Easy, simple, fun tips for making a positive impact using the internet.
We already know that there are lots of ways that technology can be bad for you. But what about the ways that technology can be good for you? And good for the world? There are plenty. Here are six ways you can use technology to make a positive difference in the world:
Join a mission-oriented online group. There are now tons of online groups. Many of these groups focus on common interests—for example, cats, cooking, or sports. But other groups focus on common goals—for example, electing a particular political candidate, addressing an important social problem, or raising money for an important cause. Joining one of these mission-oriented groups can be a great way to get started making a difference with very little time investment or risk. You can even try out a few groups to see which ones fit you best and boost your happiness the most.
Raise money for a good cause. Increasingly, social media can be used to raise money for good causes. My friend Kyra sold T-shirts on Facebook to raise money for an organization she wanted to support. And Patrick asked friends to donate to a charity for his birthday present. You can do things like this too. By making your online interactions less about yourself and more about making a positive difference for others, you’ll likely feel better about yourself and boost your happiness.
Leave kind words for others who contribute something positive. Instead of just clicking away after enjoying a video, picture, or article, take a moment to leave a kind note for the person who created it or shared it. Devote a bit more time than it would take to simply click a like button, and instead say something genuine and from your heart. Believe me, the other person will really appreciate it and you’ll leave feeling more satisfied than you would have had you skipped leaving a kind comment.
Start your own website. Got some skills or knowledge that could benefit others? Consider starting your own website. It can take a long time to build up a website, but people will appreciate it if you offer them something of value. What might you share with the world? Your knowledge, art, ideas, or something else? It’s really easy now with free website builders like Weebly.
Volunteer remotely. Another way you can make a difference online is by offering to volunteer for a non-profit organization. Oftentimes there are tasks that can be done virtually and remotely. As a volunteer, you’ll have less responsibility but still have an opportunity to make a real impact on the social problem of your choice.
Donate to a good cause. Even though all of the suggestions above take minimal time, maybe your time is just completely booked up. Instead of donating time, you can donate to your favorite cause. For example, I recently donated to one of my favorite bloggers to support her writing. There are all sorts of ways to make a difference now that we have easy access to the internet. Go ahead and give it a try.
Did you know that Americans check their phones about 47 times per day? Half of us check our phones in the middle of the night. And 1 in 10 adults check their phone during sex.
Wow! We must really like our phones.
Luckily, I’m not the only one who thinks that our relationships with our phones have gotten a bit out of hand. In fact, Catherine Price has written a new book on exactly this topic. The book, How to Break up with Your Phone, teaches us, step-by-step, how to build better relationships with our phones, so that we can live happier and healthier lives.
So, what kind of relationship do you have with your phone?
Perhaps you check your phone for some important purpose only to get sucked into news, social media, or videos. Suddenly, hours go by, leaving you feeling unsatisfied and vaguely depressed, but you’re not sure why. Or maybe, you look to your phone to provide your life with meaning, happiness, or some kind of positive feeling. If this sounds like you, then it’s time to take a break from your phone.
Easier said than done though, right? We’ve become reliant on our phone’s tools (like maps), the easy communication (like texts), and, well, just about everything else on our phones. To overcome these challenges, here are some of the tips from the new book, How to Break up with Your Phone:
1. Reflect on how you use your phone
For a day or two, just pay attention to your relationship with your phone to gain clarity on how your phone makes you feel. What emotions do you have before using your phone? How about after using your phone? Who are you with? What are you doing? Where are you? When you pick up your phone, what do you do? Are there particular apps you use most often? How long do you get sucked in? Is it hard to return your attention back to other things?
What might your answers tell you about why you are using your phone? Ask yourself, is this really the way you want to use this time? Is it really making you happy? Or are you like most people, miserably addicted to a rectangular object that is making you miserable?
2. Try riding out your cravings
When we’re addicted to something (like our phones), quitting cold turkey can result in some pretty massive cravings. One way to overcome these cravings is to better understand them. Ask yourself, why are you wanting to reach for your phone right now? What emotions are you hoping to experience? Or, are you trying to avoid an emotional experience? Instead of picking up your phone, just sit with your emotions and see if you can identify what, exactly, is causing you to reach for your phone.
3. Set your lock screen as a reminder to stop mindlessly checking your phone
You’ve discovered that using your phone to make you happy is not working – in fact, it’s making you miserable. So, now you’ve decided you want to take a break from your phone (or maybe just use your phone less).
Is ignoring your uncomfortable cravings harder than you thought? Then set your lock screen with a reminder image not to “Click Here for Happiness” (Download this lock screen image here). If happiness is what you seek, you won’t find it in your phone. Go look for it IRL (in real life).
4. Create a trigger
Ok, so you find that you skip through your lock screen, ignoring your reminder. It sounds like you need an extra layer of defense. If this sounds like you, then put something on the outside of your phone to slow you down when you reach for your phone – something like a sticker or rubber band.
5. Consider deleting social media apps from your phone
Social media – and other browsing apps – can be the biggest time sucks on your phone. When they aren’t there, we can be less tempted to reach for our phones. So consider deleting social media apps from your phone.
I did this years ago. I just tell people that I don’t have Facebook or Snapchat on my phone and so they know to contact me with a text. It really isn’t a big deal and it keeps me from getting sucked into spending too much time on social media.If this seems too extreme, try moving your apps somewhere other than your front page or changing your phone’s display to grayscale. At least this way, those bright app buttons wont draw you in as easily.
6. Change where you charge your phone
If you charge your phone where you sleep, you’ll be drawn to pick it up, whether you’re resting, sleeping, or maybe even having sex. This is why one of the easiest tips to decrease phone time is to charge your phone outside the bedroom. Do you use your phone as an alarm? Then get a regular alarm clock! It’s worth it.
7. Make no-phone zones and no-phone times
Some people don’t allow phones in their houses. Others don’t allow phones in the bathroom. Do you have a space that you would like to be phone free? Then make it so. Personally, in my tiny bay-area apartment, this is not really an option. So instead, I have no-phone times. This may sounds weird, but I don’t take my phone on errands, like grocery shopping, going to the post office, or picking up takeout. It’s a small chunk of phone-free time, but quite freeing, I think.
8. Find more things you like to do
Remember, the time you spend playing on your phone is time you aren’t spending doing other things that make your life more interesting and meaningful. Unfortunately, we often default to our phone when we can’t immediately think of other activities that we enjoy. To get out of this bind, start brainstorming fun activities you could do so that when you take a break from your phone, you won’t feel bored. Instead, you’ll feel pleased to have time to do all this cool stuff.
9. Check in with yourself often
Schedule a reminder to check in with yourself each month. Ask yourself, how is your relationship with your phone going? Are you staying present while using your phone? Are you only using apps that make you feel good? Are you only spending a small amount of time on your phone or are you getting sucked in and feeling miserable afterwards? Do you need to make any more changes? If so, then make them.
Feel better about who you are with these quick tips.
Self-worth is essential to well-being. Why? Because your views of yourself not only affect how you feel; they also affect your thoughts and behaviors. When we feel bad about ourselves, we unconsciously act in ways that end up confirming our beliefs. For example, if we feel like we are not worthy of a good relationship, a good job, or financial stability, we stop pursuing these goals with the intensity required to reach them, or we sabotage ourselves along the way.
So how do you break out of this negative cycle? Here’s 4 tips:
1. Figure out what you need
We tend to feel bad about ourselves when we feel powerless to get our needs met — so you can start this process by clarifying for yourself what you need. What people, places, or experiences are must-haves to live a fulfilling life? What aspects of your life — if removed — would leave you feeling empty or incomplete? Generally, our needs revolve around relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Everything else is just a want.
2. Figure out how will you meet your needs
What if your needs aren’t being met? Then you have to start thinking about how you will communicate your needs and what you will do if the people in your life can’t meet those needs. It’s funny how standing up for yourself can boost self-worth.
3. Forgive yourself for past mistakes
Almost everyone has said something hurtful, forgotten an important event, or betrayed someone they love. We have to remember that our mistakes do not define us. They do not make us good people or bad people. If we learn and grow from our mistakes then they make us better people. To develop self-worth, we must keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes. Forgive yourself, be compassionate toward yourself, and give yourself credit for trying not to make the same mistakes again.
4. Celebrate what makes you special
When we cherish what makes us unique, we begin to develop a deep love for ourselves just as we are. Celebrate yourself by enjoying your silly dancing style or giggling at your crooked smile.
Build your skills and talents with these high-impact strategies.
Personal development can include any skill that you build to improve yourself—your emotions, thoughts, or behaviors. It doesn’t really matter which skills you want to improve; the key to personal development is taking the right steps—steps that help ensure that you reach whatever goal you are pursuing.
What are the most important personal development skills? It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. But here are some you might want to try.
1. Explore your strengths and weaknesses
The first step in any personal development strategy is to figure out how to best use your time. It makes little sense to learn how to code if you don’t plan to be a coder. It makes little sense to bench press 400 pounds if you don’t plan to be a weightlifter. These can be hobbies, but personal development is more about building skills to reach your goals. So it’s good to take some time to self-reflect.
2. Develop entrepreneurial thinking
Everyone can benefit from learning how to think like an entrepreneur, regardless of whether or not you are one. Why? Because entrepreneurs are innovative, good at planning for all possible outcomes, and skilled at getting others to buy into their vision or dream. And perhaps more importantly for personal development, they tend to be adaptable to all sorts of situations.
By developing entrepreneurial thinking, you better adapt to whatever your circumstances are so you can more easily achieve your goals, whether those goals are to start a business that makes a positive impact in the world, to set yourself up for an early retirement, or climb Mount Everest.
3. Develop a growth mindset
Fear of making mistakes can lead us to avoid challenges and new experiences—experiences which would help us grow, improve ourselves in important ways, and create the life we desire.
If we have a “growth mindset” we seek out challenges because we value learning and growth more than we value feeling smart or knowing what we’re doing. That’s why those with a growth mindset often build new skills more easily: They believe they can and so they really work at it.
4. Learn to calm yourself
High levels of stress are not only bad for our health and well-being, they can prevent us from effectively pursuing and achieving our self-development goals. By learning effective, long-lasting stress-reducing strategies, your body and mind will be more equipped to handle the inevitable challenges that arise when you’re trying to develop yourself.
5. Develop resilience
Resilience is that super-important skill that helps you bounce back quickly after being knocked down. This is one of the most important skills for success because none of us will achieve anything if we don’t keep trying when we fail. We can build resilience by improving skills like emotion-regulation, mindfulness, and positivity.
6. Create a personal development plan
A good personal development plan takes all these factors into consideration—the WHAT, the HOW, the WHY, and the WHEN. So ask yourself:
What skills will you build?
How will you build them?
Why will you build them?
And when will you build them?
And record your progress to make sure you’re on the right track.
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Simple ways to be a kinder, more compassionate, more generous person.
Generosity is the act of being kind, selfless, and giving to others. Despite being an act that is done to benefit others’ well-being, generosity also paradoxically increases our well-being. So being generous is a fantastic way to improve your mental health and well-being. Not sure how to do it? Read on to discover how to be a more generous person.
Why generosity is good for you
Generosity is a good thing for our mental health and well-being because when we give to someone we care about, we make it more likely for them to give to us, making us more likely to give to them, and so on. As a result, regions of our brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust light up, making us feel all warm and gooey inside.
Why generosity is exponential
When it comes to improving our happiness and well-being, generosity is a good choice because it has a ripple effect. If someone else sees us do something kind or generous, it actually makes them more likely to be generous too. Even saying a simple, “Thank you,” can inspire both of you, and those watching, to be more generous. This is how generosity creates a ripple effect, helping us feel happier and less lonely.
So what stops us? Why aren’t we all just generous all the time?
What are the precursors to becoming a more generous person?
It turns out that building positive thinking skills is an important precursor to getting the most we can out of generosity. Why? Because positive emotions—like gratitude, joy, or awe—make us more likely to give. The happier we feel when we give, the more likely we are to give to others again in the future. And the more grateful we are, in general, the more we enjoy the experience of witnessing other people benefiting from our gifts. So if we’re having a hard time being more generous, we can benefit from developing our positive thinking skills.
What stops us from being generous people?
Lucky for us, it’s our default to be generous. But, we can accidentally override our natural inclinations to give it by over-relying on the “thinking” parts of our brains. Instead of following our natural impulse to be kind, we may come up with reasons for why we shouldn’t give—maybe we want to buy something for ourselves or we are afraid of not having enough. But if our goal is happiness (either for ourselves or others), that’s a big mistake. We feel happier giving to others than spending money on ourselves. So try to overcome fear of not having enough, which can stop you from being a more generous person.
How do we become a more generous person?
Once we are open to trying to become more generous (either to increase our own happiness or the happiness of others) how might we do it? We could give gifts on holidays, to acknowledge accomplishments, or just because we felt like it (that’s my favorite time to give a gift). We can also practice random acts of kindness—for example, by leaving a kind note for a coworker, emailing a family member to tell them you’re grateful for something they did, or buying lunch for a friend.
How to make generosity more impactful
To make giving even more rewarding, focus on giving in ways that make a positive impact in someone else’s life (not just your life). The more we believe that what we give will be valuable or useful to others, the better it feels. And the more we know about how the receiver will use the gift, the more we enjoy giving. We really do want to know not only that we are making a difference, but how we are making a difference. So give thoughtfully and intentionally. It just feels better—both to us and to the gift recipient.
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How to use positive statements (positive affirmations) to improve your life.
According to cognitive neuroscientists, 95 percent of brain activity is beyond our conscious awareness. That means our daily experiences are largely affected by unconscious beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. So, if we wish to improve our lives, we need to shift these unconscious experiences. One way to do that is by using positive statements about ourselves or our lives—otherwise known as positive affirmations.
Here’s how to make positive affirmations work for you.
1. Positive affirmations should be spoken out loud and repeated
Speaking reinforces our learning processes and increases the likelihood of our subconscious actually hearing our request. Adding other sense perceptions helps even further. For instance, lighting a candle or a stick of incense each time you repeat your affirmations is a way of signaling your subconscious to pay attention. Ringing a bell before speaking your positive affirmation aloud is another way to further awaken more senses. By creating a ritual-type of situation that is repeated consistently and linked with the affirmations, you are signaling to the subconscious that you want its attention.
2. Always use the present tense when saying positive affirmations
The subconscious thinks simplistically; it lives in the now. Concepts like “soon” or “later” are hard for your subconscious to understand. So are abstract adjectives such as “better.” Keep your positive affirmations simple, and construct your sentences in the present tense. For example, “I am healthy, wealthy and wise,” and not “I am becoming healthier as I age” or “I will be wealthy by the time I’m 50” or “I am learning to be wise through my mistakes.” Lofty ideas may wow the conscious mind, but the subconscious is more easily influenced by statements about the present.
3. Avoid negatives in positive affirmations
The subconscious can get mixed up with negatives and what you really mean by them. For example, if your positive affirmation states, “I am not sick anymore,” your subconscious may focus on the idea of being sick because that is the subject of your affirmation. The same goes for “I am not poor,” where the subconscious thinks the message is “being poor” so it continues to provide what it thinks you want, which is more poverty. So choose your message carefully to ensure your communication with your subconscious leads to positive change and discontinuation of the negative thinking patterns.
4. Create positive affirmations that focus on the solution and not the problem
A statement such as “I am done with toxic relationships” might backfire because it focuses on bad relationships, not good ones. Instead, your affirmation should state the most positive outcome, such as “I am building healthy and balanced relationships that are a win-win for both of us,” or “My relationships are happy because we share the pleasures and responsibilities of our life together.” The goal of your positive affirmations is to state your desires as valid and real, without focusing on your dissatisfactions about how things are going at present. State the improvements you want to see in your life, not the bad things you want to improve.
5. Craft positive affirmations that are specific, simple, and direct
Your subconscious knows how to achieve what you want, but it needs direction. It does not need to be told explicitly how to achieve those ends, but it does need guidance. “I am healthy and happy” is a simple positive affirmation. If you are looking for a new, well-paying job, be as specific as you can be. For example, you could say “I make $100,000 a year working for a company I love in Austin, TX. I am having fun being creative while making others happy. I am respected for what I have to offer and have plenty of time to spend with friends and loved ones when my job is done.” Once you have a positive affirmation that you feel good about, try it out and see how it makes you feel. If it doesn’t make you feel better, rework your affirmation until it does.
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Having a hard time coping with stress? Try these science-based ways to build resilience.
Resilience is that amazing skill that helps you recover quickly from difficulties. If you are resilient, then when life knocks you down, you bounce back and you keep going. Sometimes life’s challenges can even make you stronger. So how do you become a more resilient person?
1. Reframe the catastrophe
Catastrophizing is when we expect the worst possible outcome in a situation. For example, you may have lost your job and now believe that you will never be successful, and everyone will think you’re a failure forever. This may sound extreme. Most of us don’t catastrophize quite this much, but many of us do sometimes believe that the worst possible outcomes will come true. Although being aware of possible negative outcomes can be helpful for planning ahead, when we believe the worst will come true, we set ourselves up for unnecessary stress and poor resilience.
One way to break this thought pattern is to wear a pendant or carry a stone or other small object with you. Every time you find yourself imagining the worst — about a person, situation, or outcome — analyze the object. Name it’s color, shape, and details. This is just the right amount of distraction to help you calm down.
2. Stop your negative thought cycles
Often when bad things happen, we get stuck thinking about negative outcomes. We repeatedly think about what we could have done differently in the past, or how we are going to mess up again in the future. We ruminate on these events, because we mistakenly believe that thinking about our hardships over and over again will help us solve them. Unfortunately, negative thought cycles just get us caught up in our thoughts, instead of taking the actions we need to move forward.
To put an end to these negative thought cycles, which have become well-worn pathways in our brains, we need to short-circuit our thoughts mid-cycle. To do this, we can create a behavioral break or an action plan for what we’ll do when our negative thought cycles get going.
Exercise seems to be a really effective behavioral break. But if exercise isn’t possible (maybe you’re at work or with other people), try to do something else that uses both your mind and your body. For example, you could excuse yourself for five minutes to practice deep, slow breathing. Deep breathing helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which can both calm you and switch off your stress.
3. Beat your fear of failure
Unfortunately, many of us avoid failure at all costs. We do so, because we are afraid of failure; we worry that people will think poorly of us if we fail, and we feel ashamed when we fail. But by treating failure like a disease to be avoided, we never give ourselves a chance to overcome challenges and practice resilience. As a result, we prevent ourselves from becoming more resilient. So how do you conquer your fear of failure so that you can start building resilience?
