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10 Exercises That Can Make You Mentally Stronger

Building a little mental muscle could have a big impact on your life.

If you want to lift heavier objects, you need more physical strength. Large biceps and a strong back will go a long way toward helping you do the heavy lifting.

Well, the same can be said for your mental muscles. If you want to be able to tackle bigger challenges and overcome more obstacles, you need more mental strength.

Like physical muscles, your mental muscles require a good workout. And these 10 exercises can help you start developing the mental strength you need to crush your goals.

1. Reframe negative thoughts.

If you are having catastrophic thoughts like “This will never work,” then replace them with something more realistic, like “If I work hard, I’ll improve my chances of success.”

It’s true that everyone has bad days that lead to negative thoughts. But by searching for positive and realistic expectations, you can eliminate these damaging pessimistic thoughts and better equip yourself to manage the bad days.

2. Create goals.

It’s fun to aim high and dream big. But setting your sights too high will likely lead to disappointment.

Rather than set out to lose 100 pounds, focus on losing five first. When you crush that goal, you’ll be more motivated to lose the next five pounds.

Every goal you achieve gives you confidence in your own ability to be successful. This will also help you identify which goals are not challenging enough and which ones are unrealistically ambitious.

3. Set yourself up for success.

You don’t need to subject yourself to temptations every day to stay mentally strong. Modify your environment from time to time. Make life a little easier.

Put your running sneakers next to the bed if you want to work out in the morning. Remove the junk food from your pantry if your goal is to eat healthier. Little things like this will go a long way toward keeping you from exhausting your own mental energy and setting yourself up for success.

4. Do at least one difficult thing each day.

Improvement doesn’t come about by accident. You need to challenge yourself on purpose. Make sure to analyze your own boundaries, though, since everyone has a different idea of what is challenging.

Have the courage to pick something slightly outside these boundaries. And then take one small step every day.

Enroll in a class you don’t think you qualify for. Speak up for yourself even when it is uncomfortable. Always push yourself to become a little better today than you were yesterday.

5. Tolerate discomfort for a greater purpose.

The feeling of discomfort can often lead people to look for unhealthy shortcuts. Binge TV-watching and overdrinking are common emotional crutches. But these types of short-term solutions more often create bigger long-term problems.

The next time you experience discomfort, remind yourself of the bigger picture. Finish that workout even when you are tired. Balance your budget even when it gives you anxiety. Tolerating uncomfortable emotions can help you gain the confidence you need to crush your goals.

optimism-equals-success

6. Balance your emotions with logic.

If you were to be 100 percent logical all the time, you might live a boring life, devoid of leisure time, pleasure, or even love. But if you base all of your decisions on emotion, you might spend all your money on fun, rather than save for retirement or investments. To make the best decisions, you need to balance your logic and emotion.

So regardless of how minor or major the decision in your life, check yourself to make sure you are balancing your emotions with logic.

Being overly anxious, angry, or excited can cause you to make an emotional decision. So write down a list of pros and cons for each decision you make. Reviewing this list will enhance the logical part of your brain and help balance out your emotions.

7. Fulfill your purpose.

It’s hard to stay the course unless you know your overall purpose. Why is it that you want to hone your craft or to earn more money?

Write out a clear and concise mission statement about what you want to accomplish in life. When you’re struggling to take the next step, remind yourself why it’s important to keep going. Focus on your daily objectives, but make sure those steps you’re taking will get you to a larger goal in the long run.

8. Look for explanations, not excuses.

Did you fall short of your goal? Then examine the reasons. Rather than make excuses for your behavior, look for an explanation than can help you do better next time.

Take on the full responsibility for any shortcomings without placing blame. When you face and acknowledge your mistakes, you can learn from them and avoid repeating them.

9. Use the 10-minute rule.

Mental strength can help you be productive when you don’t feel like it. But it’s not a magic wand that will make you feel motivated all the time.

There is a 10-minute rule that comes in handy when you are tempted to put off something important. If you catch yourself eyeing the couch at the time you planned to go for your mile run, then tell yourself to get moving for just 10 minutes. If your mind is still fighting your body after 10 minutes, then it might be OK to give yourself permission to quit.

But more often than not, once you take that first step, you’ll realize your task is not nearly as tough as you predicted. Getting started is almost always the hardest part, but your other learned skills can help keep you going.

10. Prove yourself wrong.

The next time you think you can’t do something, prove yourself wrong. Commit to topping your sales goal for this month or beating your time in the mile run.

You are more capable than you give yourself credit for, so make it a habit to prove yourself wrong. Over time, your brain will stop underestimating your own potential.


Build Your Mental Muscle

You won’t develop mental strength overnight. It takes time to grow stronger and become better. But with consistent exercise, you can build the mental strength you need to crush your goals and live the life of your dreams.

 About the Author    Amy Morin, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
Feb 25, 2020
 


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Therapists Reveal 10 Things You Can Learn from Past Failures

Failure is not popular. It’s avoided at all costs and seen as the worse possible thing that could happen. But, believe it or not, failure does have some virtue. It’s a great teacher whose lessons can change lives. You may wonder how it’s possible to learn from what feels like defeat, but it’s possible. Check out these 10 things therapists say you can learn from your past mistakes.

Maya Angelou, an accomplished and well-known poet, said this:

 “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

10 LESSONS LEARNED FROM YOUR PAST FAILURES

1 – YOUR PAST FAILURE CAN LEAD TO SUCCESS…EVENTUALLY

You may have heard the story about Thomas Edison. He failed 1,000 times before he made the first light bulb. Edison is famous for saying, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  This outcome is a common experience.

Here’s a list of some of the most well-known people whose many attempts at starting over eventually led them to success.

  • Walt Disney
  • Sir James Dyson
  • Robert Goddard
  • Henry Ford
  • Stephen Jobs
  • Albert Einstein
  • Steven Spielberg
  • JK Rowling
  • Jerry Seinfeld

You never know if your current failure could lead to tomorrow’s successes. So, learn valuable lessons from poor outcomes and keep going.

2 – YOUR PAST FAILURE IS OFTEN PART OF THE PROCESS

Problems, missteps, and difficulties go hand in hand when you’re working toward a goal. According to studies, every failure changes your perspective and helps you change course when necessary. Many times, when you’re attempting to do something, it’s simply trial and error, and failure can be the key to open a new door for you to walk through.

3 – PAST FAILURE NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT

If you watch professional football, you’ll see the players fall over and over again. It’s the competitive part of the game, and the coaches are constantly reminding their players how to fall but get back up, avoid injury, and improve their skills. One study found that teaching kids to fail actually builds their confidence and helps them to grow up to be resilient adults.  If you haven’t learned how to fail and get back up again, you won’t try new things. You’ll be paralyzed, worried about failing so much that you refuse to step out and take a risk. Life is messy, but don’t be afraid to deal with the messiness of failure.

4 – PAST FAILURES TEACH YOU THAT IMPERFECTION IS OKAY

Social media applauds perfection. It makes you feel like you are inferior if your home, face, and kids aren’t perfect. It teaches you to feel frustrated at imperfection even though you know deep inside that real life isn’t perfect. Failure teaches you that life isn’t all neat and tidy like social media portrays. When you learn how to tolerate your imperfections, you feel at peace. You learn that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about your failures but accept them and keep moving.

5 – FAILURE HELPS YOU PARENT

Failure is a common experience. When you experience failure, such as losing your job, how you handle it speaks volumes to your kids. As they observe you deal with your failures, they’ll learn that sometimes life doesn’t always work out the way you want. Protecting your kids from disappointment hurts their ability to grow resilient and know how to tolerate failure. Use your failures to model how not to give up.

Allow your kids to try new things. Let them fail sometimes. It’s hard to watch as a parent, but it’s an important lesson for your kids to grow into mentally strong, independent adults.

trust

6 – FAILURES TEACH YOU TO BE FLEXIBLE

Hopefully, once you’ve failed at something, you won’t try to do the same thing in the same way. You must learn to adapt, to be flexible, to adjust where needed. It should help you understand that there are many ways to accomplish your goal. Being flexible means, you can adapt and change your ways.

Sometimes you need to throw out the old ways and start over, and that’s okay. Without flexibility, you won’t learn, and you won’t try new things in new ways.

 7 – EVERY FAILURE REVEALS YOUR CHARACTER

Failing stinks. It’s a humbling experience and a great revealer of human character. Your true self comes out when stuff goes wrong. If you get angry, bitter, and blame everyone else for your own failures, you’re showing the world who you really are. Failure can also reveal humility. You suddenly understand what it feels like to fail, so you’re more empathetic towards friends or family who has experienced defeat.

If you want to get to know someone, don’t look at how they handled successes and how they handled failure.

8 – FAILURE BRINGS FOCUS

Failure can be discouraging. Once the smoke clears and your emotions settle down, the outcome can help you refocus. Perhaps your dream job wasn’t a dream, after all. You had to quit, or you got to let go. This forces you to choose a new path to focus on what you really want to do.  Many people start in one career only to realize they hate it, so they venture off into another one that they love.

So try not to feel devastated by your failures. Think of them as stepping stones to something else. Let the failure reignite an old passion. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to go back to school. Maybe the failure at work is the opportunity you needed to pursue a degree.

9 – FAILURE TEACHES YOU TO TRY OTHER PATHS

Failure can look like a detour, but in fact, failure may be guiding you down an entirely new road. You learn that there are several ways to achieve the same goal. One way failed, but there are several more approaches to try. Failure enhances your curiosity and creativity to try new ideas and ways that, in the past, you just hadn’t even considered.

10 – PEOPLE DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR FAILURE

When you fail, you may worry about what others will think of you. In reality, most people don’t care about your failures.  They know and love you for who you are, not what you can or can’t achieve. It’s embarrassing to mess up, but for the most part, people are typically very understanding because they’ve been there. They aren’t as concerned about your failures because they’re dealing with their own life. So, relax, and fail. It’s okay because those who are your true friends will always love you no matter how many failures or successes you have in your life.

