A fool-proof way of sticking to your New Year’s resolution
Author Neil Pasricha takes us through new ways to cultivate happiness and success in 2018.
Neil Pasricha would like to see the end of New Year’s resolutions.
The motivational speaker and bestselling author of “The Book of Awesome” and “The Happiness Equation” says the problem with resolutions is that they tend to be vague and are thus doomed to fail.
“I don’t think resolutions work. I know they don’t work from the research, and I don’t think they’re doing us much good because if you start a resolution and you fail, you just feel worse about yourself,” he told CTV’s Your Morning Wednesday.
The reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail is that they are just goals, not specific plans of action, Pasricha believes. What we need instead are systems that will force us to change our bad behaviours and create new habits.
“Systems beat goals every time,” Pasricha said, and added that if we truly want change, we have to force ourselves to change.
“So if you want to lose 10 pounds, maybe sell your car and walk to work. Now you have no car, so the system is, how will you get to work?” he explained. Any plan that regiments us into new habits will eventually force a shift in behaviour, he said.
One change in habits that Pasricha recently developed for himself is what he calls “two-minute mornings.” Every morning, Pasricha forces himself to take two minutes and “invest” them into reflection and planning out the rest of his day.
“The way I look at it is we are awake for about 1,000 minutes a day. My challenge for myself is to take two minutes to make the other 998 more effective, more productive and more positive,” he explained.
During those two minutes, he forces himself to write out the answers to three prompts: one for looking back; one for being mindful of the right now; and one to look ahead to what’s next. They are:
“I will let go of…”
“I am grateful for…”
“I will focus on…”
The first prompt is a time for some unloading of stress and guilt and a little self-forgiveness– not unlike what Catholics engage in when they step into a confessional.
“We all carry around anxieties and stresses. All of us do. If you think you don’t, you’re lying,” Pasricha said.
By reflecting on what needs to be let go, we can unload some of the stress we needlessly place on ourselves, and perhaps stop comparing ourselves to unfair standards.
The next prompt is designed to move away from guilt, stress and negativity and place the focus on all the things that are good about our lives right now.
Even though we live in a time of great abundance, with longer lifespans than ever, more technology, advanced health care, and less warfare, we’re more stressed and anxious than ever, Pasricha said. By focusing on what we’re grateful for, we can remind ourselves how lucky we are.
“If you focus on the positive, you’ll keep looking for it every day,” Pasricha said.
Finally, he said it’s important to set three small, achievable goals a day. Things such as: calling or emailing a friend; going for an evening walk; being friendly with cashiers and asking them about their day.
The aim is to create bite-sized goals that you then check off as accomplishments at the end of the day
“Take the endless list of things you could do, and narrow it down to three things you will do that day,” Pasricha advised.
Engaging the goal-directed side of your brain can help you override the part that controls your bad habits.
Habits are your brain’s version of autopilot. They allow you to get ready for work, navigate your way to the office, and find your way home without having to reinvent the wheel every day. They save time and energy . . . except when they involve grabbing a candy bar from the vending machine every afternoon at 3 p.m. In cases like this, bad habits can feel like a battle of wills.
To find out why some habits can be hard to make or break, researchers from the University of California performed experiments with mice and found that the brain’s circuits for habit- and goal-directed action compete for control in the area of the brain that makes decisions.
“Neurochemicals called endocannabinoids allow for habit to take over by acting as a sort of brake on the goal-directed circuit,” writes Christina Gremel, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California San Diego who headed up the study that was published in the research journal Neuron.
Endocannabinoids are chemicals that are naturally produced by humans and animals, and receptors are found throughout the body and brain. This system is involved in a variety of physiological processes, such as appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.
Earlier studies found that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is the part of the brain that relays goal-directed information. When researchers increased the output of neurons in the OFC in mice using optogenetics–a technique that involves flashes of light–goal-directed actions also increased. And when they decreased activity in the OFC using chemicals, the mice acted on habit.
A good balance of habitual and goal-directed actions helps with everyday functioning and task management. “We need to be able to make routine actions quickly and efficiently, and habits serve this purpose,” writes Gremel. “However, we also encounter changing circumstances, and need the capacity to ‘break habits’ and perform a goal-directed action based on updated information.”
The brain shifts from habit to goal-directed behavior when we need to drive to a different location, for example. The decision to make or break a habit also relies on goal-directed behavior in the beginning. Healthy mice had no problem shifting from one type to the other, but people with conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction may have a physical problem that inhibits goal-directed action, the study suggests. “It does appear some things we think of as more maladaptive like addiction seem to have a bias toward habit system,” Gremel says. “The goal-directed system is still there, and you can still rescue it. Treatment could be pharmaceutical or might involve behavioral therapy. Further research is needed.”
So what does this mean for that afternoon trip to the vending machine? It’s time to engage the goal-directed side of your brain. If you walk by the vending machine every day on your way back from a meeting, for example, alter your path.
“If you change the context or go about things in a different behavioral pattern, it can help you break out of habit,” says Gremel.
