Tag Archives: positive psychology

Resolution Roadblocks

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!

  1. You overreached.

The Roadblock: So losing 5 pounds a week and getting an extra 2 hours of sleep a night didn’t pan out? No surprise there! Setting high goals is great; setting unrealistic or, worse, unhealthy goals is not. While you might wish for a smaller waistline by morning, losing more than 1-2 pounds per week is considered unhealthy by most experts. And changing up a regular routine often takes time. You need to acclimate to change, and do it in a way that is doable, not drastic.

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.

Climbing a mountain takes planning - and it can't be done in one step. Commit to small steps, focus on incremental changes, and soon, you'll be at the top.
Climbing a mountain takes planning – and it can’t be done in one step. Commit to small steps, focus on incremental changes, and soon, you’ll be at the top.
  1. You underplanned.

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.

Deciding you want to eat more vegetables each day won't magically lead you to encounter carrots on a daily basis. Planning is necessary!
Deciding you want to eat more vegetables each day won’t magically lead you to encounter carrots on a daily basis. Planning is necessary!

 

  1. 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!

 

Don't keep your goals a secret! Social support will help you to achieve your goals! Open up those files and put your friends on the case!
Don’t keep your goals a secret! Social support will help you to achieve your goals! Open up those files and put your friends on the case!
  1. 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!

Truth.
Truth.

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!

hello february

Clippings: This Week’s Articles of Interest (10/13/14)

Let’s Do Lunch: Tartines are one of my favorite foods to eat in Paris, yes, but also in my own home. And while I’ll never forsake grilled cheese, I do love both styles of sandwich; they make for such quick-and-easy, vegetarian-friendly fare! And they’re delicious! Here are some great recipes, perfect for a late Saturday lunch tomorrow afternoon: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/08/dining/grilled-cheese-try-a-tartine-recipe-instead.html

Social Psychology & The Dinner Plate: Interesting article from Psychology Today covering Paul Rozin’s research on the psychology of nutrition: http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201409/food-and-mood/the-psychology-nutrition?tr=HomeColItem

The President and First Lady seem to love hugs, too!
The President and First Lady seem to love hugs, too! – p/c Scout Tufikijan/David Burnett

Happy to Hug: As a serial hugger, I was stunned to read about people who are so hug-averse that they will actually tell their students “don’t touch me.” But I agree that most people are, as the article notes, coming out of the “don’t hug” bubble – and are receiving affection with open arms. (Friday Fun: check out the funny Channing Tatum video that the article references) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/fashion/the-bro-hug-embracing-a-change-in-custom.html?ref=fashion&smid=tw-nytstyles&_r=0

Trusting Your Movements: Do you engage in any of the four “subtle gestures” that, according to the MIT media lab, read as “untrustworthy?” If so, take note, and practice stopping these behaviors in order to avoid having others judge you based on unconscious movements. http://www.inc.com/sims-wyeth/4-gestures-that-turn-people-off-guess-what-they-are.html?cid=ps01902lead

If you’d like to watch a short video about this research, click here: http://hbr.org/video/3166586123001/trustworthy-signals

Na Pali Hike - Jessica Glazer - 2013
Na Pali Hike – Jessica Glazer – 2013

Walk with Me: Did you really need another reason to go outside and breathe in the gorgeous autumn air? You did? Okay! Here it is! According to the University of Michigan – and all parents who tell their kids to get outside and play with some friends – “group walks in nature are linked to with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being.” Now, off the couch and out you go! Have a great weekend!

Rainbow Connection

The other day, my friend, Elaina, and I were coloring at the kitchen table with her two little girls. We had a stack of coloring books, but were also tearing through a pile of computer paper to draw designs. “Pretty colors,” her four-year-old said, as she looked at my drawing. I noticed that the colors that I gravitate to have been the same for many years, and I lamented that, while I can custom-order bags full of whatever color M&Ms I desire, I can’t custom order a box of new crayons with more than four colors*. (As you likely guessed, based on my new-school-supply-fueled love of fall, I adore a brand new box of Crayons.)

