How You Can Improve Your Emotional Well-Being With This One Activity

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Bad movies have robbed nature of some of its most impressive phenomenons, but I think sunsets might have gotten the worst of it. In film, they’re usually meant to kickstart one of two moments: a moment of mindfulness where the protagonist arrives at a crucial instance of clarity, or the moment when two starry-eyed lovers finally figure out how copulation works. It’s redundant, cheesy and potentially completely accurate.

Several studies have recently come out championing the correlation between observing natural beauty and longevity. Both in the abstract and in more tangible biological ways.

Light Exposure and balance

Researchers have found that early light exposure can help us regulate our metabolism. Additionally, a study conducted by the  University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada disclosed increased instances of weight gain during the winter months,  in part due to the absence of light. Of course, there are plenty of adverse effects associated with overexposure, but the proposed physical profits of sun rays aren’t as frequently discussed.

Sunlight leads to surges of the mood-boosting hormone known as serotonin. When levels of serotonin become too low, you have a much higher risk of developing seasonal affective disorder; a condition more than 20% of Americans suffer from each year. Light therapy is being considered more and more as a method of better managing conditions like insomnia,  seasonal depression and even major non-seasonal depression. 

There is also a freshet of somatic benefits to penciling in a morning or two to take in a sunset. A 2008 study furthered research intended to confirm the major role sun rays play in bone health.  Exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation produced by the sun causes the skin to create Vitamin D.

“Unlike other essential vitamins, which must be obtained from food, vitamin D can be synthesized in the skin through a photosynthetic reaction triggered by exposure to UVB radiation. The efficiency of production depends on the number of UVB photons that penetrate the skin, a process that can be curtailed by clothing, excess body fat, sunscreen, and the skin pigment melanin,”  says the study’s lead author M. Nathaniel Mead.

According to Felice Gersh, MD watching sunsets can reduce the stress hormone called cortisol. Moreover, it causes surges in melatonin production, a hormone that decreases oxidative stress and inflammation. More than the studied biological effects, setting aside time to appreciate beautiful natural occurrences promotes other healthy activates, like mindfulness and patience. You can also enjoy sunrises while you do other physical activities, like jogging, or biking.

The emotional advantages of observing a sunset have been presented several times, via various mediums over the years and the results seem to speak for themselves.

How To Practice Yoga At Home If You’re An Absolute Beginner

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY MOLLY CRANNA.

There’s an image that comes across my Instagram feed about once a day of a wellness blogger in their light-filled apartment, surrounded by house plants, doing yoga and looking very casual about it. The thought of doing yoga at home sounds ideal; you don’t have to deal with people, spend any money, or even leave the house. But in actuality, when I try to do yoga at home, I get distracted and end up scrolling my phone in child’s pose on a yoga mat.

“One of the best things about yoga is that it can be done almost anytime, anywhere — including at home,” says Jade Alexis, a yoga trainer on the audio-based workout app Aaptiv. The problem is, without a yoga teacher around, or a proper app to walk you through the workout, it’s tough to know what exactly to do. You need to at least have a plan or intention each time you flow at home.

So, whether you also aspire to be an at-home yogi, or you just want to do yoga in private, ahead are some tips from Alexis and Sinikiwe Dhliwayo, yoga instructor and founder of Naaya Wellness (New York), a wellness collective for people of colour. With a mat and the right attitude, you too can be a yoga-flowing homebody.


1. Know a few basic poses.

When you’re starting out with your at-home yoga practice, it’s a good idea to have a vocabulary of postures that you can work with. Alexis and Dhliwayo suggest learning: cat cow, child’s pose, downward-facing dog, plank, cobra pose, upward-facing dog, warrior one and two, chair pose, and low lunge. If you know those, you can piece them together a beginner flow, like Sun Salutation B, Alexis says. Look up videos or images of the poses to get a sense of how they’re supposed to be done, but try not to get wrapped up in what they look like; how you feel is more important.

2. Listen to your body.

Form is essential in yoga, but without an expert to guide you through the poses or make physical corrections, it can be difficult to know if you’re doing it “right.” The best way to make adjustments or tell if you’re making mistakes is to just pay attention to how you feel, Alexis says. “Regardless of wherever you are, it’s important to listen to your body,” she says. “If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and ease of the posture.”


3. Try an online class.

The internet is full of tons of free yoga classes and resources for you to take advantage of — arguably too many. Dhliwayo is a fan of yogis Sara ClarkRocky Heron, and Dianne Bondy. The beauty of taking an online class is that you can stop it at any time, or rewind a section if it gets confusing. And of course, the Aaptiv app has lots of audio yoga classes that you can try that are varying lengths, styles, and levels of difficulty.

