Tagarchief: #habits

Work on that mindset, be grateful

Gratefulness is a very personal and powerful tool you can use to work on your mindset. Your mindset is a som of all your beliefs and thoughts about yourself and the world that surrounds you. Your mindset will determine how your will act or react in certain situations. By improving your mindset you will improve your life. This post  about gratefulness is a first one in a series of how to improve your mindset.

Today I received a WhatsApp message saying ‘ Thank you for your card. Always nice to get real mail’. And I instantly felt a lot better and happier on this grey, heavily rainy day. Because after having dinner at a friend’s house last week, I showed my gratitude with actually writing a postcard and sending it. Now, I am a paper lover, and I really enjoy choosing or even making myself a card and writing a nice message or thought on it. But being grateful and showing your gratitude is one of the important things when you want to have a more positive way of perceiving your life.

You might have heard this before and still you are not a ‘gratitude’ person. This is not so strange, mainly because our human brain has a natural tendency to detect threats and negative things first, so we don’t focus naturally on the ‘normal’ and ‘good’ around us. If you were lucky enough to grow up in environments where feeling and expressing your gratitude was a part of upbringing, making gratitude a habit, that surely influenced your mindset. But if you didn’t, like me, you should start with understanding why and how ‘gratitude’ works.

  1. Gratitude is focus.  You start consciously noticing things. You focus on the present and the now, rather than being busy planning, worrying, analysing or wanting something else. This focus gives you clarity and you feel more calm and in balance.
  2. Gratitude is positivity. Feeling and expressing our gratitude turns our mental focus on the positive things in our life and makes us see the glass half full rather than half empty. When I was growing up my mother hated many house chores, especially ironing. So after she finished, my mum would sigh that she was finaly done with those chores. Just by saying it like that she was focusing on the negative side if this activity. When I went to live on my own, at first I also dreaded everything that had to do with house keeping. But then I discovered I actually liked ironing, it calms me down. And then I started to appreciate the fact that my house was clean after work being done and I got a sense of pride that I did that. So I started to focus on the positive outcome of cleaning, not the less positive activity of cleaning itself. I still can’t say that cleaning is a joy, but being grateful for a clean house is very much so. Gratefulness creates emotions like joy, love, pride, fulfilment, contentment, and it makes less room for negative emotions.
  3. Gratitude is health. That might sound strange, but when you have less negative thoughts and emotions you will sleep better at night. And getting enough sleep is one of the most important health habits and  benefits.
  4. Gratitude is satisfaction. When you have adopted being grateful as a habit, you will see life as a whole in a more positive way. The people around you will even notice your overall better mood and that you are generally more satisfied with your live.
  5. Gratitude in empowerment. Things like writing a gratitude journal, sending a thank you postcard, complimenting a friend, enjoying your fresh ironed shirts, showing appreciation, all this things will make you feel empowered just by doing so. You will not let yourself being taken over by negativity, even if negative things are also very much a part of life. You keep your balance yourself by being grateful for all the good in your life.

Gratitude is something you need to practice if you are not used to do so. Day by day, or at least a couple of times a week, and slowly your mind will shift in a more positive mood. You can use a gratefulness journal to write all the things you are grateful for at the end of the day. Writing is a very powerful skill, actual using your hand to write down your thoughts will make your brain absorb that gratefulness even more. Or you can make a gratefulness jar where you can put each day a note in with the mention of what made you happy that day. When you already start feeling it more consciously, you can also start expressing your gratitude towards the people around you. By simply mentioning it in a discussion, or sending a postcard like I did.


Make that change: how to stick to new year’s resolutions

When January comes, we get new year’s resolutions fever. After a month of lavishness, exuberance, parties, mostly too much eating and too much drinking, we feel we need a change. The chips and cakes are abolished, we get a new gym subscription, we make a long list with all the books we will read; the goals are clear. The goals are high. And we go for it! We make greens smoothies are our daily diet, we go to the gym every other day, we put a pile of books next to our bed. And, we stick to this resolutions for …about 3 weeks. Guilty, I have been there. Research shows that more than 80% of the people start giving in after 3 weeks. And only the people who continue to respect their resolutions for at least 3 months, are the ones who can really reach their goals and complete the change.

