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10 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Life

10 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Life


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You don’t need an overhaul to improve the quality of your life. Just a few steps can help to boost your well-being and make your days more meaningful. And the great part is that you can start today. Below, several clinicians give their suggestions on how to do just that.

1. Write a better story for your day. According to John Duffy, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the book The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens:

For life improvement, I suggest the reader put life on pause, for at least a few moments a day, and consider what you’d like to accomplish today, and the vibe you want to carry.

Years ago, a client of mine was searching for a guidepost or mantra by which to live his life. After much soul-searching, he decided that, with every decision he makes, every day, he wanted to write the “better story.”

The better story might be getting up earlier rather than sleeping in [or] reaching out to help someone instead of passively ignoring their need… This turned out to be an enormous gift to me, as I now try to do this every day.

2. Identify what’s keeping you stuck. According to Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the book Living with Depression, “This approach gets you to be both reflective and active, [which are] two steps necessary for change.”

1) Stop and see what it is that’s keeping you stuck right now. Oftentimes it’s a blind spot you can’t see, so taking time to mull things over helps you see more clearly. Is it a decision you’re afraid to make? Are certain people bringing you down? Are you in a cycle of negative thinking?2) Look around you to how this blind spot is touching your life. Is it only at home? Or just at work [or] school? and finally3) Listen to what your heart and mind tell you about what you need to do. Learning to reflect on your inner thoughts and feelings will help you trust putting them into action.

3. Get to bed earlier tonight. As clinical psychologist Ari Tuckman, PsyD, said, getting enough sleep is “an obvious but often overlooked” strategy.

It’s easy to steal time from sleep by staying up “just a little longer,” whether it’s to finish the laundry or finish a TV show. There’s always something that needs to be done or some fun temptation that keeps us from getting into bed on time. The problem is that the reward is had immediately — which makes it hard to resist — but the price is paid tomorrow.

It’s not uncommon to get a second wind at night, even if you were tired during the day, so that makes it even harder to stick to your bedtime. Unfortunately, even one short night’s sleep hampers our complex problem-solving, attention, and memory and makes us more irritable and short-tempered. This gets even worse when several short nights stack up.

The solution is easy to say but harder to do: Get into bed on time and you’ll feel better all the next day and hopefully get more work done, too. Of course, if you have someone that you sleep next to, then you should both get into bed even a little earlier and try to make some things happen. This will help both of you sleep better.

4. Participate in a physical activity you enjoy. Tuckman, also author of the book Understand Your Brain, Get More Done: The ADHD Executive Functions Workbook, said:

Regular exercise is an important part of not just physical health, but also mental health. It’s also one of the first things to go when we get busy. To prevent it from getting squeezed out, make it sacred and don’t let anything else intrude.

Otherwise, there will always be some other demand on your time and you’ll never get that workout in. A walk around the neighborhood is better than nothing, if that’s all you have time for, but for the most benefit you need to break a sweat.

Working out with someone else can make it more enjoyable…

5. Focus on right now. According to Alison Thayer, LCPC, CEAP, a psychotherapist at Urban Balance, LLC this can be challenging, especially in today’s world:

This is difficult for everyone, even therapists. It can be very difficult to focus on what is directly in front of you and ensure that you are fully present.

Today’s technology and expectation to be connected or available to work at all times is one of the most prominent challenges people face when trying to be present in the “here and now.”

Added Joyce Marter, LCPC, psychotherapist and owner of Urban Balance, LLC:

Honor the past, learn from it, accept it and let it go. Don’t obsess or worry about the future. Life is more manageable when you are grounded in the present. Achieve clarity through mindfulness practices such as deep breathing and meditation.

6. Set a realistic and attainable goal. Impossibly sky-high aspirations can be problematic. Thayer explained:

Setting goals is a key step in accomplishments. However, I often see clients with lofty goals that may not even be realistic. Holding ourselves to goals that we cannot reach can damage our self-esteem and inhibit our interest in trying to reach these goals again.

When setting your mind to reach a goal, ask yourself “Is this realistic and can I actually attain this goal?” If the answer is no, consider breaking the goal down into intermediate steps or modifying it altogether.

7. Reframe a situation in a positive light. Thayer shared several suggestions for taking a different and more positive stance.

There’s a reason why the saying “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade” has been around for years. When things aren’t going right, ask yourself “Could things be worse?” or “Is there anything I can take out of this that can be a benefit to me?”

More often than not, there is a positive aspect to things that happen, even those that feel negative. Try to view it in a different light and you may find your attitude turn around.

8. Be grateful, and pass it on. “If you focus on what you don’t have, you will be unhappy and attract negativity. Be grateful for what you have and you will be attract positivity, opportunity and success,” Marter said.

Emily Campbell, LCPC, CEAP, a psychotherapist at Urban Balance, LLC, suggested “Send[ing] a short note of appreciation to someone for something you appreciated about them this week.”

9. Relinquish what you can’t control. “Empower yourself to change what you can, and let go of the rest. Don’t expend your energy trying to control others. Focus on yourself,” Marter said.