“What colors would you want?” asked Elaina. “These ones,” I said. “Black, silver, turquoise, purple, magenta, some kind of bright green, that robin’s egg color. Definitely a lot of black and silver crayons, not just one each. How about you?” “All pink,” she said. “Every color of pink that they have.”

Although it may be some time before we can realize our pipe dream of an entire 96-count box of couture crayons (Are you there, Crayola, it’s me, Jessica!?), we can reap the benefits of coloring more often – and we needn’t wait until a rainy day forces the munchkins indoors for a few hours. Coloring is an amazing way to relax and check in with our creative “side” (which, as we know, is always around, but often neglected).

rain flower

I spent last year counseling patients in a hospital. Upon my arrival onsite, I was pleased to find that the majority of the patients were coloring every day. They did this for stress relief, for a distraction, sometimes, just for fun. These patients, who spent almost the entire day in group or individual counseling, who were struggling, fighting to find comfort in their lives and in themselves, found solace in coloring in the printed copies of mandalas that were neatly organized in folders at the nursing station. Some colored during sessions that upset them, using the tactile and visual sensations almost as a type of grounding. Others used coloring to block out the noise in the waiting area, while some used coloring in order to draw gifts for their peers. The coloring calmed them, helped them to relax, and it also provided a sense of satisfaction when they completed a beautiful picture.

Coloring is for everyone. Those feelings – of calm, of relaxation, of satisfaction – can be had by all of us. Recently, an article in Huffington Post Spain was translated to English for the US site, and began making the Facebook post rounds. I was hardly surprised to read the author’s assertion that coloring “generates wellness, quietness, and… stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses, and creativity.” And according to an Artnet article, the fact that coloring may remind us of our childhood may be comforting as well.

Recently, during dinner with my fiancé, I mused aloud that restaurants should provide crayons and paper for grownups, not just for patrons under 10. While I’ve never understood how people can sit through a meal silently, I am aware that the tables of those who dine around us are often quiet, and though I’m hard-pressed to find a situation in which I have nothing to say, I know that some meals would benefit from an icebreaker of sorts. Think about how much fun a first date would be if you could scribble on a piece of paper or show off your flower-drawing skills! How relaxing it would be to come home from work and decompress by filling in a beautiful design! (Glass of wine optional.)

van gogh 1
Not just Paint By Numbers… OIL Painting By Numbers

Years ago, when I was having a tough week, my friend, Melissa, suggested that I buy a paint-by-numbers kit at Michael’s. “It will distract you,” she said, “but also help you to focus.” I thought it sounded like a silly plan, but I was intrigued. Off I went, through the fake flower aisles, and selected a “painting” of an underwater seascape. Once I finished my masterpiece, I promptly tossed it in the trash, but the important part had happened already: I had allowed myself a few hours each night to focus on color and light, to stay within the lines at a time when it felt like everything was out of control. Time passed quickly and my focus helped me to both zone out, and be present, at the same time.

Coloring does the same thing, minus the embarrassment of letting the woman at the Michael’s register know that, for the next few weeks, you’ll be using paints #9, #13, and #22 to try to recreate a Van Gogh. Give it a try sometime soon. You can pick up a respectable 96-color Crayola box at any CVS, and I dare you not to smile when you open it up. While you may not get to select only your very favorite colors, just having a rainbow of possibility at hand should be a good shot of beauty for the day.

Prepare yourself for a wild evening.
Prepare yourself for a wild evening.

 

*Please note that while I am grateful to be able to make a 64-count box filled with 16 each of my 4 favorite colors, I would prefer to be able to choose, say, 4 each of my favorite 16 colors. If I wanted to get Elaina a box of “every pink” from the 64 crayon color line, I would need to choose at least 14 pinks.

