Gratitude is a popular subject these days among psychologists, spiritual groups, and average individuals looking for more happiness in their lives. And it’s no wonder: people who feel more appreciative tend to be more satisfied in their careers, relationships, and personal lives. Actively feeling thankful often creates a ripple effect, where the initial thought of gratitude brings out more positive feelings, like joy, comfort, and calmness. But in today’s world, it’s easy to get caught up in the negativity of our surroundings, whether we’re stressed out from work or frustrated with the political landscape or just having a hard time recognizing the good through all of the bad we’re seeing. That’s understandable. If you’re looking for a more positive outlook, though, training yourself to feel more grateful more often is a great place to start.
Be more mindful.
So much of learning to feel more grateful is linked to being more mindful. After all, it can be difficult to feel gratitude if you’re not paying attention to your life to see the good things in it. Start your day by taking a minute to be aware of your surroundings, your feelings, and your first thoughts. As you go through your day, repeat the exercise whenever you think of it. Even better, have a reminder that gets you to stop for a minute a few times throughout the day. It can be an alarm you set on your phone or a note on your desk that tells you to notice the present moment, or even an object—like a piece of jewellery—that you train your brain to associate with the exercise so you’re reminded to take a minute to reflect whenever you see it. Find three things you’re thankful for each time you do this short mindfulness exercise and take the opportunity to really feel your appreciation. With time, this will become habit and you’ll find yourself doing it without the reminders.
Surround yourself with reminders.
Surrounding yourself with inspirational quotes directly relating to gratitude is a great way to help you get into that habit. You’ve probably seen them floating around the internet or hanging on a bulletin board in an office or classroom. Usually the image is something serene, either a soothing abstract or a nature photograph, and there’s a simple phrase printed on it, like “It is not happy people who are thankful; It is thankful people that are happy.” These kinds of quotes serve as instant reminders to get into an attitude of gratitude. Whenever you see one, think of a few things that you’re thankful for and linger in that feeling for a few moments. The easiest way to expose yourself to inspirational quotes is to follow a page on Facebook or an account on Instagram that is dedicated to posting them—and there are plenty to choose from. That way, when you go onto social media, images pop up in your feed without you having to chase after them. You’ll find the reminders useful if you still need prompts to get you thinking about what you’ve got to be thankful for, and they’re still uplifting even if you don’t.
Work on changing your focus.
If you’re looking to be more grateful in your day-to-day life, it’s probably because you’re not very grateful now. You might be stuck in a pattern of negativity and want to change that. Mindfulness is helpful in this instance too, but instead of being aware of your surroundings to find things you appreciate, focus on being aware of your thoughts so you can change them. Make the decision to pay attention to the way you think and when you recognize that you’re in a train of negative thinking, catch yourself. Now, it’s really hard to not think about something. If you decide to not think about something, there’s a good chance it’s exactly what you’re going to think about. So instead, replace your thoughts so your focus is on what you’re grateful for instead of what you’re unhappy about. You may not be good at catching your thoughts in the beginning and that’s okay. Once you make the decision to pay more attention to how you think, you’ll be surprised how quickly you develop an awareness of your thoughts with just a little practice. Then you can shift your focus and make the choice to find a few things that you’re grateful for, even in situations that you’re not especially thrilled about.
Take some time to identify the good things.
Feeling gratitude is typically just a matter of taking time to recognize some of the good things you have in your life. Stress comes from many sources: an unsteady relationship, an ornery boss, a cat that keeps peeing where she shouldn’t… problems big and small can take over your life if you let them and cause you to overlook the things you’re lucky to have. As problems come up, it can be necessary to pay attention to them so you can work through them, but if you spend all your time stuck on them, it’ll take a toll on you. So, despite what may be happening around you, take a break from thinking about what’s going wrong and actively think about what’s going right. Think about something good that happened to you recently, someone that you love, or something you’re looking forward to. Just taking a couple of minutes to count your blessings will bring out feelings of appreciation and lift your mood.
Keep a gratitude journal.
For those who like more structured exercises, a gratitude journal is a great option to consider. Keep a notebook, a note in an app, or a word document just for this purpose. Each day, set aside a few minutes to spend with your gratitude journal and write down three to five things that you’re thankful for. It can be things that are constant in your life, people you care about, an opportunity you’re excited for, or anything else you’re happy about. Whatever comes to mind, write it in your book. Then, as with the other exercises, spend a minute focusing on feeling thankful for those things. The difference with this exercise compared to others mentioned here is that most of the effort seems focused in one sitting instead of coming up periodically throughout the day, but that’s not exactly accurate. Yes, the journaling happens just once during the day, but when you know that you’ll be writing about what you’re grateful for later, you’ll start thinking about things you can write about as you go about your day and that will have you feeling gratitude frequently.
Be more conscious when you say “thank you.”
Another thing to think about is how often you say “thank you.” Even if you say “thanks” often, it might be more of an impulse and not because you’re actually feeling thankful. Try to be more conscious of when you say thank you, then consider what it is you’re thankful for and really feel thankful for it. For example, if you just bought a coffee and you’ve thanked the barista, what are you thankful for? There are so many possibilities: you could be thankful for the coffee, for the person who made it for you, for how close the coffee shop is to your home, or for the fact that you can afford to buy that coffee. Also consider how often you say “sorry” and see if there are times when you can replace it or follow it with a statement of thanks.. If you’re meeting a friend for lunch and you’re late, you’ll probably apologise for it. But you can also throw in a “thanks for waiting for me” too. Saying that you’re thankful more consciously can help you to feel truly grateful.
Know that your situation could be worse.
Being more grateful is very much about being more positive, but sometimes thinking about negative things can help you feel appreciative. In times when you feel overwhelmed but your problems, it can be tough to think of the good things you’ve got. When that happens, think about other hard times you’ve had instead. Think of times that have been worse for you and be grateful that you’re not in those situations anymore. Or, if it feels like you’re in the worst place you’ve ever been, you can also think of stories you read or heard about in the news that were about other people’s circumstances and be thankful that you’re not going through what they’re dealing with. It’s not the best way to feel more gratitude on a regular basis since the focus is fairly negative and switching to a more positive mindset is preferable, but it’s a way to work toward it when you’re in a tough spot.
Feeling gratitude is easy, but making that feeling a bigger part of your life can take some effort. But it’s just like forming any other habit—as you practice it and do it more and more, it becomes easier and even natural for you to recognize the good things in your world and to feel grateful for them. It’s as simple as reminding yourself to look for the good, and there is something good in every situation, even if it’s hard to see at first.
If asked, so many of us would say that yeah, of course we’re self-aware; but that’s probably not true as true as we think. The fact is that we have what you might call “blind spots” when it comes to seeing our own nature, seeing what we want to see and missing less desirable traits or things that we don’t deem important. But being more self-aware has its benefits and it’s important if you want to improve yourself; we can’t change what we don’t know is there. But once you do see your own shortcomings, strengths, and quirks, you can start to make changes to yourself, take advantage of your assets, and know how to accommodate your unique needs and preferences. These things can help you to thrive in your personal relationships and careers so you can move toward living the life you really want. But first, you have to work on learning to see the way you are more fully.
Ask for feedback.
Asking people around you for feedback is a good way to gain perspective on yourself. While it’s simple to do, it can be hard to hear what they have to say. Realize going into it that it might hurt if they offer criticism, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It’s possible that your friends, family, and colleagues see traits in you that your conscious mind has chosen to overlook, so their feedback can be eye-opening and help you see new things in yourself. It’s best if you’re specific when you ask for feedback so that they can be more helpful; asking how they see you is pretty vague and can leave them unsure of how to answer. Instead, ask your friends what they see as your strengths and weakness as a friend or in terms of skills or hobbies, or ask your co-workers or boss if there’s an area you could improve in. If they identify a trait or behaviour they see in you that you don’t, look for it as you go about your day and try to become aware of it. It can be surprising, but once you recognize that you often leave work supplies all over the place or you laugh at inappropriate times, you’re a step closer to self-awareness.