10. Create an intention. According to Marter, “As in sports psychology, positive visualization increases the likelihood of success. We largely create our own realities through our thoughts and intentions, so clarify them by writing out your careers goals and objectives.”

Thayer suggested carving out time to set intentions for the following day. “Make it a ritual and part of your daily routine, like in the shower, when driving to work, or drinking your morning coffee,” she said.


10 Things You Can Do To Increase Your Mental Power

So you want to be mentally tough like the Spartan Warriors from the movie 300?

Yes, the legend of the Spartan Warriors is a prime example of being persevering despite the obstacles. Having their mental strength is a trait few have obtained through years of practice and pushing through boundaries.

Chances are, you won&rsquot be a Spartan Warrior anytime soon. But if you want to think and increase your mental power like one, here are 10 things you can do to get started.


Motivation

Whether your goal is to quit smoking, lose weight, or learn a new language, lessons from psychology offer tips for getting motivated. To increase your motivational levels when approaching a task, use strategies derived from research in cognitive and educational psychology.

  • Introduce new or novel elements to keep your interest high.
  • Vary repetitive sequences to help stave off boredom.
  • Learn new things that build on your existing knowledge.
  • Set clear goals that are directly related to the task.
  • Reward yourself for a job well done.

Benefits of Integrity

There are a number of benefits to successfully achieving feelings of integrity at this stage of life. These benefits include:

  • Ego integrity: Successfully resolving the crisis at this stage leads to the development of what Erikson referred to as ego integrity.
  • Peace and fulfillment: People are able to look back at their life with a sense of contentment and face the end of life with a sense of wisdom and no regrets.
  • Wisdom: Erikson defined this wisdom as an "informed and detached concern with life itself even in the face of death itself."

Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.


How Everyday Uses for Psychology Can Impact Your Life

Psychology has a number of interesting applications. It can be used to alter perceptions, turn enemies into friends, and even make people ignore a man in a gorilla suit. Many individuals are first attracted to the field of psychology by the impact these incredible phenomena have on themselves and those around them. Let’s explore some of the most significant studies and findings in the field of psychology and see how they fit into everyday life.

If you’re intrigued by how these scientific studies, hypotheses, and effects can improve your daily life, you can apply this passion to a career studying and improving the lives of others. The University of Texas Permian Basin offers an online program that allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology on their own time, at their own pace. The study of the mind is an incredible pursuit, and it begins with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.

The Ben Franklin Effect

Ben Franklin was using psychology to turn political opponents into trusted allies back in the 1700s. In his autobiography, Ben Franklin tells the story of winning over an adversary who had delivered an impassioned speech against him. Knowing that this gentleman could one day hold substantial political power, Franklin responded in an unconventional manner: He asked to borrow a book. Specifically, he asked to borrow a rare book in a way that both flattered and inconvenienced his adversary. The adversary promptly sent the book, and Franklin returned it with a thank-you note. From that day forward, the “adversary” was far more willing to help Franklin, and the two become lifelong friends.

According to Ben Franklin, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” Another name for this phenomenon? Cognitive dissonance. Essentially, someone who dislikes you can’t mentally process why they would allow themselves to be inconvenienced by you. To avoid discomfort, they will change their opinion of you rather than their opinion of themselves. When employing the Ben Franklin Effect in real life, remember to always use this superpower for good.

The Somatic Marker Hypothesis

“Elliot” had it all: a good job, a happy marriage, and the respect of his peers—until one day he started having headaches. The headaches became more severe, and it was later discovered that Elliot had a brain tumor. The tumor was removed, but not before it damaged the frontal lobe of his brain. Elliot began to look at every situation in his life through a purely logical lens devoid of all emotion—the dream of every procrastinator. The problem is that Elliot had effectively undergone a lobotomy, and his life crumbled soon after.

What can be learned from Elliot’s tragedy? The study of Elliot led to the somatic marker hypothesis, which proposes that emotions, not logic, are the driving force behind decision-making. When making decisions, you filter out choices based on how you feel about the imagined outcome. The next time you’re unable to find the motivation to work, clean, or create, consider why you imagine those possibilities being unpleasant. If you can be honest with yourself, you may arrive at the right decision.

The Halo Effect

In one of the most famous examples of how psychology relates to everyday life, Richard Nisbett and Timothy Wilson set out to study the halo effect, a cognitive bias that occurs when first impressions cloud a person’s perception of others. Over one hundred college students were asked to review footage of a psychology instructor. In some videos, the instructor was friendly and encouraging, while in others the instructor was cold and unlikable. Students were then asked to rate the instructor’s appearance, mannerisms, and accent. The results showed that even when participants had enough information to make an independent assessment, they were influenced by the instructor’s attributes. Students who saw the “likable” instructor rated his appearance, mannerisms, and even his accent higher. Furthermore, students were unaware that their perception of the instructor had any effect on their ratings.

The halo effect can be summed up as judging a book by its cover. When we meet others, we unconsciously allow their attractive features to influence our overall opinion of them. This presents a prime opportunity to use psychology in your daily life. When meeting new people, always try to make a good first impression by displaying confidence, being well-groomed, and not mentioning negative details about yourself. Being aware of the halo effect can also allow you to take a step back from situations and consider if your opinions are being influenced by anything other than logic.

