For my first blog, on the first day of 2011, I would like to send my warmest wishes to you all for a very happy and positive New Year. Last year was a year of unprecedented growth and challenge for me personally. It was a year of learning and evaluating my contribution as a therapist to my many clients as well as contemplating my future direction. As someone who works every day trying to help clients gain clarity about their thinking, emotions and behaviour and encouraging the best possible outcomes for themselves, I know that it is easy to lose sight of one’s own aspirations and direction. As a meditator I am aware of the need for and the benefits of being mindful of being true to oneself. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology calls this being authentic. Go to www.authentichappiness.org. So when I had the opportunity to actually study positive psychology on-line through the University of Pennsilvania last year, I knew I had finally found my own authentic direction.
I have learned so many different ways of being happy and happier, and what is exciting about this, is that positive psychology is backed up by clinical research – excellent empirical studies, replicated over and over and now applied in psychology, medicine, organisations, relationships, parenting and politics. Studies prove it is possible to overcome anxiety and depression by learning skills in being more authentic; identifying and practicing one’s strengths; by living according to one’s core values; by practicing gratitude and optimism; building on and broadening what is already working well in one’s life; putting thoughts and ideas in to action; developing daily rituals in improving one’s physical, emotional, spiritual and relational aspects of self and above all, knowing that whatever the mind learns, it can unlearn.
In my future blogs, I will be drawing from the many lessons, articles and studies in positive psychology to bring to you a myriad of inspiring ways to improve your lives as well. Please feel free to contribute to these blogs with your questions and comments and your own inspiring suggestions and information. I will also be referring you to some great sites, how to receive regular inspiring articles and I will include some thought provoking questions for you to contemplate and write about. If you have any positive suggestions for me for my blog site, I welcome them. OK, so here are some tips for the New Year.
Tip 1 – Create Some Positive Habits
Rather than picking one or two resolutions this year, create some positive habits and stick to them. Resolutions require we go over all the things that went wrong and try to right them. That just brings us back to neutral – it doesn’t help us change the behaviours and ingrained habits we had which caused the mistakes. So just pick a couple of habits you would like to develop. Examples are, get up earlier, do the dishes before going to bed each night, make your bed each morning, find 10 minutes a day to practice gratitude, save $20.00 a week for a slap up meal at Christmas, write in a journal each day. The list does not have to be long or earth-shaking. The important thing is that you develop rituals and stick to them. This will make it easier for you to achieve the bigger goals down the track. Remember, it takes between 21 and 30 days to create a new ritual. It takes discipline, so start with just one or two.
Tip 2 – Start a Gratitude Journal
Start a Gratitude Journal and write five things you are grateful for each day. Yes, they have to be different each day! Include health, your family, friends, clean air and water, personal freedom. Research shows that people who recorded five things they were grateful for every day for a month, actually reported an increase in their level of happiness on self appraisals. This level of happiness remained for up to six months after the study. People who work on their happiness become happier and tend to make others happier as well (Isen, 2002). Remember, anything you appreciate, appreciates.
Tip 3 – Work on Strengths
Work on goals other than losing weight, saving money, finding a new job and so on. Perhaps on personal fulfillment and balance, living more mindfully, using one’s strengths more each day. What are your strengths? Go to www.strengthsfinder.com
A great tip for accomplishing your goals in the new year is to use the P.E.R.F.E.C.T. model developed by Harvard Psychologist and Executive Coach, Carol Kauffman. The framework addresses seven areas:
* Effective Thinking
* Continuity of past, present and future
Tip 4 – The Goal is the Path
Focus on the process – not just the goal. There are many steps toward our goal, in order to reinforce our reality. Practicing gratitude, reward and effort are some of these. Keep the big picture in mind by keeping balance in your life. We need to ask: “what sort of a life do I want for myself?” It may be the most important questions we can ask. J.K. Rowlings’ Harvard Commencement speech in 2008 is one of the most inspiring speeches I have ever heard. Go to http://vimeo.com/1711302. This 20 min. video is well worth the watch and is thoroughly inspiring.
Tip 5 – Get Started
Tackle procrastination by using the 5 minute take-off: we believe we need to be motivated, really hyped before we get going on a chore or project. However, sometimes, we feel unmotivated, uninspired or just plain lazy. Just go through the motions – fake it till you make it. Remember: motivation follows action. Just get started.
Tip 6 – Relax and Breathe
Introduce 10 minutes of relaxation, deep breathing or meditation into your daily life. This is not so hard to do. You can do it in bed before you rise, during a break in your day such as riding on a train or bus, at lunch time, before you leave the office, before dinner, an hour after dinner, or before you settle down to sleep. Gradually relax your muscles beginning with your facial muscles then work down your body mindfully relaxing each set of muscles. Visualise your whole body relaxed from your head to your feet. Regular practice of meditation or mindfully relaxation will help you to develop better focus and concentration and a quicker recovery during stress. Research shows the optimum working day consists of 90-120 mins of work, balanced with 15 min. recovery breaks. Look up Jon Kabat-Zinn for a variety of mindfulness meditation practices on-line.
Tip 7 – Follow Your Passion
Commit to doing something this year that you have always wanted to do. Be it dancing lessons, exercise, learning a language, saving for a holiday, sponsoring a child. Caroline Adams Miller’s book, Creating your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide is helpful.
Tip 8 – Shine Your Light on Others
Do something meaningful for someone else. Practice random acts of kindness: pay for someone’s coffee anonymously, donate more money to charity, give a loan that changes lives by pledging to become a Kiva loaner. Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. See kiva.org. Buy flowers, say thank you more often, tell someone you appreciate them, look in on neighbours, have a street party, try forgiving someone, visit friends or relatives more often. Your life will appreciate all the more.
Tip 9 – Laugh Out Loud
Use humour more often. Plan to laugh more because life is really quite funny. 10 minutes of belly laughter produces the same amount of endorphins as 30 minutes of vigorous exercise. I know what I would rather do!
Tip 10 – Be a Benefit Finder
Think positively about the benefits of failure in order to move on from it. Don’t take things so personally. Learn to fail or fail to learn. Be a benefit finder rather than a fault finder. There is always something to learn from adversity.
Tip 11 – Be the Best That You Can Be
By being the best you can be you help others be the best they can be. Begin every interaction with a warm smile; every conflict with a conciliatory gesture; every parting with a sense of gratitude and every slight with compassion. We only have a limited amount of time here and we all have to share the same space so do what you can to connect in the best way with all sentient beings.
Tip 12 – Remember Our Furry Friends
Be kind to animals – they rely on us for their well-being. As Paul McCartney said, “..we humans have won the race on earth…but we are not noble in our success.”
Tip 13 – Step Lightly
Finally, and importantly, do something to decrease your carbon footprint on the earth this year. Save water and energy, support a more sustainable lifestyle. Learn ways that you can do this – go on-line, read, attend lectures and participate in group innovations. http://www.carbonneutral.com.au/
I am going to try harder to walk my talk this year and be the best that I can be. I hope you succeed in all your goals. If you need any help, support, encouragement and the like, please let me know. Please also feel free to pass this information on to others.
May you all have a happier and rewarding new year in 2011.