10 Habits for Finding Joy in Life
- Surround yourself with joyful people. Entrepreneur Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
- Always have a Labrador puppy. Okay, easier for me as a breeder! But in lieu of that, hug your dog and get the oxytocin rush.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. You cannot live in gratitude and fear (in all of its nefarious forms) at the same time.
- Do something you love every day.
- Find whatever spiritual walk works for you, and practice that daily. Whether it’s the structure of church or the peace found in nature, honor that walk.
- Do a random act of kindness. Studies published in The Journal of Happiness, Nature Neuroscience, and The Journal of Social Psychology found that kindness can lead to greater happiness and health. Good deeds practiced for as little as a week make people feel good, cultivating new connections in the part of the brain associated with happiness and well-being. The helper’s high!
- Be kind to yourself. Whatever that action means to you. Forgive yourself. Honor yourself. Remember that you truly are a child of the universe, and have a right to be here.
- Have a dream, and write it down. On the scientific front, a study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that writing about life goals can help decrease rumination and psychological stress. But we already knew this 🙂 Nothing inspires the creative muses like having a dream, a big goal, to aspire to. It doesn’t matter what that is, just pursue your heart’s desire.
- Love what you do. So often the immediate response is: But I have a job I hate! Even if you do, pursue one task each day, no matter how small, that relates to that dream of yours. As the poet Rumi said, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
- Love your family and friends. Yep, there’re always those family folks who persist in being thorns, but the roses exist too. Find them.
10 habits for Finding Inner Strength
Especially in times of trials and tribulations, when you think you aren’t up to the task:
- Remember when you did it before. You’ve succeeded in the past, no? Everyone has. Recall that time and know that you can do whatever.
- Identify your signature strengths. Are you filled with gratitude? Do you act kindly? Are you a natural leader? The work of Martin Seligman, M.D., found that those most content, and most successful, focused on these strengths rather than weaknesses, building upon the former. You can take the test at The Positive Psychology Center
- Find your spiritual core. What resonates with you? Not the religion of your family while growing up (unless that does), but what do you believe? Draw upon it.
- Take care of your physical self. Nothing brings on depression as quickly as being sleep deprived. And for many folks, eating too many simple carbs. The point being, that old saying: “If you have your health, you have everything,” may not feel true, but the converse sure is.
- Make plans that you can keep. This doesn’t have to be big running-a-marathon plan (unless you already run 5Ks, etc.). Doesn’t matter how big or small. The point is to make a plan and keep it—even if it’s eating an apple a day.
- Be open to the best happening. So often, we focus so much on the negative, on what we need to change, that when something wonderful happens, we miss it. Stay open to something fabulous happening. That will bolster your faith, which fosters strength.
- Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. Yes, learn from them, then let them go and focus forward. As Will Rogers said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
- Stay in the present. Much easier said than done! But fear is always about a future event—which 9 times out of 10 won’t materialize. If money is an issue, ask: Do I have all that I need right now, this second? Unless you’re literally hungry, odds are you do. For most of us, we’re okay, right now.
Because what if they’re all really right? What if life truly isn’t about the happy ending, but about the story?
- Do one thing that makes you uncomfortable, such as expressing yourself in public if you’re not prone to doing so. Yep, you may shake when doing so, but the simple act will breed confidence and strength.
- Cultivate peace. Meditate. Relax. The deep relaxation that comes with meditation helps shut down the release of stress chemicals, which cause fear. And just a moment’s peace can help you see things—including yourself—in a much different and stronger light.
10 Habits for Developing Confidence
- Are you trained? The fastest way to destroy confidence is to stand before the task at hand and realize you aren’t prepared. And one of the best ways to build confidence is to know that you are. As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, “Do not initially engage a competitor unless you are prepared.”
- Take action. With any goal you set, whether you believe you can get there or not, break it down into action steps. And then take one. Even if you stumble, the act of acting will bolster confidence, and you can see what you need to master next.
- Keep it simple. Don’t over think and you will perform on a much higher level. The thinking mind—the one that regurgitates those 60,000 thoughts a day—gets in the way of performance. If you’re trained, clear your mind and focus on the task at hand. Have a simple routine. Piece out exactly what you need to learn, and stick to a simple plan of action.
- Stay in the Now. It’s the only time there is, and where your confidence builds. Staying in the now hones your focus, which causes you to perform better, which strengthens your confidence. As sports psychiatrist Michael Lardon, M.D. says, “The only shot in life is the next shot.”
