Manage workplace stress

workplace, stress, manage

 

Building passion is also a great way to manage and reduce workplace stress. Stress is a serious drain on productivity and had a direct effect on worker health and absenteeism. Stress-related illnesses cost businesses an estimated $200 billion to $300 billion a year in lost productivity, as reported in Stress in the Workplace. A study by Health Advocate found that 1 million workers miss work each day due to stress. This absenteeism costs employers an estimated $600 per worker each year. Twelve percent of employees have called in sick because of job stress. This is not surprising because most people respond to increased stress with added caffeine and alcohol consumption, smoking, and prescription medications.

A leader’s role in reducing workplace stress

Leaders can reduce stress by helping their people better manage it. Understand that leaders don’t create stress for others. Instead, they create conditions that, taken together with whatever is going on in people’s personal lives, can increase stress levels and decrease productivity and job satisfaction.

A leader’s role, then, is to help their people by educating them about the importance of self-care (see Step 4). They should encourage people to eat properly, take regular breaks and get enough sleep. People also need to have their minds and souls “fed,” with such things as time management training, meditation, prayer and a list of personal and team values to motivate them and help them make correct, healthy decisions. Leaders can also help by pitching in; offering people opportunities to delegate; accepting excellent, even if imperfect, work; and giving people the opportunity to vent and offer constructive feedback to improve processes and systems.

Of course, leaders cannot force their people to take better care of themselves, but the very fact that they offer options and serve as a resource for stress reduction can itself be helpful. After all, who gets the blame for work-related stress if not the boss?

How leaders can reduce their own stress

In addition to the strategies listed above, leaders should consider the following tactics to manage their own increased stress levels.

  • Label your emotion. The simple act of labeling our emotions reduces activity in the emotional brain and increases activity in the areas of the brain associated with focus and awareness. By labeling your emotions you can better separate yourself from the experience and draft a clearer plan on how to handle it.
  • Record and review your leadership goals. Clarity of purpose and action is a solid defense against leadership stress.
  • Be selective in your work. This was discussed in Step 1. Don’t engage in tasks and efforts that unproductive or produce limited benefits. Your time and attention are extremely valuable and must be protected.
  • Learn to delegate. Clear your plate of all the “other” things so you can do the “right” work. We detailed how to do this in Step 2.
  • Seek to control only the controllable. Focus on the things you can control such as your efforts and the way you choose to react to problems.
  • Remain positive. Stress is part of leadership and running successful enterprises. Don’t let it poison your mindset or, more importantly, your self-perception.
  • Get social support. Leaders often lack social support at work. To combat this, consider joining a peer board, a mastermind group, or a leadership development group that will provide trustworthy, confidential, and ongoing social support.
  • Re-group on a task. When a task is stressful, look for ways to better organize and streamline what needs to be done. Take time to clearly define roles and clarify expectations.
  • Increase your determination. Commit to working through your challenges and to not let them gain the upper hand. This determination will push you through the most challenging moments when you may otherwise be inclined to pull back.
  • Keep a collection of inspirational quotes handy. Quotes can give us quick bursts of inspiration. Here are two:
    • “Permanence, perseverance, and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” (Thomas Carlyle)
    • “The obstacle is the path.” (Zen proverb)
  • Consider your impact. As much as you are struggling with your burden, keep in mind that you are still needed by others. Your leadership, guidance, direction and support are critical elements in your organization and folks need you to be there for them. Use such thinking to push yourself forward.
  • Share what’s happening. Share your situation with a few close confidants who support you and can fill in for you as needed. Just knowing that others care about you can be extremely uplifting and can keep you going during difficult moments. Having people who can step in during your absence will help alleviate the burden and make sure that things move forward as needed.
  • Find the silver lining. In almost every difficult situation there are silver linings, including considering how many others may have it worse. For example, if you’re struggling with a defiant child who is making poor decisions, consider how much worse off others may be in terms of their condition and disconnect.
  • Reflect on how others did it. Life is filled with stories of “failures” who endured challenges yet went on to achieve great successes. People like Albert Einstein (rejected from college), Thomas Edison (failed repeatedly to invent the light bulb), FDR (crippled by polio), Charles Schwab/Richard Branson (struggled in school due to dyslexia) and Oprah Winfrey (domestic abuse) all overcome personal challenges to achieve greatness.

12 behaviors that leaders should avoid

12 behaviors that leaders should avoid

 

Last fall, I had a person reach out to me who was in charge of a huge change initiative in his company. He asked if I would identify a number of behaviors that leaders should avoid at all costs.

I asked him if it wouldn’t be better to identify behaviors that would positively impact every leader’s effectiveness. He asked me why he should make the distinction. I explained that when we tell people what not to do, they usually end up doing the very things we told them to avoid.

He asked me how I knew that. When I was being trained as a ski instructor in my college days, we were told not to say, “If you get out of control, don’t look at the trees.” Rather, they asked us to tell people, “If you get out of control, look downhill where you want to go.”

When we tell our brain what not to do, it may do what we don’t want in absence of clear directions of the correct course of action. In the end, my client pressed me for my “don’t” list rather than a list of effective behaviors.