The Invisible Gorilla

How well do you multitask? To put your multitasking skills to the test, watch this video and count how many times the players wearing white pass the ball. The answer is 16, but that’s not what the video is testing. Did you notice the gorilla? If you did, it might have been because you were expecting it, as the original selection attention test involving a gorilla is world-famous.

Did you notice the curtain change or the player on the black team leave the game?

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t. When Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons expanded on their original experiment, the majority of participants failed to notice one or both of the unexpected events. What this study shows is that people can focus so hard on one task that they fail to notice other important details. According to Simons, “Although people do still try to rationalize why they missed the gorilla, it’s hard to explain such a failure of awareness without confronting the possibility that we are aware of far less of our world than we think.”

Similar to the halo effect, our expectations can alter our perception of reality. The lesson here isn’t that people don’t pay enough attention or that we shouldn’t multitask it’s that people can be led astray when relying solely on their intuition. How can you use this in your everyday life? Intuition is great for things like deciding what to order for dinner, but for decisions that require an analytical approach, you’re better off giving yourself enough time to react and consider the things that matter rather than relying exclusively on your gut.


4. Drinking coffee

For centuries humans have participated in the ritual of taking seeds, roasting them, grinding them up, and steeping the grounds in hot water for a quick jolt of energy. Some people won’t get out of bed without the promise of a warm cup of Joe waiting for them. But what is this energizing drink really doing to your brain?

In a post last November, I explained the fascinating science of coffee drinking . From the time you wake up until you lay down to sleep, neurons in your brain produce a curious chemical called adenosine. As adenosine is produced, it binds with adenosine receptors in the brain, causing you to feel tired and eventually fall asleep.

When caffeine enters the bloodstream and makes its way to the brain, it blocks the adenosine receptors. That’s what gives you the boost of energy and alertness, improved memory and cognitive performance, increased focus, and even increased accuracy of reactions.

Over time, however, your brain will begin to build up a tolerance to the drug, and you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, increased sleepiness, lack of concentration, and irritability.

To sum it up, coffee (really, caffeine) literally changes your brain chemistry, providing you with that boost of energy and focus you need in the morning. But as with anything, it’s best in moderation. (Though, it is somewhat comforting to know it would take dozens of cups of coffee in a very short period of time to kill you.)


10 Easy Things You Can Do to Improve Your Life by Next Week

While covering health and wellness for magazines and newspapers, Jessica Cassity compiled a treasure trove of research-backed advice on how to live a happier, healthier, more fulfilling and less stressful life. From her new book, Better Each Day (Chronicle Books), here are ten small changes you can make to start living better now.

If a thought-provoking movie, lecture, or book leaves your brain ready for a rest, go ahead and tune out for a little bit. Researchers have found that taking a mental break—like zoning out while you wash the dishes, or simply switching your thoughts to an easier topic—can actually help you retain any information you just learned. In a study recently conducted at New York University, people were asked to memorize pairs of images. Scientists measured brain activity while subjects viewed images and committed them to memory, and also a few minutes later, during a wakeful rest period. They found that absorbing information activated a certain spot in the brain, and in some cases, the brain became even more active during the rest period, which resulted in higher rates of retention. Daydreaming isn't a guaranteed path to better memory, but it's worth a try. In the middle of an intense study session, take a short break, then revisit the work and see how well you remember.

If your idea of being supportive is listening to a person's problems, then detailing the right way to solve them, you may actually be building a wall between you and your friend. According to Parker Palmer, PhD, author of A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, the mantra for true friends should be "no fixing, no saving, no advising, and no setting the other person straight."

"When someone has a worried look or comes to you with a problem, you'll probably invite them to talk about it," says Palmer. But if you listen for a few minutes, then start telling her what to do about it, your friend may not feel heard or accepted. Instead, sit back and practice what Palmer calls "deep listening"—when you suspend your need to be a helper.

"A lot of us justify our existence by helping other people, but often that advice shuts the other person down," says Palmer. Let your friends talk, and if they aren't finding their own answers, ask questions that will help them to explore their own feelings a little deeper. "In creating safe space between yourself and another person, your task is to help them have a deeper and deeper conversation with themselves, not with you. What you think they should do about it is more about your ego than the needs of their soul."

It's okay to stick with chitchat around the water cooler, but meaningful conversation is the best way to talk yourself into a better mood, according to new research. In a recent study that matched self-reported happiness ratings with conversation quality, people who had more substantive conversations felt happier than those who engaged primarily in small talk. In the study, which was co-authored by Matthias R. Mehl, PhD, assistant professor in the University of Arizona's department of psychology, the conversations of ninety-seven undergrads were recorded over four days, then coded as either small talk or substantive. (Small talk was defined as trivial banter—like one-liners about the weather—while substantive conversation involved a sharing of ideas and information, like catching up with friends or discussing opinions about current events.) Overall, higher well-being was reported by the people who talked the most and spent the least amount of time alone, period, but the happiest individuals engaged in a third less small talk and had twice as many meaning-ful conversations as the unhappiest people.

