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7 Simple Steps to Overcoming Laziness

lazy

Photo courtesy of Matt Erasmus

There have been times in my life when I struggled to overcome what I usually refer to as “sloth-mode.” Many people struggle with this problem – especially in recent times. Virtually everything in our modern world offers increasing amounts of convenience, now allowing us to work, eat, and be entertained all within our own homes. Unfortunately, all of this convenience has led to a society that appears to be rather “lazy.”

What I’ve discovered though, is that while it may seem like laziness, there’s usually something else at play.  Laziness is just a term we’ve invented, and it covers a pretty wide range of behaviors that are, in fact, much deeper than simple laziness. Once you’ve figured out what you’re really dealing with, it’s much easier to get your motivation level up to snuff again.

Do a little self-assessment and determine which of the following best describes what may be causing your so-called “laziness.” Then take the accompanying advice to kick your butt back into gear:

  1. You’re bored. It’s extremely easy to mistake boredom for laziness. If you’re not excited about something, why bother, right? If boredom really is the issue, you’ll need to make a few changes and pursue something that interests you, if possible, or find a way to make what you are doing more interesting.
  2. You’re tired. When you’re not well-rested, the chances of you feeling inspired and motivated are extremely low. Work on getting an extra hour of sleep every night and see if your slump lifts.
  3. You’re disorganized. It’s difficult to get started on anything before you’ve got a good handle on organization. If your work area is a mess, what you may be calling laziness is probably procrastination instead. Set aside a decent chunk of time to clean and organize before you attempt anything more ambitious.
  4. You love pajamas. Sometimes, just getting dressed into a nice looking outfit will give you the kick you need. Ditch the pjs and don some attire that makes you feel attractive. Smile at yourself in the mirror, and get to work.
  5. You’re scared. If the problem is that you’re afraid to fail once you put yourself out there, remember this: “You always pass failure on your way to success.”  ~Mickey Rooney. In other words: Get out there and try anyway.
  6. You have a poor sense of time. If the hours in the day just seem to get away from you, start setting multiple alarms that alert you to begin certain tasks. For me, putting time limits on how long I work, clean, and even play, helps keep me focused and productive.
  7. You don’t know where to start. This happens to the best of us, and the best way to fix this problem is to make lists. I suggest getting a big calendar and writing a To-Do list for every day of the week. Crossing things off your list feels really good, and will give you the boost you need to keep being productive.

Believe it or not, another good practice is to allow time in your life for laziness to be ok.  Everyone needs time to decompress, and your productivity level will actually be higher if you have designated “down time” to look forward to. Make Saturdays “Pajama Day” or watch movies on Lazy Sundays. My advice is to pick only one day, so the behavior remains an exception rather than the rule.

 

 

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5 Failproof Ways to Fall Asleep Fast

sleepingPhoto courtesy of Bonbon

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m a life-long insomniac. I’ve been trying to find the secret to successful snoozing for many years, and I’ve actually learned some really effective ways to get the rest my body needs.

I still struggle with it – don’t get me wrong. If you’re a chronic insomniac, you’re among the 10-15% of adults who’ve had trouble sleeping for more than a month. Most sufferers of chronic insomnia say their symptoms tend to wax and wane, meaning that they’re able to get sleep a night here or there in between bouts of sleeplessness.

Insomnia has a bunch of potential causes, the most important of which is an underlying disorder or disease.  It’s important to rule these out before beginning to treat your lack of zzzzzzz’s. As you surely know, disordered sleep leaves a person fatigued during the day, with a lowered ability to function well. This can have a deep impact on every aspect of life, including work responsibilities, personal relationships, and physical as well as mental well-being.

While you may not be able to kick your night owl habits entirely, there are some things you can do that have been proven to help people just like us get into a more acceptable sleep pattern. Try them one at a time to see what works in your life.

  1. Write about it. This may seem far-fetched, but stay with me here, because this really worked for me. Start writing down some basic daily habits, like caffeine intake, what kind of food you ate, activity level, medications you took.  In the morning, write down how your sleep was that night. After a few weeks, you’ll be able to discern some patterns that may be keeping you awake. I discovered that even one cup of coffee after noon would keep me awake almost all night.
  2. Touch and be touched. The simple act of laying skin-to-skin with your mate, or falling asleep holding hands can actually make a difference in the quality of your sleep. Touching and being touched releases oxytocin, which makes us feel good and can lead to a feeling of well-being. Physical touching also lowers the body’s production of cortisol, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure - making sleep much more likely. If you’re single, hugging your kids or friends close to bedtime can help, too.
  3. Get moving. (During the day, of course!) I’d heard this tip for years, but realized its efficacy a few months ago after a long bout of low physical exercise. When I joined the local gym and took up swimming, the difference in my sleep quality was remarkable. Not only does exercising release feel-good endorphins – it also just plain wears you out! I’m still swimming 3 to 4 times a week, and I can testify that getting physical really does help me sleep better at night.
  4. Stay put. (At night, of course!) Many troubled sleepers grow weary of “trying” to fall asleep, so they throw off the covers and get out of bed. Since there’s zero chance of you getting any sleep if you’re upright, try getting comfortable and staying in a sleep-inducing position. At the very least, you’re resting your muscles, and you will probably fall asleep eventually, especially if you try #5.
  5. Breathe. Focusing on your breathing is really effective in inducing relaxation. Try to slow your breathing down, and breathe from the stomach instead of the diaphragm. Use progressive muscle relaxation until your entire body is feeling good and relaxed.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone, and that more help is available if you need it. If these tips don’t help, a trip to your physician may be in order. Sleep aids or supplements might offer you temporary relief, but continue to use self-help techniques as well. Your brain will (hopefully) thank you in the morning.