Take a reputable personality test.
If you’re not ready to hear what others have to say about you, try taking a personality test. Not just any personality test, though—you don’t need to take a quiz to find out what kind of pizza you are. Try a more reputable personality test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. There is an official website that offers a thorough assessment and report for $50, but there are other sites that will give you a good enough look into your personality type for this purpose for free. It’ll give you a rundown of the personality type your answers have aligned you with so give it a read and think about your results. Some parts of it may seem untrue for you, and that might be the case; there are 16 personality types that you might fall into, but it’s unlikely any one will describe you with 100% accuracy. Regardless, pay attention to the things you see as being inaccurate as much as the things you see as accurate. Consider that the things you think are inaccurate you may just not be aware of. Jot down a few of them down and pay close attention to your behaviour in the coming days, looking for any evidence of those traits. You may find that they were, in fact, inaccurate, but you may also find that they’re true and you just never noticed. In either case, you’ll become more self-aware by watching yourself closely, looking out for certain behaviours or thought patterns.
Practice self-exploration with a journal.
Journaling is a great exercise for exploring your personality and gives you an opportunity to focus on developing your self-awareness in a set time. Sitting down daily and writing allows you to investigate your thoughts and feelings thoroughly which can lead you from the most basic knowledge of yourself to a deeper understanding of your fears, hopes, and motivations. Sit down with a notebook or in front of your computer and start writing about whatever is on your mind, whether it’s things you’re excited about or things that are upsetting you. Simply write about the situation objectively at first, then start to look into how you feel. Write about why you feel that way, relate it back to previous experiences, and what you think would help you hold onto the positive feelings or move past the negative ones. Write quickly, allowing thoughts to flow naturally without being held back by uncertainty or judgement. As you get used to writing this way, you’ll be able to dig deeper and deeper into your psyche and will learn a lot about who you are and what influences you from below the surface.
You might also consider taking up a regular meditation practice. It’s a common recommendation for all kinds of reasons and there’s no exception here. Meditation allows you to access your subconscious a little more than you normally can and you can learn things about yourself that you might not realize. The reason is your brain waves. There are four main types: alpha, which are seen when you’re awake and alert; beta, which are seen when you’re calm and relaxed; delta, which you experience during deep, dreamless sleep; and finally, theta, the ones you’re after in this instance. Your brain waves are in theta when you’re in a state of deep relaxation, like during hypnosis or meditation, and the veil between your conscious and subconscious is a bit thinner.
So when it comes to gaining self-awareness, theta waves are what you want. Sit down in a quiet space and take deep, slow breaths. Relax your body and your mind, focusing on your breaths for the first couple of minutes or so. It’s a common misconception that meditating is all about clearing your mind, but keeping it clear for any length of time is incredibly hard to do; instead, let your thoughts flow without actively following them or exploring them. Just let them come and go and observe them as they do. You might be surprised at what shows up because your subconscious thoughts will start to come though. That’s great though—you might have feelings that you didn’t realize were there or that are different from what you thought you felt. Experts estimate that about 95% of our thoughts are subconscious, so getting a glimpse into them can really help you understand yourself better. In your conscious life, you can look for evidence of the subconscious feelings you discovered and it might help explain the way you behave or think in certain situations. You’ll have a better idea of the reasons behind your feelings, actions, and reactions.
Analyze what comes up in your dreams.
Your dreams can also give you a peek into your subconscious mind. It might sound a bit bizarre, but is a fairly common concept and even Sigmund Feud, the founder of psychoanalysis, believed in the value of interpreting dreams. Start by keeping a dream journal. As soon as you wake up, write down everything you can remember of your dream in it so you can look at it again later. This is important, since dreams tend to fade away very quickly once awake, and you can’t do this exercise without an idea of what you dreamed about. Pick out some of the most prevalent images from your dream and jot them down; the images can be symbolic of feelings that are held in the subconscious. One by one, do a “free association” exercise where you consider the image and what other ideas it brings up for you. Jot down anything that comes up quickly without discrimination—one of those things might be relevant and tell you about something that’s on your mind though you may not have realized it consciously. Exploring the images that you subconscious creates while you’re asleep helps you become self-aware because you’re paying more attention to what’s hidden under the surface and, as mentioned, the subconscious is a huge part of us. Freud’s ideas about dream analysis and how it can be done are quite in-depth and might be something to look into if you find it interesting, but this simple exercise will be enough to help you get an idea of what is lurking in the deeper levels of your mind.
Self-awareness is all about learning who you really are beyond your own perception of yourself. It helps you realize what kinds of behaviours you demonstrate without noticing and what kinds of things influence your feelings. These are just a few methods to help you start seeing yourself more completely and practicing even one of them will develop your self-awareness. With time, you’ll be able to better understand yourself and see more clearly what you need to be happy and successful.
So many of us have big dreams and exciting goals, but don’t know how to get ourselves to work hard enough to achieve them. It’s all too easy to fall into patterns of laziness and once that happens it can be difficult to get out. But it’s definitely not impossible, and with a few pointers, you can start improving your work ethic right away.
Before you take any action, accept that it might not be a fun endeavour. It is work, after all. Recognizing this fact from the get-go will help you on the journey because you’ll approach it with a realistic mindset. Working hard is hard work, there’s no way around that. But it can also be rewarding and fulfilling, and will be worth it if it gets you closer to your goals. And the work itself probably won’t get easier as time progresses, but you will get into the habit of working hard and that will make it easier to carry on with it.
So much of developing a strong work ethic is about self-discipline and applying it to all areas of your life will help you to apply it at work. Starting your day by hitting the snooze button half a dozen times, dragging yourself through your morning routine, and being late for work is not going to cut it—disciplining yourself to start your day off strong is important and it will ripple through your day. When your alarm goes off, get up. No snooze button, no doddling. Get yourself out of bed and into an attitude of readiness for whatever the day has in store. When you can start your day on a strong note, you’re more likely to carry that all day long. Develop the self-discipline to get up and moving bright and early and you’re more likely to be able to discipline yourself to work hard through the day.
Use your goals to motivate you.
Procrastination will be one of your biggest obstacles. You’ll just have to learn to push through it. One thing that helps is identifying what motivates you and focusing on that when you start to lag on tasks you have to do. There’s probably a reason you want to improve your work ethic—what is it? Do you want to go to a certain school or have a dream-job in mind? Or maybe you want to buy a house or travel the world. Use that to help you keep working, day after day. Keep something related to your goal as a reminder, whether it be a brochure, a photograph, or a small object. Having it in your work area so you can see it can help you keep your goals in mind and motivate you to get to work when you’re tempted to put things off.
Reward yourself (but not too often).
Some people find it’s helpful to use rewards to get them started when procrastination has taken hold. This strategy is okay to use now and then, but don’t make it a habit as it can actually backfire. When you offer yourself a reward for completing tasks too often, it starts to give your brain the impression that the reward is good and the task is bad. If you come to see your work as a chore, it’s going to be harder to bring yourself to do it and to find any amount of enjoyment in it or satisfaction from it—you’ll come to find those things in the reward instead. It could also make it harder to feel motivated when there isn’t a reward involved for doing your work which might cause you to under-perform. In either case, it can ultimately hurt your work ethic which is the exact opposite of what you’re actually intending to do. Sometimes an end goal can be seen as a reward, but that’s okay because it’s something in the distance that you’re working toward and it’s a single reward rather than something that you offer yourself on a regular basis after completing an individual task. Rewards are fine to use so long as you use them sparingly.
Surround yourself with hard-working people.
