Slow Down and Pay Attention
“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”
There are only 16 hours in a day. Sure, you think there are 24, but if you’re like most human beings, you need sleep, so effectively there are 16 hours in a day. You might be one of those people who think you don’t need eight hours of sleep or that you can make it up on the weekend. If you’re thinking like that, your priorities are wacked and you should reevaluate them (the purpose of this book).
If you are not sleeping eight hours a day, then you should start. Everyone needs this much sleep, with a very tiny few being the exception. Even missing just one hour of sleep a night causes your cognition to drop to the same level as someone who is legally drunk.
Being tired and exhausted doesn’t make life more enjoyable. A full night’s rest is important. Having a regular sleep schedule and getting the rest you need will not only make you feel better, but also will keep you healthy and help your perform better at everything. People who get sufficient sleep are also happier.
We live in a time when everything is speeding up. We try to find more hours in the day to do more things. We are multitasking to such a degree that everything we do ends up half-assed. Nothing gets our full attention. Not our friends, not our families, not our work, and certainly not ourselves.
Multiple studies have shown that multitasking is a myth. The brain is simply not capable of managing more than one task at a time. One study found, “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.”
Trying to do more than one thing at a time is a sure-fire way of failing at everything. In the 1740s in a letter to his son, Lord Chesterfield offered the following advice: “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” Take his advice and focus your attention on one thing at a time.
There are a lot of things competing for our attention, not the least of which are other people around us. People are self-absorbed—it’s human nature. We all think we are the most interesting person in the world. We love the sound of our voices and think what we have to say is so important that everyone should stop what they are doing and listen.
To most people, the sound of their voice is music to their ears. Let them have at it. I met someone at a party once. I introduced myself and for 30 minutes after he talked about his work. I listened and only at the end did he ask what I did. I told him about my business, handed him my card, and added that I have experience helping companies like his.
A few days after the party he called to tell me how great our conversation was and that he would like to pass along my information to his manager. A couple of weeks later I signed a new contract. Had I interrupted constantly, trying to insert myself, I would have never heard about his company, let alone gotten the “in” he gave me.
When you are listening, listen. By paying attention to what people are actually saying, you might find they have something interesting to say. You will certainly find the conversation is much more meaningful if you listen instead of composing your next witty remark in the back of your mind. Worst-case scenario, you will have listened to someone boorishly talk and they will love you for it—you will be considered a great conversationalist without having say a word!
Pay attention to what is actually happening around you, not what you think is happening or wish were happening. How many times have we driven to the store and not remembered the journey? How much of your life has been like that? We don’t pay attention to what is happening around us. We shove our headphones into our ears and tune everything out. We isolate ourselves from the people around us. We get annoyed when someone interjects herself into our little bubble by, god forbid, speaking to us.
I used to get off the bus in the mornings and realize that I didn’t even know what the person sitting next to me looked like, let alone what the bus driver looked like. I was oblivious and just going through my morning routine without paying attention to a thing.
Make a point of being aware of you environment and you will suddenly be aware of much more. You’ll have a better understanding of what is happening around you and why. You’ll know what was going on in the office. You’ll know what your clients are thinking. You’ll be able to connect the dots and won’t feel so disjointed or isolated—you’ll be a participant in your own life instead of just observing it after the fact.
Focusing on the immediate task at hand will also reap rewards. You’ll notice what you’re doing goes by much more quickly and is accomplished with much more ease than you imagined. You’ll also find that you have a deeper understanding of what you just did. You may even enjoy what you’re doing, be it raking the leaves or working on a report.
When you are fully and totally involved in what you’re doing, you will find those things you expected to take forever (like cleaning the bathroom) actually happen rather quickly and those things you enjoy (like watching a sunset) last forever. Trying to cram as much as possible into a day will only stress you out and ensure that you do not enjoy anything you are doing.
When you slow down and pay attention to what is happening around you, you’ll find that life is much more enhanced. Conversations are more enjoyable. People are more interesting. Everyday life is a bit more exciting.
When is the last time you sat down and had a leisurely meal? Taking the time to prepare and eat a meal is very important. For those of you with children, it is worth knowing that kids that eat dinner at the table with the family (TV off, electronics put away) perform much better in school and are better socially. For the rest of us, eating dinner at the table (TV off, electronics put away) gives us time to enjoy each other’s company, have a conversation with our spouse or partner, and relax a bit.
