Posted on May 1, 2016 in Fulfillment by Sandra Bienkowski
When I read Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, I started a love affair with habits. I’ve always loved setting goals, but I’d often end up frustrated with myself (or blame it on not enough hours in a day) if I didn’t get enough accomplished in a week. Then I read this snippet from Gretchen’s book: “With the right habits in place, you can effortlessly go through your day and do the things you want to do.” That’s when I decided to focus more on my habits than an endless list of to-dos. What did I discover? In just 10 minutes a day you can accomplish something that, over time, will move you toward the life you really want.
1. Read every day
Before having twin toddlers, I was much better at reading every day. Pre-kiddos reading is much easier for all of us, but we can give ourselves the gift of reading with just 10 minutes before going to bed. And on nights when you have the energy or get absorbed in a really good part, you just may read on.
2. Help one person
I write this on my to-do list each day. You can help someone by giving a compliment, writing a positive review, making a referral to give someone a business lead, cooking/baking and sharing, really listening, recommending a book, introducing new friends or forwarding an article.
I like to analyze things. My desire to dissect what I’m thinking and feeling stems from growing up in a confusing environment fueled by alcoholism, mixed messages, and instability. When things got tense in our home, I’d retreat with my journal to escape. I desperately wanted to understand what was going on around me and how I was feeling. I wanted to think I had some control when I had none.
Yes, analysis paralysis does exist. But sometimes analysis (combined with action) is exactly what you need to live a productive, self-aware life. When you are willing to take a hard look at who you are, the choices you make, and how you feel, you constantly raise your self-awareness. Knowing yourself well is essential to wiggling out of depression’s grip and finding happiness.
Here’s how knowing yourself better can create a happier life:
1. It brings your needs clearly to the forefront.
My love for self-analysis led me to talk therapy. I wasn’t afraid of it because I desperately wanted to understand why my parents were the way they were and how to repair my damaged self-esteem. I wanted to know why I felt lost, angry, and empty. The process was life-changing for me. Talk therapy helped me realize I was strong and helped me practice turning adversity into insight. If you suffer emotional pain regularly, talk therapy could help you heal in a lasting way.
Read the rest of my article here on MindBodyGreen.
What if you could discover ways to relieve stress, negativity and overwhelm, especially when life throws you a curve ball.
What if you could start creating a life filled with more joy, happiness, vitality, fun and even play?
Well you can, and it’s completely FREE!
Register now for the Joyful You Summit!
I have joined with Catherine Walters, host of an upcoming video series called Joyful You, in a discussion of the numerous ways life can be challenging and stressful, and the tools and techniques to create a life and lifestyle filled with JOY.
My comfort zone is writing, but I pushed myself out of my zone to chat with Catherine. We talked about the journey from depression to a joy-filled life.
Your life filled with more joy, happiness, vitality and fun is possible.
Join The Joyful You Summit to make your life the life of joy you deserve and be a Joyful You!
The Joy begins April 4th!
Posted on March 22, 2016 in Personal Growth by Sandra Bienkowski
Use these 6 steps to find your own clear, confident voice.
Do you ever get together with friends or family, have a great time but later second-guess something you did or said? If you replay events and often wish you could have a do-over, second-guessing could be robbing you of joy and self-esteem. Ruminating about our choices can make us feel pretty miserable. Here, our experts weigh in on why we do this and how we can stop.
Build up your self-trust
Second-guessing is often caused by not trusting ourselves. Self-doubt can happen as a result of critical parents, perfectionist tendencies, low self-confidence or pessimistic thinking.
“When you are low in confidence,” says positive psychology expert Caroline Miller, “research shows that you are more likely to doubt your perceptions and judgment, and make you feel that you need the approval of others. This behavior can lead to depression, anxiety and procrastination.” (Caroline’s upcoming book Authentic Grit looks closely at this phonemenon and many others affecting women and power.)
“Lacking confidence in our judgments indicates a feeling that the world is out of control and that you don’t have the ability to ground yourself with your own positive choices, which is an indicator of pessimistic thinking,” Caroline explains.