FOUR TIPS TO HELP YOU BOUNCE BACK FROM PAST FAILURES

Even though you understand and agree that failure teaches you many things, it may still be hard to bounce back from it.  Here are some tried-and-true suggestions to help you overcome past failures and look ahead.

1 – STUDY WHAT YOU LEARNED FROM PAST OUTCOMES

Step back and glean all you can from your failure. Ask yourself some questions such as,

“What did I learn about myself? What did I learn about my goal?  Was there a blessing in the midst of the mess?

As you squeeze every drop of understanding out of your failure, you gain better insight into your gifts, talents, and capacity. You get a fresh vision and hope for the future. Failure isn’t fun, but it can make you more fruitful. Please don’t waste your failure. Get as much out of it as you can.

2 – GET INPUT FROM SOMEONE TRUSTWORTHY

Ask a trusted co-worker, friend, or family member for input. Be sure these people really know you, and you feel comfortable hearing what they have to say. Ask them for constructive criticism regarding the failure. Were they surprised? What did they think about your motives? Ask for their advice on how to proceed forward. You don’t need to follow their suggestions, but it’s worth getting their thoughts.

3 – DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

When you’ve figured out what you’ve learned from a past mistake, do something. Ask yourself

“How can I use what I’ve learned from failure and take a step forward? What would I love to do now?”

Whatever you do, don’t stop moving. Don’t give up. Do something, move forward. Use your gifts and talents to the best of your ability.

4 – DON’T LOSE YOUR HOPE

Failure can be devastating, especially if you’ve worked on something for years, and you cannot get it just right. It’s hard to pick up the pieces and start over, but you can do it. Never lose hope. There’s always something for you to do, a purpose for you to accomplish. Life is full of successes and failures. Let your blunders guide you into new horizons.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON LEARNING FROM PAST FAILURES

Failure is never fun, but it can be a good tutor for those who care to learn.  It reveals true character, refocuses your goals, and helps you become more empathetic to other people who fail. Every life experience is a learning experience, so let falling down from time to time be your teacher. Learn and then bounce back from your failures with fresh vision and new goals. Never give up. Remember that you’re more than your failures or your successes.

source: www.powerofpositivity.com


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14 Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes

The mind is a wonderful thing.

It’s also a complete liar that constantly tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us, and stops many great changes in our lives.

I’ve had to learn to watch these rationalizations and excuses very carefully, in order to make the changes I’ve made in my life: a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, minimalism, writing daily, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, and so on.

If I hadn’t learned these excuses, and how to counter them, I would never have stuck to these changes. In fact, I failed many times before 2005 (when I started changing my life), because these excuses had complete power over me.

Let’s expose the cowardly mind’s excuses and rationalizations once and for all.

First, the main principle: the mind wants comfort, and is afraid of discomfort and change. The mind is used to its comfort cocoon, and anytime we try to push beyond that comfort zone very far or for very long, the mind tries desperately to get back into the cocoon. At any cost, including our long-term health and happiness.

OK, with that in mind, let’s go into the excuses:


1. I can’t do it.

It seems too hard, so we think we can’t stick to the change. We don’t believe in ourselves. This can be countered from the fact that many other people no more capable than us have done it. For example, Oprah ran a marathon a little before I started training for my first marathon, and so I told myself, “If Oprah can do it, so can I!” I was right.


2. He/she can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me.

Just because someone else can do it, doesn’t mean we can, right? We look for reasons they can do it but we can’t — maybe he can be a minimalist because he has no kids, or is a freelancer rather than someone with a real job. Maybe she’s way, way fitter than I am, so she can run a marathon. Maybe she doesn’t have all the obligations I have, or has a supportive spouse, or doesn’t have a crippling health condition. OK, fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who have worse obstacles than you who’ve done it. I have 6 kids and still managed to change a lot of things in my life. Stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve amazing things. Your obstacles can be overcome.


3. I need my ___.

Fill in the blank: I need my coffee, my cheese, my soda, my TV shows, my car, my shoe collection … these are things we convince ourselves we can’t live without, so we can’t make a change like becoming vegan or eating healthier or unschooling our kids or simplifying our lives or going car-free. And I’ve made these excuses myself, but they all turned out to be lies. I didn’t need any of that. The only things you really need are basic food, water, clothing, shelter, and other people for social needs. Everything else is not a real need.


4. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Sure, I agree with this statement (as many of us would) but the problem is this is used to justify all kinds of crappy behavior. Might as well scarf down those Doritos and Twinkies, because hey, life is meant to be enjoyed, right? No. You can do without junk food and still enjoy life. You can exercise and enjoy it. You can give up pretty much anything and still enjoy life, if you learn to see almost any activity as enjoyable.


5. I need comfort.

This might also be true, but we can push ourselves into more discomfort than we let ourselves believe. We can be a bit cold, instead of needing to be at the perfect comfortable temperature. We can do hard exercise, instead of needing to lay around on the couch. We can write that thing we’ve been procrastinating on — it might be hard, but we can push through that. When our minds seek comfort, don’t let them run — push a little bit outside the comfort zone, and begin to be OK with a bit of discomfort.


6. I don’t know how.

This is also true, but you can learn. Start with a little at a time, and learn how to deal with this new change. Do some research online. Watch some videos. Ask people online how they dealt with it. This is easily overcome with a little effort and practice. In fact, if you do it now, and learn a little at a time, then you’ll be able to do away with this pesky excuse.

change


7. I can do it later.

Sure, you can always do it later … but your later self will also feel the same way. Why should the later self be more disciplined than your current self? In fact, because you’re allowing yourself to slide now, you’re building a habit of procrastination and actually making is less likely that your future self will be more disciplined. Instead, do it now, unless there’s something more important that you need to do … don’t let yourself slide just because you don’t feel like it.


8. One time won’t hurt.

This is so tempting, because it’s kind of true — one time won’t hurt. Assuming, that is, that it’s only one time. One bite of chocolate cake, one missed workout, one time procrastinating instead of writing. Unfortunately, it’s never actually just one time. One time means your brain now knows it can get away with this excuse, and the next “one time” leads to another, until you’re not actually sticking to something. Make a rule: never ever believe the “one time” excuse. I did this with smoking (“Not One Puff Ever”) and it worked. If you’re going to allow yourself a bite or two of chocolate cake, decide beforehand and build it into your plan (“I will allow myself a fist-sized serving of sweets once every weekend”) and stick to that plan, rather than deciding on the fly, when your resistance is weak.


9. I don’t feel like it.

Well, true. You don’t feel like working hard. Who does? Letting the rule of “I’ll do it when feel like it” dictate your life means you’ll never write that book, never build that business, never create anything great, never have healthy habits. Create a plan that’s doable, and execute it. When the rationalizations like this come up, don’t believe them. Everyone is capable of doing a hard workout even when they’re not in the mood. Everyone can overcome their internal resistance.


10. I’m tired.

Yep, me too. I still did my heavy squat workout today. There is truth to needing rest, and resting when you need it (listen to your body) but this is usually the mind trying to weasel out of something uncomfortable. There’s a difference between being exhausted and needing some rest, and being the little tired we all feel every afternoon. Push through the latter.


11. I deserve a reward/break.

We all deserve that tasty treat, or a day off. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give yourself a reward or break. But if you make this rationalization your rule, you’ll always be on a break. You’ll always be giving yourself rewards, and never sticking to the original plan. Here’s what I do instead: I see sticking to my plan as the reward itself. Going on a run isn’t the thing I have to get through to get a reward — the run is the reward.


12. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop?

This again is our mind wanting to run from discomfort, and of course it’s true — it would be nice to stop if you’re pushing into a discomfort zone for too long. The thing is, the implication is that it would be better to stop, because it would be nice … but that’s a lie. It would be easier to stop, but often it’s better to continue pushing. This excuse almost beat me when I tried to run my 50-mile ultramarathon last December, because honestly it would have been much nicer to stop and not finish the race, especially in the last 10 miles or so. I pushed through, and found out I was tougher than I thought.


13. The result you’re going for isn’t important.

If you’re trying to run a marathon, this is phrased like, “It’s not that important that I finish this”. I’ve used this excuse for learning languages (it doesn’t matter if I learn this) or programming or any number of things I wanted to learn. I’ve used it for writing and exercise and eating healthy food. And while the result might not be that important, the truth is that the process is very important. If you stick with a process that will be better for you in the long run, then you will be better off. But if you let yourself go just because you are uncomfortable and at this moment care more for your comfort than the goal you set out for, you’ll have lots of problems. The goal isn’t important, but learning to stick to things when you’re uncomfortable is extremely important.


14. I’m afraid.

Now, this is the most honest excuse there is — most of us don’t want to admit we’re afraid to pursue something difficult. But it’s also a weaselly way out of discomfort — just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean you can’t do something. You can. I’ve done tons of things I’m afraid of — mostly creating things that I was worried I’d fail at. And while the fear sometimes came true — I didn’t do too well sometimes — the act of pushing through the fear was incredibly important and I learned a lot each time.


Awareness & Practice

I’ve used all of these excuses hundreds of times each, so don’t think I’ve overcome them all. And you can use them in the future too. There’s nothing wrong with giving in sometimes.

The key is to learn whether they’re true, and see your pattern. Here’s what I’ve done:

Notice the excuse. It has way more power if it works on you in the background.
Try to have an answer for the excuse beforehand — anticipate it.

If you give in, that’s OK, but recognize that you’re giving in to a lame excuse. Be aware of what you’re doing.

After giving in, see what the results are. Are you happier? Is your life better? Was it worth it giving in to discomfort?

