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Gratitude is good for your health

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”    Zig Ziglar

About a year ago, one of my clients was telling me about all the things that he wanted but didn’t currently have in his life. Working out how to get those things was stressing him out. I asked him if we could look at the things that he did have and maybe he could make a list of what he felt grateful for. I was a bit thrown when he said “I didn’t realise this was going to be religious”.

Turned out he had been reminded of saying grace at the school lunch table where you are told to be thankful. Even though this was many years before it had stuck in his head. I would like to assure you that being grateful or thankful is definitely not just for the religious.

Gratitude helps us realise what we do have in our lives. Perhaps you are grateful for the life you lead, your health or the people/animals you know and love and once you start to look you will see that there are lots of things that you can be grateful for.

When you look at the world with gratitude, you will probably be amazed at how much you take for granted and may also notice how much of your energy has been spent on negative or unhelpful thinking.

Having gratitude in your life is actually great for your health.

It makes us happier

Gratitude reduces stress and improves your positivity. Robert Emmons, a Psychology Professor at University of California was a pioneer in gratitude research. His studies showed that if you write down one thing that you are grateful for every day then you will feel happier. His students followed this for 3 weeks and observed that they felt happier and as a result of that felt more positive and had more energy. It didn’t stop there because six months later each of the students reported still being at least 25% happier and more positive.

It makes us healthier

Experts believe that because grateful people appreciate their health, they tend to take better care of themselves. They might notice a change in a health issue quicker than people who take their health for granted. This links into the better your physical/mental health, the better your body works and you feel more energetic and positive and more able to take on whatever the world throws at you.

It puts a situation into perspective

There is no such thing as a perfect life. We live in the real world and sometimes unexpected or awful things happen to each of us. When you can focus on the good and not just the bad things that might be happening in your world, it becomes more difficult to complain, either to ourselves or others.

In turn, this can help if you are feeling stuck and not able to pursue the things that are important to you, that perhaps involve a bit of change in your life. Little steps and a focus on the things that are going right for you will get you a long way.

It’s important to write your gratitude list down. And here’s one of the reasons why; on the days you feel a bit fed-up, have a read through your lists. It’s a good reminder and will help to shift your focus to a more positive one.

To help you get started with everything that you feel grateful for in your life, I have set up the I Love February Challenge. It’s a free Facebook group and members pledge to post at least one grateful comment per day, throughout the whole of February. We already have some members, take a look here and then press the visit group button if you want to join us.

Are you up for that?

Toni x

How to make a New Year’s Resolution stick – once and for all!

New Year’s Eve is here again and I wonder, are you going to be making a New Year’s Resolution?

Maybe you made a Resolution before or perhaps you set yourself another kind of goal?  And then maybe you didn’t stick to it and if so, maybe that made you feel a bit guilty? If so, you are not alone.

Actually, the majority of resolutions are not fulfilled, and it’s really just to do with human nature. Typically we over commit, under prepare, and set ourselves up to fail. Then we feel bad, and our habits become even worse – until this time next year, when the cycle begins again.

But don’t worry, because it doesn’t have to be like that.

By using these three simple tips, you can ensure that you stick to your resolutions and goals and honestly, they are not hard to follow.

So what can you do?

Simple, small steps

First of all, we have a terrible habit of thinking if a plan doesn’t work, we need to make it “better”. And what does better look like? It’s usually more complex and elaborate, and even harder to stick to than the original plan.

In all honesty, the best plans are the simplest ones. We need to get out of the mindset of believing that simple is bad.

What do you need to do to get to your goal and what are the little steps you can take on the way to get you there?

Take your goal and plot your small steps in reverse, starting from the date you want to hit the goal by, right back to today’s date. Write it all down so that you can see exactly what needs to happen at what stage and then you can also chart your progress.

I call the little steps bite-size chunks as it’s often easier to think of doing lots of little things rather than tackling one huge goal, head-on.

Get some positive cheerleaders

The people closest to us have a huge influence on how we see the world. And how we see the world is everything. Jim Rohn said ” You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

What this demonstrates is how having positive people cheering you on makes the goal seem more achievable, boosts your mood, and even inspires you to stay on track with your goal.

There is an easy way to check if this works – spend a day with only positive people; at the end of the day think about how the world looks and feels to you and I can guarantee that it will feel better.

Now repeat with negative people, and see the difference!

You probably now know who you would like to spend your time with and how they can help to make a difference to your view of the world.

Daily mindset boost

This last one is about working on your mindset, every day. And this is the life hack with goal setting that nobody talks about.

When it comes to making your New Year’s Resolution a reality, everybody talks about getting to that goal through sheer willpower alone. But the essential piece of the puzzle that is missing is the mindset that allows you to reach that goal, without it feeling like the biggest uphill slog in the world.

