Staying in High Spirits

Quick tips to get you through a rough day

Whether you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, things aren’t going as planned, or you’re just in a general funk, research tells us that there are plenty of effective ways to boost your spirits with a small amount of effort. Here are a few action plans with feel-good benefits to help you turn your mood around.

First Thing in the Morning
If you had a bad night or wake up feeling off, open the drapes and roll up the shades to let as much light into your home as possible. Start your daily regimen, like having a cup of coffee, by a window or outside, weather permitting, to get even more vitamin D. Ask for an extra-long hug from your mate or children, or snuggle with your pooch to activate more  good mood benefits. Wear your “happy” clothes, the ones you feel the most confident in,  – to guarantee some extra comfort and maybe a few compliments.

At The Office
If your office is dark or isolated, get out every once in a while. Head to the break room, go say hello to a co-worker or look out a window, to re-energize when office issues have you on edge. A walk around the block during your lunch break gives the mind and body a healthy dose of well-being, as studies show that exercise can turn a negative mood around in just minutes. Checking out photos of loved ones, friends or pets, on your phone is another quick pick-me-up.

After Work
Do something good for yourself!  Music triggers your pleasure center, so play what soothes you or moves you to do your “happy” dance around the house. You can also take a moment to think about the good things in life, take a hot bath, watch your favorite movie or call a friend.  It can also be helpful to take the emphasis off of yourself and do something good for someone else. Being kind to others is a highly effective mood booster. Bring your neighbor cupcakes just because or give your great aunt a long overdue call.
Most importantly, take a minute to smile during the day. Smiling activates your brain’s happiness center. If it doesn’t feel real, just keep on smiling. It really works, I promise. 

5 Things To STOP Doing In 2017

Simple ways to increase your happiness

This time of year, we tend to focus on what we want to start doing – eating healthy, going to the gym more, that kind of stuff. All great pursuits, but what about considering the things you should to stop doing? Here are top picks for behaviors to stop in 2017.
 
Comparing Yourself to Others
“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” That’s from Desiderata, a 1927 pose poem by writer Max Ehrmann. Get a copy and hang it over your bathroom mirror. Ehrmann had this brilliant insight, but also many more worth living by.
 
Ascribing Intent
Just because somebody didn’t quickly reply to your text message doesn’t mean they don’t care about you! And maybe the checkout lady isn’t smiling because her dog died or her back hurts – not because she’s trying to slight you. Get it? The least happy people look for ways that people are insulting or demeaning them. Don’t. Do. This.
 
Indulging in Catastrophic Thinking
If you have a headache, you have a brain tumor. If you call home and nobody answers, your spouse has left you. Don’t laugh. Catastrophic thinking -- indulging in or ruminating about worst-case scenarios -- is a major source of stress. So much so that the University of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Army have developed programs to help soldiers avoid this very type of thinking (read about it here). So how can you stop it? First, recognize the habit. Then control your fear enough to force yourself to mentally list all the benign or even great things that could also be happening instead of the catastrophe. So maybe you have a headache because you need a glass of water or you have a sinus infection? And maybe nobody answered the phone because your spouse is grocery shopping or giving your dog a bath? Mentally force yourself to focus on the better options, because frankly, catastrophes happen, but not all that often. 
 
Inflating Your Expectations
Some people fall into a nasty habit of assuming, but never being clear about their expectations. Case in point: A friend worked for a small business owner for several years. The owner adored her. When he closed down his shop and she had to move on, she found out he contributed very little money to her 401(k). She was livid, disappointed and heart broken. But only because she’d dreamed up the idea that her boss was somehow “taking care of her” even if he never said this and even if she never received account statements proving this. On a small scale, many of us do this daily. We expect our spouses to cook dinner because we’re running late. And then we’re disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Expect nothing this year. Try asking instead. That way, if it doesn’t happen, you earned your disappointment.
 