So how much deep conversation does it take to trigger an increased level of happiness? Researchers are hesitant to assign a value, but in a second study, Mehl found that "prescribing" just five extra fifteen-minute substantive conversations over the course of a week led participants to report feeling a bit happier. Rather than keep tally of your conversations, just look for opportunities to engage in a meaningful way. Your mood may get a boost, and whoever's at the other end of the conversation can benefit, too.


Here Are 10 Things That Can Improve Mental Health, According To Therapists

“It’s up to you today to start making healthy choices. Not choices that are just healthy for your body, but healthy for your mind.” – Jasmine Warga

1. Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal.

Writing a journal is a great exercise for mental health. Expert Jason Moser of the Michigan State University shared in a study that writing down your thoughts takes the edge off the stress and confusion in your mind. When you write down what’s really bothering you, you release those heavy and disruptive feelings that prevent you from becoming productive and feeling positive.

You don’t have to write seriously long journal entries. You may spend just five to ten minutes on this activity. When you’re journaling, you can also monitor the changes in your thought process or mindset and you can discuss or probe these thoughts further with your therapist later.

2. Trust in the power of positive thinking.

People with a positive attitude can generally handle life’s problems and stressors better as they don’t give up on finding solutions. Because they focus their perspective on positive thoughts, they can reframe the way they view life. Thus, based on this mindset, they tend to make good choices in life.

Life coach and licensed clinical social worker Diann Wingert suggests creating an inner dialogue filled with affirmations in order to train your brain to think positively. Research shows that the power of positive thinking opens your mind and brings ideas that add value to your life.

3. Go on daily walks to calm your nerves.

When you’re mad or frustrated, don’t you feel better after stepping outside for a short walk? Going out and getting some air can actually take a load off those heavy feelings. In fact, some therapists have incorporated walks with their patients during their therapy sessions, especially if the weather is nice for a stroll.

Walking releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones, that can improve your mental health if you’re feeling sad or depressed. And getting outside lets you experience the sun or the breeze, which enhances mindfulness.

4. Focus on self-care activities.

Self-care activities are things you do to help yourself de-stress. There’s no right or wrong way to go about these activites. It also doesn’t matter if you do them every day or every week. The most important thing with self-care is that you focus on stuff that gives you happiness and pleasure, whether you’re alone or with someone whose company you enjoy.

5. Don’t forget to say, “Thank you.”

According to Dr. Alexandra Kelly of the Psychological Health Center of Excellence, expressing your gratitude every day has been proven to improve sleep, control chronic pain, reduce stress and symptoms of depression, and impact your overall wellbeing. When you’re always thankful for something, you acknowledge the good things that happen in your life. For this exercise, create a simple gratitude list to reflect on every day. It might help to write this in your journal, too.

6. Count on “your people.”

You’re not going to carry on with life well if you don’t have a support system. This group of people might be your immediate family, or it may consist of a group of close and trusted friends with whom you feel comfortable sharing your feelings.

Social connection is vital to mental health. No man is an island, after all. Therapist Ryan Adams of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre did a study on the impact of best friends on stress and the results were not surprising. It revealed that having a best friend present during a challenging experience reduces feelings of negativity and improves feelings of self-worth. If you have people you can count on, they can definitely make bad experiences a lot more bearable.

7. Tune into sad music.

It might seem counterproductive to listen to sad music if you’re trying to be positive. However, a study from behavioral psychologists in Berlin showed that sad music can trigger peaceful feelings that can transform into positive emotions for the listener. A sad song also heightens your ability to empathize. When you connect and relate to the song’s message, you’re more attuned to your feelings and understand yourself and other people’s struggles better.

8. Get more sleep.

You instantly feel the physical effects of a lack of sleep. Well, if you’re not sleeping well or if you’re not sleeping enough, it can also seriously wreck your mental state. Sleep regulates your emotions and concentration. If you continue with poor sleeping habits, you may become vulnerable to depression and other mental disorders. So, if you’re cranky because you only got two hours of dream-time, you might want to skip work and catch up on your sleep.

9. Unplug and do a digital detoxification.

Social media can provide you with a wonderful support system. However, if you’re on this platform too much, you could end up feeling worse and worse, especially if it might seem that your friends have better lives than yours. Once a while, go on a digital detoxification. Unplug those devices and focus on other activities away from the online world. It will be good for your sanity.

10. Educate yourself about mental health.

They say that knowledge is power. If you diligently read up on mental health conditions and disorders, you will be better equipped to handle it if you or your loved ones experience problematic symptoms. You’ll also be more willing and empowered to seek help or talk about what you’re going through with other people. The more we learn about mental health, the less of a negative stigma we will have regarding these conditions, and the more positive and healthy our approach will be.

Final thoughts

Make your mental well-being a priority. Don’t wait until you’re going through a crisis. Consider going to a therapist if you need guidance, and not just because you’re facing a serious problem.