Resistance to change is one the most human traits. Our human brain likes to use patterns, to stick to known paths, where there is the comfort of familiarity and experience. Even if it not the best thing to do, our brain prefers the known to the hypothetic better thing. Even if the known is being too sedentary, not having enough time for yourself or staying in a bad relationship. This is what we know to do, so even if we want to change, it is easier to get back to what we already know.

How come we all tend to fall back on to old habits? And how can we make that change for the better? There has been a lot of research done about it, and even though there is not yet a magic pill for the prefect outcome, here are a few things we need to take into account in order to stick with our new year’s resolutions.

1. Expect resistance. You should be aware of the fact that you will face resistance to the changes. It can happen in a couple of days after you start, or a few weeks in. Even if you have a great meal plan or a coach who’s a great help you will be tempted. Don’t get discouraged, it is very normal. It happens to everyone. And by knowing so, you can prepare yourself for the moments when you want to give in.

2. Prepare yourself. Be proactive and don’t let yourself be surprised. Recognise the behaviours that indicate you might be resisting the change. Whatever your goal is, you can ask advice or just google your struggles and find many indicators what you might be expecting. Do you find excuses not going to the gym? Do you keep on swiping on your phone instead of reading your book? These are quite clear indicators that you are self-sabotaging your resolution.

3. Be aware of the needs. After you’ve recognised those indicators, be aware of what you need to do in order to stick to your plan and goals. Thinks like having a healthy snack ready instead of grabbing the cookie jar, or asking a buddy to join you to go outside and get jogging, or talk to your support group. Knowing what your needs are when tempted and being aware of your need to act in the proper way, is already an amazing thing. Anticipation is key.

4. Set sensible goals. If you expect to drop 2 sizes in one month or to read a book a week, you should ask yourself: is this reasonable? Do I have enough time to read when I have a full-time job and two little kids? There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but it has been proven that the higher the goals, the higher the risk of getting confused, angry and disappointed. And then you of course quit. So, in order not to get that frustrated and disappointed with yourself, set smaller goals, and go from there. The satisfaction is big when your reach a goal. And that motivates you to keep going.

5. Adopt new routines. When you want to really make a change, very often you really need to adopt a new routine. Meditating in the morning instead of sleeping half an hour longer, eating a salad instead of pizza, not filling your schedule to the max… it is really hard. The best thing to do is really to embrace your new routine, make it your mantra. Implement it in your daily life. Writing your new routine down can help a lot, making a chart or a drawing helps to also visualising it. Also keeping a diary, with your progress and set backs, helps.

6. Allow mistakes and just go back on track. So, you ate that piece of cake, or you skipped a gym appointment. It sucks, but it doesn’t mean that you might as well eat the whole cake and that you should to just unsubscribe from your gym. We all have weak moments. We all make mistakes. But the smart thing is to just go back to the new routine, continue with your plan, keep the change going. Even if you were sidetracked  for a moment.

7. Understanding why the change is needed. It seems very logical, but ask yourself, why do you really need that change? Is it that you feel too heavy or is it the lasted ‘fitgirls’ fashion? Do you want less social activities, or actually more time for yourself? Do you find watching Netflix unsatisfying, or reading a book is really giving you more joy? This last point, of understanding your needs and your wanting for change, that is a tricky one. Sometime it is hard to see that for yourself. A coach could help to clear your mind and figure out what your emotions are doing to you, of course. But already thinking about the ‘why’ will help you a lot. So, ask yourself this question and give yourself an honest answer.

There is nothing wrong with new year’s resolutions. Whenever you want to start with them. Prepare yourself well, be aware of what it takes to make all those needed changes in your life, take a deep breath… and just go for it!