The reason that we all need to do a little something for our mindset each day is this. Our brains are wired to notice danger – this goes back to caveman times. We can spot 57 different things wrong in our day, but by nature, we pay very little attention to the things that go right.

Shifting our focus to notice the good things more takes daily practice. But when we do this and our mindset shifts to become more positive, it makes a world of difference to our mood and energy, in turn making the goal much more reachable.

 

So those are the three main things that you need to stay on track to reach your goals. Only you know whether your goal is achievable for you and sometimes you need to re-assess the goal to check if it is still what you want.

If you hit a roadblock and it holds you up a bit, don’t beat yourself up. Just go back to your list, work out where you need to start again, maybe you need to make some tweaks and get back on track.

It’s also important to celebrate your successes, no matter how small. If you don’t recognise what you have achieved, how will you know how well you are doing?

I hope this helps you with getting on track in 2018. I would love to hear about your goals, please leave me a comment in the box below.

Happy New Year everybody and I hope it’s your best year yet!

Toni x

 

Pre-Festive Anxiety, and how to stay calm

christmas anxietyBudgets, finding the ‘perfect’ gifts, feeding the family, and making sure everybody is happy. Does anyone else feel short of breath yet?

Yes, the festive season can be magical. But when you are carrying the responsibility of bringing that magic for others, it can be nothing short of nerve-wracking.

It’s okay for Mrs Claus; she has the other 11 months of the year to recover from the last one, and get prepared for the next one. But for the rest of us, we are already pretty maxed out from the normal, day-to-day responsibilities. Christmas can be the glitter-covered straw that breaks the wise man’s camel’s back.

So let’s take a look at what you can realistically do to keep calm and stay on track. Hey, perhaps we can even get you enjoying the seasonal magic for yourself once again!

From conversations with clients and some other coaching colleagues of mine, here are a few of the best practical tips I have.

  1. Delegate

The number 1 thing I notice in overwhelmed people, mothers especially, is that they are in the habit of doing everything themselves. Sometimes this is because they feel that they have to. And other times this is a perfectionism-based behaviour.

You know that old saying, “If a job is worth doing, do it yourself.”
Well, I personally think that saying is out of date and needs to be left in the past.

It is not realistic to try and do everything yourself. So your challenge here is to let go a little and ask for some help. Your partner, friend, brother, sister, or even your kids can be on your ‘Christmas Team’, and help you with some little jobs here and there.

Let some things go. It doesn’t all have to be perfect!

  1. Start as you mean to go on

Okay, this is another old saying. But I’m on board with this one, and here’s why. This is all about how you start each day – and especially the days that are going to be busy and full of jobs to be done.

When you wake up and instantly start fretting about everything you have to do, you set yourself up for a day of anxiety and exhaustion. You fill up on coffee and sugar, bowl into your to-do list, and feel tired and emotional by lunchtime. Is this sounding familiar?

So, how can you ‘start as you mean to go on’? My top tip here is to address your own needs before touching your to-do list. Rather like how the safety instructions on a flight are to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, because you can’t help others if you are starved of oxygen.

So, wake up, hydrate, eat something ‘proper’, and get ready for your day before you start Christmas shopping or Google-searching festive recipes etc.

  1. Locate your ‘off switch’ and use it daily

At the end of your very busy day, when you climb into bed, you deserve a good sleep. However, knowing how the human mind works, this is likely to be the time when your anxious brain starts writing virtual to-do lists and overthinking.

There is a very simple hack for this, and it’s called the ‘brain dump’. I know it doesn’t sound very attractive, but I promise it is effective.

All you need is a notepad next to your bed. As you settle in for the night and your mind starts chattering away, note it all down in your pad.

The reason this works is very simple science. Your working memory is where you store things that you need to do very soon. For example, if you go grocery shopping without a physical list, your working memory is the place you go to mentally for remembering what you need.

Research shows that the average adult can hold around 7 items in their working memory at any one time. So it’s no surprise that space gets full – and then what happens? We forget stuff, and we get anxious about forgetting stuff.

The notepad ‘brain dump’ works by taking the pressure off your working memory. You no longer have to hold onto these things mentally. So your mind can relax! This makes getting to sleep so much easier, knowing that your paper notes will be there when you wake up. Time to flick that ‘off switch’ and sleep soundly.

I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped my clients and colleagues. Please remember that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below!

Where are you right now?

presenceWe tend to think of the millennials as having smart phone addictions and a lack of presence. But last week I had an experience that surprised me.

I went to see a band play at a venue in Brighton. Hearing songs from my youth took me back in time, and I had a wonderful evening just being in the moment.

