Toolbox for Health and Happiness
My excitingly educational cousin, Jessi Haggerty, RD asked me to share my toolbox for happiness and stress management during the cool and blustery months of fall and winter. Schedules, expectations, and priorities change with the waning of the long and happy-go-lucky days of summer. It’s an exciting lifestyle shift for many, and an anxiety provoking one for others. How does one maintain the relaxed, positive glow of summer throughout the other three seasons? Follow these tips for a quick tune up when your psychic engine starts to sputter…
10. Positive Affirmations.
Look out for #1. Remind yourself of your worth. Find a mantra that gives you energy and a forward focus. I like these… I am basically alright as I am. I am free to make mistakes. Shoulds, oughts, and musts are irrelevant. My basic job in life is expanding my awareness. – from Self Esteem by Matthew McKay, PhD & Patrick Fanning.
9. Friends and Family.
Nurture bonds with those you love and trust. Express gratitude. Develop relationships with the people important to you. A strong support system can get you through the tough times. Don’t be afraid to lean on them or seek out their guidance. Remember that you would do the same for them in their time of need.
Identify what is most meaningful to your core self. Define your values. Find an organization to join that contributes to a higher purpose. Martin Seligman, PhD and the school of Positive Psychology identified this as one of the necessary components of well-being.
7. Keep it Simple.
When feeling overwhelmed by chores and responsibilities, break them down into smaller steps. Focus on one thing at a time. Make a checklist, organize your calendar, set timers and reminders on your phone. Relying on your memory can create stress. Get it out of your head and into a simple system. Remember the words of Bill Murray in What About Bob, “Baby Steps”.
Notice the hundreds of things you complete in a week. They all count! Did you make your bed today? Check. Feed the cats or kids? Check. Got up and went to work? Check. Give yourself credit for all your accomplishments, large and small. “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
Awaken your inner Buddhist. Be aware of your mind, body, spirit connection. Pay attention to how you feel emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Acknowledge, validate, and adjust your thinking, feeling, and activities, if needed. Take five minutes per day to meditate and focus on breath. Schedule quiet time.
Beware of the inevitable snafu in your plans! When it happens, pause and adjust your expectations. Remind yourself that it will be okay. Change is good.
Get involved in an activity that gives you energy. Find that sweet spot where time flies by without recognition. What do you love to do? If you don’t have a hobby or interest outside of work, find one. Explore the arts, sports, music, or gardening! Lose yourself in the flow.
2. Positive Thinking = Positive Feelings.
This is the premise behind neuroplasticity of the brain. Our brains have a negative bias. Despite this, we can affect our feelings and thoughts by shifting our attention to the positive. According to Rick Hanson, PhD this has a global effect on organizing the brain as a whole. Take in the good whenever you can. Soak it up. “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha.
Exercise has a positive chemical effect in our bodies. It boosts feel-good hormones such as endorphins and reduces the stress related hormones like cortisol. It builds bone density, muscles, and energy. A healthy diet has similar effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and organ health. The two combined increase self esteem, well-being, and stamina.
Use one or all ten of these tips to get through the stressful moments in life. Use them everyday to maintain momentum and keep focused on being your best. It can be tricky deciphering the ebbs and flows of your demanding life, but don’t fret. There are a myriad of resources available to you. Keep your toolbox within reach.