Here are 12 behaviors that leaders should avoid, along with ideas for what to do instead.

1. Don’t communicate clearly

Give your directions and let that be that. People should know what you mean when you tell them what to do. Also, don’t allow questions, expression of concerns, or ideas for improvements along the way.

What to do instead: You should do all you can to communicate clearly and distinctly. If you have any doubts, ask questions to clarify and check your understanding and theirs.

2. Don’t invite input

People should just do their jobs. You shouldn’t ask them if there is a better way of doing what they should already know how to do.

What to do instead: Ask for input. People who actually perform the tasks may have ideas of what works well and what doesn’t. Allowing people to make contributions will enhance performance and results.

3. Don’t invite people to identify what they need

If you are always asking people to identify what they need (time, people, equipment, or more money), you run the risk of giving them an inch and them taking a mile.

What to do instead: Offer support along the way. Identify what is working and where people are getting bogged down. Make any needed adjustments that will help with the completion of a project.

4. Don’t express appreciation

After all, you pay people for doing their jobs; why should you verbally recognize them and express appreciation for what they are supposed to do?

What to do instead: Smart leaders go out of their way to observe people and catch them doing the right things. They step up and express appreciation for the work people do and the value and contributions that they make.

5. Don’t take the time to get to know your people personally

Getting to know someone on a personal level is not necessary. You are better off keeping to yourself than wasting time talking with people about non-work topics.

What to do instead: People want to connect and know their leaders. Getting to know each person on your team, their history, their goals, and their aspirations will help you establish rapport and make personal connections. People generally want to know that co-workers care about them and respect them for their contributions to the team’s success.

6. Don’t jump in and assist when things don’t go as planned

You don’t have time to worry about how people are doing at their work; they’ll figure it out. If they don’t get good results, you can always blame them. Stay out of the way, and let them work things out on their own.

What to do instead: Being involved when assistance is needed demonstrates commitment and teamwork toward a team goal. You should never be afraid to offer suggestions, share your expertise or backfill when there are not enough hands to do the work. Offering support when it is needed will demonstrate your commitment to people’s success.

7. Don’t trust people to do their jobs

No one can do as good of a job as you can. Why take the chance that your team can do the work to your satisfaction if you don’t manage every step of the process? Constant supervision will ensure that even your poorest performers will turn in good results.

What to do instead: Demonstrate that you are willing to give complete autonomy to people to do their jobs. You can offer training, support and assistance during the entire life of a project. Until people clearly seek your help, assume their best intentions and allow people to do their work. If results are less than expected, you can work with the individuals as needed to strengthen the outcome.

8. Don’t offer feedback, especially when the desired results aren’t achieved

The negative consequences of poor results should be enough to motivate and help people course-correct their behavior.

What to do instead: People love feedback. They want to know when they did the right thing, and they want to know how to improve. Never underestimate the power of giving others feedback. Things won’t change or improve without the benefit of useful and specific feedback. Providing feedback should become a regular function of assessing the quality of your results.

9. Don’t worry about throwing people under the bus

If people are not performing and are to blame for poor results, then they deserve what they get. If you are the leader, it isn’t your fault when others don’t perform. People should take the blame if they are to blame.

What to do instead: Blaming others does not solve a problem. If people don’t get the results that you expect, the first person you should look at is yourself, the quality of your communication, and the clarity of your directions. Then you should hold a conversation to identify what went awry and what should be done to address the current challenge.

If you are the kind of leader who cannot take responsibility, then people will quickly learn that they don’t need to take responsibility, either.

10. Don’t take time to celebrate successes

Taking time and money to celebrate team or individual success is wasted effort. Usually, people are only interested being rewarded with something of monetary value. If you can’t give them that, why bother?

What to do instead: Any time your team meets a milestone, you should take the time to celebrate their success. There are many inexpensive ways to recognize people and their efforts. Taking the time to celebrate in some way sends the message that people are important and that their efforts are recognized and appreciated.

11. Don’t worry about developmental opportunities

You don’t have the budget to send people to training, and it’s a waste of resources. You don’t want people to get distracted from their job. People can worry about that on their own time.

What to do instead: People want to grow and develop. They also want to expand their skills and capabilities so they can do their job better. If you don’t know what each of your people wants in terms of personal growth opportunities and support them in their efforts, they will find an organization that will offer them what they want and need to develop.

12. Don’t worry about saying one thing and doing another

Things change and you have the right to change your mind. People should just fall in line and go with the flow. Sometimes keeping your commitments is impossible and people need to be adaptable.

What to do instead: Things change, and when they do, you should be the first one to alert people and explain why it will occur. If you can’t keep your commitments, you need to apologize, explain why, and reaffirm the importance of your commitment to them. Failure to do so will result in a lack of respect, trust, and loyalty.

Hopefully, you recognize the many false assumptions that I offered above as behaviors that leaders should avoid. Your success as a leader depends upon your ability to do the right things for the right reasons.

I’ve made a few suggestions of things effective leaders do; there are many others. Taking time to assess your personal effectiveness and making needed changes will boost your success as a leader and as a team.

