What Are You Waiting For?

“Before someone’s tomorrow has been taken away, cherish those you love, appreciate them today.” ~Michelle C. Ustaszeski

Most of us are really good at finding reasons to wait.

We wait to call good friends we miss because we assume we’ll have plenty of time.

We wait to tell people how we really feel because we hope it will someday feel safer.

We wait to forgive the people who’ve hurt us because we believe they should reach out first.

We wait to apologize for the things we’ve done because we feel too stubborn or ashamed to admit fault.

If we’re not careful, we can spend our whole lives making excuses, holding off until a better time, only to eventually realize that time never came.

It sounds morbid to acknowledge that our days here limited, and it’s scary to realize that none of us can ever know how many we have.

But we can know that in our final moments, it’s unlikely we’ll say, “I wish I waited longer,” or “I wish I stayed angry longer,” or “I wish I played it safe longer.”

Most of us will get to the end of our lives and say, “I’m sorry.” “I forgive you.” Or, “I love you.”

Of course, there’s another option: We can say those things right now.

We can appreciate the people we love in action instead of distracting ourselves with everyday worries. We can be brave in expressing our thoughts and feelings instead of over-analyzing and talking ourselves out of it. We can decide for ourselves what truly matters and honor it while we have the chance.

This is our chance to live and love. This moment is our only guaranteed opportunity to be thoughtful, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, and kind to the people we value.

It might be terrifying. It might require humility. It might seem like it’s not a priority.

We owe it to ourselves to acknowledge it is, and to do something about it instead of building up reasons to regret.

What have you been meaning to do or say—and what are you waiting for?

Article by:  Julie Deschene of Tiny Buddha

A 5 Minute Test That Will Reveal Your Innermost Thoughts

I read a great article over at Oliver Pemberton’s Blog He wrote an article about how to reveal your innermost thoughts in the space of 5 minutes.

I think this game highlights just how much we live in our subconscious minds and how the subconscious controls us without us ever realising it.  However there are ways to reach the subconscious mind, which I’ll discuss over the coming weeks.

I thought this was really interesting and would be great to share here on the blog, so here goes with this interesting game:

The 5 Minute Game

I want you to imagine a desert, stretching out as far as your eyes can see. In this desert is a cube.

Your first task is to describe the cube. What does it look like? How large is it? What is it made of? Where exactly is it?

There are no right answers here, only your answers.  Take a moment before you continue – the detail is important.

Now imagine that in the scene there is a horse. (Yes, horse. I didn’t say this desert made sense). Your third task: describe the horse. Most importantly: where is the horse, and what is it doing? Where, if anywhere, is it going?

We’re nearly there now. In the scene before you are flowers. Your penultimate task: describe the flowers. How many are there? What do they look like? Where are they, in relation to the horse, cube, ladder and sand?

Final question. In the desert there is a storm. Describe the storm. What type of storm is it? Is it near, or far? What direction is it headed? Does it affect the horse, flowers, cube or ladder?

If you’ve been playing along, this is going to be fun. If you didn’t, I must warn you: the next part ruins your ability to play this game ever again. If you won’t want to ruin it forever, go back now. Trust me.

Ready? There’s no going back.

What the symbols represent

The Cube – Your Ego

The size is ostensibly your ego: a large cube means you’re pretty sure of yourself, a small cube less so.

The vertical placement of the cube is how grounded you are. Resting on the sand? You’re probably pretty down to earth. Floating in the sky? Your head is in the clouds.

The cube’s material conveys how open you are: transparent cubes belong to transparent people, opaque cubes are more protective of their minds. Glowing? You’re likely a positive person, who aims to raise the spirits of others. Made of granite? You’re likely protective and resilient.

The trick here is that when asked to describe a blank, abstract entity – a cube – your imagination will tend to project its own identity onto it. This trick is as old as time, but it’s about to get more interesting.

The Ladder – Your Friends

Are your friends leaning on the cube? Your friends depend on you, and are close. Is the ladder frail, or robust? Tall or short? Does it lead inside the cube? Or is it cast to one side, lying unloved on the sand? By now you should be able to draw your own conclusions.

The Horse – Your Dream Partner

The type of horse reveals a lot about what you yearn for in a partner. Some people see a steady brown workhorse, others a shining pegasus or unicorn. Make of these people what you will.

Is your horse nuzzling your cube affectionately, or taking a bite out of it? Is it far from your cube, or walking away? This can represent a current partner, or an aspirational one, but the results are often a mix of touching and hilarious.

The Flowers – Your Children

The number of flowers relates to how many you imagine having. Some people see just a single, withered daisy; others a resplendent garden covering the cube and desert beneath. (Guys: watch out for those).