 

4. Get some gear.

You don’t need much to do yoga, but ideally you’d have a clutter-free space to practice, a good yoga mat, and most importantly a positive attitude and patience, Alexis says. Blocks can also be super helpful if you’re just starting out, because they essentially bring the floor up to you, which is imperative if you don’t have flexibility yet, Dhliwayo says. Other props like blankets help you be more comfortable in a pose, and can be nice to have during a restorative practice, she says. Music and calming essential oils can also help make your home practice feel more special, but those aren’t must-haves.

 

5. Don’t stress the names.

Often in yoga classes, teachers will use the Sanskrit names to define yoga poses, which can make it seem way more confusing. “Many people are concerned with knowing the names of poses, but that comes with time and I tell beginners to not worry about names when they get started,” Alexis says. Instead, just find beginner classes that will walk you through the individual poses, she says. With enough repetition, it’ll eventually click.

The 3 Powerful Steps To Develop Your Daily Routine

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“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

The winter solstice recently passed and now, we find ourselves deep in the peak of shortened days, cold weather and lots of time inside with family and relatives. The lack of sun can really damper our moods and take away some of our energy. If we let it. Winter can make it challenging to find inspiration at times. But the days of less sunlight can also lead to great opportunities for solitude, reflection and contemplation.

While it may be tough to feel as inspired, I find that wintertime often is great for planning and refocusing our priorities. Some of my best ideas, as well as my most productive planning and actions have taken place at this time of the year. In fact, the majority of the writing that I did for my first book, The Value of You, occurred during the wintertime last year. It was a special time I’ll never forget.

Following the holidays, there are less distractions. And as a result, there are more reasons to find things that inspire and light the fire inside of our hearts.

In this vein, I urge you to develop an inspirational routine each morning. It may come through the power of meditation, prayer, genuine heartfelt interaction with those that you love or from your favorite song. It could be a video that plays back the piano recital you played to perfection that brought the house down.

It may be the words of this article or a book you find so profound and hold in such high esteem, you get the chills before opening the pages.

Develop your routine. I’ll show you what works for me and how you can integrate this into your life.

Here’s How to Develop Your Routine

“Great are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force — that thoughts rule the world.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make your routine an every day thing. As I’ve climbed the mountain of productivity this year, I realize that I never want to come down. The ascension — the journey — has been a magical ride and it reassures me that all of my progress toward self-actualization, as well as greater harmony and rhythm in living the life of my destiny has been worth the pain and occasional doubts.

  1. Dedicate 10 minutes of contemplation time, ideally, at the beginning of each day. This sets the tone for your day and gets you feeling inspired. All you need are 10 minutes of deep, powerful thinking without distraction and with a beginner’s mind.
  2. Use this time alone in solitude, in a quiet place. Focus your thoughts on positive, stimulative thoughts such as: romantic love, sexual love for a partner, girlfriend/boyfriend, wife or husband. Also, music, friendship and envisioning yourself attaining success or fame. There’s tremendous power that comes through dreaming and seeing yourself standing “in the winner’s circle.”
  3. Get these positive thoughts going and keep them going. Write down these thoughts that come to mind. Keep referring back to them throughout your work day or school day. Think of them when you’re out in the social world, during moments of difficulty or times of joy. Look at them again before you go to bed at night and reset your mind. Then rest and get read for the new day with excitement, anticipation and a clear mind for fresh, new thoughts.

What has become truer for me by the day is the concept that we control our own destiny through the power of our thoughts. We emotionalize our ideas with the power of love, faith and hope. We take these thoughts and envision ourselves doing what we desire. And we put it into plan and take the action that we’ve dreamed of. It really is that simple. Do this and you will never be denied.

There is no shame in any idea, as long as you believe in it and feel it will add value to your life and the lives of others. Don’t concern yourself with the ingenuity of your idea. Your race, your cause is the one that speaks to the desires and dreams of your heart. That’s what makes you unique and special.

I’ve got a long way to go. Chances are, so do you. The way to cultivate and build momentum — which you can then transform into empowered thought and constructive action is through inspiration — the power of “fire” that lifts your spirit and brings you unbridled enthusiasm. Be inspired everyday.

A Story To Tell

Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought. — Napoleon Hill

This is a story I know well. It’s the story of my best friend, my brother, Kevin. These days my brother is seen on national television five nights each week on ESPN. He’s a broadcast journalist and celebrity in his own right. Everything he has can be attributed to his natural talents, perseverance, desire and faith in himself.

Kevin worked hard until he reached the pinnacle of his profession. He reached the top because he envisioned himself reaching the top. He dreamed big and thought prodigious, stimulative thoughts. He had the mindset of a winner. But keep in mind, Kevin’s success did not come overnight.

Kevin knew when he was in 8th grade what he wanted to do with his life. He started announcing sports scores over the intercom at our middle school. He did the same thing while in high school. Kevin used his basketball-playing ability to earn an athletic scholarship at the college level, where he attended a school with one of the top Radio & TV programs in the United States.

After graduation, he embarked on what is now over a 20-year career in sports broadcasting. He busted his tail for nine long years at a regional television station making meager money. There were moments of doubt, frustration and at times, loneliness. Kevin dreamed of being on national television or working in a big market. But it seemed so far away.