 

8 painfully obvious signs you hate Mondays (and feel unfulfilled)

article-image

If you aren’t jumping out of bed Monday morning, there is a problem.

“Living for the weekend” is not a long-term strategy

You cannot go through life accepting that 5 out of every 7 days are going to be spent doing some undesirable to you.

If you are reading this right now in an environment that is not stimulating you, why are you even there to begin with? Because it’s easy? Because it’s comfortable? Because it pays well? If your answer is Yes, then you aren’t just doing a disservice to the company you’re working for (simply along for the ride), but you are doing a disservice to yourself.

And there is no clearer answer to that than how you feel first thing Monday morning.

If you feel any of the following, you need to question whether you’re in the right place or not.

1. You got a full night’s sleep and yet you still feel tired

This is a very clear indicator that sleep is not the problem.

The problem is you’re not emotionally invested in what you’re doing. Have you ever gone on a vacation or a trip where you’re doing stuff all day, going to bed late, and still waking up early with tons of energy because you’re excited to do more exploring?

That’s how you should feel every day, in some way, shape, or form.

2. You did not prepare yesterday for today

People despise feeling overwhelmed, and yet so many fail to realize they do it to themselves.

Failing to prepare means you are preparing to fail.

Mondays are only overwhelming if you did not take Sunday to get all your ducks in a row. And the reason why most people choose not to do this is because whatever it is they’re doing isn’t enjoyable to them.

3. Everyone else hates Mondays too

It’s easy to hate things other people hate too.

“Misery loves company.”

It’s impossible (or very, very difficult) to stay positive when your company culture is, “Hey Bob, how was your weekend?” / “Too short. Can’t believe it’s Monday. I hate Mondays.”

4. You aren’t doing something you love

Obviously.

You are not going to wake up feeling excited to go to a job you don’t genuinely enjoy.

It’s astounding how many people choose things out of comfort, or fear of the unknown, and bite the bullet on years upon years of dissatisfaction.

5. Social media either hates Mondays or crushes Mondays

Browse through Instagram on a Monday morning and you’ll see half a dozen coffee cup quote graphics either sharing the pains of waking up on a Monday, or the relentless ambition one must possess in order to crush Mondays goals.

What’s more important is, what do YOU want?

How do YOU want to be spending your Monday?

And then what can you do in order to bring that to fruition?

6. You don’t enjoy the people you work with

Most of the time, it’s the people around you that define how long you stay in any given situation.

Regardless of how you feel about the work, it can be very difficult to take satisfaction in doing something with people who don’t bring you positive energy — and vice versa.

7. Mondays mark the end of one life and the beginning of the next

When you “live for the weekend,” a Monday is the door shutting on your 48 hours of freedom — and that’s a pretty strong indicator you are living double lives.

One life is how you “pay the bills,” and the other life is what you do for personal enjoyment. In some capacity, you want to find a way to merge the two.

Otherwise, you will never find your work all that fulfilling.

8. Because Monday means doing it “all over again”

This speaks directly to our culture of chasing rewards as “means to an end.”

If you see every week as a sprint, and you endure it with the hopes that one day you’ll be “done” and you can finally “enjoy it and relax,” you’re doing it wrong. You’re missing the entire journey. You are aiming for something that doesn’t actually exist.

Fulfillment is found along the way, not in a treasure chest at the end of the rainbow.

 

12 Things Your Partner Needs To Hear More Often

The daily maintenance of a relationship is so much easier when you employ even a few of these twelve phrases.

 

Image for post

1. That You Want To Make Their Life Easier

2. That You Want To Keep Dating Them

3. That You Like Having Them Around

4. That You Want To Know About Their Day

5. What They Bring To Your Life

6. That You Support Them And Their Decisions

7. That You Find Them Attractive

8. That You Find Their Choices Attractive

9. That They Are A Priority

10. That You Still Appreciate Them

11. “I’m Sorry”

12. “I Love You”

Say It Loud, Say It Proud

How to Let Go of the Stress and Pressure That Weigh You Down

“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens, and response is something we can choose.” ~Maureen Killoran

 

I don’t know about you, but I often find advice to release stress and pressure to be great on paper but incredibly difficult to apply.

Just say no more often! Sounds good, but my twenty-month-old son still needs constant care and I need to earn money, so there’s a lot I can’t just not do.

Get out in nature! I do try, but it’s been cold and grey, and often I don’t get time to myself until night—when it’s even more frigid.

Exercise more! I have the best of intentions, but I’m pregnant, frequently exhausted, and there’s that whole time thing again. I just can’t seem to create more of it, try as I may.

I suppose this is true of most good advice: It’s far easier to make a list of great ideas than it is to actually apply them. And it’s hard not to resist all those well-intentioned suggestions as overly simplified and maybe even unrealistic.

That, I’ve realized, is my biggest problem—one that you can perhaps relate to as well: While my circumstances can be challenging and limiting, most of the stress and pressure I feel originates with some form of internal resistance. Resistance to what was, what is, what might be, what I’m doing, what I could be doing, who I am… the list goes on.

