Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

Nothing but the strength of your convictions can keep a self-improvement promise going for at least 365 days. You can, however, boost your chance at success and outwit your worst habits with some motivational devices and clever thinking.

Image from Monina Velarde’s New Year’s Resolution Generator.

10. Roll 12 habits into one resolution

Blogger John Richardson believes in the power of habits, the kind that your mind can subconsciously stick to after 21 days of reinforcement. Rather than make some over-reaching resolution like “Be better about spending,” he crafted 12 different specific micro-habits to act upon in 2006, one for each month. The original link is lost to a WordPress re-design and site migration, it appears, but as Gina noted, by making those resolutions specific and measurable—drinking two quarts of water per day instead of “drink more water”—you can also track them, as covered below, and combine them into one big life-improving resolution.

9. Distract yourself at the moment of temptation

PopoutIt seems cruel, but researchers have learned a lot from tempting kids with an immediate sugary treat versus a more substantial treat if they wait it out. What did the kids who successfully avoided eating marshmallows right away have in common? According to NPR’s story on The Marshmallow Test, they distracted themselves whenever the lure of the fluffy white puffs became too strong—twirling their hair, counting to some random number, singing a song. Anything that got their mind off what it was consciously trying to avoid worked better than just torturing themselves over it, and we adults can probably learn a thing or two from those exercises. What better reason, really, to keep an engaging, entertaining game handy on your cellphone for immediate playing whenever temptation strikes? (Original post)

8. Create a reminder network

Before an action you want to do every day becomes a real habit, something you do without thinking and mindlessly benefit from, it requires a lot of reminders and dragging yourself to do it. To get there, learning trainer Dr. Stephanie Burns suggests setting up external triggers and reminders. Not just sticky notes on the bathroom mirror (though those can help), but a whole multimedia onslaught of conscious-mind triggers: clock alarms, devoted friends who call at the same time every day, rubber bands, locks on the cupboard containing the too-hard-to-resist treats, and so forth. Once you get use to doing the same thing, in the same place, in the same surroundings, you’ll have the efficiency of a self-winding wristwatch. Until then, it takes a stage director’s skill to set up an entire world of nag-y reminders. Photo by Haundreis. (Original post)

7. Pick only one actual resolution

The part of your brain that willpower stems from, the prefrontal cortex, is just behind your forehead. Like any other tissue in your body, it has its limitations, and overloading it with short-term memory tasks, stress management, and five or six different day-to-day resolutions is just too much. It’s best explained in the scientific studies highlighted by the Wall Street Journal, in a piece on the science behind failed resolutions:

In a 2002 experiment, led by Mark Muraven at the University at Albany, a group of male subjects was asked to not think about a white elephant for five minutes while writing down their thoughts. That turns out to be a rather difficult mental challenge, akin to staying focused on a tedious project at work. (A control group was given a few simple arithmetic problems to solve.) Then, Mr. Muraven had the subjects take a beer taste test, although he warned them that their next task involved driving a car. Sure enough, people in the white elephant group drank significantly more beer than people in the control group, which suggests that they had a harder time not indulging in alcohol.

… When we ask the brain to suddenly stop eating its favorite foods and focus more at work and pay off the Visa…we’re probably asking for too much.

Yep—one seriously taxing resolution is the probably the most you should fight for, given that your brain is constantly failing in an attempt to fight off drunken white elephants trying to get into your thoughts. Or something along those lines—we forgot already.

6. Use a timer

This year, you’ve sworn to anyone who’ll listen that your office will stay clean. All it really takes, you figure, is about five to ten minutes of pick-up every day, if that. Those minutes aren’t coming on an engraved invitation every day, though—you have to carve them out yourself. Do what a self-made millionaire mom (original link since removed), a finance blogger, and productive dude Merlin Mann do: set a timer and just crank on it. Nothing is all that awful if you know you can wander away from it in 10 minutes, and there’s something about the no-nonsense nature of a physical kitchen-style timer or stopwatch that makes it harder to ignore than a little screen icon. Get good at doing whatever you’re doing, and you eventually might not even need it.

5. Utilize public shame

Notable funny guy and Deadspin blogger Drew Magary has to lose 50 pounds to deal with back pain. How’s he getting there? Eating and drinking less, actually, but also through posting his weight every day in what he’s calling the Twitter Public Humiliation Diet. Maybe his followers aren’t calling him out every single day that he doesn’t make progress, but having committed to publicly fessing up to his weight is more direct and persuasive than a background thought about long-term health. Geek singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton took on a similar task with his Thing A Week project, knowing that if his fans were waiting for new content every week and he didn’t deliver, it’d be humiliating on a wider scale than just missing a personal deadline. Don’t have a fanbase waiting to see you fall? Try telling your mom, or your wife, or the best friend who’s not afraid to give you crap, about this new thing you’re doing—you will not want to let them down. (It’s part of how Adam motivated himself to run a marathon in 2006.) Photo by a2gemma.

4. Make it into a geeky data game

The downward-sloping curve of your weight, the upward-sloping curve of your savings—for some folks, visual cues to success are understandably addictive and motivating. Lifehacker alumnus Kyle Pott used personal finance site Mint.com to get control of his fancy coffee spending, and Gina showed us how graphing your life with webapps can tame big stuff like budgets and small stuff like soda addictions.