50 Deceptively Simple Tasks That Can Actually Improve Your Life

If you're looking for easy ways to improve your life, these tricks can help you get started today.

It's all-too-common to want to improve your life so that you're living the best one possible. But the hard part comes in figuring out how to improve your life. While you may have massive ideas to change things up, the truth is that smaller, more sustainable actions and hacks actually help you improve your life day-to-day, which really adds up over time. These deceptively simple little tricks and habits can help you be more productive, feel happier, work more efficiently, and generally get more out of life. And for more great ways to change your life for the better, check out 50 Important Habits Linked to a Longer Life.

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Sleeping in may sound like the ideal way to go about your mornings, but you should actually be getting a leg up on the day by rising before your family does.

"Use that time to sit quietly and focus on what you want your day to look like, jot down what is most important to accomplish, and relax as you sip coffee or tea," says Diana Fletcher, life coach and stress reduction expert. "This time you take to focus in the morning will save you hours in your day. You won't waste time on trivial things because you have already decided what is the priority and what outcomes you want."

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Sometimes all it takes is a moment outside to make things better. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that spending just 20 minutes a day surrounded by nature increased people's vitality levels. And Candra Canning, founder of Live Bright Now, says even just a one-minute nature break can help.

"Slow down on your way out the door in the morning, or take a moment to look at the sky while on your lunch break," says Canning. "Science proves that your brain and body chemistry get the same benefit as if you were gazing at the Grand Canyon. Taking in the details can connect you back to yourself which will leave you relaxed and confident."

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You should always line up your day the night before, says Gayle Carson, acclaimed life coach and speaker from Albany, New York.

"It allows you to walk through your day, so if you walk into the office and someone asks 'Do you have a minute?' you will know if you do or don't." Bonus: If you make a to-do list at the same time, you'll find that this productivity hack actually helps improve your sleep as well.

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And more often, if you can. In 2017, researchers from Harvard proved that human connection is what keeps people happy throughout their lifetimes. This means that time invested in friendships is time well-spent.

"Isolation breeds discontent," says Raffi Bilek, a psychotherapist and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. "You don't have to be the life of the party having just one or two close friends keeps you feeling connected and alive." And, if you're looking for a little friendship inspiration, check out these 50 Ways to Make New Friends After 50.

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There's no doubt that maintaining your relationship with close friends and family is important. However, a landmark 1973 study published in the American Journal of Sociology showed that "weak ties," or people who are more acquaintance-level connections, are the ones who can actually help you out the most in terms of developing new contacts, improving career prospects, and generally meeting new people. Each week, set a goal to get in touch with one person you haven't talked to in a while, and you'll find your personal and professional networks growing faster than ever before. And for more ways to connect with old friends, check out 60 Funniest One-Liners That Will Leave Your Friends Laughing.

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If you always wish you could spend more time with your family, this one's for you. "Family is all about focus," says Arman Sadeghi, business coach and founder of Titanium Success. "For most of us, family is the most important thing. However, most of us simply don't schedule enough time with our family, so that time is what always gets squeezed out. Instead of allowing that to happen, actually schedule the time with family, including scheduling date night with your spouse or an evening with the kids." And if you're looking for a little family fun, check out these 12 Fun Family Games Everyone Will Get a Kick Out of Playing.

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Instead of spreading out conference calls throughout the day, book them all in quick succession. "It takes as much time to make one phone call as five," Carson says. "It's a flow." Plus, if you have another call lined up afterwards, you'll have a reason to keep each call to its designated amount of time rather than letting it take up more of your day than necessary. And for more on managing your communication flow, check out The Secret to Better Communication With Your Partner, According to a Relationship Expert.

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While it may be hard to get out of bed early and put your pen to the paper as soon as possible, morning is actually the best time to get your creative juices flowing.

"During morning hours, cortisol acts as your energy hormone and your focus and concentration are better than any other time of day," says Debra Atkinson, a productivity, fitness, and wellness coach with Flipping Fifty. So, use biology to your advantage and leave more mundane tasks for later in the day. And if you're not a morning person but would like to be, check out these 20 Better Sleep Essentials That'll Have You Waking Up Well-Rested Every Morning.

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You may not realize that the way you choose to talk plays a role in your well-being, but paying attention to this minute detail can actually help improve your life.

"Speaking from your diaphragm automatically causes you to speak with more authority by slightly deepening your voice and increasing your voice stability," says David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert with The Popular Man. "Most people would be surprised how speaking with a little more authority will positively impact their work and social success."

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If you're constantly struggling to fit everything you need to do in one day, Eric Bales of Bales Dynamic Coaching suggests that you physically write out how you would like your ideal day to look.

"The list should include all activities you would like for the day to be considered 'successful,'" he says. Once you do this, the clutter will start to fall away. And for some things you should add to your everyday schedule, check out these 27 Genius Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem Every Day.

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Seriously, just do it. "Time away from work actually helps you become more productive when you return," says Maura Thomas, speaker and author of Personal Productivity Secrets. "[Vacation days] recharge your enthusiasm and creativity. If you don't use your vacation time, or if you never unplug from work while you're off, your performance will plummet, and so will your happiness. So the next time you're feeling stressed at work, ask yourself how long it's been since you've been truly away—physically and mentally—from your job. I'm betting that you'll see a connection."