In Season

There is a quote that I have always loved. It was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, and I always think of it during mid-October, on the days when I try to rationalize not wearing a coat and then wish that I had decided to bring it along:

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

I have always loved the fall season. This may have started with my passion for new school supplies – untouched notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils – and I would imagine that it developed further when I reached the age where fall also meant new riding boots, trips with friends to go apple picking, and long drives through the changing foliage. I’ve had the good fortune to live in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and now, North Carolina. Fall is deeply engrained in me; Northeastern seasons seem as much a part of life as bedtime or my birthday. Even here, “down South,” the leaves are beginning to change colors. The breeze is no longer warm and languid, but brisk and chilly. Walking our puppy requires a sweatshirt and closed-toed shoes. Yesterday, I dropped off three coats at the dry cleaner and was told that they’d be ready very soon because “it’s time for a warm coat.”

I’m thrilled that it’s time for a coat, that autumn is in full swing. There is something special about the fall. It is a chilly respite from the relentless heat of summer and it is undeniably the most gorgeous of seasons, with even a short drive to the store turning into a photo opportunity. Every tree displays itself like a peacock, preening and posing in an effort to outdo the rich displays of its neighbors. It is the botanical version of keeping up with the Jones’, though much more palatable to watch. But unlike spring, where the relief from the cold turns to lush, feral growth, fall gives way to a grueling cycle of snow and of cold. Were it not for the clever punctuation of holidays focused on the warmth of family and friends, the winter season might be wholly unbearable; fall is then, in some ways, a harbinger of gloom.

And so it is interesting that it should feel as though life has begun again in the fall. One might easily say that life is just about to wind down, to freeze over. That fall is sunset, then dusk; the difficult knowledge that what is so bright and beautiful will pass too soon. But instead, fall, with its melancholy beauty, its pre-frost swansong, snaps us out of the laze and lethargy of hot summer days. It sends us back into the classroom, necessitates socks, and shoes with laces, calls for warm drinks and, yes, new notebooks.

Fall requires an element of grit from each of us. It requires the pluck and wherewithal to shake off the sand and salt air of the previous season in order to prepare ourselves for the coming trip around the sun. Fall is both potential and preservation. It requires scarves and gloves, the padding of jackets, but more than that, it requires the padding of spirit. In exchange for this, it provides beauty and perfect Saturdays, pumpkin lattes and Thanksgiving.

The thing is, just like fall, every day – each morning – requires something of us. Each day requires grit and fortitude and the tenacity to begin again.

Life starts all over again in the fall, but it starts all over again every morning, too. Every day rewards us with beauty in return for our willingness to rise to the challenge. The trick is to see the beauty through the chaos or confusion of the day, to allow ourselves to be governed, not by the loss of what was or the fear of what is to come, but the perfect knowledge that we are, as we should be, in season.

 

*This essay was inspired by an open letter that I wrote to the students in my Fall 2012 Positive Psychology course at Johns Hopkins University. Thank you to them, and to all of my students, for being a year-round inspiration.

Clippings: This Week’s Articles of Interest (9/29/14)

Amazing Graze: I’m a big fan of grazing, often because then I get to taste a little of everything. Yesterday’s grazing included kimchi, a piece of muenster cheese, leftover alphabet soup, and some Talenti pistachio gelato (of course, every day should include gelato). In this article from The Guardian, Amy Fleming explores why we love to graze. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/sep/30/grazing-underrated-way-to-eat

Off the Ranch: When I do sit down for a full meal (which is usually twice a day, though I’m slowing coming around to this “breakfast” thing), I often like to start with a big salad. But putting the wrong dressing on a salad can really ruin a good thing. To save your greens, here is a great article from Bon Appetit on how to build dressings for any salad. It does leave out my favorite for argula, however: an easy mix of olive oil, lemon juice, and freshly grated parmesan (like this): http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/how-to-dress-any-salad-green

