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Counselors Explain Emotional Intelligence and 3 Ways to Use It

Emotional intelligence is a concept that has been on the rise for a couple of decades. But it has existed as an idea since the 1960s. It promotes the idea of an alternative intelligence to IQ, creating the idea that book smarts and socially normative views of intelligence may not be all there is to our brains and life.

So, what is emotional intelligence? Is it important? Is it necessary? Can it be built? Do you have it, and if you do, what can you do with it? And if you don’t, is that a bad thing? Read on to find out what emotional intelligence is and three ways to use it!

WHAT IS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?

Let’s look at the hallmarks that define this concept.

1.    DEFINING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence, often shortened to EQ or EI, refers to the ability to use, handle, perceive, manage, and understand different emotions. This idea applies to both yourself and others. Its use as a term surged in popularity in the mid-1990s. More recently, it has been touted as a highly positive and valid form of intelligence.

Someone with high EQ would presumably handle awkward situations, social environments, and interactions with others with grace. Someone with low EQ may struggle to understand why someone is sad, angry, or happy, even if the reasons seem perfectly obvious to others. This is a common experience of neurodivergent individuals who struggle with social cues or “normal” emotional affairs.

Having low EQ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, most people do want to increase their emotional intelligence. Indeed, there are many positive things that research has associated with high emotional intelligence, such as:

  • Better job performance
  • Improved leadership skills
  • Higher levels of positive thinking
  • Better mental health
  • Improved relationships
  • Positive influence over others

There has been a fair bit of controversy about emotional intelligence over the years, with questions about whether or not emotional intelligence is valid when compared to or used in tandem with the Big Five personality traits or standard IQ. Luckily, research has found that emotional intelligence maintains its validity even with those factors accounted for.

2.    COMPONENTS OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence seems like a pretty abstract concept, but there’s more theory behind it than you may think. Experts have even been able to properly identify emotional intelligence features across different people, leading to what we know about the composition of EQ.

Daniel Goleman is credited with coining the term “emotional intelligence,” and his book about his research and theories on the subject identified five components of emotional intelligence. Here are those components:

·         SELF-REGULATION

Self-regulation allows you to take note of your emotional responses to things and ensure that they are appropriate and proportionate to the inciting incident. It means being aware of the consequences of your actions, being able to pause before deciding on behavior, and pushing yourself to bring out your own best.

·         EMPATHY

Emotional intelligence does have to make you focused on yourself and your actions, but that doesn’t mean it makes you self-centered. Those with high EQ can put themselves in the shoes of others and understand where they come from, even if they’ve never been in that situation before. You don’t judge people, using your own experiences as a guide.

·         SELF-AWARENESS

Being aware of your motivations, patterns, and thoughts is a crucial part of emotional intelligence. It allows you to be mindful of how your actions affect the world and the people around you, as well as yourself. You know what you feel, you know how to understand what you think and their triggers, and you’re under no illusions about your strengths and weaknesses.

·         SOCIAL SKILLS

You don’t need to be a social butterfly to have the social skills necessary for emotional intelligence. Mostly, this component means you can work with other people, are capable of conflict resolution, and develop positive communication techniques like active listening and welcoming body language. You would likely also know how to build relationships with others.

·         MOTIVATION

Emotional intelligence requires a degree of intrinsic motivation – a desire to do well and improve for yourself and your development. Your idea of success is defined by you and you alone, not by what other people try to push you into. You’re more likely to seek out goals that improve your personal growth over material goals, though there’s also nothing wrong with seeking material goals at the same time.

If you’re looking to build or increase your emotional intelligence, these are the five factors you’ll likely want to focus on improving the most. Although some people believe that emotional intelligence is innate and unchangeable, it can certainly be built and improved on, like any other skill or form of intelligence.

It is worth noting that – as is with all research and theories – there are some criticisms of Goleman’s explanation of these five components. As such, it is advised that you do some of your research or seek a professional opinion as you try to build your EQ!

Emotional_intelligence

THREE WAYS TO USE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Here are three ways to put EI to work to improve your life.

1.    STOP BEING REACTIVE

It’s easy to immediately follow an impulse to react to the situations unfolding around you, whether they’re positive or negative. In cases of conflict, adverse events, or unexpected life changes, you may jump straight to a defensive mode instead of pausing to think about things.

You can use your emotional intelligence to control these impulses. Instead of reacting to things, respond to them. Use your knowledge of actions and consequences, your empathy skills, and mindfulness of your emotions to take a pause and think of how to respond to different situations.

The goal of any adverse event is to resolve it. While you can’t always tackle these events with positive thinking, you can certainly think about how to best move forward instead of simply reacting based on your emotions. With your EQ, you can consciously adjust your response to fit the situation and work towards solving problems instead of responding to them and accidentally exacerbating them in the process.

2.    LEARN ABOUT OTHERS

High emotional intelligence allows you to learn more about the people around you more quickly than those with low emotional intelligence. Better yet, the more you know about others, the more likely you are to develop even more emotional intelligence! Here are some ways to learn about others:

·         UNDERSTAND WHAT OTHERS WANT AND EXPECT

Different people are driven by different things and want other things out of their world and goals. Understanding those driving forces and desires is crucial to gaining a complete picture of the people around you. It can show you how to best communicate with, relate to, and appeal to those individuals. If you’re in a leadership position, this will also help you work better with your team and cooperate with those around you!