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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).
Genius tips from people whose job it is to make you feel better.
It’s pretty safe to assume that you want to be happy, because…well, who doesn’t? But how to actually make that happen is a little more elusive. BuzzFeed Life talked to a bunch of experts to get their best tips.
Of course, everyone brings their own set of experiences to the table and some people might be living with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety that make things more complicated. But hopefully you might be able to find a few pieces of advice here that can help life feel a little easier.
Heads up: Responses were edited for length.
1. Realize that happiness doesn’t mean having everything you want and being problem-free all the time.
“We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can choose how we respond. When we respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and adopt a victim mentality, we suffer. When we choose to respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening for me and what can I learn?’ then we feel a lot more empowered, which impacts our mental state positively.
The biggest misconception about happiness is that we can outsource it — that something external is going to make us happy. Happiness is NOT a constant state. As humans we experience and grow through a variety of emotions. The expectation that we should be happy all the time will leave anyone with an expectation hangover. What we can be is grateful.”
—Christine Hassler, empowerment coach and author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life
2. Cut “should” from your vocabulary, because it basically guarantees whatever you think “should” happen, won’t.
“When we use the word ‘should,’ it’s like this big, judgmental finger wagging at yourself. ‘I should work out more, I should be happier, I should be more grateful.’ It causes us to feel guilt and shame. It depletes our happiness. It causes us to engage in behaviors that are completely against what we want.
Instead, replace ‘should’ with ‘I would like.’ For example, ‘I’d like to lose weight, because I want to have more energy and be a role model.’ That is more motivational, it’s more based on passion rather than the fear and judgment of ourselves that prevents us from being the people that we want to be.”
—Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love
3. Remember that your negative thoughts are not true. They’re just thoughts.
“Sadly, many people make the mistake of believing the negative things that their ‘inner voice’ tells them, often without even being aware of their right to question whether these things are accurate! When it comes to mental health care, many people still think you will need to spend years exploring your childhood or past in order to get better. That’s simply not the case nowadays. Catch, challenge, and change negative thoughts.”
—Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York
4. Start your day by reminding yourself one positive thing about your life.
“This can be a small observation like enjoying beautiful weather or something more profound like recognizing you have achieved one step towards a life goal (working in the industry you always dreamt of, have a best friend who you are grateful for, etc). We tend to hold onto negatives a lot stronger than positives so this can be a small way to give yourself a moment to check in with the ‘happier’ thoughts and realities.”
5. Anyone can benefit from therapy, so consider making an appointment for a checkup.
“There is a stereotype that many people have about the unique person who chooses to see a therapist. ‘They must be an emotional wreck,’ or ‘they can’t take care of their own problems,’ or ‘they must be crazy.’ That last one is probably the most popular and worst misconception of them all!
It takes a lot of insight and emotional awareness to realize that you want to enlist the services of a trained mental health therapist to get the right help you need. Yes, there are some clients who seek therapy when they are at the absolute lowest emotional point in their lives, but there are also just as many who simply want to become emotionally healthier people to enhance their work and intimate relationships. No problem is too small or large when you come to see one of us. It’s all welcomed because our job is to meet you where you are at in life, not where we or anyone else thinks you should be.”
—Gabriela Parra, LCSW, California-based counselor
6. Don’t think about your work responsibilities at home, and vice versa.
“Be present when present, which requires dropping the guilt. Guilt has no benefits for anyone. When you are at work, stay focused, when you are home, give [it] your undivided attention. Doing your best in each place will keep you sane and feeling good about your output.”
—Samantha Ettus, work-life balance expert
7. Stop checking your smartphone randomly. Instead, give yourself specific times to catch up on social media and email.
“Most people would be happier (and less stressed) if they checked their phone less. A study of college students at Kent State University found that people who check their phones frequently tend to experience higher levels of distress during their leisure time (when they intend to relax!).
Instead of willing ourselves to just check less often, we can configure our devices and work time so that we are tempted less often. The goal is to check email, social media, and messages on your phone just a few times a day — intentionally, not impulsively. Our devices are thus returned to their status as tools we use strategically — not slot machines that randomly demand our energy and attention.”
—Christine Carter, Ph.D., happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work
8. Make keeping up with your friendships a priority.
“People think that when work or school or family responsibilities get busy, then hanging out with your friends becomes a luxury that has to be cut. It’s often the first thing to go, even if people are still going to the gym or binge-watching whatever’s new on Netflix. In reality, making sure to spend time with your friends has enormous mental health benefits, and keeps your stress level in check. It’s a great coping mechanism and a necessity for your health that should not be cut when things get tough — on the contrary, you need it more then than ever.”
—Andrea Bonior, Ph.D, clinical psychologist
9. Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.
Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.
“A lot of people rush around without devoting a few minutes each week to reflecting and strategizing. We may all recognize we’ve periodically contemplated signing up to volunteer at Big Brother Big Sister, then totally forget. Or we mean to switch jobs and then procrastinate, [then] we’re facing our second year in a position we planned to quickly exit.