If you think failure is a threat, like many of us do, your body will prepare for a fight — and you’ll feel like you’re in a battle. On the other hand, if you choose to view doing something hard, something you could fail at, as a challenge, then you’re more likely to think you are capable of handling it. As a bonus, when you view things that you could possibly fail at as challenges, you actually will be more capable and less likely to fail at them.
To build this “challenge mindset,” reflect on past challenges that you’ve overcome. Let’s say you’re worried about starting a new job. Take a moment to think back to other goals you’ve achieved. Remind yourself that you have been successful at things in the past, even small things. When you remind yourself that you have succeeded before, you can help shift towards a challenge mindset.
Next, visualize success. By imagining yourself doing well, you shift your mindset to do well. On the other hand, if you ruminate about what could go wrong, your fear builds, and the failure you fear becomes more likely. Keep in mind that even if you are able to shift your brain to stop seeing something as a threat, you may feel nervousness or anxiety, but you’ll also experience positive physiological changes that can help you make better use of these negative emotions.
4. Find the benefits
Part of what makes challenges challenging is that we become myopic and only focus on the bad without seeing the good. So how do you find the benefits of failure?
Plenty of smart folks will tell you that you should reflect on your failures right after you experience them. But negative emotions can cloud your thinking. If you are still feeling upset about a failure, it may be harder to see the benefits or come up with effective solutions. If this practice is new to you, an easier way to start finding the benefits of challenges may be to look at past challenges — challenges that you’re no longer upset about. By practicing finding the benefits of past challenges, you can strengthen this ability so that it is easier to find the benefits next time.
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Being your authentic self can feel risky now in our screen-obsessed world. We’re just trying to fit in, be liked, and be accepted by other human beings. And as a result, the image we present (on our social media profiles and IRL) have become mere presentations of who we think we should be and not reflections of who we really are. So how do we take off the mask we’ve been wearing and start to live a life of authenticity?
1. Observe yourself objectively
Learn to observe yourself like a fly on the wall. Watch yourself, observing how the version of yourself that you show the world behaves, what it believes, how it reacts under pressure, and how it responds to challenges. Practice noticing which of these responses feel authentic, and which ones feel inauthentic. By identifying which responses are just “for show” vs authentic, you can begin to notice the falseness and begin to better see the truth underneath.
2. Examine family belief systems
Think back to episodes in your childhood, episodes that led you to stop being your authentic self and instead adopt some other way of existing in this world. By examining where our behaviors come from, we can learn a lot about our authentic selves.
3. Identify discrepancies
Try to become aware of discrepancies between your actions and your beliefs. If you catch yourself making a remark that makes you cringe, ask yourself whether you really believe the words you speak. Are you just saying these things because someone else taught you to?
If you acknowledge what is true for you now, then you can better live your life according to the needs of your Authentic Self. But that kind of authenticity requires self-awareness and self-honesty.
4. Examine your doubts
When exploring your Authentic Self, you may feel unsure of how to go about it. You may question whether it’s even possible to change what feels so deeply ingrained within you or is invisible to you. So keep an eye out for feelings of doubt.
Doubts can be like breadcrumbs that lead you to your Authentic Self. If you doubt something—a thought, behavior, emotion, experience—reflect for a face your fear
face your fears
moment to find whatever is underneath. Is your Authentic Self trying to tell it to “stop it?”
5. Face your fears
Humans tend to be most comfortable with what is familiar. The unfamiliar is often challenging, at least at first. Examining your inner core beliefs can be like exploring a foreign landscape you are unfamiliar with.
Our Authentic Self often has a lot of fear, sadness, and anger—our true selves were hurt and that’s why they hide. However, the difficult secrets we hide from ourselves are what make us who we really are. So as much as possible, and as slowly as you need to, courageously explore the truth of what makes you who you are. Identifying, experiencing, accepting, and letting go of these buried emotions is exactly what fuels your Authentic Self.
6. Explore your values
Integrity, ethics, and living our values is an effective way to live more authentically. The trouble comes when we are so far from our Authentic Selves that we do not even know what our values are. So explore your values and figure out some ways to start living them.
7. Love yourself
Because it takes self-love for our Authentic Selves to emerge, embedding more love and compassion within yourself is helpful. One way to increase your self-love is to set aside some time aside to take numerous deep breaths each day. You can add this into an existing meditation practice if you like.
Slowly deepen your breathing and when you are feeling fully relaxed and receptive, call love to yourself from your environment. Imagine each breath infused with loving energy. Whether as balls of energy, or bursts, or rays of light and love, invite love to enter your body via your breath. Draw love into your lungs and disperse it throughout your body, or send it directly to your Authentic Self. Keep breathing consciously until you feel the lightening and lifting energy of these “love breaths.”
Once filled with love, share some of it with friends or loved ones. Sending love to others tends to expand the love within!
Find out if Facebook is helping or hurting your happiness and well-being.
Did you know that the average Facebook user uses a combination of Facebook and Instagram an average of 50 minutes per day? That’s more time than the average person spends socializing with other people, watching sports, and almost as much time as we spend eating. So if you’re a Facebook user, it’s now important to ask yourself, “Is spending your time on Facebook actually making you happier?”
Using Facebook passively can make you like yourself less.
If you’re the type to just view what your friends are up to, read articles, and scroll down your wall, it’s likely hurting your happiness.
A few studies have shown that using Facebook passively like this can lead to upward social comparisons. When you compare yourself to the best qualities of others on Facebook, suddenly you like yourself less. You know, like when you see the accomplishments of your high-school friends and you start questioning whether you’ve done enough with your life. Or when you see the fancy, adventurous meals your co-workers are eating and then you wonder if you are boring because, let’s face it, you never do anything cool.
It’s human nature to compare yourself to others, but on Facebook, everyone is presenting the best versions of themselves. So you always compare upward and end up feeling like you’re not good enough.
Using Facebook passively can lead to envy.
Have you had that feeling? Like when you see the beautiful beach vacation that your friend went on with the love of their life. Or when your former classmate suddenly gets their dream job and you’re still struggling to make ends meet.
The little green envy monster can make you feel inferior, hostile, and resentful. These emotions can actually harm your social relationships instead of supporting them while making you feel miserable in the process.
But wait! Facebook can actually help some people be happier. So, when and why doesn’t Facebook make you miserable?
Using Facebook actively can help you feel more socially connected
If you’re the type of Facebook user to post regularly, use messenger to chat, and disclose personal details about yourself, you may feel happier with Facebook in your life.
It turns out that both targeted one-on-one exchanges and broadcasting (posting) can increase happiness. This type of Facebook use helps you build weak social ties into stronger ones, maintain social ties that would have otherwise ended, and enhance the bonds you already have with your inner circle. You may even feel connected to a larger community. As a result, you are likely to feel less loneliness and greater well-being.
To use Facebook or not to use Facebook
If you’re not sure how you use Facebook – or you’re just not the type of person who wants to post and disclose intimate details about yourself on your Facebook wall – you’re likely better off limiting Facebook use, or, dare I say it, quitting Facebook altogether.
Research has shown that on average, people feel worse from using Facebook for 20 minutes than they do from browsing the internet elsewhere. Another study suggests that taking a week off from Facebook boosts well-being. I once took a year-long break from Facebook and, if you ask me, it vastly improved my quality of life.
So if you’re looking for the easiest possible way to find out if Facebook is making you miserable, take a week off. Then ask yourself if you felt better. If it did, consider taking more time off.
Verduyn, P., et al. (2017). “Do Social Network Sites Enhance or Undermine Subjective Well‐Being? A Critical Review.” Social Issues and Policy Review 11(1): 274-302.
Even though there are tons of things you can do to live a happier life, here are 7 of the most important steps to growing your happiness. Give them a try to start living a happier life.
1. Find clarity.
How are you supposed to move your life forward when you don’t even know what you feel or why you feel it? To be happier, try to gain clarity on your emotions and then what caused those feelings.
3. Live your values.
When you start to explore yourself and your values, you may discover that you’ve known all along what would make you happy, but you’re just not doing it. To be happier, get clear on your values, so that you can live your life your way, according to your own principles and values.
4. Pay attention to the good.
Sure, sometimes life is hard. But by paying attention to the good, you can rise above your challenges and be more resilient. When you find the good, savor the moment, and bring it with you to maintain happiness even during hard times.
5. Use your imagination to create the life you seek.
Did you know that your brain has a difficult time differentiating between things that happen in your imagination and things that happen in real life? So when you imagine something — even happiness — your brain acts as if it’s real. We can use imagination to help create happiness out of thin air and enjoy our experiences more.
6. Stay mindful.
Sometimes we want to escape. The world seems dark and scary, but by practicing mindfulness we experience more fully both the positive and the negative — we are more fully engaged in our lives.
7. Explore what happiness means to you.
We all define happiness in different ways. When you know what happiness means to you, you’ll have an easier time finding it. So explore what happiness means, what it looks like, and what it feels like to you.
Is she mad at you? Is he in love with you? Here are some ways to find out.
How do you decode emotions in text messages? It’s easy when people say they are angry or sad or excited, or if they tack an emoji to the end of a text. But when they don’t? Given that even face-to-face communication can be confusing, it should not surprise us that these truncated, dashed-off messages can result in disastrous misunderstandings.
In the age of technology, we not only need to decode in-person interactions, but textual transmissions as well. How do we know what a person is feeling when we can’t see their faces or body language?
Here are six tips to get you started and help you better decode emotions in text messages, or at least prevent yourself from jumping to conclusions:
1. Assume good intentions.
Texts are a difficult medium for communicating emotion. We have no facial expressions or tone of voice or conversation to give us more information. And in general, text messages are short, offering us very little information to work with. A smiley face or series of exclamation points can help assure us that the text is meant to express positive emotion, but texts do not always include these indicators. Our friends’ busy schedules may lead to abrupt messages; similarly, our partner’s playful sarcasm isn’t always read as playful.
If a text doesn’t say, “I’m angry,” don’t assume that the texter is angry. We are better off reading a text with the assumption that the texter has good intentions. Otherwise, we may end up in a lot of unnecessary arguments.
2. Cultivate awareness of unconscious biases.
In my research, I have had to train numerous teams of emotion coders. But even trained coders who meet weekly to discuss discrepancies don’t agree on which emotion (or how much emotion) is being expressed. People just do not see emotions in the same way. We have unconscious biases that lead us to draw different conclusions based on the same information.
For example, every time I lead a coding team, I am reminded that males and females often differ in how they interpret others’ emotions. If Bob writes, “My wife missed our 10-year anniversary,” men may think Bob is angry, while women may think Bob is sad.
Our emotion-detection skills are affected by our personal characteristics. When it comes to detecting emotion in texts, try to remember that our unconscious biases affect our interpretations, and so the emotions we detect may be reflective of things about us as much as they are reflective of the information in the text.
3. Explore the emotional undertones of the words themselves.
The words people use often have emotional undertones. Think about some common words like love, hate, wonderful, hard, work, explore, or kitten.
If a text reads, “I love this wonderful kitten,” we can easily conclude that it is expressing positive emotions. If a text reads, “I hate this hard work,” that seems pretty negative. But if a text reads, “This wonderful kitten is hard work,” what emotion do we think is being expressed?
One approach to detecting emotions when they appear to be mixed is to use the “bag-of-words” method. This just means that we look at each word separately. How positive are the words “kitten” and “wonderful”? And how negative are the words “hard” and “work”? By looking at how positive and negative each word is, we may be able to figure out the predominant emotion the texter is trying to express.
4. Don’t assume you know how a person feels.
Text messages aren’t just short. They’re also incomplete.
With text messages, we are pretty much guaranteed to be missing information. We can’t help but try to fill in the gaps with the information we do have, and so we start thinking about how we would feel in the situation the texter is describing.
Unfortunately, there are huge individual differences in how people feel in any given situation. For example, if I grew up in poverty, earning $30 per hour might make me feel pretty darn good; but if I used to be a CEO at a Fortune 500 company, $30 per hour might make me feel dissatisfied or even depressed. The emotions that emerge in a given context, then, are highly dependent on our unique perspectives and experiences; this makes it very difficult for us to guess how someone else is feeling. Always ask yourself: Are you drawing conclusions based on emotional information provided by the other person, or making assumptions based solely on how you would feel in the same situation?
5. Explore your theory of emotion.
Academics are not the only ones with a theory of emotion; everyone has one, even you. We all have an idea about where emotions come from and what they mean. It might help to consciously explore your own (possibly unconscious) assumptions about how emotions work: Do you think feelings like anger and sadness are discrete and separable from each other, or do you think they can mix together?
Research suggests that we do tend to experience a greater amount of discrete emotions, like fear, in response to specific environmental triggers, like encountering a bear in the forest. That being said, the research also shows that when we are feeling one negative emotion, we are much more likely to be feeling other negative emotions as well. This evidence has important implications for interpreting emotions in texts. If you’ve successfully detected that a person feels sad, you can be almost certain that they are also feeling anxious or angry.
6. Seek out more information.
If you’re still unclear about what emotion is in a text, seek out more information. In an example above, Bob’s wife missed their 10-year anniversary. What if you asked Bob to tell you more? Bob might tell you that his wife died, and that is why she missed their anniversary. Suddenly, we may believe that Bob is feeling more sadness than anger. The bottom line is that you should try to avoid guessing. You need to ask questions, be empathetic, and try to see the world through the other person’s point of view.
Feeling really amped up or upset? Try these strategies to take back power over your emotions.
We’ve all been there: We’re freaking out about something that just happened to us — what someone did to us, said to us, or didn’t do for us. And we’re pissed or terrified, or defeated — our emotions have become overpowering. What do we do now to get our emotions under control when they’ve already gotten completely out of control?
Well, there are tons of ways to better manage our emotions in the long run — for example, we can develop positive thinking skills, reappraisal skills, and resiliency, but these skills require effortful practice over long periods of time.
Sure, learning these skills is a great idea, but what do we do right now to control our already out-of-control emotions? Here are some science-based tips:
1. Cut off the negative thought spirals.
When bad things happen, sometimes we get stuck ruminating about these events, thinking about what happened — or could have happened — over and over. Often it’s these ruminative thought cycles that drive our emotions up, and not the actual event itself. So to control these emotions, we usually just need to stop having the thoughts that are creating them. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
One strategy is to play “I Spy.” It might seem silly, but naming different objects you see around the room can help you redirect your thoughts to other more mundane things, so that your emotions can get a rest and start to calm down. Another strategy to redirect your thoughts is to get up, do something, or change your surroundings — for example, you could excuse yourself to go to the restroom, or if the situation allows, go for a short walk. This approach helps give you a moment to reset and take your thoughts in a new direction.
2. Take deep breaths.
“Take a deep breath” might seem like a simple platitude, but it actually activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm high-arousal negative emotions, like anxiety or anger. So breathing deeply is key when it comes to managing our more challenging emotions.
Because the brain has a harder time making good, rational decisions when emotions are in the driver’s seat, we are also likely to make better decisions if we take a few deep breaths first. So when emotions start to feel overwhelming, pause. Take a couple of deep breaths, and bring those intense emotions down a bit so you can carefully choose what to do next.
3. Generate some positive emotions.
Once you’ve calmed down somewhat, and you’re thinking clearly again, it’s helpful to try to infuse some positive emotions into the situation to help beat back those negative feelings. One way to do this is to look for the silver linings in whatever it is that’s bothering you. For example, did your boss tell you that you must redo the work you just did? A silver lining might be that this experience will help you become better at your job in the future. Or, are you upset about something your romantic partner did? This might be an opportunity to improve your communication skills and advocate for your needs in your relationship. It’s not always easy to find a silver lining, but if you can, it’s a good way to generate positive emotions.
Another way to infuse some positive emotions into the moment is with a funny video or inspiring photo. These little, positive things can help deflate even the most intense negative emotions. So if you’re feeling really down, do something that generates a little happiness, so you can start getting back to your normal self.
4. Practice acceptance.
It can seem counterintuitive to accept the things that are bothering us, but indeed, it is good advice to “accept the things you cannot change” when you want to control your emotions. No matter how upset we get, our emotions can’t change things that are unchangeable. So ask yourself: What part of this situation is unchangeable? Remind yourself to accept those things and focus your effort on the things you can change for the better.
5. Quit the caffeine.
Caffeine gives us energy. Of course, energy is good, but caffeine can end up producing nervous energy — energy that feels very similar to feelings of anxiety or panic. So if you’re feeling extra anxious, and you can’t figure out what’s causing it, it might just be the caffeine.
If you’re already feeling stressed about something, caffeine can exacerbate these emotions, in part because caffeine can negatively affect your sleep. When we don’t sleep well, we don’t manage our emotions as well, so our feelings can get out of control more easily. So limiting caffeine is another good way to keep those emotions in check.
6. Get some exercise.
If you’re still feeling all riled up and can’t seem to get a handle on your negative emotions, try exercise, because it turns out that exercise is an effective way to boost your mood. Do a few sprints, lift some heavy weights, or do some other activity that gets your heart rate up, because the higher the intensity of the workout, the greater the impact on your mood. The physiological changes that happen in your body make exercise a great solution for intense emotions that you’re having a hard time handling with other strategies.
Are you digitally connected but still feeling lonely? These strategies can help.
The great irony is that even though we are increasingly “connected”—on social media, video calling, and messaging—we feel lonelier than ever. And even though we may use technology to feel more connected, it may be exactly what’s leading us to feel lonely. That’s why it’s more important than ever to use these anti-loneliness strategies.
Connect face-to-face Connecting in real life may not be as easy as it once was. We often default to using our smartphones—it’s easier and culturally accepted. But we can decrease our loneliness if we build stronger face-to-face connections. We do this by looking people in the eyes, listening, being mindful, and choosing not to be distracted by our phones or other technologies. Even if we must connect face-to-face over video rather than in person, we can benefit from being able to witness social cues and keeping other technologies muted.
Be active online Instead of passively surfing the net or your social media, opt instead to do something that involves the active participation of other people. For example, you could play games with others, chat about something you care about, give advice on a forum, or have a video call with a friend. The more you interact with others while online, the more connected you are likely to feel.
Share for real online Somewhere along the way, the word “sharing” got co-opted on social media to describe what is really just “humble bragging.” We post about cool things we did, nice meals we ate, or a fun vacation we went on—all things that we didn’t actually share with the people who are viewing our posts. Instead of posting about things you did, reclaim the word “share” for what it really means—to give a small or large portion of what is yours to someone else. You could give advice, words of support, or even empathy, all from your smartphone. Your connections are likely to be more kind and supportive, and as a result, you’re likely to feel less lonely.
