Some of the best and brightest researchers who study how to increase your well-being have loads of free, practical, helpful information just waiting for you out there in cyberspace.
To make things a little easier for you, I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites. These are people and research that have rocked my world and I know they’ll do the same for you. Look for the free stuff!
Must see: Brene Brown’s free first Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability (20 minutes.)
Also good: Her free second Ted Talk, Listening to Shame (20 minutes.)
Excellent free article: 4 (Totally Surprising) Life Lessons We All Need to Learn
Must read free article: Why Self-Compassion Trumps Self-Esteem
Must read book: Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Wonderful, free guided meditations about self-compassion: Self-compassion.org website
Science-y, but really informative free article that includes video clips: Are You Getting Enough Positivity In Your Diet?
Must read free article: 9 Things Successful People Do Differently
Must read free article: Is It Possible to Become Lastingly Happier?
Also good: …
1. Realize that change is always going to be in your life. Expect it.
“I always thought things would calm down and get easier. I’m beginning to think that’s not going to happen.” Phoebe Howard, age 99.
2. Be nice to yourself. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Read Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.
3. Practice mindfulness by noticing your thoughts and feelings, but have no judgment about them. Try this 12-minute ‘taster’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
4. Resistance is like a Chinese Finger Trap. The more you struggle, the tighter you’re held in the trap.
5. Be flexible and open in your way of thinking. It will allow you to problem-solve more effectively and accept your reality more easily. Read Roger von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative
6. Find your taproot.
7. See if there is a gift hidden within your troubles. The sand that irritates the oyster eventually becomes a pearl.
8. Develop post-traumatic growth. The basics are being optimistic and framing your struggles as meaningful (finding the gifts and opportunities in them.)
9. Gain perspective: See how many different angles you can view the same problem from.
10. More perspective: Remember that you’ve made it through tough times before. And you’re still here to talk about it.
“I like to see a cloud in the blue sky. How else can you appreciate the blue without a cloud in it?” - my 100-year-old grandmother, Mary Gustason
11. Think about kaleidoscopes. The pattern is beautiful, but when it gets shaken up, a wonderful new pattern can emerge.
12. Take a break. Really. It’s okay.
13. Find something that makes you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.
14. Remember that your thoughts aren’t always true.
15. Remember that it’s okay to have fun, smile, and laugh sometimes even when you …
Perhaps I come by it honestly as my parents often referred to me as “Little Chief Thundercloud” when I was a small child.
Nonetheless, I enjoy a bit of happiness as much as the next person. But the aspect of happiness that has me particularly grumpy is the popular social notion that one should always be happy.
If you don’t believe me, visit one of the few remaining bookstores in your area and go to the Self-Help section. Your neck will get a kink in it as you keep your head cocked to one side to read the endless list of ways to be happy, stay happy, reasons why you’re not happy, why you suck because you can’t maintain happiness, etc.
Searching for the word “happy” in the book section on Amazon is frightening. (Not to worry, I did it for you.) My search returned 63,499 results.
Of course, we need to take this with a fairly good-sized grain of salt since the top book right now is, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander, which is an autobiography by someone from the A&E series, Duck Dynasty. Be sure to pick up your copy today.
Still, in the top 25 books are titles such as:
Actually, that last one might be worth taking a look at . . .
Overall, though, you receive my point: You can and should be happy once and for all, happy now, and instantly happy. As the duck man might say, “Happy, happy, happy. What a quack.”
Imagine my relief, then, when I spied this title: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking…
Break those resolutions.
They’re not doing you any good.
Resolutions inevitably set you up for failure.
Think about it: Resolutions are usually created around something you have difficulty with, anyway, like exercising more or eating less. When you create a resolution, you take something that is already hard for you to do and pile on more expectations and more weight (so to speak) on the outcome.
Now what happens if you’re not able to keep your resolution?
You really suck.
In actuality, you don’t suck at all, but resolutions can make you think you do.
Guess what percentage of people who make resolutions actually achieve them?
Go ahead and guess. I’ll wait.
Ready for the answer?
8%. That’s eight percent, not a typo that’s supposed to be 80%. That means 92% fail at completely accomplishing our resolutions.
If you absolutely, positively have to create a resolution, at least do it in the best way possible.
Did you know that the origin of the word resolution is this?
Early 15c., “a breaking into parts,” from L. resolutionem (nom. resolutio) “process of reducing things into simpler forms”.
So, resolution actually means to break things down to make them simpler. The definition of resolution meaning “to hold firmly” didn’t appear until more than a hundred years later.
Rather than saying, “My resolution is to go to the gym more,” create something more specific, measurable, and smaller. Say, “I would like to go to the gym two times per week for the first 3 months and then bump it up to three times per week for the next 3 months.”
Instead of saying, “I’m going to cut out all carbs from my diet,” say, “I’m going to eat only 45 grams of carbs three days per week for one month.”
Reduce your breaking into parts to its simplest form.
Instead of a New Year’s resolution, why not set an intention for the new year?
An intention is about having an aim, a direction, a purpose – it’s not about a fixed goal. It can serve the same function as a goal, that is it can get you moving in a new direction.
But holding an intention is not as do-or-die …
Maybe you’re facing a big stressor or perhaps it’s something so small that it usually wouldn’t bother you, but in either case, somehow you just aren’t as resilient as you have been in the past.
The tendency is to think, “I must be a real wimp; I usually am fine with this type of stress.”
You might be a wimp (although I seriously doubt it) or there might be something else going on.