- Manage your mind. It’s not that fearful thoughts won’t arise—they will. The goal is to not give them purchase in your mind. Let them go, and then refocus on the positive. Having a mantra is key here. Find yours, and repeat it often.
- Learn to think positive. We know this works. Study after study has shown how positive thinking leads to more confidence and success. Affirmations, visualizations, etc., provides positive mental food that fuels your mind just as nutritious foods do your body. As Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
- Surround yourself with people who appreciate your strengths. By having people around you who find the positive and strengths in you, even on your darkest days–when you don’t believe a positive word about yourself that you say–you can believe them.
- Say no. Just say no. With no explanation, no apology. This one took me forever to learn, but it’s extremely empowering. Just say no.
- Make a decision. When confidence is wobbling, we stand at the corner of To Do or Not To Do, paralyzed with indecision. Choose. Go one way or another. Just make the decision and act. It’s amazing how this one bolsters confidence.
10. Fake it till you make it. Because you know what? This actually works. In 2009, Stephanie L. Stolz of Missouri Western University discovered that before shooting baskets, the control group that was told they were better than they were, shot better. Persist in this and confidence comes by the boatload.
10 Habits for Being a Better Friend
1. Friendship isn’t something you do now and then. As with any important relationship, friendship requires regular time. Whether it’s a phone call or lunch date or a note via whatever means, being a good friend means you’re around.
2. This calls for some effort. Our lives are hectic. Often we have too much to do. But taking the time to contact your friend is worth it, no?
3. Listening. So often what’s really going on with someone lies just under the surface. And if we don’t stop and listen, we can miss the whole shebang. Listening is active—that old, “This is what I heard you say” for clarity.
- Sitting in the crisis. Sometimes there are no words. And often the hardest thing is to just be with someone undergoing pain or trauma or heartache. You don’t have to have that right thing to say. Just be there.
- Fill the cup. Just as with any relationship, what you put into a friendship is what you get out. Filling the friendship cup with time, effort, laughter, is what you reap from it as well.
- Have her back. We know a lot of folks who know a lot of folks, no? Often, we know them all as well. And not everybody gets along all the time. When two others are having a dispute, have your friend’s back. This can be as simple as saying, “I don’t think she meant it that way” to a perceived slight.
- Have Empathy. Rather than judging, try and understand what your friend is truly going through. Put yourself in her shoes. So often, we want mercy for ourselves, judgment for everyone else. But feeling what your friend is feeling, understanding, brings mercy to you both.
- Be open. This often brings feelings of vulnerability, but being who you are, warts and all, will bring you closer. Besides, do you want a friend who believes you’re someone you aren’t?
- Let go of expectations. If you’re wanting someone to do for you what you yourself don’t do, you’re setting yourself up for hurt feelings. Instead, take responsibility for you, and release him from his chains. Let him be who he is as well.
- Pick up as if you saw her yesterday. Even if a lot of time has passed. It’s easy to feel guilty when you haven’t been in contact, but odds are, she’s as busy as you are! So call her up and talk about what you always do.
As the poet Khalil Gibran said, “Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.”
10 Habits for Better Health
1. Move your body. We were never meant to be sedentary, and it doesn’t matter if all you can do is walk to the mailbox. Move it!
2. Eat more cleanly. This of course is all the rage these days but it’s always been true. The closer that what you consume has actually been in dirt, the healthier you’ll be. Especially if that was organic dirt to begin with.
3. Meditate. Even if for ten minutes a day. Still your mind. Let it be silent. This lowers blood pressure, heightens creativity, and does more good things than we have time for in this list!
4. Sleep. The body heals while you’re sleeping.
- Have rich and meaningful friendships. We all need to feel as though we belong, we have a tribe. And the silver lining is these are people of your choosing!
- Repair hurt relationships with family, especially parents. So many people limp through life, carrying old family baggage. And this doesn’t even have to be reparations with them, but rather a healing of the hurts within you that originated there. Therapy is a wonderful tool!
- Laugh. It really is the best medicine, no matter what you may be going through.
- Read. Study. Keep learning. We know this keeps the brain healthy as we age.
- Volunteer. Study after study has shown the benefits of the “helper’s high.” What a great way to maintain health!
- Do what you love. As Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. ”
10 Habits for Better Eating
1. Eat low on the food chain. You’ve heard it all your life, but that doesn’t negate its importance! More veggies and fruit. To get the recommended 9 servings of this group every day, ya gotta keep eating them.