Capitalize on opportunities to connect with others When you feel good about something, share it with others right away by calling or texting a friend. Or share with the people you work with. Keep in mind that the positive things that you can share don’t have to be big. You could simply have woken up on the right side of the bed and think, “Hey, I’m feeling great today.” By sharing these moments, you create small moments of savoring and connection that can help you beat loneliness.
Rethink how you spend your spare time When we feel lonely, sometimes we just want to retreat into a corner and hide. Other times, our endless to-do list may leave us too exhausted to be social. But opting to be alone every night watching Netflix or playing on Facebook can really get us stuck in loneliness. If we instead use our loneliness to motivate us to reach out to people, then we can strengthen our relationships. By opting to cope with our loneliness by seeking out social support, we create more social moments with the people in our lives who matter to us, which usually reduces our loneliness.
Self-awareness involves monitoring our stress, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. It is important, because it’s a major mechanism influencing personal development. Our lives can get out-of-control pretty fast if we are unaware of how and under what circumstances our emotional nature is triggered.
How do we increase self-awareness?
Self-awareness requires self-examination. But that honest, non-judgmental self-analysis isn’t always easy. We tend to berate ourselves for our failings or fantasize about how great we are, when neither is actually the case. We all have a unique mix of “good” and “bad” traits, but we are largely unaware of them. In order to self-reflect objectively, we need to quiet our minds and open our hearts, forgiving ourselves for our imperfections and offering ourselves kudos when we deserve them.
So how do we build self-awareness?
1. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is similar to self-awareness in that they both relate to consciously directing our thoughts inward in order to become more aware of our inner state of being, to observe our thoughts and beliefs, and to notice what triggers our emotions as they rise and fall. Mindfulness includes focused attention in the moment to whatever one is doing, and involves practices such as meditation or a quieting of the mind.
2. Write in a journal
Writing our thoughts or stream-of-consciousness ideas can help us open up to those vulnerable places within. Writing sometimes reveals what contemplation does not, so this method of self-exploration may assist you in expanding your self-awareness. Telling your story, releasing your woes on paper, dreaming up your fantasy situation — these are ways your subconscious can speak to you, revealing what’s really “the matter.”
3. Be a better listener
“Getting out of ourselves” by focusing on another person is a good antidote to stop downward spirals of negative thinking. By listening objectively, even lovingly, to what that person wants to or needs to share, we learn how to better listen to our own inner dialogues and opinions objectively and lovingly.
4. Ask for feedback
Since we are with ourselves all the time, we may miss something when we look at ourselves. That’s where the objectivity of others can be most helpful in self-assessment. If you have the courage, ask a friend or acquaintance their opinion of you, or ask about how you managed some project you worked on together or how you handled yourself in some quirky situation.
Try to be resilient and willing to hear what they have to say. When some aspect of self is revealed that could use some additional refinement, be willing to look behind the obvious to its underlying secret or wound. When you find something that needs some re-tweaking, make a mental or written note to yourself to look at it later when you have some time alone for your self-care.
5. Walk in nature
The mind tends to wander along with our feet, so with a little conscious nudging (and walking), we can examine our part in something that is happening in our lives now — at work, in social situations, in our relationships, or within the family.
Strategies that boost positive thinking, according to science.
When you think positive you just can’t help but be optimistic, even when everyone around you is miserable. As a result, you are happier and more satisfied with your life. So how do you get your stubborn brain to start thinking positive?
1. Practice gratitude
I’ll be the first to admit that there are an infinite number of things to be angry, sad, or anxious about. But the truth is that there are also an infinite number of things to feel passionate, joyful, and excited about. It’s up to us to decide which we want to focus on.
One way to train your brain to focus on the positive is to practice gratitude. Gratitude is when we feel or express thankfulness for the people, things, and experiences we have. When we express gratitude at work, we can more easily gain the respect and camaraderie of those we work with. When we are grateful for our partners or friends, they are more generous and kind to us. When we are grateful for the little things in our day-to-day lives, we find more meaning and satisfaction in our lives.
Need to build a gratitude habit? Try these 5 ways to practice gratitude.
2. Savor the good moments
Too often we let the good moments pass, without truly celebrating them. Maybe your friend gives you a small gift or a colleague makes you laugh. Do you stop to notice and appreciate these small pleasures that life has to offer? If not, then you could benefit from savoring.
Savoring just means holding onto the good thoughts and emotions we have. You can savor by holding on to the emotions you’re feeling in positive moments. Or you can savor by thinking about positive experiences from long ago. Savoring is a great way to develop a long-lasting stream of positive thoughts and emotions.
3. Generate positive emotions by watching fun videos
The broaden-and-build theory suggests that experiencing positive emotions builds our psychological, intellectual, and social resources, allowing us to benefit more from our experiences and be happier. So how do we infuse our lives with small bursts of positive emotion?
One way is to watch positive or fun videos. Watching cat videos or inspirational videos can generate a quick boost of positive emotions that can help fuel an upward spiral of positive emotions. Just be sure to mentally hang onto the positive emotions that emerge using strategies like savoring, so that you take your good mood with you when you leave the couch. And be careful not to get sucked in for too long or you may end up feeling guilty for not getting more done.
4. Stop minimizing your successes
We have a bad habit of downplaying our successes and not fully appreciating our wins. For example, we may say, “I didn’t do as well as I wanted to.” But this fails to recognize the effort that you put in—effort that not everyone would put in. These phrases minimize your small successes instead of celebrating them. As you pursue positive thinking, happiness, or well-being—whatever your goal is—take note of your wins. After every small win, celebrate a little bit.
Discover what well-being is and why you can indeed increase your well-being.
Well-being is the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and ability to manage stress. More generally, well-being is just feeling well.
Well-being is something sought by just about everyone, because it includes so many positive things: feeling happy, healthy, socially connected, and purposeful. Unfortunately, well-being appears to be in decline, at least in the U.S. And increasing your well-being can be tough without knowing what to do and how to do it.
Can You Actually Improve Your Well-Being?
Increasing your well-being is simple; there are tons of skills you can build. But increasing your well-being is not always easy: Figuring out what parts of well-being are most important for you and figuring out how, exactly, to build well-being skills usually require some extra help.
How Long Does It Take to Improve Well-Being?
Usually when people start consistently using science-based techniques for enhancing well-being, they begin to feel better pretty quickly—most people show notable improvements within five weeks.
Butyou have to stick to it. If you are feeling better after five weeks, you can’t just stop there.
Why? Well, you probably already know that if you stop eating healthy and go back to eating junk food, then you’ll end up back where you started. It turns out that the exact same thing is true for different types of well-being. If you want to maintain the benefits you gain, you’ll have to continue to engage in well-being-boosting practices to maintain your skills. So it’s really helpful to have strategies and tools that help you stick to your well-being goals — for example, a happiness and well-being plan or well-being boosting activities that you can continue to use throughout your life.
Where Does Well-Being Come From?
Well-being emerges from your thoughts, actions, and experiences — most of which you have control over. For example, when we think positive, we tend to have greater emotional well-being. When we pursue meaningful relationships, we tend to have better social well-being. And when we lose our job — or just hate it — we tend to have lower workplace well-being. These examples start to reveal how broad well-being is, and how many different types of well-being there are.
Because well-being is such a broad experience, let’s break it down into its different types.
5 Major Types of Well-Being
Emotional Well-Being. The ability to practice stress-management techniques, be resilient, and generate the emotions that lead to good feelings.
Physical Well-Being. The ability to improve the functioning of your body through healthy eating and good exercise habits.
Social Well-Being. The ability to communicate, develop meaningful relationships with others, and maintain a support network that helps you overcome loneliness.
Workplace Well-Being. The ability to pursue your interests, values, and purpose in order to gain meaning, happiness, and enrichment professionally.
Societal Well-Being. The ability to actively participate in a thriving community, culture, and environment.
To build your overall well-being, you have to make sure all of these types are functioning to an extent.
Think of it like this: Imagine you are in a car. Your engine works great, and maybe your transmission works pretty well, too, but your brakes don’t work. Because your brakes don’t work, it doesn’t really matter how well your engine works; you’re still going to have trouble going about your life.
The same is true for your well-being. If everything else in your life is going great, but you feel lonely, or you’re eating unhealthfully, other areas of your life will be affected, and you likely won’t feel as well as you want to.
Because each part of well-being is important to your overall sense of well-being, let’s talk about how to build each type of well-being:
Emotional Well-Being. To develop emotional well-being, we need to build emotional skills — skills like positive thinking, emotion regulation, and mindfulness, for example. Often, we need to build a variety of these skills to cope with the wide variety of situations we encounter in our lives. When we have built these emotional well-being skills, we can better cope with stress, handle our emotions in the face of challenges, and quickly recover from disappointments. As a result, we can enjoy our lives a bit more, be happier and pursue our goals a bit more effectively.
Physical Well-Being. To develop our physical well-being, we need to know what a healthy diet and exercise routine looks like, so that we can implement effective strategies in our daily lives. When we improve our physical well-being, not only do we feel better, our newfound health can also help prevent many diseases, heal our guts, boost our emotional well-being, and limit the number of health challenges we have to deal with in our lives.
Unfortunately, it’s possible to eat healthy but still be unhealthy. We can accidentally miss important foods or nutrients. Or we can overburden ourselves with toxins from plastic or processed food. As a result, we may need to eat additional foods, detox our bodies, or prevent these toxins from entering our bodies again. This is why it’s essential to learn about health, so that we can make the right changes — those that lead to long-term health and well-being.
Social Well-Being. To develop social well-being, we need to build our social skills, like gratitude, kindness, and communication. Social skills make it easier for us to have positive interactions with others, helping us to feel less lonely, angry, or disconnected. When we have developed our social well-being, we feel more meaningfully connected to others.
It’s important to know that building social well-being is one the best ways to build emotional well-being. When we feel socially connected, we also tend to just feel better, have more positive emotions, and we are able to cope better with challenges. This is why it’s essential to build our social well-being.
Workplace Well-Being. To develop our workplace well-being, we need to build skills that help us pursue what really matters to us. This can include building professional skills which help us to advance more effectively, but it also includes things like living our values and maintaining work-life balance. These skills let us enjoy our work more, helping us to stay focused, motivated, and successful at work. When we have developed workplace well-being, our work, and therefore each day, feels more fulfilling.
Because we spend so much time at work, building our workplace well-being has a big impact on our overall well-being.
Societal Well-Being. To develop societal well-being, we need to build skills that make us feel interconnected with all things. We need to know how to support our environment, build stronger local communities, and foster a culture of compassion, fairness, and kindness. These skills help us feel like we’re part of a thriving community that really supports one another and the world at large. When we cultivate societal well-being, we feel like we are a part of something bigger than just ourselves.
Although each of us only makes up a tiny fraction of a society, it takes all of us to create societal well-being. If each of us did one kind act for someone else in our community, then we would live in a very kind community. Or if all of us decide we are going to recycle, then suddenly we create a world with significantly less waste. In order to live in a healthy society, we too need to contribute to making a healthy society.
There Is No Magic About Building Well-Being
Keep in mind, it takes time and effort to build any new skill set — that includes well-being skills. It’s important to be realistic with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish in a given amount of time. Having unrealistic expectations can lead you to give up before you’ve reached your well-being goals. So it’s key to create a realistic plan for your well-being, stick to it, and take small actions every day that add up to big improvements over time.
How to express more thankfulness in your daily life.
Thankfulness—which might also be referred to as gratitude or appreciation—is a positive, other-focused emotion (Emmons & McCullough, 2004). It generally involves positive feelings about another person’s actions, but it might just be for the other person’s existence—e.g., I’mjust thankful to have you!
Thankfulness may just be one of the best things we can do to improve both personal well-being and our relationships. Both expressing and experiencing thankfulness are linked with happiness and other positive outcomes (Bono, Emmons, & McCullough, 2004). So, the more often and intensely we feel thankfulness, the better.
Perhaps this is why psychologists have recently taken an interest in studying gratitude andthankfulness more deeply. One of the most rigorous ways they’ve done this is by creating gratitude interventions—interventions designed to teach people how to practice gratitude in their real lives. Numerous gratitude intervention studies have now shown the benefits of gratitude (Davis et al., 2016).
Some of the most common strategies used in these studies involve short activities—for example, the gratitude list, gratitude letters, gratitude journals, and listing 3 good things (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).
These are short and easy ways to boost well-being. Even though some people speculate that gratitude interventions may not be as efficacious as other more involved psychotherapeutic interventions, they may actually be more effective (Davis et al., 2016). That is, we’re more likely to actually do them so they work better in the long run and in real life. They’re easy, they’re fun, and they’re doable—and that’s what really matters.
Benefits of Being Thankful
According to the research, the benefits of gratitude may include:
● Having positive social interactions ● Recalling deeply meaningful memories ● Having easy, positive activities that can be done almost anytime, anywhere.
Importantly, cultivating gratitude appears to result not only in short-term benefits but in some sustained improvements in well-being over time (Davis et al., 2016). So here are a few phrases you can use when trying to be more thankful:
● “I appreciate you.” ● “I am grateful for this opportunity” ● “I just wanted to say thanks for _“ ● “You’re great!” ● “I’m so lucky to have you.” ● “You make my life better.” ● “I appreciate you doing .” ● “I appreciate you being _.” Whenever possible, try to focus more on appreciating who people are rather than what they do for you. These expressions of gratitude are often more beneficial for the person you aresharing them with. In Sum Taking a few minutes each day to be thankful can be an easy and effective way to boost your mood and strengthen your relationships. Hopefully, this article was a good jumping-off point to inspire you and get you started.
References ● Bono, G., Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2004). Gratitude in practice and the practice of gratitude. Positive psychology in practice, 464-481. ● Davis, D. E., Choe, E., Meyers, J., Wade, N., Varjas, K., Gifford, A., … & Worthington Jr, E. L. (2016). Thankful for the little things: A meta-analysis of gratitude interventions. Journal of counseling psychology, 63(1), 20. ● Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (Eds.). (2004). The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press. ● Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410.
What defines an introvert and how is it different from extroversion?
Are you naturally introverted? Or, perhaps you have an introverted friend or family member? If so, take a second to think about what it means to be introverted. Oftentimes, you’re told that being introverted is the same thing as being shy. But introverts simply prefer being alone over being with other people. This isn’t to say that they fear or dislike people, or that they are antisocial or lonely. Social gatherings are more tiring and overwhelming for introverts compared to extroverts.
Introversion Versus Shyness
Introversion is often confused with shyness. Someone who is introverted may appear to be withdrawn and shy, but this isn’t always the case (Carrigan, 1960). The only similarity between introversion and shyness is that they may both be characterized by limited social interactions.
People who are shy are generally fearful of social interactions and are incredibly self-conscious. Introverts, however, may socialize easily, but simply prefer to engage in social activities in smaller groups, or perhaps not at all.
When reading these, reflect on the communication style you use most. Are you mostly passive, assertive, or aggressive? Or perhaps you are passive in certain situations but aggressive in others?
Signs of Introversion
Although there are varying degrees of introversion, there are a few signs or traits that introverts are more likely to exhibit in general. For example, an introvert is likely to:
Enjoy solitude and feels energized by spending time alone
Be thoughtful and empathetic
Have a small group of close friends
Tend to keep emotions to themselves
Be quiet and reserved in large or unfamiliar social settings
Live in their head instead of talking it out
Be more sociable with people they know well (e.g., friends or family)
People who tend toward introversion are generally more reflective, private, and thoughtful, while extroverts are generally thought to be more assertive, adaptive, and sociable. However, the key difference seems to lie in how the person responds to social activities. Although introverts don’t necessarily dislike social events or outings, they often find them tiring and feel drained afterward. Extroverts, however, are energized by social events and find it more exhausting to be in solitude.
Although some people may characterize themselves as an introvert or extrovert, the distinction between the two is not as clear cut. Think about your own personality. Would you consider yourself a pure introvert or extrovert? This might be hard to answer because, in reality, many of us fall somewhere between both extremes. This is why introversion-extroversion is better conceptualized as a spectrum—personality falls somewhere within this range.
Jobs for Introverts
It’s reasonable to assume that extroverts are especially suitable for jobs that involve a lot of social interactions, such as teaching, management, sales, etc. For introverts, it might make sense to believe that they would work well at jobs with less social interaction, or jobs that are more independent and flexible, such as writing, accounting, or engineering.
One group of researchers decided to examine whether introverts make good leaders (Grant, Gino, & Hofmann, 2011). In their studies, leaders were instructed to act introverted or extroverted, regardless of their natural inclinations. They found that introverted leaders are more effective when leading proactive followers (that are usually threatening to extroverted leaders), whereas extroverted leaders are more effective when leading passive followers. As such, they suggest that introverts can make excellent leaders if the context is correct because they tend to be guided by personal values and can make challenging decisions without needing social approval from others.
Introversion is an important aspect of people’s personalities that can vary across individuals. Although some people may identify themselves as introverted or extroverted, this personality trait may better be viewed as along a continuum. Some people are naturally more introverted or extroverted, but most people tend to fall somewhere in the middle.
Carrigan, P. M. (1960). Extraversion-introversion as a dimension of personality: A reappraisal. Psychological Bulletin, 57(5), 329-360.
Grant, A. M., Gino, F., & Hofmann, D. A. (2011). Reversing the extraverted leadership advantage: The role of employee proactivity. Academy of Management Journal, 54(3), 528-550.
Find out about the theory and research behind this concept and how to avoid its ill effects.
Have you ever predicted something in your life that later occurred just the way you expected? Maybe it was that you knew you’d give a terrible presentation, and just as you’d predicted, your speech was a rambling mess. Or, a few months ago, you had a feeling that your significant other would soon lose their interest in you, and lo-and-behold, you are single again.
Sometimes we just have that feeling deep inside that we know precisely how something will play out or how someone – or ourselves – will behave in a specific situation. And when our predictions come true, we perceive them as evidence that we know how people act or how the gears of society turn.
But what if it is us and our beliefs that turn those gears and bring about the outcomes we expect? This may sound like a blurb of a science fiction novel, but it is a scientific concept we call a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this article, we’ll discuss the theory behind self-fulfilling prophecies and dig into the research about this concept.
What Are Self-Fulfilling Prophecies?
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief about a future event that leads people to act a certain way, ultimately bringing about the expected outcome. In other words, our expectations can come true by influencing our behaviors. A striking aspect of self-fulfilling prophecies is that these predictions may be divorced from objective reality at the beginning but have the power to alter people’s behavior in such a way that they become the new reality in the end.