3. Conquer huge backlogs with a DMZ or half-life approach

Want to clear out your inbox for the new year and keep it that way? Good idea, but what about the 1,438 items that are staring at you, just daring you to try and “process” them? Do what an out-of-time college kid does when the parents are visiting—create a “DMZ” space (demilitarized zone), and shove it all in there, heading back to it when you need to grab something or have the proper time set aside to really crank on replies/deletions/archiving. Can’t bear the thought of misplacing a crucial message? Follow Jason Clarke’s Inbox 0.5 approach, shelving half of your emails today, another half tomorrow, and so on, until you’ve stashed and sorted all your mail in its proper place without declaring email bankruptcy.

2. Set up a scheduled review

It’s all too easy to lose track of your goals if you have no idea how much you’ve succeeded, or slipped, as time goes by. The weekly review method that’s an essential piece of the Getting Things Done methodology is meant for tracking productivity goals, but getting into the weekly review habit is a good idea for any resolution you make. If you prefer a more intense, and far more old-school approach, try Benjamin Franklin’s personal daily goal tracker, which can be modified to fit your non-18th-century needs. (Original post: Benjamin Franklin).

1. Think progress, not perfection

You are not Vulcan, Cylon, or any other science fiction race that has perfect, programmatic willpower. You are human, and you will, inevitably, give into your cravings, whether on special occasions or when faced with gourmet tiramisu. When you do, don’t consider your resolution failed, but consider that any massive change will have setbacks and mistakes. As they say, moderation in all things—including moderation. If food is your particular vice, we’ve found foodie and Lifehacker reader Sally’s thoughts on low-fat eating to be inspiring. It’s not what you eat, but the spirit in which you eat it. Same goes for most anything you promise yourself, really. Photo by cherryjet. (Original post).

[via Lifehacker]


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“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it.

What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”

-Ramana Maharishi


“I believe that happiness isn’t a place you get to—it’s an inner state you create.

Anyone can be happy—it’s available to everyone and is available right now.

We just need to stop and pay more attention to the treasures that already surround us.”

-Robin Sharma

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Exercise is a KEY to happiness. Research shows that people who exercise are healthier, more energetic, think more clearly, sleep better, and have delayed onset of dementia. They get relief from anxiety and mild depression, comparable to medication and therapy. They perform better at work.

Also, although it’s tempting to flop down on the couch when you’re feeling exhausted, exercise is actually a great way to boost energy levels. Feeling tired is a reason to exercise, not a reason to skip exercise.

But even when you admit that you’d feel better if you exercised, it can be very hard to adopt the habit. My idea of fun has always been to lie in bed, reading, preferably while also eating a snack – but I’ve managed to keep myself exercising by using all these tricks on myself:

1. Always exercise on Monday. This sets the psychological pattern for the week. Along the same lines…

2. If at all possible, exercise first thing in the morning. As the day wears on, you’ll find more excuses to skip exercising. Get it checked off your list, first thing.

3. Never skip exercising for two days in a row. You can skip a day, but the next day, you must exercise, no matter how inconvenient.

4. Give yourself credit for the smallest effort. My father always said that all he had to do was put on his running shoes and close the door behind him. Many times, by promising myself I could quit ten minues after I’d started, I got myself to start – and then found that I didn’t want to quit, after all.

5. Think about context. I thought I disliked weight-training, but in fact, I disliked the guys who hung out in the weight-training area. Are you distressed about the grubby showers in your gym? Do you try to run in the mornings, but recoil from going out in the cold? Examine the factors that might be discouraging you from exercising.

6. Exercise several times a week. If your idea of exercise is to join games of pick-up basketball, you should be playing practically every day. Twice a month isn’t enough.

7. If you don’t have time both to exercise and take a shower, find a way to exercise that doesn’t require you to shower afterward. Twice a week, I have a very challenging weight-training session, but the format I follow doesn’t make me sweat. (Some of you are saying, “It can’t be challenging if you don’t sweat!” Oh yes, believe me, it is.)

8. Look for affordable ways to make exercising more pleasant or satisfying. Could you upgrade to a nicer or more convenient gym? Buy yourself a new iPod? Work with a trainer? Get a pedometer to keep track of your walking distances? Exercise is a high life priority, so this a worthwhile place to spend some money if that helps.

9. Think of exercise as part of your essential preparation for times you want to be in especially fine form — whether in performance (to be sharp for an important presentation) or appearance (to look good for a wedding) or mood (to deal with a stressful situation). Studies show that exercise does help.

10. Remember one of my favorite Secrets of Adulthood, courtesy of Voltaire: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don’t decide it’s only worth exercising if you can run five miles or if you can bike for an hour. I have a friend who scorns exercise unless she’s training for a marathon — so she never exercises. Even going for a ten-minute walk is worthwhile. Do what you can.

11. Don’t kid yourself. Belonging to a gym doesn’t mean you go to the gym. Having been in shape in high school or college doesn’t mean you’re in shape now. Saying that you don’t have time to exercise doesn’t make it true.

People often ask me, “So if I want to be happier, what should I be doing?” and I always say, “The first thing to do is to make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and plenty of exercise.”

I know, that answer doesn’t sound properly transcendent and high-minded on the subject of happiness, but research shows that you’d be wise to start there. And I’ve found that if I’m feeling energetic and well-rested, I find it much easier to follow all my other happiness-inducing resolutions.

[via Happiness Project]

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