Category

Personal Development

Look for the good in life

By | Leadership Development, Personal Development

“Gratitude is many things to many people,” writes Sonja Lyubomirsky in “The How of Happiness.” “It is wondering; it is appreciation; it is looking at the bright side of a setback; it is fathoming abundance; it is thanking someone in your life; it is thanking God; it is ‘counting blessings.’ It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is coping; it is present-oriented.”

Some people call it an attitude, some call it an action, and some call it an emotion. Regardless of the terms used to describe it, gratitude is a person’s choice to look for the good in life. It is also one of the easiest happiness practices to add to your life, because there is always something for which to be grateful. It’s an easy habit to adopt, because it offers an immediate physical and emotional reward. Think about it. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to feel discouraged and grateful at the same time. When you notice the good in the world, you immediately feel better.

For those for whom gratitude is a way of life, the benefits are even greater. Studies have revealed that grateful people experience improved immunity, better sleep and lower blood pressure. They are also better equipped to overcome mild to moderate depression and improve their relationships.

Although saying thank you is a good start, becoming a grateful person — one whom Robert Emmons describes as a person who receives and accepts all of life as a gift — doesn’t happen overnight. It does, indeed, require practice. Emmons, who is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology and a psychology professor at the University of California-Davis, explains that the practice of gratitude comprises two key components: affirming the goodness in the world around you and recognizing that the source of this goodness is something outside yourself.

 

Happy Act: Count Your Blessings

Make a list—right now—of at least five things or people for whom you are grateful.

 

Tap Into the Power of Gratitude

Whether you are dealing with a major life-shattering event, experiencing a small bump in the road, or interested in improving your relationships, gratitude can help.

“When we become more grateful, and acknowledge what we have through a lens of appreciation, it helps us focus on what is important to us,” explains Louis Alloro, a senior fellow at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. “We are conditioned to focus on what’s not working rather than to look at what is working. Gratitude changes what we look at and how we see it. It’s an essential ingredient for a life well-lived.”

Many people emphasize the importance of “being” grateful, but Louis teaches it’s important to take it a step further and “feel” gratitude. “It is key to feel it in your heart instead of keeping it in your mind,” he says. “When you say you’re grateful for something, it’s very often something that happened in the past — even if it was earlier that day. So I encourage people to not just say why they’re grateful, but to take a moment to remember how they felt when that was happening.”

Taking time to feel that appreciation again releases dopamine and allows you to re-enact the experience emotionally, generating healing positive feelings. “The payoff is huge,” Louis says. “It takes a little more time and more effort, but you’ll see such a difference in the way it affects you.”

 

Happy Act: Take a Gratitude Walk

Go for a walk with your spouse, child, parent or friend. Take turns noting things you’re grateful for.

 

Five Ways to Get Started

Keep a gratitude journal. Once a week or once a day, make notes about the people, things or circumstances for which you are grateful. Your notes don’t have to be long — a sentence or two is enough to remind you of the gifts you’ve recently experienced.

Use words that acknowledge the external source of goodness. Grateful people use words like “gifts,” “givers,” “blessings,” “blessed,” “good fortune,” “fortunate” and “abundance.” “In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.”

Encourage gratitude. Ask your child, grandchild or a friend, “What was the best part of your day today?”

Write a gratitude letter. Send or hand-deliver a note of thanks to someone who has made a difference in your life.

Relive the feeling of gratitude. Go beyond identifying a positive experience and mentally relive it. Focus on how the experience made you feel. Savor that feeling.

Excerpted from Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy by Deborah K. Heisz and the editors of Live Happy magazine.

Embracing change is essential for growth

By | Leadership Development, Personal Development

Let’s get one thing straight: Change is inevitable.

I remember eight-track tape players. I remember when they all got stolen out of my 1964 Plymouth Valient, too. I remember when we changed to cassettes, then CDs and mP3 players. Now you stream everything.

Everything changes. And it’s not just products that change. It’s your life that changes. Things that happen in your life change.

You have to be adaptable. Because, while change is inevitable, growth is optional.

Change can be something you initiate or it can be forced upon you. No matter how much you might like those eight-track tapes, it’s nearly impossible to find a car that will play them these days.

Growth, however, is something you choose. Growth is a decision you make.