As Greg McKeown notes in his book, Essentialism, ‘When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and times, other people — our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families — will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.’
Spend time each week planning ahead — plan activities you may enjoy in the moment and also think bigger, considering what you want long term.”
—Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D., clinical psychologist
10. Treat yourself with compassion and lots of love.
“People believe that self-care is selfish, so they avoid doing things that are actually necessities. Self-love, self-care, and self-fulfillment. It’s a lot of self, because happiness starts from within. Self-love includes eliminating negative self-talk and accepting yourself, flaws and all. Self-care means setting boundaries and taking time to refill your energy. Self-fulfillment is all about living your values and having authentic relationships.”
—Rachel DeAlto, communications and relationship expert
11. Don’t forget that your physical health has an impact on your mental health, too.
“Some physical things you can do to create a habit of happiness:
—Honor your circadian rhythm by waking shortly after sunrise and going to sleep a few hours after sunset. Not only do we need seven to nine hours of sleep in order to be happy, but our brain functions better by sharing the rhythm of the sun.
—Incorporate play into your life: Some easy ways to this are when you exercise, do something that makes you laugh, like a dance class, jumping on a trampoline, or playing a group sport.
—Meditate. This can be as simple as an app [like] Headspace.”
—Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., clinical psychologist
12. Several times throughout your day, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is OK. Eventually, your brain will get the memo.
“The bills may be piling up with you having no idea of how they are going to get paid. Your mother may have Alzheimer’s, and dealing with that is wearing you out. You may be starting to wonder if there really is someone out there for you. BUT in this moment, your heart is beating, you’re breathing, and you have food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Underneath all the circumstances, desires, and wants, you’re OK. While fixing dinner, walking through the grocery store, driving to work, or reading emails, come into the present moment and remind your brain, ‘I’m all right, right now.’
Over time with repetition, learning to come into the present and calming your brain and body will actually change the neural pathways in your brain — a scientific truth called neuroplasticity — so that this becomes the norm for you.”
—Debbie Hampton, founder of The Best Brain Possible and author of Beat Depression and Anxiety By Changing Your Brain
13. Make a conscious effort to take care of your mental health the same way you would your physical health.
“Too many people neglect to make their mental health a priority! And so it gets forgotten about and put in the ‘too-hard’ or ‘too-busy.’ But just like physical health, mental health really should be considered non-negotiable because without it, we have nothing else.
If I had to limit the key ingredients to happiness and good mental health to just a few I’d say good quality relationships and connectedness, good physical health and well-being, living a life with meaning and purpose, loving oneself and others, and having a sense of hope and optimism for the future.”
—Timothy Sharp, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of 100 Ways To Happiness: A Guide for Busy People.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For some people, failure becomes a permanent roadblock between them and success. For the mentally strong, however, setbacks are an opportunity to sharpen skills and become better at what they do. Whether they are passed up for a promotion or their side hustle costs more money than it earns, mentally strong people don’t let failure define them.
Here’s how mentally strong people turn setbacks into comebacks:
1. They keep failure in proper perspective.
Mentally strong people don’t get overly upset when things don’t go as planned. Instead, they keep setbacks in proper perspective. They intentionally regulate their thoughts and manage their emotions so they can continue to behave productively, despite any hardships they face.
2. They practice self-compassion.
Rather than beat themselves up for not getting it right the first time, mentally strong people maintain a productive inner dialogue. They talk to themselves the same way they’d speak to a trusted friend—with kind and supportive words of encouragement.
3. They choose to be grateful.
Instead of becoming upset that their first attempt didn’t work, mentally strong people choose to be grateful for opportunities to try new things. Their willingness to look for the silver lining keeps their mood positive as they commit to moving forward.
4. They respect their vulnerabilities.
Mentally strong people use failure as an opportunity to spot their weaknesses. Rather than dispute their shortcomings or hide their mistakes, they seek to be authentic. A humble, self-aware approach helps them develop strategies to become a better person.
5. They acknowledge their strengths.
Setbacks give mentally strong people chances to evaluate their strengths, but they acknowledge their positive attributes without arrogance; they don’t need to brag about their characteristics or achievements. Instead, they simply recognize what they do well so they can build upon these existing strengths.
6. They create a plan to become better.
Mentally strong people view failure as part of the long road to success. They turn each setback into an opportunity to gather more information. Armed with more knowledge, they create a plan to try again.
7. They maintain a healthy self-worth.
A mentally strong person’s self-worth is contingent upon who he is, not what he does. As long as they behave according to their values, mentally strong people feel good about themselves, regardless of their personal or professional failures. Their confidence helps them find the courage to get back up each time they fall.
Build Mental Strength
Building mental strength is similar to building physical strength. You can perform exercises and develop healthy habits—and give up your unproductive habits—to build mental muscle every day. The stronger you grow, the more likely you’ll be to turn your next setback into your biggest comeback.
Aug 29, 2016 Amy Morin LCSW AUTHOR OF What Mentally Strong People Don’t Do