who got picked on in high school but after being bitten by a radioactive spider I… Oops, that’s not my story, that’s Spider-Man’s. But there is something we can learn from Spider-Man’s story…

Dan McAdams is a professor at Northwestern who studies “narrative identity.” And he found a trend in the stories that people with meaningful lives tell themselves. Their lives are a “redemption story.”
From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

In these stories, the tellers move from suffering to salvation — they experience a negative event followed by a positive event that resulted from the negative event and therefore gives their suffering some meaning.


Peter Parker gains superpowers from the radioactive spider bite. But filled with hubris, he refuses to help stop a criminal. The criminal later kills Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben, the man that raised him. Wracked by guilt and loss, he realizes that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Peter resolves to use his superpowers to fight crime and becomes Spider-Man.

It’s a redemption story. But people who lack meaning in their lives usually tell a very different kind of story: a “contamination story.” In these stories, tragedy doesn’t produce growth. No good comes from the bad. Is this you?

If so, the good news is you can change your internal story. You get to decide what scenes it contains, and whether it ends with the death of your uncle, or in your decision to snare evildoers with your webs.

Professor James Pennebaker has shown that just 20 minutes of writing your story for 4 days has the power to dramatically improve your life. It helps people overcome anxiety, tragedy and heartache. Those who wrote about their problems felt happier, slept better, and even got better grades.

You rarely get to change the world, Peter Parker. But you can change your story, Spider-Man.

So we’ve talked about friends, purpose and stories but what gives that real whammo-bammo visceral feeling of meaning?

4) Transcendence

Another intimidating word. Don’t worry. It doesn’t involve any heavy lifting or math. You don’t need to know what a rhombus is.

Sometimes life feels so small. You’re heavily focused on a few things or maybe just one thing, like your career or your romantic relationship. And then that bubble pops. You lose the job. You get dumped.

You’re all-in on that one thing and now that thing is gone. It’s absolutely crushing. There’s a whole big world out there overflowing with opportunities and potential but right now it doesn’t feel that way. It feels meaningless.

But there are experiences that provide that feeling of just how big and amazing life is. The secret is a little word with big impact: awe.

Astronauts have reported seeing the Earth from a distance has these sorts of life-changing transcendent effects — but let’s focus on a slightly more practical option, shall we?

Get out in nature. Researchers had one group of students stare at 200 foot trees. Another group looked at tall buildings. Afterward, those who had looked at the trees became far more helpful when tested. Why?

From The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters:

The awe-inspired people, researchers found, felt a diminished sense of their own importance compared to others, and that likely led them to be more generous… They abandoned the conceit, which many of us have, that they were the center of the world. Instead, they stepped outside of themselves to connect with and focus on others.


You don’t need a spaceship to find meaning. But a trip to the Grand Canyon might not be a bad idea.
Alright, we’ve covered a lot. Let’s round it all up…

Sum Up

Here’s how to find meaning in life:

  • Belong to a group: I’ll be at lunch with Andy and the guys. Where will you be?
  • Give your work purpose: You’re not emptying trash cans. You’re helping get a man on the moon.
  • Craft your story: End it with redemption, not contamination, and become the superhero of your life.
  • Transcendence: Nature is big. Your problems are small.

Life can be hard. But remember, while the difficult moments may decrease happiness, they’re essential for building meaning. And that’s what matters in the long run.

We flourish around friends. Unbearable stress becomes yet another challenge when you have purpose. A superhero origin story gives you hope and redemption. And nature makes your big problems seem tiny.

Collect all four and you’re on your way to learning the meaning of your life.

And that’s a lot more important than learning what a rhombus is.


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How to Manage Your Motivation to Live a Healthier Life

How motivated are you to live a healthy life?

Perhaps there’s no single thing you can do more to prevent chronic disease than to actively engage in healthy lifestyle choices. World Health Organization research suggests that in the Western world chronic disease killers such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes could be greatly reduced by making better lifestyle choices. In fact, healthy lifestyle choices could eliminate 80 per cent of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes cases.