Growth and change are both uncomfortable. You’re waving goodbye to a comfort zone – saying goodbye to this place in life that you’ve settled into. Everyone – no matter their position in life – builds up comfort zones. People build a comfort zone making $1 million a year. People build a comfort zone making $15,000 a year. People build a comfort zone having three kids. People build a comfort zone having zero kids.

You always have a comfort zone. However, when you’re starting your own, independent business, you’re making the decision to step out of your comfort zone.

And it’s not just your comfort zone you’re messing with. You’re disrupting the mindsets of the people around you. You’re disrupting the image of you they had in their mind, and you’re disrupting how they have their life laid out in front of them.

One of the challenges for people is that they look at past experiences to predict future results. That’s a mistake in this. The only way you are going to get the same result is if you do the same thing. But if you look at your past experiences and decide to do things differently, you’ll have different results.

One of the greatest things about change is that you get to embrace new experiences. Life is all about experiences. Life is about moments. People get in this business to make their dreams come true. But it’s a process. And in the process of making your dreams come true, you become a better person, a better parent, a better friend and a better employee. And if you’re in business with Nerium, you begin to place value on the culture we have of being happy, of showing goodwill, being joyful and showing gratitude.

People want to be their best selves. People want to give their best self to their family and their friends. But they’re battling their history and everything that tells them that they can’t do this – that they can’t be successful running a business for themselves. It’s scary to step out of their comfort zone. People want to know that, if they change, there is a bright, successful future waiting for them.

You have an opportunity to go out into the world and to inspire your children to be better than you, to have more than you. Don’t live life in a La-Z-Boy. Don’t live life in front of a TV set or a computer screen. Don’t spend your life watching the Travel Channel.

Travel. See the world. Live your dreams.

My promise is this: Your willingness to change will be your message to yourself that you’re willing to grow. And your message to yourself that you’re willing to grow will give you belief and hope. And that hope will put you right in contact with what’s on your dreamboard.

Jimmy Dean said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to reach my destination.”

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.

Simple questions that could change your life

By | Personal Development

Our work-life experts ask: Is your life in balance?

When you’re focused mainly on one area of your life, it can be exhausting. We’ve been there. When we were writing “Profit from the Positive”, though our work was thriving, we noticed that both of us took hits in other areas of our lives. For Senia, it was her health. For Margaret, it was her social life.

We know that to live a truly happy and fulfilling life, we need to pay attention to the domains that make it up, including work (career and money), a social life (family, friends and fun) and health (physical and emotional).

The right balance can change your life

And we’re not alone. Professors Laura Nash, Ph.D., and Howard Stevenson, Ph.D., interviewed everyone from high-ranking executives to stay-at-home parents and found that the most successful people are those who do well at work, in their communities and at home. In the Harvard Business Review, Laura and Howard wrote that people with enduring success “have high achievement, multiple goals, the ability to experience pleasure, the ability to create positive relationships and a value on accomplishments that endure.” For these people—and us—success isn’t found by focusing on one area, whether it’s work, a social life or health. Rather, it happens when you have the right balance.

With that in mind, and to restore balance in our lives, we examined our health, work and social lives asking ourselves three questions, so we could identify which areas could use some improvement and then make conscious, intentional choices. This is something we do with our clients in our coaching sessions, and now, in 10 minutes, you can do it, too. Ask yourself:

1. On a scale of 0 to 10, how satisfied am I with my health, my social life and my work?

You don’t need a 10 in each category; the goal is for you to simply become aware of how the three areas interrelate. What do you notice? Think of this step like starting a new fitness routine. You don’t walk into the gym and jump on the first piece of exercise equipment you see. No, you assess your current fitness level and strengths first, and then you determine what areas you need to work on. It’s the same here. If you want to improve your life, you need a big-picture view first.

2. What would each area of my life look like if it were a perfect 10?

Explore the ideas that you may not have seriously considered before. Many of us live in a cycle of work, home and perhaps a little play. We don’t step back and dream of what we would love to do because we’re too caught up in the day-to-day. Laura King, Ph.D., a University of Missouri psychology professor, found that writing about what you hope to accomplish boosts positive feelings about the future, increases your belief in yourself and leads to self-fulfilling prophecies.

In our coaching, we ask our clients to either speak about or write down what they really hope to accomplish. Similarly, sports psychologists train athletes to visualize a successful match, game or play. So why not apply one or both of these methods to your own life?