The colour and vitality of the flowers can speak to their health and presumed prosperity. The placement – particularly in relation to the cube – can reveal interesting relations; I met one woman whose horse was eating their flowers.

The Storm – Threat

This speaks to the current state of the person, and how they perceive risk in their life. Some may see a distant storm, on the lip of the horizon, fading from sight. Others may view themselves in the midst of a thunderous apocalypse, hailstones the size of tennis balls pelting their fragile cube and horse. Chances are those people have some immediate trauma in their life.

Obviously this is just a little bit of fun and is not a true psychological tests, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Article by: Steve Aitchison

Find The Best Career Quizzes to Help You Find Your Dream Job

If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably been a little too sucked into the BuzzFeed quiz sensation. And while those goofy little tests are a fun distraction, what if we told you that you could spend your time taking quizzes that are actually beneficial to your career?

We’ve gathered some of the best career assessments and personality quizzes on the web. Whether you need help finding the right path for you or want to learn a little more about your working style to help you improve the job you already have, there’s sure to be a career quiz for you. And while no test is likely to be able to tell you exactly what your dream career might be, these can certainly help point you in the right direction.

1. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Cost: $49.95 or free online knock-off

Applicable across all areas of your life, the MBTI is probably one of the most used assessments by career centers and managers alike. The MBTI gives you a sense of your personality preferences: where you get your energy, how you like to take in information, how you make decisions, and what kind of structure you like in the world around you. While these preferences can certainly point to careers that might suit you well, they can also give you a lot of valuable information about what kind of workplaces might be best for you, what your working preferences are, and how you can best relate to others at the office. If you don’t want to pay to take the official test, you can take a pretty good and free online version here.

2. Self-Directed Search

Cost: $9.95

The Self-Directed Search (SDS) is built with the idea that people and jobs can be categorized into six different types: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, or conventional. After answering questions about your aspirations, activities, interests, and the like, you’ll receive the three types that best fit you, along with a list of careers that generally fit people with a mix of those types.

3. My Next Move O*Net Interests Profiler

Cost: Free

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, this tool uses a method similar to Self-Directed Search to help you identify where your career interests lie, then points you towards career paths that might feed those interests. The results section even has the option to search different careers by how much preparation is necessary to get into them, meaning you can find options that are a fit to your current skill level.

4. MyPlan.com

Cost: Free – $19.95

MyPlan.com offers a suite of four different tests to help you find your perfect career and measure your career personality (similar to the MBTI), interests, skills, and desired values (the only free test on the site). You can learn things from each test individually (for example, the career values test will give you a sense of what to look for in a new position in order to find meaning), but the site also offers a service that takes the results of all the tests you take to help you find a job that matches your profile.

5. Pymetrics

Cost: Free

Pymetrics uses a series of simple (yet surprisingly challenging) mind games to measure different cognitive and social traits (think your level of risk aversion or your attention span). The results detail your strengths and weaknesses, which can give you some hints into what kinds of roles you might excel in.

6. The MAPP Career Assessment

Cost: Free sample, $89.95+ for full results

The MAPP test is perhaps one of the most comprehensive career assessments out there, giving you a narrative report talking about what sorts of tasks you like best, how you like to perform them, and how you deal with people, data, things, reasoning, and language. The assessment also provides a list of 20 possible career areas for you. As part of the free sample, you’ll receive information about your top trait in each category, as well as 10 possible career areas, so even if you don’t feel like paying, you can still get some valuable insights.

7. Career Strengths Test

Cost: Free

This collection of activities, developed by Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation for Oprah, will test your strength level in a variety of different skills, from inductive reasoning to structural visualization. If you do well, you can see which jobs require that skill—and get a sense of what types of careers might be a fit for your abilities.

8. StrengthsQuest

Cost: $9.95

StrengthsQuest gives college students a sense of what you’re already great at—and how you can use those skills to better your career. After taking the test, you’ll get a customized report that lists your top five talent themes, along with action items using those talents to your advantage and suggestions about how you can achieve academic, career, and personal success.

9. The Big Five Personality Test

Cost: Free

Learn more about how you work and relate to others with this quick test. You’ll get information on how open to new experiences you are, how self-disciplined you are, how extraverted you are, how agreeable you are, and how you handle stressful situations.

10. Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator

Cost: $12

This test tells you which of the eight Enneagram types you are most like: the reformer, the helper, the achiever, the individualist, the investigator, the loyalist, the enthusiast, the challenger, or the peacemaker. Understanding more about your type can not only help you get along better with your co-workers, but can also give you hints about characteristics you need in a career in order for it to be fulfilling.