He concentrated on getting better each day. He surrounded himself with inspiring thoughts, stories and images of fellow broadcasters who made the big time, as well powerful stories of athletes. He kept going. Kept believing.

Finally, his big break came in 2006 when he accepted a job with WCBS radio in New York. Less than one year later, he was working on television for WCBS-TV. And in 2008, he reached the big time: he was hired by ESPN. 11 years after graduating from college, with a few lean years in between where he thought about quitting or changing professions, Kevin received an offer to work at the worldwide leader of sports.

Your Journey

Chances are, you will not find success or personal fulfillment in your first job. Few people are blessed with both the talent and foresight to know precisely what they want to do with their lives right after college. Even less people know and possess this ability at a young age. My brother, Kevin, is one of those precious few lads who did know.

We all have unique stories to share with the world. Where are you on your journey? Are you going through the doldrums of doubt and fear? Do you see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel — the end-vision of your goal? And if you do, are you running into road blocks of creativity? What are your mental challenges? What are your emotional battles?

Perhaps your path is as open as the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset in Laguna Beach. Maybe it’s a Midtown Manhattan traffic jam. It’s all a state of mind. We need inspiration to help us create the beautiful landscapes of limitless possibility in our mind that serve as the foundation for our magical journeys.

You are the creator of your world. When you are safe in the knowledge that you control your worldly destiny, nothing will ever stop you. Those with a winning mindset are never denied. They inspire themselves to achieve great things.

Be inspired. Enjoy this winter season and take some time for yourself to develop a routine that positions you for fulfillment and productivity. As St.Francis of Asisi once wrote, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

This article originally appeared on Medium.

3 Small Habits That Improved My Productivity and Well-Being

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CREDIT: Getty Images

You often hear about new methods to increase productivity, boost incomes, and raise brand profile. You get advice from experts on habits to decrease clutter, work on the essential, and concentrate harder. You aren’t always told that these same habits and methods can help your wellbeing–and your productivity.

This is why I was happy to come across Atomic Habits by James Clear and watch him talk on the subject in Nashville this January. Clear’s New York Times bestselling book collects all the current research on habits and distills it down to easily applicable principles you can use in your own life and work. In the end, it’s all about building good systems so you see the results you want down the road.

After listening to Clear, I found these three small habits really useful.

1. Stack your habits.

Habit stacking is a great way to jump-start a new habit. The idea is to use a habit you already have as a cue to trigger your new habit. Basically, it follows this formula: After [current habit], I will [new habit].

This idea, which originally came from research conducted by Stanford professor BJ Fogg, can be applied to many areas of life. For example, I found I wasn’t drinking enough water to stay hydrated. So I stacked drinking water onto something I already do, which is drinking a cup of coffee.

Getting my coffee fix is an automatic, preexisting habit. Once I have my favorite dark brew, I will drink three cups of water.

This can be applied to your productivity as well. Clear shared how a woman at a financial firm stacks her habits at work. She said, after she checks future prices, she will email her clients.

2. Change your environment.

A good habit doesn’t stand a chance against a bad environment. This is why those office cookies can keep throwing you off even if you work out and eat well. But if you design your own environment to encourage good habits or discourage bad ones, you will have more success.

I had read Tim Ferriss’s idea of cutting back on technology for wellness. So I designed my new environment to keep my phone and computer out of the bedroom. I would place them in a bowl on my living room coffee table, so if I wanted to use them I would I have to go out there.

When you’re already in bed, you don’t want to get out. This has allowed me to relax at night and focus on my new habit of practicing 10 minutes of mindfulness.

At Clear’s talk, he shared with the audience how he used environmental design to increase his own productivity. When he was writing his book Atomic Habits, he got way behind. In order to complete the book, he decided to change his work environment to make it less distracting.

Basically, Clear made it difficult to look at his social media accounts during the week. He accomplished this not by strength of will but instead by having his assistant log him out of his accounts every Monday–and change his passwords. He would then get the new passwords on Friday, leaving him free to concentrate on the book during the week.

3. Never miss twice.

People tend to be all or nothing with habits. You’re either someone who works out three days a week or doesn’t work out. You’re someone who eats salads or someone who eats office cookies. There’s no middle ground.

The problem is that life always interferes with cues and triggers for good habits. It breaks your routines.

Clear’s advice is we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about falling off track. The goal is to never miss twice. Sure, you may have missed the gym once this week, but that doesn’t mean the whole system is off. Chocolate may come into my office and I’ll have a piece, but as long as I don’t miss my good eating habits twice in a row, I can keep on track.

This can be applied to work as well. Clear shared how he used the idea of never missing twice with his online blog. When he started the blog, his goal was to publish every Monday and Thursday. However, sometimes life would intervene and he would miss a Monday. Instead of giving up writing altogether, he would just get back on track on Thursday. By not missing twice, he was able to consistently publish his blog and grow a following.