Learn from those results. If you pushed through and are happy about it, remember that. If you gave in to excuses, and didn’t like the result, remember that.
If you consciously practice this process, you’ll get better at recognizing and not believing these lies. And then, bam, you’ve got your mind working for you instead of against you.
by Leo Babauta


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7 Little Ways To Feel A Sense Of Normalcy Right Now

Who isn’t stressed over all this uncertainty? Here’s how to find some stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and the election cycle.
 
Let’s just say what we all know is true: things are not “normal” right now and things won’t look remotely “normal” for months to come. The coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing down as we inch toward a cold winter, and post-election stress is adding an additional layer of unrest to an already unrestful year.
 
Normal days are something that many took for granted before all of this. Lindsey McKernan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the constants in our world create a rhythm for our day and ultimately build normalcy around us. And right now, the constants that we once knew are gone.
 
“When things are normal … you don’t have to put as much cognitive energy into anticipating what’s next because it’s the rhythm of the day,” McKernan said. “We’re having to put so much additional cognitive effort into what’s going on throughout the day.”
 
This additional cognitive effort contributes to increased stress levels across society, McKernan said. Establishing a sense of normalcy can help reduce the cognitive burden of the day and allow us to feel more in control of our own days.
 
But how exactly can we do that right now? Below, experts offer some of their best advice for creating a sense of normalcy as we continue through this far from normal time.
 
1. Establish a routine for yourself.
“When we’re in a period of heightened stress, we are grounded by routine,” McKernan said.
 
That’s why, in “regular times,” you might feel off if you go to bed later than usual or if you skip your weekend run. This year has been one huge version of that. There are many changes altering our normal routines.
 
McKernan said fighting those limitations that are now part of our day-to-day lives only adds to the struggle. Instead, we should embrace our current reality so we can appropriately respond and plan.
 
“The first thing when thinking about establishing a routine right now is redefining what that means and accepting that our sense of normal isn’t necessarily where we want it to be ― and that’s OK. We have to work to intentionally re-establish a sense of routine,” she said.
 
McKernan recommended looking at four major things in order to adjust your routine: how you’re sleeping, how you’re eating, if you’re moving and to what extent you are able to socialize. Which of those areas could use some extra attention? (Maybe it’s all of them, which is understandable.) Start building your routine around those pillars.
 
That could look like going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. You may also want to try meal prepping as if you still needed to bring food into the office for lunch during the week. Maybe it’s calling your friend every Friday afternoon while you’re on a walk, or planning a cocktail night every weekend with your roommate. Whatever the case may be, build in small habits you can come to expect and make them something you can execute regularly.
 
2. Take part in rewarding activities.
 
In the early days of the pandemic, many of us were all about “bettering ourselves” ― whether that meant learning a new language or learning how to make sourdough. And while those activities were fun in the beginning, the practice of bread-baking and language-learning fizzled out for most. Now, we’re just trying to get through each day without losing it.
 
But there is something to taking on new activities as a way to create some normalcy ― as long as you’re genuinely connected to them, McKernan said.
 
“When you choose activities that connect to things that you value in your life, that actually gives you a sense of reward and meaning,” she said, adding that these activities could be attending a virtual spiritual service, online volunteering, cooking, reading or knitting. Choose something that gets you excited or pulls you away from your stress.
“We might not be able to capture all activities in the way that we’re used to ― for example, if you value fitness and you’re used to going to a hot yoga studio, that might not be safe to do right now,” McKernan said. “So, how can you recapture a little bit of that exercise in your life and in your day?”
 
These activities also lift your mood, which can be crucial as we move into winter, a time when many are faced with lower mood.
 
“One of the things that can happen when our mood starts to get low is that we lose the motivation to do things. And, a lot of the time, we feel like we need to magically have the motivation back in order to re-engage in things,” McKernan said. “But it can work in the opposite way, too, where if you choose … activities that are meaningful, you start to build back your sense of motivation and reward.”
 
3. Find creative ways to connect with loved ones.
 
A lot of the social aspects of our lives have been drastically altered in order to protect one another from the virus. McLean Pollock, assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University in North Carolina, noted that it’s hard to navigate how to socialize and feel close to loved ones without doing the things we’re used to, like handshaking, hugging and seeing people in person.
 
Pollock said that finding ways to connect with others is crucial in the search for normalcy. It will be hard to feel normal if one of our most basic needs ― social connection ― goes unmet throughout the remainder of this pandemic.
 
“This pandemic has led to some isolation. We can bridge that by making connections with other people because that is how we’re getting through this, together, even though it’s in a different way of being together,” she added.
 
But by now we’re used to scheduling Zoom calls and they can feel a little stale. Janine Dutcher, a research scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, suggested finding more unique ways to connect with people. This encourages us to be creative, which can be rewarding in itself.
 
“I think that creativity can often be very difficult to engage in but it can be really rewarding too, because you found a way to beat the system, so to speak, and do something really fun and interesting,” she said.
 
Dutcher added that since the pandemic began, she has been writing loved ones letters and physically sending them in the mail. She has also conducted food exchanges with friends where she’ll order delivery dinner for a friend in another city from one of their favorite restaurants. The other friend will also return the favor for her.
 
4. Decorate your home for seasonal celebrations.
 
While we can’t control the whole world, we can control our own microcosm, specifically our own home, Pollack said.
 
Decorating your home for seasonal celebrations with either store-bought items or handmade décor can help create a mile-marker for time within your own life. And, conveniently, a number of ideal-for-decorating holidays are approaching.
 
“Our days are bleeding into one another because we don’t have variation, so having something that can distinguish this time as different from other times can be helpful in creating that sense of normalcy and creating memories,” Pollock said.
 
5. Plan things for the future.
 
Having something to look forward to adds excitement to our days. And while our plans may have to look different for a while, we still can make them — whether that means a virtual happy hour or a fun night at home with your family.
 
“When you have something to look forward to, each day passes a little bit faster, particularly as you get closer to it ― it’s one of those funny things about time perception. Looking forward to anything, even if it’s really simple, is very, very powerful,” Dutcher said.
 
Of course, this doesn’t give anyone permission to plan something that puts people at risk for contracting the virus.
 
“If you’re at home with family, you can plan for a fun movie night where you watch a movie, pop some popcorn and have some candy,” Dutcher suggested. She also added that, while spontaneous conversations with friends and family are nice, planned phone dates also hold their own type of power when it comes to generating some normalcy.
 
6. Accept that this is not a normal time.
 
Nothing about this period in our lives is regular. Our lives have been upended in many different ways and we are faced with uncertainty nearly every day.
 
“There is no magical solution, part of feeling a sense of normalcy is accepting that this is not normal and that these are really difficult and stressful times,” Pollock said. “Recognize that that’s the context of trying to create some normalcy, first of all.” (In other words, cut yourself some slack.)
 
She added that we are all facing different difficulties as the pandemic, the election and the rest of the year unfolds and we need to adjust our normalcy to fit our own situation.
 
7. If you’re still struggling, consider talking to a therapist.
 
Everyone’s mental health has been put through the wringer this year, and things like routine setting, socializing and planning activities may not be enough to feel “normal” ― and that is OK.
 
“If people are really struggling, it’s always worth reaching out to a professional to make sure that they are getting the care and support that they need,” Dutcher said.
 
Therapy can help you navigate our current reality and give you the coping skills to find a sense of normalcy among the chaos. Seeing a therapist can be incredibly expensive, but there are affordable resources available that may help.
 
If the uncertainty is stressing you out to the point where it has been severely affecting your daily life, you don’t have to manage it alone. You’re also not the only one who feels this way.
 
“I think a lot of people are probably experiencing a low-level or even clinical-level of depression right now. I think it is, unfortunately, very common and people should be mindful and make sure they’re taking care of their wellness.”
 
By  Jillian Wilson   11/06/2020 
 
 
 
 
normal setting
 
 

The Psychology Behind To-Do Lists and How They Can Make You Feel Less Anxious

1. Wake up.

2. Make coffee.

3. Write this story.
 
 
In a time when it seems like we may have less to do, a to-do list actually could be quite helpful.

As the days blend together for many people living in lockdown, crossing things off a to-do list can feel even more satisfying. To-do lists can be great tools for decreasing anxiety, providing structure and giving us a record of everything we’ve accomplished in a day.

The trick is to reframe your to-do list as a set of miniature goals for the day and to think of your checklist items as steps in a plan.

Research on the psychology of goal-making has revealed that an unfinished goal causes interference with other tasks you’re trying to achieve. But simply making a plan to facilitate that goal, such as detailing steps on a to-do list, can help your mind set it aside to focus on other things.
 
“Goals are interesting as they are almost these autonomous agents that kind of live inside you and occupy space in your mind,” said E.J. Masicampo, an associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
 
“When a goal is unfinished it might be a weight on your mind in terms of anxiety or worry and it colors how you see the world, because it’s sort of tugging at the sleeve of your conscious attention,” Masicampo said. “It can be omnipresent whether you’re aware of it or not.”

People with unfinished short-term goals performed poorly on unrelated reading and comprehension tasks, reported a 2011 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Masicampo and research co-author Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at The University of Queensland.
But when the 2011 study participants were allowed to formulate specific plans for their goals before moving onto the next task, those negative effects were eliminated.
 
“We were able to find that you don’t have to finish the goal to offload it – you really could just make a specific plan for how to attain it to get it to stop occupying that mental space,” Masicampo said.
 
But Masicampo cautioned that it won’t help to offload your mental burden by jotting it down on a list “without actually making a plan.”
 
“To-do lists often tend to be mental graveyards, but that said I think there’s some relief there,” Masicampo said, adding that sub-goals are important. “Something that’s been sitting there for too long is probably just stated in too big terms.”
 
With the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis and the difficulty of making concrete plans, he said it could make sense to have your initial plan be simply to make a plan at a later date.

Stuck in the middle

In order to work effectively, your to-do list’s mini-goals also need to be well defined and have short time frames. That’s because people also tend to give up in the middle of goals, according to psychologists.