3. What can I do to improve my scores and make my dreams a reality?

Connect your social life with your health by taking a class with friends or joining a hiking club. Have working lunches with colleagues or turn your next one-on-one meeting into a walk-and-talk. Start a well-being challenge in your office — how many miles can you walk as a team?

Once you have your plan in place, every three months or so share your scores, dreams and actions with a friend over a nice dinner. Make it fun, celebrate your small wins and keep each other honest. Remember, these questions give you a snapshot over time, so your scores will likely change. They did for us. After we went through this process, we both took actions toward creating better balance in our lives.

Making small steps to improve your balance

For Senia, this meant taking up eight-minute high-intensity workouts and exercising almost every morning. Margaret declared 2014 her year of socializing. She has already hosted two dinner parties and planned trips and events for the rest of the year.

This is really about stepping back and examining our lives so that we can start to see them clearly. We’ve realized our time is a finite resource; whereas our energy can expand and contract. So, when you keep your work, health and social life ignited at a balance that’s right for you, you can create swells of energy and live a happier, more fulfilling life.

Written by Senia Maymin and Margaret Greenberg from the June 2014 issue of Live Happy magazine.

3 keys to boosting your confidence

By | Personal Development

Is fear of failure holding you back?

Do you charge ahead, willing to give anything a try and persisting in the face of setbacks, criticism and failure? Or do you hesitate, waiting until you feel you can put the pieces together so everything will be “just right,” ensuring that everything goes as planned and everyone is happy?

My grandfather’s motto for life is: “Just get in there and have a go.”

As I look back on decades of risky career moves and wonderful adventures around the globe, I thank him every day for giving me the confidence to show up for the things that have mattered most in my life.

In fact, I didn’t realize just how good his advice was until I recently recorded this podcast with Katty Kay, co-author of the best-selling book The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know.

Thoughts into actions

“Confidence is what turns our thoughts into actions,” explained Katty. “With it you can take on the world; without it you remain stuck on the starting block of your own potential.”

It turns out confidence isn’t simply feeling good about yourself, saying you’re great — perfect just as you are — and believing you can do whatever you want. Nor does it require you to be a jerk who always has to speak first, ignores other people’s ideas, or demands to be given what you deserve. Rather, confidence is what allows you to stop mumbling, apologizing and hesitating, and instead start acting, risking and failing.

“Confidence matters more to our success than competence does,” said Katty. “If you choose not to act, you simply have less chance of success.”

Unfortunately, Katty’s research found that confidence appears to be a particular challenge for women across professions, income levels, and generations. And while our genetics, our schooling, our upbringing, our society and even the way we look are all factors that affect our confidence, it’s also a result of our own choices.

Choose to become more confident

As a result, Katty believes we can improve our levels of confidence through three simple steps:

1. Take action — Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure. So step outside your comfort zone, and if the very idea feels overwhelming, focus on how your actions can benefit others to kick-start your confidence. Start with small challenges that allow you to grow, improve and gain confidence. If you fail, think about how you can do it differently next time, and try again. If you succeed, set yourself the next challenge and keep stretching yourself forward again and again.

2. Think Less — Note the stories you’re playing over and over, and ask: Is this the only explanation for what’s unfolding? Try to note as many plausible alternatives as possible, and invest your attention on the explanations that build rather than destroy your confidence. And if all else fails, try a little self-compassion and talk back to yourself, as you would to a friend who was full of self-doubt.

3. Be Authentic — Be confident in a way that feels genuine to you. You don’t always have to speak first; you can listen and incorporate what others say. You can speak calmly but carry a smart message — one that will be heard. Play to your distinctive strengths and values. Express your vulnerability. We’re at our most powerful when confidence emanates from our core.

To find out how confident you really are, take this free survey.

And remember my grandfather’s motto: “Just get in there and have a go.”

What would you be doing right now if you had a little more confidence?

Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace well-being teacher and change activator. To learn more about Michelle visit www.michellemcquaid.com.

Practicing gratitude is good for you

By | Personal Development

From the time we learn how to talk, it seems that we are being told to remember to say “thank you.” Our parents weren’t just teaching us manners; they were providing us with a tool for lasting happiness.

“We now know that having good social relationships is as good for you as things like smoking and obesity are bad for you,” says Sara Algoe, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It turns out that there’s an emotion that happens to be really amazing at helping us solve this essential human problem of survival. And that emotion is gratitude.”