The people around you can be a significant help or hindrance when trying to improve your work ethic. If you hang around with people who tend to do the bare minimum to get by, you might feel that it’s acceptable for you to do the same, and it can be hard to improve your work ethic when you’re surrounded by people who slack off. Associating with people who tend to work harder than you do can have just the opposite effect. If the people around you are high-performing, high-achieving individuals, you might feel inspired by them to work at a similar level. Or it might put a bit of encouraging pressure on you to keep moving forward and to do better quality work. As long as it’s not causing you excess stress, which can have a negative effect on your ability to work well, the push that being around hard-working people can offer you will help you develop a stronger work ethic.
Take breaks regularly.
This one might seem counter-intuitive, but it can make a difference: remember to take breaks. Yes, pushing yourself is important for forming habits that will result in a strong work ethic, but breaks can keep you in a good mental and physical state while you’re working away. A study from the University of Toronto found that working with lots of short breaks is more productive than working consistently for long hours and, similarly, research done by a social media company found that the most productive people were taking approximately 17 minute breaks for every 52 minutes. These studies focus primarily on productivity, but make implications about work ethic too; if people who take breaks tend to be more productive than those who don’t, you might question why that is. The breaks offer you a chance to refresh yourself, both physically and mentally, which can create renewed enthusiasm for what you’re doing. You’re then not only more focused, which results in greater productivity, but you’re also likely to feel fresh determination which is huge for your work ethic. It’s also easier to work hard when you know you’ll get a chance to relax for a few minutes now and then, rather than feeling overwhelmed by what needs to be done and knowing a break is far off. Now, breaks as long as 17 minutes as often as every 52 minutes may not be the best idea for you, since for some the long breaks can create the temptation to extend them into a lazy day. But when you decide to take several shorter breaks throughout the day, it’s beneficial without becoming too disruptive.
Relax when the work day is done.
Similarly, taking time to relax after-hours is important. Some people feel like they have to work as many hours in a day as possible to be successful and don’t take enough time to let loose and have a little leisure time. When you push yourself through procrastination, it’s a good thing because it’s getting you started on something that needs to be done; when you push yourself to the point of being overworked, you’re eventually going to crash. The stress will add up and start to affect your mental and physical health. It could lead you to hate your work more and more as you force yourself to keep doing it without enough time to relax and your work ethic and wellbeing will suffer. Taking time for yourself after work important for the same reason breaks are important; it gives you a change to re-energize and get ready to work at full-strength again later.
Don’t wait to dive in.
Improving your work ethic is done while you work; it’s not a matter of improving how you feel mentally first and then applying it to your work once you feel like you’ve already changed. If you do this, it could be a long time before you get anything done. Only a small part of the process is done in the mind alone and most of it is a matter of taking actions that train the mind. It’s forming habits though practice. Sure, make the decision mentally to make improvements and think about what you want your plan of action to be, but don’t sit back and wait to start on the actual working part until you feel like your work ethic might be better. It won’t be better until you start participating in hard work and putting in the time.
As you start developing your work ethic, don’t get discouraged if you struggle at first. You’re unlikely to change your ways overnight. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never have a strong work ethic, it just means you don’t right now. It’s a skill, and like any other skill it requires persistence to become good at it. So just keep trying; keep motivating yourself, keep pushing through the temptation to procrastinate, and be sure to take time to relax and recharge. You’re in the midst of a process and success is on the horizon.
Have you ever heard someone described as a “born leader”? The description implies that some people are born suitable for leadership and others aren’t. But there’s also a phrase from legendary football coach Vince Lombardi that has been frequently paraphrased over the years: “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” This quote seems to be more realistic since it’s unlikely anyone is actually born knowing how to lead. Some people may have grown into traits that are great for leadership but those who haven’t can develop them with a little determination. Whatever your starting point, you can learn what’s needed to be a better leader and work to improve your leadership skills.
Learn about different leadership styles.
How you manage a group will determine how effective you are as a leader. Take a look at Lewin’s leadership styles and figure out which one describes your current style best. There are three main types. First there’s authoritarian or autocratic which involves telling people what to do and how to do it and creates a clear divide between the leader and the people being led. It’s useful when decisions need to be made quickly and the leader has the knowledge to make a good decision. It can be problematic when used frequently, though, because people are less inclined to like leader and more inclined to feel limited in their roles. This can result in a team who is unhappy working under their leader which affects productivity and cooperation.
Then there’s delegative or laissez-faire leadership. Leaders who use this style offer minimal guidance and allow the team to work fairly independently or work things out amongst themselves. It can be useful when dealing with a group of highly-qualified individuals, but can also result in disorganization and a lack of productivity.
Finally, there’s participative or democratic leadership where the leader offers guidance and organization but the team is involved in making decisions and giving input. It’s typically considered the most effective style because there is one person keeping everything together and moving but all members of the group get to contribute which makes them feel motivated and enthusiastic. It’s a good middle ground that works for most scenarios.
So identify which leadership style you’re working with now and decide if it’s appropriate for your work environment. Learning about them can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as a leader so you can work with what you know you’re good at and improve where you’re a bit lacking. It’s beneficial to become familiar with the other styles and their benefits as well so that you can recognize when the situation calls for one of them and slip into it. Knowledge is power, and being aware of leadership techniques and your own abilities will help you become a better leader.
Learn to communicate effectively.
One skill you should definitely analyze in yourself and work on is communication. Great leaders are able to express themselves clearly and effectively so that the people following them understand what’s going on and what needs to be done next. And listening is just as important; when you’re able to listen to what your team has to say and take it into account, you have a clearer picture of how each person is functioning and what their needs and concerns are. You know where their strengths and weaknesses are so you can better assess a plan of action when working on projects. Poor communication skills can leave you and your team in a mess due to misunderstandings, while good communication can lead you all to success. Consider what you want to express before you speak so you’re sure you’re clear, and take the time to listen when your group is trying to tell you something.
Be a little more personal.
Knowing the people on your team on a more personal level can help you be a better leader to them. Keeping it appropriate is important, but getting to know what they’re like and what their lives are like can be helpful. If you can understand their passion, their motivations, their struggles, and other major details that make up who they are, you can better offer them guidance on the job and make use of their unique abilities and interests. Letting them know you in a similar way is great too; if they can see you as more than just the person in charge, they might come to like you on a personal level leading to a different kind of respect and new motivation to do well on the team. It’s important to keep things appropriate and remember that your primary relationship is a professional one, but allowing a bit of a personal touch into your leadership can make a positive impact.
Create a positive environment.
When you’re a leader, you have a way of setting the mood for meetings, projects, and the workspace in general. Being conscious of this and choosing to create a positive environment is important. Come to work with a positive attitude and your team is more likely to have the same attitudes. Inspire your team with your passion and provide encouragement to get them excited about the work at hand. Be a better leader by creating a workspace that makes your team feel good; your team will be happier and more productive for it.
Challenge the people you lead.
But a more positive environment doesn’t mean everyone gets to slack off and relax; challenge your workers. Not only will this push your team to be more productive and produce better work which is good for business, it’ll help them be the best versions of themselves because they can learn just what they’re capable of and develop their abilities further. Being a good leader isn’t only about how much is being accomplished and how well business is doing; it’s also about the effect you have on your team. Push them to show themselves and the rest of the group what they’re capable of.
Give praise where praise is due.
And when they succeed or complete exceptional work, give praise where it’s due. All too often employers, teachers, and other leaders focus on offering criticism and, while it can be valuable in some instances, too much criticism will bring an individual down. Offer constructive criticism when needed, but take every opportunity to show your team members appreciation and applaud their successes. Giving them recognition makes them feel accomplished and can be the motivation they need to keep working hard and with enthusiasm. Offer rewards for significant accomplishments and compliment creativity and innovation. You’re a better leader when you can uplift people and get them feeling food about what they’re doing.
Do what needs to be done, even if you don’t want to.