When you slow down, you will find rest of the world will slow down with you. We often have this vague fear that we will miss out on something, so we are constantly rushing around. Ask yourself why you are rushing. Is there a reason?
Remain focused on the one thing you are doing right now. The other tasks will get their turn and your undivided attention when their time comes. For now, you are focused on the task at hand. If you don’t get to the other tasks right away, no worries. Eventually you will.
The Addiction of Maximums, the Value of Minimums
“The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed—it is a process of elimination.”
Ownership has its costs. When you buy something, you are spending the time it took to earn the money to pay for what you want. If you charged it on your credit card, there is interest making the cost greater. Once you have the item, you have to find a place for it. That space costs time as well (the time it took you to work to make the money to pay for the house or storage unit). It occupies an area. You might need insurance for what you bought. You spend time thinking about it, worrying about it, obsessing about it.
When you are finally done with it and you try to sell it, you can expect to receive a quarter of the initial price, but you will probably get less. By the time you subtract the other costs, you may break even if you are lucky, but more likely it will have turned out to be a very expensive transaction.
All that for what? A new shirt that you will wear a few times on the weekend, and will be out of fashion in a year? For a CD that has 9 songs you don’t like and one you do?
Ask yourself if all of this stuff is really worth it. Clothes are a big expense for most people. Yet, if you look at what most people wear regularly, it’s the same few pieces of clothing. If you are one of the few that regularly cycles through fashions, ask yourself if it is really worth the cost. Maybe you can buy a few quality items and then mix and match them.
I remember reading the newspaper a couple of years ago around the holidays, in article after article people were quoted as throwing into their basket whatever is in front of them, sorting it out later. They admitted to buying what they didn’t need and didn’t even want. “The price was just so good,” one lady said, “that I bought three of them. I don’t even need them.” She was referring to scarves. She lives in Florida.
The next time you go to buy something, question whether you really need it or not. Sure, food processor is nice, but how often are you likely to use it and will that use justify the cost. Really? Be honest. If you have managed this long without it, do you really need it? If not, then don’t buy it.
Excess stuff complicates. All of the time, energy, and money used to buy stuff could be better allocated to more productive and entertaining areas of life. You may not be completely aware of it, but excess stuff drains you and nags at you in the back of you mind.
Emotional costs come in a variety of forms. Everything from worry (how to pay for what you bought, keep it safe, and so on) to being desensitized to the enjoyment of what you already own. If you add more to what you already have, it dilutes the value of existing items. There is no enjoyment.
There are three easy steps toward simplicity and minimalism.
- Identify what is essential—determine what is important to you, what makes you happy, what excites you, and what you absolutely need.
- Eliminate the unnecessary—eliminate and avoid what is not necessary.
- Reevaluate periodically—people change, preferences change, goals change. Every now and then take a look at what is essential and what is unnecessary, then take steps to bring your life back into harmony.
Give these steps a try, even on a small-scale, and you will notice that you are not worrying or stressing about stuff as much. Try going through one room or even one area of a room (say a closet) and remove what is not absolutely essential. See how that goes. Take small steps to simplify your life. Eventually you will find the sweet spot where you have just what you want and need, nothing more and nothing less.
Out of Necessity
“A healthy body is a guest-chamber for the soul; a sick body is a prison.”
There are some basic facts about life that don’t require much effort to accept, yet still play an important role. We all have to eat. We need a place a sleep. We need basic necessities. Most of us go about meeting these needs by working. You might be independently wealthy or have some other pool of resources you can draw on, but you probably don’t think about the effect your choices in this area have on you.
You will find it difficult to be happy if you are overweight, unhealthy and stressed. When you are in good shape, you feel and look great. This is not to suggest you must have a perfect body or a sculpted physique. What I am talking about is regular, vigorous exercise and healthy eating.
There is no magic pill that will accomplish this for you, no new diet or special formula. Being healthy means eating well and being active. A healthy lifestyle has huge payoffs: improved quality of life, robust health, long life, stamina, and good looks. Over a third of Americans are overweight. There is absolutely no benefit to being overweight and out of shape. We are talking about basic health, not preparation for a marathon or modeling.