One of the most significant keys to longevity and well-being is being able to acquire and maintain high-quality relationships. Gratitude, Sara says, is the glue that can bring people together as well as creating happiness from the inside out.

Putting the ‘You’ in ‘Thank You’

Research, including Sara’s, shows that experiencing gratitude has immediate benefits. Learning to harness this power and becoming more intentional about it can improve our relationships and bolster our own health and happiness. “When we feel gratitude toward someone, we spring into action and reach out,” she explains. “It’s that act of reaching out that can draw another person into a relationship.” And, Sara adds, it can improve existing relationships.

When she conducted a study among couples in which one partner expressed gratitude to the other for a specific act, the rewards were exponential.

“Let’s say [the wife] did something nice for [her husband], just because she wanted to,” Sara says. The wife feels good for having done something nice and the husband is a happy beneficiary. But when he expresses his gratitude for her act of kindness, he now has reinforced her positive feelings. “So two people win for one person’s gratitude.”

And, when you make gratitude a practice, Sara says, it changes the way others perceive you—and can have a ripple effect in your social network.

“People who express positivity in general are seen as friendlier, more competent and more likable,” Sara says. “Gratitude amplifies that. People see you as being more willing to help, but they also want to help you. They’re nice to you, they want to hang out with you — all of those are things that are good for your health.”

Gratitude: It’s Good for You!

Sara confirms what many studies have revealed: Practicing gratitude really could make you live longer — and better. While her work takes a closer look at the effect of gratitude on relationships, other studies have shown a direct link between good health and giving thanks.

Researchers at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland recently looked at the effects of practicing gratitude on four groups: depressed men, depressed women, breast cancer patients and prostate cancer patients. After a 14-day training period in which they learned to reflect on what they were thankful for, all groups showed an increased sense of well-being and greater perception of social support.

A similar study from the same university focused solely on gratitude interventions in treating depression and found that practices such as keeping a gratitude journal, writing a letter of gratitude, counting blessings and gratitude visits all had a powerful effect, with journals being the most effective. Subjects who participated in the interventions increased their subjective happiness, improved their relationships, slept better and had more perceived social support.

“Gratitude is a psychological amplifier of the good in one’s life,” says Philip Watkins, Ph.D., of Eastern Washington University.

Gratitude’s Secret Sauce

Philip’s recent research looks at what activates gratitude and what ingredients are necessary to make it effective. The most critical component, he says, is appreciation.

“Appreciation can best be understood as when something increases in perceived personal value,” he says. “Perceived value, and more importantly, increasing perceived value, is extremely important to gratitude.”

Ironically, trauma may be one of the most effective means of triggering appreciation. In our daily lives, we may become accustomed to “the way things are,” and that can cause us to overlook the small things we appreciate. “When you experience a traumatic event…you begin to notice simple blessings that you had previously taken for granted,” Philip says.

Exercises such as counting your blessings have also been shown to be effective in teaching appreciation. He says the more we learn about gratitude, the more we will learn how to cultivate it and use it as a tool for better health, happiness and longevity. “Gratitude has a variety of effects on us,” Sara says. “In the end, expressing gratitude builds a bridge to other people and invites them to cross it.”

Four Ways to Boost Gratitude

1. Keep a gratitude journal. Make a practice of writing down three to five things you are grateful for—every day—and explain why each one makes you grateful.

2. Count your blessings. Before going to sleep each night, call to mind one or two things you are grateful for.

3. Write a gratitude letter. Write a letter to someone in your present or past to whom you’re grateful.

4. Pay a gratitude visit. If you’ve written a gratitude letter or note, pay a visit to the person it’s directed to and read it aloud.

Read more: 4 Gratitude Rituals to Increase Kindness and Joy

Paula Felps is the Science Editor for Live Happy. From the December 2017 issue of Live Happy magazine.

Find joy in life by being mindful of every moment

By | Personal Development

Mindfulness, experts say, is a practice that helps us self-regulate our attention — in other words, mindfulness helps us pay attention to our thoughts. Staying mindful, or in the moment, allows us to appreciate life as it happens. When our minds are busy focusing on the present, it’s impossible to also be ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.

Beyond the reduction of negative thought patterns, a host of benefits can be reaped simply by staying in the moment, research shows.