·         ASK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES

Emotional intelligence can drive you to be genuinely curious about other people, their lives, and what they’ve been through. Use that to your advantage by showcasing your genuine interest and asking questions. Demonstrate that you’re genuinely interested in hearing about other people and what advice they have to share, and you’ll get to expand your horizons and impressively widen your worldview.

·         PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING

If you want to get people to talk to you, you have to show that you’re engaged, and emotional intelligence equips you with the ability to be! But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go the extra mile to make people feel heard. Use open body language, turn towards the people that speak, make good eye contact, and indicate your understanding.

3.    FOCUS ON “WE” INSTEAD OF “ME.”

As human beings, we’re all in the same boat – just trying to navigate life in the best way possible. Use emotional intelligence to keep that in mind as you go through your daily experiences and interact with the people around you.

When you connect to other people, it becomes evident that things aren’t really about you. Besides that, they’re certainly not about you versus them. Instead, there’s a collective sense that everyone in the world is in this life together.

People with low emotional intelligence may struggle to be there for other people or charitably view others because they consider their fate and life entirely isolated from those around them. Your EQ can remind you that this is not the case.

We’re all on a ship sailing through the tumultuous sea of life. If someone’s side of the ship gets damaged, you don’t shrug and say, “that’s your side, so I’m staying out of it.”  Instead, you recognize that we all need to work together and keep each other afloat and healthy. Otherwise, we all go down!

This is, of course, not to say that you should feel responsible for other people and their decisions. Instead, it is a reminder to use your emotional intelligence to form team-like bonds with others instead of competing with the people around you or judging them for their struggles.

Of course, this also goes for accepting criticism. Many people struggle to accept criticism in their lives. Don’t let that be you! You can learn so much from the feedback that the people around you provide, so don’t react to any constructive statements that sound bad at first. Put on your positive thinking, absorb what’s being said, and use that information to improve.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON SOME WAYS TO USE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence is a valuable tool, and it can make your life, interactions, and career better in many ways. It’s a great skill to build and showcase, and it can help you build stronger, healthier relationships with others and feel more fulfilled with your situation.

If you have low emotional intelligence, don’t feel discouraged! People can improve their emotional intelligence to some degree, at least on a cognitive level, and you certainly can, too.

If you struggle with some aspects of emotional intelligence, you can also communicate your difficulties with it; for example, difficulty comprehending social cues or emotions, as a symptom of neuro-divergence, is something that the people in your life can learn to accommodate.

The bottom line is that emotional intelligence, while necessary, doesn’t have to be something innate, and it’s okay if you have trouble with some of its components. Learning to work on the things you can change, especially with a therapist or similar professional, works wonders!

Lakeisha Ethans      August 13, 2021


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Ikigai: Your Reason for Being

What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?
When asked what is the single most powerful contributing factor to one’s health and vitality, integrative medical doctor Oscar Serrallach answered without hesitation: having a sense of purpose. Serrallach went on to describe that while some of his patients have developed great regimes of nutrition, lifestyle activities and movement to support their wellbeing; those without a clear sense of purpose in their life experience continuing struggle with physical health issues. The distinguishing quality of many of his healthiest patients – those who  transcend common health challenges despite not having lived by the book, in terms of healthy lifestyle factors – is that they seem to be the most aligned or ‘called’ towards some primary focus of meaning in their life.

Japanese culture actually has a word which addresses this focus. The word is ikigai and translates simply as, ‘reason for being’.

What is Your ‘Reason for Being’?
According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. To find it often requires deep enquiry and lengthy ‘search of self’ – a search which is highly regarded.

The term ikigai is composed of two Japanese words: iki referring to life, and kai, which roughly means “the realisation of what one expects and hopes for”. Unpacking the word and its associated symbol a bit further, ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:

  • What you Love (your passion)
  • What the World Needs (your mission)
  • What you are Good at (your vocation)
  • What you can get Paid for (your profession)

The word ikigai, that space in the middle of these four elements, is seen as the source of value or what make one’s life truly worthwhile. In Okinawa, Japan, ikigai is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning”. Interestingly, while certainly incorporating the financial aspects of life, the word is more often used to refer to the mental and spiritual state behind our circumstance as opposed to our current economic status alone. Even if we are moving through a dark or challenging time, if we are moving with purpose, if we are feeling called toward something or have a clear goal in mind, we may still experience ikigai. Often the behaviors that make us feel ikigai are not the ones we are forced to take based on the expectations of the world around us, but rather they are the natural actions and spontaneous responses that emerge from a deep and direct connection to life.

 

Ikigai

The Question of Purpose
Many ancient indigenous cultures took time to honour the question of purpose through ceremony, vision quest and rites of passage in order to help reveal the essential role that each member was born to play in the greater tribe and story of life; though the space and reverence for this question does not always seem to exist today. For many, our decisions around life-focus unfold in a more reactionary way, propelling us into educational, professional and life-directional paths based less on deep inner calling or soul-inspired vision, and more on societal expectations, so-called ‘practical reality’ and what is required to survive in the systems we’ve created to live in.

The truth is, if there was ever a time on our planet where a sense of true purpose was needed, required, or desperately called for, now would be that time. But amidst the multi-layered pressures of our modern world, how do we peel back the layers and discover why we are here and what we are really supposed to be doing?

