If you’re like me, you probably spend some time thinking about improving yourself, your world and your next set of achievements. Everything from being in better shape, being a better person, to having a more fulfilling career. The list of articles, books and advice on these topics are endless and frankly a lot of the stuff seems either too involved (I am not training for a marathon) or downright contradictory ( should I be low carb, low-fat, vegan, or Paleo diet?).
Truth is everything works, but nothing works every time for everyone. I’ve spent years reading, researching, and trying. And recently I’ve discovered the secret that many studies are now beginning to demonstrate. The two things that matter most are Consistency and Attitude.
Now consistency is great, but at times it can prove damn near impossible. The problem isn’t that we are lazy, under achievers, the culprit is we try to achieve too much. If your resolution/intention list reads like a rather long short story, all those competing to-dos are gonna be your undoing.
So this year, I thought I might share my sage like advice, education, and experience to lend a hand. And the best advice I can offer is this – Keep it Simple. I’m going to help, by taking decades worth of reading, research, and education down to the 7 things that will make the biggest difference in your life.
All of these suggestions come from past and recent studies and advances in psychology, neurology, and physiology. 7 simple things that will improve the critical areas of your life—Mind, Body, Spirit, and Emotions. I know I sound like an informercial…but have a little trust…they do work.
Your part is to do a little work, add in one or two specific goals, and remain semi-consistent (hey, no one is perfect). Try them, a little at a time, and you’ll end 2015 happier, more fulfilled, and living in a world of new opportunities. The advice is free so, of course, I will offer you my unconditional money-back guarantee.
1. Choose Positive: If you’re doubting these things will work, you have already violated the first suggestion. Believe in yourself, but more importantly understand that “how” we see things is the single most important factor in “how” things turn out. Whatever “bad” or “negative” stuff happens, find the bright spot, focus on how the experience can help you, not on why it is holding you back. Equally important – don’t hang with negative or toxic people. Their attitudes will infect your attitude. Be positive with yourself and with others and you’ll be surprised how much more enriched your life becomes.
2. Mindful Meditation: What practitioners have known for centuries finally has the neuroscience to back it up. The practice of mindful mediation for just ten to twenty minutes a day reduces stress, improves focus and actually, yes actually, rewires your brain for better and more creative performance. In takes just a little bit of practice and a few minutes a day, but that small commitment will have an incredible impact on both your cognitive skills (like creative writing) and your overall well-being.
3. Exercise: Yuk, right? But we’re not talking Cross-fit here or a six-hour a day gym habit. Physiology has come full circle—any exercise is better than none and 20 to 30 minutes is good for all. Exercise releases endorphins which makes you feel good, it helps maintain your body’s balance, it reduces stress, and it improves your self-image. So go for a walk, do one push-up until you can do two and then three, do planks or anything you choose to get your body in motion for that 20 to 30 minutes. Exercise is as physically addictive as the bad habits, and once you start you’ll be surprised at the other more healthy choices you make.
4. Interactions: Yep, spending time with others improves performance. Of course, like point number one, they have to be positive interactions…no toxic complainers need apply. Humans are biologically designed to be social, interactive creatures—it’s why we get in more trouble saying “yes” than saying “no.” Studies demonstrate that people with a healthy circle of “friends” are happier and more productive. For us introverts and semi-introverts, it can be a challenge, but with the gift of “on-line” we have a comfortable world to meet, greet and explore with others. So jump on Good Reads, comment on blogs, join Facebook groups and find other friendly and positive souls to interact with.
5. Make a Book List: Choose a few topics you want to explore and put books that meet the need on your list. We once believed that the brain stopped “growing” after a certain time and that once wired, it was wired that way for life. Today, studies have proven that in can make new connections, more connections and better connections. Like every other muscle, exercise improves the brain function (meditation does too). So move “reading” from the guilty pleasure list to the “it’s really good for me” list.
6. Handwriting: It may seem like an odd suggestion, but get yourself a notebook. Writing, as opposed to typing, increases cognitive ability. One reason is the dual activation of brain areas related to the fine motor skills of the hand and the parts related to cognition and learning. In studies where groups were asked to recall word definitions they typed and those handwritten, the handwriting groups out performed the keyboardists every time. So take notes, write out your ideas and write some letters to family and friends.
7 . The “I Am” Mantra: You can’t throw a rock without hitting a book on the power of positive thought. That’s because it is true. The words we use determine the “state” we are in. If you “want” to make more money or you “want” to lose weight, framing it as “I want” sets the mind’s goal to be in…a state of “want.” So make a quick word change. Replace, “I want a better job” with “In 2015 I have a better and more fulfilling career.” Replace “I want to lose weight” with “In 2015 I am a healthy person making healthy choices everyday.” It may sound like meta-physical hocus-pocus, but it’s been proven time and again to work. So watch those words and be less “I want” and more “I am.”
Now I can’t tell you what you “am” or what to read or what to be positive about, but I can tell you these things work…not sometimes, but all the time. Just be consistent, keep your goals reasonable, and most of all keep going even if it’s is just small steps.
Hope you stop by next time when I share the 3 Things That Will Undo Your Intentions every time.
Happy New Year!