As the first month of the year winds down, it allows for a nice moment of reflection. Days, weeks, even months, seem to pass by in a blink. While we recommend keeping a gratitude journal – and making it a daily practice – we know that getting started can be tough, especially if you have a lot of other goals and resolutions that you wish to achieve.
This week’s reflection is just as relevant for those who have kept a gratitude journal and those who haven’t. All it requires is that you spend a few moments looking back over the past month, and that you pinpoint a few standout memories from the first 31 days of 2015.
Find yourself a quiet place, and a comfortable place to sit. Fold yourself into whatever position suits your needs, just as long as your back is straight and you can take some deep diaphragmatic breaths. Allow yourself to settle in for a minute or two, focusing only on your breathing. Enjoy the feeling of your belly expanding as you take air in, and, as you exhale, enjoy the peaceful feeling of the completion of that breath, pausing before you inhale again. Once you have slowed your breathing a bit, and feel focused, turn your attention to the past month.
Even if you had a tough month, overall, there have surely been some moments of joy, of celebration, of connection, that can elicit feelings of gratitude and warmth when you look back at them. Perhaps you had a great family dinner just before everyone headed back to work and school after the holiday break. Maybe you joined a running club as part of a get-fit resolution, and you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy conversations with your new friends during long runs. Maybe just this morning you found yourself smiling back at your puppy, amazed at his ability to greet every day with unbridled joy and thrilled that he shares that joy with you.
In your mind, walk back through the last 31 days. If you remember a less-than-terrific moment, breathe in as you remind yourself that it was just a moment within a full, well-rounded month, and as you exhale, let go of your thoughts about it, turning to another, more positive moment.
Allow yourself to smile as you recall moments of loveliness. Smile as you remember laughing at lunch with your father, smile as you think about getting a hug from your friend, smile when you remember how proud you were when you finally made a perfect poached egg. Big or small, these moments made up the happy parts of your month. Smile as you think of them, and continue to breathe deeply.
After a few minutes, or when you feel ready, take a final few deep breaths, and open your eyes. Spend a few minutes jotting down the strongest, most positive memories, the ones that made you smile most. We recommend keeping track of these memories in a hand-written notebook (ideally one specifically for writing down highlights of 2015, and gratitudes from the year; you’ll love looking back on it in 2016). But even keeping a running Word document on your laptop will make for a nice repository of memories.
Try this meditation on the last day of each month. Give yourself permission to make mistakes or work with your calendar; if you end up running through your memories a day early or a day late, that’s fine!
Just be sure to set aside a few minutes, and you will have many happy answers to the age-old question, “Where does the time go?”
#THISGIRLCAN: I’m loving the #thisgirlcan PSA from the UK. In late January, as many people slow down on pursuing their fitness resolutions, it is a great reminder to keep going. And any time of year, it is an inspiration to all women to view exercise as fun and empowering. (It is also making me want to join a team! Those celebrations look like so much fun!)
Fair Pay: This is a great clip. Although the headline of this article is silly and extreme, the man featured here – farmer and entrepreneur, Johnny Georges – is an inspiration. He makes enough of a profit to meet his needs, and refuses to rip off his co-farmers and customers. I hope that slimy guy from Sharktank learned a lesson here. No one needs to make $6 per sale on every sale. Sometimes you need to make sure that you are doing the right thing to help people, especially if those people work so hard to support themselves and others.
That Painting Is Watching Me: Crazy stuff!! This article and photo gallery features the work of an artist who paints her subjects and, occasionally, their surroundings, before photographing them. Much cooler than the way I just explained it – check it out, and get inspired! What could you change about creativity that would be innovative and exciting!?
Full Disclosure: A refreshingly honest essay from Salon.com on “why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from.” While I don’t think it is always relevant to discuss (I don’t necessarily know if my doctor fully forged her own path, or if she got into medical school because she knew the Dean), I do think this becomes a big problem if those writers are dispensing advice (personal or professional) that is impossible for most people to follow if they don’t have the same resources. And we certainly should not dismiss someone’s talent just because they have connections or have received assistance – this can only bring someone so far – but those with connections should not forget the benefits of privilege. Overall, an interesting article on the things we do not often, but perhaps should, share.
THIS.: Another plug for Andrew Golis’ brilliant new social media platform. Check this(.) out!
*Please note that I’ve semi-arrived in 2015 and I’m not putting the suggested links into the body of my text. (I write “semi” because I think there is an even better way to do this that I don’t know about yet! Share!) Anyway, this is likely not revelatory to anyone else, and probably caused zero confusion, but hey – just in case you couldn’t find them – that’s where the links can be found!
It’s almost February, you’re not sure how the time flew by so quickly, and your “I’ll start tomorrow” mentality has led to a list of 2015 resolutions that never came to be. Chances are, you fell prey to one of the following four mistakes we often make when trying to bring about change in our lives. Here, we will help you to identify which pitfall(s) you need to watch out for next time – and provide suggestions for how to get back on track… in time for a fresh start in February!