All three habits are great. His practical advice has worked wonders for creating habits that stick for me. Since applying his advice, I’ve been able to start new habits, stay focused, and, more importantly, get back on track if I lose out one day.

Scientists Have Discovered The Best Way To Combine Coffee And Naps So You Feel Less Tired

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Caffeine and napping have something in common. Both make you feel alert and can enhance your performance, whether that’s driving, working or studying. But some people are convinced that drinking a coffee before a nap gives you an extra zap of energy when you wake up.

How could that be? Is there any evidence to back the power of these so-called coffee naps? Or are we better off getting a good night’s sleep?

Positive Thinking Can Help Your Health Later In Life, According To A Recent Study

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Life sure can have its ups and downs, but it looks like maintaining a strong sense of optimism could actually benefit your health in the longterm. According to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), positive thinking can help your health in your later years. Who knows — positive thinking could just be the key to immortality. I’m kidding, of course (or am I?)

The study, conducted by Professor Andrew Steptoe and Dr Daisy Fancourt, analysed data collated between 2012 and 2016 from over 7,000 adults over the age of 50 as part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), as described by University College London.

When asked “to what extent they felt the things they did in their life were worthwhile,” participants were instructed to rate their answer on a scale from one to ten. Researchers found that those who rated higher lived life significantly better. From walking faster to sleeping well, those with a positive attitude exuded it in both mind and body.

Having an optimistic outlook on life has plenty of other benefits too, including an improvement on your ability to cope with stress, can boost your immunity, and can even lead to an increased lifespan, according to Verywell Mind.

Lucas Ottone/Stocksy

Taking other aspects of a participants life into account, the study was also able to determine that those who had higher ratings kept their lives pretty busy, surrounding themselves with strong relationships, socialising, and exercising. Participants who rated lower were “twice as likely to develop depressive symptoms,” and were also linked with living on their own and feeling overwhelmingly lonely.

“As more and more men and women live longer, we need to understand better what factors lead to healthier and happier older age,” Steptoe explained. “This is a two-way process. Not only do good social relationships and better health contribute to our sense that we are living meaningful lives, but this sense of meaning sustains social and cultural activity, health and wellbeing in the future.”

Jovo Jovanovic/Stocksy

Even though this study focuses on those aged over 50, that doesn’t mean that those in their thirties, twenties, or even teens can’t adopt a more positive outlook on life. I mean, starting early is always the best thing in my book, especially if it can improve your health and mental wellbeing.

And even if you’re introverted or have mental health issues like depression, you can gain positivity from literally anything. For me, it’s always the little things like immersing myself in video games or just spending time with my family.

Jayme Burrows/Stocksy

“We do not know what activities the participants in this study thought were worthwhile,” Fancourt explained. “For some it might be supporting their families, for others a particular accomplishment in their work or hobby, enjoying nature or perhaps following a favourite sports team. What is important is that the individual finds these activities worthwhile and feels like they give a sense of meaning to life.”

If you want to start living your life to the optimistic full, here’s some advice. Pick one thing your absolutely passionate about, and fit it into your daily routine. Even if you’re having a rough day, it’ll be there to pick you up and spin your mind back into the positive.

Why You Need a Self-Care Plan

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Over the past few weeks of our Self-Care Series, we’ve defined self-care, examined the reasons why it’s so hard to consistently engage in self-care practices, and made a case for why self-care does not need to be an individual pursuit. We’ve agreed to begin looking at self-care as a long-term pursuit, one in which taking care of our inner and outer selves are equal parts of the equation. We’ve also learned how to develop coping strategies that can help us and others in our community weather the struggles of self-care with grace and steadiness.

The unsung common thread running through each topic we’ve covered over the past 6 weeks is that everyone needs their own Self-Care Plan, otherwise known as a Coping Strategy.

Three Reasons You Need a Self-Care Plan

A Self-Care Plan is an intervention tool that keeps you from being completely sucked into the vortex, saving you when you find yourself standing on the precipice gazing into the dark abyss. It’s a fail-safe, reated by you, and filled with your favorite self-care activities, important reminders, and ways to activate your self-care community.

1) Customizing a Self-Care Plan is a preventative measure. By designing a roadmap that is unique to you, in moments when you’re NOT in crisis, you’re directing your best self to reflect on what you may need (and have access to) in your worst moments. The reality is that only YOU know how intense your stress levels can get and what resources are available to you. Write that sh*t down.

2) Having a plan takes the guesswork out of what to do and where to turn in moments of crisis. From a mindfulness point of view, it helps you respond instead of react to the situation at hand. When you have a plan in place, you’ll feel more in control of your circumstances and life won’t feel quite as chaotic. (It also makes it easier to ask for help from those you share your plan with.