We humans have a penchant for glossing over the most obvious things, so here’s a reminder to ask yourself about these three commonly overlooked factors that make it difficult to bounce back:
1. Am I tired?
Being tired saps us of any reserves we might have in the resiliency arena so it makes sense that bouncing back wouldn’t come as easily.
If being tired is due to lack of sleep, our ability to problem-solve and manage even the smallest issues may be severely challenged. We need our REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep – the deepest stage of sleep – in order to be able to process memories and emotions most efficiently.
If lack of sleep is a problem for you, check out this helpful article from the American Psychological Association.
Tired from physical exertion? Make sure to get enough rest to get your wits about you again before making any decisions or trying to accurately gauge your ability to bounce back.
2. Am I sick?
Obviously, being seriously ill is going to make it difficult for you to have any energy at all to manage your emotions.
But did you know that even something as simple as the common cold can affect your bounce-back-ability?
Think about it: not only are you tired (see #1 above) from being sick, every bit of extra energy in your body – and most of the regular-strength energy – is going toward fighting off the invasive critters that are making you sick.
That doesn’t leave a lot left over for emotional resilience.
Take care of your body to help restore your energy and bounciness.
Crises. Stressful events. Problems.
Sometimes they’re small like running out the door late for work only to find that the cat threw up on your shoe and you have to go back inside to change.
Sometimes they’re big like financial problems, illness, or loss of a loved one.
Whatever the situation, there are four words that can help you make it through better than any self-help book.
Before I tell you these four words, I want you to promise me that you’ll keep reading this entire post. Because I can pretty much guarantee that when you read the words you’ll roll your eyes and think, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.”
These four words have magic when strung together and there is much, much more that we need to think about when we hear or remember them rather than just letting them go by.
Here are the four words:
This, too, shall pass.
Wait! Don’t go anywhere. Keep reading.
Most people when they hear this familiar phrase immediately dismiss it, thinking, “I know that, but what do I do now to manage my stress?”
What you do now is gain perspective.
Example 1: The cat threw up on your shoe and you are going to be later than you thought to work.
So what? You’ve been late before and the sky didn’t fall in. Allow yourself to learn from past experience that you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.
The moment passes.
Example 2: You’re deep in debt and bill collectors are calling to harass you.
This is not a “so what?” experience. This is a stomach-churning-teeth-grinding-waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night experience. How does ‘This, too, shall pass’ fit here?
In a couple of different ways.
One is that this moment will pass. Or perhaps I should say, you can allow the moment to pass. And I mean the moment.
Those stomach-churning-teeth-grinding-waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night moments eventually pass. Especially if you realize that grinding your teeth and worrying in the middle of the night doesn’t really solve any problems. It just makes you tired the next day.
You know these moments pass because you’ve had them …
It might be bad for you.
Frederickson and Cole noted that, when faced with adversity, our bodies tend to go into threat mode. This tends to increase the “activity of pro-inflammatory genes and decrease the activity of genes involved in antiviral responses.”
What does this mean in plain language?
If you have long-lasting adversity in your life, your immune system prepares you for bacterial infections by ramping up your inflammatory response. And chronic inflammation has been linked to serious diseases including cancer and heart problems.
You’re probably wondering how happiness fits into this scenario.
To make a long story short, Frederickson and Cole looked at two different kinds of happiness: hedonic and eudaemonic.
Hedonism is about taking to create happiness. Having a lot of money, avoiding problems, and even enjoying a meal can be hedonistic activities.
Eudaemonia, on the other hand, is about giving to create happiness. Using your money to help others, looking at problems as ways to learn, and being grateful for your food can engender eudaemonic happiness.
You can probably see that there is one big difference between hedonism and eudaemonia: meaningfulness.
Here is the important thing that the researchers found: People who scored high in happiness, but low in meaningfulness were found to have the same high-stress, high inflammation responses in their bodies as people who have suffered from long-term adversity.
Not surprisingly, people who had the same levels of happiness and meaning or even those who were low in happiness but high in meaning showed a deactivation of the adversity-stress response.
So, it may be that the pursuit of happiness by itself is bad for your health.
How do we create meaning in our lives to keep ourselves healthy and generate eudaemonic happiness – also known as well-being?
Here are some ideas.
1. Clarify your values. Knowing what you …
You don’t have to believe everything your mind says.
Those thoughts that come up and tell you how terrible you are? You don’t have to believe them.
That voice that says what you did was okay, but you can always do better? Take it with a grain of salt.
The constant, annoying, analytical thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind? They may not all be true. And even if they are, you can choose to attend to them or not.
Part of what prevents us from bouncing back well in life is the difficulty we have in separating ourselves from our minds. Because our experience is unique to each of us – no one else is hearing our thoughts – we tend to believe that what we say to ourselves must be true.
And why wouldn’t we think so? If I want to pick up a pen, my mind directs my hand to pick it up and my hand moves to the pen and grasps it. If I’m stuck with the problem of low fuel in my car, my mind jumps into action and quickly problem-solves, telling me I should stop at a gas station to refuel.
With the experience of our minds solving problems for us, it’s easy to think that our minds will always give us answers truthfully and helpfully, even if it hurts.
But . . . not so much.
The mind developed as a way to keep us safe – to solve problems. In the early days of humanity, life was extremely hard and people had to make quick decisions in order to stay alive.
“Should I run from that predator or fight it?”
“Should I swim across this lake or go around it?”
“Will this person hurt me or help me?”
Another important way the mind kept us safe was to recognize that there was safety in numbers so being in a community became very important. To be banned from the community meant a …