The solution is to make the “middles” of your goals and to-do list tasks short.
One place people get stuck is exercise, but a goal to exercise half the days each week will be easier to stick to than exercising half the days each month. Even then, exercise will make it onto your to-do list more often at the beginning and end of the week — but it’s difficult to motivate yourself on Wednesday.
 
“We celebrate graduations at work and cheer when we finish big projects. But there is no celebration for middles. That’s when we both cut corners and we lose our motivation,” said Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago who is an expert on motivation and decision-making.
 
“We will still slack in that middle, and having long projects invites a long middle.”
 
To-do lists also need to be flexible. If your plans change or get interrupted by an endless flurry of Zoom calls, it’s important to recognize that’s not the end of the world.
 
“If we measure ourselves by how much we stick to the plan, that’s not good for motivation,” Fishbach said. “There’s a fine line between keeping structure and keeping your to-do list and also being very flexible. Because things change and they change on a daily basis.”

It’s not a wish list

For all the structure and stress reduction that to-do lists can provide, they can sometimes add to anxiety. That’s because tasks on your to-do list that linger for weeks or months are bad for mental health and motivation.

“To-do lists are interesting because they sometimes become commitments. Once you write an activity or goal down on a piece of paper, it’s work undone,” said Jordan Etkin, an associate professor of marketing at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and an expert on goals.
 
Do you want to complete extra work-related tasks aiming for a promotion and cook dinner for your family that night? Cue goal conflict.
 
“The more things people put on their lists, the more open they are to creating goal conflict and its sort of negative downstream effects,” Etkin said.
 
Conflicting goals can create stress and even that overwhelming feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day, according to Etkin’s 2015 study in the Journal of Marketing Research.

To-doing it right

To use a to-do list the right way, Etkin said people need to clearly define their goals and differentiate the tasks they definitely want to get done today versus tasks they want to do “maybe someday.”

Tasks need to be clearly ranked in terms of importance.

“To-do lists can be very helpful for informing how you should be directing your time and cognitive resources,” Etkin said. “I think where challenges emerge is when people treat to-do lists like wish lists, rather than the things they definitely want to do today.”

Having a productive to-do list shouldn’t make you feel like you can’t take a break, Etkin also stressed, even if you haven’t crossed all those items off your list yet.
 
“It’s also important for people to have protective time in their lives where they’re not striving towards any goal,” she said.
 
To-do lists can be great tools to keep us going during this time of coronavirus boredom, uncertainty, and pandemic anxiety, but it’s important to not fill up your leisure time with productivity. One of the most important tasks we can add to our daily list, Etkin said, is “rest.”
 
By Lauren Kent, CNN      Tue July 14, 2020.
 
source: cnn.com


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6 Simple Strategies That Contribute To Personal Growth

Personal growth is challenging but rewarding. Still, despite knowing the good that lies in wait, it can be difficult to get into the swing of things when it comes to self-improvement if you work on yourself. With all the hurdles, sure to be thrown your way, it can be tough to adapt and power through while still maintaining the momentum of growth.

Those who don’t pay much attention to their personal growth often have trouble finding success. They don’t learn from mistakes, become better people, or move towards goals consistently. It’s a bad situation all around, and one that you should try your best to avoid.

If you’ve felt like your personal growth has come to a halt lately, then you may need to rethink your methods for self-improvement. How are you ensuring that what you do bears fruit in your betterment as a person? Here’s how experts reveal 6 simple strategies that contribute to personal growth.

1.    DEVELOP ENDURANCE SKILLS

Personal growth can, often, feel like a bit of an uphill battle. To fight that battle, you need to have mental endurance. Wellbeing technology expert, consultant, and writer Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., has some statements about what skills to develop. Here are ones you can focus on:

·         RESILIENCE

Resilience refers to the skill that allows you to bounce back from difficult situations and circumstances. If you don’t have resilience, it’s nearly impossible ever to reach success. You’ll encounter many failures along the way. So skills like mindfulness, emotional regulation, and positive thinking play into resilience.

·         SELF-SOOTHING

Stress is common when you’re chasing goals and trying to work on yourself. If you don’t know how to calm that stress down, you’re going to wind up hurting yourself in the long run and even becoming discouraged as you lose all positive thinking. That’s where self-soothing comes in. The right self-soothing methods can help calm you down from moments of anxiety while balancing out all the stress, so you’re prepared for whatever comes next.

·         PROGRESS-MONITORING

It can be difficult to keep going when you don’t think you’re getting anywhere. That’s why tracking your progress can work wonders for you. You can clearly see your improvements, how far you’ve come, and areas that need your attention. Of course, progress-monitoring is equally crucial for a more practical reason: it ensures that you’re going on the right track and allows you to make changes if you veer off course.

2.    PERFORM POSITIVE SELF-TALK

The world can weigh a little heavily on your shoulders sometimes. It’s okay to have periods where you feel down or discouraged – as long as you get back up again later! That’s where positive self-talk comes into play.

As its name suggests, positive self-talk is the act of speaking motivationally, inspiringly, or effectively instructional to yourself to boost your emotional state. It sounds a little silly to think that this can have a significant effect, but the results are more tangible than you may think. Research has long linked positive self-talk to enhanced performance in things like sports and endurance tasks!

What if you don’t feel like you believe your positive self-talk right away? That’s okay – fake it till you make it. Eventually, with enough words of encouragement, you’ll begin to believe yourself. You might even start seeing results sooner than expected!

This isn’t just good for your growth because it motivates you and keeps you on task. It’s also a sign of personal growth in itself. The improvement of your self-esteem, positive thinking, and coping mechanisms is a success all on its own, and it’s one worth striving for.

3.    MAKE A MAP

Want to understand how far you’ve come and where you need to go from here? Sometimes it can be tough because you have no way to rewind your memories and easily review the changes you may have made. The solution, then, is to map it all out, says Doctor of Psychology, Professional Clinical Counselor, life coach, and speaker Ilene Berns-Zare.

When you have some time to spare, think about your life and its progression. How did you get here? Can you follow the trail you’ve walked along? Here are some questions to help you out with this process:

  • What are some of my most significant experiences?
  • What are some of the mistakes I have made, and how did I overcome them?
  • Can I teach anyone a valuable lesson based on my mistakes?
  • What are some big lessons I’ve learned over the years? Did I learn them in time, or the hard way?
  • What are some things I wish I’d done?
  • What are my goals? Where do I want to go?
  • What are my biggest values, dreams, and hopes?
  • What can I do next to get closer to my goals and dreams?

It’s a lot to think about at once! If you dislike this process, you can make it easier by committing to writing a daily or weekly journal consistently. That will give you something physical to flip through as time goes by!

strive-for-progress

4.    DEVELOP THINKING STYLES FOCUSED ON PROGRESSION

You can’t grow if you don’t know how to progress properly in life. You’ll wind up stagnant and stunted, and no one wants that! Here are some thinking styles Davis recommends developing in this vein.

·         A GROWTH MINDSET

A growth mindset is the opposite of a fixed mindset, which is defined as the act of shying away from risks and challenges in favor of staying in a safe space. The growth mindset, on the other hand, involves not letting fear control you. It means seeking good opportunities and being brave enough to seize them, even if you’re anxious about them. It’s about being smart enough to know when taking a leap of faith or jumping at a challenge is a good idea. Without this mindset, your growth will get stuck.

·         ENTREPRENEURIAL THINKING

Entrepreneurial thinking is what it says on the tin: thinking like an entrepreneur, or an individual in business. You see, entrepreneurs are excellent planners (and if they aren’t, they seldom find success). They’re also innovative, convincing, and adaptable – all traits you’ll need to grow as a person and reach all your goals and dreams.

·         THE SEARCH FOR THE NEW

The beauty of life is that you never have to stop learning. You can continue developing new skills and seeking new opportunities for the rest of your life. So keep doing that! That way, you’re always become a better, more positive you every day.

5.    BE KIND

A little kindness goes a long way. Although you might be an objectively decent or even good person, the chances are that, with your busy schedule, you don’t have much time to put into acts of kindness. You can work on changing that by making kindness a genuine habit.

According to Madeleine Mason Roantree, a psychologist, when you are compassionate to others, you gain multiple personal benefits. Though kindness shouldn’t be about what you can personally gain, it’s still interesting to note these factors, such as:

  • Feel less isolated
  • Have a sense of purpose
  • Improve your positive thinking and mood
  • Foster better relationships
  • Are becoming a better person

You don’t need to do anything overly fancy to reap the rewards of kindness. All you really need to do is be genuine in your compassionate gestures, and you’re good to go! Here are some ideas for random acts of kindness:

  • Send a loved one a nice text message.
  • Compliment a stranger respectfully.
  • Buy drinks or lunch for a colleague or friend.
  • Donate to charity or volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about
  • Do someone a favor

But there’s another way you can be kind for personal growth: being kind to yourself—licensed clinical psychologist and neurotherapist. Catherine Jackson says that you should try to look at yourself as you would look at a best friend. You wouldn’t, for example, be overly hard on your friend for making a mistake, nor would you refuse to be empathic of their emotions.

6.    LEARN GRATITUDE

Being grateful is a huge step towards growing well as a person. Without gratitude, you never truly appreciate the things in life that have gotten you to where you are and can help you go even further. Taking these things for granted can, then, cause you to lose them.

Gratitude is a bit of a skill, and it’s one that needs to be practiced to be honed. A good idea is keeping a gratitude journal that must be filled every day with at least three things you’re grateful for that day. It’s a good way to shift your mindset, so you notice more good things in everyday life.

Is it a fair bit of effort? Yes, but it’s certainly worth it! Studies indicate multiple positive effects of practiced gratitude, including:

  • Better sleep
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Better social relationships
  • A more positive outlook on life

According to sport psychology mental performance coach Anna Hennings, MA, there’s an acronym you can use to help you think of what you’re grateful for. It’s a surprisingly fitting one, too: GIFTS. Here’s how to use it!