While being a better leader does mean being good to your team, there are times when you’ll have to do things that aren’t so nice. If you’re the leader in a work environment and there’s an individual who is unreliable, not working at an acceptable level, and generally causing problems for the whole team, it’s your responsibility to fire them. It can be a hard thing to do, but being a better leader means facing the unpleasant task head on and doing what needs to be done for the good of the group. If you find it difficult, remind yourself that it has to be done for the sake of everybody’s productivity, so that success can be reached without having a weak link pulling anyone else down. It’s not pleasant, but sometimes being a leader isn’t. Sometimes it’s doing what is necessary despite not wanting to.
Prioritize big problems.
There will be times when it feels like there are so many problems you don’t know what to do, and how you choose to manage the situation will speak volumes about you as a leader. The best leaders know how to prioritize problems and work through the most significant ones first. It can be tempting to put a tough problem on the back burner so you can deal with the simpler ones first, but that can lead to more trouble later. If you want to be a better leader, deal with the most pressing issue first, the one causing the most trouble, so that it’s done with and everyone can carry on. You’ve got to learn to recognize which problem is most significant and which can wait so that disruptions can be minimized.
The role of leader can be extremely challenging due to its importance but also very rewarding when you’ve found a way to thrive in it. Learning to be a better leader is a matter of finding out what makes an effective leader and doing your best to embody those traits and behaviours so that your followers can succeed with your guidance. Even if you don’t feel you’re leader material now, slowly developing the qualities necessary can help you get to a place where you’re ready to manage and organize and group of people in a professional setting. Anyone can take the reins and lead, but it can take some time to learn to lead well.
Sleep is something that is so important to our overall wellbeing and yet so many of us don’t get enough quality sleep. Sometimes when we don’t get a good enough sleep we can still perk up as the day goes on; other times, we feel sluggish, fatigued, and our ability to accomplish tasks lags for the whole 9 to 5. There are some people who have sleep disorders interrupting their sleep, but for most people it’s a matter of lifestyle factors. That’s good news though, because it means you can make some simple changes that will get you sleeping better and feeling more rested.
Wake up and go to sleep at the same times every day.
For starters, get into a routine when it comes to sleeping. When you go to bed at a different time every night and wake up at inconsistent hours your body gets thrown out of any sort of rhythm and it doesn’t rest as well. Going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning helps your body to get into a pattern so it can start to recognize that there’s a set period where sleep happens. It’ll know that it’s mean to sleep at a certain time and will be ready to rest, and it’ll also know that waking happens at a certain time and will be more alert when you get up. Your sleep will be more restful and you’ll feel more refreshed every morning. It’s also important to note that your body’s natural rhythm is to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when the sun is up, so it’s best if your sleep schedule fits with that, meaning it’s not ideal to go to bed at 4am every day and sleep until noon if you can help it.
Keep your bedroom dark.
And while on the subject of light, it’s important to make sure you minimize it as much as possible where you’re sleeping. As mentioned, our bodies take the sunlight as a signal that it’s time to be awake, so if there’s light where we’re sleeping it can send the wrong message and impact our sleep. If you’ve got an alarm clock, cover it up or turn it around until you need to look at it. If city lights shine in through your window, close the curtains. Even spending too much time with a device like your phone or tablet right before you go to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep and to get quality, restful sleep. Having light shine into your room in the morning can actually be helpful to wake you up, but light from any source at night can be a hindrance to sleep. You’ll do much better when you sleep in a darker space.
Add exercise into your routine.
Exercise is a common recommendation when it comes to trouble sleeping and an effective one. It’s well established that regular exercise—especially cardio, like running—improves the quality of sleep. Research has found that people who exercise regularly sleep much better most nights than those who don’t exercise. Even people with sleep disorders can experience substantial improvement from adding exercise into their daily routines. That said, you should not exercise within four hours of bedtime. Exercise raises your body temperature and this can actually disrupt your sleep, so get in your workout earlier in the day. The downside to this one, though, is that it can take a few weeks to start seeing results from it. Nonetheless, if you’re thinking about your sleep quality long-term, exercise is a great consideration.
Limit your caffeine intake.
Caffeinated drinks tend to be the go-to option for people who don’t sleep well and need an energy boost at some point in the day, whether it’s first thing in the morning or early evening; however, if you’re drinking them in the afternoon or later, it’s probably only going to keep you in a cycle of getting a poor night’s sleep and needing something to perk you up. Ideally, caffeinated beverages should be restricted, but realistically they should at least not be consumed past 2pm. Caffeine’s stimulant effect is useful for a boost but it can stay in your system for around eight hours, so if you’re having a coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drink late in the day, it can make it harder for you to fall asleep or for you to get into a deep sleep which leaves you feeling unrested. So if you must have a caffeinated drink, keep it to before 2pm.
Limit your alcohol intake, too.
Alcohol is another drink that can cause sleep disturbances. Many people mistakenly think that, because alcohol makes them sleepy, it can act as a sleep aid. This isn’t true, though. A few hours after having a drink, the level of alcohol in your blood will begin to lower and your body will start to wake up, so if you have a couple drinks too close to bedtime, you could actually find yourself struggling to fall asleep. Alcohol can also interfere with the quality of your sleep even if it doesn’t keep you up. It makes you fall into a deep sleep for a while, but reduces REM sleep which is considered the most restorative part of the sleep cycle. Less time in REM means you can wake up feeling groggy and unrested. So, like caffeine, alcohol is best consumed rarely, but realistically, having a drink or two at an appropriate time can be done without hurting your sleep quality much. When you do have alcohol, be sure it’s at least two hours before bed to prevent sleep disturbances so you can still get a good night’s rest.
Have the right nighttime snack.
Some people recommend not eating at nighttime, but the right snack can actually be helpful in preparing your body for sleep. If you’re feeling a bit hungry late in the evening, go for a snack that combines carbohydrates and calcium or carbs and a protein that contains tryptophan. You could munch on cheese and crackers, toast and an egg, or fruit and yogurt, for example. Eating these foods about an hour before bed can boost your serotonin levels which will get you feeling calm and relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep. Don’t stuff yourself though; a small snack a little while before is helpful, but a big meal can cause your body to split its focus between digesting the food you ate and trying to recharge for the next day and that will impact how well you sleep.
Keep your room cool.
Cozying into bed in a cool room will help you sleep better. It’s recommended that your bedroom be kept between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18 to 24 degrees Celsius for optimal sleep, so set your thermostat if you’ve gone one. Getting into a cool room and, more significantly, cool sheets, will help lower your body temperature a bit which will cause your body to produce melatonin and induce sleep. If you don’t have air conditioning, you can take a hot bath or shower instead. Coming out of the warm water into even a room-temperature space will cause your body temperature to drop, achieving a similar effect. Once you’re settled into bed, you don’t want to feel too cold or too warm, but somewhere in the middle where you’re totally comfortable so you can sleep your best.
Eliminate disruptive noise.
Some are lucky enough to live somewhere that allows their bedroom to be dead quiet at night. Others get the sounds of the neighbour’s dog that barks at all hours or of a night-owl roommate’s music that’s they refuse to turn down. A quiet environment is so important for a good night’s sleep since even periodic, low-level sounds can be enough to disturb some people and wake them out of sleep mid-cycle. If you live somewhere really noisy, it might be worth it to add some soundproofing features to your bedroom, but to drown out subtle background noises like the TV that’s on in another room, a white noise machine can do the trick. Yes, there will be some sound still and it may not be as good as silence for some, but the sounds produced are designed to be soothing and relaxing so that they ease you into sleep. If you can sleep comfortably with headphones on, you could also try listening to binaural beats. Choose a track meant for sleep and it’ll not only block out the sounds from outside but could also help improve your sleep overall.
No matter what you do for a living, no matter where you live, getting quality sleep can make a huge difference on how you feel and your ability to be productive all day long. Commit to making some minor lifestyle changes and see how much better you can sleep better and how much more rested you can wake up every day. And when you feel properly energized, you’re more likely to feel happy, motivated, and ready to succeed. When you sleep better, you live better.