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A Dozen Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Morning

Photo courtesy of John Liu

Recently, my husband has been making some major changes in his life that have increased his productivity, feelings of self-worth, and overall happiness. He shares all of his ideas with me, and what I’ve noticed so far is that the changes that have had the most effect on his life are the ones that happen in the first hours of his day. Intrigued, I did a little research into the subject, and was surprised to learn a few compelling facts that now have me rethinking my mornings too.

As it turns out, many Americans are sabotaging their overall productivity without even knowing it by getting off on the wrong foot each morning. In the United States, 55% of all adults say that they are ‘morning people,’ while the rest feel perkier in the P.M. However, because you’re likely to find that your days end pretty much the way they start means it’s important to make mornings count.

Interestingly, a podcast about productivity is what really got my attention on this subject with the claim that those self-professed ‘morning people’ are healthier and richer, and that they live longer, happier, more productive lives.

Despite the multitude of internet articles claiming that it’s possible to transform into a person who gleefully bounces out of bed every morning, it is much more realistic to make some tiny shifts to your current (possibly less-than-ideal) morning routine.

See what you can take away from this list of what not to do every A.M., followed by an explanation for what makes each component important to achieving a successful morning (and day):

  1. Sleep as late as possible. Early risers make good use of that quiet alone time. Allow yourself enough time to ease into your day without rushing around like a crazy person.
  2. Blast yourself out of bed with the loudest alarm possible. Jarring yourself into consciousness will guarantee that your day has a jittery start. Find a soothing sound that’s loud enough to wake you up but not startle you.
  3. Save time by skipping breakfast. – The importance of eating a good breakfast is ranked right up there with a good night’s sleep. Just do it.
  4. Forget showering – you took one last night, right? – Last night was a long time ago, and even a quick spray-down will leave you refreshed, invigorated and ALERT.
  5. Check all of your emails. – If possible, have a separate work email address and don’t log in to your work account until your work hours start.  Avoid checking personal emails until your first break of the day, or, if you simply can’t wait, at least put off responding until break time.
  6. See what everyone is up to on Facebook. – Does this even need an explanation?
  7. Make up for lost sleep on the weekends. – While it seems so tempting, keeping a regular sleep schedule – even on the weekends - will make it easier to wake up early on the weekdays.
  8. Don’t exercise. – Getting your blood pumping means more blood-flow to the brain, too. Your metabolism will be ramped up, giving you more energy and burning more calories!
  9. Wear the outfit that strikes your mood. If you’ve ever stood in front of your closet and wasted 30 minutes deciding what to wear, you know that morning-time is definitely not the best time to choose your outfit.  Lay everything out the night before, including shoes and socks, so that decision is already taken care of when wake up time rolls around.
  10. Save the fun for after work. Doing something fun before your work day starts is a surefire way to put you in a positive mood and a good frame of mind. All work and no play is no good for anyone.
  11. Shuffle your kids quickly out the door and onto the school bus so you can get on with your day. It’s been proven that two minutes of hugging per day makes for happier people. A little quality time with the little ones (or teenagers, as the case may be) will be good for all of you.
  12. Once you sit down to work, don’t get up until you absolutely have to. There are so many good reasons to take regular work breaks: improved circulation, avoiding eye strain, giving your hands a break from the computer mouse, and giving yourself a mental break only name a few.

You may never pop out of bed filled with vim and vigor, but that doesn’t have to mean that your mornings have to be disasterous and unproductive. Those of us who aren’t ‘morning people’ can learn how to make the most out of a situation that we’d rather not face at all…or at least until noon.

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When the Words Get in the Way: How to Talk Less and Say More

Photo courtesy of Val Pearl

Foot in mouth disease can plague even the best of us on occasion. I personally have been a victim of not knowing when to shut my mouth in the past; in fact, it used to be quite a problem for me. Along my journey toward becoming a better person, I wanted to learn how to stop myself from saying things I always end up regretting later.