The Alternate Route: If you’re not sure of what would be a realistic goal, take some time to do research (Google is your friend), ask an expert (a doctor would be best for weight loss or sleep concerns), or write in and ask us – we’ll do our best to help you craft a realistic and healthy plan for personal and professional change. The key is to focus on incremental steps and small changes. For the goals above, you could set a healthier plan to include moderate exercise and smaller, but still healthy, portions, or you could try going to bed 15 minutes earlier for Week 1, another 15 minutes earlier for Week 2, and continue on from there.
Recalibrate: Don’t scrap your plans just because you aimed too high. Take a look at your overall goal and figure out one small behavioral change that you can make to see results. Don’t try to achieve 100% out of the gate; think 5% change and add more from there.
The Roadblock: Your plan to eat nine servings of vegetables a day was great… but by the third time you tried to convince yourself that the two pieces of lettuce on your burger counted as two servings, you realized you weren’t quite meeting your goal. Often, this type of roadblock is the result of underplanning, another enemy of change. If change was easy, you’d probably already be doing the things you want! In this example, you would need to plan meals in advance to be sure that you are getting enough veggies. Living life as you have been probably won’t put you in contact with more carrots on a daily basis.
The Alternate Route: Change isn’t something you can wish for and forget about. It requires planning and, depending on the goal, will likely require regular check-ins. We suggest setting aside 10 minutes each week (or, if necessary, a few minutes each day) to check in on your progress and plan ahead. The vegetable problem above might have been solved if the goal-setter spent time every Sunday night planning and preparing meals and snacks for the week. An hour spent chopping up and bagging raw veggies, prepping vegetables to use in recipes throughout the week, or cooking and freezing easy-to-reheat meals would help our health-focused friend to reach their vegetable goal.
Recalibrate: Stay positive, and assess your situation: how could some easy advanced planning help you to work toward your goals this week? Do you need to schedule time to prepare something, or rearrange obligations to fit it in? How often do you need to check in on your progress? Will once a week do, or should you take a moment every morning or evening? (Hint: to start, we recommend a daily check-in!) Consistency is the key to lasting change. Get used to a new habit by making it a part of your regular routine and soon, it will be second nature.
You did it alone.
The Roadblock: I have a lot of friends who don’t like to share their resolutions. They’ll tell me, “I have them, but I don’t want to announce them. You know, in case I fail.” These are often the people who, a few weeks into January, declare that resolutions are silly and don’t work.
The Alternate Route: Not meeting a goal shouldn’t come as a surprise to people who eschew support. While it’s certainly not impossible to go it alone, people are much more likely to stick with a goal if they have people helping them. Wouldn’t it be easier to meditate every day if your partner did it with you in the morning? And “announcing” a goal – even to just a few key people – has been shown to help people stick to their plan. I like to think of this as a Center Stage effect. If you know people are watching, you are less likely to slack off. I use the Center Stage effect when running. If I stay on a relatively busy road where I am likely to run into people, I am less inclined to stop running or take a break; I power through. Put me on a side street, however, and I’m working stretches into my routine every ¼ mile!
Recalibrate: Pick one goal, make sure you check above to ensure that it is realistic, healthy, and that you have planned properly to ensure success – and then enlist the help of a few friends. The people who care about you also care that you reach your goals and achieve the success you desire. Let them help you!
You lacked confidence.
The Roadblock: If you don’t start, you can’t fail, right? Often, fear of failure can stop us in our tracks. If we lack confidence that we can bring about the change we desire, it can be enough to derail us completely. The good news is that if you’ve set incremental, realistic goals, have planned accordingly, and have a friend (or three) who you can count on to cheer you on, you now just need to tackle what might be the biggest threat to your confidence: YOU!
The Alternate Route: Concerned that you can’t do it? Now is the time to play a little game… with yourself. Look back on other times that you have brought about positive change in your life, big or small. Did you raise your GPA when you weren’t sure you could? Did you lower your cholesterol to avoid taking medication? Did you sign up for a sports league when you were new in town? Have you ever changed a routine, improved a situation, or lessened a stress in your life? Great! Then you are more than capable of bringing about other positive changes, including the seemingly insurmountable ones that pop into your head when you hear the words “resolution.” And don’t forget that focusing on incremental change – taking small steps and celebrating each success – will also give you the confidence boost you need to keep going!
Recalibrate: By taking the steps outlined in Roadblocks 1, 2, and 3, you can likely eliminate a lot of things that might have been causing you stress. And by focusing on times that you did achieve your goals, you can bolster your confidence further. Now, it’s up to you! You’re the only one who can bring about this change. Consider January as a practice run to work out the kinks. Now focus on getting started in the coming month. Just imagine how great you’ll feel when you’re well on your way come the end of February. Good luck!