Most adults in North America know that risk factors, such as smoking and drinking to excess, and engaging in pro-health behaviours like exercise, diet and sleep, collectively impact their health. Even with this life-and-death information many fail to act or stay motivated.

It’s a common human experience for people to one day decide to take better care of their health. The decision to do so can be influenced from outside or come from within. However, within a few days they get distracted by life and lose focus or stop trying.

Why? One reason could be health fatigue. This happens when the activity to get healthy feels difficult and requires too much energy or discipline. Employers should also keep in mind how they can help employees stay motivated once they decide to make a positive change, through various workplace programs.

Another reason many fail to maintain a healthy lifestyle is gaps in their motivation. To change this, you need to manage your motivation and home in on what will keep you on task and on target.

Motivation management

The microskill of motivation management is the discipline of staying in tune with your drive to achieve a defined outcome or goal. Different kinds of motivation, such as the stick (fear) and the carrot (positive opportunity) can spark a need for change. And sparks that can keep you focused and motivated can come from both external or internal sources.

Here are some tactics to help you improve your motivation to stay healthy and make healthy choices.

inner-strength

Awareness

Stop for a moment and focus on one area of your health you may like to improve. It can be helpful to write out exactly what you want to change and why, and then evaluate the driving force behind this motivation. Is your motivation to change linked to some fear or opportunity? Tapping into the motivation can spark the energy and discipline required to achieve your goal. It’s important to be specific as to what success is for you personally.

Test your current level of readiness for making this change by using this motivation for change quick survey.

Accountability

Define what sparks will ignite your motivation. One common spark is tuning in to the positive and negative consequences for your pursuit. External motivation can be helpful for some; for others, internal motivation is the most important, especially when they consider the effects on their family, self, relationships, quality and length of life, and job. Internal motivation can be linked to a purpose or a set of values. It’s common to use a combination of internal and external motivations to stay focused on a desired goal.

Action

One approach to motivation management is a game plan to stay focused on achieving your targeted outcome. Ultimately, motivation management is paying attention to the sparks that influence and encourage you. The end goal for health habits is that they become ingrained and automatic. However, since so many start and stop, there can be value in paying attention not only to what you are going to do or how, but also why.

  • Confirm in writing the target area to change. Be clear on the value to you and why you want to make this change.
  • Determine the specific success target. To avoid being vague, attach a number: “For me, success equals …”
  • Write out the specific steps you will take and the action required to achieve your goal: “I will …”
  • Decide if you will use any external consequences to motivate yourself. If you do, ensure that whatever you pick is something you enjoy and something you prefer not to do. For example, “When I achieve … I will treat myself to (reward: something you enjoy and can afford), if not, I will (consequence: do some household chore you don’t like for a week).” Sometimes people engage in peer challenges for motivation.
  • Decide what internal motivation can spark you – perhaps being able to play with your children or see your grandchildren. Ultimately, to achieve long-term health, the more you can tap into internal motivation, the higher the probability you will achieve it.
  • To manage your motivation, it’s helpful to track your daily progress. On-line resources like http://www.stickk.com and others can help you reach your goal.
Bill Howatt     The Globe and Mail    Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first.


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Are You Living Well?: 10 Questions to Answer

I know from my own experience and behavior, and that of my clients, that it’s very easy to forget which behaviors are good for me. This is particularly true when I’m stressed, tired, excited, or out of my usual environment. At times like these, good habits are forgotten and beneficial behaviors go by the wayside.

I strongly suspect this is the case for most people, so I’ve created a well-being checklist to help you get back on track and support yourself. By practicing some of these behaviors you can lessen your stress and stop yourself from becoming burnt out or exhausted. As a result, you’ll feel more relaxed and able to enjoy your leisure time.

What’s my sleep like?

Most people need six to seven hours of good quality sleep. (There are exceptions, but not many.) Make sure you are not overstimulated before bed, and don’t eat a heavy meal, exercise, or use electronic devices within two hours of going to sleep.

What’s my digestion like?

Eating too much fat and sugar, having too much caffeine, and eating a high-carbohydrate diet depletes our energy, even if we get an initial boost from it. Small amounts of good protein, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts all support our system. Try to nurture your gut by chewing your food well and not eating in a hurry. And follow the 80/20 rule by eating well 80 percent of the time and pleasing yourself 20 percent of the time.