11. What Career Should You Actually Have?

Cost: Free

Okay, this BuzzFeed career quiz probably won’t give you many real insights. But if you only have a few minutes and need a break from the workday? It’s the perfect “productive” distraction.

Article By:  The Daily Muse Editor

5 Truths To Remember When You Feel Like You Are Not Enough

We all live with moments, days or weeks of self-doubt.

These are times that make us feel inadequate and over-conscious of our long list of flaws. They’re occasions that make us question our purpose, our image or our identity, forcing us to wonder if we just aren’t enough.

The frequency in my moments of self-doubt has increased since putting my thoughts out into the world in writing. If I did not receive the feedback I desired, I immediately started questioning my purpose and my goals and harping on whether or not people were just perceiving me as strange. I started a negative spiral of focusing too much on where I fell short while comparing that list to where others seemed to flourish.

I quickly realized that these emerging insecurities would break me down if I didn’t stand up to them.

I recently read my results on a personality inventory. It told me that I am sensitive (I knew this) and that I often base my perceptions of myself through how I feel others perceive me. This hit home not because I felt it was unique to me, but because I hadn’t realized before the power of the key word: perception.

Since then I have identified a simple fact: it is my own negative thinking that hinders me. I am the one who attaches meaning to a rejection, a comment or a lack of traffic on my articles. I am the one who keeps taking things personally. I am the one attacking myself for not succeeding as quickly as I would like.

Since realizing this, I have learned how to replace that negativity with self-encouragement, a dash of harsh reality and words of kindness.

Here are some things I have told myself to snap out of it:

1.  If we believe that we are only on this Earth for a limited time, then who cares if people think we are weird?

At the end of the day, what are we living for if we aren’t fighting to be the best version of ourselves, if we aren’t pushing the envelope and shoving ourselves into situations where discomfort is all encompassing? I am not going to get buried 6 feet under or have my ashes thrown out to sea without knowing that I made some kind of name for myself. It’s not happening. If death is the biggest thing to fear, someone thinking I’m weird pales in comparison.

 2. F*&k it.

If I’m living authentically, if I’m riding my train straight into a place that feels right for me, I’m going to keep riding. There are going to be people or places or moments along the way that make me feel like I’m not good enough and that is okay. As long as I stay true to who I am, as long as I keep working to grow and learn and try— I will be ahead of the game.

3. So what if someone seems to be having a better time than me?

I have gone through periods of comparing myself to others. Individuals who appear to be living a life I would rather have, who are chasing their dreams with fearless relentlessness and trekking out into the unknown to vibe with whatever comes up. I now fight this with a blunt, ‘make more of your time then!’ or a ‘keep pushing until this life feels like the blessing it is supposed to be.’

4. I count my own blessings.

I remember that it could be so, so, so much worse. I snap myself out of it because I am pretty damn lucky. I remind myself of my talents, accomplishments, loved ones and life experiences. I fight against drowning in my weaknesses by soaring with my strengths.

5. I remind myself that I am enough.

I will continue to be enough no matter what I am pursuing, who I am with, where I am going, or what I am fighting for. I am enough because I say so. I have power over my thoughts and my self-image and that is enough.

I will continue to remind myself of these things when those moments of doubt inevitably creep back in again. But they won’t stay around for long—they have no place in my happy heart. They have no place in yours either.

Live your authentic life, pursue your dreams and remind yourself over and over again that you are enough just the way you are. You rock out at things I could only be in awe of and the same goes for me. Use your talents, find your voice, grab the reigns and take off.

Written by: Via Alissa Lastras

 

 

Can You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

When you say “Yes” to others, make sure you are not saying “No” to yourself.  -Paolo Coelho

From the moment we are old enough to curl our hands and snatch toys from our fellow crèche dwellers, we are told not to be selfish. “No one likes a Selfish Sally,” “Put others first,” “Don’t be so greedy”—and so goes the stream of reprimands. It’s no wonder that we are all so concerned with being perceived as selfish, that we now feel terrible for ever having the audacity of putting ourselves first. We may win friends with our selflessness, but what damage is this causing to our own second-standardized spirits?

I didn’t realize how much of a people-pleaser I actually was until my cancer journey forced me to take inventory of where my life was out of balance. As any empowered cancer patient does, I sought out people who could help me shine a light on the issues that were subconsciously manifesting my disease. What I discovered is that I have had a penchant for giving so much of myself away without taking the time to nurture and nourish myself properly. Growing up as a pretty spoilt (but not a spoilt brat!) only child, I was always very conscious that I could be perceived as being selfish and I was desperate not to be thought of in this way. Being called selfish when I was younger cut me deep. So subconsciously, it turns out, I would strive to be selfless.