Grande Social Inspo: Every so often, I get a Facebook update from someone I do not know. Clearly, I did know them once or, perhaps more accurately, I met them at some point, but their name rings no bells. I’m happy to hear that they’ve just become an uncle/run a marathon/made spaghetti for dinner, but our relationship really begins and ends there. Not this guy! When he realized he didn’t really know most of his Friend list, he decided to have coffee dates with everyone on it. Wishing him the best of luck and hoping he works in a few herbal teas to avoid the caffeine rush I used to get after long days of coffee with students. And while we don’t all need to schedule 1,000 visits to Starbucks, let’s all use this as “Social-Inspo” to put down our iPhones more often in order to focus on the people (who are or could be) sitting across from us.  http://elitedaily.com/news/world/guy-getting-coffee-facebook-friends/776773/?utm_source=huffingtonpost.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=pubexchange

The Danger of Un-rest: From The Atlantic, an important piece on the dangers of not being able to afford sleep: how our bodies are impacted by long-term sleep deprivation, and why those working grueling schedules are especially at risk. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/when-you-cant-afford-sleep/380128/

Rides for Recyclabes: Brilliant idea in Beijing subways: rides for recyclables. Given that Beijing citizens are apparently better at recycling than most other city’s residents, it would be terrific to see this implemented in other locations: http://www.notimpossiblenow.com/the-latest/beijing-recycling-incentives-subway

A Break, but Not a Rest

If I’ve not posted recently, please be assured that it is not at all due to a lack of interest in this blog. The past few weeks have just been especially eventful, chaotic, and somewhat challenging, but overall, they’ve been good.

I had a shoulder biopsy (results: tests came back good; healing: slow); a massive allergic reaction to bug bites on my left foot which led to my foot swelling to twice its normal size (results: Halloween-esque, and I needed to use crutches for the first time as I could not stand on the foot; healing: today is my last day of antibiotics!); and being dive-bombed by hundreds of mosquitos a week later (results: more swelling, more Benedryl; healing: lengthy – I’m grateful that Fall has brought jeans and long sleeves).

But there was a lot of great stuff peppered in there, too! As always, it’s important to look through the challenges to find the positive. Even though I had to show up on crutches, wearing a high heel on my right foot and a man’s sock on my left (not the most lovely look), I had the pleasure of presenting at Prudential Finance’s Annual Finance Learning Exchange. This was my second year in a row presenting, and I was happy to have been asked back after last year’s lecture. Prudential asked me to create a new presentation on the topic of positive communication, and I had a terrific time during both days.

Due to my ER visit and medicine-overload, however, I was unable to stay at the conference hotel as planned, and instead stayed with my parents 90 minutes away in NY. Thanks to my incredibly kind and accommodating Mom, who changed all of her plans around, this meant a ladies’ road trip – 3 hours of driving each day, for 2 days – to and from New Jersey. Although I did not enjoy having to change icepacks every 30 minutes and I may have been a bit woozy due to meds, I had a rare and beautiful opportunity to spend two full days with my Mom, with no technological distractions or To Dos.

AND I was only attacked by giant swarms of mosquitos because I had the good fortune to be in Galveston, Texas for a weekend. While our post-rainstorm timing was good for sunny skies and warm weather, it did lead to swarms of determined mosquitos unlike any I’ve ever encountered! But it was great to see Galveston, and to also spend a few days in Houston.

So there you go. Every cloud, a lining; every bug bite, a chance to visit with my mom.

Now I’m armed with calamine lotion and my laptop, and am happy to be back home, back to work, and back at the blog. Hope your week is going well – and I look forward to posting again soon!