I started out by focusing on when I was having the most problems with putting my foot in my mouth. It always seemed to be at the most inopportune times!  As it turns out, research shows that people actually do tend to let things slip when the pressure is on to behave well, and this has a scientific basis.

Known as one of the brain’s ‘ironic processes’, when we are specifically trying to keep unwanted thoughts from exploding out of our mouths, it becomes even harder to do so.  This is because the human brain is constantly working arduously to keep unwanted thoughts at bay, but when it becomes overloaded, such as in times of stress like an interview or first date, undersirable tidbits end up getting past the gates.

Much like wanting to ‘stop being nervous’ or get into a better mood on command, we’d all love to have complete control over our thoughts, and especially, when and when not to share them. How can we keep our feet out of our mouths when it matters most?

The answer seems to be related to creating effectual habits. Just like in many other areas of our lives, like exercise, eating, and being productive, making keeping mum habitual gets us the most regular and reliable results.  The key is how and when to train your brain to keep quiet.

Don’t begin the process while you’re immersed in a stressful situation, for one.  In order to teach yourself to babble less and say more of the right things, you’ll need to take a gentle, nurturing approach. Think of your brain as a very complex network, and it’s important that the whole thing’s not lit up when you start rewiring a few of the grids. Otherwise, you might end up shorting everything out, negating all of your efforts.

Try this: when you’re in low-pressure situations, practice keeping negative thoughts to yourself by forcing yourself to think about (but not speak about) the things you really don’t want to say.  You’ll have to do this regularly, because after all, improving your prowess at any skill won’t happen without practice.

Just like any desired behavior, the best way to control what you say is to make it an unconscious action. By familiarizing your gray matter with saying the right things instead of making innapropriate comments, your brain will eventually become more comfortable with minding its manners instead of making your most mortifying musings public knowledge.

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Break Your Brain out of its Comfort Zone – Guest Post

Everyone is constantly looking for a high quality of life but it seems harder and harder to come by. For many of us, true happiness continues to elude us because we feel that we are in a constant race with the rest of the world. We seem to equate happiness with our ”performance at life” – in other words, if the Race of Life ended today, what place would we take? In order to stay at the front of the pack while simultaneously striving for internal success, we have to focus on our mental fitness. Here are 3 tips that will aid you as you push your brain to its fullest potential.

Get out of your comfort zone

The brain is like any other muscle in our body: to make it stronger, it must reach just beyond the boundaries of what it is capable. Each time the brain reaches further and further, it creates more neural connections. But how do we “stretch our brains”? There is no way other than attempting mental tasks that are difficult, even if we fail. This is a daunting concept for many, but those who break out of their comfort zones and push their limits will reap the rewards of an increase in mental clarity, focus, and retention.

Learn a new language

Probably the most comprehensive and effective way to improve brain power is by learning a new language. Many different parts of the brain are activated while learning a new language. You rely on memory to recall vocabulary and mental flexibility when combining the first few words into a coherent concept.  The concepts will get more diverse as the structures and vocabulary at your disposal increase. Your brain uses reasoning skills when you discover how to relate concepts and structures in the new language to those of your first language, and sensory sensibility as you hear new sound combinations and attempt to replicate them. Learning a new language also increases the number of people with whom you can communicate, making you more social (incidentally a big element that contributes to brain performance).

Take a break

We find that exercising on a constant basis provides increased physical performance until at some point a plateau is reached. Taking a break and returning to your routine a week or so later yields more advancement. The same holds true professionally - when you become so absorbed by routine that your job performance suffers, it’s time to take a break - a vacation even (maybe a chance to visit the country whose language you are learning). When building your mental performance, remember to treat your brain the same way you treat the rest of your body. Give it a rest when a rest is called for.

Although increasing your mental abilities may seem impossible, you really can “grow” your brain (or at least make more synapses)! The process isn’t simple, and it requires dedication, but if you really want to increase your performance in life, start by focusing on the most complex and important organ in your body.

Dolph Larsson is a writer who focuses all of his efforts on exploring ways to increase the power of the brain. You can read more of his articles such as “Power Your Brain Today” and “How to Increase Mind Power” at his website How to Improve Brain Power, where he discusses brain boosting lifestyle changes and techniques.

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The REAL Reason You Shouldn’t be Eating at Chik-Fil-A

It’s amazing to me the number of people who have completely given up eating at a popular fast food restaurant based purely on a principle that has nothing to do with food.

Whether or not your opinions on gay marriage line up with Dan Cathy’s is totally up to you, of course, but personally I’d like to see more people deciding what to eat based on whether or not the food lines up with what the body needs.

It can be easy to make mindless choices when it comes to eating when the rhythm of daily life seems to demand it.  You can become zombified, mindlessely shoveling in food ordered through a window. You’ve got places to go, things to do.

