6 Tips To Help You Dream Bigger

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.

References

4 Steps on How to Become Self-Actualized

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.

In Sum

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.

References

  • ​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.

5 Steps to Starting a Manifestation Journal

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.

References

  • ​​​​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).
  • Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological science, 8(3), 162-166.​

6 Tips for Better Emotional Health

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.

In Sum

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.

References

  • 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.

8 Ways to Be More Resilient

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.

In Sum

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.

References

  • 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.

6 Science-Based Tips to Boost Your Mood

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.

  • Excited
  • Passionate
  • Inspired
  • Amused
  • Confident
  • Joyful
  • Happy
  • Content
  • Peaceful
  • Relaxed

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.

References

  • 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.

4 Ways You Can Use Netflix to Cultivate Well-Being

Feeling guilty about binging on Netflix? Learn how to binge in healthier ways.

Pixabay

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.

6 Ways to Respond to a Cyberbully

Fight against cyberbullying with these clever, but kind, tricks.

Image courtesy Pixabay

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.

Image courtesy Pixabay

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

Image courtesy Pixabay

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.

4 Ways To Savor The Moment

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.

4 New Ways to Find Meaning and Purpose

How to boost purpose with achievement, creativity, expertise, and pro-sociality.

image courtesy pixabay

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.

References

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.

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