Many of us have jobs that are very sedentary. We sit around for eight hours a day and then come home and flop down on the sofa to watch television for another four hours. This lack of movement is literally killing you.
Even if you eat healthy and go to the gym for an hour a day, the sedentary aspect of your life completely undoes everything that your healthy eating and fitness regimen accomplished and then some. The latest studies show that people who appear outwardly healthy, but are sedentary, have terrible cardiovascular health. They are at higher risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and other diseases than plumper, but less sedentary people. In other words, sitting on your ass all day is killing you and you don’t even know it.
The obvious solution here is to get up a move around. You should continue eating well and continue exercising, but you should add to that by getting up periodically from your desk. Walk around a bit more. Sit on a ball at your desk or have a standing desk if possible. The micro-movements necessary to maintain your balance are actually good for you. There is none of that when you are sitting. Instead of driving everywhere, try walking or riding a bike. Whatever it takes, get up and move around more.
If you don’t have a regular excise regimen, now is the time to start one. Not tomorrow, but now. Go for a 15 minute walk. Get yourself into the habit. Eventually start doing more. Vigorous physical activity is the key—window shopping and mowing the yard don’t count. You don’t have to go to the gym. You can work out in your basement or guest room or living room. Go for a jog. Try yoga—it will do wonders for you, believe me! It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something!
Eating healthy is another very difficult thing to accomplish in our society. We all seem to be short on time and there are a great many conveniences to help us with this, not the least of which is convenience food. These are the foods that are packaged and easy to prepare, or are already prepared.
The problem is they’re not healthy. I don’t care how many labels are splattered all over the packaging declaring the health benefits; labels don’t make pre-packaged food healthy. I actually saw a bag of potato chips the other day labeled as a health food! Come on.
I am not able to touch on everything, there is just too much. Michael Pollan is a great source for the best approach to eating healthy. I suggest you check out his website, articles and books, especially his easy to read guide Food Rules. Here are some of the basics.
Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. Potatoes are not thin, oil-drenched slices that grow in bags. Shop the perimeter of a grocery store. That is where you’re most likely to find food in its natural state. The less adulterated the food, the more nutritious and tasty it is.
If you must buy packaged foods, look at the label. Inform yourself about labels since they are complex, inconsistent and can be a bit misleading unless you pay close attention. You are putting this in your body; you have a responsibility to know what you are eating. Don’t assume that the government is watching out for you (they’re not). The food industry has a lot of pull in the government and they know that sugar and salt sell (it’s a cheap and easy way to flavor otherwise bland and overly processed food). The assumption is that you are capable of making your own decisions about what you eat. You are and you should.
When you look at the package label, if the first five ingredients include sugar or salt, put it back. You will be shocked at what items contain sugar and how much of it, not to mention the loads of salt that are added. Look at a can of soda pop—it’s scary. If you don’t know what the ingredient is, don’t buy it. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, don’t buy it. If you can’t find the individual ingredient in the store, don’t buy it.
Limit your intake of dairy, breads and red meat. Instead, eat fish, chicken, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. Increase your intake of foods high in fiber. Stop drinking soda pop and other sugary drinks.
Buy smaller plates to help with portion control—you are less likely to eat too much food if your plates are smaller. Follow the 80% rule: stop eating when you are 80% full. That means getting to know your body and paying attention to it. Take your time when eating. Most important, two-thirds of your food intake should be fruits and vegetables.
There is no reason to turn up your nose at the idea of eating fish and vegetables. I know these are the two things Americans dislike the most. There is no excuse for it. There are literally thousands of recipes online for making very tasty meals out of fish and vegetables.
Learn how to cook correctly so you don’t overcook or undercook foods. If you have to, start slow by introducing more vegetables at each meal and start with fish once a week (though, avoid farmed fish, it’s not as healthy as wild). Don’t be afraid to try new and different recipes and ingredients. There are a lot of ways to prepare fish and vegetables. You might be surprised at what you like.
Cooking takes time and you will have to make the time for it. This is your health we are talking about. Set aside the time to cook. Look at it as a fact of life that you have to eat (which it is) and make it something enjoyable. Learn new recipes and new methods of cooking. Explore the wonders of food. Food doesn’t have to taste like cardboard to be healthy.