“When I start talking about all the things mindfulness can do, I sound like a snake-oil salesman,” jokes Richard Sears, of the Center for Clinical Mindfulness and Meditation at Union Institute and University in Cincinnati. “It increases happiness, improves relationships, helps alleviate
conditions like depression and chronic pain….But really, what’s going on is awareness. It’s about paying attention, bringing us back to what is going on right now.”

Based on a 2,600-year-old Buddhist practice, mindfulness has sparked global interest in recent years. Today, mindfulness is frequently practiced independently of any religious context. But if sitting in the lotus position doesn’t sound very comfortable to you, don’t worry.

Although mindfulness is a form of meditation, it doesn’t necessarily require chanting or sitting cross-legged on the floor. (But if a certain position or phrase helps you focus, have at it!)

“It doesn’t have to be done in the same formal way as what we would normally think of as meditation,” Sears explains. “Mindfulness can be taking a breath, taking a moment to notice the trees while taking a walk; it’s more about setting aside time to be with yourself — in whatever form that may take.”

Happy Act: Break the Rules

What do you do on a regular basis simply because “everyone” likes it? If you don’t like it, stop doing it! Carve your own path to happiness.

The Wisdom of Mindfulness

The mind-body connection has been well-proven over time, and mindfulness proponents and practitioners say it holds many keys to creating a healthier, happier life by positively influencing the body. “It’s not a cure-all, but it will assist in whatever a person is struggling with, whetherthat’s physical, mental or emotional,” says Ryan M. Niemiec, education director at the VIA Institute on Character and author of “Mindfulness and Character Strengths.” “It offers support and assistance in whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Take, for example, someone with chronic pain; to learn how to face that directly is a huge challenge. But to bring an honest
awareness to your own suffering can completely change your relationship with it.”

“Before” and “after” brain scans show that certain areas of the brain develop new neural connections after practicing mindfulness for about eight weeks. Richard Sears equates these physical changes in the brain to building muscle by lifting weights—over time, you get stronger, but it has to be maintained in order for the results to continue.

Some clinical studies have focused on how mindfulness can influence specific ailments, including substance abuse, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, autism, cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, AIDS, high blood pressure and headaches. On the broadest level, mindfulness is seen as a tool to improve health, because it boosts our immune system. Scientists explain that, when practiced regularly, mindfulness can lead to lower secretions of cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that suppress the immune system.

Happy Act: Smile

Smile at strangers today. Pay attention to how you feel when you share a genuine smile with someone.

Four Ways to Get Started

  • Take a breath. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Feel the air come into your body and fill your lungs and diaphragm. Hold your breath for a beat, and then exhale slowly, noticing how it feels when the air leaves your body.
  • Take a bite. Pay attention to the food in your mouth—the texture and flavor. Chew slowly. Enjoy the taste.
  • Take a moment to be aware of your body. From head to toe, notice how you feel—from the inside out. Notice any tension and consciously relax those muscles.
  • Focus on the moment. Practice doing one thing at a time. Give your full attention to the task at hand.
Excerpted from Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy by Deborah K. Heisz and the editors of Live Happy magazine.

3 steps to put your personal narrative on a positive footing

By | Personal Development

Everyone has a story. Our personal narrative plays a role in how we approach situations in life, other people and our own self-concept. Our story contains countless pieces of information, some random and insignificant, others full of meaning. Although the facts of our history are immutable, the way we react to them and weave them into our personal narrative is not. When we feel a need to make changes in our lives, we can rewrite or revise our story any time we like. It is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to start over, and to behave in new and different ways.

Start to think about rewriting your story by looking at your past, and deciding what changes to make for the future. Often our stories are connected to events from our past. Positive chapters such as a happy childhood, successful career trajectory or healthy relationship can impact our personal stories in an inspiring and uplifting way. These happy events can make us more kind, provide us a more positive outlook, and even improve our self-esteem.

On the other hand, negative life events such as trauma, addiction, illness, divorce, etc., can impact our story in a negative way. These often leave us feeling isolated, depressed and anxious. They affect how we deal with people and circumstances later in life. Challenging and painful chapters can make it harder for us to rewrite our story because we feel stuck in the past, powerless or even unable to make a change.

You can transform your story.

