Friday, January 28, 2011

A habit change could make you happier

Meg Selig (Psychology Today, January 26, 2011) states that changing a bad habit could really make you happier, here's why:

"A recent study "tracked the symptoms of depression in people who were trying to quit (smoking) and found that they were never happier than when they were being successful, for however long that was." The process of quitting smoking actually improved the mood of all participants in the study who quit for some period of time.

Christopher Kahler, research professor at Brown University, and his colleagues studied 236 men and women seeking to quit smoking. Participants were tested for symptoms of depression one week before quitting, and at 2, 8, 16, and 28 weeks after quitting. 99 subjects never quit--they remained the unhappiest throughout the study. 77 quit temporarily--their low mood lifted while they were abstinent but descended again when they resumed smoking. 33 abstained throughout the study--these successful quitters reported the happiest feelings. (The rest of the participants didn't fall into any clear pattern.)

So, oddly, quitting smoking can be like taking an anti-depressant. Why? I'm not sure if the "quitters'" changes in mood were related to brain chemistry or to the pride of regaining control over a previously out-of-control habit. Or, maybe people become happier when they commit themselves to a particular choice, as suggested by happiness researcher Daniel Gilbert. At any rate, this study suggests that if you want to be happier, stop smoking!

Would this mood lift apply to other habits? Well, to exercise, for sure. Numerous studies show that exercise, even in small doses, boosts mood and mental health. What about weight loss? Weight loss is a trickier subject, but at least one study indicates that after a 6-month weight loss program, people suffering from depression not only lost weight but reported significant improvements in their mood".

Enough motivation to really change that bad habit (at least one of them) this year?  I think so!

Read the full article at

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yes to saying no

I'm not sure why I'm thinking about assertiveness today.  It might have something to do with my mindset on a Monday - the beginning of a new week, a good time to 'take charge' and do a bit of internal examining (for me, that is).

Many of us struggle with the act of saying no, of setting (and sticking to) the boundaries that we've set.  It's not a bad thing to be the nice guy (or girl), but it can become a bad thing if you're always taking that stance, no matter what the circumstances are.  Setting boundaries and saying no is not something that comes natural to me (and I think many of you will share this notion).   This implies that I constantly have to remind myself that it is okay (and very necessary, in fact) to communicate my thoughts and wishes to others in order to be - and to develop - my true self.

Assertiveness is a very important skill that will assist you in reaching your goals and might bring you a few steps closer to the person that you want to be.  So, take Psychology Today's Assertiveness test and see how much work needs to be done on this matter ;-)

My results were quite accurate (actually a bit better than I've anticipated), what about yours?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let's open our minds to open-mindedness ;-)

The title of an article by Conway Tutani in Newsday of January 14 2011, "Open-mindedness shortest distance between us all" grabbed my attention this morning.  The author comments on the current political state of Zimbabwe, and how open-mindedness could have in the past, and today still, facilitate must needed change.

My viewpoint is not political in nature, I simply agree that open-mindedness can decrease the distance between us all - whether politics, religion or socio-economic circumstances are at stake.  Let's truly try to open our minds to the ideas and thoughts of others, we might just find that the supposed gap between us is much smaller.

Have a good one!

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's okay to take it easy

At the beginning of the year, as soon as we have set our foot in office, we often feel that we should be ready to roll - being extremely positive, 'psyched up' and enthusiastic about a new year that brings about its own bucket of opportunities and challenges.  And although it's not a bad idea in principle (the 'bang' should start at some point and positivity has never done anyone any harm, right?) I think it is okay to ease into the year.  This means that you (read I) don't have to have a ten point 'how to' plan ready for just about everything - how to get your best body / how to be the happiest you / how to create (and maintain) the best relationship (and don't forget to add the 'ever' to all of these prospects ;-)

I had quite a laugh this morning when I've read Blouwillemaandag's column in Beeld:  "Moet niks radikaals doen wat moeg maak".  It seems as if we share the same view on this matter.  So my advice on a Monday morning?  Do what you should today, live life and embrace this moment - lists and ten point plans can wait until next week (or next month...or next year, for that matter).  What I'm trying to say is if lists and plans help you to organise your life and to create structure - great, but if that mere thought is the reason for you having a blue Monday - don't sweat it.  Rather have a cup of coffee and ease into the week.

All the best!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Have a terrific Thursday, for a change ;-)

This made me think this morning - isn't it so true? 

And yet we're so scared to leave (or even adjust) our comfort zones - although that very same comfort zone is so often the reason for our constant moaning and groaning. 

Challenge to self: to rock my boat, to take that first step and, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, to "be the change that I want to see in the world".  I may just be surprised with the outcome (and a step closer to the person that I could be).

Let me post this before I change my mind ;-)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let's create our own fun!

It's easy to feel a bit overwhelmed at the beginning of the year - so many 'to do lists', expectations of the year to come.  Combine that with post holiday blues and financial stress due to the 'mismanagement' of funds (let's stick to that description) over the festive season and there you have it - a recipe for disaster.

On the other hand, new and exciting opportunities, relationships and events lie ahead!  I'm sure this year will have its fair share of good, bad and ugly, but we can add another component - FUN - in capital letters, that is!  How is it that we so easily forget how to have fun once we've reached adulthood?  One of my father's favourite sayings is 'welcome to the real world' - that might explain a lot;-)

But, this is luckily not a scenario that is cast in stone.  Why don't we keep a fun journal or compile a 'fun things to do list' this year?  I think that's what I will do, starting with a pajama party in our living room tonight - complete with popcorn and chocolates, a dvd and a board game or two.  I know it's the middle of the week, but that's precisely the point - create your own fun (thanks Nel ;-)!

What is your fun thing(s) to do for this week?

If you're really running out of ideas - find some tips at disover fun!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thumbs up or down during 2011?

I hope that the first few days of 2011 were good ones, and that you'll embrace every opportunity that presents itself during this year.  All the best!

With the matric results in the news today my thoughts are running towards marks, assessment and evaluation.  For those who have been fortunate enough to study further the latter has been a part of your existence for another few years.  I don't know about you but I always dreaded exams.  But nowadays I understand the importance of being assessed very well - the ability to show that you truly comprehend that which have been learned is something that you'll apply throughout your life, in various settings.  Although most will agree that living is, and should be a life long learning process, exams and assessments are not part of the deal (unless you're a scholar or a student, that is).  I want to say thank heavens on the one hand, but on the other hand is it important to assess your thoughts and actions on a regular basis (with the focus on your own, not those of others necessarily).

I'm not a keen supporter of new years resolutions but it might not be a bad idea to be my own 'internal examiner' as from 2011, assessing the whole package every now and then to make sure that I'm still true to myself and living (or striving towards, at least) my dreams.  And to check that I'm not the most selfish, unkind person that I know ;-)

Is it thumbs up or down for you during January, according to yourself ... something to think about hey?