I am not suggesting that you diet. I am suggesting that you change your approach to food. You may have to train yourself to eat healthy and it will represent a complete behavior change. If you absolutely need to follow a “diet” plan, check out the South Beach Diet. This is a great approach for people who need direction and the recommendations are coming from a cardiologist. Consult your own doctor before you beginning any new diet—it just makes sense.
Here are some particularly extraordinary, yet easy to come by, foods that you should consider adding to your regular diet.
- Pomegranate juice (the juice is best because the entire pomegranate is pressed, so all the nutrients from the skin are included)—an ounce a day is enough to get the benefits, but enjoy a full glass if you want. Make sure it is 100% pomegranate juice as the mixed juices have little or no benefit.
- Olive oil—in moderation, this is a “good” fat and very tasty. Don’t fry with it since the goodness breaks down in high heat.
- Blueberries and raspberries—frozen are just as good as fresh (and maybe better since they are frozen at their peak); have a handful or cup a day of either or both.
- Green tea—a few cups a day or more, steeped for at least 5 minutes (regular or decaffeinated is fine).
- Prunes—a few of these bad boys each day are great for you as they are loaded with antioxidants and fiber.
- Broccoli—this is the powerhouse of vegetables. You should eat it three times a week; steamed is best for nutrient retention.
- Fish (especially salmon, herring, and sardines)—wild, not farmed, and steamed or baked is best.
Vigorous exercise and eating healthy are not only good for the body, they are good for the mind. Your mind needs a workout too. Studies show that intellectual challenges help keep the mind from deteriorating. If your brain is not challenged on a regular basis it loses its ability to assimilate new information effectively. Sitting in front of the television, playing video games or surfing the Internet for hours on end do not count as intellectual challenges.
Learning new skills and trying new activities are excellent ways to keep the brain in tiptop shape. Especially beneficial is learning a new language. If you are not so inclined, then simple things can also be effective. Take new route to work. Practice walking backwards (no kidding). If you are right-handed, try using your left hand for a while. Take a walk through a different neighborhood than usual. Learn a new skill. Explore new places, meet new people, and try new activities. Whatever you decide to do, learning improves your mental abilities. You are never too young or too old to start learning something new.
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”
—G. K. Chesterton
Probably one of the best activities you can do is travel. You will learn more in one trip abroad than most people learn in a lifetime.
Americans have an odd relationship with travel. We seem to think it’s glamorous in one sense, yet fear it another. This insecurity and fear stems from our lack of understanding about the world around us. Our politicians and leaders seem to perpetuate this fear and misunderstanding.
Personally, I have been to over 50 different countries at the time of this writing. The most common question people have for me is, What do they think about us? Do they hate us? I can honestly say that in all of my travels, I have never come across a society that flat-out disliked Americans. The closest I ever came to having someone hate us, ironically, was probably the English, and you would be hard pressed to consider them an enemy of the Unites States.
Mostly I find people are simply curious. Some think America is absolutely wonderful. Others know better, but realize that individuals are not making the decisions, politicians are. There are a few misunderstandings here and there, but in general no one flat-out hates Americans (not even in the Middle East—you will find many of them genuinely welcoming despite what you might see on TV).
The simple fact of the matter is that everyone in the world has the same dreams and aspirations as everyone else. They all want to feel secure. They all want to succeed. They all want what is best for themselves and their families. Is this really a surprise? We want the same things too! When you travel you will find that the world is made up of amazingly diverse and yet similar places.
The rest of the world is no more dangerous than the Unites States, and in fact, is less so. Some places like Japan and Singapore have practically no crime. Other places you have to take the same precautions you would in a typical American city. You stand a far better chance of being the victim of a violent crime in the US than almost anywhere else in the world. The US has a higher murder rate than Somalia!
Women should not feel any worries about traveling solo. Many societies are very respectful of women. Yes, in some you might get some cat calling or encounter some chauvinism, but that is due more to cultural differences than any real threat. Besides, are you really going to avoid traveling because someone might potentially jeer at you? You might as well lock the door and never go out of the house. Use common sense, respect the local customs, dress appropriately, and you will be fine. That is true for both men and women.
Maybe you are not afraid of travel, but think you cannot do it because you have a job, don’t have a job, lack the funds, or whatever.