Typically, a self-fulfilling prophecy consists of a three-step loop. The first step is the prophecy itself, which is a person’s belief about a future outcome. The second step of the loop is the behavioral response. This might be the attitude of the person, their behavior as a response to their predictions, or it may include the reactions of others. The third step is when the prophecy comes true due to the actions in the second step. Moreover, the occurrence of the anticipated outcome confirms the original belief and primes the person to hold on to the same notion in similar situations in the future.
The concept of self-fulfilling prophecies has been known for millennia, as there are many examples in mythology and literature of several cultures. In fact, the philosopher Karl Popper named this same phenomenon “the Oedipus effect” in his book The Poverty of Historicism (Popper, 1957) after the Greek mythology character, Oedipus, who fulfills a tragic prophecy by taking actions to avoid it. Nonetheless, the widely-used term “self-fulfilling prophecy” was coined in the mid-20th century by a sociologist named Robert Merton (Merton, 1948).
One of the most prominent examples of self-fulfilling prophecies in psychology research is the placebo vs. nocebo effect. Briefly, a placebo effect is observing a positive health outcome following an inactive treatment (Crum and Phillips, 2015). A nocebo effect is the opposite of this observation when the health outcome is negative (Crum and Phillips, 2015). In both cases, the health outcome is brought about by the power of belief; when the person believes they receive a beneficial treatment, they report positive changes to their health, but when they think they receive a harmful treatment, they report undesirable effects.
A classic experiment
In a classic experiment done in the 1960s, researchers chose two groups of students at random at an elementary school. They told the teachers that they identified the first group of students as “growth-spurters” who have a high potential for intellectual growth and the second group as the ordinary students who are expected to develop at an average pace (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968).
Eight months later, when the researchers revisited the classrooms, they administered IQ tests to both groups of students and discovered that the students in the growth-spurter group tested significantly higher even though they were equal before (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968). Upon further inspection, the researchers noticed that the teachers’ expectations of a student changed their behavior toward them, such as giving the growth-spurter kids more attention and support, which then was internalized by the students, altering their beliefs and actions, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy about students’ intellectual growth (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968).
Positive Versus Negative Effects
Self-fulfilling prophecies can have positive or negative effects, depending on the starting false belief. For instance, a placebo effect is a positive self-fulfilling prophecy, whereas a nocebo effect is a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. Similarly, a teacher’s opinion about a student can be positive or negative, affecting the student’s success by enhancing or weakening it.
Self-fulfilling prophecies are false beliefs that cause people to act in a certain way, which results in the occurrence of the original predictions. Sociology and psychology research have provided a lot of information about how self-fulfilling prophecies can affect individuals or populations, and there are numerous everyday examples of self-fulfilling prophecies we can learn from.
Crum, A., & Phillips, D. J. (2015). Self-fulfilling prophesies, placebo effects, and the social-psychological creation of reality. Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences, 1-14.
Merton, R. K. (1948). The self-fulfilling prophecy. The Antioch Review, 8(2), 193-210.
Popper, K. R. (1957). The poverty of historicism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The Urban Review, 3(1), 16-20.
We humans come in all shapes and sizes, both physically and psychologically. Some of us get irritated quickly, and others can’t be bothered by anything. Some of us look for an opportunity to chit-chat with the stranger sitting next to us on a long flight. Yet, some of us pretend to sleep so that we can avoid talking to our seatmates. Whatever you think is a natural way to behave might be completely strange to someone else.
Typically, our behavioral and emotional inclinations are apparent even as infants. You might have noticed this phenomenon with the small ones in your life or overheard others label their children, siblings, or other young relatives as shy, sensitive, easy, or difficult. These labels are just a few examples of temperaments.
Temperament is one of the many factors that influence our behaviors. Roughly, we can define temperament as the collection of our behavioral tendencies that determine our emotional and behavioral reactions to what’s happening around us. In short, temperament is the unique dispositional makeup of an individual.
So, what do we mean by a collection of tendencies or dispositional makeup? Our temperaments are multidimensional, consisting of several independent behavioral traits, such as sociability, emotionality, reactivity, attention, and persistence. We all have distinct inclinations for each trait, and the overall combination of our inclinations makes up our unique temperaments.
Let’s take sociability and emotionality, for instance. A person may be shy or outgoing, which is independent of whether they are sensitive or impassive. As you can imagine, a shy and sensitive person may perceive and react to a situation differently than her shy and insensitive friend or an outgoing and sensitive cousin. Therefore, the unique combinations of our personality traits provide the nuances of our emotional and behavioral reactions.
Modern Psychology Theory
We still use temperaments as a way to describe people’s behavioral and emotional inclinations. Yet, our understanding of temperaments has come a long way since antiquity. Psychologists define temperaments as “psychological tendencies with intrinsic paths of development” that reflect the personality traits of the five-factor model (McCrae et al., 2000).
So, if temperaments reflect the traits of the “big five personality traits” or other personality models, then are the concepts of personality and temperament interchangeable? Although some equate them or think of temperament as an element of personality, others acknowledge these two terms as related (yet distinct) concepts (Strelau, 1987).
Simply put, temperaments are our innate tendencies or our natural ways to feel and behave. In other words, temperaments are the collections of traits we are born with. Therefore, there is very little we can do to change our temperaments. Personality, however, encompasses the characteristic behavior and thought patterns of an individual that may be shaped and molded by our social interactions, education, economic status, and other circumstances and major events throughout our lives. Hence, one may think of temperament as reflecting the “nature” origin of our behavior, whereas personality incorporates “nurture” into how we act and think. Here is a brief video that explains temperament and personality.
Examples of Temperaments
Activity level: This temperament refers to how active a person is. For instance, some individuals feel the need to move constantly. These high-activity individuals tend to move from one physical activity to another. As children, they may have trouble sitting still in class and fidget with their pencils. In contrast, low activity individuals tend to enjoy calmer activities.
Biological rhythms: This temperament is associated with the regularity of fulfilling biological needs, such as eating and sleeping. People with regular rhythms tend to stick to routines and have predictable daily patterns. On the other hand, people with irregular rhythms might forget to eat a meal, feel sleepy sometime during the day or not feel sleepy past their bedtime.
Sensitivity: Sensitivity refers to the intensity of the perception of certain stimuli. For instance, highly sensitive people may be bothered by many sounds, textures, and bright lights that others don’t even notice.
Intensity of reaction: This temperament is associated with how strongly a person reacts to something. High-intensity individuals tend to have powerful reactions to even the slightest situations and create drama. In contrast, low-intensity individuals respond to even a major event as if it isn’t a big deal.
Adaptability: Adaptability indicates whether someone can easily adjust to changes in their environment. Highly adaptable individuals can handle unexpected changes with ease. However, slow to adapt individuals may need additional time to feel comfortable with the same change.
Approach/withdrawal: Similar to adaptability, this temperament refers to how people tend to approach new situations or changes. People with an approaching style can easily meet new people or try new things. Yet, withdrawing individuals may hang back, observe, and assess the new situation or people before joining in or taking action.
Persistence: This trait focuses on how long someone is willing to try and stick to a task. Persistent individuals tend to do whatever they can to reach the finish line. People with low persistence can be overwhelmed by the slightest challenge and give up easily.
Distractibility: This trait refers to whether a person tends to be distracted easily. Highly distractible people have difficulties paying attention to a task for long periods. They may also find it challenging to focus on a task when there are distractions in the environment. On the other hand, people with low distractibility can be absorbed in what they are doing, even in the loudest places.
Mood: Mood indicates the direction of our feelings. People with positive moods tend to see things from a brighter perspective and appear generally cheerful. In contrast, people with negative moods may have a gloomier attitude.
Temperaments are essential behavioral characteristics that make us who we are. Since temperaments are the behavioral inclinations we are born with, there isn’t much we can do to change them. Yet, knowing our temperaments may allow us to understand our strengths and weaknesses better. Similarly, understanding the temperaments of our loved ones can help us set realistic behavioral expectations.
McCrae, R. R., Costa, P. T., Jr., Ostendorf, F., Angleitner, A., Hřebíčková, M., Avia, M. D., Sanz, J., Sánchez-Bernardos, M. L., Kusdil, M. E., Woodfield, R., Saunders, P. R., & Smith, P. B. (2000). Nature over nurture: Temperament, personality, and life span development. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(1), 173–186.
Strelau, J. (1987). The concept of temperament in personality research. European Journal of personality, 1(2), 107-117.
Discover the Big Five Personality traits and how they influence behavior.
There are few things more complicated than human personality, but that hasn’t stopped psychologists from trying to describe and categorize it. In the field of personality psychology, one of the most enduring theories defines personality according to how much (or how little) we demonstrate each of five traits – known as the Big Five personality traits.
The five-factor model of personality, known as the Big Five Personality Traits, consists of extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience (sometimes just called openness), agreeableness, and conscientiousness (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Keep in mind that all of us fall somewhere on a spectrum from having very little to quite a lot of each trait. For example, we often call people high in extraversion extroverts, while somebody low in extraversion might identify themselves as an introvert. But many of us may fall somewhere in between.
Here’s a more detailed overview of each trait:
Neuroticism is how much negative emotion a person experiences and how much those emotions impact them. People who experience lots of depression, anxiety, or self-consciousness, for example, would be described as high in neuroticism.
Extraversion is the trait of being warm and enthusiastic in social interactions, and assertive and sensation-seeking in general. You can probably easily think of people you know who are high in extraversion – they tend to be the life of the party, talk more than others, and drive the activity in a group.
People high in openness to experience show curiosity and interest regarding a variety of ideas, values, ways of thinking, and behaviors. A person low in openness might hesitate to try a new restaurant, travel to a different country, or listen to a speech expressing a political perspective with which they don’t agree.
People high in agreeableness want to get along with others; they are trustworthy, modest, and generous with their time and resources. They may also hesitate to express opinions that would cause conflict or put their needs above those of others.
Finally, conscientiousness is the trait of being disciplined, orderly, and striving to do what is right. Think of your fellow student or work colleague whom you are certain would never cheat, intentionally manipulate others, or forget to complete a task.
Why are these five traits considered the Big Five? While psychologists disagree to an extent about the Big Five, there is a general consensus, driven by research, that the Big Five traits are a useful and effective way to think about personality (McCrae & Costa, 1990; McCrae & John, 1992).
This consensus is based on several scientific findings. First, research tells us that these traits are consistent. They are fairly stable over long periods of time (Cobb-Clark & Schurer, 2012); for example, your personal level of extraversion has likely not changed much over the course of your life. There also seems to be a genetic basis for these traits (Digman, 1990; McCrae et al., 2000), and they appear to be consistent across cultures (McCrae & Costa, 1997).
Second, when psychologists measure these traits, there is very consistent agreement. Research into how to best classify our characteristics suggests that it is best to organize our traits into these five dimensions (e.g., Soldz et al., 1993). Also, if you and the people close to you rated you on each of these traits, there would be a high level of agreement between you and your friends, family, or partner (Funder & West, 1993; McCrae & Costa, 1987).
Perhaps you are starting to get a sense of how much each trait applies to you. For example, you’ve probably thought before about whether you are more of an introvert or an extrovert. Let’s dive a bit deeper.
Where does your conscientiousness show most clearly? Where have you noticed that your conscience differs from that of others? Most of us are not Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela – what are the limits of your commitment to your morals?
To get a sense of your levels of neuroticism, you might ask yourself how often you find yourself experiencing negative emotions, compared to the people around you. Do things in your environment frequently make you irritated or anxious? Or maybe you often wonder what everybody else is so stressed about – in that case, you might be low in neuroticism.
Since you’re reading this article, you are probably higher in openness, but how open to experience do you think you are? Do you notice yourself sticking to your routines again and again, or are you the kind of person who gravitates to the newest food on the menu, the quirky-looking TV show, or the thrift store shirt that truly sticks out?
If you have a hard time answering these questions, consider asking someone who knows you well how much they think each trait applies to you. Remember, research has shown that our friends and family are pretty consistent reporters of our personalities (McCrae & Costa, 1987).
Try to hold back from judging yourself or others for whether you are high or low in each trait. Our personality traits are pretty stable and fundamental to who we are – you wouldn’t be your unique self if any of them changed!
Cobb-Clark, D. A., & Schurer, S. (2012). The stability of big-five personality traits. Economics Letters, 115(1), 11-15.
Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) professional manual. Psychological Assessment Resources.
Funder, D. C., & West, S. G. (1993). Consensus, self-other agreement, and accuracy in personality judgment: an introduction. Journal of Personality, 61, 457-467.
McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1987). Validation of the five-factor model of personality across instruments and observers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 81-90.
McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1990). Personality in adulthood. Guilford Press.
McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1997). Personality trait structure as a human universal. The American Psychologist 52, 509–516.
McCrae, R. R., Costa, P. T., Jr., Ostendorf, F., Angleitner, A., Hrebıckova, M., Avia, M. D., . . . Smith, P. B. (2000). Nature over nurture: Temperament, personality, and life span development. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 173–186.
McCrae, R. R., & John, O. P. (1992). An introduction to the five-factor model and its applications. Journal of Personality, 60, 175-215.
Soldz, S., Budman, S., Demby, A., & Merry, J. (1993). Representation of personality disorders in circumplex and five-factor space: explorations with a clinical sample. Psychological Assessment, 5(1), 41-52.
Discover the uses of this fundamental psychology theory.
Have you ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Perhaps it came up in an introductory psychology course you took or a popular media article on some topic in the social sciences that you read. Maslow’s idea is that some human needs are more pressing than others and that we can use this knowledge to understand what motivates human behavior.
In the middle of his career as a professor of psychology, Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs whose popularity and influence would lead to him to being the tenth most cited psychologist of the twentieth century (Haggbloom et al., 2002). Maslow studied both human and animal behavior, allowing him insight into both complex and very basic needs. In creating his hierarchy, Maslow (1943, 1954) first divided human needs into five categories: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. He then proposed that these needs could be ranked by how important or basic to human functioning they were. Finally, Maslow proposed that our ability to have these needs met would impact our psychological health. Specifically, he thought that our psychological health would be most negatively impacted by not being able to meet the more fundamental needs towards the bottom of the pyramid.
List of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (From Most Basic to Most Advanced)
I. Physiological Needs. These are the things that most, if not all, organisms need to survive, such as the ability to breathe, stay warm enough or cool enough, get sleep when we need it, and have enough food and water to survive.
II. Safety and Security. The second set of needs provides for our safety and security. This includes being physically healthy and having the physical and interpersonal resources we need to survive, such as a home to live in. For children, this means having a reliable caregiver that keeps them healthy and provides for their physiological needs.
III. Love and Belonging. Once safety and security are established, we focus on feeling connected to others, such as having a romantic partner and friends in our lives.
IV. Self-Esteem. Nearing the top of the hierarchy, our needs become centered on feeling good about ourselves. Are we recognized and respected for our contributions? Do people seem to like us for who we are or what we’re good at? We take these cues from other people and use them to support our positive beliefs about ourselves.
V. Self-Actualization. The most advanced need Maslow describes is that of being engaged in meaningful activities that align with our values and express who we are. Imagine a highly-paid and successful lawyer who does not find her work personally meaningful or believe in its purpose. Although all her other needs might be met, she likely would not feel she is self-actualized.
How did Maslow determine this order of needs? Maslow (1943, 1954) placed physiological needs as the foundation of the pyramid because they are mostly driven by automatic biological processes in the body. You never have to think very hard to determine if you’re sleepy, hungry, cold, or having trouble breathing, do you? These needs are so basic that, as Maslow put it, somebody who feels unloved, worthless, unsafe, and hungry, will probably want to address their hunger before any other need.
Maslow characterized the next level of needs as being related to safety and security, and he stressed that without these needs being met, we would start having trouble meeting our physiological needs. Maslow used the example of a child or infant’s experience to make this hierarchy clear: without access to a reliable caregiver, a child is unlikely to feel safe, and more likely to lack the food, shelter, and clothing they need.
Once people feel safe, Maslow reasoned, they next focus on belonging and love. Maslow observed that people who did not feel that they belong – who do not feel loved – are much more likely to have psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, or addiction. These psychological issues, in turn, make it harder to meet our needs for safety.
While being loved and knowing we belong is meaningful to us, the higher-order need that builds on this need is our desire to be seen as good for who we are and what we do. This meets our need for self-esteem and self-respect.
When all other needs are met, Maslow argued that we focus on doing the things that best suit us, that give us the most self-fulfillment. He called this self-actualization. While other needs look fairly similar from one person to the next, Maslow thought that this last need would be unique to each individual: only you can know what experiences will be most fulfilling for you.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has endured in economic, psychological, and sociological research and practice for years because it attempts to answer a fundamental question: what motivates us to address one need over another? Maslow’s hierarchy has been confirmed by psychology research to be generally true and helpful – all other things being equal, we will put our need to belong above our need to self-actualize, our need for safety and security above our need for self-esteem, and so on (Lester, 2013).
Haggbloom, S. J., Warnick, R., Warnick, J. E., Jones, V. K., Yarbrough, G. L., …, & Monte, E. (2002). The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Review of General Psychology, 6(2), 139-152.
Lester, D. (2013). Measuring Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Psychological Reports, 113(1), 1027-1029.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper & Row.
Discover the definition of identity and how it differs from personality.
Have you ever found yourself questioning who you are or your role in society? Do you think about what makes you unique? This kind of contemplation is only natural, and everyone deals with these existential questions occasionally to reassess or confirm their perception of themselves. After all, a person’s subjective sense of self is an essential factor that guides the way they carry themselves, who they associate with, and how they make certain decisions.
In the most general sense, we can define identity as a person’s sense of self, established by their unique characteristics, affiliations, and social roles. Moreover, identity has continuity, as one feels to be the same person over time despite many changes in their circumstances.
The seeds of identity are planted during a person’s childhood when their caregivers influence them the most. Yet, as individuals transition from childhood to adolescence, they start questioning who they are and how they fit in society. Hence, adolescents set out to discover their senses of self by experimenting with different roles and behaviors (Erikson, 1956). Although adults continue to reassess their identities throughout their lives, the changes to their identities are relatively small. Therefore, according to the famous psychologist Erik Erikson, this significant identity development during adolescence is essential for forming a solid self-concept and developing a direction in life (Erikson, 1956).
Identity vs. Role Confusion
The explorations during adolescence are vital for the development of our identities. However, this identity formation process isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds. For instance, some adolescents’ caregivers and social circumstances may restrict their abilities to experiment with different roles and identities. As a result, these adolescents may not fully discover a sense of self or a life purpose for a while.
Erikson calls the adolescence stage of self-discovery “identity vs. role confusion.” According to this notion, individuals form their identities after testing various roles, behaviors, and social strategies. When they can’t complete this stage effectively, it leads to role confusion (Erikson, 1956).