Being able to think big is key to achieving great success. Having big dreams and huge ideas can be the beginning of an amazing journey toward meeting your career goals and can also help you to thrive in your personal life. But sometimes thinking big can feel difficult, not because you’re not capable of having big thoughts, but because you carry limiting beliefs that get you stuck thinking small. Your beliefs can be changed, though, and you can work through the ones that are holding you back so that you can think more freely and come up with some great ideas.
Don’t be too concerned with what’s realistic.
When you’re daydreaming or brainstorming, forget what you believe is realistic. It can take some practice to overcome habits of holding back, but you can start by looking out for evidence that you’re doing it. Try to look out for a tendency to stop yourself because you think your thoughts are unrealistic and whenever you recognize that you’ve stopped your train of thought for this reason, choose to ignore it and continue with the thoughts you were having. Aim to be childlike; be curious and follow where your thoughts are leading you without questioning if the ideas are feasible or not. Give yourself a chance to see what you can come up with. Let your thoughts get bigger and bigger, then you can apply some healthy realism so that you can set some reasonable goals and make attainable plans for yourself. But while you’re in brainstorming mode, let your imagination run wild. Even if you come up with dreams that seem unattainable to you, having them can get you inspired enough to start moving toward trying to achieve them.
Don’t worry about money.
And forget about money while you’re daydreaming, too. Yes, money is definitely going to be a part of many different roads that lead to many different goals, but when you’re just coming up with ideas and training yourself to think bigger, holding onto a belief that you can’t afford this or that is only going to hold you back. So what if you find yourself with a dream or an end goal that you know you can’t afford right now? Allowing yourself to think big enough to reach that thought can open your eyes to your desires and you can always dial it back later. You could also hold onto your big dream and come up with possible ideas as to how to finance it, or figure out a way to adjust it so it’s more affordable. Money might be important to achieving certain goals, but it’s not important in brainstorming—only limiting.
Believe in your own ability to succeed.
Do you, on some level, believe that you’re destined to fail at whatever it is you try to do? This belief is so common and is extremely limiting to your potential. If you always feel like you’re sure to fail, you’re unlikely to think big; you probably squash any big ideas before you have a chance to really let them hatch. Start to train yourself to think differently about yourself. Try positive affirmations; frequently say things to yourself like “I can achieve anything I work for” or “I am competent and can have success.” Over time, you’ll start to believe in yourself more because you’ve repeated the idea enough to cement it into your beliefs about yourself. Removing some of your self-doubt can dissolve the blockage that prevents you from allowing yourself to dream big. Accept that you have the potential to do amazing things and let yourself dream freely.
Don’t think about your limitations.
It could take a while to overcome long-held beliefs about your own abilities. In the meantime, use a technique that re-routes your thinking so you’re able to think big without being held back by a fear of failure or a belief that you can’t succeed. You could pretend that you’re advising someone else on what goal they could reach for and what they could do to work toward it. When self-consciousness is holding you back, it can be easier to think big if you’re thinking about someone else carrying through with the actions. You might be able to see the possibility of success when it’s someone else working for it. Or, pretend that it’s impossible for you to fail. Pretend that you can do whatever you want without the risk of it going wrong. What would you want to accomplish then? How would you do it? Shifting your perspective in this way can loosen you up and let you think with less restriction.
Similarly, objective thinking can be really helpful to work around the limitations you think you have. It’s another way to re-route your thoughts but instead of picturing what you would tell someone else to do, think about what needs to be done to achieve what you’re after in a more general sense. Then, again, it’s not about what you think you can do or can’t do, it’s just about figuring out a possible plan of action. What steps need to be taken in order for someone to reach the goal in mind? Thinking in this way, you won’t stop yourself when you have self-doubt, you’ll continue planning because it’s not about your abilities, it’s about finding the most logical course of action. Once you’ve determined what’s needed, you can consider how you might go about accomplishing each step.
Get into a positive mindset.
In general, if you have a tendency to think negatively, you’re likely to limit yourself. As mentioned, you might feel self-conscious and doubt yourself; but you might also just feel like the world is full of dead ends and unsolvable problems and it discourages you from trying to see beyond your limited perspective because you don’t think there are opportunities for you to take advantage of. You don’t see potential anywhere. Before trying to think bigger, just work on trying to think more positively, because that will naturally help you to expand the scope of your thoughts as well as get you into a place to want to pursue whatever sparks your interest. Actively work to find the good around you, big and small. Develop a more positive mindset and, instead of making small plans for yourself, you’ll start thinking of all kinds of things you could do.
If you believe you need to obsess over details to feel secure or to succeed, you’ll be held back from ever thinking really big. Let go! Being analytical can be useful, for sure; paying attention to details can help you organize and plan carefully. But when you take it a step too far into over-analyzing, you can find doubt or a possibility for failure in anything. You can wind up scrapping plans again and again because you’ve analyzed your ideas to the point that nothing seems possible. It can feel like there are too many parts in your plan that you’re not sure will work out. But there will always be difficult patches when pursuing a big idea, whether you’ve overanalyzed or not; you’ll figure it out along the way. It’s good to look out for possible holes in your plans, but if you get so focused on minor issues that you get discouraged or you can’t move forward because you’re preoccupied with them, it’s a problem. Let go and let yourself think as big as you can. When you start developing your ideas you can address real problems as they arise, but don’t let the small stuff stop you from succeeding.
Accept the discomfort of thinking big.
And if you try and try and you still feel uncomfortable with thinking big, you’ll have to learn to accept that feeling. Sometimes the path to success is uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Learn to interpret it as a sign that you’re pushing yourself to new places and that it’ll help you become an innovator, a creator, or otherwise highly successful individual. And the more you face the discomfort that can come with thinking bigger than you’re used to or beyond what you believe is realistically possible for yourself, the more comfortable you’ll eventually be with it. What’s the worst that can happen, really? Plans don’t pan out? You try and don’t succeed? So what? It doesn’t mean you’re a complete failure and it doesn’t mean anything negative about you. That’s just life—sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. At least you can say that you tried. Keep moving forward and you’ll be just fine.
The biggest thing preventing big thinking is limited beliefs. There are so many different forms that limited beliefs can come in, whether it’s a belief that you’re incapable or that a task is impossible or that your environment isn’t right for something. Any one of these beliefs alone can hold you back. Overcoming these is the most important part of developing the ability to think bigger. You might find yourself with big dreams and seemingly unrealistic goals—but you’ll never know whether or not you can achieve them if you stop the process in the beginning stages just by limiting your thoughts. Let go of your beliefs and jump in—it’s the only way to really know what’s possible.
Money management is one of those things that everyone’s got to learn as they approach adulthood. As you start making money and are getting ready to live on your own and pay for your own life, you’ll need to know how to organize your finances so you’re sure you can actually afford everything you’re spending money on. Some people don’t learn how to effectively manage their money until later in life when they’re forced to face the fact that they’re in debt. In any case, it’s always a good time to learn some basic money management tips.
Establish a budget for yourself.
One of the biggest things when it comes to managing your money is creating a budget. Maybe it sounds like a lot of work to sit down and write out all your expenses and shift your money around, and it can definitely take some time to do—but it’s so worth doing. Recording everything you spend in a week or in a month can be eye opening and lets you see exactly where your money is going. Then, when you take into account your take home pay, you can better prevent yourself from unnecessarily going into debt and you’ll know how much money you can afford to put into savings. If you’re not currently in debt, organizing your money will help you to keep a good credit rating so you’re more likely to be approved for a loan or mortgage in the future. Not to mention that it’s comforting to see your money laid out so you know that you’ve organized everything and that you won’t come up short for your regular bills. The time it takes to create a budget is well worth how much the budget will serve you.
Record what you spend now.