·         G FOR GROWTH

This refers to your own areas of personal growth, such as new skills you’ve learned.

·         I FOR INSPIRATION

This is self-explanatory – what has inspired you recently?

·         F FOR FRIENDS AND/OR FAMILY

The people closest to you and who you love are always worth being grateful for.

·         T FOR TRANQUILITY

What moments of peace and happiness do you enjoy? Think of your time spent listening to music, sipping tea, reading, or doing something similar.

·         S FOR SURPRISE

Again, this is self-explanatory – what pleasant surprises popped up for you?

FINAL THOUGHTS ON SOME SIMPLE STRATEGIES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO PERSONAL GROWTH

For many people, purpose can be found in the fight for self-improvement and personal growth. It can be fulfilling to see yourself become better, whether in your values, your work, your relationships, or your life as a whole.

That’s why always working on yourself is so important. It propels you closer to all your hopes and dreams, all while making you someone to look up to. You deserve to watch yourself blossom into the very best that you can be, so work hard on yourself. You’ll be amazed how far you can go in terms of growth in just a few months!

source: www.powerofpositivity.com


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Poor Sleep Linked to Weight Gain

in 2-year smartphone sleep tracking study
 
Not sleeping enough or getting a bad night’s sleep over and over makes it hard to control your appetite. And that sets you up for all sorts of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
The link between poor sleep and a greater body mass index (BMI) has been shown in study after study, but researchers typically relied on the memories of the participants to record how well they slept.
Sleep apps on fitness trackers, smartphones and watches have changed all that. In a new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers tracked sleep quality for 120,000 people for up to two years.
The results showed sleep durations and patterns are highly variable between people. Despite that, the study found people with BMIs of 30 or above – which is considered obese by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – had slightly shorter mean sleep durations and more variable sleep patterns.
It didn’t take much less sleep to see the effect. People with BMIs over 30 only slept about 15 minutes less than their less weighty counterparts.
There were some limitations to the study. Naps were excluded, other health conditions could not be factored in, and people who use wearable tracking devices are typically younger, healthier and from a higher socioeconomic status than those who do not wear trackers.
“These are quite pricey devices, and remember, they are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, the associate program director of the Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California.
“The results would need to be validated by the appropriate FDA-approved devices, and because the study is likely on younger people who are more economically well off, does that really apply to older folks we worry about with poor sleep?” said Dasgupta, who was not involved in the study.
However, Dasgupta added, a major plus for the study is that it did monitor people for over two years, and the results corroborated prior research and were “not surprising.”
“While we cannot determine the direction of association from our study result, these findings provide further support to the notion that sleep patterns are associated with weight management and overall health,” the authors wrote.
“The findings also support the potential value of including both sleep duration and individual sleep patterns when studying sleep-related health outcomes.”

LINK BETWEEN SLEEP AND EATING

There is a scientific reason why a lack of sleep is linked to appetite. When you’re sleep deprived, research has shown, levels of a hormone called ghrelin spike while another hormone, leptin, takes a nosedive. The result is an increase in hunger.
“The ‘l’ in leptin stands for lose: It suppresses appetite and therefore contributes to weight loss,” he said. “The ‘g’ in ghrelin stands for gain: This fast-acting hormone increases hunger and leads to weight gain,” Dasgupta said.
Another reason we gain weight is due to an ancient body system called the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids bind to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana, which as we know, often triggers the “munchies.”
“When you’re sleep deprived, you’re not like, ‘Oh, you know what, I want some carrots,'” said behavioural neuroscientist Erin Hanlon, who studies the connection between brain systems and behavior at the University of Chicago, in a prior CNN interview.
“You’re craving sweets and salty and starchy things,” she added. “You want those chips, you want a cookie, you want some candy, you know?”
A 2016 study by Hanlon compared the circulating levels of 2-AG, one of the most abundant endocannabinoids, in people who got four nights of normal sleep (more than eight hours) to people who only got 4.5 hours.
People who were sleep-deprived reported greater increases in hunger and appetite and had higher afternoon concentrations of 2-AG than those who slept well. The sleep-deprived participants also had a rough time controlling their urges for high-carb, high-calorie snacks.

GET BETTER SLEEP

Want more control over your appetite? Depending on your age, you are supposed to get between seven and 10 hours of sleep each night.
Getting less has been linked in studies to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, weight gain, a lack of libido, mood swings, paranoia, depression and a higher risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, dementia and some cancers.
So sleep a full seven to 10 hours a night, stick to a regular bedtime and get up the same time very day, even on weekends, experts advise.
Adding exercise to your daily routine is a great way to improve your sleep and improve your health. After finishing one 30-minute physical activity, you’ll have less anxiety, lower blood pressure, more sensitivity to insulin and you’ll sleep better that night.
You can also train your brain to get more restful sleep with a few key steps:
  •  During the day, try to get good exposure to natural light, as that will help regulate your circadian rhythm.
  •  Avoid stimulants (coffee, tea) after 3 p.m. and fatty foods before bedtime.
  •  Establish a bedtime routine you can follow each night. Taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or doing light stretches are all good options.
  •  Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and the room is cool: Between 60 and 67 degrees is best. Don’t watch TV or work in your bedroom; you want your brain to think of the room as only for sleep.
  •  Eliminate all lights – even the blue light of cellphones or laptops can be disruptive. Dull sounds, too. Earplugs or white noise machines can be very helpful, but you can create your own with a humidifier or fan.
Sandee LaMotte      CNN     Monday, September 14, 2020
sleep

 

10 Ways Sleep Can Change Your Life

What if someone told you there was a magic potion by which you could prevent disease, improve your intellect, reduce your stress and be nicer to your family while you’re all cooped up together during the pandemic?
It sounds too good to be true, as if solving those problems would really require dietary supplements, workout programs, diets, meditation and a separate room to cry alone.
It turns out that sleep, according to numerous studies, is the answer. It’s the preventive medicine for conditions related to our physical, mental and emotional health. And despite how important sleep is, it can be difficult to make it a priority.
“During a pandemic such as Covid-19, there’s a potential to induce or exacerbate many sleep issues,” Dr. Matthew Schmitt, a doctor of sleep medicine at Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia, told CNN.
“A lack of quality sleep not only affects how we feel during the daytime, but can also impair our immune system function, which is vital in protecting us from common viral illnesses.”
A sleep routine is just one of the behaviors that is part of sleep hygiene, a buffet of efforts needed to sleep well that include eating healthy meals at regular times and not drinking too much coffee, said Dr. Meir Kryger, a professor of pulmonary medicine and a clinical professor of nursing at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.
“All of these things are really interconnected in terms of their function. All of them are connected to the body clock,” Kryger said. “The body is like an orchestra where there’s an orchestra leader that’s sort of the main timer, but everybody else is playing it together and they’re optimizing what they are doing.”
Once you’ve developed your sleep routine,
here are 10 benefits you could gain from the regimen.
1. Helps your body heal and repair itself
Our nightly shut-eye is our bodies’ time for healing and repairing itself from performing its taxing daily functions.
“Imagine you’re a car or something that’s running for 16 hours during the day,” Kryger said. “You’re going to have to do stuff to get back to normal. You just can’t keep on running.”
During sleep is when we produce most of our growth hormone that ultimately results in bone growth. Our tissues rest, relaxing our muscles and reducing inflammation. And each cell and organ have their own clock that “plays a really important role in maximizing or optimizing how our body works,” Kryger added.
2. Lowers risk for disease
Sleep on its own is a protective factor against disease.
When people get too much or too little sleep, “there appears to be an increased risk of deaths … and other diseases raising their ugly heads,” Kryger said, such as heart problems and diabetes. The healing period during sleep also factors in, as it allows cells that would cause disease to repair themselves.
3. Improves cognitive function
Sleep feeds our creativity and cognitive function, which describes our mental abilities to learn, think, reason, remember, problem solve, make decisions and pay attention.
“As you sleep, memories are reactivated, connections between brain cells are strengthened, and information is transferred from short- to long-term,” said a National Sleep Foundation article on the subject. “Without enough quality sleep, we become forgetful.”
4. Reduces stress
Slumber of great quantity and quality can enhance your mood and also encourage the brain’s ability to regulate emotional responses to both neutral and emotional events.
5. Helps maintain a healthy weight
Getting your beauty sleep can help you to maintain a healthy weight or increase your chances of losing excess fat.
Two hormones control our urge to eat: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells us that we’re full, while ghrelin communicates hunger.
When we don’t sleep enough, both hormones veer in the wrong direction, Kryger said — ghrelin spikes while leptin declines, resulting in an increase in hunger and the potential to overeat and gain weight.
Sleep helps our bodies to maintain normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well, which determines how we hang on to excess fat.
6. Bolsters your immune system
Kryger has seen the immune systems of patients with sleep disorders fail to normally function. Sleep helps our bodies to produce and release cytokines, a type of protein that helps create an immune response by targeting infection and inflammation.
Additionally, “research done actually years ago showed that when people are sleep deprived, they do not have as vigorous a response to vaccination,” Kryger added.
“As we’re thinking about vaccination that’s being developed” for Covid-19, that kind of research is going to be important.
7. May improve your social life
The emotional benefits of sleep can transfer over into your social life. “Just imagine you don’t sleep enough and you’re cranky,” Kryger said. “Who’s going to want to be around you? Another part of it is being cognitively sharp.”
Adequate sleep can help you to be more confident, be more easygoing and support your efforts to do your part at home, he added.
8. Supports your mental health
Mental health disorders are often associated with substandard sleep and a sleep deficit can lead to depressive symptoms even if the person doesn’t have the chronic disorder, Kryger said.
“Getting the right amount of sleep is really important in possibly preventing a mental illness or the appearance of a mental illness,” he added. And in addition to the benefits for mood and stress regulation, sleeping enough “may make the treatment of the mental illnesses more efficacious if the person sleeps enough.”
9. Reduces pain sensitivity
Extending participants’ sleep time during the night or with midday naps, a 2019 study found, restored their pain sensitivity to normal levels in comparison to sleep-deprived individuals, who had a lower threshold for pain.
How this happens would have to be in the realm of perception, Kryger said, which ultimately traces back to the brain. “The brain is where sleep is,” he explained.
10. Increases your likelihood for overall success
Since sleep can improve our health on all fronts, it consequently can help us be the best versions of ourselves. Healthy cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, coping and social life are all foundational to pursuing and achieving our goals and overall well-being.
By Kristen Rogers, CNN       Tue August 4, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
sleep_snooze