And it might look like this:

  • Rehashing the past (and pressuring myself to somehow fix my mistakes)
  • Dwelling on worst-case scenarios (and pressuring myself to find ways to avoid them)
  • Fighting my current reality (and pressuring myself to change it)
  • Worrying about what I have to do (and pressuring myself to do it perfectly)
  • Obsessing about what I should be doing (and pressuring myself to figure it out)
  • Fixating on what I can’t do right now (and pressuring myself to get around my limitations)
  • Wishing I had more time for myself (and pressuring myself to somehow create it)
  • Judging myself in comparison to others (and pressuring myself to be better than I am)
  • Agonizing about what people think of me (and pressuring myself to meet their expectations)

If you’ve done any of these things yourself, I’m sure you know they’re exhausting.

That’s not say we are the sole cause of our stress. Sometimes life demands that we do more and deal with external challenges beyond our control—job loss, health issues, financial troubles, divorce…

And it’s true that there are lots of little things we can do to relieve some of the tension. But the first thing we need to do is relieve the pressure where it’s generally the most intense: within our own minds.

How to Relieve the Mental Pressure

There are two things I’ve found to be highly effective in quieting my inner voice of resistance.

1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings under your thoughts so that you can calm and release them.

All too often we get caught in a thought loop as a way to avoid feeling our feelings, because stressful as it may be, thinking about our circumstances allows us to avoid facing our deepest wounds. But we have to face them to heal them. As they say, the only way out is through.

I’ve found that underneath my varying forms of internal resistance, there’s usually:

Shame/guilt:

About things I think I’ve done wrong, about who I am (when I mistakenly assume my poor choices define me), about expectations I failed to meet or might fail to meet (my own and other people’s). And this triggers my core childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m fundamentally bad.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past, judging myself in comparison to others, and agonizing about what people think of me.

Fear:

Of the unknown, failing, succeeding then somehow ruining it, losing control, not doing enough with my life/making the most of my time, not living up to my potential, hurting or disappointing other people. Once again, this triggers my childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m not good enough, and never will be.

When I feel it:

When I’m dwelling on worst-case scenarios, worrying about what I have to do, and obsessing about what I should be doing.

Anger:

Toward myself for what I think I did wrong, toward other people for how I think they did me wrong, toward for myself for maybe causing them to do me wrong (because I often find a way to blame myself), toward life for being unfair. This triggers my core belief that life should be fair, formed, you guessed it, in childhood, when life felt very unfair.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past and fighting my current reality.

Emptiness:

Because I’m not connecting with myself, others, my passions, the world at large, or anything that would fulfill me.

When I feel it:

When I’m fixating on what I can’t do right now and wishing I had more time for myself.

When I can get below the thoughts and identify one of these feelings, I can sit with it. I can cry it out—the ultimate release!

I can empathize with myself and tell myself what I need to hear—that I’m a good person who’s always done her best, that I will do my best in the future and can handle what’s coming, that everyone else is doing their best, and we all deserve understanding and forgiveness.

And I can also do what I really need to do to feel better:

Maybe take a warm bath if I’m feeling ashamed to remind myself that I deserve comfort even when I think I’ve messed up.

Maybe do something fun and childlike if I’m feeling afraid of the future to help me find joy in the present moment.

Maybe write a forgiveness letter if I’m feeling angry to help me empathize, accept, and let go.

Maybe call someone I love, journal, or do something creative if I’m feeling empty, to meet my need for connection.

The point is, after we feel our feelings, we can do something to address the specific root cause of our stress in a moment instead of arbitrarily choosing an activity from a one-size-fits-all list of stress-relievers.

So ask yourself: What am I thinking that’s stressing me out? What’s the feeling underneath it? What does that feeling have to teach me? What does it need to hear? And what can I do to help ease that pain?

2. Get out of your head (and perhaps into your body or a state of flow).

It’s ironic but true that two pieces of seemingly contradictory advice can be equally helpful and powerful, and such is the case when it comes to relieving stress. Or at least it has been for me.

On the one hand, it can benefit us to look closely at what’s going in our minds so we can understand it, challenge it if necessary, and calm the feelings underneath our thoughts.

On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to disengage from our mind’s stories—about our unfulfilling work, our mounting bills, our insensitive relatives, and so on. To recognize we’re getting caught up in a mental maze from which we may never escape unless we consciously choose to get out—and then make that choice.

Our brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is designed to protect us, tends toward negativity, often focused on the past, the future, and the intentions behind others’ behavior. Research has shown a link between a disproportionately active DMN and depression and anxiety—and has also shown that meditation can help influence the default network.

That’s why it’s so important that we learn to get out of our heads, either through traditional meditation or by getting into our bodies or a state of flow (when you’re so consumed in a task that you forget about everything else and lose track of time).

It’s not just about temporarily quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness can actually change patterns of brain activity over time, enabling us to more frequently get out of the default mode network—where we inevitably feel stressed!

How do we get out of our heads and into our bodies or a state of flow?

Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness through movement:

Yoga

As you sync your breathing with your movements and focus your attention on the subtle muscle shifts required to get into and hold each pose, you’ll find your mind naturally quieting. There are lots of different styles of yoga. My favorites are vinyasa and Bikram, since I find the heat particularly soothing.

You can find all kinds of yoga videos on YouTube, and odds are, when life gets closer to normal again, you can find a free or donation-based class near you. I personally find it easier to practice in a class than on my own, since the presence of other people holds me accountable, and there are fewer cookies and TVs nearby to distract me!

Tai Chi

I have less experience with Tai Chi, but I did practice for a while in college, as part of an acting class. Acting requires you to get out of your judging mind, and Tai Chi is a perfect practice to facilitate that, since it’s all about integrating mind and body through slow, low-impact, controlled movements and breathing.

Tai chi is less physically taxing than most yoga practices (aside from restorative yoga, which is incredibly relaxing), which makes it perfect for anyone who’s more physically limited. It’s particularly popular among the senior crowd, since it’s easy on the joints, but it’s a powerful and effective mindfulness practice for anyone, of any age!

Mindful hiking or walking

Any form of movement can be meditative if you focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and hiking and walking outside bring the added benefit of immersing you in nature—a natural stress-reliever!

Studies have shown that just twenty minutes in nature can significantly lower your stress hormones. And it can also stimulate all the body’s senses, as we tune in to the sound of running water trickling nearby, the scent of pine (known to lower depression and anxiety), the colors in a picturesque sunrise, the feeling of leaves crunching beneath our feet, and the taste of a freshly picked piece of fruit.

Here are a few ways to get into a mindful state of flow (suggested by flow researcher Steven Kolter):

Through social triggers

We often think of flow as something we achieve individually, but group activities bring the added benefit of facilitating deep connection as we move in sync or work toward team goals. This might mean getting into a collective state of flow as part of a sports team, dance troupe, or through synchronized swimming.

I remember one particular piece of choreography from a community theater show I did as a kid. There were at least twenty of us, seated, doing clapping motions with each other’s hands, tapping our own and each other’s legs. We all needed to move perfectly in sync to get it just right, which required intense focus, and I have to say it was deeply gratifying to move as part of a whole—to lose myself in the group and become immersed in something bigger than myself.

Through creative triggers

Any creative activity can get us into a state of flow if we enjoy it and lose ourselves in the task. Painting, playing an instrument, dancing, jewelry making, even doodling—pick whatever calls to you so deeply you can’t help but concentrate on the present, losing your sense of self-consciousness because the act itself is so fun and rewarding.

Through environmental triggers

Rock climbing is a perfect example, since you need to be fully absorbed in the moment to safely navigate the rock formation. As you push yourself to your physical limit, balancing and adapting to the changing terrain, you’ll find yourself going deeper and deeper into a state of flow.

Though I’ve never done outdoor rock climbing—which I imagine is all the more thrilling, since it’s riskier and you’re totally immersed in nature—I participated in a climbing course as an experiential therapy treatment for bulimia in my early twenties. I remember all my worries falling away as I focused on not falling off the beam, and I recall appreciating my body for what it could do instead of judging myself for everything I thought I was doing wrong.

The beauty of most of these practices is that we can adapt them to our needs and available time. You can take an hour class or just practice for ten minutes. You can work on a painting for two hours or sketch for a brief window before bed.

Easier said than done? Of course! It’s far easier to watch Netflix in our one free hour of time or mindlessly scroll in that brief window before bed. (Guilty as charged.) When I do that, all my heavy unfelt feelings fester, settling deep into my brain and my bones and suffocating me like an invisible straitjacket.

But I know when I do something that’s good for me, I feel it—and I want more of it. And my resistance to doing it naturally fades away, along with my stress.

So really, we just need to show up once—really show up. Be so present that we allow ourselves to fully live that moment so we can love that moment, and that love will bring us back. Back to the practice, back to our bodies, back to ourselves. Our deepest selves, underneath the stress and pressure. The true self who knows we don’t need to be more, we don’t have to do more, we just have to let ourselves enjoy more. Because within that enjoyment there’s peace and healing. And no matter what our negatively biased brains tell us, we absolutely deserve it.

 

11 Gratitude Books To Remind You To Be Thankful Daily

In my continuous pursuit of happiness, one thing that people emphasize time and again is a feeling of gratitude. These days, the science behind gratitude and the general public are starting to get the idea that gratitude for things in life is actually a good thing. With life going by so fast, taking some time to slow down and express some gratitude is always nice.

In light of all this, I’ve gone out to look for some of the best books revolving around gratitude. These books do more than show us the benefits of gratitude. In fact, these books are able to help us bring a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and wellbeing to ourselves too.

Before diving into the list, here is the sort of criteria I looked for in books about gratitude. Considering how sizable the self-improvement industry is, you can use these criteria to determine other books beyond this list:

  • Easy to apply lifestyle – Expressing gratitude is not a difficult process, however, the benefits and day to day transformations can be hard to spot for those looking to get into it. The books we are suggesting today go to great lengths to outline the benefits and what you may experience when practicing gratitude on a regular basis.
  • Science-based – With the extensive amount of research done around gratitude at this point, many authors should be taking the time to do research.
  • Insightful – Gratitude is more than a feeling. It’s also a mindset shift. Not only will this make you a more thankful individual, but it should also give you more insight on yourself as you make changes to yourself every day.