So get started by recording how much you spend monthly. You can do this all at once if you have receipts handy, or you can record your spending over the course of the month. You can also record your weekly spending, which can be helpful for costs like groceries that are more frequent and varied. Write out different categories for your expenses—like rent, groceries, phone bill, and so on—and put what you spent next to it. Using a spreadsheet is great for keeping everything orderly and for quick calculations, but doing it on paper works fine too. Add up everything you spent and compare it to your monthly earnings. How’s your spending? Are you spending over your means, or are you spending within them? Now that you know where your money is going, you can make some adjustments if needed. You can see where you’re spending money unnecessarily and where you can allow yourself some more flexibility.
Decide where you want to make changes.
So what changes do you want to make to your budget? Many experts recommend going by the 50/30/20 rule: use 50% of your take-home pay for essentials like rent and food, 30% for discretionary spending like social activities and non-essential purchases, and 20% should be put into your savings. However, these numbers aren’t necessarily right for everyone. If you’re a high-earner, you might put more than 20% of your income into savings each month, and if you’re a low-earner, you may not be able to afford even 10%. If the amount of money you’re spending and the amount you’re making are similar, your focus should be finding areas to make changes so that you might be able to put some away each month or so that you can pay some of your debts if you have them.
What should you change if you’re just getting by?
If right now you’re making just enough to cover your bills and to live on in relative comfort but you run out of money by the end of the month and don’t have anything left to save, you should try to shift the numbers in your budget so that you can contribute to your savings. It’s always smart to have something put away because you never know when an unexpected expense could come up. Your car might break down, your pet might get sick, or you might have a fire in your home. Any of these situations could be expensive and if you don’t have anything in your savings, your only choice will be to rack up debt. So start looking for somewhere you can create a little wiggle room. The best places will be anywhere that your costs are flexible or non-essential. For example, if you’re going out for drinks with friends a couple times a week, cut back; if you buy lunch every weekday, start packing one instead. If you want to save more, you can downgrade your cell phone plan or cable plan. Maybe you can cut back on the data and use wi-fi instead or get rid of your cable entirely and switch to a much cheaper online streaming service. They’re sacrifices, sure, but it doesn’t have to be forever. It can be worth it to be able to have the security of some extra money in your savings account. Even just putting $20 in every month will slowly add up over time. Do what you can.
What should you change if you’re in debt?
If you’re in debt and are only making enough to cover your monthly expenses, your situation is a bit different and you’ve got some decisions to make. First, you should still go through your budget and look for that wiggle room so you have a bit left over from your take-home pay, but where it goes will be something that deserves careful consideration—do you put it in savings or put it toward paying off your debt? It’s really up to you, since both are good options, but there are some details that can determine which is better for you right now. Like interest—what’s the interest rate on your debt? If it’s high, it’s a good idea to focus on paying it off before worrying about your savings. If you keep adding to your savings but your debt is continuously growing—and quickly—the money you’ve put away won’t mean much. On the other hand, if your debt is fairly small and the interest is relatively low, it might be worth your while to work on building your savings for a little while and then switching your focus to your debt later.
Decide how to approach paying off your debts.
And what if you have more than one debt? You can have debt in different places, most commonly from student loans, credit cards, and medical expenses, depending on where you live. If you have a good chunk of money available at the end of each month to put toward debt, one option is to split and pay a bit into each or a few of your debts. But if you only have enough available to make paying into one worth doing, you’ll have to make a choice. Again, consider the interest rates; one way to choose is by going with whichever has the highest interest rate so that you’re not letting it grow substantially while paying off other debts. Handling that one first is a smart way to go. You could also choose to pay off whichever is the smallest debt first, and then the next smallest, and so on. This way you can eliminate one of your debts more quickly and work toward having debts in fewer places. It’s ultimately your choice how you want to tackle your debts, but these suggestions can help you choose the method that you think is best for your particular situation.
Prevent new debt from accumulating.
It’s hard to prevent certain debts; student loans can be inevitable if you want to go to school and medical debts are unavoidable if you get sick or injured and live in a country that requires you to pay for your treatment. But you can avoid credit card debt. When you go through your budget and determine what you have available for non-essential purchases, take that full amount out of your bank account in cash. You might not have it all at once if you get paid weekly or bi-weekly, but you can split it up and take out the amount available then. This way, you can see exactly what you have to spend. Using debit can cause you to lose track of your spending if you’re not careful and there’s the same problem with using a credit card, except that you’re creating debt with it. You don’t have to keep the full amount on you at all times; divide it up and spend only as much as you have with you. It’s much easier to think twice about your purchases when you can physically see how much money you have to spend—and it’s a good way to remind yourself how much you have left.
Money can be a source of stress for many people, but learning how to manage your money can alleviate it and make your life easier. Each person’s finances are unique so you’ll have to look at your personal expenses to figure out what’s right for you, but with these basics in mind, you’re in a good place to start managing your money more effectively.
Change is a fact of life. Relationships begin and end, and so do jobs. You’ll move from one home to another and maybe to a new city, country, or continent. Sometimes change is due to choice and sometimes it blindsides you in the worst kind of way. You just can’t avoid change, but you can learn to be more adaptable so you can handle it when it comes around. There are plenty of techniques you can use to better cope with change, and there are sure to be at least a few that work for you.
Do something that makes you feel comfortable.
When you’re facing a change that makes you feel nervous or uneasy, do something that makes you feel comfortable, even just for a little while. It could be going out for dinner, working out, or curling up in bed; everyone has some place or some activity that makes them feel safer or happier or somehow better in one way or another. Whatever comforts you, do it. It can be a way to calm yourself for a little while to get yourself ready to think about what’s changing and what you can do to better work through it or it can be an opportunity to feel safe while you do your thinking. Don’t use this to avoid addressing the discomfort you’re feeling though; the idea is to comfort yourself for a short while so that you can better cope with the change, not so that you can ignore it. So make yourself feel safe and comfortable and then work on accepting the situation at hand.
Talk to yourself.
Self-talk is another great method too, and can be used to help you adapt better to just about any situation you’re thrown into. You could also turn to someone you trust to talk to and to help you get through the difficult change you’re experiencing, but if you don’t have anyone around or would rather work through it on your own, you can always talk to yourself. No, it doesn’t have to be out loud—just internal chatter. Tell yourself that everything is going to be okay and it’ll all work out. Tell yourself that you’re strong and you can handle whatever life puts in your path. Depending on the change, you might also tell yourself that it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise, even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment. Figure out whatever you need to hear to feel better about the situation and what will help you move toward acceptance and tell it to yourself. Self-talk is a powerful tool and it’s easy to use it at any time.
Try to stay positive.
Try not to give in to catastrophic thinking and avoid complaining about whatever is changing. Whining about changes you don’t like can get you stuck seeing the situation negatively and make it difficult for you to adapt. It can also lead you to complain more and more, digging up new reasons to be miserable and leading you into a mindset that sees the whole thing as absolutely unacceptable. This isn’t going to help you in any way; in most cases, hating an experience is only going to keep you from feeling happy and isn’t going to change the things you don’t like. So do your best to stay positive. Look for anything that’s good about your circumstances, even just one thing to start, and focus on it. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones will help you significantly.
Consider the future.
And consider the future, not just the present. When first faced with a major change, it can be really upsetting and throw you into a tailspin. You might not know what to think and your fears surrounding the situation can be overwhelming. But usually when this happens, it’s because you’re concerned with your immediate future—what today, tomorrow, or next week will be like. Shift your focus to next year or a few years from now; maybe losing your job will lead you to something better for you and you’ll build a new career that you find more fulfilling and offers you more financial security; maybe breaking up with your partner will give you the independence and freedom you needed to chase your dreams. As bad as change can feel when it’s new, it could actually have benefits that you can’t see yet or even be a turning point toward greatness. So try to think about what good could be in your future and you’ll find it easier to see the positives in the situation and adapt to it.
Look at things objectively.