3) A Self-Care Plan helps you stay the course. You’ll find it far easier to stick to your personal care strategy and avoid falling into the trap of making excuses. Having a plan helps you establish a routine, ensuring that you and your self-care partners don’t wind up in isolation, but rather check in with each other, hold each other accountable, and share the responsibility to support one another.

How to Create A Self-Care Plan

Your Self-Care Plan is a roadmap that you can carry in your back pocket. It’s there to help you walk your talk as well as help you find your way back to equilibrium by providing a clearly defined route back home if you find yourself on off-track.

Creating and following a plan helps you balance your mental, physical, and emotional needs while reminding you of the important people in your support system and the self-care goals you wish to accomplish.

How do you begin creating a Self-Care Plan?

1) First, create an activity list organized around different parts of your life: I’ve found that the easiest way to start is by breaking up this daunting task into several categories, for example:

  • Work
  • Physical Fitness
  • Emotional Life
  • Relationships & Community

For each area above, write down the activities or strategies that you can call on, that are authentic to you and contribute to your wellbeing.

Some examples we’ve discussed over the past weeks include spending time with friends, eating healthy, being active, mindfulness meditation, and finding the confidence to create healthy boundaries. Have fun, be creative, and most impprtatnly, be real with yourself about what works for you and what doesn’t.

2) Second, note any barriers that may be in your way and how to shift them. As you write down each activity, ask yourself what barriers might get in the way of you being able to accomplish it. Then, try to strategize ways that you might be able to shift these barriers (FYI, this works even better when you do so with a friend, partnerm or community!).  If you find that you can’t shift the barriers, feel free to adjust the activities. Your Self-Care Plan is NOT written in stone! It’s meant to be a living, breathing guide that adapts as your life circumstances and demands change.

3) Third, share your plan with your closest friends. Don’t forget to rely on your network of self-care buddies, your community of care. Share a copy of your Self-Care Plan with them and ask them to hold you accountable. Encourage them to create their own Plan and share it with you so you can do the same for them.


Example Self Care Plan

Category: Emotional Life

Activities

1) Develop friendships that are supportive

2) Write down three good things that you do each day

3) Do something that brings you joy (Go to the movies, sit in a café, hit the beach, or set off a hike)

4) Regularly meet with your social group/community of care

Barriers

1. Your friendships are not equal in “give and take.” Shift it: define expectations with your closest friends. Don’t assume your friends know what you need from them.

2. You’re in the habit of negative self-talk. Shift it: every time you catch yourself saying something negative to yourself say the exact opposite to yourself.

3. Don’t have a babysitter or the ability to get away for the evening. Shift it: Activate your self-care community

4) My friends or self-care network don’t have time to meet. Shift it: Set up a meet-up in advance and regularly. Create a monthly calendar.


Make it Visual

I always suggest that, if possible, you make your Self-Care Plan visual. Think of it as your very own personal self-care infographic:

Try this:
1) Start by jotting down a list of keywords or phrases from the activities list you created—choose whichever words resonate with you the most.
2) Then, grab a white piece of paper or a posterboard and transform these into graphic elements. Go ahead and use different colors, drawings, photos, whatever works for you to create visual cues that resonate with you and your pla.

Once you complete your masterpiece, put it somewhere you’re sure to see it every day because doing so will help you think about and (re)commit to your strategies.  A byproduct of keeping it visible is that others will see it, too, and this will encourage them to ask about it, reflect on it, support your efforts, and, just maybe, even get them thinking about creating their own self-care vision. (By the way, I love to see these, so if you create one, please share it in our self-care group!)

Sticking to Your Self-Care Plan

Just like an athlete who trains for a competitive event, Self-Care Plans require that you practice the activities regularly. Be realistic with yourself by remembering that it takes time for a new practice to become a routine. There will be moments when you falter and that’s okay. We’re all human. Don’t punish yourself, but instead refocus and recommit to your plan. This way, if you find yourself on the edge of that void, staring it down, you’ll be prepared. How do you get yourself back on track when you falter? The answer to that question will be different for everyone, and will depend on what’s in your self-care plan. Here’s what works for me:

When I realize I’m beyond the edge in a black hole this is LITERALLY what I do: I have an old fashioned egg timer (you can use your phone timer, too) and I set a timer and allow myself 30 minutes (whatever time works for you) to feel really sorry for myself and mad at myself and beat myself up if I need to. Sometimes I even write it all down. It’s ugly. Usually, by 15 minutes in I’ve exhausted myself. And then I MAKE myself do something that makes me happy even if I’m not in the mood. Last week it was playing Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” in the kitchen super loud and dancing. Sometimes it’s pulling my husband in to swing dance to the Stray Cats with me.

When you just allow yourself to be in the vortex and really lean into it you are usually ready to finally extract yourself. And by having a plan in place for those moments when all seems lost, you can more easily find your way back to center.