The Underrated Appeal of Tess McGill: A “panel” “discussion” of one of my favorite movies, Working Girl. (Highlight: “Speaking of romantic comedies, this movie is usually defined as one. But romance is really not the endgame in Working Girl. Tess isn’t looking for a man; she’s looking to put together a business deal. When Jack (a devastatingly handsome Ford) comes along, she initially sees him as a distraction. She falls in love with him because he’s the first person to ever see her as she wants to be seen: This tough, savvy businesswoman. In fact, the woman who spends the entire film scheming to get married is the antagonist, Katharine (played by Weaver). I love that adorable scene of Jack and Tess getting ready to go to work, but it’s significant that the final shot of the film is Griffith in her new office, alone.”) https://www.yahoo.com/movies/working-girl-perfect-movie-gifs-108085849302.html
As Smart as You Look: Jessica L. Glazer, here, sharing with you a WSJ article on the things we often do to appear smart, the things people actually look for when trying to gauge your intelligence, and what really works if you’re attempting to come across as the next Girl-or-Boy Genius. (Hint: Sit up straight, make eye contact, and use a middle initial.) (Bonus: this article comes with an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand infographic!) http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-look-smarter-1421189631
Red, Red Resveratrol: A quick review of a recent study that shows that red wine contains enough resveratrol to “mimic” a workout. Don’t think about skipping the gym altogether, but this might be enough of an excuse to shorten your Friday night workout and make it to the end of Happy Hour! (Apparently, you could also eat pistachios or grapes to get the same effect but… nah.) http://elitedaily.com/news/world/glass-wine-equivalent-going-gym/770635/
“Beer. Now there’s a temporary solution.” – Homer Simpson: Looking for a great beer bar in your area – or in a city across the country? Well, loo no further. Draft Mag has compiled their Top 100 list of the Best Beer Bars in America. Assuming your resolutions don’t have to do with drinking fewer IPAs, enjoy! http://draftmag.com/americas-100-best-beer-bars-2015/
Diner Dissection: As a native New Yorker, I was born with a love for any place where I could order egg creams, omelets, mashed potatoes, or grape leaves, any time, day or night. Every neighborhood had its own diner, and sometimes we would choose a location based on bar proximity, or which spot made better pudding. But diners played a pivotal role in my teenage social outings and is still a prominent part of my childhood nostalgic thinking. Here, Ed Levine breaks down what makes a diner – and which ones we should be visiting these days. http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/01/ed-levine-why-diners-are-more-important-than-ever.html
Clear Eyes, 3-D Printer, Can’t Lose: An amazing story about a husband who used 3-D printing technology to find an alternative to his wife’s possible craniotomy for the removal of a tumor. A true tale of love, dedication, technology, medicine, proactive measures, and perseverance – it’s amazing. http://makezine.com/magazine/hands-on-health-care/
Today, in the wake of the terrific Charlie Hebdo attack, it can be hard to find things to smile about. But we still must try.
People make the world beautiful in many ways. Today, I am smiling about the Facebook group/campaign, Photo Doggies for Anthony. The group was started by Roberta Lucero-Koron in order to bring some cheer to her friend’s 16-year-old son, Anthony, who is being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Photo Doggies for Anthony asks Facebook users around the world to post pictures of their dogs along with information about where the dog lives. As of two days ago, over half a million puppy photos had been posted – and the number has continued to grow exponentially since then.
If you love puppies and need a boost of spirit today, check out the pictures. And if you have a puppy, consider posting a photo and sharing a positive, get-well/supportive message with Anthony.
Here is what we posted on behalf of our little smooshie guy:
“Hello, Anthony! My name is Ollie. I live in Greensboro, NC and I’m six months old. I hate wearing silly coats in the winter – and love playing with tennis balls! My people and I are sending you best wishes for your treatment and recovery! Xo (& WOOF!).”
Do you like puppy photos? What cheers you up during a tough time? And how do you cheer others up when they need support?
And just like that: 2015! I am shocked by how quickly 2014 flew by. If I stop to think about each week or each month, I’m pleased by the amount of adventure that we packed into one little year. But as a whole, at a glance, the year passed in a blink. They seem to have a habit of doing that…
So here we are, a new year, a new blank notebook, a new slate, perhaps not wiped totally clean, but ready to be filled with everyday romance, grand adventure, and endless beauty.
Each month this year, I will focus on a different subtopic within Positive Psychology. I sometimes find sitting down to write about an entire field to be quite daunting. Not that writing about “resilience” or “love” is any less so, but little steps, little steps…
And after all, isn’t that what progress really is? Just some little steps, and a few big leaps, all strung together, moving toward the direction you’ve chosen? This – the process of progress, of coming into beauty in all senses – is what we’ll talk about in 2015.
In January, we will focus on New Beginnings. I’m so excited.