American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell shared his view on fulfilling our purpose when he said,

My general formula for my students is,

 ‘Follow your bliss.’ Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it .

Sacred Activism, encourages us on the other hand to find our purpose by ‘following our heartbreak’. Andrew Harvey calls us to discover that which is most deeply disturbing in our world and to use this as a catalyst to propel our actions and discover where we can make the biggest difference.

Meanwhile, philosopher and civil rights leader Howard W Thurman said:

 Don’t ask what the world needs. 

 Ask what makes you come alive and do that… 

 Because what the world really needs is people who have come alive. 

While each of these viewpoints are powerfully compelling in their own right, whether we are following our bliss, following our heartbreak, or that which makes us come alive (or a combination of all three!), for many of us there is also an apparent need to follow that which pays the bills each month and allows us to cover the basic necessities of life. So how do we balance all of these factors in the creation of a life which is meaningful, purposeful and aligned with our true calling? Is it possible to have it all? The essence of ikigai gives us a framework to balance these elements into a cohesive whole.

Passion as a Vehicle for Change and Contribution
As the world moves through massive change on many levels, more and more people are feeling called to align their skills and gifts with a higher cause or sense of contribution. Beautiful examples are emerging in many arenas of social change and activism where people are not abandoning their passion for the cause but rather channeling the thing they most love doing in the direction of positive change – and discovering inspired ways to support themselves along the way.

Sixteen year old rapper, dancer and global youth director of Earth Guardians Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a living example of ikigai, blending his creative gifts and passion for the Earth in the rise of a world-wide youth-lead revolution in support of future generations.  Poet/rapper/Facebook sensation Prince Ea has woven his love and concern for humanity and Earth with a gift for capturing profound messages into powerfully creative 3-5 minute videos – an expression of ikigai which galvanises the energy and support of millions of people online each week. Visionary art therapist and yoga teacher Atira Tan responded to her “heartbreak” witnessing child sex trafficking in Asia and has discovered incredible passion and aliveness through the sharing of her global foundation Art2Healing, bringing justice and transformational healing and movement arts to those who have suffered from this experience.

Youth Director of Earth Guardians, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, in hip-hop expression of ikigaiYouth Director of Earth Guardians, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, in hip-hop expression of ikigai.
The truth is many of the challenges we face in today’s world are not simple, technical challenges. They are complex, multi-dimensional issues which will require expansive, multi-dimensional thinking and action. The type of thinking, action and energy that emerges naturally when we are in the throes of creative expression or connection with others. When we are immersed in any endeavor that brings us into our hearts, that makes us come alive – and we are bringing ourselves fully to it – instantly we become more generative, more magnetic and more dynamic in our ability to navigate challenges and discover pathways of breakthrough.

What is Your Ikigai?
Take a moment to draw your own version of the overlapping circles of the ikigai symbol and consider the following:

  • What do you Love? What aspects of your life bring you into your heart and make you come alive?
  • What are you Great at? What unique skills do you have that come most naturally to you? What talents have you cultivated and what do you excel at even when you aren’t trying?
  • What Cause do you believe in? What breaks your heart or pulls at your gut? What change would you most love to create in the world? What would you give your life for?
  • What do people Value and pay you for? What service, value or offering do you bring, or could you bring, that brings real value to others? Something people need and are happy to pay for or share some value in exchange?

Take a few minutes to write whatever key words, phrases, and ideas come up for you in each circle, then look for areas of natural overlap. Reflect on the sum total of these elements and how they may relate to each other. Bring yourself quietly to the centre of the circles and leave space in your mind for whatever impulse or calling may emerge naturally in the coming days… What is one simple thing you could do or be today that would be an expression of your ikigai?

By Chip Richards        Monday January 14th, 2019
 


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Forget New Year’s Health Goals, Try ‘Monday Resolutions’ Instead

With the end of the year approaching, it’s not uncommon to start thinking about health goals for the new year, like losing weight, eating healthier, exercising and quitting smoking. But though we may have good intentions, choosing January 1 to make promises to get on a healthier track year-round doesn’t always work. In fact, according to a 2017 Marist poll, about a third of people who make a New Year’s resolution fail to stick with it.

This doesn’t mean we should give up on setting health goals for the new year. But it does mean we might need to rethink our goal-setting strategies.

Monday resolutions

According to some experts, rather than setting a year-long goal at the start of the year, a more effective approach is to make “Monday resolutions”: weekly goals that can be thought of as mini-resolutions, taking advantage of the natural momentum of our weekly cycles, giving us a chance to start fresh each week.

“If I mess up my diet on Tuesday or Wednesday, I know I can get back on track the following Monday,” said Lindsay Schwartz, a busy mom of two based in New York, who aims to eat healthfully and stay fit but finds herself eating one too many of her kids’ Charleston Chews left over from a birthday party or her own favorite indulgence, a handful of Lindt chocolates. There’s no sense starting again on Thursday or Friday, or even Saturday, and Sunday is basically a “free-for-all,” according to Schwartz. “Monday is the only day that will work.”

Unlike other days of the week, Mondays offer the opportunity for a health reset, when you might set intentions, celebrate progress or simply get back on your plan.