As Louis Pasteur once observed, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

The 3-Keys To Daily Well-Being

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Tom Rath is a researcher, author, and filmmaker who studies the role of human behavior in business, health, and well-being. The bestselling author of Are You Fully Charged? and Strengths Based Leadershiphe’s also a senior scientist and advisor to Gallup. Since age 16, he’s been successfully battling a rare disease that causes cancer cells to appear throughout his body. He joined Susan CainNew York Times bestselling author of Quiet, for a conversation on the secrets to living a healthy, happy, and meaningful life.Susan: At only age 39, you’ve lived a pretty extraordinary life. And you’re well known for your natural humility. How do you channel all that quiet modesty into your work?

Tom: One of the lessons I learned very early in life, from my grandfather, is that it is an extraordinary waste of time to try to be someone you are not. So while I aspire to have a positive influence on other people, I know I’m not going to accomplish that by being the loudest or most charismatic person in a room. What I can do is read, learn, and listen as much as humanly possible and channel my findings into something productive. This is the part that comes naturally to me.

My challenge is that all the knowledge in the world does little good for others until it is shared in a practical form. This is why I have spent quite a bit of time trying to become a semi-competent writer over the past decade. There is so much amazing research being conducted today that could influence people’s lives. But that knowledge has to meet people at a time of need in order to have any chance of influencing a person’s daily choices.

Susan: At age 16, you were diagnosed with VHL disease, a rare genetic disorder that causes cancer cells to appear in various parts of your body. Since that time, you’ve been researching and experimenting with various ways of slowing down the growth of those tumors. What have your most important findings been?

Tom: An essential learning for me is that anyone can dramatically improve their odds of living a long and healthy life by making better choices. Just look at the physical aspects. If you get a good night’s sleep tonight, it gives you a clean slate for tomorrow, where you are more likely to be active throughout the day and make better food choices. Perhaps most importantly, this starts an upward spiral, where you feel progressively better as each day goes by.

The broader learning for me, after battling cancer for a couple of decades, is: you have to do something today that will continue to grow after you’re gone. I may have a more constant threat to my mortality than the average person, but in reality the only thing any of us can count on with extreme certainty is that we have today to do what matters most. When I orient my days around this simple thought, it makes it easy to spend even more time doing things for other people each day.

Susan: What do you do when you feel scared or anxious?

Tom: It helps me to simply acknowledge the fact that I am feeling anxious. In most cases, this keeps my physiological response in check so it does not exacerbate the problem. I think a majority of things we allow to create anxiety in our lives are a reflection of how we choose to respond to external circumstances. Another thing that helps me is focusing on everything that isgoing right. Simply bringing the thought of my children’s laughter to mind induces a smile almost instantaneously.

When I am anxious as a result of larger stressors, I tend to tackle the problem right away. Life is too brief to let fears—that are often unfounded—erode entire days or weeks. Especially for someone like me who needs a lot of thought time, it would be easy to let fears consume far more bandwidth than they should.

Susan: In recent years, and especially in your latest book Are You Fully Charged?, your focus shifted to daily well-being. Why that shift?

Tom: Looking at what improves well-being in the moment is infinitely more practical. In the past, most research focused on asking people to reflect on their lives overall. That is like inquiring about the quality of someone’s career by asking them to read their resume. It misses almost all of the richness and emotion that occurs in the thick of a typical day.

This is why I’ve been deeply encouraged by a lot of smart research around daily well-being or what researchers call “daily experience.” When you look at what really matters on a moment-to-moment basis, it is things like brief interactions with loved ones that matter significantly more than how much money we make or whether we live in a wealthy country.

Susan: What are the three keys to daily well-being?

Tom: The first key is doing some type of meaningful work today.

The second key is having far more positive than negative interactions.

The third key is having the energy you need to be your best today, which starts with eating, moving, and sleeping well in combination.

Susan: What are the essentials of meaningful work? And can most people, who are already overwhelmed with paying the bills and supporting their families, afford to think in these terms?

Tom: It’s important to note that I am defining meaningful work as doing something that benefits another person. If you think about it in terms that are this basic, even small acts that have a little positive value for society count. In this context, I would argue that meaningful work is more of a basic necessity than a luxury for those who can afford it.

Meaningful work is also a lot more practical than I ever thought before I did a deeper dive on this topic. I had always assumed things like meaning, mission, and purpose were higher level needs, but the more I learn, the clearer it becomes that meaningful work is a basic human need that cuts across professions and income levels.

Susan: You write about the importance of positive social interactions. What does this mean for introverts, who often prefer their social time in smaller doses, with closer friends, and punctuated by solitude?

Tom: There is nothing more appealing to this introvert than a combination of solitude and a little time with my closest friends. Perhaps this is why the research around ratios of positive to negative interactions has always resonated with me. The quality of social interactions matters far more than the frequency of those interactions. Based on what I have studied, we need about 80% of our interactions with other people to be more positive than negative. This is simply because negative interactions carry much heavier load and outweigh positive ones.