 

People React Better to Both Negative and Positive Events
With More Sleep

Summary:
New research finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day — and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. This has important health implications: previous research shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
FULL STORY
New research from UBC finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day – and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. The study, led by health psychologist Nancy Sin, looks at how sleep affects our reaction to both stressful and positive events in daily life.
“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” says Nancy Sin, assistant professor in UBC’s department of psychology. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”
People also reported a number of stressful events in their daily lives, including arguments, social tensions, work and family stress, and being discriminated against. When people slept less than usual, they responded to these stressful events with a greater loss of positive emotions. This has important health implications: previous research by Sin and others shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
Using daily diary data from a national U.S. sample of almost 2,000 people, Sin analyzed sleep duration and how people responded to negative and positive situations the next day. The participants reported on their experiences and the amount of sleep they had the previous night in daily telephone interviews over eight days.
“The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” says Sin. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.”
Chronic health conditions – such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer – are prevalent among adults, especially as we grow older. Past research suggests that people with health conditions are more reactive when faced with stressful situations, possibly due to wear-and-tear of the physiological stress systems.
“We were also interested in whether adults with chronic health conditions might gain an even larger benefit from sleep than healthy adults,” says Sin. “For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep – compared to one’s usual sleep duration – led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day.”
Sin hopes that by making sleep a priority, people can have a better quality of life and protect their long-term health.
Journal Reference:
Nancy L. Sin, Jin H. Wen, Patrick Klaiber, Orfeu M. Buxton, David M. Almeida. Sleep duration and affective reactivity to stressors and positive events in daily life.. Health Psychology, 2020; DOI: 10.1037/hea0001033
University of British Columbia. “People react better to both negative and positive events with more sleep.”  ScienceDaily, 15 September 2020
Materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.  September 15, 2020
 


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12 Simple Activities You Can Do to Start Building Self Esteem Today

Self-esteem is a popular topic these days, with even parenting guides encouraging parents to start young in encouraging their children’s self-esteem.

It’s not hard to see why — people with a good sense of self-esteem consistently have better mental health and are happier and more successful.

But what happens when you don’t have a high self-esteem? It’s not too late.

When you struggle with low self-esteem, improving your sense of self-worth can be a journey that takes both time and dedication.

However, there are things you can do right now to get you started on that journey. Below are 12 simple activities that you can do to boost your self-esteem today.

1. Make Yourself a Priority

From the time we are young, we are taught that putting other’s needs before our own is a virtue, while prioritizing your own needs is selfish. However, you can’t have a good sense of self-esteem if you don’t make your own needs a priority.

So what does prioritizing your own needs look like in the real world? It means meeting your own needs instead of ignoring them for the sake of others.

This can be easier said than done, especially if you are a parent or work in a demanding work environment, but when you recognize that your own needs have value, you begin to realize that you yourself have value.

2. Stop Being a People Pleaser

As Aesop once said, “He who tries to please everybody pleases nobody.” This includes yourself — if you spend your whole life trying to please everyone, you won’t find personal happiness.

That is because people pleasers have an unfortunate habit of making everyone else a priority over themselves and pretending to be someone other than their authentic selves.

As you can imagine, pretending to activities that you actually can’t stand or pretending to possess certain qualities you don’t actually have in order to get others to accept you can have a negative effect on your self-esteem.

You are, in essence, telling yourself that you aren’t good enough. The next step towards boosting your self-esteem, then, is forgetting what others want you to be and being your own authentic self.

3. Find Yourself

If you’ve spent your whole life ignoring your own needs and pretending to be someone else in order to please others, you may not know what your authentic self actually is. This is your chance to figure that out!

Turn your gaze inwards and analyze what really drives you and brings you joy. It may feel strange at first, but there is no wrong emotion in this scenario — all are an important step towards authenticity and increased self-esteem.

4. Watch Your Self Talk

Part of developing a healthy self-esteem requires analyzing how you talk to yourself.

We all talk to ourselves in some way, whether out loud or just in our heads, and the language we use can be a significant insight into how we view ourselves. Negative self-talk (i.e. calling yourself ugly or unlikeable) creates a feedback loop where your self-esteem drops, which leads to more negative self-talk, and so on.

The most effective way to break the cycle is to counter that negative self-talk through being kind and positive towards yourself.

Anytime something negative pops into your mind, counteract those thoughts by writing down something positive (i.e. a list of your positive attributes) until positive self-talk becomes a habit.

your mind

 

 

5. Don’t Beat Yourself up over Your Mistakes

As humans, we are frequently harder on ourselves than we are on our loved ones. Unfortunately, many of us view our mistakes as personal or even moral failures.

The thing is, we are all human, and all humans make mistakes. Instead of dwelling on your mistakes as some sort of personal punishment, try to view these mistakes as opportunities to improve yourself. Just by changing your way of thinking, you can boost your self-esteem.

6. Acknowledge Your Successes

On the flip side, you should also recognize your achievements. It is common for many of us to downplay our successes.

We say “It wasn’t that big of a deal. Anyone could do it.” This leads to feelings that we haven’t achieved much with our lives, hurting self-esteem.

If you want to boost your self-esteem, you should celebrate your successes. Think about the person you were just a few years ago, and recognize how much you have grown and changed.

Write your successes down and as time goes on you’ll be amazed at how much you have accomplished.

7. Be Grateful

Cultivating a healthy sense of self-esteem also involves the ability to be grateful for what you have. Some individuals tie their entire sense of self-worth in what they have, but someone else will always have more than you do, whether it’s more money, better looks, etc.

Instead of getting caught up in what you don’t have that others do, focus on what it is that you do have. Be grateful. When you focus on being grateful for the things that you do have, you start to feel happier with your life and more self-assured.

8. Nurture a Positive Attitude

A lot of changing your self-talk, emphasizing your successes over your failures, and being grateful has to do with maintaining a positive attitude. Such an outlook can be difficult to cultivate, as our brains naturally tend to dwell on the negative instead of the positive.

The first step towards nurturing a positive attitude is to associate with positive people. Negative people can only bring you down to their level. Positive people can only help you improve.

9. Commit to Your Decisions

Another way to cultivate positivity in your life is to fully commit to your decisions.

Once you have decided on a course of action, don’t waste your energy on self-doubt and second-guessing yourself. Use that energy to do the necessary research and work to see your task through.

When you give in to self-doubt and second thoughts, you are telling yourself that you don’t view yourself as a competent adult capable of making the right decisions and successfully completing a task.

As such, committing yourself to your decisions boosts your self-esteem by eliminating those doubts and insecurities.

10. Learn How to Say No

Another aspect of making yourself a priority and committing to your decisions is learning how to say no in a decisive yet respectful way. When you learn how to say no, you teach others that your boundaries are to be respected and that you won’t be taken advantage of.

One of my favorite quotes from the late Steve Jobs emphasizes the importance of saying no:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Substitute focus for happiness and you’ve got a winning strategy for life, not just business.

By teaching others to respect your boundaries, you affirm to yourself that you are allowed to have needs and boundaries. You also avoid getting stuck with tasks that drain your energy and sense of positivity.

11. Be Generous to Others

Making your needs a priority and learning how to say no to the things you don’t want to do doesn’t mean that you have to shut others out in order to build up your own self-esteem.

In truth, humans are social creatures and a lack of meaningful human connections can severely impact your self-esteem.

For many people, helping others gives them a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

If you have the time and the means, give to charity, volunteer your time to a cause you feel passionate about, or even give blood at the local blood bank.

12. Love Yourself

At the end of the day, a person with high self-esteem is a person who loves himself. This doesn’t mean loving yourself as Narcissus loved his reflection, but rather loving yourself as a person who has value and worth.

When you love yourself, you lead a healthier life. You take care of your body by exercising regularly, eating the right food, and you take care of your mind with positive talk and a healthy social life.

In short, even if you currently don’t have a high sense of self-esteem, there are simple steps that you can take to start developing a strong sense of self-esteem today.

Some of these twelve activities might not be easy at first due to ingrained habits developed over a lifetime, but if you consistently practice these actions every day they will start to become second nature and you will start to see an improvement in your self-esteem.

 by Daniel Fries

Daniel Fries is an entrepreneur and writer. He is the co-author of two highly-cited papers in the field of translational oncology research. Dan’s diverse background includes positions as a research associate at OSI Pharmaceuticals, an associate scientist at Medtronic Cardiovascular, and research scientist at both the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and the Meyerson Lab at Dana Farber of Harvard Medical School. Currently, Dan manages and operates a portfolio of internet companies, and has partnered with Wired Investors to help grow the company the in the rapidly expanding micro-private equity space. Dan holds a BS/BA in molecular biology and Spanish from the University of Michigan. He speaks Spanish fluently and currently splits most of his time in between startup incubators in Chicago, Saigon, and Mexico City. He is fascinated by the potential of exponential technologies in both biotech and cryptocurrency.

APA Reference
Fries, D. (2018). 12 Simple Activities You Can Do to Start Building Self Esteem Today. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 11, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/12-simple-activities-you-can-do-to-start-building-self-esteem-today/

Scientifically Reviewed      Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 19 Jun 2017)      Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018


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Your Clutter May Be Concealing Some Critical Truths 

It’s hard to imagine that the clutter stacked on our countertops, and stuffed inside a few cabinets, closets and maybe the garage could signify an important revelation. It’s hard to imagine that it’d spark insights about who we are and what we need.