Timothy Wilson, Ph.D., a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, is an expert in what he calls “story editing,” a way to edit our stories by rewriting the path we are taking. “Our experience of the world is shaped by the stories we tell ourselves and our interpretations of it, and these stories can often become so distorted and destructive that they completely hinder our ability to live balanced, purposeful, happy lives. So the key to personal transformation is story transformation,” he says.

1. Assess who you are

The first step in rewriting your story is to assess who you are, how you have been feeling and behaving, and what circumstances have impacted your life. Ask yourself, “What is my story and what would I like to change about it?” Take time to truly figure out who you are, what is missing, what needs to be improved and how you want to be in the future. An important part of this step is to realize that you can be resilient and rise above challenging times, and a challenging past, by taking steps toward positive change.

Read more: Are You Facing Your Addictions?

2. Identify what changes you want to make

The second step is to begin to work on the changes needed to rewrite your story. I have a client who I will call Lisa. She is an intelligent woman who balances working and raising a family. She is responsible, educated and kind-hearted. However, due to a troubled childhood, Lisa has always been the type of person who gets very wrapped up in her own life. Only her husband and children are included in her circle. As a result of this, her co-workers and friends feel they cannot count on Lisa for guidance or support. Lisa is the “fun friend,” but not someone her pals can rely on.

While she has enjoyed being known for a good laugh, this has always bothered her. After serious contemplation, she decided to rewrite her story and make a more concerted effort to be what she calls a “heart friend” along with being a fun friend. A “heart friend” checks in on friends when they were going through a tough time, makes offers to help in times of need, and listens to people’s stories of pain and struggle. It has taken some time, but Lisa has succeeded and is now not only an attentive friend, but she also feels more balanced in life and more able to reach out for support when she needs it.

3. Continue to revise as you go along

Finally, in rewriting your story, take time out on a regular basis to remind yourself that you can always take steps to change your behaviors, your path and even your life.

When we forget we have this power, we tend to feel stuck. When we remember that we have the power to change the trajectory of our narrative, we feel strong, hopeful and happier overall.

Read more: 10 Steps to Become a Fully Loaded Grown-Up
Read more: 10 Reasons to Tell Your Story in Public

Stacy Kaiser is a Southern California-based licensed psychotherapist, author, relationship expert and media personality. She is the author of How to Be a Grown Up: The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know and editor at large for Live Happy. As a former weekly advice columnist for USA Today with more than 100 appearances on major networks, including CNN, FOX and NBC, Stacy has built a reputation for bringing a unique mix of thoughtful and provocative insights to a wide range of topics.

8 tips for better, more restful sleep

By | Personal Development, Wellness

Imagine your health is a triangle, and nutrition, exercise and sleep represent the three sides. Until recently, sleep had not received the same kind of serious attention as nutrition and physical fitness. However, it is just as important to your health, according to new research.

Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours per night can have serious consequences on your health, says Matthew Walker, Ph.D. He is a sleep scientist and the Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. In his book, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”, he writes that sleep deficiency is associated with a compromised immune system, greater risk of cancer, problems with concentration and memory, and possible shortened life spans.

Matthew recommends eight hours sleep a night and is actually lobbying doctors to prescribe sleep. (Sleep, not sleeping pills.)

While some people may cut short their sleep on purpose to gain more waking hours, many others long for a solid eight hours of rest, but have trouble getting or staying asleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, approximately $63 billion is lost each year due to insomnia; it has become a national crisis. For many of us, active, stressed-out brains — our monkey minds — keep us in overdrive.

How can we make our racing minds relax so we can get that badly needed sleep?

“Count backwards from 300 by 3s,” says Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, sleep expert and author known as “The Sleep Doctor.” “It is mathematically so complicated you can’t think of anything else, and it is so boring you are out like a light.”

Stress and anxiety are the big culprits for making us toss, turn and lose our ability to will ourselves back to sleep. Both cause physical tension in the body, Michael explains, and they also cause the body to release hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, which boost energy and alertness and raise heart rate and blood pressure, priming the body for fight or flight.

Fortunately, several approaches have proven effective to help you get back to sleep.

Tips From Matthew Walker

1. Get out of bed
If you are having trouble falling asleep for more than 15 minutes, he suggests getting out of bed so your brain doesn’t associate that as the place where you don’t sleep. He recommends going to a dim room to read a book—no digital devices, no screens. When you get sleepy again, go back to bed.