2. Grow your own garden. I know, not always in the schedule! I so miss mine. But nothing is healthier than picking ripe, organic produce and eating it immediately. Plus, the taste will wow you. And ruin you for what you buy in the store . . .
3. If that’s not possible at this point, befriend a local farmer. Or, have a friend who grows an organic garden. I’m so blessed to have one! Pam and Bob Bishop keep me covered up with all the summer bounty, and now the greens are starting to come off and . . .
4. Unless you’re a teetotaler, pair your supper with a nice glass of wine. Wine has digestive enzymes that help your food to process nicely, and your body to uptake the nutrients therein.
- Eat mindfully. So often we mindlessly eat. In front of the TV, focused on our smart devices, etc. A whole meal can be consumed and we forget what we just ate.
- Savor the Flavor. Did you know the first bite of anything is the most flavorful? And the second bite, still great. The third shows those flavors waning. And after that, while asparagus and candy don’t taste the same, the impact—the payoff you get—diminishes significantly.
- Don’t deprive yourself. Even the “worst” of foods can be healthily consumed—in moderation. Utilize the three-bite rule above. You can have any blessed thing you want, every day, if you have only 3 bites of it.
- Calories don’t count on Sunday. Or whatever day you pick. You get one day a week where all bets are off, no rules apply, and you can just eat whatever you want.
Now of course, if “whatever you want” is the entire chocolate cake, we have a different issue to address!
- Don’t eat while angry. Or with any negative emotions raging. According to Kathy Gruver, PhD, author of Conquer Your Stress With Mind/Body Techniques, a heightened state of emotion sparks that old fight-or-flight response, and digestion takes second fiddle to the emergency at hand. Which may result in diarrhea or constipation. Manage the emotion first, then eat.
- Chocolate. All nutrition plans should include chocolate. Unless, horrors!, you’re allergic to it or some unnatural phenomenon. But we know about the health benefits of the antioxidant flavonoids, and the mood boosters involved, so not eating this food of the gods surely must be a sin?
10 Habits for Better Sleep
1. Turn off the lights, the party’s over. And the TV. And the smart devices. And . . . well, anything that keeps you awake! We know that too much light before bedtime may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. A recent study found that exposure to unnatural light cycles may have real consequences for our health including increased risk for depression. Regulating exposure to light is an effective way to keep circadian rhythms in check.
2. Don’t eat or drink alcohol 3 hours before bedtime. Digestion and sleep are not terribly conducive, and alcohol, while it may help put you to sleep, screws up your circadian rhythms so that you’re more likely to awaken at 3 AM or some other ungodly hour.
3. Keep the same sleeping hours. Go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time.
4. Don’t go to bed mad. One study showed that if you stay awake after a traumatic event, the response is reduced. The opposite happens if you go right to bed—the response is “protected,” so that when you’re exposed to it again, your negative reaction will be just as negative as it was before.
5. Don’t expose your mind to thought-provoking material before sleep. Even though reading before bedtime is such a joy, be careful of giving your mind enough to play with that it doesn’t want to turn off! Do I ever know this one . . .
6. Always sleep with a Labrador. Okay, this is specific to me! But sleeping with a pet is comforting, and causes oxytocin, the feel-good bonding hormone, to course through your body and lull you to la la land. Besides, such warmth they bring on those 3-dog nights!
- Set out the intention to remember your dreams. We all have 5-6 a night, but so often can’t recall them. But our dreams are such a fertile soup of what’s really going on within us, that remembering them provides crucial keys to our psyches. Well worth the effort! Here’s a great guideline.
- Take a warm bath. Not hot, but warm. It’ll relax you down to your toes.
- Drink a glass of milk before bed. It’s not just an old wives’ tale. Dairy products are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which helps in the production of the sleep-inducing brain chemicals, serotonin and melatonin.
- Say your prayers before you sleep. The subconscious mind is active during sleeping and dreaming, and it responds to what you put into it right before bed. Spend this time wisely—you don’t want that subconscious stewing about all the things you didn’t do, or did badly, all night. Instead, be grateful for your day. Praise yourself for what you did right.
10 Habits to be more Productive
1. Get Enough Sleep. No one is productive when sleep deprived. And a 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 35.3 percent of Americans reported that they typically got less than seven hours of sleep daily. Sleep!
2. Change your Mind. So often we make tasks so much more difficult just by thinking that they are. Although a task might seem daunting, you can’t know that it will be for certain before you do it. Choose optimism and accept the challenge!
3. Break the monumental task down into steps. Nobody sets out to climb Mt. Everest by first staring at the mountain. First, they learn how to climb . . .