“Monday can be thought of as the New Year’s of the week – a time to refresh and put our past bad deeds behind us and try and do better in the coming week,” said Joanna Cohen, director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Institute for Global Tobacco Control.

Peggy Neu, president of The Monday Campaigns initiative, agrees that “it makes achieving our health goals more sustainable. New Year’s only comes around once per year, but Mondays come every seven days. You basically get 52 chances a year to stay on track.”

Focusing on a new goal or health initiative each week that will build on the previous is also an excellent way to ease someone into a new healthier lifestyle, said Marjorie Cohn, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Monday resolutions can help create more tangible positive outcomes for people to recognize.”

Reflecting on small successes can be empowering. “Setting mini-goals creates a feeling of accomplishment, and when someone feels positive, they tend to make more positive choices. It’s the snowball effect,” Cohn said.

This may be especially true when it comes to weight loss. “Losing 50 to 100 pounds seems impossible. The amount of work, the length of time, the reality of it seems daunting and can truly deter people from even trying,” said Amy Shapiro, registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition, a New York-based private health practice. “When we break it up into weekly goals, it helps to see progress, feel confident, reach benchmarks and feel motivated to continue.”

Using Monday as a cue for quitting smoking can be particularly beneficial, according to Cohen. “For most people, it takes multiple tries to actually quit for good. But there’s a lot of self-learning that happens each time you try. With a weekly cue, you get to try again more often and learn more quickly and hopefully be more successful sooner, versus only trying to quit on New Year’s Day,” Cohen said.
In fact, research shows that Mondays are a natural opportunity to engage smokers and reduce their likelihood of relapse. “It’s the January of the week, the day that smokers are looking for help,” Cohen said.

New-Years

 

The Monday effect on health

In a study titled “What’s the healthiest day?” published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Cohen and her colleagues set out to determine whether there were any “circaseptan” or weekly patterns in health-promoting behaviors among individuals. The goal was to figure out whether the days of the week seem to make a difference in terms of when people are thinking about improving their health.

“It made sense from a practical perspective that at end of the week are parties, and you may not necessarily be at your healthiest. … Maybe you are eating more food than you should. And the idea was that maybe, when you get to the beginning of the week again, it’s behind you, and you might think of being healthier.”

Cohen’s team looked at people’s Google searches from 2005 to 2012, particularly search terms that included the word “healthy.”

“We looked at things like ‘healthy recipes,’ ‘healthy diet,’ those sort of things, to see if there were patterns in searches by day of the week. And indeed, at the beginning of the week – specifically Monday and Tuesday – more people are searching for healthy things, and then it sort of drops off as you get closer to the weekend,” Cohen said.

In fact, Monday and Tuesday “healthy” searches were 30% greater than the combined Wednesday through Sunday average. “You make the connection that the searches are an expression of what people are thinking about … and people are thinking about being healthier earlier in the week rather than later in the week,” Cohen said.

The Monday Campaigns

Cohen’s research revealed that for people who want to help others be healthier, it might make sense to reach them in the beginning of the week instead of a Friday or Saturday, when they are less likely to be thinking about being healthier. Her research helped to inform the Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit initiative that has taken the foundational concept of Monday as a health reset and applied it to health behaviors, providing individuals and organizations with tools and resources to help them achieve their health goals.

Monday Campaigns include “Kids Cook Monday,” “Meatless Monday,” “Move it Monday,” “Quit and Stay Quit Monday” and “DeStress Monday.”

For example, “Move it Monday” developed “The Monday Mile,” an activity designed to help people start their week moving together. “All you have to do is map a route wherever you’re at, gather your group and have fun walking!” said Shannon Monnat, the Lerner Chair for Public Health Promotion at Syracuse University.

“Many organizations, universities and cities have adopted the Monday Mile activity and have seen great results,” said Monnat, who has relied on resources from Move It Monday to help implement 30 permanent, easily accessible Monday Mile routes for Syracuse community members to jump-start their weekly physical activity goals.

Camille Casaretti, the PTA wellness chair at P.S. 32 in Brooklyn, started “Kids Cook Monday” in her home before bringing the initiative to her children’s school about three years ago. The program encourages families to make and eat tasty nutritious meals together and provides nutritious kid-friendly family recipes, like an “eye see you stir-fry.”

Casaretti’s daughter is a fussy eater, but the initiative has helped her daughter become a star chef.

“My daughter is 10 now, and she can basically make an entire dinner meal now by herself from start to finish,” Casaretti said.

“Just the awareness of fresh fruits and vegetables has become a regular conversation at our dinner table,” she said. “When we go to the market, my kids know where all the vegetables are. … They know how to read labels on packaged foods, and they are very aware of what is being marketed to them, and that helps them to make better choices in what they are eating.”

“Kids Cook Monday” has been very well-received at P.S. 32, according to Casaretti. “Parents really enjoy coming out with their family and cooking a meal together. We have cutting boards and knives that aren’t too sharp, and a variety of recipes, which are sent out in advance.” Recipe directions include “kid,” “adult” and “together” steps.

“The black-eyed pea stir-fry is delicious. It has kale in it, and we had just been introducing kale in the cafeteria as part of the school foods menu. The recipe is really great. It’s really easy to make, and the kids, parents and staff all loved it. It was really a winner.”

So whether your goal for the New Year is to cook more with your children, lose weight, get moving or quit smoking, just think: “Monday” is the new “January 1.”