How much do I drink?

First, are you hydrated? Make sure you get enough liquids on hot days and busy days, preferably water. Second, how much alcohol do you drink? Alcohol is a depressant that slows down your immune function and can damage your liver and cells. Try to have three or four days when you don’t drink, and keep an eye on quantity. Also, alcohol disrupts your sleep pattern.

How do I feel about myself? How’s my self-esteem?

Do you like yourself and think you are doing a good job in or out of the home? You can improve your well-being by recognizing when you do well: Finish the laundry, then sit and have a cup of coffee. Got that project done on time? Treat yourself to your favorite sandwich. When things don’t go so well, be your own cheerleader. What can I learn from this? Maybe I need to ask for help. Make your self-talk positive.

patience_with_yourself

How fast am I going?

Speeding up is a natural response when we are under stress. Unfortunately it tells our body and brain that there is a threat. Initially you will be able to respond faster, but soon you will exhaust yourself and become anxious. Slow down and assess the situation. Maybe you need more help, maybe the tasks you have to complete in one day are too numerous, or maybe your expectations are unrealistic.  Whatever the case, driving yourself forward is not the answer. Learn to prioritize and be realistic and let the rest go.

Do I regularly multitask?

Constantly doing two or three things at the same time means you do none of them to the best of your ability, and you fail to get the most out of what you are doing. If you’re at your child’s school play and you’re texting, where’s your focus? How much are you enjoying yourself? Juggling is not a good thing to do every day unless you work for the circus. There’s a reason we don’t ask surgeons to re-wire our houses or plumbers to teach physics or professors to cook restaurant meals. I’m sure there are people who are multi-talented but specializing is better for us (and usually better for those around us).

Do I have one or two really good friends I can count on, and do I keep in touch with them?

Social contact with people who know and understand us is supportive and relaxing. Humans are social animals who need nurture, contact, and approval. Make sure you’re getting this. We need to be with people with whom we can just be ourselves and be appreciated for who and how we are. If your family doesn’t fit the bill, seek out friends who do and make sure you nurture these relationships; they can keep you afloat when something goes seriously wrong and support you and engender resilience in everyday life. (see: Weiss, R.S. (1974), The Provisions of Social Relationships)

How much of my day do I spend interacting with electronics instead of people?

This is fine, up to a point. You may be an IT specialist and that’s your job. However, humans need human contact for support, self-worth, and fun. Make sure that you put away your phone and turn off the computer and TV now and again and have an “electronics holiday.” We are not designed to have relationships long distance. Contact and interaction support our humanness and well-being. Make sure you get your share.

What do I do on a daily basis that gives me leisure and/or pleasure?

We all need downtime. Do you have a hobby? Do you read? Do you play a sport? Humans are designed to play, so try to find time for something that you enjoy that gives you a break from your normal tasks. Additionally, do you take pleasure in small everyday things? This can be as simple as a cup of coffee on your way to work, enjoying the view from your office window, or appreciating the man who always says hello to you. Don’t take these things for granted—everyday small pleasures improve our life. You can join in by smiling at people and saying thank you for small courtesies.

How grateful am I?

A sense of gratitude can boost your well-being and even alleviate depression. I suggest that at the end of every day you find at least three things to be thankful for. They can be basic, simple things, such as “the roof over my head” or “legs that take me wherever I want.” This brings into your awareness how fortunate you are. Not everyone has these things. Don’t forget to thank your family, partner, and friends, too. People who feel fortunate and express gratitude are more optimistic and resilient. If you do this every day for a month, the list of positive things you notice will grow exponentially and the list of things that are wrong in your life will shrink and lose their ability to affect you.
Remember, this is my list, compiled from working with clients and monitoring my own bad habits, so not everything on it may resonate with you. We are designed to pick up when things aren’t right for us, so trust your instincts and start to support yourself both physically and mentally—you’ll see your well-being soar.

Posted Sep 16, 2016         Atalanta Beaumont        Handy Hints for Humans