Clippings: This Week’s Articles of Interest (9/22/14)

30-Minute Meals – or Slow-Cooker Creations?: How to be more efficient in the kitchen? “Invest time or work, not both.” From one of my favorites, Mark Bittman: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/dining/when-cooking-invest-time-or-work-not-both.html

Dental Dilemma: Excellent article from The Atlantic on the issue of health plans refusing to cover dental care, how this proves to be a medical danger and financial roadblock, and why this needs to change immediately: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/why-dont-we-treat-teeth-like-the-rest-of-our-bodies/380703/

An iPhone Case for Superman: Currently trying to decide: should I get the (bendable) iPhone6, or wait it out with my (cracked) iPhone4? I’ve been waiting a while for the 6, but am not exactly delicate with my belongings and fear that I could take “bendable” to a new level. Maybe this Yale-generated, super-steel case could help? If not, it will sure make some fancy superhero gear: http://www.notimpossiblenow.com/the-latest/bulk-metallic-glasses-smartphone-case

Cupbearer Chopsticks: Innovations abound. I would carry these chopsticks with me everywhere!: http://www.notimpossiblenow.com/the-latest/smart-chopsticks

“In Daylights, In Sunsets, In Midnights…”A cool set of infographics, and a very interesting way to conceptualize our precious time. Hoping everyone is lucky enough to fill out all of their squares – or mindful enough to make each square they have really matter: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/life-weeks.html

“…In Cups of Coffee”: A Coffee Guide Infographic – I will bring the cortado picture with me so US baristas will stop shouting back at me “WARM milk!?” and I can sip happily, imagining that I am back in Mallorca: http://visual.ly/38-ways-make-perfect-coffee

The Case for Journals

As someone who has kept a diary on and off since the age of 4, I can vouch for the fact that reading about everyday events from the past is really wonderful. It is a pleasure to see when and how I was writing, what I was focusing on, who I mention in my entries. It’s also nice to be able to “account for” my days throughout the years when I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday. In fact, I just realized, while typing this, that I haven’t yet had lunch today!

This article from the NY Times’ OpTalk page (which happily cites Pennebaker, of course), looks into new research that shows that “recording our run-of-the-mill, daily experiences, rather than just our highs and lows, could bring us unexpected joy.” Ting Zhang and colleagues asked people to write two short journal entries (what they did and how they felt): one on Valentine’s Day and another on a “regular” day. Subjects were then asked to rate how “extraordinary” each day was – and how much they felt they would enjoy reading each entry in the future. Perhaps because the afterglow from boxes of chocolate is so strong, subjects did not feel that they would enjoy recounting their everyday experiences as much as they would a “special” day. However, according to the study, “ordinary events came to be perceived as more extraordinary over time, whereas perceptions of extraordinary events did not change across time.”

There is a certain beauty in the time capsule that is a journal and, if you use a traditional book and a pen, that beauty comes nicely packaged in your own handwriting. (Handwriting can be enjoyable to examine, as well – messy writing from journaling on a bumpy train while abroad; neat writing while penning a swooning entry about your new love interest.) Looking back on how you mentioned your fiancé in an entry well before you really got to know each other, or smiling while you remember that you used to do the dishes every night together before you got a dishwasher, or reading about how much you used to hate waking up for the class that led you to choose your current career – these are unique glimpses of the sweetness and serendipity of our lives.

Hindsight is hardly 20/20. As we move down a road, the things behind us get smaller and distorted. Reading our own words, from a “real-time” journal entry, helps us to avoid needing to squint as we look backwards on our own journey. We don’t need to piece together the fuzzy clues and memories; we can read it right there on the page. Even glancing back over your Day Planner as the year comes to a close can be rewarding. It’s pretty cool to know that you on April 18, you met your brother for coffee at that place you’d been meaning to try, and on October 2, you and your partner went to dinner with his cousins. Rereading journals, noting these little moments that might have been missed memories, instead cements them in our brains, allowing them to become part of our personal narrative. At the very least, they become a nice thing to reflect on.

Day slip by, weeks race on, years pass in a blink. We can’t control it, but we can use journals to be more mindful of the time we have. So find the type of journal that works for you and give it a try.

This research does more than support my love for recording life. It supports my true belief that even, and especially, in the “ordinary” lives the “extraordinary.” It’s just a matter of how you look at it and, perhaps, when.