Switching to an objective mindset is helpful too. When you can see the circumstances you’re struggling with from a different perspective, it can seem less scary and make it easier for you to adjust to. Disconnecting your feelings from it and looking at it impersonally, observing it without considering your involvement in the situation, can help you see that there are positives there and that the perceived negatives can be overcome. When you’re too intimately involved, it’s all too easy to get upset or worried; distancing yourself for a little while can be just what you need to move past that initial fear and into acceptance. Keep in mind that just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s wrong—in many cases, it’s just life, and you can adapt to it better if you learn to see it this way.
As you can probably tell at this point, the way you think can make adapting easy for you or near impossible. You can choose to think in a way that makes things seem not so bad, in a way that focuses on the bright side, or you could even choose to think big. While positive thinking can be a good way to cope, you can also use it to thrive. Don’t ignore your concerns, fears, and doubts about your circumstances, but instead ask yourself what exactly they are and why you feel the way you do. Figuring out what’s upsetting you about the circumstances you’re in can reveal limiting beliefs you have about yourself. You can then work on eliminating those beliefs and start seeing the potential the situation has for you to grow. How can you use this change to become a better, more successful, happier person? How can you learn from it? Let go of your limitations and imagine how your experience can drive you to do bigger, more amazing things. You’ll feel motivated, and that can be enough to help you adapt and move forward when you’re in the midst of a major change.
Make new plans.
Even once you’ve gotten some of your thoughts sorted out, the situation at hand might still be difficult to wrap your head around. Change can create uncertainty and doing something to create certainty is a good way to combat that. Start making plans; figure out what you can do that would make the situation you’re in more tolerable or easier for you to accept. If you’ve had to move because of a problem with your old apartment, make a list of things you want to do to your new place to make it feel more like home; if you’re moving away from your family, make plans to call or chat at a set time every week. There’s always something you can do to make change easier to adapt to, and planning out what you’re going to do can give you a sense of ease and comfort.
Don’t wait to work on acceptance.
Whatever you’re going to do to help you adapt, whether it’s trying to change your view or actively trying to make yourself more comfortable, don’t wait to do it. Wallowing in frustration, anger, or depression is only going to make you feel awful and prolong the process of moving through the difficult time and on with your life. So take a little time to get upset if you feel you need to get it out of your system, but don’t hold onto it—get on with whatever you’re going to do to help you adjust. The faster you can bring yourself to work through your feelings, the faster you’ll feel better. There’s so much potentially ahead of you: happiness, love, adventure, success, and anything else you choose to pursue. But if you resist change and refuse to accept your new circumstances, you could be holding yourself back from experiencing those things. You can adapt, but you have to choose to move forward instead of hanging back.
So much of adaptation is rooted in acceptance: the acceptance of the situation you’re in, of the experience you’re having, and of what new things might come as a result of change. It’s natural to feel uneasy about change, especially when it’s unexpected, but you can become the kind of person who adapts well by taking advantage of some of these suggestions. Whether you’re facing an unexpected and unwelcome change or have made some choices that will soon put you in unfamiliar territory, you can use these suggestions to help you adjust and find happiness in your new life.
Why do you make the decisions that you make or do the things that you do? There’s always a reason, and psychologists are learning that many of our actions are influenced in ways we don’t realize and that these influences can be a really wide array of things. Even mild persuasion can have a big impact on us. In the pursuit of your dreams, you might find that you need to convince people to invest in you or to cooperate with you. Or, for one reason or another, you might want someone to see your side of things. In these instances, and in many other similar ones, knowing how to take advantage of psychology to persuade others can be a valuable tool.
But it’s important to be responsible and respectful when you want to sway someone. Persuasion is not the same as manipulation. Persuasion is done with good intentions to show someone your perspective and hopefully get them to choose to comply or agree with you. Manipulation is done with ill intent and usually involves deceit or tricks to convince someone to agree or comply. If you’re not telling the whole story or are distorting the truth in order to convince people to do something that will benefit you but could be problematic for them, that’s manipulation. Nudging people to see your perspective so that they are inclined to agree with you, it’s persuasion. Persuasion isn’t forceful, it isn’t deceptive, and it isn’t harmful to the individuals being persuaded. Keep this in mind when implementing the following tips in your life.
1. Ultimate terms
Some words are more persuasive than others. Words known as “ultimate terms” can be incorporated into your argument or pitch to persuade more effectively. They’re grouped into three categories: God terms, devil terms, and charismatic terms. God terms are also known as power words and tend to be positive and attractive. For example, if you’re talking about safety, some associated god words are “guarantee” and “proven”. On the other hand, devil words are more negative and repulsive to audiences. With the same safety example, a couple that can be used are “dangerous” and “risky”. Then there are charismatic terms which are a bit trickier; they’re usually fairly abstract but appealing because of historical context—words like “freedom” or “progress”. Any of the words in these categories can help sway the way people think and feel about a concept or viewpoint. They prompt specific reactions because we’ve been programmed through experience over the course of our lives to perceive these words a certain way. You can use these types of words to create appeal and draw someone in or to make an alternate option seem undesirable.
2. Talk quickly
The delivery of the words you’ve chosen also influences people’s response to them. When you speak quickly, it aids in persuasion for a couple of reasons. First, speaking quickly means that the person listening has to absorb what you’re saying quickly to keep up with you. It gives them time to hear you but makes it tougher for them to nitpick your argument. They’ll still see major problems if there are any, but they’ll be too busy listening and processing what they agree with to interrupt you to pick apart insignificant details. Speaking quickly can also make you appear more confident. Speaking slowly and fumbling for the right word can really hurt your pitch; but when you can speak smoothly at a relatively quick pace—but not so fast that you’re hard to understand or follow—the people listening perceive you as confident and knowledgeable, consciously or subconsciously. If they see you as having these traits, they’re more likely to want to get onto your side, even if they don’t realize exactly why you appeal to them.
3. The right body language
Along with your words, your body speaks volumes. Like speaking quickly, the people you’re talking to may notice your stance and movements consciously, but they might just take notice subconsciously which will influence their opinion of you in a subtle way. Stand up straight, shoulders back and relaxed. Don’t fiddle with your fingers, but do use hand gestures occasionally to emphasize your enthusiasm. Don’t look down at the floor or at notes; instead, make eye contact, but don’t hold it so steadily with a single person that it becomes unsettling. Looking confident tells people non-verbally that you know what you’re doing and know what you’re talking about. It’ll leave an impression that makes people want to support you in your endeavours and makes them more likely to take you seriously in an argument.
Have you ever heard a song for the first time and not really liked it, only to come to love it later after hearing it several more times? The human brain loves repetition and patterns, so when we’re exposed to an idea repeatedly, we can come to like it more or accept it more easily than when we first heard it. So when you’re pitching a plan or concept, repeat the important information two or three times. For example, if you want to convince someone of a product’s quality, repeat its efficacy stats compared to other similar products. If you’re in a casual argument with a friend or colleague, repeat an idea in different ways throughout your argument. They may not realize they just heard the same thing more than once, but their brain will take notice and they’re more likely to start to see your perspective. In this sort of situation it’s good to keep it to three times; if it’s obviously the same information repeated multiple times—rather than being subtly transformed with the same core idea—it can actually cause the opposite effect and leave the person feeling more resistant to it.
5. Balanced arguments
Very few ideas are perfect; even the best plans, concepts, and views can have a flaw or two. While you might think the best way to persuade someone is to focus entirely on the positives and try to cover up all potential negatives, research has actually shown that people respond best to balanced arguments. Many people, when being pitched an idea, will look for the holes in it; if you don’t acknowledge obvious flaws, they could see you as deceitful. Or, if they don’t notice the flaws but do feel that your idea is too good to be true, they’re likely to have trouble believing you and will be hard to persuade. On the other hand, studies have found two-sided arguments to be more successful in persuasion, likely because your honesty about the less desirable angles of your idea make you appear more trustworthy. People are drawn to those they feel they can trust and are more likely to listen to you if you come off that way.