My condition showed up in my left hand and arm, which if you’re also a fan of Louise Hay you will know that the left side of the body is the “feminine” side, and the left hand and arm are linked to “giving.”I’ve discovered that cancer may have manifested in this area to send me a message to stop giving so much of myself away, and to start taking or giving myself what I need. My only treatment option in the eyes of conventional medicine was to have my arm amputated. It was kind of like my body was giving me a very simple ultimatum—stop giving so much of yourself away, or you will lose your arm and physically won’t be able to continue giving.

Be selective with your yeses

But enough about me. Do you practice discernment when it comes to saying yes to people? When we constantly give to people, without receiving anything in return, our bodies get the message that they are second rate and not good enough. This is why it is so important to honour ourselves first.

Being selfish is not always a bad thing. Sure, other problems will arise if we say no to everyone all of the time, but this is where selectivity comes in. If you listen carefully, your body will tell you if you are dishonouring yourself by saying yes to someone or something when you really don’t want to. Your “gut feeling” or intuition will poke you in the tummy and let you know. You know what feeling I’m talking about. Some times it genuinely feels good to say yes, but the trick is to make sure that you never give more to other people than you give to yourself.

How to say no without getting “the guilts”

Our health and happiness should always come first. Because when our cups are overflowing we have more good stuff to offer others. By giving to ourselves first, we are honouring the fact that we are here in the Universe to serve a purpose that will ultimately create a ripple effect and serve those around us.

This concept is generally pretty easy to grasp. Putting it into practice, and actually saying no to people without feeling guilty, is the hard part.

To heal my body from cancer, I undertook two years of Gerson Therapy—a healing modality that requires me to pour all of my energy into nurturing myself. Everything I do is directed at healing my body, mind, and spirit. Naturally, this started to rewire old habits and I am much more aware of my need to be selfish. However I still have a little way to go. I still have trouble saying no to people and I still hate letting people down in any way. In some ways, I am still a bit of a pushover. But I’m working on it. Whenever I want to say no to someone, I complete this exercise:

1. Write a list of ten benefits the person will receive by saying no to them. By doing this, our brains start to understand that saying no is actually beneficial to both parties.

2. Write a list of one ten drawbacks the person will experience from saying yes to them when you feel too guilty to say no. For example, continually saying yes to someone may impinge on their growth because it enables them to remain dependent on you and not take responsibility for themselves.

At first I thought it would be impossible to list ten benefits and drawbacks, and I really couldn’t see how saying no to someone would benefit them. But after I spent time thinking about it I realised that saying no and being selfish can be of service to both ourselves and others.

Saying no to others and yes to ourselves is one of the most important steps to healing because it gives our bodies a direct message that they do matter, that they are good enough—and that they are loved.

Article written by: Jess Ainscough

Assuming Positive Intentions In Your Relationship

“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” ~Mildred Barthel

I used to think he was out to get me. The man of my dreams was continually plotting to undermine my happiness in countless ways, all for some mysterious reason I couldn’t comprehend.

Can you give me a ride to work today?” He missed his shuttle on the morning I had my first speech, a forty-five-minute drive in the opposite direction. He obviously didn’t want me to succeed in my career.

Are you wearing that tonight?” Oh great, just before we go out to meet friends for dinner he wanted to throw off my confidence in how I looked. Did he think I was getting fat?

Can you come help me with this?” Couldn’t he see that I was in the middle of a relaxing Saturday morning, my first bit of sanity after a very stressful week? He must not care if I got any down time, though you could bet he’d be sitting on the couch watching golf all afternoon.

A lot of my time was spent stewing, working over these scenarios and replaying them in my mind. Overthinking was my specialty, my calling card in life. I prided myself on seeing things other people missed, reading between the lines to get to the “real” meaning.

These little bits of drama took a lot of mental effort for me to concoct, but after a while I became really good at them. I could summon up a motive from his every glance or change of tone, sometimes simply from thin air.

Nevermind that I still considered him my dream man, just one with the not-so-adorable quirk of trying to undermine happiness.

What did that say about me?

Like most of my uncomfortable feelings, I pushed these thoughts down, working to keep things cool on the surface while I boiled underneath.

Life kept moving forward, and then one day my brother had a heart attack. A year later, a friend had a brain aneurysm. Both survived, but it changed our mindset about time and dreams.