Travel is actually rather cheap. The biggest expense is usually the flight. Once you get to where you are going, buses and trains are often very affordable. Staying in hostels, many of which offer private rooms with en suite bathrooms, is much cheaper than a hotel. The differences usually amount to more sparse furnishings and you have to carry your own luggage to your room.
Traveling slowly by staying in one place for a long period of time saves a lot of money. What’s more, it’s a much better way to experience a place. You have the time to explore and try new things. The longer you stay, the cheap and more in-depth the experience.
Excluding the flight, you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $500-1000 depending on the level of comfort you desire. I like my own room and bathroom, plus Wi-Fi, and tend to enjoy visiting attractions and go out at night. I rarely top $800 a month unless I am moving around a lot, in which case the transportation cost add another couple hundred.
Find a way to save some money and visit your dream destination. Spend at least a month there. You don’t have to stay at expensive hotels. You can probably even find free lodging on AirBNB or Couch Surfers if you try. Trust me, travel will be life changing and one of the best things you will ever do.
“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.”
—Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
Meditation does wonders. If you do nothing else I suggest in this book, meditate.
Meditation is not about a specific religion (all major religions have a form a meditation), about reaching a higher plane of existence (unless you want it to be), or about new age gobbledygook. Meditate has been proven by science to be an effective way to relax, reduces stress and hypertension, and has many other benefits, both physical and mental.
Most of us know the feeling of stress in our chaotic, modern lives—we have a lot of pressure on us. This makes us feel over-worked and exhausted. Meditation helps calm the mind, and offers inner peace and clarity. It’s refreshing, invigorating and minty-fresh!
Meditation is one of the easiest and yet hardest things you will ever do. Making the time for it, calming your mind, and sitting still while you clear your mind of thoughts is very challenging for most people when they start out. When you are “successful,” you will feel amazing! The effects are subtle at first. You’ll start to realize you feel better and are less stressed. Anyone can meditate and it doesn’t take any special equipment.
Now for the fun part! These are very basic and simple instructions on how to meditate. I will explain breathing meditation because it is what I know and what I do. There are other types of meditation, but this is the simplest and easiest. I suggest doing this for a bit and then moving on to other types of meditation if it suits you. There is no reason you can’t stick with this and be perfectly satisfied.
I suggest starting out by spending only five minutes meditating. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but most people are not accustomed to sitting still for very long, let alone clearing their mind. Unless you were a trained Buddhist from a young age or have extraordinary mental composure, you will need some time to learn and adjust. Start with five minutes and move up in five-minute increments every week.
Meditating within a few hours of waking up is usually the best since there are fewer distractions and you haven’t had all day to start building up worries and replaying the events of the day like in the evening. However, there is no right or wrong time to meditate, so feel free to do it whenever you want and when is most convenient for you.
Pick a quite place that has few distractions, like an empty room. You can sit on the floor on a cushion or even a towel. How you sit or hold your hands really isn’t that important, though you want to be comfortable and maintain your posture (no slouching). This helps you avoid becoming sleepy and improves breathing.
You can sit with your eyes closed, or you can choose to keep them partly open or fully open. If you keep you eyes open it helps to fix your gaze on something. Keeping your eyes closed helps avoid distractions, but if you find yourself dozing off (this happens sometimes) you might want to keep your eyes open. Do whatever works for you and feel free to try it different ways to see which works best.
Find a timer. If you use your phone, make sure the ringer is off or set to airplane mode to avoid interruptions from calls and text messages. If you have an iPhone, consider downloading the Equanimity app (there is a free and paid version—the free version is great for starting out). This app is simple and easy to use. It’s basically just a timer with a nice “bong” sound when your time is up.
In breathing meditation you focus on your breathing. You are not trying to control or change your breathing. Just breath as you normally would, preferably through your nose. The sensation of breathing through your nose is what you will focus on. Clear your mind of everything else an only focus on your breathing. It helps to mentally count as you breath in (“one”) and as you breath out (“two”), continuing as you go (“three”, and so on).
You are not likely to get past ten before your mind drifts off to some random thought. When that happens, don’t fret. Just return to the beginning and start focusing on your breathing and counting again.