Tips for a Positive Start to the Week

Mondays are tough. We often have an earlier start to the day than we did during the two days before, and we often head off to work first thing – and we often aren’t very happy about any of it. Here are a few things to try that might make Mondays more bearable, if not actually enjoyable.

Gratitude Journals

Rather than grumbling about our early rising or activities for the day, try listing your gratitudes (keeping your gratitude journal) first thing. I am constantly recommending that people keep a gratitude journal, and my general advice is to make the list before bed. But the challenge that Monday presents to most people lends itself well to gratitude journals.

Unsure of how to come up with gratitudes first thing in the morning, before – you might say – anything has even happened? Well, how about these: Did you wake up from an alarm that you set? Congratulations! I used to work with children in need who would ask how they were supposed to get to school on time when their family had no alarm clock (plug-in or via phone) to rouse them from sleep. You have one? Fantastic! Happy day! Did you get up, stumble to the bathroom, and turn on hot, clean water for a shower? Get grateful; 780 million people lack access to clean water for drinking or cooking, never mind taking a long hot shower to start the day. (In case your Monday math skills are a bit fuzzy, 780 milion is 2 1/2 times the US population.) But lucky you! You got up and had a shower. Terrific day! Did your kids’ bus come late, leaving you waiting outside, checking your watch, and wondering if you would make it in on time? Maybe. But did you also get another precious few moments to see your children, a rare chance to talk with them for a bit longer in the morning? Yes? Well, look at that! Three gratitudes and we haven’t even addressed the fact that you likely had food to eat, coffee to drink, clean clothes to put on, and and job to go to in the first place. If you’re employed, even if you would prefer to be employed elsewhere, that’s something to be grateful for. We can always change our career path (more on that later), and we can always change our mindset (more on that later, too.) Changing our mindset about things – like how we view extra moments with the ones we love or how we view Monday mornings – can make a world of difference to our happiness.

Went Wells

And if gratitude journals aren’t your thing? Research shows that keeping a list of What Went Well works, too (Seligman, 2011). And yes – this can be done shortly after waking, or on your way to work. Did your alarm go off? Great! Better than that time the power went out and you slept through a meeting. Did you actually get to bed on time last night? Hooray! Nice way to kick off the week. Keeping track of what doesn’t suck, what doesn’t let us down, can be very effective, especially when we spend a lot of our time focusing on what didn’t work out. Start the week off with a bang by focusing on the better stuff.

Fresh Air

As we close out summer and look forward to changing leaves, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin spice mania, we must also accept that evenings come sooner and days grow shorter. Try getting outside every morning, especially while the weather still permits a 10 minute walk sans parka! Take some deep breaths, close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you (even city sounds are more interesting if you close your eyes and pay attention), and enjoy a few moments of fresh air. Several years ago, I was living in a lovely apartment building with the luxury of an attached, indoor parking garage. Each morning, I would get into my car, drive to work, park underneath my building, and take the elevator to my office. Each evening, I would reverse the process. I liked that I could avoid what was at the time a miserable winter chill, but it took almost a week of this routine for me to realize that I had had virtually no fresh air for days, only filtered, heated air in either my apartment, office, or car. I also hadn’t allowed myself the opportunity to interact with people outside of my office or home! Getting outside provides us with a chance to increase our luck, develop our creativity, and better our health (info on all of that coming soon). So go for it: have your morning coffee outside, park further away from the office, get lunch from somewhere a few blocks away rather a place close by, take the kids to the park, or enjoy some quiet time on a solo run tonight. Making this a practice on Monday makes it more likely that we will continue this healthy habit throughout the coming week.

So there you go! A few easy things to try today. Take a moment during lunch to start a gratitude or went well list, and then make sure to get outside. And if you simply can’t get away from whatever is keeping you busy today (do try again tomorrow!), just “set wide the window… [and] drink the day.”

x Jessica

"Set wide the window. Let me drink the day." Edith Wharton