By Lisa Drayer, CNN         Wed December 26, 2018
Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, an author and a CNN health and nutrition contributor. 
source: www.cnn.com


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The Top 3 Reasons Why You Self-Sabotage and How to Stop

Faulty thinking and fear of failure play a part.

It’s easy to sabotage yourself when you’re trying to meet an important goal, like developing healthier habits, getting assignments done on time, saving money, managing weight, or building healthy relationships. Self-sabotage isn’t just one thing — it can have many causes — but the end result is that you get off track, mess up relationships, don’t get things done, or don’t perform as well as you would like. All of this can lead to feeling bad about yourself and expecting to fail, which leads to more self-sabotage to avoid facing failure head-on, which perpetuates the cycle.

Below are some of the ways in which you may sabotage yourself and suggestions for what to do instead. My colleague and fellow Psychology Today blogger Alice Boyes has an excellent new book out called The Healthy Mind Toolkit, which provides simple, practical psychological tools to help you stop self-sabotaging and develop healthy habits and attitudes instead.

Why do you sabotage yourself?

There are many reasons for self-sabotage, but three of the most important ones involve your thinking patterns, fears you may have in intimate relationships, and the tendency to avoid things that are difficult or uncomfortable. Read on to find out more.

1. Faulty thinking

Our human brains tend to be wired to cling to the familiar, to overestimate risk, and to avoid trying new approaches. This tendency, known as the familiarity heuristic, leads us to overvalue the things we know and undervalue things that are unfamiliar. And when we are under stress, we tend to rely on the familiarity heuristic even more. When our brains are tired, we resort to old habits and ways of doing things, even if they don’t work well. We are drawn to go with the familiar, even when a different option offers a clear advantage.

In one study, researchers asked subjects to do a complicated word puzzle. One group performed under time pressure, while the other was told to take as much time as they needed. After the puzzle was done, subjects were told they had to do another puzzle, but were given a choice between a longer puzzle invented by the same person who designed the first puzzle or a short puzzle designed by somebody they did not know. The group who performed under more stressful conditions (time pressure) were more likely to choose the longer puzzle, even though this would put them at a disadvantage. It’s as if their brains got confused trying to compare the advantages of length versus familiarity, and so they resorted to the “familiarity heuristic.”

It’s not always easy to tell when your brain is relying on a heuristic. Try to make important decisions when you’re not stressed and to consider the pros and cons of each choice, rather than just going with something that intuitively sounds like the best choice (but may not be).

2. Fear of intimacy or fear of rejection

We all know people who sabotage relationships when they reach a certain level of intimacy. Some people cheat, others pick fights or get controlling to push the person away, still others reveal all their insecurities or become too needy and clingy. These are all unconscious ways in which our brains fear getting trapped or rejected if we get too close. Many of these patterns are based on childhood relationships with caregivers. If you have “insecure attachment,” you may unconsciously fear repeating the past. Perhaps your parent was rejecting or neglectful, critical, inconsistent, or you had to be the “parentified child.” Parts of our brains remember this pain and begin to act in adult relationships as if we are with our parent (or perhaps do the complete opposite in an extreme way, which gets us into trouble as well).

If your fear of intimacy or rejection is strong, it is better to mindfully allow your insecure or fearful feelings to be there, while actively working to find healthy, mature ways of talking about them, rather than running away or pushing people away. You need to remind yourself that you are an adult now and have a much greater capacity to tolerate stress and rejection and to take care of yourself than you did as a child. Also remind yourself of what you have to gain by staying engaged. Try to be more self-aware and to notice the effects of your behavior patterns on your relationship happiness.

success

3. Procrastination and avoidance

A third way you may self-sabotage is by not dealing with problems until they get so big that you are forced to deal with them. Or not being able to discipline yourself to get work done on time. There are several potential reasons for procrastinating and avoiding. You may never have learned the skills to break tasks up into smaller pieces, or you may be too tired to plan out a schedule for doing the work. Alternatively, you may feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task or feel like an imposter who doesn’t have what it takes to succeed. Self-sabotaging by not getting started, staying up too late, or going out with friends or watching television instead of working is a very common pattern. In the short term, you manage to avoid the discomfort of an anxiety-provoking or boring and unrewarding task. But in the long term, the things you’ve put off come back to bite you.

You may also procrastinate and avoid because you are perfectionistic, overthink things, or can’t decide where to begin. All of these tendencies tend to have an anxiety component. You can counteract them by giving yourself a time limit to choose or by allowing yourself to make an imperfect choice. It helps to see yourself as being able to learn from experience and improve over time. This is what researcher Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset makes the possibility of failure less scary, whereas if you see your abilities as fixed, you are more likely to avoid performance situations or sabotage  yourself so your weaknesses won’t be clearly exposed.

Procrastination and avoidance (as well as addictive behavior) can also be ways of not taking responsibility for your actions. These behaviors allow you to blame outside factors, like not having enough time, if you do poorly, rather than admitting your role in not using your time well. Some of us fear success, because we shun the limelight or fear that others will expect more from us than we can deliver. But rather than facing this fear head-on, we tend to set ourselves up for failure instead.