Not Letting Go
Life is about loss. There’s nothing to be done about it. Do you have grief over a lost relationship? A job opportunity you blew? A friend, family member or pet who died? Just like you, every human has some number of these losses. In 2017, don’t hide from your losses (that is, don’t waste time obsessing over the past or what was/wasn’t, did/didn’t). Feel your grief and embrace that there’s no “getting over” loss. Instead, just let go. Letting go means simply that you’re able to move forward in your life with the full acceptance that you lost something valuable, but also that you won’t allow the loss to define or harm you. If you can’t do this – and there are plenty of people who can’t (that’s why we have stalker laws) – get professional help pronto.

Return to Normal After the Holiday

Getting You and Your Family Back into a Routine

The holidays are coming to an end and it might seem like your whole life is turned around; the kids have been out of school, there have been parties and food galore and no one (including yourself) has had a sleep schedule. Get back on track after weeks of indulgence with these simple tips.
 
Establish sleep and eating schedules for the whole family.
After weeks of being able to stay up late and sleep in, your kids might have a hard time waking up early for school. A few days before returning to school, be strict about bedtime and wake times, not only for your children, but for yourself as well. While you’re at it, start eating nutritious meals on a schedule. Making your family’s favorite healthy foods will make this much easier. Finally, try to remove most of the fattening holiday treats from your home to eliminate the temptation.
 
Schedule your post-holiday workouts.
The holidays can be fun and hectic, which means workouts can fall to the wayside. Get your fitness regimen back on track by scheduling your favorite workouts and writing them in your calendar. You can motivate yourself even more by having a fitness buddy to make sure you get to the gym, or even just get in a walk. Even if you don’t have time for a full workout, having a friend to check in with can be encouraging. Finally, this is the time to drink plenty of water. After eating and drinking for weeks your body needs the hydration. Drinking water will also give you energy to workout and will help to eliminate toxins. 
 
Be prepared.
The night before returning to school and work, have everything prepared for the next day; lunches made, outfits ready to go, backpacks at the door. Try to do the same for the first week so the mornings are easier for everyone in the family. Even having your outfit and makeup organized for the next morning can make it easier to return to normal.

After Your Party Hangover

A big plan to keep the small fun going all year

Okay, so you’ve just had a big, exciting new year celebration. Now what? Feeling a little blah? Maybe kind of like you have a party hangover? Fear not. There’s an incredibly simple solution for you. In fact, follow this plan and you can keep the good times rolling all year long.
 
Here’s what you need to do: think small. Yep, tiny. Ordinary. Familiar. Look for pleasures that are as mundane as they can possibly get. There’s a very big idea behind small pleasures. According to researchers, exciting, rare and extravagant pleasures are extremely vulnerable to emotional trouble. In fact, that’s exactly the reason why so many people end up not getting a lasting boost out of, say, a super expensive handbag, an extravagant wedding or even a meal out at an exclusive restaurant. It’s almost cliché how many people have gotten in arguments or had some other kind of deflating problem right when they were supposed to be having the time of their life. Small (dare we even suggest quiet?) pleasures, on the other hand, are easily accessible, emotionally bullet-proof and offer an outrageous bang for the buck.
 
Commit to doing something tiny every day: sit in the garden and enjoy the sound of a fountain, pause and study the clouds in the sky, feel the plush texture of a fabric in a store, talk to your wacky aunt on the phone or take a walk in a new, unfamiliar neighborhood just for the heck of it. Research suggests that people who fill their lives with cheap and easy daily thrills tend to be happier than those who pursue the big, rare and exotic. In fact, a study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came not when someone took an expensive vacation, but during the planning stage of the trip! So go ahead, you can even hit Expedia, VRBO.com and other travel sites. Indulge in the small pleasure of fantasizing about that trip to Paris, even if you don’t actually book it.
 
Need more convincing? Check out this video from School of Life on why small pleasures are a big deal.
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