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There are actually plenty of benefits that come from visiting museums as often as possible. Since it's a novel activity, it can boost your brain's ability to learn new information. Not only that, but an oft-cited 2008 study published in Curator also showed that positive museum visits have major restorative powers, increasing visitor's well-being and reducing their stress levels.

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Always work at the same desk? Try a new one. Tired of your local hangout? Find a new one! It's really that simple. "Our surroundings can cause us to develop depressive thoughts and feelings, thus causing us to believe life can never get better," says Saudia L. Twine, a marriage and family therapist with FreshStart Counseling Group. But the truth is, you have the power to adjust your surroundings. Use it.

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When it comes to your every day, Thomas suggests thinking about how much of it is spent being reactive. She says that if you feel like the day flew by but you didn't make any real progress on your plans, you might be consumed by too many distractions.

"If you're always distracted, you'll get used to being always distracted, and you'll find yourself bored in the 'quiet times,'" she says. Sound familiar? Allow yourself to have some distraction-free time each day—no phones, no interruptions from coworkers or family members—to work on the things that are most important to you.

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Yes, really. "By doing so, a positive and open approach is projected," says Darlene Corbett, a speaker, licensed therapist, and coach. "Smiling often creates greater success both personally and professionally. I suggest to my clients that they practice this on a daily basis until it becomes part of their repertoire. They report back to me that they actually feel better by smiling more often."

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Feeling like you want more from life? While that's a common occurrence for most people, you should actually be switching your mindset and thinking about all the things you already have.

"Write a list of all the things you have now that you once wanted, such as getting a boyfriend or girlfriend, getting married, graduating from college, getting a job, buying a house, having kids, or visiting a certain city," says Jennie Vila, a life and career coach with Growth Mindset. Over time, you'll feel satisfied by reflecting on how far you've come.

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It's often engrained in people that they need to "push through" when working on a difficult or mundane task, but according to Keisha Rivers, Chief Outcome Facilitator at the KARS Group, all this actually does is make a person frustrated.

"Our minds naturally need to shift gears at times, so we have to incorporate a natural break into our activities. If you're working on a report or trying to comprehend a lot of reading, build in a 5-minute break every 15 minutes," she says.

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Stop thinking about volunteering as just a way to boost your résumé. A pivotal 2003 study published in Social Science & Medicine shows that volunteering can actually be a mental game-changer, and may even reduce anxiety and depression. So, get involved in a cause you care about, and reap the feel-good benefits.

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This may sound easier said than done, but the more you believe in the ideal image of yourself, the more likely others are to acknowledge that version of you.

"Research of attachment theory has shown us that we each develop a mental grid which guides our beliefs of self and others," Twine explains. "This grid determines how we perceive, evaluate and respond to others. If we see ourselves in a negative light, it affects how we think, feel, act, and function in our personal and professional environment." Hone in on things you like about yourself, and you'll notice that others start to do the same.

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It doesn't matter if it's to check your email, social media, or even the news. Entrepreneur Dave Cantin says "the moment you open your phone in the morning is the moment you dive head first into the rat race" for the day.

"If that's the first thing you do in the morning, you'll struggle to find time to gather yourself and self-reflect," he says. "Stop this snowball effect by creating a calming, inwardly-focused morning routine where you determine your goals for the day, state a few things that you're thankful for, and take four or five deep breaths and smile."

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In a world where you feel overwhelmed with daily activities, you may think it's easier to just multitask. However, in order to improve your life, you should actually "monotask."

"Wherever you are, be there," says Lisa Sansom, a positive psychology coach and consultant with LVS Consulting. "Don't be on the phone in meetings be in the meeting. If you're checking email, then focus on checking email. If you're at a social event, be at the social event. Your brain is configured to devote conscious attention to one thing at a time—so do that."

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A cluttered desk can seriously derail productivity and make you feel like things are out of control when you're trying to focus. But as Frank Buck, author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders, explains, most of this clutter actually comes from papers you'll need in the future, so you can't just toss them. His solution? The Tickler File.

"The Tickler File is an age-old business tool," he says. "It makes paper disappear and then resurface exactly when you need it. Grab 31 hanging folders and label them 1 through 31. Each file represents a day of the month. Take papers one at a time and ask, 'When do I need to see this item again?' Drop the paper in the file for the appropriate day."

Check your folders once a day so you're dealing with documents only when necessary. Going totally digital? This concept works for email inboxes, too. Simply create a Tickler File folder and 31 subfolders inside.

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Psychotherapist Erin Tierno knows that the fear of imperfection is paralyzing for many people, and the thought of failing to meet their personal standards can disrupt their "capacity for productivity."

Her recommendation? Imagine producing the worst version of whatever you need to produce, and work through the implications of that. This thought experiment might sound weird, but it liberates people from their fear of judgement and practices continuing on in the face of fear. "More often than not, people recognize through this exercise that they will actually be OK even if the worst really does happen and, more likely, what they'll produce won't even come close to their imagined worst outcome," she says.