I have also learned to leverage my more analytical and inquisitive personality to create better interactions. It is a lot easier for me as an introvert to ask a good question than it is to initiate a story or other banter. So I ask a lot of questions, listen well, keep my electronic devices stowed away, and learn as much as I can during each interaction. In a world where attention is so incredibly fragmented by voices and devices, I have a feeling that some of these things introverts naturally do better will be even more highly valued in the future.

This article originally appeared on Heleo.

Setting Realistic Goals Linked to Higher Level of Well-Being

Author Article

A new study shows that people who set realistic goals can hope for  better well-being.

The key for later satisfaction is whether the life goals are seen as attainable, according to psychologists at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

For the study, researchers used data from 973 people between the ages of 18 and 92 living in German-speaking parts of Switzerland. More than half of the participants were surveyed again after two and four years.

The participants were asked to assess on a four-point scale the importance and the perceived attainability of life goals in 10 areas: health, community, personal growth, social relationships, fame, image, wealth, family, and responsibility and care for younger generations.

The study’s findings revealed that perceiving one’s personal goals as attainable is an indicator for later cognitive and affective well-being.

This implies that people are most satisfied if they have a feeling of control and attainability, the researchers explained.

Life goals also hold predictive power for specific domains, according to the study’s findings. For example, participants who set social-relation goals or health goals were more satisfied with their social relationships or their own health.

The researchers also found that the link between life goals and subsequent well-being appeared to be independent of the age of the participants.

However, age did play a factor in what goals people valued.

The younger the participants were, the more they rated personal growth, status, work, and social-relation goals as important. The older the participants were, the more they rated social engagement and health as important, according to the study’s findings.

“Many of our results confirmed theoretical assumptions from developmental psychology,” said lead author Janina Bühler, a Ph.D. student. “If we examine, however, whether these goals contribute to well-being, age appears less relevant.”

The study was published in the European Journal of Personality.

What Is Well-Being? Definition, Types, and Well-Being Skills

Author Article

What Is Well-Being?

Well-being is the experience of healthhappiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, and a sense of meaning or purpose. More generally, well-being is just feeling well (Take this quiz to discover your level of well-being).

Well-being is something sought by just about everyone, because it includes so many positive things — feeling happy, healthy, socially connected, and purposeful. But unfortunately, well-being appears to be in decline (at least in the U.S.). And increasing your well-being can be tough without knowing what to do and how to do it. These are some of the reasons why I founded The Berkeley Well-Being Institute — an organization that translates the science of well-being into simple tools and products that help you build your well-being.

Can You Actually Improve Your Well-Being?

Increasing your well-being is simple — there are tons of skills you can build. But increasing your well-being is not always easy — figuring out what parts of well-being are most important for you and figuring out how, exactly, to build well-being skills usually require some extra help.

How Long Does It Take to Improve Well-Being?

Usually when people start consistently using science-based techniques for enhancing well-being, they begin to feel better pretty quickly. In the research studies that I’ve conducted and read, most people show significant improvements within five weeks.

But you have to stick to it. If you are feeling better after five weeks, you can’t just stop there.

Why? Well, you probably already know that if you stop eating healthy and go back to eating junk food, then you’ll end up back where you started. It turns out that the exact same thing is true for different types of well-being. If you want to maintain the benefits you gain, you’ll have to continue to engage in well-being-boosting practices to maintain your skills. So it’s really helpful to have strategies and tools that help you stick to your well-being goals — for example, a happiness and well-being plan or a well-being boosting activity collection that you can continue to use throughout your life.

So, what are the skills you need to build and the practices you need to engage in to build your well-being? Here’s what you need to know:

Where Does Well-Being Come From?

Well-being emerges from your thoughts, actions, and experiences — most of which we have control over. For example, when we think positive, we tend to have greater emotional well-being. When we pursue meaningful relationships, we tend to have better social well-being. And when we lose our job — or just hate it — we tend to have lower workplace well-being. These examples start to reveal how broad well-being is, and how many different types of well-being there are.

Because well-being is such a broad experience, let’s break it down into its different types.

Five Major Types of Well-Being Are:

  • Emotional Well-Being — The ability to practice stress-managementtechniques, be resilient, and generate the emotions that lead to good feelings.
  • Physical Well-Being — The ability to improve the functioning of your body through healthy eating and good exercise habits.
  • Social Well-Being — The ability to communicate, develop meaningful relationships with others, and maintain a support network that helps you overcome loneliness.
  • Workplace Well-Being — The ability to pursue your interests, values, and purpose in order to gain meaning, happiness, and enrichment professionally.
  • Societal Well-Being — The ability to actively participate in a thriving community, culture, and environment.

To build your overall well-being, you have to make sure all of these types are functioning to an extent.

Think of it like this. Imagine you are in a car. Your engine works great, and maybe your transmission works pretty well too, but your brakes don’t work. Because your brakes don’t work, it doesn’t really matter how well your engine works. You’re still going to have trouble going about your life.