Take-Home Message

When it comes to self-sabotage, one size doesn’t fit all. You may be too tired and stressed to think through complex choices and instead rely on easy (but inaccurate) heuristics. You may sabotage relationships, because you fear closeness and intimacy or fear rejection. Or you may procrastinate and avoid, because you fear failure or lack planning and time management skills. The solution differs depending on the area of self-sabotage. Getting enough rest and not taking on too much can help you think more clearly and make better choices. Understanding the roots of your fears of intimacy and rejection and taking small steps towards more closeness can help in the relationship arena. And taking more responsibility for planning and motivating yourself and adopting a growth mindset can help with procrastination at work.

References
Boyes, Alice (2018). The Healthy Mind Toolkit. TarcherPerigree

Jun 11, 2018

Melanie Greenberg Ph.D.


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Here’s How to Make Yourself Love Exercise

It’s not just you: Many people are turned off by the thought of exercise because they think it has to be intense or time-consuming. But the findings of a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health suggests that people could learn to enjoy being active simply by tweaking those beliefs and expectations.

So says the study’s lead author Michelle Segar, director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center, who’s spent years researching what motivates people to get and stay physically fit. (She’s also author of  No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.) Too often, she says, people begin exercise programs to lose weight, and quit when they don’t shed pounds right away.

In her new study, she and her colleagues asked 40 women about what really makes them feel happy and successful. Then they analyzed how their views about working out either fostered or undermined those feelings. The diverse group of women were all between ages 22 and 49.

All of the women—whether they were regular exercisers or not—turned out to want the same things out of life: to have meaningful connections with others, to feel relaxed and free of pressure during their leisure time and to accomplish the goals they’d set for themselves, whether in their personal lives, their careers or simply their daily to-do lists.

The big difference, the researchers found, was that women who were inactive viewed exercise as counterproductive to those things. In order for exercise to be valid, they thought, it had to be seriously heart-pumping and sweat-inducing—the complete opposite of the “relaxing” feeling they wanted from their free time.

They also felt that following an exercise program took up too much time and put too much pressure on them, and that it was too difficult to commit to a schedule and meet expectations, leaving them feeling like failures.

But women in the study who were regularly active didn’t share these views. For them, exercise went hand-in-hand with their desires for social connectivity, relaxing leisure time and feeling accomplished.

That shift in mindset has to happen for women who aren’t currently active, says Segar. “These women feel alienated by exercise, or feel that they’ve failed when they tried it in the past,” she says. “They have a very narrow definition of what exercise should look like.”

Segar says that definition comes from decades of messaging from fitness companies and older scientific research that suggesting that high-intensity activity is the only way for exercise to be worthwhile. “That’s no longer true,” she says. “The new recommendations for physical activity really open the door for people to pretty much do anything that works for them.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that for “substantial health benefits,” adults should get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. It’s true that additional benefits can be gained from more (or more intense) exercise, but Segar says this is a good starting point for many Americans who currently lead sedentary lives.

Instead of thinking about exercise as an alternative to enjoying free time or socializing with friends, she recommends framing it as a way to make those things happen. “Women need to give themselves permission to use physical activity as a way to relax—to get together with friends or loved ones and take a leisurely stroll, simply because being active and outdoors boosts their mood and makes them feel good.”

While walking is an easy way to squeeze in more movement throughout the day, she also encourages people to get creative. “If you liked biking as a kid, rent a bike and see if it still feels good,” she says. “Play tag with your kids, take a dance class or even just climb the stairs a few extra times while you’re doing chores around the house.”Most importantly, Segar says, people need to know that any physical activity is better than no physical activity. “You don’t have to do 30 minutes at a time, you don’t have to sweat and you don’t have to hate whatever it is you’re doing,” she says. “You just have to choose to move when you see opportunities.”

 

Amanda MacMillan       May 30, 2017
source: TIME Health


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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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Follow These 6 Steps to Stress Less and Stay Motivated

Stress. It’s that slap-in-the-face feeling you get when there are too many demands, too many people to please, and too little time to get it all done.

This is not a pleasant or productive state to be in.

Sure, a little stress can be motivating and even energizing, but even working best under pressure has its limits. Eventually, it becomes physically, mentally, and emotionally draining.

When you reach that point, you don’t want to do anything. You’re tense, on edge, and mentally blocked.

If you’ve hit your stress limit, here’s a quick checklist to keep yourself calm and moving on:

1. Remember that you are enough.

When you’re stuck in not-good-enough mode, it can feel like you’re always doing something wrong. This only makes a stressful situation worse.

It’s a vicious cycle, and soon all you seem to see are your flaws. You feel weak and defeated. You lose motivation, energy, and creativity, and you’re convinced that you can’t cut it.

What if this time you remembered that you are enough? What would you do differently when things get tough?

You have nothing but stress to lose by trying.

2. Put on your own mask first.

You can’t do anything unless you are taking care of yourself. It’s nearly impossible to think clearly and stay motivated when you aren’t fueling, resting, and recharging your body and mind.

When your gut reaction to stress is hunkering down and pushing harder to get through it, it usually means doing less of the things that improve your mood and outlook on the situation. This might work for a little while, but eventually you get burned out.

Break the cycle by handling stress strategically. Ask yourself what one thing you could change about your self-care to help you through this stressful time. Give it the time it deserves as you test out that change.

Your body, mind, and productivity will thank you for it.

peace-begins-expectation-ends

3. Let go of

No matter where you are in life, “should” and “supposed to” usually end in stress. This self-talk adds pain to an already upsetting situation.