 

1. Words of Gratitude

Written by Robert Emmons, he is one of the most influential professionals in gratitude research with several books and articles published on this topic. This book is written in sweet spots of many people, between academic areas and intimate ones as well.

If you’re looking for a book that has ample research but also explains itself in simple language, give this book a read.

Written by Robert Emmons, he is one of the most influential professionals in gratitude research with several books and articles published on this topic. This book is written in sweet spots of many people, between academic areas and intimate ones as well.

If you’re looking for a book that has ample research but also explains itself in simple language, give this book a read.

 

2. The Psychology of Gratitude

Another book that Robert Emmons worked on is The Psychology of Gratitude. He and Michael McCullough assembled this book for those looking to delve further into the theories, philosophies, and evidence surrounding gratitude overall.

This book pulls various perspectives and fields. It provides such an in-depth look into gratitude that many describe this as a necessary book if you’re ever planning to get into positive psychology. That said, you don’t need to have a background in it to understand this book.

Another book that Robert Emmons worked on is The Psychology of Gratitude. He and Michael McCullough assembled this book for those looking to delve further into the theories, philosophies, and evidence surrounding gratitude overall.

This book pulls various perspectives and fields. It provides such an in-depth look into gratitude that many describe this as a necessary book if you’re ever planning to get into positive psychology. That said, you don’t need to have a background in it to understand this book.

3. Thanks!

The last Emmons book I’ll talk about in this post is Thanks!. This calls back to the Words of Gratitude book he wrote where there is a bit of gratitude research while also giving different perspectives.

This book pulls from psychology, religion and anthropology before offering a call to action to cultivate gratitude in your life. The angle this book is taking is more along the lines of understanding how gratitude can create a life-changing addition to your life as well as tactics to use it in your life.

4. A Simple Act of Gratitude

 

Written by John Kralik, this memoir provides a personal look into gratitude and how it can change someone’s life. In this memoir, John Kralik talks about an all-time low point in his life to make it into a happy and flourishing life.

How he went about it was through the simple act of writing down thank-you notes to himself. After doing enough of those he had an epiphany:

“My life would become more manageable if I spent all my energy and focus on what I do have in my life rather than what I don’t have.”

That epiphany sent him on a journey where he devoted an entire year to writing 365 thank-you notes, once per day. Every time he did that he noticed profound changes in himself and wrote all about them in this book.

If you’re looking for a simple book to see gratitude in action, this is a great pick.

 

5. The Gratitude Diaries

A New York Times bestselling book has a mixture of the books discussed so far. The core focus of this book is revolving around one woman’s efforts to stick to her New Year’s resolution of being more grateful and optimistic – similar to John Kralik.

At the same time, the book delves into plenty of academic research and backs up findings with evidence-based findings like the Robert Emmons books.

This approach Janice Kaplan takes is nice as you’re getting the best of both worlds. All wrapped up in a book that you can casually read thanks to the informal and accessible tonne.

6. One Thousand Gifts

Many great gratitude books stem from personal exploration as these help us to better understand gratitude. Ann Voskamp’s book – One Thousand Gifts – is no different as she shares her personal transformation around her new habit of writing down specifics of what she is thankful for. In the book, she refers to these as “gifts”.

She argues that jotting these down on a regular basis will allow us to notice the smaller details in our lives. Based on her own transformation, it’s hard to argue with that logic.

7. Living Life As A Thank You

Written by authors Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons, this book drives home that whatever you’re given in life, even if it’s bad, saying thank you for these can change your life. This book provides a gratitude plan for those looking to delve into gratitude and also to help them understand how gratitude can improve the daily feelings of compassion, hope, and love.

8. The Little Book of Hygge

Pronounced as Hoo-ga, the idea of Hygge has Danish origins. It loosely translates to a feeling of community, well-being and coziness. The author – Meik Wiking – writes about Hygge as a way to introduce this concept and how people can incorporate this into your life.

And it’s not like these are very difficult to achieve. According to Hygge, things like taking breaks, and being present are easy to do. They also aren’t that much of a stretch to the ideas and benefits that we get when expressing gratitude.

9. The Gifts of Imperfection

Brené Brown has written all kinds of books over the years on a variety of topics. One in her wheelhouse focuses on gratitude. To Brown, she outlines ten guideposts that are designed to inspire people to live a wholehearted and authentic life. She argues that by living your life in this way, it’s easier to accept, show compassion, and cultivate gratitude in your life.

10. Everyday Gratitude

For those looking for quick bursts of information or something very easy to read, picking up a copy of Everyday Gratitude could be an option. The focus of this book is revolving around quotes from influential figures plus reflections and practices for viewing life as a gift. This is great for those who aren’t too keen on knowing the inner workings and want to experience gratitude first hand in a faster way.

11. Gratitude

The final book we’ll share is one written by Oliver Sacks titled Gratitude. Even though he didn’t do any research in the gratitude field, his essays and the multiple books he’s published since the early 1980s made their marks on many people.