We decided to sell everything we owned and travel the world, taking our retirement dreams and living them at midlife instead, when we had the health and energy to enjoy them. It was a beautiful time, planning our grand adventure and then stepping into it together.

But still, I had these nagging thoughts about him and his continued efforts to rob me of my happiness, even as we were living out our biggest dream. Looking back, it was pure insanity.

I read about this site in Northern Peru that’s supposed to be really cool. Want to go there next instead of Machu Picchu?” He knew I was dying to go to Machu Picchu. Why would he try to take that away from me? He didn’t want me to be happy.

Why don’t you write in the early mornings so we still have the days to explore Edinburgh together?” He knew I wasn’t a morning person, so why would he ask such a thing? Because he was a morning person, that’s why. He thought I was lazy.

I’ve been editing the podcasts and you say “this and that” a lot. It detracts from the message. Can you tamp it down?” Hey, I just got a compliment from a guest on my radio voice. Why was he nitpicking like that? He couldn’t stand it that someone said something nice to me.

None of my thoughts were said out loud, but they did needle at my happiness in small bursts multiple times a day. We were rarely apart in this traveling lifestyle, especially when we started publishing books and podcasts together, and I found an ulterior motive in almost everything he said. Over time, my brain almost melted at the continuous effort required to read into his every word. It was a full-time job.

Then a very big fight happened, one of those life-changing arguments, and I let the cat out of the bag. He was stunned.

“Of course I’m not out to get you. I love you.”

At the end of all the harsh words and tears this was a revelation, an insight into this years-long issue in our relationship.

It wasn’t him; it was me.

All those years of reading between the lines, a skill I’d honed since childhood, kept me from seeing reality. I was ignoring the black and white meaning of what he said in favor of some imagined murky gray story with no basis in fact.

My writer’s mind was altering my own life story, as it happened, without the consent or knowledge of the other main character. I was changing a light-hearted romance into a mystery and painting my husband as the bad guy.

In the aftermath of the very big fight, we agreed to always assume the best intentions of the other person, no matter what words were chosen in the delivery. Instead of picking apart how it was said, we would focus on where it came from, which was always from the heart.

Questions were encouraged. Clarification was required. No guessing games allowed.

It was surprising how fast this one change impacted my outlook. I stopped spinning crazy stories in my head and focused on the moment, what this man who loved me was trying to convey. When I didn’t understand, or the understanding I had was negative, I asked for clarification.

He always freely gave it.

He wanted to see everything in the world with me. He wanted me to have time to write, but also to play together. He wanted the work we produced to be as professional as possible, and he knew we both had quirks to overcome.

The meaning was there in plain sight, in the honesty of his words. He wanted the best for us in everything, as anyone in love would.

He wasn’t out to get me. He was out to love me, to share a life with me, and all I had to do was take him at his word.

The day we vowed to always assume the best intentions in each other was as powerful as the day we vowed to be together forever. And it makes honoring that marriage vow a lot more enjoyable.

How to Train Yourself to Assume the Best Intentions

1. Every single day, compliment or thank your partner for something they’ve done.

Make gratitude for what they do right an everyday thing and the occasional slipups will not seem as big. It also reinforces positive behaviors, making them more likely to continue.

2. When your partner says or does something that rankles you, first stop and ask yourself if a stranger in the room with you right at that moment would have the same reaction.

If you’re overthinking, you will have added layers of meaning that aren’t there. But if you look at it from the outside, it’s a more realistic version of events. It will help center you.

3. If all else fails, ask for clarification.

“I may have taken this the wrong way. Did you mean X?” This gives your partner the chance to clear it up right away, before you’ve had a chance to concoct a story in your head.

It will take some time to train yourself from over thinking and reading between the lines, but it can be done. And you (and your partner) will be happier because of it.

Article written by: Betsy Talbot of Tiny Buddha Blog

How to Become a Better Person in 7 Days

January is rife with talk of becoming a better version of yourself, but the discussion usually focuses on the 12 months ahead. The issue with this long-term approach is that it places the emphasis on what you’ll do one day, rather than what you’ll do today.

“The time to start is today,” writes Lolly Daskal, the president and CEO of Lead From Within, in an article for Business Insider. “The alternative is a sad one: to look back one day and wish you had done better.”

To create a framework to challenge yourself and self-reflect, she’s devised seven simple questions—one to ask each day of the week. “If you can ask them with courage, answer them with truth, and put to use what you learn from them, the next seven days will be your master class on becoming a better person,” she says. Are you ready for the challenge?

Day 1: What do I sound like?

“The way you sound is the best indicator of how you think. Do you express negativity or optimism? Complacency or joy? Acceptance or judgment?” Daskal says.