Simply, role confusion can be considered to be a lack of a solid identity. A person with role confusion may feel unsure about themselves and how they fit in society. Not knowing who they are meant to be or what they really want in life, they may struggle to settle into a career path or have healthy relationships. These experiences may lower their self-esteem and fulfillment in life.
Types of Identity
Racial identity refers to a person’s sense of belonging to a racial group, such as Asian-American, white, etc. This identity trait remains constant throughout a person’s life.
Ethnic identity indicates a person’s affiliation with a specific ethnic group, such as Japanese, Malaysian, etc.
Geographical identity is the identity that indicates the local affiliation of a person. For instance, a person living in the United States may identify as a Mid-westerner, Southerner, New Yorker, Texan, etc.
Sexual orientation is an identity trait that indicates the sexual preference of an individual, such as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc.
Family identity is made up of all the roles a person plays in their family life. Typically, a person has a primary role (i.e., daughter) despite having multiple functions at a given time (such as daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin). Yet, these roles, and thus a person’s primary family identity, can change over time as new functions are added to their repertoire (such as wife, mother, aunt, mother-in-law, grandmother, etc.).
Ability is a form of identity that reflects an individual’s ability/disability status. Non-disabled individuals may not feel the implications of this form of identity as much as persons with disabilities.
Body identity stems from a person’s body shape and size. Although some traits remain constant over time (i.e., height), others may fluctuate (i.e., weight, body shape, etc.)
Generational identity is also referred to as age identity. It reflects a person’s affiliation with an age group, such as child, adolescent, or elderly, among others.
The religious identity of a person reflects their spiritual belief system. People may be born to families that practice a specific religion. Yet, sometimes individuals adopt a different religious identity as they get older or become more or less religious.
Class identity of an individual reflects the social stratum they belong to, such as middle-class, upper-middle-class, etc. A person may not notice their class identity until they interact with someone from another social class.
Educational identity depends on the level of education a person has or the types of schools they have attended. Examples include ivy-league educated, high-school drop-out, private school student, and public school graduate, among others.
Career identity forms when a person selects a career path and may evolve with the changes to the person’s job titles and responsibilities. Some examples are doctors, scientists, teachers, superintendents, CEOs, artists, miners, etc.
Although the identities in this list are common, they aren’t the only ones we come across. Some identities are related to or encompass multiple types of identity or are frequently debated in our society.
A solid sense of identity means that you know who you are, what you value, and how you see yourself in society. There are many components of our identities, such as religious, political, and gender, among others, and knowing yourself fully is essential to feel integrated into society.
Erikson, E. H. (1956). The problem of ego identity. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 4, 56–121.
Learn about cognitive distortions and how to challenge them.
Try to recall the last time you were waiting for a friend, or maybe your partner, to join you for dinner. As you sat at the restaurant, resisting the urge to check your phone, did you have a thought such as, “they always do this”, or “they’re never on time”? If so, you were experiencing a cognitive distortion – an immediate and inaccurate thought about a situation.
It’s unlikely that your partner or friend is late every single time you make dinner plans. If I had asked you the day before about their punctuality, you might have said that they are usually on time. In the moment, though, you experienced a very human – and very impactful – phenomenon.
Cognitive distortions are unrealistic, irrational or automatic thoughts. Sometimes we can catch a cognitive distortion as it’s happening or recognize it in hindsight; often we carry on with our lives without recognizing the inaccuracy of the thought. The more that we perceive these thoughts as truthful, the more difficult our lives are likely to be, as these distortions make us see the world as a more negative or dangerous place than it really is.
Causes of Cognitive Distortions
The idea of cognitive distortions took its current form with the creation of cognitive therapy (Beck, 1963). Coming from a long tradition of philosophical traditions that have tried to understand how thinking and feeling interact (Ellis, 1962), cognitive therapy tells us that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interrelated (Beck, 1964). Experiencing a certain emotion, for example, can lead us to a thought that would not have been prompted by a different emotion.
While we can change our thoughts to change our emotions, it is also natural and automatic for us to think after we feel. Emotions are generated by older and more primitive parts of the brain than the more cognition-oriented brain regions, and those older parts evolved not to be logical, but to keep us alive (Gilbert, 1998). Most cognitive distortions are related to experiences of negative emotions, such as feeling threatened (Beck, 1963), and with good reason: we have evolved to make quick decisions about whether we are safe, so we can take quick action to protect ourselves.
In other words, our brains evolved to bypass slow, logical thinking when immediate, gut reactions are required (Krebs & Denton, 1997). This is especially true when our brains aren’t fully developed; in fact, it is as children that we first develop these cognitive distortions (Beck, 1963).
Types of Cognitive Distortions
Here are some types of thinking errors (Burns, 1980). How many of these can you recognize from your own thinking?
All-or-nothing thinking: All-or-nothing thoughts (sometimes called black-and-white thinking, too) categorize the world into absolutes, leaving out the possibility of any gray area.
Mindreading: When we mindread, we assume that somebody else is having certain thoughts, often negative, about us. Anytime you’ve decided your partners, supervisor, or even just a person on the street is judging you – without consulting them to find out whether it’s true – you’re engaged in mindreading.
Catastrophizing: When you create a disaster scenario in your head, based on little or no concrete evidence that the event will actually happen, you are catastrophizing.
Emotional reasoning: We engage in emotional reasoning when our thoughts are driven by our emotions, not objective facts.
Labeling: When you classify yourself as a categorically bad or unworthy person because of one event that happened, you are engaged in labeling.
Mental filtering: Cognitive distortions can be driven by focusing only on negative information and ignoring or devaluing positive information.
Overgeneralization: Similar to catastrophizing, overgeneralizing means expecting more bad things to happen because one negative event has occurred.
Personalization: The act of blaming yourself for events that you aren’t (fully) responsible for is called personalization.
Should statements: Thoughts based on the idea that the world “should” or “shouldn’t” be a certain way are cognitive distortions, too.
Disqualifying the positive: When you dismiss positive things that have happened, you are distorting the way things are.
If you have identified a thought that you think might be a cognitive distortion, ask yourself some of these questions:
How do I know what I’m thinking is true? Simply “feeling like” it’s true isn’t enough. What is the evidence that someone else, who isn’t feeling the way you are and isn’t in your situation, would see or not see? If you’re thinking, “I am a bad person,” what is all the evidence that you have both positive and negative qualities? Cognitive distortions usually have very little concrete evidence — things other people would agree are facts — to support them.
What other explanations might there be? Would you feel this way if you were experiencing a different emotion? How much of this situation is truly in your control (and what’s your evidence for that?)?
What’s the worst that could happen? How likely is that to actually happen? How would you deal with it if it did happen?
Ultimately, the goal is to recognize that the thought is a distortion in some way, and then come up with a different coping thought that successfully challenges the cognitive distortion.
Cognitive distortions are an inevitable part of our daily lives, and they’re often thoughts with a history, going back years. Each of us can catch some of these thoughts and expose their distorted natures – and now you know some useful tools for doing that.
Beck, A. T. (1963). Thinking and depression: I. Idiosyncratic content and cognitive distortions. Archives of General Psychiatry, 9, 324–333.
Beck, A. T. (1964). Thinking and depression: II. Theory and therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 10, 561–571.
Burns, D. D. (1980). Feeling good: The new mood therapy. New York, NY: Signet.
Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy.New York: Lyle Stuart.
Gilbert, P. (1998). The evolved basis and adaptive functions of cognitive distortions. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 71, 447-463.
Krebs, D. L. & Denton, K. (1997). Social illusions and self-deception: The evolution of biases in person perception. In J. A. Simpson & D. T. Kendrick (Eds), Evolutionary Social Psychology, pp. 21-47. Hill
Want to write a personal mission statement? Here are some tips.
A personal mission statement is a written declaration of our unique direction or purpose. This statement makes it clear not just what you intend to do in this world, but how you intend to do it. It’s sometimes just one sentence, but it can be as long as you want.
Each of us has our own unique values, purpose, and desired direction, but often we don’t know exactly what they are. That’s why we can benefit from having a mission statement—something that gives us clarity about how we want to live our lives and ultimately achieve personal fulfillment and well-being. Writing a mission statement can help us get clear on our values and better understand whether we are spending our time in the best ways. It can also provide a sense of inner stability during times of change (Searight & Searight, 2011).
What’s Your Personal Mission?
Many of us have spent little time thinking about our personal mission in life. We’re too busy dealing with immediate, urgent tasks to think about what we want to do in this life and where we want to end up. As a result, we might feel this low level of discontent—we know the way we are living our lives is not making us happy, but we’re not sure why. Thinking about our mission can be one way to begin to resolve this discontent.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to explore your mission:
What impact do you want to have in the world?
How do you want to make an impact?
Who do you want to have an impact on?
What makes you feel most happy and alive?
Answering these questions can help you gain more clarity on your life’s mission.
Tip: Think of the end and work backward
Another way to gain more clarity on what you want to do in life is to think about the end of your life and what you hope to have accomplished. Then, work backward. Some people have suggested that we could imagine attending our own funeral. Think about what would be said in the eulogy and whether it reflects your values and goals (Searight & Searight, 2011). If you find that the eulogy of today’s version of you isn’t what you really want, clarify for yourself what you do want and consider how your mission statement may guide you to that end goal.
What are Your Values?
Next, ask yourself, what are your values? That is, what are the underlying traits, beliefs, or experiences that drive you and make you feel like you?
Some values might be Love, Freedom, Creativity, Kindness, Adventure, Loyalty, etc…
Make sure that your mission reflects these values so that you don’t end up pursuing a goal in ways that are not a good fit for your values. This way you’ll have a better chance of feeling more fulfilled as you strive to achieve your mission.
What Are Your Goals?
In addition to your values, it can be helpful to get even more clear on your goals. It can be easy to focus on short-term goals, but thinking about medium-term and long-term goals can help you make sure your short-term goals don’t lead you astray.
Ask yourself a few quick questions about your goals:
What do you want to have accomplished in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
Where do you want to be in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
How do you want to be spending your time in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
Take a moment to think about your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals like a pathway. Ask yourself, how will your current goals lead to medium-term goals, and how will those lead to your longer-term goals?
Write Your Personal Mission Statement
Sometimes a personal mission statement is just one sentence. In that case, it could be:
To do [X Action] for [Y group of people] to [have Z impact] with [optional: other details].
It’s okay to revise, rewrite, or make it longer. For most of us, creating a personal mission statement takes some work. This process doesn’t have to be a “one and done”. In fact, it is quite common for personal mission statements to change and evolve over time, just as we do (Li, Frohna, & Bostwick, 2017).
Li, S. T. T., Frohna, J. G., & Bostwick, S. B. (2017). Using your personal mission statement to INSPIRE and achieve success. Academic pediatrics, 17(2), 107-109.
How do you create a happy, healthy relationship? Read on to find out.
In psychology, many researchers conceptualize relationship quality in terms of how satisfied each partner is in the relationship. This focuses on the hedonic dimension of the relationship (pleasure or happiness). But of course, there is more to healthy relationships than how good you feel. For example, relationships can be a source of meaning, which may include commitment, sacrifice, and personal growth (Fincham et al., 2007; Stanley et al., 2006; Finkel et al., 2014).
To better understand your own relationship quality, you might explore:
Meaning: Is the relationship is a source of meaning?
Personal growth: Is the relationship is a key source of inspiration, support, and encouragement for self-development?
Goal sharing: Does the couple have shared goals and to also support and celebrate each other’s independent goals?
Relational giving: Does each partner prioritize the other partner more than themself?
Although it’s important to learn how to identify when a relationship is going well, it’s just as important to look out for signals that a relationship is not going well. Researchers have identified four key aspects of communication that can contribute to unhealthy relationships (Gottman & Levenson, 2000)
1. Criticism. When you criticize someone, you are attacking them to the core of their character. This is different from offering a helpful opinion or voicing a complaint.
2. Contempt. Contempt goes beyond criticism as it encompasses your moral superiority over the other person. This can include mocking them, ridiculing, calling them names, mimicking their body language, or scoffing. The intention is to make them feel despised or unworthy, which is a terrible feeling to instill or receive from someone.
3. Defensiveness. It’s natural to be defensive sometimes, especially if you’re particularly stressed or tired. Sometimes you might feel that you’re not receiving the right treatment or you might play the victim so that the blame is no longer on you. But defensive responses often shift the blame onto the partner, which usually isn’t the best way to go. It tells the other person that you may not be taking them seriously and that you won’t own up to your mistakes.
4. Stonewalling. Stonewalling is often in response to contempt. This happens when the listener who is receiving sarcastic remarks or ridiculing comments ends up shutting down and no longer responds to the partner. They ‘stonewall’ the partner and try to avoid confrontation by acting busy, disengaging from the conservation, or simply leaving their presence.
How to Build Happy Relationships
1. Develop a strong emotional connection: According to psychology research, one of the most important predictors of a healthy relationship is being emotionally responsive (Lemay et al., 2007). This involves sending cues (e.g., verbal, physical) to your partner and having them respond to it (e.g., soothing, encouraging, etc).
2. Be vulnerable with each other: When partners open up to each other, this helps develop and strengthen mutual trust.
3. Be honest: This can go hand-in-hand with vulnerability, but also encompasses other forms of communication. A healthy relationship will likely not be based on lies.
4. Have ‘healthy’ conflicts: Conflicts are inevitable in any relationship, but how you go about dealing with them is essential.
5. Try something new. This is especially helpful if your relationship feels stale, and it can reignite the spark (e.g., going to a new restaurant for date night).
6. Solve problems as a team: This can help strengthen your identity as an “us” instead of a “me” and “you” and develop your problem-solving skills together (e.g., this can range from an escape room to asking your partner for help with a problem at work).
7. Talk about your goals and dreams: Sharing similar hopes and values can help you reignite what attracted you to each other in the first place.
Relationships require work from each partner, and it’s normal for relationships to go through hard times. By using the strategies outlined here, you can improve your relationships and hopefully keep them going strong.
Fincham, F., Stanley, S., & Beach, S. (2007). Transformative processes in marriage: An analysis of emerging trends. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 275-292.
Finkel, E. J., Hui, C. M., Carswell, K. L., & Larson, G. M. (2014). The suffocation of marriage: Climbing Mount Maslow without enough oxygen. Psychological Inquiry, 25, 1-41.
Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2000). The timing of divorce: Predicting when a couple will divorce over a 14‐year period. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(3), 737-745.
Lemay Jr, E. P., Clark, M. S., & Feeney, B. C. (2007). Projection of responsiveness to needs and the construction of satisfying communal relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(5), 834.
Stanley, S. M., Whitton, S. W., Sadberry, S. L., Clements, M. L., & Markman, H. J. (2006). Sacrifice as a predictor of marital outcomes. Family Process, 45, 289-303.
Learn why some of us feel so rejected and how to cope with it.
Have you recently been rejected? Rejection involves being excluded from a social relationship or interaction. It can be active—for example in acts of bullying or teasing. Or it can be passive—for example in the acts of giving the silent treatment or ignoring someone (DeWall & Bushman, 2011). We might respond to rejection with feelings of hostility, dejection, withdrawal, and even jealousy (Downey & Feldman, 1996).
Although rejection is often deliberate—that is, the rejector does it on purpose—it doesn’t have to be. We actually differ in the extent to which we are sensitive to rejection and may think that someone is rejecting us when they are not. For example, the lack of a smile or laughter at our jokes may be perceived as rejection even though the person is not intending to reject us.
We feel rejection because human beings have a fundamental need to belong. Some believe that this is because in our history, being part of a group helped us survive. Those of us who were more group-oriented were more likely to survive. This may explain why modern humans are all very group-oriented (DeWall & Bushman, 2011) and why we try to avoid rejection whenever possible.
And rejection is indeed quite unpleasant. Some fascinating research shows that social rejection actually feels similar to physical pain. It activates regions of the brain involved in both the sensory components of pain and the emotional components of pain. The more intense the rejection, the more intense the pain response. Specifically, thinking about a recent romantic relationship breakup elicited both emotional and physical pain responses in the brain (Kross et al., 2011). So, when people say rejection is painful, they really mean it!
What Is Rejection Sensitivity?
It turns out that we differ in the extent to which we perceive and react to rejection. While some of us might perceive our friend’s failure to invite us to lunch as a rejection, others may rationalize that they forgot or didn’t realize we would want to come.
Those of us who tend to notice when we are rejected in even the smallest ways—or even perceive that we are being rejected when we are not—are said to be rejection sensitive. Therefore, rejection sensitivity is defined as the tendency to “anxiously expect, readily perceive, and overreact to rejection” (Downey & Feldman, 1996). This tendency to be rejection sensitive likely arose in childhood as a result of rejection from parents or others in our environment.
How to Deal With Rejection
Regardless of whether we are rejection sensitive or not, we can benefit from learning to deal with our rejection in healthier ways. This can help us decrease both the emotional and physical pain that accompanies rejection. We might use these strategies to handle job rejection, rejection in romantic relationships, and social rejection from friends or family. Here are some science-based tips:
Write about your rejected feelings. Research suggests that writing about your feelings and the potential implications following an experience of rejection may be an effective way to process those feelings more quickly and move past them (Rude, Mazzetti, Pal, & Stauble, 2011).
Practice accepting rejection. Accepting rejection (versus evaluating it or describing it) may help decrease negative emotional responses more quickly (Rude, Mazzetti, Pal, & Stauble, 2011). Acceptance does not mean being a “doormat” or tolerating an unhealthy situation. Acceptance simply means that you acknowledge and accept yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions. Then from a place of acceptance, you can take action if needed.
Focus on the positive. Although rejection can feel terrible, some evidence suggests that it can make positive emotions more accessible (DeWall et al., 2011). This may mean that trying to increase positive emotions—for example by doing an activity you enjoy—may be beneficial.
Try emotionally distancing yourself from the rejection. Emotional distancing involves imagining your rejection as if you were a fly on the wall or a stranger on the street. When you take a look at your situation from an outsider’s perspective, it can help the negative emotions dissipate more quickly (Ayduk & Kross, 2010).
Rejection hurts and it’s unpreventable. Luckily, there are some things we can do to diminish the pain or reduce how long it lasts. Hopefully, the tips here will help you deal with rejection more easily.
Ayduk, Ö., & Kross, E. (2010). From a distance: Implications of spontaneous self-distancing for adaptive self-reflection. Journal of personality and social psychology, 98(5), 809.
DeWall, C. N., & Bushman, B. J. (2011). Social acceptance and rejection: The sweet and the bitter. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(4), 256-260.
DeWall, C. N., Twenge, J. M., Koole, S. L., Baumeister, R. F., Marquez, A., & Reid, M. W. (2011). Automatic emotion regulation after social exclusion: Tuning to positivity. Emotion, 11(3), 623.