6. Tell a story instead of reporting data
People respond to personal interactions. A study from Carnegie Mellon University compared efficacy of two different pitch styles. In both, students were trying to collect donations to improve the lives of people in various African countries experiencing drought, food shortages, and dislocation from their homes. One pitch was focused on statistics and numbers to explain how bad the situation was, while the other pitch told the story of a starving girl named Rokia and included a picture of her. The students who used the story raised more than twice as much money for the cause. The conclusion was that statistics are impersonal and can leave people feeling disconnected from the idea while making things personal makes people want to get involved. You don’t have to tell a story about someone else, real or imagined; you can also explain to someone how your idea affects their life on a personal level. Any way you can reach the person you’re trying to persuade in a personal way is helpful.
7. Taking some power away from the powerful
When proposing an idea to someone with more power than you—like your boss, a successful business person, or a leader of some kind—being able to take some of their power away can help to persuade them to see your side of things. This might sound a bit dark, but it’s really not. The whole idea is that many people with power know that they’re powerful and tend to look down on people who are of a lesser position. But, you can take some of their power by exposing them to things that are new to them; show them that you’re more knowledgeable than them in the subject you’re talking about by including information that they’re unlikely to be familiar with. If you’re the more knowledgeable in the situation, they’ll feel less powerful. Then, toward the end of the conversation, remind them of their position of power to make them feel more confident in their assessment of your pitch. It’s a great strategy for leaders of many kinds, but can be useful in arguments with people who are just feel superior too.
There are many situations when persuasion is a valuable skill. Knowing techniques that affect your audience on a psychological level will help you persuade more effectively.
Sometimes it feels like everyone has got some form of mental health concern, whether it’s based in depression, anxiety, or generally distorted thinking. Despite how frequent the experience of mental health problems is, many people don’t really know what their options are aside from medication and basic talk therapy. While medication is definitely an option for some people, psychotherapy is also a great option. CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy, is a form of treatment for many mental disorders including depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and addictions among many others. Studies have shown that it can be just as effective as medication for many people and in some cases more effective in the long-run. It’s often used with the help of a therapist or psychologist, but you can learn the basics on your own and use it to help yourself.
How CBT works and how to get started
So what exactly does CBT involve? The basic belief is that situations trigger thoughts which result in an emotional response. For those experiencing some form of mental health trouble, CBT is typically used to step in and change the thoughts that cause the emotional upset being felt. When these thoughts are altered or replaced, the emotional response is different and you can train your brain to think thoughts that keep you comfortable and happy more often. Some describe it as a way of developing coping mechanisms so you can better handle whatever undesirable thoughts you’re experiencing or behaviours you’re exhibiting.
CBT is often done in a session that is set aside specifically for the purpose of therapy, either with a professional or on your own. Multiple sessions are needed for best results, typically 5 to 20 depending on the individual and the problem at hand. First you’ll do an assessment so you can figure out what is causing you to get stuck in a negative cycle of thinking and actions. It’s helpful to commit a bit of time to doing this. You likely know what kind of situations set off your emotional reactions, but you might not give much consideration to the thoughts that take place between those two things. So ask yourself some questions—why do you feel the way you do? What are you afraid will happen? What do you think a certain situation means for you? For example, if you’re agoraphobic and leaving your home makes you panic, ask yourself what you think will happen when you go out. For some exercises, knowing exactly what thoughts are causing you distress is necessary.
After you’ve figured out the issues you want to address, you’ll move into doing the real work. Through exercises and analyzing your experiences, you’ll challenge your thoughts and beliefs so that you can change them. The goal is for this to ultimately result in the formation of new thought patterns that allow you to feel happier, more secure, and more balanced.
One technique is carrying out “behavioural experiments” where you try out “what if” thoughts in a situation that usually sets off your negative emotions or actions. It helps you identify what thoughts would be good to replace your current ones with. Here’s an example: if you’re struggling with binge eating, you would choose a couple of different thoughts that could potentially lead to the desired outcome which would be not overeating. These might be, “If I’m hard on myself, I won’t overeat” and “If I’m kind to myself, I won’t overeat.” Then, at meal time or throughout the day, try the first one—criticising. Did it make you eat less? Or more? Record the results. Next time you eat or through the following day, try the second thought—being kind to yourself. Did that one make you eat less, or more? Record those results and compare them to your earlier exercise to see which phrase was more accurate. This exercise can help you learn what you need to think or do in order to achieve the outcome you’re after. In this case, you would have learned what kind of thought resulted in eating less and you could then focus on the thought pattern that proved more beneficial.
Pleasant activity scheduling
Pleasant activity scheduling is a technique that is especially helpful for people with depression. It’s very simple—just plan one enjoyable activity for yourself for each day of the coming week. Make it something that you don’t usually do but that you like doing. It could be drawing, going for a walk, or watching the sunset—anything that can be done in a short period of time and that is a healthy activity. The goal is to get you into a happier, more positive mindset for a bit of time every day. You can even increase to two or three of these activities each day if you’re feeling ambitious. The exercise can be altered, too, by planning activities that make you feel another positive way, like confident, accomplished, or relaxed. This technique is highly adaptable and can be used to actively help you get into the mental state you want to be in.
Thought records are easy to do and great for helping you work through distorted thoughts. In so many forms of mental illness, so much misery is a result of thoughts that don’t accurately reflect reality, despite how true they feel at the time. To do this exercise, start by writing down the thought that’s upsetting you at the top of a piece of paper and divide the paper into two columns. In one you’ll write down evidence that supports the thought and in the other you’ll write evidence that the thought is not true. Let’s say you have social anxiety and you’re struggling with the thought that everyone is judging you when you’re in a place with a lot of people. You’ll write, “Everyone is judging me harshly” at the top of the page. In the “support” column, you might write down that you caught a couple of people looking at you. In the “against” column, you could write that people are busy going about their own business or that the people you interact with are generally friendly. You can then examine the evidence and determine which statements are objective facts and which side is more representative of the truth. Doing this activity can help you to weed through the emotional thoughts that are rooted in anxiety and change your beliefs through logical analysis.
Exposure and response prevention
If you’re struggling with OCD, exposure and response prevention, or ERP, is a form of CBT that could be really helpful for you. In most forms of OCD, an obsessive thought leads to a feeling of anxiety which the individual then tries to alleviate by carrying out a compulsion or ritual, though the relief is only temporary. They often wind up repeating the compulsion over and over. With ERP, you’re exposed to a situation that sparks the anxiety but then you don’t indulge in any compulsion. Instead, you sit with the anxiety until it starts to fade. The idea is that being exposed to your fear will help resolve it. This exercise is a bit more intense than the others mentioned here since it can raise your anxiety before it helps ease it, but it’s very effective for overcoming fears.
A common manifestation of OCD is an intense fear of contamination that leads to compulsive handwashing. For this situation, you would touch something you normally fear is contaminated—like a door handle, a light switch, or even the inside of a toilet—and then resist washing your hands. Immediately after this exposure, rate your anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10, then do it again in a minute, then in another, and so on for several minutes. The number should start to decline as you realize that nothing bad is going to happen. Customize the exercise for your particular problem and repeat it over multiple sessions to help you get over your fears, whether they’re the type that results in compulsions or not. If you’re especially scared, it can be helpful to ask someone you trust to stay with you while you sit with the anxiety and resist compulsions the first couple times you do this exercise.
These are just a few options for cognitive behavioural therapy exercises, but are some popular ones that can be done on your own fairly easily. Which exercise will be best for you will depend on what kind of patterns you’re struggling with, but most of these can be customised to fit with and address almost any thought- or behaviour-based problem. Remember that CBT is most effective when repeated over the course of several sessions, so if you don’t feel significant improvement after one or two, don’t feel discouraged; just keep going and give it a chance. It’s a well-studied method of improving mental health and is established as being highly effective. But if you keep up with it and learn that it’s not for you, don’t worry—there are always more options. You just have to find what works for you.