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For improving your life through the hardships and hurdles, Canning recommends choosing a challenge you're currently facing and identifying one good thing about it.

"Using your energy and brain power to ponder and search for the silver lining in seemingly negative things can give you an overall positive attitude and help improve brain health," she says. "There have been numerous reports on how positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind, allowing you to build new skills that can provide value in other areas of your life."

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Most people are always looking ahead and wondering, "what's next?" But, turns out, constant pursuit is actually a major recipe for disappointment.

"Be happy with the person that you are and the life that you have today before trying to chase all of your dreams," Sadeghi says. "Many people spend a lifetime in a perpetual chase for happiness, always thinking that the next accomplishment or milestone is the one that will finally bring it to them. It might be more money, getting married, having kids, getting divorced, sending the kids to college, retiring, or one of millions of other things. However, the secret to life is that if you do not learn how to be happy with the person that you are today and the life that you have today, you will never find happiness."

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Being a good listener is one of the keys to developing meaningful, fulfilling relationships. If you want people to trust you and feel comfortable sharing their concerns, issues, and triumphs with you, the best thing you can do is learn to listen well. According to Forbes' Dianne Schilling, the principles are simple: Listen intently, take in what the other person is saying, never interrupt, and then paraphrase what you've absorbed and repeat it back to them.

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"Research suggests that a certain degree of stress helps us to be more productive, happier, and efficient," says Scott Amyx, author of Strive: How Doing the Things Most Uncomfortable Leads to Success.

Referencing Richard A. Dienstbier's 1989 landmark study in Psychological Review, Amyx says the "theory of mental toughness suggests that experiencing some manageable stressors, with recovery in between, can make us more mentally and physically tough and less reactive to future stress." Basically, experiencing stress regularly and overcoming it helps you to view stress as a survivable thing—one that you can develop coping skills to deal with.

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According to Bennett, most people take up all the room in their daily calendar by scheduling the things they don't like, such as getting up for work each day or attending boring meetings. But you should also make room for the positive.

"Schedule good things, too: time with friends, dates, and 'me time,'" he says. "This will give them the same priority in your life as more stressful events."

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While you may feel resistant, especially with the fear of your privacy being compromised, using technological advancements to your advantage is actually better for you than not.

"One of my favorite aspects of the smartphone revolution is the interconnected nature of devices," says life coach Luke Hughes. "Using phone notes that are synced to WiFi or phone data, you can write down all your ideas under subheadings for different projects. Then, at a later date, you can return to these ideas on your laptop or permanent workstation when you have the time and motivation to research them further. This cross-pollination between devices is ideal for busy working professionals who work on several projects at once."

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Are you stuck in a rut, whether it's a relationship, a big project, or something else? Then try checking out for a little bit.

"For many, being in control of every relationship and situation feels essential to coping with what life throws at us on a daily basis. Unfortunately, trying to be too in control can actually help things become out of control," Cantin explains. "Avoid being overwhelmed with stress by working to step away from conversations, anger and, toxic people when you're only engaging for the sake of engaging, and not because you're actually making progress. Then, use the time you saved to focus on your friends and family, hobbies, and self-care."

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Prioritizing thoughtfulness in your everyday life doesn't have to be some big ordeal, but it is something that will help improve your life over time.

"Offering simple but meaningful gestures on a regular basis—like saying 'thank you' or 'you are welcome,' holding the door, or stopping your car for a pedestrian or another car—can make another human being feel good and improve your mood markedly," says Corbett. Give it a try and you might just find yourself having better days more often.

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As it turns out, reading has major benefits, particularly when it comes to fiction. A 2013 study published in PLOS One shows that reading can make you more empathetic, and another study published that same year in the Creativity Research Journal shows it can also make you more creative—both qualities are certain to improve your life overall.

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Keep getting distracted by incoming emails, meeting requests, and calendar alerts? Set aside some time to turn your WiFi connection off, put your phone on airplane mode, and get down to business. You'll be surprised at what you can get done in just a couple hours of offline time.

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All it takes is a short period of time each day where you write down a few things that you're grateful for. They can be trivial, like what you had for dinner, or major, like your health. In 2018, researchers from the Greater Good Science at UC Berkeley found that students who kept a gratitude journal were more successful in making strides toward achieving their goals compared to those who didn't keep one.

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Going through a tough time? Turn up the tunes at home, while you work, or in the car. A 2013 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology shows that people are more successful at thinking happy thoughts when they do so listening to upbeat music.

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One simple way to worry less about money? Make sure you're not overspending, which is sometimes easier said than done.

"In today's accelerated—and online—world, it is a disciplined practice to monitor our spending, and we can quickly find ourselves spending much more than we earn," says wealth expert Leanne Jacobs. "Take regular inventory of all your automated monthly spends and memberships that might be eating up all your cash flow and leaving you in a deficit at the end of the month."