2. Meditate
Scientific data supports meditation as a powerful tool for falling asleep and getting back to sleep. Meditation can be as simple as paying attention to your breathing.

3. Keep it cool
Sleep in a cool room if you can; a temperature of around 68 degrees is ideal.

Visit Matthew’s website to learn more about the importance of sleep, and how to get more of it.

Tips From Michael Breus

4. Realize that how you spend your day impacts your night
Think of consistent attention to relaxation as a round-the-clock investment in your nightly sleep. Are you drinking excessive caffeine in the afternoon? Watching a scary movie right before bed? Expect to see an affect on your sleep.

5. Use self-directed phrases that promote relaxation
Quietly or silently repeat words or phrases such as “I feel supremely calm” that cultivate sensations of warmth and heaviness in different regions of the body.

6. Try 4-7-8 breathing
Inhale for four seconds, hold breath for seven seconds, exhale slowly for eight seconds. Repeat several times. “A long slow exhale has a meditative quality to it that is inherently relaxing,” he says.

7. Use visual imagery
Imagine yourself on a restful journey — such as floating peacefully in a calm ocean, being rocked by gentle waves and caressed by a warm breeze. This can help separate you from a stressful day.

8. Try progressive relaxation
Working with one area of the body at a time, tense and then relax each muscle group from your toes to the top of your head. As you do this, be aware of what your body feels like when it is relaxed.

Visit Michael’s website to find more advice for getting to sleep, articles, apps and more.

Sandra Bilbray is a contributing editor for Live Happy, and the CEO and owner of themediaconcierge.net.

This week’s #HappyActs: Hugs, heroes and hope

By | Personal Development

It’s the last week of Happiness Month, but we hope you have been inspired to continue practicing Happy Acts all year long!

This week’s #Happy Acts

Monday: Tag Your Happiness Hero
A teacher who inspired you. A parent who uplifts you. A friend who has kept a positive attitude through the toughest of times. If someone makes you happy, let them know it!

Tuesday: Hug it Out
Everyone needs a hug sometimes. So give someone (preferably not a stranger) a hug to show you care!

Wednesday: Paint Positivity on a Stone
Unleash your inner artist and paint a stone with an image that evokes happiness. Keep it on your desk, share it with a friend or put it in your garden for a reminder to stay positive.

Thursday: Donate Used Books
Schools are often looking for fresh reading material and some libraries will take donations. Do a good deed and clear some clutter at the same time!

Friday: Exercise Empathy
Do you ever catch yourself annoyed and starting a sentence with “Why can’t they just …”? Today, take a second to REALLY consider that why.

Saturday: Write a Hope Letter
Try out a new restaurant, or visit a local trade fair and check out the artisan offerings.

Keep the happiness going all year long with livehappy.com – your source for the latest ideas to make the world a happier place!

This week’s #HappyActs: Celebrate the big day with a Happiness Wall!

By | Personal Development

The International Day of Happiness is this week, so have fun celebrating! Make the month of happiness last by sharing Happy Acts all month long! Choose your favorites, or make a commitment to complete every Happy Act – the choice is yours!

This week’s #HappyActs

Monday: Make Someone Laugh

Everyone has someone that thinks they’re funny. Make their day!

Tuesday: Celebrate the International Day of Happiness

Thank you to everyone who contributed to a record number of Happiness Walls! Our last count was 675. What a happy world!

Wednesday: Forgive Someone

This is a chance at double happiness, because this will brighten your day and the day of the person you forgive.

Thursday: Call or Spend Time with a Family Member

Strong family ties have been proven to increase life expectancy, so here’s to your health!

Friday: Hang Out with your Pet

Make this an extra-special day. Buy your pet a special treat or toy, or maybe take an extra-long walk!

Saturday: Support Local

Try out a new restaurant, or visit a local trade fair and check out the artisan offerings.

Sunday: Write Your Partner a List of Things You Love About Them

Does their laugh make you smile? Are they good in the kitchen? Do they have good handwriting? Whether big or small, everyone loves knowing they’re appreciated.

Did you know that free stuff can make you happy? We’re giving you a free 31 Ideas for #HappyActs Calendar, Digital Wall Kit and a Printable Happiness Wall! Download them today to begin celebrating the International Day of Happiness in March at www.happyacts.org.