Day 2: What do I still need to learn?

Learning is a lifelong pursuit. Acknowledge that there are infinite things you can learn, and the people around you can all offer a unique perspective and insight to grow your knowledge.

Day 3: How can I be more purposeful?

Living each day with purpose will help you to remain present and focused. What can you do today to be more purposeful? What do you want to achieve?

Day 4: How can I become a better role model?

“It’s not about making yourself into someone you’re not but about being genuine with who you are, with all your weakness and strengths, and living from that truth,” Daskal says. Aspire to do every task, no matter how great or small, to the best of your ability.

Day 5: Who do I need to forgive?

Holding onto anger or resentment can provide serious emotional blockages that can appear in other areas of your life. To truly become a better person, ask who you need to forgive in order to focus on what matters.

Day 6: How can I lace everything with love?

“Give freely of yourself without expecting anything in return,” she says. “Make today the day you lace everything you say and do with unconditional love. There’s no greater game changer.”

Day 7: How can I cultivate an attitude of gratitude?

You cannot always control what happens to you in life but you can control how you perceive and learn from it. Reflect on the week that’s passed, and focus on all that you’re grateful for.

Article written by: Sophie Miura, Author of “The Self-Care Ritual That Every Therapist Swears by.”

31 Ways to Beat The January Blues

A happiness tip-a-day keeps the blues away…

Happiness expert Andy Cope, author of The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence offers 31 brilliant tips to keep us thinking positively as 2017 begins…

  1. Mondays are bad and Fridays good. Really? The average life span is 4000 weeks and a seventh of your life is spent on Mondays. Flip your thinking. Friday is, in fact, another week closer to death, while Monday is an opportunity to make a dent in the universe. Mondays…. bring ‘em on!
  1. Upgrade your knickers so every bit of underwear oozes confidence. Stop saving your special pants for a special occasion and wake up to the fact that life is the ultimate special occasion.
  1. Be a hugger. The average hug lasts 2.1 seconds but for the love to transfer a hug needs to last 7 seconds or longer (but warned, counting out loud spoils the effect).
  1. Be a lover not a hater. It’s so easy to be negative, and join in the barrage of hate on social media. Go with Michelle Obama; ‘when they go low, you go high’
  1. Do an act of kindness for someone else. This can be as simple as letting someone out in the traffic or buying flowers for the bus driver.
  1. If you have small children practice what Gretchen Rubin calls ‘gazing lovingly’. This means downing tools at the end of the evening and standing at your children’s bedroom door, watching them sleep (the modern world dictates that you only ever do this with your own kids and there is an age limit of 10. After that, the general rule is that you NEVER go in your kids’ bedrooms, just in case!)
  1. Practice the 10/5 principle; smile at everyone who comes within 10 feet of you and make eye contact & say ‘hi’ to everyone within 5 feet.
  1. Say nice things about people behind their back. This is a double-whammy because it gets back to them plus people think you’re a lovely person (which, of course, you are).
  1. Write a list of 10 things you really appreciate but take for granted. ‘Health’ and ‘relationships’ will almost certainly be on there. Stop taking them for granted!
  1. Every morning, appreciate that you don’t have toothache and that your kidneys are working. Being able to get out of bed is the best thing ever (linked to point 9).
  1. Write a list of the top 10 happiest moments of your life and you’ll realize that most of the things on the list are ‘experiences’ rather than ‘products’. Set a goal to have more experiences.
  1. Think of someone who has really helped you (given you time or supported you). Write them a letter, from the heart, that says how wonderful they are and what they mean to you. Read it to them.
  1. Instead of asking your partner/kids ‘how was your day?’ change the words and ask (with enthusiasm), ‘what was the highlight of your day?’ Then listen with genuine enthusiasm.
  1. Walk tall and put a smile on your face (not an inane grin, you will scare people!) Your brain will immediately think you are happy and you’ll feel a whole lot better.
  1. Change your aim. Stop setting your sights on ‘getting through the week’ or ‘surviving until my next holiday’. Raise your game. Set your aim to ‘enjoy the week’ or ‘to inspire people.’
  1. Write down your top 5 personal strengths. Be aware of them and start seeing opportunities to play to them more often.
  1. Reduce your moaning and always remind yourself it’s a 1st world problem.
  1. Watch out for the 90/10 principle. This states that 10% of your happiness depends on things that happen to you while a whopping 90% depends on how you react to these events. Make a conscious choice to be positive.
  1. When setbacks occur, ask yourself, where is this issue on a scale of 1 – 10 (where 10 is death). If it is death, you are allowed to feel down. Anything else, get over it.
  1. Most people have an internal voice that is very critical. Challenge it. When your inner voice is telling you you’re an idiot, firmly disagree. Find a positive inner voice (note, this conflict is best done in silence in your head. And if you have lots of inner voices, you need to see your GP).
  1. Spend less time on electronic friends and more time with real flesh and blood ones.
  1. Praise your children for effort rather than ability. For example, if they get a good grade in Math, don’t say ‘Genius, you are the next Einstein.’ Do say, ‘Brilliant! That shows what you can achieve with hard work.’
  1. Practice the 4-minute rule; that is, be your best self for the first 4 minutes of arriving at work, being in a meeting, getting home, etc. Your brilliance is infectious.
  1. Lose the word ‘try’. Instead of setting a resolution of ‘I’m going to try and lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to try and get a bit fitter,’ go with ‘I’m going to lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to get fitter.’ Yoda was spot on when he said, ‘Do or do not, there is no ‘try.’
  1. Appreciate that your happiness is bigger than you. It has a ripple effect and infects people 3 degrees removed from you.
  1. Read a bedtime story to your kids like it was the most exciting book in the world (note, it is doubly important for sons to see their dads reading books).
  1. Reframe situations. For example, a leaking gutter means you have a house; paying tax means you have some income; your teenage son spending hours on his X-Box means he’s not wandering the streets, etc. However, don’t overdo reframing otherwise you become Pollyanna; ‘Whoopee, grandma’s dead, what a fabulous opportunity for a funeral and some lovely sandwiches.’
  1. Rather than a New Year’s resolution, set yourself a HUGG (huge unbelievably great goal); this is something that is massive and that inspires you (to write your novel, to run a marathon, to be the best Mom in the world, etc).
  1. Ask yourself, if there was a version of you sitting on a cloud, watching you go about your tasks today, what advice would the ‘cloud you’ give the ‘earthly you’? How would they say you should walk, talk, think and behave? Take that advice.
  1. Be genuinely interested in other people (ask loads of questions about them). In a bizarre twist of quantum psychology, people will find you insanely interesting.
  1. Make sure that you use more positive than negative language. The ratio needs to be about 5 positives for every negative, so catch people doing things well and tell them.