Pat Pearson, the author of Stop Self-Sabotage, says we torment ourselves with self-doubt because we are mirroring the people we grew up with, but we can change if we shift from negative to positive thinking.
Here are six expert tips on how we can end the self-torment of second-guessing.
1. Notice and replace
“The first step is to notice your negative thoughts and then intentionally intervene with a better thought,” Pat says. “When you tell yourself, ‘I will be fine,’ your mind doesn’t believe it, so instead, start a sentence with ‘I choose’ and say something you can believe. For example, say ‘I choose to do everything in my power to create a positive outcome.’”
Read the rest of my article on Live Happy.
Posted on March 17, 2016 in Happiness by Sandra Bienkowski
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: If you love your job, it’s easier to smile as you trot off to work each day. On the flip side, if you describe your job with words like despise, you may want to look for more enjoyable work—something closer to your purpose or passion. No matter where you rank on the work-happiness scale, there are things you can do to be happier at work.
1. Wake up earlier. You are thinking, “Are you kidding me?” Nope. Getting up earlier will allow you some you-time before you herd the kiddos, pack lunches and fight commuter traffic. Take time when the house is quiet. It may require practice to get up earlier, but you will give your mind some breathing space to enjoy the sun coming up, an early walk, a cup of coffee, a good book, or a conversation with your spouse before the day gets going.
2. Do what you dread most, first. Get the dread off your plate by conquering it first. Just knowing there’s a project or task you don’t want to do can bring you down. Go after it first thing, so you no longer have to think about it. Plus, it can fuel your momentum for the day.
3. Don’t dwell on the negative. According to happiness expert, Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, unhappy people are more likely than happy people to dwell on negative events. Dwelling or rumination can drain your mental resources and reinforce unhappiness. Avoid negative people, gossip and drama. Don’t replay negative experiences. Dwell on aspects of work you like.
Throughout my twenties, I was lost. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t believe in myself. My head was a jumbled mess of negativity and insecurity from a painful childhood. I lost myself in any relationship I found.
Despite my journalism degree, I worked as a waitress and an administrative assistant because I was scared to take a risk. I used food to fill my emptiness. My depression eventually led me to talk therapy.
While weekly therapy wasn’t a quick fix, it gave me lasting tools and coping skills that helped me fight my way out of depression and anxiety. I hope they’re of use to you, too.
1. Seek professional help.
I found someone who validated my painful past, who helped me understand why my parents were the way they were, and who called me out on how my current behavior was fueling my depression. We identified issues I had from growing up with an alcoholic parent — fear of abandonment, unexpressed anger, people pleasing — and how I could work through each of these issues. I tell anyone who will listen to find a good psychologist, because talk therapy can have an incredibly positive impact on your life. It could even save it.
2. Practice self-compassion.
Learning self-compassion means learning and choosing to be your best friend more often than your worst critic. Catch yourself. Interrupt negative thoughts. Stop them in their tracks. Forgive yourself quickly for mistakes. Set out to tell yourself kind things and coach yourself with positive pep talks when you need ’em. Ask yourself, at random intervals, whenever you think of it: Am I being a best friend to myself right now? Self-compassion builds resilience because eventually you realize you have your own back.
3. Take responsibility for your choices and your circumstances.
When I was in my twenties, I thought I had bad luck. A possessive boyfriend with lots of drama, credit card debt, a job below my skill level, toxic friends, etc. Then I realized I was the common denominator between all my problems. As I made began to make healthier decisions — about relationships, finances and my career — each area started to improve. Take responsibility for your decisions and their consequences. If you don’t like the outcomes, choose differently.
Read the rest of my article on MindBodyGreen.
Strengthen self-control.We don’t have to exhaust our willpower or decision-making quota for the day when we make healthy habits automatic. Make one or more of these fundamental habits a regular part of your daily life in order to help you set and keep other healthy habits: 1. Get seven hours of sleep; 2. Go for a 20-minute walk; 3. Don’t let yourself get too hungry; 4. Take time to unclutter; 5. Give yourself a healthy treat.