4. Do the hardest task on the list first. When you’re fresh. Ready to tackle it. Then the rest will look so much easier.
5. Turn off devices. We all know this. Tough to do at times! But Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. Sadly, bouncing around to Facebook and Twitter counts. Sigh
6. Get Guidance. Unless you were born already knowing how and being able to do something you haven’t done, take a class, hire a coach, seek out a mentor who does. It’ll save so much time in the long run!
7. Meditate. Although it may seem to take time out of your day and away from the task at hand, just twenty minutes a day changes your brain. It lowers blood pressure, alleviates stress, and about a zillion other benefits.
- Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. How incredibly important it is to acknowledge what you’ve done right! We (especially women) are great at berating ourselves for mistakes. But at the end of the day, you’ve accomplished things as well. Note those—especially before bedtime.
- Expect more of yourself, less of others. Hold yourself to the highest standards. If you miss the mark, tackle it again tomorrow. Appreciate what others do, but having expectations will set you up for disappointment.
- Just Do It. Nike was right—jump in, tackle that task, get in the game. Ruminating on the sidelines will get you nowhere.
10 Habits to be Better Organized
1. Keep an organizer. A physical one works best for me (I’m a dinosaur!), but way back decades ago when I was an executive with the American Cancer Society, I learned to keep a structured calendar. Did that ever pay off in spades! Being able to “see” my day, week, month keeps me on track.
2. Break your week down into prioritized tasks. Do the hardest, most time-consuming ones early in the day and week. It’ll take the pressure off.
3. Unless your job is answering the phone, don’t answer/return calls except on scheduled time. Nothing gets you more off track than stopping your train of thought to chat for a while.
4. Keep lists. And number the lists. I have list # 1—top priorities. What has to get done. List #2—what needs to get done this week/month. List # 3—what I’d like to see happen. As you can well imagine, lots of things stay on list 3. But often they move up. The main point is, the most important things don’t get lost in the mix.
5. Schedule breaks or down time. You’ve so much more productive when you get away from it, even for a bit.
6. Schedule time for unforeseen events. They’re going to happen, and by building time into your life, they then don’t derail your entire schedule.
7. Delegate. Quite often, it truly does take a village. And if you try to do it all, you’ll run yourself into the ground. Besides—others are experts at their jobs, just as you are. Utilize their services.
8. Meditate. Just always meditate. A clear mind is so much more adept at organizing your life than a muddled one.
9. Make Decisions. Nothing stops you more than regularly tabling a decision. Make a decision and act. Then go onto the next task.
10. Learn to say No. It’s a tough one, but over-committing will destroy your schedule, and wreak havoc on your life. You don’t need excuses, reasons, explanations, etc. Just say no.
10 Habits I Wish I had
1. Better Housekeeping. The literal kind. Although I do clean (with 10 Labradors in the house, there is no choice!), I wish I were better organized with just the house stuff. I’m not a hoarder or anything like that, but books have been piled everywhere for quite some time now! And oh, they need to be reorganized in the bookcase and . . .
2. Organic vegetable gardening. Oh, how I miss it! And one day, I’ll carve out the time again.
3. Beer making. I made the best Bosque Brew! Gave it for Christmas presents and everything. What a marvelous habit that was!
4. Getting to bed earlier. This one is becoming more and more mandatory . . .
5. Going to more dog shows. I know, right? It seems like I go to a lot. But not nearly enough!
6. Better shopping for others. For myself too probably, but I don’t care so much about that. I have this friend, though, Nancy Stewart, who is the world’s best shopper. And she always finds the cutest things for presents, and one day I’m going to learn that . . .
7. Keeping up with my literal neighbors. They’re such nice people. And so helpful. And while we pass on the street, etc., I don’t spend as much time with them as I’d like. Why, little Alex across the street comes running over every time he sees me drive up, opens my gate, and always is smiling. Such a sweet boy!
8. Getting more massages. The health benefits are legion! The Mayo Clinic lists these as just a few:
- Digestive disorders
- Insomnia related to stress
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Paresthesias and nerve pain
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint pain
Now, to find the time . . .
- Listening to more music. All the health benefits associated with that. I simply love the research of Dr. Masaru Emoto, who found music to be beneficial in healing physical and emotional imbalances.
- Loving more. It’s the key to life, and to happiness. And while I am cognizant of expressing this, and do so often, there can never be too much!
For as author Marcel Proust said, “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
What are your Happiness Habits?