Your mind will go crazy at first. Those first five minutes will feel like eternity. Just relax and keep breathing. There is no rush, there is no challenge. Breathe in and breathe out, calmly counting as you breathe. When your mind drifts again, start over.
This process can and often does go on for some time. There will be days when you are totally focused. You sat down, you meditated and you feel great! There will be other days when it feels like you cannot concentrate on anything, five minutes feels like five hours, and you feel like you didn’t accomplish anything. Don’t let that worry you and don’t berate yourself. Just keep doing it. Consistency is important and like most things, practice makes perfect.
One day, it will all snap into place. When that day arrives is different for everyone. Meditation can become rather addictive. You will desire that feeling of peace and clarify it provides. You will want to explore and dig deeper. In that case, I suggest checking out some resources online and grabbing a good book. There are a variety of meditation practices (people have done this for thousands of years), so you are bound to find one that works for you! Meditation for Dummies is a very good book to start with.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
—John F. Kennedy
I watched a TED presentation once that I found very interesting. Sadly, I forget the presenter so I can’t give proper credit, but his presentation left me some great tips that I wanted to share with you. He did research into creating lasting and positive change in your life. Exercise and meditation were two things on his list. I already covered those, but he had a few more. He cited studies that showed that expressing gratitude, journaling, and random acts of kindness also contributed to a positive life. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
Gratitude is a powerful force. Being thankful can increase you happiness, help you sleep better, and give you more energy. Seriously, all you need to do is cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your life and you will be much better off. Not only will you be happier, but the studies show you will be less likely to “go off” on someone when then agitate you.
Even if you are not the type of person that expresses gratitude on a regular basis, you can still make this work in your benefit. Start with small stuff, such as being grateful you are alive, for what you have in life, for being able to experience a beautiful sunrise, and so on. Writing this down helps make it more tangible, so I suggest keeping a “gratitude journal.”
Don’t confuse gratitude with being indebted to someone. Just because you are genuinely grateful to someone doesn’t mean you owe them anything. Gratitude can be as simple as saying “Thank you” when someone does something thoughtful or nice. Try taking it a step further by actively engaging with people, listening to them, and smiling. Write a letter or email to a person that has been especially helpful to your or instrumental in your life. Being thankful and expressing your gratitude not only improves your well-being, but also improve how people see you. They will think more highly of you. In turn, people you are grateful to spread the good feelings they get from it. Think of it as karma, if you will.
Studies show that expressing genuine gratitude at least times a day will improve your overall well-being. So make it point to cultivate a sense of thankfulness and express it often to those around you. You will feel better and so will those you express your gratitude to.
Journaling appears to have a big impact on your well-being too. Journaling improves your physical and mental wellness, as well as improving creativity. The reasons that journaling so effective is that helps you express yourself, consider alternatives to problems, clarify your point of view. This helps reduce stress and focus your thoughts.
You don’t have to write a lot each day. Simply jotting down a few thoughts is enough. Couple that with what you are grateful for each day and you have a powerful tool that will not only make you feel better, but add more clarity to your thoughts. Remember, no one but you will be reading this journal so don’t worry about how you write, what it looks like, or any of that stuff. Just write your thoughts down however you want.
Finally, random acts of kindness make you feel happier and in control of your life. Being kind will give you the sense that you are contributing to something more than yourself, to things that matter. You also feel appreciated.
Simple things like sending a card to someone, just because, or buying a homeless person a cup of coffee, have a big impact on how you feel and your happiness level. You could pay the toll for someone behind you, shovel your walkway and your neighbor’s, weed the flower bed between your yards, help someone across the street. You might step it up a notch and visit a nursing home to chat with some folks (this my favorite because I learn a lot and have wonderful conversations while making someone’s day). Do some volunteer work at the library or a homeless shelter.
Little acts of kindness will have a big impact on you, making your feel happier. Couple that with gratitude and journaling, you have a powerful mood booster. You will develop a sense of fulfillment, meaning and happiness that will greatly improve your overall well-being.
I’m adding another item to the list that I saw in the TED video, and that is being polite. Saying “Please” and “Thank you” are definitely gone from our society. The remember one time when a grown man just dictated to my niece, “Grab me that.” I added “Please” for him. He repeated it with sarcasm. I see this sort of behavior all the time. People are so self-absorbed that it doesn’t occur to them to say “Please” and “Thank you.” Its a common courtesy, especially if you want someone to do something for you.