Based on his essays and books it’s clear that Sacks was a man filled with gratitude. Even when he announced to people that he had terminal cancer in January 2015, he had this to say:

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.”

This book consists of four essays that were published in The New York Times – one of them being the essay where he announced his illness. This is complemented by his partner’s words and photographs of the last few years of his life.

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking and heart-wrenching book that looks at the entire cycle of life, this is your best option.

Final Thoughts

In our fast-paced lives, it’s easy to lose ourselves or forget about feeling grateful in our lives. These books teach us and remind us to slow down and take notice of the small things in life.

Many of these books also stress why that is so important to do in the first place. For those looking to hope into the world of gratitude, you can’t go wrong with picking up any of these books.

 

6 Things You Should Never Do First Thing in the Morning. The perfect morning routine–for you–should also include a ‘not to do’ list.

The perfect morning routine–for you–should also include a ‘not to do’ list.

6 Things You Should Never Do First Thing in the Morning

 

Morning routines. Everyone has them. Everyone wants a better one.

But instead of adding items to your morning in hopes of starting your day more productively, consider eliminating a few things from your routine. Consider it addition by subtraction.

What should go on your not to do list for first thing in the morning?

1. Don’t plan out your day.

Instead, make a to-do list the night before. That accomplishes a number of things.
One, you’ll sleep better. As David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says, “Your head is for having ideas, not holding ideas, and it’s certainly not for filing things away. Without exception, you will feel better if you get stuff out of your head.” Deciding what you’ll do tomorrow — especially deciding what you’ll do first — instantly relieves a little stress and anxiety.

And ensures you don’t waste time deciding what to tackle first. Or mistaking the seemingly urgent for the truly important. Or wasting time gathering up whatever you need to actually work on what you want to tackle first.

Try it.

Before you end your workday, list what you need to get done tomorrow. Then determine the single most important thing you need to get done tomorrow.

Then, before you step away, set up your workspace (which, if like mine, is simply your computer’s desktop) so you can hit the ground running first thing in the morning. Have the reports you need open. Have the notes you need handy. Make sure you have answers to your questions.

Starting your day with a productive bang creates natural momentum — and provides the motivation you need to move on to whatever is next on your to-do list.

So, yeah: Don’t make a plan. Have a plan.

2. Don’t make unimportant decisions.

Malcolm Gladwell only drinks five kinds of liquids: water, tea, red wine, espresso, and milk. Why?

As Gladwell says, “There are so many other things I would rather do with my time than agonize endlessly about those kinds of trivial decisions.”

Plus, we all have a finite store of mental energy for exercising self-control. Some of us have less, some have more, but eventually we all run out of willpower steam.

That’s why the more choices you need to make during the day, the harder each one is on your brain — and the more you start to look for shortcuts. That’s when you get impulsive. That’s when you make decisions you know you shouldn’t make.

The fewer decisions you have to make, the better the decisions you will make when you do have to make a decision.

Maybe you’ll start having the same thing for breakfast. Or always working out before you start work. (More on that in a moment.) Or scanning the same key metrics.

Or, as President Obama once told Vanity Fair, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Automate as many decisions you have to make in the morning as possible, especially when they don’t improve your efficiency and effectiveness.

3. Don’t forget to exercise.

Research shows that as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise boosts your mood for the next 12 hours. (Keep in mind “moderate” means an average heart rate of between 110  and 120 beats a minute. So, no: You don’t have to go all HIIT on yourself.)

Not only will a short workout increase your energy level afterward, it will also put you in a better mood for up to 12 hours.

Which means exercising first thing lets you take full advantage of the “happier” 12 hours that science says follow.

4. Don’t forget to include protein in your first meal.

In The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss recommends consuming 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. At least one nutrition professor recommends consuming at least 30 grams of protein for breakfast.

Why? Protein tends to keep blood-sugar levels steadier. Protein tends to help prevent hunger spikes. Most important, research shows dopamine regulates motivation, helping you to “initiate and persevere.”

Which is exactly what you need to do first thing in the morning: get started and keep going.

Granted, knocking out 30 grams of protein might sound daunting, so try a protein bar or protein shake. That’s what I do: My first meal is always a protein bar and a glass of water.

Decision already made, protein consumed. Win-win.

5. Don’t forget to take the right breaks.

Generally speaking, we can only focus on any given task for 90 to 120 minutes. After that, we need a 15- to 20-minute break so we can recharge and be ready to perform at a high level on the next task.

So do this: Split your day into 90-minute windows. Instead of thinking an 6-, 8-, or 10-hour workday, split your day into four or five 90-minute windows. That way, you will have, say, four or five tasks — or chunks of tasks — you will get done a lot more efficiently.

Just make sure you take the right kind of break. Sitting and chilling is fine, but taking a break to knock out a few relatively mindless tasks could be just as useful (and leave you feeling a little more productive).

Think of it this way: Momentum is everything. Breaks should reinforce your sense of activity and accomplishment. So take a quick walk. Grab a drink or a snack.