The same thing is true for your well-being. If everything else in your life is going great, but you feel lonely, or you’re eating unhealthfully, other areas of your life will be affected, and you likely won’t feel as well as you want to.

Because each part of well-being is important to your overall sense of well-being, let’s talk about how to build each type of well-being.

How Do You Build the Different Types of Well-Being?

Emotional Well-Being

To develop emotional well-being, we need to build emotional skills — skills like positive thinkingemotion regulation, and mindfulness, for example. Often, we need to build a variety of these skills to cope with the wide variety of situations we encounter in our lives. When we have built these emotional well-being skills, we can better cope with stress, handle our emotions in the face of challenges, and quickly recover from disappointments. As a result, we can enjoy our lives a bit more and pursue our goals a bit more effectively.

Here are some of the skills that research suggests contribute to emotional well-being:

Physical Well-Being

To develop our physical well-being, we need to know what a healthy dietand exercise routine looks like, so that we can implement effective strategies in our daily lives. When we improve our physical well-being, not only do we feel better, our newfound health can also help prevent many diseases, boost our emotional well-being, and limit the number of health challenges we have to deal with in our lives.

Here are some of the things that can help you boost your physical well-being:

  • Eating for Health
  • Detoxing Your Body
  • Correcting Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Removing Plastic From Your Home

​Unfortunately, it’s possible to eat healthy and still be unhealthy. We can accidentally miss important foods or nutrients. Or we can overburden ourselves with toxins from plastic or processed food. As a result, we may need to eat additional foods, detox our bodies, or prevent these toxins from entering our bodies again. This is why it’s essential to learn about health, so that we can make the right changes — changes that lead to long-term health and well-being.

Social Well-Being

To develop our social well-being, we need to build our social skills — skills like gratitude, kindness, and communication. Social skills make it easier for us to have positive interactions with others, helping us to feel less lonely, angry, or disconnected. When we have developed our social well-being, we feel more meaningfully connected to others.

Here are some of the skills that research suggests contribute to better social well-being:

It’s important to know that building social well-being is one the best ways to build emotional well-being. When we feel socially connected, we also tend to just feel better, have more positive emotions, and we are able to cope better with challenges. This is why it’s essential to build our social well-being.

Workplace Well-Being

To develop our workplace well-being, we need to build skills that help us pursue what really matters to us. This can include building professional skills which help us to advance more effectively, but it also includes things like living our values and maintaining work-life balance. These skills let us enjoy our work more, helping us to stay focused, motivated, and successful at work. When we have developed workplace well-being, our work, and therefore each day, feels more fulfilling.

Here are some of the key skills you need for workplace well-being:

  • Maintaining Work-Life Balance
  • Finding Your Purpose

​Because we spend so much time at work, building our workplace well-being has a big impact on our overall well-being.

Societal Well-Being

To develop societal well-being, we need to build skills that make us feel interconnected with all things. We need to know how to support our environment, build stronger local communities, and foster a culture of compassion, fairness, and kindness. These skills help us feel like we’re part of a thriving community that really supports one another and the world at large. When we cultivate societal well-being, we feel like we are a part of something bigger than just ourselves.

Although each one of us only makes up a tiny fraction of a society, it takes all of us to create societal well-being. If each one of us did one kind act for someone else in our community, then we would live in a very kind community. Or if all of us decide we are going to recycle, then suddenly we create a world with significantly less waste. In order to live in a healthy society, we too need to contribute to making a healthy society.

Here are some of the skills you can build for greater societal well-being:

Who Benefits Most From Building Well-Being?

Not everyone experiences the same benefits from building their well-being. For example, lots of research suggests that the more motivated you are to build well-being skills, the greater the impact. Perhaps this is not surprising.

Still other research shows that having skills like a growth mindset or a positive attitude can actually help you build your other well-being skills more easily. This is why I tend to encourage people to build these skills first — afterwards, you may be able to increase the other types of well-being more easily.

In addition, building well-being skills is perhaps most beneficial for people who are struggling with well-being the most, particularly if they’ve recently undergone something stressful. It may be harder to build well-being during this time or for these people, but the impact may be greater, because there is more room for improvement.

There Is No Magic About Building Well-Being

Keep in mind, it takes time and effort to build any new skillset — that includes well-being skills. It’s important to be realistic with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish is a given amount of time. Having unrealistic expectations can lead you to give up before you’ve reached your well-being goals. So it’s key to create a realistic plan for your well-being, stick to it, and take small actions every day that add to big improvements up over time.

If you’ve read my articles before, you might know that I too have struggled with aspects of my well-being, particularly with maintaining work-life balance. The truth is, we all struggle with different parts of well-being, and new struggles can and will pop up, even if you’re doing well. But the longer we’ve worked on strengthening our well-being skills, the easier it is to be resilient, take the actions needed to bounce back, and continue moving forward even in the face of challenges.

Yes, growing your well-being is a lifelong pursuit, but it is a pursuit that is totally worth it.

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