But it can.

For Brooke McAlary, who pens the blog Slow Your Home, decluttering revealed all sorts of uncomfortable truths: “I had no idea what I stood for, what was important in my life, what deserved my time and attention and what didn’t.”

McAlary wanted to portray a specific image to others, which was actually driving her desire to buy more and have certain things: “I wanted people to think I ‘had it all together,’ that I was successful and living a good, enviable life. I wanted to own the clothes, wear the makeup, have the new house, not because they were important to me but because I wanted to appear successful.”

Maybe you can relate.

Maybe you grew up in a family where appearances were everything, where your possessions somehow spoke to the person you were. Maybe you’re living in a neighborhood where that’s the case, where big homes, designer bags and pricey cars mean you’re successful—and ultimately that you’re worthy. Maybe you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses online instead of next door.

So you’ve accumulated everything from a closet crammed with clothes (with tags) to boxes of seasonal decorations to several collections of fine china and random trinkets. And you’ve unwittingly adopted values that when you really think about it, actually have nothing to do with what you sincerely believe.

Maybe you grew up in a family where gifts meant love, or there wasn’t enough money for presents. And so, you’ve given what feels like thousands and thousands of toys to your kids (and have thousands of dollars of debt).

Maybe your clutter reveals the person you yearn to be, but have yet to become: the athlete, the well-read book collector, the natural-born chef, the super creative mom who loves to craft and give homemade gifts. Which is why you cling to: the unused exercise equipment in the basement; the bikes and triathlon gear in the shed; the shelves of unread books; the cabinets of unused appliances; or the plastic bins filled with glue, scrapbook paper, old magazines and glitter.

Maybe your clutter represents someone you’re not anymore.

McAlary had a hard time getting rid of her jewelry supplies, even though she’d closed her jewelry business. “My identity for the past few years had been tied directly to that jewelry, and to give it away was admitting I wasn’t the person I thought I was,” she writes in her insightful new book Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World. “I wasn’t the go-get-‘em budding entrepreneur or the hard worker or the mom who managed to balance work and stay-at-home parenting, and what did that say about me?”

Our clutter often represents our someday, a day that actually never comes. What does is the shame, which keeps lingering. You wonder what’s wrong with you. You wonder why you can’t get it together. You realize it must be because you’re inherently flawed.

You’re not. You’re simply changing. Or you were never interested in those things to begin with. That’s OK, too.

McAlary views decluttering as “a wonderful place to begin the work of excavating our true selves, our values, our priorities, and creating the time and space with which we can begin to live a more truthful version of life.”

clutter

In other words, getting rid of the excess can create the opportunity to shed old and no longer true parts of ourselves. It can create the opportunity to relinquish old needs, wants and wishes. It can create the opportunity to start living according to our most significant values.

McAlary eventually gave away all her jewelry, because it was dragging her down and keeping her stuck. As she writes in her book, “I continued to tie my identity to this stuff, but instead of being a positive thing, it had morphed into self-loathing and failure. Why would I want to keep that around?”

Letting go of the jewelry actually felt liberating—and it was both less scary and more exhilarating than she thought it would be.

She also let go of wanting to appear successful to others and started asking herself more meaningful (and tougher) questions: “What matters to me? What do I want my life to stand for? What do I want my legacy to be?”

What if you asked yourself these questions, too?

McAlary wrote her own eulogy when she was 31. “[I] have used it ever since as a foundation on which I’ve slowly built a life full of the things that are important to me. And while my eulogy had nothing at all to do with decluttering, I would never have had the clarity to sit and write it had I not spent time shedding layers of stuff for years before.”

She includes her eulogy in the book, which she imagines her children saying:

Quick to laugh, creative, compassionate, with a wicked sense of humor, Mom was never without a new plan or adventure on the horizon. She…was spontaneous, loyal, introspective, and believed wholeheartedly that we all have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it. Mom, we’ll miss you always. Thank you for our roots, but thank you even more for our wings.

When we declutter, we stop carrying the weight of all our things, of all our past needs and wishes and identities, of values we no longer hold, of shame that only shatters us.

“We can let go of the guilt and the obligations and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are,” McAlary said. “[A]nd we can put that time and energy in to things that truly matter to us.”

Which might mean savoring short trips and adventures with your family, practicing restorative yoga, taking dance classes, hosting dinner parties (where the main course is pizza from the delicious place down the block), and having items in your home that you absolutely love, that genuinely reflect who you are. Right now.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.         9 Sep 2018
 
Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central.
Her Master’s degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University.
In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.


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If Losing Your Job To The Pandemic Destroyed Your Identity, Here’s How To Find It

        “If I’m not (insert job title here), then who am I?”

This is the type of question some adults are asking themselves as they struggle through the darkness of losing a job to the pandemic.

Some never realized how tied their identities were to their careers until they lost them. They feel lost mentally and emotionally, as if they’re experiencing a bad breakup. The present is surreal, the future is uncertain, and they’re unsure how to define themselves.

Christa Black, a freelance copywriter from Ashland, Kentucky, said her work shaped her identity.

“I finally felt like a ‘real’ writer, because after several years of trying, I was actually being paid to do what I enjoyed and was good at,” she said. “I started to feel less like an artist and more like ‘a professional.'”

But when the pandemic hit, the work faded away. Black’s income decreased to little to none. She soon felt that she had lost her identity, that she was no longer a professional and that she didn’t fit in with the creative community from which she had come.

That might be because sudden unemployment is a threat to “narrative identity,” said Jonathan Adler, a professor of psychology who specializes in identity and narrative psychology at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts.

“Identity is the story of our lives that weaves together the way we reconstruct our past, make sense of the present and anticipate our future,” he said.

That narrative identity is the confluence of you and the culture in which you live. We grow up in a sea of stories about what a typical life’s journey looks like and what moments we’re supposed to hold onto, Adler said, so we take the templates available to us and tailor our experiences to those master narratives.

“We use our stories as the foundation for everything else that we do,” Adler said. “So when you rock the foundation, everything else on top of that crumbles.”

Through some inner work, however, you can take back your worth.

How our identities influence our jobs

For some, jobs provide merely a paycheck. For others, occupations also supply a sense of meaning that holds weight when they think about their sense of selves.

Our perpetually “on the grind” culture defines who we are by what we do for work.

“The first thing we ask when we meet a new person is, ‘What do you do for a living?'” said Nicole Hind, an Australia-based psychotherapist behind the online community, blog and practice Unveiled Stories.

“It’s as though we equate ‘goodness’ with ‘work’ when in fact goodness is so much more than that. It’s important to note that this is particular to our modern industrialized society: the idea that work is all of who we are and that we are not worthy humans if we don’t work.”

Additionally, people who feel motivated and engaged by and passionate about their work might have experienced psychological benefits from finding their calling, Adler said.

In the idealized college-job-promotion-passion trajectory, becoming unemployed isn’t part of the vision. “All of a sudden the end is totally open and uncertain,” Adler said.

Our narrative identities serve two additional functions that make us feel good. They provide a sense of unity, so that we feel we are the same people over time. They also provide a sense of purpose, so we know the meaning of what we’re doing and what our lives are about.

People suddenly faced with job loss are now challenged by a story with a cliffhanger and interrupted senses of unity and purpose — all of which can lead to anxiety, depression and anger.

 

mirror

What to do about it

Finding your identity begins with questioning yourself about three themes that construct life stories and tend to be the strongest predictors of well-being, Adler said.

“It’s not so much what happens to you [that matters]; it’s how you tell the story of what happens to you,” Adler said.

The first is agency, a characteristic of the main character in your story (which is you). Maybe your effectiveness at your job provided your sense of agency. Though no one is in complete control, how much are you in the driver’s seat of your life versus batted around by the whims of external forces?

Give yourself the space to grieve the losses, Hind instructed.

Don’t rush into proclaiming why you’re stronger because of it. Instead, acknowledge what you’re feeling physically, emotionally and mentally. Recall positive moments, too: the times when you advocated for what you believed in or hit a goal.

Summer internships have dried up because of the pandemic. Here’s how to get ahead without one

“People who do what’s called exploratory processing — which means deeply trying to make sense of their experience before creating a redemption sequence at the end — actually do better than the people who just do redemption without exploring the challenge,” Adler said.

Then find something else to prioritize, like a new venture or hobby. Revisit your core values and what really matters: What parts of your job were important to you? What fueled your passion? How can you express those during this period?

You can stay invested in those values whether you’re employed or not, Adler said.

For example, Black, the freelance copywriter, has found her roots again in creative writing. “It has helped me get back in touch with my creativity and given me something enjoyable to focus on while I emotionally recover from everything that came along with the pandemic and its fallout,” she said.

In this way, the underlying value of her job might be fulfilled.

Figure out your own definition of success, Hind said. What do you admire about your role models? Is it their “success” or their skills, compassion, kindness or wisdom?

And our stories aren’t just about ourselves. Communion, secondly, entails a sense of being connected to, nurturing and feeling cared for by quality relationships. Engage with the connections that matter to you.

“Step away from ‘job’ as being the only and step towards appreciating [yourself] and others for everything: the way you take care of someone or the meal you cooked today,” Hind said. “What [do] my everyday life, my interactions and my values say about who I am?”

Taking action and finding community foster the growth leading to redemption — stories that start out bad but end well.

“There’s a lot of research on the theme of redemption. It’s sort of a classic American master narrative,” Adler said. “We have the Puritan settlers finding freedom. We have ex-slaves’ narratives about liberation. We have the rags to riches stories.”

The outcome of finding yourself

Reclaiming your identity requires both a quick shift in mindset and a journey of changing your thought patterns and behaviors — just like setting an intention to lose weight, Adler said.