Downey, G., & Feldman, S. I. (1996). Implications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships. Journal of personality and social psychology, 70(6), 1327.
Kross, E., Berman, M. G., Mischel, W., Smith, E. E., & Wager, T. D. (2011). Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(15), 6270-6275.
Rude, S. S., Mazzetti, F. A., Pal, H., & Stauble, M. R. (2011). Social rejection: How best to think about it?. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 35(3), 209-216.
The different types of life goals and how you can set yours.
Life goals are the desired states that people seek to obtain, maintain or avoid (Nair, 2003). Our lives include many different pieces so life goals can include relationship goals, career goals, financial goals, and more.
Why We Might Set Life Goals
Researchers believe that the reason we set life goals is to resolve “discontent” with aspects of our present situation. Indeed, we may want something in our lives to be different—our relationship, career, or health, for example. And indeed, the simple act of setting a goal makes it more likely that we will reach it.
How to Set Life Goals
Setting specific and slightly difficult goals—like “I will run a marathon by running a little further each day for a year”—tends to go better than setting vague or abstract goals, like “I’m going to be rich!” Commitment to the goal also seems to help us achieve it. And getting feedback from others and tracking our progress also help us achieve our goals (Locke & Latham, 2006).
To set effective life goals, we can use the “SMART” acronym. Although there are some variations in what SMART stands for (Rubin, 2002), here is one example:
T: Trackable (or time-based)
What Are Short-Term and Long-Term Life Goals?
Achieving easier, shorter-term goals can help us feel like we’re making progress and motivate us to keep going towards long-term goals. That’s why it can be helpful to break longer-term goals up into a bunch of short and mid-term goals—things that we could accomplish in an hour, day, or week. For example, if I want to go to college, I might study for the SAT one hour per day for several months. Over time, these short-term goals allow me to accomplish my longer-term goal.
Turning Life Goals Into Objectives
Most short-term goals can be broken down even further into objectives—or actionable parts. For example, if my goal is to get into college, I might plan to study an hour per day (a short-term goal), but what I do during that time would be to accomplish my objectives. I might complete 10 math problems, memorize 10 vocabulary words, and quiz myself each evening on my vocabulary works. Those would be my objectives.
Examples of Life Goals
Career Goals. Career goals are goals that have to do with your work or maybe even your purpose. Career goals might involve achieving a particular title, income, role, position, or employer.
Financial Goals. Financial goals might help us live our values, change our lifestyle, take care of our families, or even promote the well-being of others in some way.
Relationship Goals. Regardless of whether we are in a romantic relationship, we might have goals about the quality or function of our closest relationships.
Wellness Goals. Your life goals might include fitness, body, health, or emotional wellness goals—things you’d like to change to feel better or healthier.
Educational Goals. We might have a life goal of getting an education, perhaps as a precursor to pursuing a particular career.
Other Personal Life Goals. Most of us have other life goals unrelated to the big categories. For example, I have a goal of living mostly sustainably. What about you? What are your other life goals?
Getting good at a hobby or sport
Spending more time doing your favorite things
Developing a new skill
Cultivating a soft skill like listening, resilience, or emotion regulation
Getting to know new people
Create a list of goals.
For each goal, break it down into smaller steps.
Plan out how you’ll take these smaller steps.
Think about how you’ll overcome barriers that block your goals.
Be kind to yourself along the way.
Setting life goals can be good for us. If we take just a little more time to set the right goals in the right ways, we’ll have a greater chance of reaching those goals and manifesting some of our dreams.
Nair, K. S. (2003). Life goals: the concept and its relevance to rehabilitation. Clinical Rehabilitation, 17(2), 192-202.
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New directions in goal-setting theory. Current directions in psychological science, 15(5), 265-268.
Rubin, R. S. (2002). Will the real SMART goals please stand up. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 39(4), 26-27.
Need a more creative way to think through your goals? Vision boards may help.
What Is a Vision Board? A vision board is usually a collage of images that represent goals and dreams. It can include cut-out pictures from magazines and words that help inspire you to manifest your dreams and get where you want to go.
Although vision boarding is a commonly used tool, there is not a lot of research on its effectiveness. Initial research suggests it can help us more easily reach our goals. This may be due to how vision boards help us gain self-awareness and self-reflect on what is important to us. Vision boards may also help us imagine what a positive future could look like for us. Imagining a positive future is a helpful way to increase positive emotions and optimism. And positive emotions often create opportunities and increase the chances of success.
Even though this research doesn’t directly assess the benefits of making a vision board, it suggests that many of the components of vision boarding have potential benefits for our well-being and success. It’s just key to remember that vision boards are not magic. Rather, they can help you better understand what it is you’d like to manifest.
How to Make a Vision Board Start by exploring your values. If your goals are not aligned with your personal values, achieving these goals won’t provide the sense of satisfaction and well-being that you’re seeking. Ask yourself, what really matters to you? What gives you meaning? Who do you want to be? Who do you want to help? And how do you want to spend your time? When making a vision board and thinking through your goals, keep these values-focused questions in mind.
Think about what motivates you. If you pursue goals that you find motivating, you’ll have an easier time reaching them. So ask yourself, what do you want and why do you want it? Does it have anything to do with your childhood or past experiences? Does it have to do with your personality?
Try to better understand why the goals you’ve set are so important to you. Or revise them if you discover they are not as important as you once thought.
Set priorities. Sometimes vision boards can end up being a collection of all the goals we aspire to—being rich, beautiful, and successful. If we really want to achieve these goals, we need to be more realistic with them. What can we reasonably accomplish in a year or five years? You can visualize your priorities by focusing a vision board on your most important life goals or by placing them above, in the center, or over a greater majority of the board.
Potential Problems With Vision Boards Vision boarding is somewhat controversial in the scientific community. Because vision boards are often associated with the “law of attraction,” which doesn’t have scientific support behind it, many assume vision boards are not a useful tool.
It’s true that we don’t fully understand the precise benefits of vision boards, but the truth is we don’t understand the precise benefits of many tools that are used in coaching, counseling, and psychotherapy. That’s because testing each one of these tools without the others is quite burdensome research. Anyway, given we know that the very act of setting goals is better than not setting goals, vision boards are indeed likely to be a useful tool, at least for some people.
Vision Board Ideas Here are some types of goals that you may want to include in a vision board. ● Career ● Money ● Love ● Health ● Travel ● Social Goals
You can include all of these or make a vision board for each goal, focusing on the details of each. It’s up to you. Now it’s time to get creative.
● Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Positive interventions: An emotion regulation perspective. Psychological bulletin, 141(3), 655. ● Burton, L., & Lent, J. (2016). The use of vision boards as a therapeutic intervention. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 11(1), 52-65. ● Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?. Psychological bulletin, 131(6), 803.
How do you set the right priorities for you? Here are some tips and guidance to help you clarify your top priorities and stick to them.
Do you know what is high-priority for you? Or do you feel like everything is high-priority and don’t know what to do first? Or, are you just too plain busy to ever get to the high-priority stuff? If you’re reading this, then you’re likely looking for more help figuring out your priorities. Don’t worry, we can help.
What, Exactly, Is High-Priority?
What, exactly, is high-priority? Well, the answer depends on who you ask and which aspect of life we’re looking at. Are we talking about work priorities, relationship priorities, family priorities, or figuring out which is the highest priority of these high priority items?
To start, let’s take a look at each of these life domains to better understand different types of priorities, how they fit together, and how they may compete with each other.
To set priorities for work, make a list of the major tasks that you need to accomplish. Then list these tasks in order of importance. Be sure to also note whether one task needs to come before another or is dependent on another task being completed first. For example, maybe you need a website before you can start selling things in your online business.
Maybe there are some people we want to see more than others. Or, maybe there are certain activities that we feel are more important to ensure the success of our romantic relationships and friendships. Some examples of relationship priorities could also include: being honest, making time for fun, practicing kindness, or talking about fears and difficulties.
What are the highest priority actions you need to take to ensure your family is taken care of? This might depend a lot on whether you have kids, aging parents, or a small family. So take a moment to think about high-priority actions within your family. Remember, your priorities don’t necessarily have to be engagement related. For example, your priority may be to set boundaries or take time off rather than spending a lot of time with family. Everyone is different.
Do you have other priorities related to your mental or physical health, finances, purpose, or personal growth? Think about what these priorities are.
What Are Your Top Priorities?
Now that you’ve thought about your priorities in each of the life domains, you’re probably now wondering, How do I prioritize my priorities?!
Well, pause here to look over or think about your top priorities in each life domain. Combine these into one long list. Put the most important things at the top to hopefully get a sense of which things are most important to you. This can be a bit tricky, so try not to be too hard on yourself—just do the best you can. Your priorities might also change over time, and that’s okay too.
Managing competing priorities
There are only so many hours in the day. If we spend all day doing our top priority, then we’ll have no time for our second priority. But if we spend an equal amount of time on each priority, we’ll move forward so slowly on all of them that we may get frustrated and give up. So knowing our priorities isn’t always the solution to sticking to our priorities.
Sometimes it can be easiest to focus on a few high priority items at a time. For example, maybe you spend one month really focusing on your family but the next month, you need to prioritize more work. It’s okay to try to find a balance that works for you and experiment as you go.
Taking action on your priorities
Another thing to consider is what things make it easier or harder for us to stick to our priorities. For example, are there people who make it difficult to stick to your priorities? Are there situations that make it hard to stick to your priorities? Or, are there things about you that make it hard to stick to your priorities? By taking the time to better understand your own unique challenges, you’ll also better understand what solution might best work for you.
Here are some tips to help you create your action plan and achieve your purpose.
If you’ve got a dream you’re hoping to bring to life or an idea that you want to manifest, hopefully, the tips below can help. If some of the steps don’t feel like a good fit for you, that’s OK. Feel free to take what’s helpful and ignore the rest.
1. Set smart goals
SMART goals are Specific, Meaningful, Achievable, Realistic, and Trackable. If our goal is not SMART, it may be harder to take action. For example, if our goal is not specific enough, we might not know what to do to reach it. Or, if our goal is not meaningful enough, then we might have a hard time staying motivated enough to do it.
So, before taking action, ask yourself these “SMART” questions:
What exactly is your goal?
Why does this goal matter to you?
Who is involved in this goal?
How will you achieve this goal?
What specific times will you work on this goal?
2. Write down your action steps
Once you know your goal, write down the steps you plan to take to reach it. The more detail you can include, the better. For example, if you want to write a book, make a plan for exactly how many pages you plan to write per hour, day, week, or month. Note any other related tasks that will need to be done as well so that you know what needs to be accomplished to reach your goal.
3. Schedule your action steps
Once you have your action steps, schedule each of them in your calendar. Block out enough time for each action step. As you are getting started, you might not estimate quite right, so it’s OK to modify this at any point.
Another helpful tip is to try and schedule a blank time to catch up on things you missed or anything that took longer than expected. In time, you’ll be able to estimate task time more easily.
4. Commit to your action steps
If you have a realistic plan with clear action steps, then you’re ready to commit to your goal. By making a commitment—either a written or verbal commitment will do—we actually make it more likely that we’ll do something. One way to do this can be to write up a statement of the efforts you agree to complete and then sign it. Post it somewhere where you’ll see it frequently.
5. Link potential problems to goal-directed actions
Once you’ve gotten started taking actions to manifest your goal, you’ll eventually encounter challenges, even if just small ones. This is why it can be helpful to create implementation intentions (Gollwitzer, 1999). Implementation intentions are simple cause-and-effect: If problem situation X happens, then I will do Y.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Taking action on your goals should push you out of your comfort zone a bit. But if taking action towards your goals means that you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, then it is likely not sustainable. Here are some tips to avoid overwhelm:
Set your success rate
Rather than trying to aim for 100 percent all the time, set a secondary goal to complete your action steps some percentage of the time. Eighty percent feels right to me. Missing your goals sometimes is totally normal, so being realistic about it can help you practice more self-compassion.
Give yourself a “get out of jail free card”
It can actually be helpful to let yourself off the hook every now and then. Especially for those perfectionists out there, a break will probably do you more good than you realize.
Re-evaluate as needed
Sometimes we set goals that are too easy, too hard, or need to be changed to be effective moving forward. Remember, it’s OK to change your plan.
Taking action is an essential part of reaching any goal. But it is often the hardest part. Hopefully, these resources will help you feel more confident that you can successfully take action and reach your goals.
Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: strong effects of simple plans. American psychologist, 54(7), 493.
Do you want to reach your goals and create the life you’ve always dreamed of? Here are some strategies to help you dream bigger.
Dreaming big doesn’t have to mean we suddenly want to be a millionaire or become famous (although it could mean that for some of us). That’s because ‘bigger’ is a relative term. If we currently have no dreams, dreaming bigger might just mean we have a small goal that we want to reach. But even that is not always easy. If we knew how to dream bigger, we’d already do it! we might think. So how do you start dreaming bigger?
1. Cultivate Confidence
To achieve big things, first, you have to believe that you can. If we’re not sure we deserve to achieve big things, why would we try, right? That’s why the first thing we need to dream big is a confidence boost.
To get this boost, try to remember a time when you succeeded in doing something you set your mind to. Or, if you have a hard time, look for role models that dared to dream big and achieve more than was expected of them. Use your and others’ experiences as inspiration and motivation.
2. Face Fear of Failure
If you want to do something big, the fear can be intense. We might think: What if we fail? What then? If this sounds like you, it may be helpful to shift your mindset or perspective. Developing a growth mindset—or the belief that growth and learning are more important than success or other people’s opinions—can help you shift your focus to the journey instead of the end goal. That way we can better enjoy the pursuit, even if it ultimately does result in failure.
3. Face Fear of Success
We often think we don’t pursue big dreams because we’re afraid of failure. But what if we’re really afraid of success? Success can mean different things to different people—some of these things are scary. For example, success might mean feeling like the odd one out in your family or friend group. It might mean having more responsibility than you really want. Or, it could lead to jealousy from others. There are lots of reasons why you may have a fear of success. But taking a closer outlook at these fears and thinking about how you might deal with them can help you move through them.
4. Use Your Imagination
Start by visualizing a variety of different possible exciting outcomes that might come from following your dreams. Maybe you imagine yourself owning your own business, having a big family, or traveling all over the world.
As you visualize, try to be mindful, paying attention to how your body feels during each scenario. Try to tune into how each experience feels in your body, and take note of any thoughts or emotions that come up. Ask yourself:
Does living this life feel good?
Does living this life feel authentic?
Does living this life feel like a big dream?
Use this visualization exercise to better understand which big dreams are a good fit for you.
5. Find Meaning
Many of us get stuck on the path towards small dreams (or the wrong dreams). Often, it’s because we have not yet deeply explored what really matters to us. To make sure our big dreams are meaningful, reflect on these different things that research shows give us meaning (Ryff, 1989):
Positive relations with others. Warm, trusting relationships with others.
Self-acceptance. Holding positive attitudes about the self.
Autonomy. Feeling free to choose and direct one’s own actions.
Environmental mastery. Feeling that one can change one’s circumstances.
Personal growth. The ability to develop and grow as a person.
Life purpose. Having a sense of meaningful direction in life.
When dreaming big, try to keep these things in mind to ensure your dreams will be meaningful to you and inspire you to act on them.
6. Enjoy in the Process
Sometimes we end up spending so much time focusing on our big dreams that we forget to enjoy the process. Indeed, big dreams can help us imagine a life or a future that is unlike any that we’ve ever known. But big dreams take time, and if we don’t enjoy the process, it’s going to be tough to get there.
So, try to focus on the enjoyable parts of creating your dream. You’re taking control of your life, you’re building a new reality, and even small steps you take are worth celebrating. If our dreams are truly meaningful to us, striving towards them can increase well-being, regardless of whether we achieve the big goal at the end or not.
What is self-actualization and how do you strive towards it?
If you’re not familiar with self-actualization, the idea comes from renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation. Maslow hypothesized that unsatisfied needs drive our behavior. Needs like food, water, and safety need to be met first, then we strive to achieve social connection and self-esteem. Once all of these goals are met, we move on to seeking self-actualization—or achieving our full potential.
Later, an additional need was added—contributing something purposeful that is greater than ourselves. This is also referred to as “Beyond Self-Actualization,” “Transcendence,” or “Selfless Actualization” (Greene, & Burke, 2007).
Maslow suggested that lower-level needs are “deficit needs.” We need them to survive, so they take priority. Self-actualization and beyond are “growth needs.” Personal growth is considered to be a crucial precursor to well-being (Ryff, 1989). We may focus on actualizing our potential and extending our abilities to serve others. We might have:
The desire to make bad situations better
The desire to create something that makes the world better
The desire to reward and praise others
How to Become Self-Actualized
So how do we strive toward self-actualization? Here are a few tips:
1. Cultivate Openness to Experience
When we think in black-versus-white, we miss opportunities to learn, grow, and experience things that could bring more meaning to our lives. That’s why self-actualization involves being open to alternative information and points-of-view (Greene, & Burke, 2007). We’re served by looking at problems in creative ways and from different perspectives. So try to be more open to experience if you’re aiming for self-actualization.
2. Reflect on Your Values
If you aim to self-actualize and become your best self, it’s important to first get clear on your values (Greene, & Burke, 2007). If we strive to reach goals that go against our values or morals, we could end up feeling worse off—unfulfilled and unhappy.
3. Move Beyond Love and Esteem Needs
When we think of self-actualization, many of us actually are thinking of esteem needs (Krems, Kenrick, & Neel, 2017). Maybe we strive for love and belonging or for career success. There is nothing at all wrong with that. In fact, according to Maslow, we need to satisfy these needs before moving on to self-actualization. Once we feel like we are loved and respected it may be easier to shift our focus to personal growth and selfless pursuits.
4. Live Authentically
Each of us desires to achieve different goals and manifest different dreams. By exploring what it is that we really want, we can feel more fulfilled in pursuing it.
Self-actualization is a peak experience that many of us strive for. But it should also be thought of as a lifelong pursuit. It is about growth and giving back. With some effort, we have the potential to experience all that self-actualization has to offer.
Greene, L., & Burke, G. (2007). Beyond self-actualization. Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, 116-128.
Krems, J. A., Kenrick, D. T., & Neel, R. (2017). Individual perceptions of self-actualization: What functional motives are linked to fulfilling one’s full potential?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(9), 1337-1352.
Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 57(6), 1069.
Here we’ll talk about the benefits of journaling, offer some prompts to get you started, and provide ideas to journal your way to your dreams.