 

 

One New Year’s Resolution That Creates Lasting Change

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” ~Jack Dixon

I originally started to write a post offering tons of different New Year’s resolutions and tips to stick to them to create lasting change.

After all, that’s what we bloggers do around the end of the year: share our best practices for improving our lives as December rolls into January; compile well-researched suggestions to change, and do it consistently, despite knowing most people give up on resolutions within weeks of setting them.

Then I realized that didn’t feel authentic to me.

I don’t actually believe New Year’s Day is any different than any other day. I don’t believe a random point in the time measurement system we’ve created requires us to make a laundry list of things we need to change or improve.

New Year’s Eve is, in fact, just another day, and the next day is one, as well.

I don’t mean to minimize the excitement of the New Year, or any of the days we’ve chosen to celebrate for religious or honorary reasons. I love a big event as much as the next person; in fact, I sometimes bust out the champagne for parallel parking well or using a really big word in a sentence.

What I’m saying is that New Year’s resolutions often fail for a reason, and it’s only slightly related to intention or discipline.

Resolutions fail because they don’t emerge from true breakthroughs. They’re calendar-driven obligations. and they often address the symptoms, not the cause of our unhappiness.

Some resolutions are smart for our physical and emotional health and well-being. Quitting smoking, losing weight, managing stress better—these are all healthy things.

But if we don’t address what underlies our needs to light up, order double bacon cheeseburgers, and worry ourselves into frenzies, will it really help to vow on one arbitrary day to give up everything that helps us pretend we’re fine?

It’s almost like we set ourselves up for failure to avoid addressing the messy stuff.

Why We’re Really Unhappy

I can’t say this is true for everyone, but my experience has shown me that my unhappiness—and my need for coping mechanisms—come from several different places:

  • I’m dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future.
  • I’m comparing myself to everyone else—their accomplishments, the respect and the attention they garner, and their apparently perfect lives.
  • I’m feeling dissatisfied with how I’m spending my time and the impact I’m making on the world.
  • I’ve lost hope in my potential.
  • I’m expecting and finding the worst in people.
  • I’m turning myself into a victim or a martyr, blaming everyone else.
  • I’m spiraling into negative thinking, seeing everything as a sign of doom and hopelessness
  • I’m assuming there should be a point in time when none of the above happens anymore.

The last one, I believe, is the worst cause of unhappiness. All those other things I mentioned are human, whether we experience them persistently or occasionally.