Get some sleep. According to sleep expert Michael Breus, Ph.D., sleeping less than seven hours each night can negatively impact your outlook, make you crave unhealthy foods and even kill your productivity. For those with serious trouble sleeping, he suggests you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, take the TV out of the bedroom and get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes.
Build up your emotional toolkit. If you struggle with depression or bouts of anxiety, build up your emotional toolkit. Use the tool of self-compassion to treat yourself with the same loving kindness you would extend to a friend. Silence that inner critic and give yourself a soft place to land when things don’t go right or you are working through a challenging experience. Fill up your mind with kind thoughts about yourself.
Happiness is the gateway to success, but like most good things in life, it also takes some work. Roll up your sleeves and put some effort into becoming a happier you. Here are 11 things you can do to enhance your happiness today. (For all of you happiness over-achievers, click on the headings below for more information on each tip!)
1. Take a look back
If you aren’t sure of your passion as an adult, revisit your youth for clues. Perhaps when you were a child, teenager or even a young adult, there was something that you were passionate about. Maybe there was something you loved to collect, a place you loved going, or an activity that you loved doing. Bring those old experiences back into your current life.
2. Go in search of awe
A sense of awe may help you fight depression and inflammation. Find awe by visiting a natural wonder. Listen to your favorite music. Lose yourself in an art museum. Go in search of what inspires you deeply.
3. Connect with people
Our relationships can have an almost magical effect on our happiness. Singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb feels fulfilled when she’s collaborating and connecting with others. You can find inspiration in others, too.
4. Value experiences over things
Things are nice, but the joy we get from experiences lasts longer, causes less waste and probably has a smaller negative environmental impact. Walk to a destination with your family to enjoy the outdoors and connect through conversation. Take a hike in nearby hills. Plan an exciting trip together. All of these things will give enjoyment that you can anticipate, experience and then savor afterward.
Read the rest of my article on Live Happy.
If anyone asks me for my number one tip to reduce depression, anxiety or stress, my answer is always the same: Keep a journal.
Journaling is life-changing.
When you journal, you slow down and check-in with yourself. As you write down your thoughts, you become connected with what you are thinking and feeling, and the process increases your self-awareness. You can journal to identify problems and iron out solutions. You can vent. Express gratitude. Or you can just share your thoughts in your journal’s safe nonjudgmental pages.
Journaling is an easy way to practice self-compassion–giving yourself a comforting place to be yourself. When we are more self-compassionate (think inner best friend, not inner critic), we build up our resilience for life.
Discover what journal is right for you in my Live Happy article:
Posted on February 2, 2016 in Fun by Sandra Bienkowski
We all know it’s good for you, but here are eight more compelling reasons to move your body.
Even if you’ve never experienced the elusive runner’s high, you probably know exercise can make you happier. Scientific research has shown there are countless connections between mind and body; to simplify a complicated process: exercise boosts dopamine and other chemicals in the brain that make us feel happier. What’s more, many kinds of exercise can put us in a wonderful “flow” state, which is one of the hallmarks of well-being, according to positive psychology.Beyond happy chemicals, though, here are eight more surprising ways exercise makes us happier.
1. Leads to achievements
When we have a goal, we become more engaged with life and excited about the future. Whether it’s jogging your first mile without stopping or exercising three times a week, having a goal initially sparks enthusiasm, and then making progress toward that goal really fuels our commitment and makes us feel good. It may even motivate us to plan and accomplish other goals!
2. Creates “me” time
Picture your exercise time as a mini-retreat for some healthy “me” time. We often think of “me” time as sitting by a fire with a cup of tea or reading a book, but a good sweat session can help you let go of stress, increase your energy and think with clarity. Even on those days when you aren’t in the mood to move, you will always feel better after you exercise, because when you feel fully charged, it’s much easier to be happy.
Sandra Bienkowski is a nationally-published writer, a social media content expert and the owner of The Media Concierge, a company dedicated to creating professional content for thought leaders, authors, and business executives. Sandra worked as the columns editor for SUCCESS magazine, and is a contributing editor to the national newsstand magazine, Live Happy.