Since food is what fuels the body and mind, you’ll soon have no place to go at all if you aren’t more mindful about how and what you eat. Reckless bingeing followed by disastrous dieting has led to copious amounts of obesity and a real lack of nutrients that healthy bodies need to succeed.

Mindful eating involves slowing down and checking in with yourself before diving in. Does your body actually need fuel right now or are you just bored, sad, or angry?  Making sure that you are eating for the right reasons is the first step to mindful eating.

If you have checked in with yourself and have decided that your craving for food is due to a mind/body need, the next step is to make mindful choices about what type of fuel you put in your engine. Make thoughtful decisions so that you eat a variety of foods every day, including fruits, vegetables and plenty of protein. If your check-in shows that you’re regularly craving sugar or fat, you’ll have to look into the reasons or factors for that and make some life changes accordingly.

Lastly, once you have made a wise food choice, spend extra time enjoying it. Eat slowly, and really contemplate the flavors, textures, and spices that exist in your food. Eating mindfully involves turning off outside distractions. Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer – the distractions keep you from knowing when you are adequately full. Eating in relative silence is actually the best idea. It allows you to focus only on the task at hand, and when your body is properly fueled, you will be able to recognize it.

Chew slowly while you eat, and spend time tasting each bite. Try to really appreciate the taste and sensation of each morsel before swallowing. Avoid having the next bite ready and waiting on your fork. Enjoy a bite fully, contemplate it, and then take another thoughtful taste.  I have to tell you – as research for this article, I began mindfully eating this past weekend. It was absolutely mindblowing. I have never enjoyed a meal so much, and I stopped with half of my plate still full. Amazing!

You don’t have to have an hour-long silent meal every day of the week – that’s just not practical for most people, but you can aim for a once-weekly mindful meal and begin making better overall choices before stuffing your belly. Only this time, make your choices based on the issue at hand – your health.

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As a Thank You to all of our loyal readers, this week we will be doing our first ever FREE GIVEAWAY!  To be eligible, you must be subscribed to DailyPath, and you can do that by clicking the sign up box on our Home Page. There will never be a cost to you and we will never try to sell you anything (unless we write a book, of course.)   :)

The winner will be mailed a brand new copy of the book Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays. It’s a fantastic book and we wanted to be able to share it with a lucky reader. We’ll be drawing the random winner next Monday morning and the results will be announced here on the blog.  Good luck and thanks for reading.  We’re all in this together!

 

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Can You Really Make Yourself Smarter?

Photo courtesy of Hey Paul Studios

As we’re sliding into week three of our Memory Improvement Project, this week’s Mindful Monday is going to address some specific strategies to actually begin training your brain.

We started out by gaining some mental clarity, creating a blank slate of sorts for the work ahead of us. Once we had implemented some very important behavioral changes, we added some memory boosting supplements to our daily regimen.

Don’t worry if you’re struggling with the process a bit. As I previously mentioned, I have trouble getting enough sleep.  However, after doing a lot of reading on the sleep/memory connection, I had an ‘a-ha’ moment during which I realized that without adequate sleep, my brain will never function at full capacity. Getting eight hours a night has become one of my top priorities, and so far I’m noticing a real difference in my ability to focus on tasks.

Now that I have my brain running more optimally, I’m ready to take the next step in the process. We have billions of neurons firing upstairs and, as it turns out, we have a choice about some of the connections those neurons are making! We’re not on a wild goose chase here, people! We can actually change our brains. Here is what I’m going to try this week:

Make neuro-choices – When I say that we have a choice about what connections are being made in our brains, I’m not kidding. It’s been shown that the neurons that fire together, wire together, so to speak. In other words, “practice makes perfect.” The human brain has a great ability to adapt the way it works - called neuroplasticity – and I plan to use it to my advantage.

Walk my way to a better brain – Although getting physical in any way has been shown to boost brain power, walking in particular has a positive effect on the area of the brain that controls memory.

Play mind games -  Brain stimulating games like Brain Trainer by Luminosity increase blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex and are conveniently downloadable for iPhone and iPod Touch. I plan to play at least one level a day, right after I:

Indulge – Intake of limited amounts of caffeine can improve short term memory, so I’ve decided to take six ounces of caffiene each day immediately before beginning my brain training.

Listen to more music – Studies show that people who listen to music are smarter and have more emotional intelligence than those who don’t. Music strengthens the brain’s right-hemisphere.

Read – When we read, our brains have to absorb a lot of information in short order. This challenges our thinking and memory skills. I haven’t made much time for reading lately, and I plan to read 15 minutes of my book each day at lunch time.

We don’t have to sit idly by and watch our brain power fade, and there is medical research to prove it. By exercising our brains just like we exercise our bodies, we can increase our neural connections just like we build our biceps.

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