We’ll do these things from time to time, and they’ll hurt. In the aftermath, we’ll want to do all those different things that every year we promise to give up.

We’ll want to eat, drink, or smoke away our feelings. Or we’ll want to work away our nagging sense of inadequacy. Or we’ll judge whether or not we’re really enjoying life enough, and in the very act of judging detract from that enjoyment.

So, perhaps the best resolution has nothing to do with giving up all those not-so-healthy things and everything to do with adopting a new mindset that will make it less tempting to turn to them.

An Alternative to Resolutions

Maybe instead of trying to trim away all the symptoms of our dissatisfaction, we can accept that what we really want is happiness—and that true happiness comes and goes. We can never trap it like a butterfly in a jar.

No amount of medication or meditation can change the fact that we will sometimes get caught up in thoughts and emotions.

What we can do is work to improve the ratio of happy-to-unhappy moments. We can learn to identify when we’re spiraling and pull ourselves back with the things we enjoy and want to do in this world.

Instead of scolding ourselves for all the things we’re doing wrong and making long to-do lists to stop doing them, we can focus on doing the things that feel right to us.

This may sound familiar if you’ve read about positive psychology.

I’m no posi-psy expert, and to my knowledge no one is since the industry is unregulated. But it doesn’t take an expert to know it feels a lot better to choose to nurture positive moments than it does to berate myself for things I’ve done that might seem negative—all while plotting to give them all up when the clock strikes tabula rasa.

4 Simple Steps to Increase Your Happiness Ratio

This is something I’ve been working on for years, so it comes from my personal experience. As I have worked to increase my levels of satisfaction, meaning, and happiness, I have given up a number of unhealthy habits, including smoking, overeating, and chronically dwelling and complaining.

That all required deliberate intention, but it was impossible until I addressed the underlying feelings. I still have some unhealthy habits, but I know releasing them starts with understanding why I turn to them. Starting today, and every day, regardless of the calendar:

1. Recognize the places where you feel helpless…

…the housing situation, the job, the relationship, that sense of meaningless. Then plan to do something small to change that starting right now. Acknowledge that you have the power to do at least one small thing to empower yourself.

Don’t commit to major outcomes just yet. Just find the confidence and courage to take one small step knowing that you’ll learn as you go where it’s heading. As you add up little successes, the bigger picture will become clearer. This isn’t major transformation over a night. It’s a small seed of change that can grow.

2. Identify the different events that lead to feelings that seem negative.

Like gossiping with your coworker, overextending yourself at work, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much.

Whatever it is that generally leaves you with unhappy feelings, note it down. Work to reduce these, making a conscious effort to do them on one fewer day per week, then two, and then three. The key isn’t to completely cut out these things, but rather to minimize their occurrence.

3. Identify the things that create positive feelings.

Like going to the park, painting, looking at photo albums, or singing. Whatever creates feel-good chemicals in your head, note them down and make a promise to yourself to integrate them into your day. As you feel your way through your joy, add to this. Learn the formula for your bliss.

Know that these moments of joy are a priority, and you deserve to receive them. When you’re fully immersed within a happy moment of your own choosing, you’re a lot less likely to get lost dwelling, obsessing, comparing, judging, and wishing you were better.

4. Stay mindful of the ratio.

If you’ve had an entire week that’s been overwhelming, dark, or negative, instead of getting down on yourself for falling that low, remind yourself that only your kindness can pull you out. Tell yourself that you deserve to restore a sense of balance—to maintain a healthy ratio.

Then give yourself what you need. Take a personal day at work and take a day trip. Go to the park to relax and reflect. Remind yourself only you can let go of what’s been and come back to what can be.

It’s not about perfection or a complete release from all the causes of unhappiness. It’s about accepting that being human involves a little unhappiness—but how often it consumes us is up to us.

This might not be a lengthy list of unhealthy behaviors you can give up, and how, or a long list of suggestions for adventure and excitement in the new year. But all those things mean nothing if you’re not in the right head space to release the bad and enjoy the good.

Resolve what you will this year, but know that happiness is the ultimate goal. It starts in daily choices, not lofty resolutions—on any day you decide to start.

Article written by: Lori Deschene from Tiny Buddha

Coping with the Holidays…

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings.  If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out.  If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic.  The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences.  Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget.  Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.
  1. Plan ahead.  Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  2. Learn to say no.  Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  3. Don’t abandon healthy habits.  Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  1. Take a breather.  Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Some options may include:

  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Reading a book.
  1. Seek professional help if you need it.  Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Article written by: The Mayo Clinic Staff