Why do I care about this? Simply, you don’t want to be that person. People notice it when others are rude and inconsiderate, and they don’t like it. They will remember it for a long time. It ruins your reputation and creates bad karma. Basic manners and politeness go a long way and make people want to be around you and help you. We all like people who are nice and appreciate us enough to say “Please” and “Thank you.”
They same goes for following through on what you say you will do. To not do so is to tell someone they are not important enough for you to bother to keep your word. You may not notice any repercussions immediately, but there will be a time when you need something and they will remember that you didn’t follow through and suddenly not be available. No one will go out of their way for someone who constantly says one thing and does another (thus, the phrase “actions speaker louder than words”). People will simple stop caring because it’s clear there is no reciprocation.
Make it a habit to say “Please” and “Thank you.” It doesn’t matter how small the effort someone expends, showing appreciation goes a long way. The same thing applies to following through—perhaps more so. Do what you say and people will be pleasantly surprised. They’ll go out of their way when you need something. It shows appreciation for the person and they will remember that.
Being pleasant all the time is difficult. We often bring this on ourselves, though. How many of us dread waking up in the morning? Do you hit snooze on your alarm clock multiple times before actually getting out of bed? Do you realize it’s Monday and think, “I hate Mondays!” and then pull yourself out of bed with a frown on your face? Once you get to the office you complain to your coworkers. “Hey, Tom. Sucks that it’s only Wednesday. I wish it were Friday.” Tom will probably respond, “Yeah, what a long week it’s been.” You both probably feel like you bonded a little through your shared experience.
Chances are you spend your entire week in a negative state. Friday rolls around and you go out for beers with your friends and complain about how bad the week was. Saturday is spent trying to forget about the week. Sunday is spent complaining the weekend wasn’t long enough and you have to go to work on Monday. And you hate Mondays.
If you think Monday’s suck, they will. I am not suggesting you get out of bed and start bouncing around like a lunatic, but you can avoid being negative. Instead of immediately being negative, try to be more aware and more deliberate about your thoughts.
I’m going to be grateful today. I’ll do that by thanking everyone who helps me and let them know they matter to me.
I’ll be accepting today. If something doesn’t go as planned I’ll remind myself that I’ll be okay; I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again.
I’ll acknowledge my self-worth today. If someone treats me well, I’ll acknowledge that I’m worth it. If someone treats me poorly, I’ll acknowledge that I’m still a worthwhile person and kick them in the chin.
Okay, avoid kicking the person in the chin, but you get the idea. If being all Suzie Sunshine isn’t your thing (trust me, I understand) then just try to avoid letting yourself get bogged down in negatives. Keep things positive and your day will go more swimmingly.
People will often empathize because it feels like the socially correct thing to do. You’ve probably done this yourself. Someone complains about how it’s Monday and you agree. The problem is that you just sapped a little bit of your positive attitude. Do it enough times and you will end up with a bad day. Rather than agree, try pointing out something positive like how the weather is nice or something else. If you can’t think of anything, just say “Well, my coffee tastes great this morning.”
Don’t be so negative that you bring yourself and everyone else around you down. If you need to think of something positive then think, “Well, at least I’m alive.” That ought to make you feel positive.
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
—Mary Anne Radmacher
I’ve discussed a lot of changes. Don’t expect this stuff to happen overnight. Change takes time. Breaking habits is hard. The most important thing you can do is to be persistent. Some days you won’t be as successful as you want. Don’t worry about it. Get up, dust yourself off and start again. This is a life-long process. Things change and you change. Expect that you will have adjust course and sometimes start over.
When making big changes in your life, at some point doubt will set in. You might start thinking maybe this wasn’t the best idea after all. Constantly hearing your parents or friends or whomever tell you that you made a mistake will naturally create doubt. Perhaps you are questioning things yourself. This is normal.
You have to ask yourself, Am I doing what makes me happy? If the answer to that is yes, then you are doing the right thing. If you are not sure, ask yourself if what you are doing is something that is making you unhappy. If it is, then stop and do something else.
Just remember, there is only one person who has control over how you feel and what you do, and that person is you.