“That’s something that takes place over time, but it actually happens every moment of every day. You can’t just diet and exercise on the weekends,” he explained. “Changing your narrative identity is like that — it’s a cumulative process that builds up over time, but the intention … is something you do in the here and now every day.”

When we’re focused only on work as a measure of success and what defines us, we lose touch with many other areas, Hind said.

We might devalue our contributions to our families or forget to be present with them, ourselves, pets and other sources of joy. We say we “don’t have time” for leisure and then wonder why we’re so anxious all the time or need a drink to unwind. Then we wonder why we’re unhappy, Hind said.
Just as a threatened identity might have upended every area of your life, a solid identity can also flow into different domains and increase your confidence.

By Kristen Rogers       June 18, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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Is This The Secret To Achieving Your Goals?

New research suggests we fail at achieving our goals because we approach them backwards.

When we first decide on a goal we are motivated by rewards. But as we put our plans into action, our focus turns to the difficulty of the effort we need to put in to achieve those goals.

That dooms us to failure, according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London.

They suggest the key to achieving our goals is to consider the effort needed when deciding what to do, and then remembering to focus on the rewards once the time comes to put the effort in.

To investigate the relationship between effort and reward, the researchers designed experiments involving two different forms of effort — physical and mental.

Physical effort was measured squeezing a joystick, while solving simple mathematical equations tested mental effort.

Study participants were presented with different options that combined either high or low effort with high or low financial reward, and were asked to select which one to pursue.

The scientists found that when selecting options, participants were guided by the level of financial reward offered, but on execution of the task their performance was determined by the actual amount of effort they needed to exert.

The researchers report the results were similar for both the physical and mental effort-based experiments.

“Common sense suggests the amount of effort we put into a task directly relates to the level of reward we expect in return,” said Dr. Agata Ludwiczak, research fellow from Queen Mary University of London and lead author of the study. “However, building psychological and economic evidence indicates that often high rewards are not enough to ensure people put in the effort they need to achieve their targets.”

“We have found that there isn’t a direct relationship between the amount of reward that is at stake and the amount of effort people actually put in,” she said. “This is because when we make choices about what effort to put in, we are motivated by the rewards we expect to get back. But at the point at which we come to actually do what we had said we would do, we focus on the level of effort we have to actually put in rather than the rewards we hoped we would get.”

“If we aren’t careful our plans can be informed by unrealistic expectations because we pay too much attention to the rewards,” added Dr. Magda Osman, reader in Experimental Psychology at Queen Mary. “Then when we face the reality of our choices, we realize the effort is too much and give up.

“For example, getting up early to exercise for a new healthy lifestyle might seem like a good choice when we decide on our new year’s resolutions, but once your alarm goes off on a cold January morning, the rewards aren’t enough to get you up and out of bed.”

The study was published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.
Source: Queen Mary University of London
    
By Janice Wood            Associate News Editor        23 Feb 2020

 

goals

 

The Keys to Achieving Your Goals

When I was very new to the collision repair business, I had a boss that always said the same thing on the morning of January 2. He said, “Everyone, the holidays are over; now let’s get to work!”
That boss scoffed at the idea of making New Year’s resolutions and he always seemed to know what to work on to be successful and move his business forward. Making New Year’s resolutions is a long-standing tradition in the U.S. and recent research shows that 61 percent of us admit to making resolutions each year. Unfortunately, only about 8 percent of us are successful in achieving those resolutions. Most people admit that they fail their resolution before January 31.
An article last year in Inc. magazine cited a survey of 2000 people and listed these as the top five resolutions:
  1. Diet or eat healthier (71 percent)
  2. Exercise more (65 percent)
  3. Lose weight (54 percent)
  4. Save more and spend less (32 percent)
  5. Learn a new skill or hobby (26 percent)
It seems to me that we’ve got it all wrong when it comes to making these resolutions and several quotable notables agree. Mark Twain observed, “New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
Why is it so difficult to achieve our resolutions? I think that the resolutions we make are not framed properly to be achievable because they are vague and largely negative. For example, losing weight is a negative construct. Nobody likes losing, even if the losing results in something positive. Most importantly, though, is that resolutions are not S.M.A.R.T. goals.
What do I mean by SMART goals? SMART goals are established using a specific set of criteria that ensures your goals are attainable. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These terms are slightly different than those used by the inventor of the SMART goal setting process back in 1981. The November 1981 issue of Management Review contained a paper by George T. Doran called There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. The paper discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them. Here is a quote from Doran’s paper:
“Ideally speaking, each objective should be:
    Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
    Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
    Assignable – specify who will do it.
    Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
    Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
Notice that these criteria don’t say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management. In certain situations it is not realistic to attempt quantification, particularly in staff middle-management positions. Practicing managers and corporations can lose the benefit of a more abstract objective in order to gain quantification. It is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore serious management should focus on these twins and not just the objective.”
When writing a SMART goal, you work through each of those terms to construct a goal that states exactly what needs to be accomplished, when it needs to be accomplished by, and how you’ll know when you’ve successfully reached your goal. Setting goals this way is obviously better than making resolutions, because it eliminates generalities, guesswork, and negative verbiage and sets a definitive “win” opportunity all the while making it easy to track your progress to the goal.
Let’s unpack each of these terms and apply some real world examples to each one so we can better understand how to use this system.
The first term is “specific” and is the foundation piece of the system. Specific goals are more likely to be attained than general goals and resolutions. To set a specific goal, you have to address the five “W” questions.
  • “Who”: Who is involved?
  • “What”: What do I want to accomplish?
  • “Where”: Where will the actions occur?
  • “When”: When will the actions occur, within what timeframe?
  • “Why”: What are the specific reasons and benefits of accomplishing this goal?
As an example, a general goal or resolution might sound like, “I want to get in shape” whereas a specific goal is, “I will join Gold’s Gym and do workouts every week.” A financial goal that is general in nature might sound like, “I want to save more and spend less” whereas a specific goal is, “ I want to pay off credit card debt.”
The next element is “measurable” and, in a nutshell, refers to the ability to track your goal using numbers. If you notice in the examples above, we don’t have any numbers and measurements in place. A well-constructed SMART goal of doing workouts should sound like this: “I will join the gym and do four workouts of one hour each per week” Paying off credit card debt goals sounds like, “I will pay off $3,000 of credit card debt by applying at least $150 to that debt each month.”
By adding a measurable element to your goal, you can easily track your progress and also be aware when you get off course toward your goal.
There is one very important step
that you must take when establishing your SMART goals.
It sounds so simple, yet most people fail to execute on it.
The most important step is write it down. 
The letter “A” stands for “attainable” or “achievable.” While I believe that your goals should be something of a stretch, you’ll want to make certain that the goal is actually achievable. For example, most companies don’t become a billion dollar enterprise overnight, so you’ll want to gauge the achievability of your goal by asking a few questions: Is this goal something I have control over? Do I have the necessary resources, knowledge and time to accomplish this goal? Are the actions I plan to take likely to bring success?
Here is one of the subtle secrets to successful goal setting: You must make your goal actionable. Use action words and verbs to draft your goal by listing out the exact steps you will take to accomplish your goal. Let’s say you have a goal to exercise 30 minutes per day, five days per week but you want to make sure that is achievable. In this case, you might look at your typical daily schedule and note that you love to watch “Jeopardy” every evening at 7 p.m. and the show lasts 30 minutes. If you then construct a series of action steps, they might look like this: “I will set up my exercise bike in the TV room and will ride the bike for 30 minutes while watching the nightly episode of “Jeopardy.” I will not watch Jeopardy if I am not riding my exercise bike.” This seems to me to be a simple, action-oriented and attainable goal.
The letter “R” stands for “realistic” or “relevant.” I believe that the standard term of “realistic” fits better as a descriptor of “attainable” or “achievable.” For that reason, I tend to create goals using the term “relevant.” In simplistic terms, a relevant goal is one that is worthwhile and is actually important to you right now. Ask yourself these questions: Will this goal make a material difference on achieving my larger objectives? Is this goal closely aligned with the mission of my business or my work team? Will this goal make a meaningful, positive impact on my life, or is this just a random idea that sounds good at the moment? Let’s face it, if the goal is not important to you, it is likely to fail. If you are setting a goal for your own personal development, you’ll know if the goal “feels right” and is relevant.
The letter “T” stands for “timely” or “time-bound.” Now, it might seem obvious, but goals can’t stretch out into eternity. When do you want to accomplish the goal and be able to say it’s complete? Next week, next month, 90 days from now? Robert Herjavec, one of the entrepreneurs on the TV show “Shark Tank” is quoted as having said, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” I think Robert may have been influenced by Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich who stated it this way, ”A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
Not withstanding the semantics of these two aphorisms, it is vital that your goals have a deadline. Otherwise, how will you know when you’ve reached the goal? Deadlines need to be specific. You can’t say you’ll accomplish something by next summer. That’s too vague and allows you too much wiggle room to extend your goal. It’s also too ambiguous for people who may be working with you to achieve a goal. It’s better to say that your goal will be reached by a certain date so that everyone can retain their focus on the action items that need to be completed to achieve the goal. Deadlines create a sense of urgency that stimulates action. If you’ve set a goal to drop 40 pounds and you think you can do it by exercising 30 minutes per day, then the last remaining element is to decide on the date that you’ll achieve the goal. Tie that back to the “attainable” or “achievable” element and you’ll have a very solid goal in place.
SMART
Using SMART criteria for setting goals is a huge improvement over the old New Year’s Resolutions scenario and I hope you will begin to use this method right away in your personal and professional life. Once you’ve set some goals remember to write them down. According to a study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, you become 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate small wins that you make along the way to achieving your main goal. Our brains are wired in such a way that celebrating wins creates a sense of happiness and these accomplishments stimulate further motivation to reach the finish line.
by Steve Morris 
 December 31, 2019 / January 28,2020
-Steve is director of operations for Pride Collision Centers,
 a seven-location MSO located in Southen California. 
He is an Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) and  ASE-certified master technician.