This may surprise you, but “should” also helps you solve problems a lot less than you might think. Rather than facing a problem head-on as it is, it gets you frustrated about what it is not. This gets you nowhere fast.

Relieve your stress and keep up your motivation by making the move from should to solution. Ask what you can do about the situation as it is right now.

 4. Let go of comparison and competition.

Comparison and competition can be motivating when the conditions are right, but they sure can backfire. They can put you under constant pressure and make it feel like your entire worth as a person hinges on keeping up. When this goes too far, it’s defeating, not inspiring.

Having the drive to excel isn’t the problem here. The problems come when you focus more about the outcome than the process of getting there. When you can’t celebrate the small victories, be kind to yourself in the face of failure, or remember your unique strengths, you have the perfect conditions for losing motivation and feeling stressed.

If this sounds familiar, give yourself a time-out to think about what makes you who you are, what is meaningful to you, and what else you could be doing with your time and energy if you got off the hamster wheel of comparison/competition.

5. Reevaluate your expectations.

When you’re stressed, reevaluating expectations can feel a little too much like settling, so remember this: adapting your expectations to meet reality is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of intelligence! Sometimes the most effective way to stay on track is to pivot and try again with a fresh perspective.

You could tell yourself that you should have been able to meet your expectations exactly as they were, but life rarely plays by those rules. Rather than arguing with life about it, take a moment to adjust. Shift your perspective by taking the situation as it is and coming up with your best plan from there.

6. Slow down.

Stress can happen when you get ahead of yourself and take on too much at once.
It isn’t that you’re not capable of doing these things but that the combination of things, timing, and circumstances right now is just not working for you.

The result? Overwhelm. Indecision. Paralysis.

To slow down, focus on what’s right in front of you. Where are you today? What’s going to work right here?

Think of it as doing what works rather than trying to do everything all at once. Set small goals that fit into the bigger picture, and celebrate as you reach them. It’s so much more effective (and motivating) that way.

Leslie shows working moms how to bust those superwoman myths and bring back the balance and joy with her signature blend of real-life positive psychology tips and guilt-free meditations at A Year of Happy. To get you started, she’s whipped up a delectable 2-minute revitalizing meditation for you to enjoy on the house at http://www.ayearofhappy.com/revitalize.

 JUNE 5, 2016         BY LESLIE ROMERO RALPH 

 


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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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The Simplest Motivational Technique May Also Be The Best

Psychologists tested three common motivational techniques to see which works best.

Thinking “I can do better” really can help improve performance, new research finds.

Self-talk like this increases the intensity of effort people make and even makes them feel happier as well.

The study compared the motivational power of self-talk, such as “I will do better” with imagery and if-then planning.

Imagery involved imagining doing better and if-then planning is making a plan to act in a certain way.

All three techniques improved performance, but self-talk was consistently the most powerful.

For the study over 44,000 took part in a competitive online game.

The researchers tested the three techniques in four different ways: to help improve the process, outcome, arousal-control and instruction.

For example, an outcome goal looks like this: “I will try to place first.”

While a process goal looks like this: “I can try to react quicker.”

Meanwhile, an instructional goal could be: “I will focus on the ball.”

yes

The results showed that the greatest improvements in performance were seen for self-talk when focusing on the process and outcome.

Imagery also did well when focusing on process and outcome.

The study’s author explain:

“…imagery and self-talk focused on motivational outcome and process were associated with faster performance, higher arousal, and greater effort, than participants in the control group.
Self-talk process and outcome were associated with significantly more intense pleasant emotions.”

Perhaps one of the reasons that self-talk is so effective is that people believe it is going to be effective.

The study’s authors explain:

“…whilst findings show the positive effects of imagery and self-talk strategies when focused on outcome and process, it appears self-talk process [strategies] had additional advantages in that participants believed it was an effective mental preparation strategy to use.
[…]
…self-talk is perceived to be beneficial, possibly because it is simpler to learn than imagery, which shows that some people struggle to learn imagery.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Lane et al., 2016).

source: PsyBlog


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Real Preventive Medicine: The 5 Keys to Staying Healthy

Elson M. Haas, MD

What is called “Preventive Medicine” in America in the 21st Century is really more appropriately termed early intervention and early diagnosis. Having immunization injections or taking tests such as x-rays and mammograms, prostate exams, and blood tests are not really preventive in nature. Rather, they are an attempt to detect diseases in an early state. What is promoted as cancer prevention with the use of mammograms or prostate exams, sigmoidoscopes or colonoscopes is really early cancer diagnosis. This is done in hopes that cancer can be aggressively attacked before it spreads and destroys the entire body and life. Cancer represents a state of toxicity and its reaction on cellular mechanisms in the body; it is a disease of our body and not separate from it, and represents some breakdown or misguidance of our intricate immune system. After it occurs, it clearly is difficult to treat without great measures. Preventing cancer (and cardiovascular diseases, for that matter) is indeed an important goal in preventive medicine.

Real Preventive Medicine—preventing acute and chronic diseases—in other words, Staying Healthy, results from the way we live. We are a culmination of our life experiences. Our health is a by-product of our life, our genes and constitutional state, our upbringing and the habits we develop, our diets, our stresses and how we deal with them, our illnesses and how we treat them (whether we attempt to discover the underlying cause and change our lifestyle so we no longer manifest disease patterns)—all of this and more affects the level of health and vitality we experience. How we live—our lifestyle choices—is the key to long-term health, quality of life, and vitality in our later years.