Are you looking for a guide to help you start a practical, fun, and useful journal? Then why not start with a manifestation journal? A manifestation journal is a place where you write down your thoughts, dreams, goals, plans, or other things you want to manifest. It can help you gain clarity about your life goals and what you need to do to get there.
To start journaling for manifestation, all you need is a notebook or journal and a general goal (no specifics needed at this point). We’ll walk you through the steps to get your manifestation journal going.
Step 1: Freewrite
Starting a journal with freewriting can be really helpful—we just let whatever comes to our heads flow onto the page. It can help you overcome the inertia of the blank page. If you’re note sure what to write about, it may be helpful to clear out any thoughts or emotions that are distracting you. Consider sharing emotions and disclosing private things that you haven’t told anyone (don;t worry, no one gets to read this). Research suggests that sharing these deep feelings may help release them (Pennebaker, 1997). With that gunk out of the way, it may be easier to open up space for your goals and dreams.
Step 2: Set SMART Goals
Although science is skeptical of “Law of Attraction” approaches to manifestation, research supports the idea that setting fairly ambitious goals may help us achieve more. To start, we can use a manifestation journal to get clearer on what goals to set. One method for doing this involves the SMART system (Lawlor, 2012). Check out the ‘SMART’ system below and use it to guide you as you write about your goals.
S – Specific
M – Meaningful
A – Achievable
R – Realistic
T – Trackable
Step 3: Find Meaning
Once you have your goals clear, you might want to spend a little more time thinking about the meaning behind your goals. To start, answer these questions in your journal:
Why is this goal meaningful to you?
What will achieving this goal give you?
How will you feel once you’ve achieved this goal? Will those feelings last?
Will achieving this goal help you achieve other important goals?
Try to reflect on why your goals are truly meaningful to you. It’s the truly meaningful goals that we are more likely to stick to.
Step 4: Believe in Yourself
A negative mindset or the failure to believe in ourselves can often block us from achieving the things we want in life. By believing in ourselves, our capabilities, and our future, we give ourselves a better chance to succeed.
In your journal, try to work on developing a growth mindset—or the belief that your most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work (Dweck, 2015). When we develop a growth mindset, we put in more effort to improve our skills because we believe those efforts are worthwhile.
To build a growth mindset, write in your manifestation journal about times when you did learn new things or build new skills. Write about how it went, the challenges you overcame, and how you eventually learned the new thing. Reminding yourself of what you did in the past can help you gain confidence in your ability to do it again in the future.
Step 5: Map Your Path Forward
Here are some more questions to ponder in your journal to help you find your path forward:
What are your short-term goals?
What are your long-term goals?
How will these short-term goals help you reach your long-term goals?
What good habits would you like to build in the next 5 years?
How can you set goals that support the person you are becoming, not the person you used to be?
What would you like to have accomplished by the end of your life?
How do you imagine the last years of your life?
What can you do now to make sure you get to where you want to go?
In addition to reflecting on goals, you might find that you want to write about yourself to gain more clarity about what you really want, what you need, and what will really make you happy. Here are some prompts that may help you gain more clarity:
I am happiest when I…
The positive changes I want to make in the world are…
I am successful at reaching goals when I…
I struggle with my goals when I…
I can overcome challenges by…
I believe in myself because I…
If I feel I am losing faith in my own abilities I will…
If I’m feeling stressed on my journey I will…
When I need a friend, I will reach out to…
These questions and prompts can hopefully help you gain clarity on goals, dreams, and what you want to manifest in your life.
Lawlor, K. B. (2012). Smart goals: How the application of smart goals can contribute to achievement of student learning outcomes. In Developments in business simulation and experiential learning: Proceedings of the annual ABSEL conference (Vol. 39).
What is emotional health, and how do you boost it? Here are some science-based tips.
Emotional health is defined as a lack of mental disorders, but it also includes positive emotional characteristics, like resilience, self-efficacy, and vitality. Given how many different aspects of mental and emotional health there are, there are actually lots of different things we can do to improve our emotional health. Here are a few things you can do:
1. Do Things You Enjoy
An easy way to get an emotional boost is to do activities that you enjoy. Go out to eat with friends, play games, do crafts, or get a new hobby. Just doing fun things can go a long way in helping your mental and emotional health (Catalino, Algoe, & Fredrickson, 2014).
2. Build a Better Relationship With Technology
Spending too much time on our phones or online isn’t good for our mental and emotional health. But if we learn how to interact with our technology in healthy ways, it doesn’t have to be bad for us. You can start by learning how to have more positive interactions online (e.g., practicing kindness or gratitude online) and using technology to connect with others.
3. Be Kind to Yourself
Many of us are so mean to ourselves. We might have a vicious inner self-critic, or we might find that we judge ourselves harshly for any mistakes we make. But the truth is, we all make mistakes and have flaws. Self-acceptance, despite those flaws, is a key to happiness.
So be nice to yourself and give yourself a break. You could work on building skills, like self-compassion and a growth mindset.
4. Practice Gratitude
The more we practice gratitude, the happier we are likely to be. And gratitude is easy. You could write a gratitude journal, make gratitude lists, share your gratitude with others, or even write a gratitude letter to someone you never properly thanked.
5. Use Positive Reappraisal
Positive reappraisal is an emotion regulation strategy that we can use to reinterpret a negative situation in more positive (or less negative) ways in order to make us feel better. If we don’t use reappraisal (or we’re not very skilled at it), this can lead to lower emotional health (Ford & Troy, 2019). So practice reappraisal to get better at it and make the most of it.
6. Add Positive Info to Your Brain
The more information our brains have on a subject, the easier it is to recall anything related to that subject. That means if we have more positive words, info, and memories in our brains, it should be easier to bring to mind the positive stuff. One way to add more to the “positive stuff” in your brain may be to memorize words that have been rated as highly positive or spend time focusing or thinking about positive things.
There are many ways to start boosting your mental and emotional health. By trying these out, you can likely feel a bit happier. Continue with these and engage in even more activities to see your emotional health grow.
Catalino, L. I., Algoe, S. B., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2014). Prioritizing positivity: An effective approach to pursuing happiness?. Emotion, 14(6), 1155.
Ford, B. Q., & Troy, A. S. (2019). Reappraisal reconsidered: A closer look at the costs of an acclaimed emotion-regulation strategy. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 28(2), 195-203.
Explore the many different things that contribute to resilience.
In life, we all face stressful experiences. But, each of us is very different in how we cope with these experiences. Some of us cope well and may even grow and improve as a result of stress. Others struggle and may even develop mental health issues in the face of stress.
Resilience is the set of personal qualities that enable us to thrive in the face of adversity (Connor & Davidson, 2003). It may involve being calm in difficult situations, implementing effective coping mechanisms, and handling criticism well.
Why Is Resilience Important?
Ongoing stress can be hard on our mental and physical health. Personal resilience can buffer us from these effects, shutting down the stress cycle and HPA-axis, enabling us to better fight off illness and other negative outcomes (Gaffey, Bergeman, Clark, & Wirth, 2016). But resilience can mean different things to different people. For example, to someone who is extroverted, resilience may mean spending extra time with friends. To an introvert, resilience may mean spending more time alone. Although each of us may cope with struggles by using different strategies, the key is to know what works for us and in which circumstances.
How to Be More Resilient
1. Practice acceptance
So much pain is created from our tendency to fight the things we can not change. But the more time we spend getting upset about the uncontrollable situations in our lives, the more time we spend stressed or angry instead of focusing on how we can make the future better. Perhaps this is why acceptance is linked to positive well-being (Ranzijn & Luszcz, 1999).
2. Strive for self-knowledge
Self-knowledge is essential to resilience. If we do not know ourselves well enough to cope with stressors in ways that are effective for us, then we are likely to struggle. For example, maybe we cope by drinking alcohol or using drugs when we’re upset. But the next day, we just end up feeling worse. By developing self-knowledge, we can take actions that help us recover from difficulties more easily.
3. Take care of yourself
When we’re sick, tired, and malnourished, we have a harder time responding to any type of stress, big or small. Our bodies just don’t have the resources. For example, research has found that sugar intake is related to depression (Knüppel et al., 2017). If we focus on being healthier, we are likely to boost our resilience. We can do this by eating more nutritious food, engaging in moderate exercise, and sleeping when we’re tired.
4. Prevent burnout
Burnout is a very real phenomenon that includes emotional exhaustion and cynicism (Maslach & Jackson, 1981). Research has shown that there are several causes of burnout including too much work, not enough control, not enough pay, social issues, and a mismatch in values (Maslach & Leiter, 2016). If we’re burned out, our resilience is at an all-time low. This is why it’s so important to prevent burnout before it gets to this point. If possible, try to get out of jobs or roles that are not a good fit for you. Take breaks whenever possible. And be sure to relax during your time off.
5. Practice self-love
Self-love (or self-worth, self-confidence, self-esteem, etc…) may be a crucial part of what it means to be resilient. Positive self-views are closely linked to positive outcomes like happiness and well-being (Miller Smedema, Catalano, & Ebener, 2010). This may be because if we feel bad about ourselves, it colors every other aspect of our lives. We set ourselves up for disappointing situations and then we blame ourselves for them. By cultivating self-love, we can hopefully respond to stress in healthier ways.
6. Build social connections
No matter what we’re doing, we feel better when we’re doing it with others. That makes social connections a crucial component of resilience. In fact, one of the most reliable ways to boost well-being is by developing high-quality social relationships and by feeling socially connected to the people in your life (Holt-Lunstad, Robles, & Sbarra, 2017).
7. Take a step back
Sometimes when we’re going through something difficult, we get so immersed in it that we can’t see straight. Our emotions overwhelm and our perspectives narrow. That’s why resilience often means being able to take a step back to look at our situation from outside ourselves. More specifically, if we look at our situation as if we were “a fly on the wall” or “a passerby on the street”, we can get some much-needed objectivity that can help decrease our negative emotions. This strategy is known as emotional distancing, and it can help us feel better during difficult times (Ayduk, & Kross, 2010).
8. Make meaning
It’s human nature to try to make meaning of our challenges. We often create explanations in our minds for why things happened to us and why they happened the way they did. This can help us cope with loss and other stressful events (Park, 2008). That’s why meaning-making can be a key part of resilience. If we instead think that bad things happen for seemly no reason, we can end up feeling lost or out of control.
Resilience is a powerful tool for well-being. But it is also a complex, multifaceted concept. Hopefully, this explanation helped clarify how to be more resilient in your life.
Ayduk, Ö., and E. Kross. 2010. “From a Distance: Implications of Spontaneous Self-Distancing for Adaptive Self-Reflection.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 98 (5): 809–829. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0019205.
Connor, K. M., & Davidson, J. R. (2003). Development of a new resilience scale: The Connor‐Davidson resilience scale (CD‐RISC). Depression and anxiety, 18(2), 76-82.
Gaffey, A. E., Bergeman, C. S., Clark, L. A., & Wirth, M. M. (2016). Aging and the HPA axis: Stress and resilience in older adults. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 68, 928-945.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Robles, T. F., & Sbarra, D. A. (2017). Advancing social connection as a public health priority in the United States. American Psychologist, 72(6), 517.
Knüppel, A., Shipley, M. J., Llewellyn, C. H., & Brunner, E. J. (2017). Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific reports, 7(1), 1-10.
Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of organizational behavior, 2(2), 99-113.
Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2016). Burnout. In Stress: Concepts, cognition, emotion, and behavior (pp. 351-357). Academic Press.
Miller Smedema, S., Catalano, D., & Ebener, D. J. (2010). The relationship of coping, self-worth, and subjective well-being: A structural equation model. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 53(3), 131-142.
Park, C. L. (2008). Testing the meaning making model of coping with loss. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27(9), 970-994.
Ranzijn, R., & Luszcz, M. (1999). Acceptance: A key to wellbeing in older adults? Australian Psychologist, 34(2), 94-98.
Strategies to boost positive emotions, decrease negative emotions, and feel better.
Do you tend to feel a lot of negative emotions? Do you feel bad about yourself? Or do you feel unhappy about your place in the world? Well, the science has shown us that we actually have a lot of control over our feelings and well-being. So here are 6 science-based tips to help you feel better.
1. Explore Your Emotional Goals
How do you define ‘feel better’? If you don’t know the answer, then how are you supposed to get there? Take a moment to ask yourself what exact emotions or experiences do you want to have when you ‘feel better’? Here are some emotions to reflect on. Try to identify the top 1 or 2 emotions you want to feel.
2. Pursue Your Desired Emotions
Once you know which emotions would make you feel better, you can take action to experience them more often. If you want to feel excitement, for example, plan a trip to do something new and invigorating. If, on the other hand, you want to feel relaxed, plan to get a massage or practice deep breathing. By knowing what your emotional goals are, you can more easily achieve them.
3. Practice Gratitude
When we’re not feeling good, it can be hard to be grateful for anything. But practicing gratitude for the things in our lives that are going well can help us feel better. By doing so, we shift our focus onto the good rather than the bad. You can write a gratitude journal or share your gratitude with others. Both of these are good ways to cultivate gratitude skills.
4. Try Not to Feel Bad About Feeling Bad
If you just want to feel bad for a little while, that’s okay. Negative emotions have important functions that actually help us take better care of ourselves. Sadness can help us get support from others, anxiety can help us prepare for threats, and anger can help us stand up for what we believe in. But just be careful that you’re not holding onto negative emotions that aren’t benefiting you. Let go of resentments, shame, and self-blame in exchange for taking actions to improve your life.
5. Treat Yourself Better
It’s not always easy to boost self-esteem or self-worth because we often set up our lives in ways that confirm what we already believe about ourselves. But we can start by being self-compassionate (MacBeth & Gumley, 2012). And we can feel even better by working to understand the people or experiences that make us feel bad and learning how to say ‘no’ to those people or experiences. By treating ourselves better in small ways, we can build momentum and self-efficacy that can hopefully help us feel better in time.
6. Shift Your Focus
We often feel worse after a breakup, job loss, or other rejection. If we focus on how we were rejected or failed, we’re likely only making it worse, stewing in our emotions until they become unbearable. Shifting our attention to something else can make a massive difference. If we’re up for it, we can shift to focusing on the positive things—we can savor the good times or imagine good things in our future. Or, we can simply live in the present moment. Even picking up an object, like a pen, and naming everything we see and feel related to that pen, can help us shift our focus away from the negative.
MacBeth, A., & Gumley, A. (2012). Exploring compassion: A meta-analysis of the association between self-compassion and psychopathology. Clinical psychology review, 32(6), 545-552.
Feeling guilty about binging on Netflix? Learn how to binge in healthier ways.
The latest series just came out, everyone has already seen it, and you can’t go anywhere without hearing about how awesome it is. Sometimes it feels like you just can’t help it – you know you’re about to binge on Netflix once again. But at the same time, you know that you’ll feel guilty for spending the whole weekend on your couch instead of out in the world, ya know, doing stuff.
So what do you do? Well, if you choose Netflix this weekend, at least make your binge more productive by using it to strengthen your emotion regulation skills. With stronger emotion regulation skills, you can better cope with stress, increase your satisfaction with life, and become more resilient.
So how do you use Netflix to strengthen your emotion regulation skills? By using these four simple strategies:
1. Generate positive emotions with positive or fun videos
The broaden-and-build theory suggests that experiencing positive emotions builds our psychological, intellectual, and social resources, allowing us to benefit more from our experiences. When you put yourself in a good mood by watching positive or fun videos, you may make it easier to cope with subsequent stress. Just be sure to mentally hang onto those positive emotions so that you take your good mood with you when you leave the couch.
2. Develop empathy by taking a new perspective
We learn how to be empathetic by looking at the world through other people’s eyes and feeling the emotions that they feel. By watching videos that recount the experiences of people who are different from us, we may be able to develop our ability to empathize with others. It doesn’t always feel good to empathize because we feel the others’ pain, but empathy is key to building strong personal relationships and feeling more connected to others.
3. Practice reappraisal while watching dramatic scenes
In graduate school, my research team often asked study participants to watch emotional scenes from movies. We’d then give them instructions on how to reappraise the situation – for example by giving the characters advice for how to feel better, think about what could be learned from the experience, or imagine possible positive outcomes. By reappraising the situation as more positive, people were able to reduce their negative emotions. You too can use this strategy to practice positive reappraisal. With practice, you may be able to more easily use this strategy in real life.
4. Engage in mindful acceptance
Watching movies is a relatively safe space for experiencing negative emotions. So instead of pushing negative emotions away, use this opportunity to acknowledge your emotions, experience them fully, and practice accepting them. By practicing mindful acceptance of negative emotions, you may be able to build this skill and use it elsewhere in your life.
To binge or not to binge
I’m not suggesting that a Netflix binge is a healthier choice than going out with friends or getting some exercise, but if you’re going to do it anyway, why not try some of these strategies to build your emotion regulation skills while you binge.
Fight against cyberbullying with these clever, but kind, tricks.
Are you hurling insults at anyone that you disagree with, find offensive, or don’t understand fully? Or are you choosing to be kind online, even when the person on the other side of the screen has been unkind to you? The truth is we can choose whether we want to respond to cyberbullying with hate, anger, and rudeness or respond by being thoughtful, kind, and considerate. Choosing the latter is more likely to build your happiness, and the happiness of others, because kindness just may be the most effective antidote to both unhappiness and unkindness.
How to Respond to Cyberbullying
I’ll be the first to admit that handling online bullying can be challenging. Indeed, discourse online has degraded as the Internet increasingly becomes an outlet for our worst impulses. Being on the receiving end of cyberbullying, or even witnessing it, can hurt, make us angry, and lead us to seek revenge.
We tell ourselves, I have to tell them what they’re doing wrong so they’ll do it right next time. But in the long run, this approach makes them feel worse, possibly leading them to amp up their bullying, and admit it, it makes you feel worse too. You might feel vindicated in standing up for yourself, standing up for others, or for expressing your point of view, but it only leads to more negative emotions for you, for them, and for everyone who passively reads these comments. If we keep up this negative cycle, we are all headed to a really dark place—a place where kindness, compassion, and civility are no longer valued. So we have to learn to respond to cyberbullying in more positive and effective ways.
Think of Your Comments as Acts of Kindness
When you read a nasty comment online, instead of appeasing your desire to be right, to change others, or to shame others for their comments, think of your comments in terms of what they can do for the person receiving them. When your goal is to give the other person a gift that helps them, your comments become acts of kindness instead of retaliations driven by hate.
How to Be Kind Online
Acts of kindness are the nice things that we humans do for each other unexpectedly or without a reward. These are acts that someone does for you or you do for someone else. Engaging in random acts of kindness forces you to focus on the needs and feelings of others. As a result, you feel more connected to others and they feel more connected to you.