Now bear in mind that most of the crowd are my age and older, I had expected most people to be enjoying the vibe in the same way that I was. But I was surprised to see hundreds of faces buried in their smart phones. And this was constant – not just during the gap between the support band coming off and the main band coming on. The band were playing, right there in front of us, and most people seemed to be missing it!

So perhaps this cultural obsession with the online world isn’t as generational as I had thought. I started wondering what was going on…

I think that some of this is about the instant feedback we get from social media. We go somewhere interesting, and we post our selfies on Instagram or Facebook. Within seconds, friends are liking and commenting. This instant feedback is a modern form of validation – a psychologist would call this an ‘ego stroke’.

I’m not saying that this is good or bad really, it’s just a human thing that most of us do. But I think there is much more going on here than simply ‘ego stroke seeking’. I think that our smart phone habits have a darker under-belly to them.

My mind wandered back to one of Brene Brown’s books, Daring Greatly, and how she talks about the excessive use of numbing activities. From over-eating to binge-watching TV, many of us prefer a numbing activity or distraction to really being in our lives.

Because the stress in our lives is often dealt with by avoiding, distracting and numbing – perhaps this has spread and infected our happier times too? After all, the more you repeat an action, the more of a habit it becomes. Just like how smoking starts as something you only do with a beer, and then gradually it creeps into your daily routine – perhaps it’s worth taking a moment to consider our smart phone habits from the same angle?

Whether you are reading this on your laptop, tablet, or phone – wherever you are, could you humour me and just pause for a moment? Look up; take a deep breath and notice where you are….

There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? The point I’m making is simply to remember to put your devices down and enjoy the real world once in a while. I completely get the appeal of numbing the bad stuff with an Instagram binge, I really do. But please don’t let it take over your whole world and numb you from the good stuff too.

I want you to enjoy the bands you go to see, smell the roses, and all those good things. Smart phones are useful, and social media can be fun, but it doesn’t need to be your whole world. There is more out there!

Consistency and Change

changeDo you feel that a change is as good as a rest, or are you a creature of habit?

Many of us feel both, in confusingly equal measures. But then humans are wonderfully complicated creatures!

Autumn is the time of year when we can typically start to feel one extreme or the other. We are either in ‘harvest mode’, resting after a busy, successful summer, and feeling good about the festivities ahead. Or, we can feel bad about the shorter days, the colder weather, and the lack of daylight.

This year we are having a funny autumn too. We’ve just had a little weekend heatwave, and of course the fall out from recent hurricanes and storms have been disrupting lives all over the world.

So where are you right now? Is it harvest mode for you, or has this autumn felt more like a long, premature Halloween? And I mean in a ghoulish way – not in a free sweets and funny costumes kind of way…

If things are a bit dark and desolate for you, then let’s talk about finding your harvest. And I promise you, there is always something to harvest, or in other words, something to be grateful for. It’s often just a case of switching your focus.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that shifting your focus will solve all of your problems. But what it will do is improve your mental state. When your mental state gets a lift, this has a way of reflecting in the material world too. In other words, when you start seeing the good, you start creating more opportunity.

It can even feel a little bit magical, like your luck has changed. But honestly, it’s nothing of the sort. This is a simple little scientific fact. Neuroscientists call it ‘reticular activation’.

Basically, when you expect to see something, you will see more of it. Not because more of it is there. It’s just that your brain is primed to notice that thing you are thinking about over the hundreds of other things vying for your attention at any one time.

But we can absolutely use this to our advantage – so let’s do so right now…

Grab a notepad and write down a few things that you are really grateful for; things that make you happy and satisfied with life.

Important note – These should not be things that you think you ‘should’ be grateful for. An example that comes to mind is when you were a child and your mother told you to eat your greens because there were starving kids in the world, and you should be grateful etc…

This has to really resonate deeply with you. So think again; what do you have in your world that really makes your heart sing?

That, right there, is what you need to focus on! Think about these things every day. Write them in a journal, set a reminder on your phone – do whatever you need to get it done.

This will grow that feeling of ‘harvest mode’ and shift your attention from negative to positive. I know, it sounds so simplistic, but the best plans usually are. So give it a really good go for a few weeks – this is your homework!

When we are having a hard time, we can be so focused on a change as our solution. Sometimes we forget about the consistent things in our lives. Really, we need a bit of both. The surprising thing is, that when we shift our attention to the consistently good things that we are happy about, the changes start to emerge for us in a natural way. And the ones that we don’t try to force are usually the best ones.

So try it, see for yourself, and then come back and leave me a comment. I’d love to know how you get on!

 

P.S. Would you like to do some deeper work on your mindset? I’m running a competition (entries open until 31st Dec) to win 6 free coaching sessions with me.

Does that sound like something that would help you? If so, click here to see my competition post and to enter.