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According to Mike Shereck, an executive coach and business consultant, there is no practice as beneficial to improving life quality as expressing yourself authentically. But what does it take to be yourself? Shereck says that "you may want to begin by telling the truth about where you are inauthentic. Where are you justifying yourself, or spending time looking good, or being right about something?" When you stop pretending to be someone you're not, you'll feel more happy and comfortable than ever before.

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As Rivers points out, we're often pressured to do more in our everyday lives—whether that means participating in more activities, attending more events, or connecting with more people on a daily basis.

"Sometimes, it's best for you to just say no to some things in order to recharge and rest," she recommends. "A rule of thumb is if you are not absolutely thrilled or excited about doing something, then don't. If there is no compelling reason and you end up spending all of the time you're there thinking about what you could be doing at home, or imagining what you could be doing instead, then just skip it and do something you actually enjoy instead."

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If you're an "ideas" person, you've probably come up with some pretty great ones on-the-go or while you're working on something unrelated. Pausing to jot down what you've come up with is totally worthwhile.

"I keep a notebook of various projects," says Stephanie Crane, a licensed master social worker and life coach. "Each page is a different project, and I just jot down the various pieces to that project. Then, one at a time, I tackle those items until the list is done, and I can rip the page out of my notebook. It feels awesome to rip out that sheet of paper, crumple it up, and throw it out!"

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In a society where work is highly valued, it's often hard to find time to stop. However, taking time on the weekends to completely distance yourself from your work is beneficial to living a greater life.

"Unwinding with friends, family, and hobbies reduces stress and energizes your brain," Thomas says. "But you lose those benefits if you spend evenings and weekends wrapping up 'just one more thing' for work, or constantly emailing."

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You've probably heard this one before, but it doesn't make it any less true. One 2013 study published in Psychological Science shows that people who meditate for at least 15 minutes each day are more likely to make better, less biased choices. Plus, brain scans confirm that meditation helps improve focus.

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For the most part, there's nothing that can't wait 10 minutes—even during the work day. You should take 10 minutes out of every day to put down your phone and simply go for a walk.

"Challenge yourself to notice anything that surprises you, that you didn't notice before," Canning says. "Allow yourself to be amazed by simple things. New evidence reveals that this exercise gives you new perspectives, which scientists call the 'overview effect,' which can give you new insights, new possibilities, and your own 'a-ha!' moments for a better frame of mind to approach problem-solving."

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Measuring success becomes a lot easier when you know what your metrics are. "Always maintain a list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that allow you to see exactly how business is doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, even if you had no contact with anyone at your company," Sadeghi recommends.

These KPIs should cover different areas of your business or job, from small daily indicators to the most important financial indicators. Once you have clear goalposts in mind, you'll be able to enjoy your wins more easily.

Many people keep their closets packed to the brim with clothes. But more often than not, they don't wear even half the things they keep.

"Don't keep clothes in your closet that you don't wear," says Katherine Wertheim, a certified fundraising executive. "It's depressing. Put them in a closet in another bedroom, store them under the bed, or something else." Plus, waking up each morning and being able to choose your outfit from a closet full of clothes you love is guaranteed to set you up for a good day.

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Want to be more present? Delete the social media apps you use most frequently from your phone. That way, you'll only check them when you really want to instead of opening the apps reflexively whenever you're bored—giving you more time to relax and engage with other people in real life.

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Yes, it's true—you should treat yourself. A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Business and Social Science proved that investing in some new threads can actually improve your mood and help you feel more confident.

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People often wait to worry about their finances until the end of the year, when the holidays arrive and the new year is about to begin. But you should actually be tracking your finances at the start of every year.

"Instead of waiting until the end of the year to total up your annual earnings, set the amount you will earn for the year on January 1," Jacobs says. "There is something powerful about committing to a set amount of money you intend to create for the year ahead. It's a different way of thinking, and one that will set you apart financially."

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When it comes to getting something important done, people often find themselves distracted and unable to focus on the task at hand. Thomas suggests "brain clearing" where you grab a piece of paper and a pen and try stream of consciousness writing.

"This helps to eliminate mental clutter and uncover those intellectual gems you know are in there somewhere. Don't censor yourself, and don't try to organize as you write. Just write whatever comes to you, and chances are, before too long, your brain will find its way back to that important thing you're trying to get done," she says.

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Unfortunately, it's true—no one's a mind reader. The only surefire way you'll get people to treat you how you want to be treated is if you tell them exactly what you want.

"Boundaries are limits that define acceptable behavior, and you get to decide what is acceptable to you," explains Heather Vickery, a transformational life and business coach. "Figure out where you need boundaries, communicate them, and then discover guilt-free freedom."

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People often overcommit themselves, especially when it comes to adding new tasks or experiences to their plate.

"We are like hamsters on a wheel, always go-go-going, and it's completely overwhelming and stressing us out," says Kevin Strauss, a workplace wellness specialist. "More than likely, you're doing so much in order to feel valued. However, with fewer 'must do's,' you'll be less stressed and able to do a much better job on the few priorities that truly matter."


Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn&rsquot have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment&mdashbecause that&rsquos what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!



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