Is it hard to practice random acts of kindness in response to comments that evoke negative emotions in you? Of course it is! That’s why online discussions so easily go off the rails. But the truth is that it’s up to us to change the dynamic. Here’s how to do it:
Question your assumptions. It’s natural for us to think we understand why someone is acting a certain way. We see their actions and make assumptions about who they are and how they think based only on this tiny bit of information. This can lead us to be the ones who treat people unfairly and unkindly, because we don’t understand others’ experiences and motivations. Maybe someone says something negative about one of our political beliefs. We think it’s because they are a jerk, but maybe it’s just because they believe a different approach would be the most helpful and kind.
Lead with questions and curiosity. Before jumping to conclusions, ask questions to learn about the situation better. Yelling at people is certainly not going to make them believe differently or be any less of a bully. Instead, ask them questions like: It sounds like you see this situation differently. Can you share your perspective with me so I can better understand where you’re coming from?
Clarify the value of your feedback. If others are open to answering your questions, you will likely better understand the causes of their actions and can respond more effectively. To be sure your responses are kind, make sure you can clearly articulate why the response you are giving is useful to the person. It probably would be helpful to say something like: I want to make sure we both understand each other’s perspectives so can I also better explain to you why I feel the way I do? By creating an environment where people can share and listen to each other, some bullying can be overcome.
I have heard of several online bloggers using this approach with trolls—showing interest in hearing their side—with great results. So give it a try when you encounter a cyberbully.
How to Respond to Trolls
Does rational, kind, considerate conversation work on trolls? Sometimes it does. Sometimes we mistake a cyberbully for a troll, so it’s on us to give people the benefit of the doubt. But usually trolls are a special kind of cyberbully—often the kind that wants to hurt you, get a rise out of you, or discredit you. They may not be interested in what anyone has to say. So responding to trolls requires a different technique. Here are some suggestions:
Don’t give them what they want. When you see other people being trolled, don’t respond to the troll, yell at them, or give them any attention whatsoever. Instead, praise kindness on the person being trolled. They need your love and kindness.
Use trolling as a reminder to be kind to the person being trolled. Undo the negative comments of the troll by supporting the person being trolled. Write a kind, caring, or complimentary message to support them or whatever they’ve shared online.
Consider offering a random act of kindness to the troll in a private message. Remember, no one is hateful or harmful to others unless they have personally been harmed in some way. So reach out to offer trolls kindness; they probably need it more than you think.
With these tools in your toolbox, you can use cyberbullying and trolling as opportunities to practice kindness. As a result, you can start to build happiness from situations that otherwise might have harmed your happiness.
Want to know how to feel more positive emotions? Try these 4 savoring techniques.
Too often we let the good moments pass without truly celebrating them. Maybe your friend gives you a small gift, a colleague makes you laugh, or a rainbow stretches across the sky. These are just tiny moments, and the positive emotions associated with them fade . . . but they don’t have to. We just have to savor them.
What is savoring?
Savoring just means that we attempt to fully feel, enjoy, and extend our positive experiences. Savoring is a powerful tool for boosting positivity and building happiness.
Try these different savoring techniques to see what works best for you.
1. Savor the past.
Savoring the past is perhaps the easiest way to practice savoring. To do it, just spend a few minutes thinking about a happy, joyful, or pleasant event that happened to you in the last week or month. For example, you could think about “hanging out with friends, or completing an important project.”
As you are thinking back on the pleasant event, think about the people, smells, sounds, physical sensations, and sights that you experienced. Think about — and try to recreate — the positive emotions that you felt around the time of the event. As you are savoring, let your thoughts wander to anything else about the happy experience that makes you feel good. Then, just mentally hold on to whatever feels good.
Take a deep breath, and pay attention to how these emotions feel in your body. Let the emotions fade on their own, until you are ready to go back to whatever else you were doing.
2. Savor the present.
Are you that person who stops to notice and appreciate the small pleasures that life has to offer? If not, then you could benefit from practicing savoring the present. You do this by paying attention any time you experience something positive. Whenever you notice yourself feeling good, mentally hold on by thinking about the positive emotions and what caused them. You may want to also practice gratitude, reminding yourself that you are grateful for whatever or whoever caused these positive emotions.
3. Capitalize on the present.
To savor your positive emotions even longer, you can do what is referred to as “capitalizing on positive events.” When you feel good, show it, tell it, or share it with others right away. Keep in mind that the positive thing that happens doesn’t have to be big. You could simply have woken up on the right side of the bed and think, “Hey, I’m feeling great today.”
“Show it” by expressing the positive emotions in your facial expressions and body language. For example, you could smile, laugh, or throw your hands up in the air. These expressions of happiness can help prolong the feelings.
“Tell it” by talking to someone about why you’re happy. You might call or text a friend to talk to the people around you about what you’re feeling. Others tend to respond well to expressions of positive emotions, which can further generate more positive emotions for you.
“Share it” by sending a text message or posting kindly on social media. If there is something you are feeling great about, particularly something you think would make others feel great too, share it far and wide with a post. Just be careful not to post things that might make other people feel worse (like if you got something that someone else wanted).
4. Savor the future.
Did you know we often experience positive emotions when we strive for a goal, even before we have achieved that goal? That’s right. How? By using imagination to increase happiness. For example, you might be looking forward to a vacation this summer. If so, you could practice savoring by thinking about what you’ll do, who will be there, and the positive emotions you hope to feel. As a result, you’ll generate positive emotions from an event that hasn’t even happened yet.
How to boost purpose with achievement, creativity, expertise, and pro-sociality.
What exactly is “purpose”? And what are the ways we can seek purpose? Here are just some of the tricks you can use to more easily find your purpose.
1. Get clear on your goals. One way people seek purpose is through achievement. To seek purpose through achievement, you could start a project or take on a leadership role at church or work. This strategy can provide a quick boost in feelings of purpose. However, you might feel amazing when you achieve something you’ve been striving for, but don’t expect those feelings to last. So be sure to try the other strategies below to get longer-term boosts in well-being.
2. Get creative. Another way to cultivate life purpose is by being creative. When we are creative (perhaps through art, music, writing, making videos, or starting our own business), we feel good about having made something, perhaps something that future generations may even get to experience. Being creative can also help us open our minds and potentially feel more connected to others who are different than us.
3. Do your best. A third way to find life purpose is by building expertise and doing your best. We can often feel a sense of purpose when we excel at something (at work or in a hobby) and be able to offer insights that didn’t previously exist. For example, you could strive to be an expert in your field, help the world or planet in some unique way, or strive to win an award for your work. This approach can help us feel like we are knowledgeable, which feels good. But again, this approach often leads to a short-term boost in purpose, so be sure to also try out being creative or prosocial.
4. Be prosocial. One of the best ways to cultivate life purpose is to be prosocial. Being more prosocial means that you are kind, compassionate, and generous–by doing so you may feel like you are in greater alignment with your values and ethics. To be more prosocial, you could try community service, helping others who are struggling, or joining a program to clean up the environment. When you are prosocial, you might just start to get the feeling that you are providing something that helps others and are living a life of integrity. Indeed, purpose is most easily found by having positive interactions with others.
Hill, P. L., Burrow, A. L., Brandenberger, J. W., Lapsley, D. K., & Quaranto, J. C. (2010). Collegiate purpose orientations and well-being in early and middle adulthood. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31(2), 173-179.
Try these 3 natural strategies to learn more about what might be causing your gut problems.
Do you have digestive issues? Perhaps you think it could be from parasites, bacteria, or candida? If you’re not yet ready to take the GI-MAP stool test to see what’s in your gut, you can try these 3 home tests to learn more. The Sauerkraut Protocol If you have a bad bacteria problem in your gut, eating good bacteria will kill them and force them out. This produces die-off symptoms like nausea, headaches, and chills. So eating naturally fermented cabbage, vegetables, or sauerkraut will help you learn more about your gut bacteria.
What to do:
Buy a jar of sauerkraut. Be sure that the jar is refrigerated, has live cultures, and doesn’t include any preservatives whatsoever. Here is a handy guide to help you find the right stuff.
Consume 1 tablespoon of sauerkraut with a meal. Pay attention to how you feel. If you feel die-off symptoms then keep eating this small amount once per day until it doesn’t feel bad anymore. If you feel fine with the amount of kraut, go to the next step.
Increase the amount of sauerkraut you eat by 1 tablespoon per meal. Keep paying attention to how you feel to keep die-off symptoms to a minimum. And keep increasing your dosage until you get to 1/2 cup sauerkraut per meal. Make sure you don’t go too fast or you’ll kill too many bad bugs and feel like absolute garbage.
Continue this slow-build process with other probiotic foods. Once you tolerate sauerkraut, try kimchi, coconut yogurt, kefir (if you tolerate dairy), coconut kefir, kvass, kombucha, fermented fruit, and so forth until you can eat as many fermented foods as you desire without any symptoms.
Make your own fermented foods. Once you tolerate store-bought fermented foods, ideally, you should make your own fermented foods. These are far higher in probiotics and have a bigger positive impact on your gut. The papaya parasite test One great, and cheap, way to find out if you have parasites is with anti-parasitic foods, specifically, papaya seeds. You can even test yourself for parasites at home with the papaya seed test.
Make a papaya smoothie. Toss 1/2 of a papaya in a blender (or less if you prefer). Toss in all the papaya seeds from that half of the papaya. Feel free to add a little juice or water if you like a thinner smoothie.
Drink the smoothie on an empty stomach. Don’t eat anything else for 3 hours (water is fine). This should be enough time for the papaya seeds to get through your small intestine. Pay attention to how you feel. If you get any die-off symptoms, then you might have parasites, and the papaya seeds have just made them angry.
If you get any die-off symptoms, get a parasite test to find out for sure (the papaya parasite test isn’t a sure thing). This is also necessary to see which parasites you have if you do have them. The coconut oil test Just as papaya seeds kill parasites, anti-fungal foods kill gut fungi like candida. A great, and cheap, way to find out if you have problems with gut fungi is with the coconut oil test.
Eat 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil on an empty stomach. Don’t eat anything else for 1-2 hours (water is fine). Pay attention to how you feel.
If you feel die-off symptoms then keep eating this amount of coconut oil (or less) until it doesn’t feel bad anymore. If you feel fine, go to the next step.
Increase the amount of coconut oil you eat by just a tiny bit per day. Keep paying attention to how you feel. Keep increasing your dosage until you get to 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil per day (you can include this oil in food if that’s easier, but it might not be as effective). If you are able to determine what your gut issues are, it’ll be easier to resolve them.
How to boost happiness in 2022, according to science.
There are tons of things you can do to boost your happiness in the digital age. The research shows that the strategies that work best depend on you—on your interests, strengths, and abilities. So here are a bunch of strategies to try. You can choose your favorites.
Find out what to do first. How are you supposed to build the right happiness skills if you don’t know which ones you are struggling with in the first place? This is why it’s helpful to take this quiz to explore your happiness strengths and weaknesses. That way, you can make an educated decision about what to focus on first.
Give yourself a confidence boost. Why would you bother increasing your happiness if you didn’t think you could be successful at it? You wouldn’t. That’s why it’s so important to build your confidence — to prove to yourself that you can increase your happiness. The best way to do this is by starting with easier skills — skills like gratitude or prioritizing spending time doing fun things. Get a quick win, and you’ll be more confident that you really can change your life.
Fuel your progress by learning how to feel better about yourself. You wouldn’t practice math to get better at cooking. And you wouldn’t learn another language to lose weight. To be happier, you’ll likely make more progress by focusing on the skills that are most closely linked to happiness. In my research, the skill that usually turns out to be most closely linked to happiness is: self-worth. Luckily, you can learn how to feel better about ourselves—for example, by imagining your best possible self, noting your positive qualities, or identifying your strengths.
Create balance and overcome burnout. How are you supposed to have the energy to boost happiness if you’re stressed, exhausted ,and miserable from work? It will be really hard. Building new skills—skills that will help you happier—will take time and energy. So it’s helpful first to create better work-life balance.
Build a growth mindset for happiness. Growth mindset refers to the belief that we can change ourselves. When we build a growth mindset for happiness, we believe we can change our happiness. This is super important, because if we don’t believe we can increase our happiness, we won’t even bother to try.
Make positive memories. Every region in our brains can be strengthened through practice. If our brains are really good at remembering negative things that happen, it can be useful to strengthen the regions of the brain responsible for remembering positive things.
Find those silver linings. Everything we experience can be a bummer if we choose to see it that way. But when you search for the benefits or silver linings in your life, you may be surprised to discover a lot more good than you thought. Keep thinking positive to decrease negative emotions to cultivate happiness.
Take breaks from social media. Facebook tends to have a negative effect on our happiness. By choosing to take breaks from technology—or changing the way we use technology—we can boost our happiness.
Spend smarter for more happiness. How we spend our money impacts our happiness. When we choose not to buy a fancy house or car—things that don’t bring us much happiness—we have more money to spend on adventures or on gifts for friends: things that actually do make us happier.
End your negative patterns of thinking. Let’s face it: Sometimes we are what’s making us miserable. We just can’t stop thinking about how so-and-so wronged us, or how our life didn’t turn out as we hoped. Negative thought processes — like worrying, ruminating, and self-judgment— just keep us miserable and unable to move forward. When you find yourself thinking negatively, pause and refocus your thoughts. The more you do this, the more your brain will be able to do this on its own.
Sometimes it feels easier to be a Grumpy Gus—Who has the energy to get jazzed up about everything all the time? But ask yourself, how exhausting is it when you’re around someone else who is constantly negative and complaining? It sucks, right? Nobody wants to be around Negative Nellies that zap everyone’s energy. So the question becomes: Do you want to be the kind of person who drains energy or who supplies it? If you want to be an energy producer, you can start by developing a more positive attitude.
Of course, turning off the negative stream of consciousness and developing a positive attitude takes effort. But when we do so, people are more likely to want to be around us, which can make us happier, which makes us even easier to be around, and even happier—an upward spiral of positive emotions that fuel health and well-being. So let’s talk about the simple ways to develop a more positive attitude.
1. Strengthen the Positive Neural Pathways in Your Brain to Develop a More Positive Attitude
It can feel impossible to just flip some magic “positivity switch” and change everything about how you feel, think, and act. That’s because—let’s face it—the positive pathways in your brain haven’t been used all that often and are a bit out of shape. But I’m convinced that there are plenty of ways to boost positivity—there are even ways to do it on your phone!
One way to get started strengthening the positive pathways in your brain is to spend more time thinking about positive things, for example by memorizing and recalling lists of positive words. When you force your brain to work with positive information, you activate these regions of your brain and make this information accessible in your daily life. So later, when you’re trying to have a positive attitude, you may be able to generate positive thoughts, memories, and emotions more easily.
2. Look for the Silver Linings to Develop a More Positive Attitude
People who struggle to have a positive attitude are really good at one thing—finding the downside of any situation, person, or thing. People with a positive attitude do the opposite—they can always find the upside. Really, these two perspectives are just two sides of the same coin. It’s all about what you pay attention to. So if you want to change your perspective, you can apply your canny ability to find the bad to develop your ability to find the good.
To start, anytime you are down about anything find at least one benefit. Ask yourself: What could you learn? What opportunities might arise? What can you appreciate about this? Could the situation have been worse? Then use these questions to get yourself to start finding the good things instead of always focusing on the bad things.
3. Practice Random Acts of Kindness to Develop a More Positive Attitude
We don’t have to be giving, generous, and caring every moment—I mean c’mon, we’re not aiming for perfection here. But if we want to develop a positive attitude, we do have to make an effort to be kinder to others. Sometimes it’s easy to be kind—for example, when we feel like others deserve it—and sometimes it’s harder. So start with easy kindness and go from there.
Being kinder can be easy if you engage in random acts of kindness. A random act of kindness could be anything from telling a coworker you like her necklace, to congratulating a friend on an important achievement, to bringing a cup of soup to a family member who has the flu. These acts are small and unsolicited, but they show that you care—a significant part of what it means to be a positive person.
4. Smile and Laugh and Generally Enjoy Life to Develop a More Positive Attitude
A positive attitude is made up of more than thinking and acting in positive ways. It’s a feeling that others can detect in you when you don’t take life too seriously. Maybe you smile big when someone tells you there’s food stuck in your teeth. Or you laugh when things don’t go your way. You have made the decision to enjoy your life, regardless of what life throws at you.
Deciding to enjoy life more is a key step in developing a positive attitude. You could get upset when your friend repeatedly shows up late—or you could just decide not to. You could get anxious about your romantic partner leaving you—or just choose to spend your energy enjoying their company for as long as you have it. You could get angry about all the horrible things happening all over the world—or you could instead focus on righting the wrongs you see.
It’s surprising what a difference it makes in your life when you simply decide to be more positive, and you realize that you had the choice all along.
Struggling to let your freak flag fly? This might help you see why.
What is Authenticity?
Being authentic means that you act in ways that show your true self and how you feel. Rather than showing people only a particular side of yourself, you express your whole self genuinely. That means to succeed in being authentic, you first have to know who your true self actually is. And this requires self-awareness, mindfulness, and self-acceptance.
Why Authenticity Matters
We are constantly bombarded with media that tells us who to be, what to want, and how we “should” express ourselves. All of these influences slowly chip away at our ability to be our authentic selves.
But by being someone you are not, you are telling yourself that who you really are isn’t okay. So hiding or suppressing who you really are can end up leaving you feeling lonely, disconnected from others, or even worthless.
How We Lost Our Authenticity
We are constantly balancing inner and outer aspects of ourselves in order to better fit in, to become more successful, or to find love. We are driven to find “our place” in society, and we want to be respected for who we truly are and what we have to contribute. Many of us are propelled even further, desiring to know and live our purpose, to find deeper meaning in our lives, and to feel the fulfillment that comes with becoming a more authentic person.
But at the same time, we live in a society that values superficiality, that strives for perfection, and defines success by the dollars in our bank account and not by how well we live our values every day. So how are we to be authentic in spite of the messages that try to convince us to be someone else?
Why Overcoming Inauthenticity Is So Hard
We were molded as children by our parents, teachers, religions, peers, and society to “fit in.” As a result, we developed beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that keep us acting in the ways we were taught to act—not in the ways that make us feel like our authentic selves.
This version of ourselves can be thought of as the “Adaptive Self”—the self that prioritizes fitting in, getting along, and generally doing what we’re told. This self is not without value and purpose—it helps us be functioning members of society. But if you’re feeling inauthentic, the Adaptive Self is running your life.
To reclaim your authenticity, you need to discover your “Authentic Self”—the self that prioritizes living according to your values, pursuing your purpose, and fighting for the causes you care about.