The five keys to good health and disease prevention are:

  • Diet—what we eat and how, i.e. our intake habits.
  • Exercise—stretching and working our body regularly to keep it flexible and strong.
  • Sleep—adequate rest and sleep (and dream time) for each of us is crucial to “recharging our batteries,” healing many problems, keeping our moods balanced and staying healthy.
  • Stress Management—learning to deal with life’s ups and downs.
  • Attitude—keeping a positive outlook so we treat our self and others with the life-supporting respect and care we deserve.

The first level of dietary reform involves assessing potentially-toxic daily habits, such as the regular use of sugar, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and chemicals—what I call our SNACCs—and cleaning these up or taking breaks from them to re-assess our health potential and how we feel. I believe all of these substance abuses so common in modern-day cultures act as insidious poisons when used consistently over the years. The incidence of chronic, debilitating disease is steadily growing in our culture and these long-term habits are also prime contributors to this poor health in our aging years.

My nutritional message in my personal life, practice and my books has been to turn back (or forward) to a nature-based diet for greater vitality and health, to eat closer to the earth’s food source, from the gardens, farmer’s market, from the orchards, away from the boxed and canned foods and the refined and “chemicalized” cuisine. Focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds, and much less animal-based foods and refined/processed foods will greatly improve health, both in our immediate future and over the years.

5keys

Our exercise program must be frequent (at least three to four times a week), consistent over the years, and balanced, which is very important. A balanced exercise program should include regular stretching for flexibility, weight work for building tone and strength, and aerobics for endurance and stamina. Exercising regularly commonly improves body function and health as well as attitude. It is one of our best stress managers, relaxers, and mood elevators.

We should exercise realistically at our current level of physical strength and endurance so that we can progress consistently and avoid injury. If we are just beginning and not in great shape, we can start slowly and build as our stamina and strength improve. If we have been working out regularly and are already fit, then it is beneficial to periodically evaluate our state and progress, and then make appropriate changes to exercise at our full potential.

Sleep offers life’s balance for all of our activity, and that’s physical, mental and emotional activity, too. Like breathing fresh air, drinking good quality water, and eating a nourishing diet, our nightly quality sleep is crucial to our well-being. There are many stages of sleep important to our body’s recharging itself, and although we all do not regularly recollect our dreams, we need to sleep deeply enough to go into that theta wave, REM (rapid-eye-movement), dream sleep. If we are not sleeping well, applying the other principles of Preventive Medicine, such as eating well and avoiding stimulants, exercising regularly earlier in the day, and managing stress may all be helpful. And we don’t have to turn to medications for sleep because there are many natural remedies that can help, such as calcium and magnesium, L-tryptophan, and many herbal relaxers.

Managing stress is a key element in minimizing health risk and enjoying life. Stresses are our body/mind responses to our personal experiences and we are individual in the issues to which we respond and react. There are so many illnesses and diseases that are generated or worsened by stress that it is imperative each of us develop skills to deal with mental and physical demands and emotional challenges. Simple relaxation techniques, meditation, exercise, sports, outdoor activities, and especially internal disciplines like yoga or tai chi are all extremely valuable in dealing with both daily and long-term stress.

I believe one of the greatest problems of modern day life is the Indigestion of Life. Most of us do not have enough personal time to digest and assimilate our daily experiences— work, relationships, and food that we experience rapid-fire throughout our day-to-day existence. This leads to the implosion of energy and the potential explosion of emotions or bodily symptoms. These are our body’s attempt to convey messages we do not have time to receive and incorporate. Here again, it would be helpful if we were to take time to quiet ourselves, to breathe and listen, to digest and assimilate, to experience and enjoy. Taking time to clear ourselves, to become current and ready for new creativity and life is a concept and an activity that can lead us to more optimum health.

Likewise, staying positive and motivated to experience life, unafraid to handle challenges or deal with uncomfortable emotions is also crucial to health. Lifestyle Medicine is the highest art of healing for each of us. As a doctor, I believe the most important thing I can do is to encourage my patients and readers to make personal changes in their lifestyle—diet, exercise, proper sleep, stress management, and attitude. If our lifestyle supports health, then we can influence our own health over the course of our entire lives.

Our personal health and well-being is up to each of us. We can begin by first assessing our health and lifestyle. What changes will provide us with more energy, greater clarity and vitality, and better overall health and longevity? We can create a plan to implement and experience a better quality of health with fewer sick days, fewer doctor’s visits, and a more enjoyable and livable life.

Elson M. Haas, MD is a medical practitioner with nearly 40 years experience in patient care, always with in an interest in natural medicine. For the past 30 years, he has been instrumental in the development and practice of Integrated Medicine at the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (PMCM), which he founded in 1984 and where he is the Medical Director. Dr Haas has been perfecting a model of healthcare that integrates sophisticated Western diagnostics and Family Medicine with time-honored natural therapies from around the world.
This educating, writing doctor is also the author of many books including Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st Century Edition, The NEW Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, & Detox Plans and more. Visit his website for more information on his work, books and to sign up for his newsletter.