Or, if you feel the urge to stay Type A, pick a few productive tasks you like to perform — and gain a sense of accomplishment from — and use those for your “breaks.”

6. Don’t stick blindly to the same morning routine.

Maybe you’ll need to wake up a little earlier to take advantage of “quiet time” to complete your first task. Maybe you’ll need to wake up a little later so you’ll feel more rested.

Maybe you’ll need to exercise later in the day after all, or adjust what you eat, or change a few of your other “automatic” decisions.

To be more productive, you can’t do what you’ve always done.

Nor should you slavishly stick to the new routine you create. Every once in a while, take a few minutes to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. And adjust as necessary.

Because the key is to do what makes you most successful.

Which, over time, is likely to change.

So make sure you change with it.

If you use these 5 phrases, you aren’t as empathetic as you think

article-image

Are you accidentally a dismissive listener?

Dismissive listening is the opposite of empathetic listening. It says “I want to fix you” or “I want to fix your problem” instead of “I hear you, what do you need?” While empathetic listeners are able to determine what a conversation partner wants or needs, dismissive listeners tend to be less charismatic in conversation and can be seriously holding back their relationships by leaning on inefficient (and generally less empathetic!) listening skills. As a result, they tend to be less effective leaders, mentors, parents and friends.

The good news: Dismissive listening isn’t a personality, it’s a practice. It can be corrected. The first step is diagnosing the situation. If you use any of these phrases, you may be engaging in dismissive listening. Keep reading to determine how you’re leading conversations down the wrong road — and what to say instead.

It’s worth noting that these critiques don’t apply to conversations that open with someone asking for advice or feedback. Instead, they apply to more subtle, open-ended conversations where empathetic listening is required.

1. “Aww! Don’t be upset!”

If someone comes to you when they’re upset about something — from missing out on promotion to experiencing a difficult life event — countering by telling them not to experience their feelings is reductive and dismissive. While you’re a kind person and want to see them happy again as soon as possible, asking them to simply not be upset may make them feel guilty for bringing it up or feel like their emotional experience isn’t valid.

What to say instead: I’m listening. That sounds hard.

This phrase reconfirms that you were a safe person to have this conversation with and validates their feelings. It also allows them the space to lead how the conversation progresses.

2. “What if you try this?”

Most of the time, people are approaching you with a conversation — especially a conversation about a problem at work or at home — to vent and have their experience validated. You’re a nice person and you want to help, but leading with unsolicited advice focuses the conversation on fixing the problem from your perspective instead of on how the problem is affecting your conversation partner. That’s dismissive of their experience and can lead them to feel frustrated and not heard.

What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?

Saying this allows you to take action and offer help without inserting your own solutions or opinions into space where someone hasn’t asked for them. If they want help, they’ll tell you how you can engage. Or, they’ll tell you they just needed you to listen.

3. “Oh! You should read/listen to this…”

Similar to the above, this well-intentioned phrase offers unsolicited advice — and shallow advice, at that. If someone is approaching you with a difficult experience — from a layoff to getting into a serious fight with a friend — they likely know where they can go to get advice. We all have Google on hand. Unless they ask, don’t offer those options up. It’s a bit deflective and insinuates their experience can be reduced to a problem that can be solved via educational podcast or inspirational memoir.

What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?

Instead, focus on their experiences and how they see you fitting into the larger conversation, if at all. Chances are, they just wanted to vent or wanted you to offer a real piece of wisdom. They’ll let you know!

4. “I totally get it. One time…”

While sometimes you really will get what your conversation partner is experiencing, most of the time, you won’t. We all live individual lives, complicated by our personal experiences, identity dimensions and personalities. While this phrase feels empathetic when you’re saying it, it may feel reductive or just plain wrong to the person on the other side. It also centers your experience over theirs. It’s best to proceed with this route only if you’re asked for similar situations or what you learned from them.

What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate?

Instead of assuming you understand what they’re experiencing, repeat back to them your impression of the situation. It centers them, reinforces that you’re listening and helps them progress the conversation in the direction they’d like it to go.

5. “You’ll be fine!”

If someone comes to you with a problem or difficult situation, telling them that it will all work out isn’t just invalidating, it’s not very helpful, either. You’re a nice person and you want to be encouraging and optimistic, but these words reduce the complicated experience someone might have and also deflects the conversation instead of allowing them space to talk through those emotions. This kills your credibility as a listener.

For example, telling a direct report that’s anxious for a presentation that they’ll be “totally fine!” is likely to kill their confidence coming to you for encouragement in the future. Similarly, telling a friend who just got laid off that they’ll be “totally fine because they’re so talented!” makes them unlikely to come to you with complicated, hard situations in the future.

What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate? How do you think it will impact you moving forward? How can I show up for you?

To avoid being reductive, reconfirm with someone how you think they’re feeling and how the experience is impacting them. Then, ask how you can help. This centers their experience without reducing it, shows interest in how they foresee the experience continuing to impact them and allows you to expertly diagnose what they’re expecting from the conversation.

Building Relationships Through Letter Writing.

Corresponding with students via snail mail is a good way for teachers to foster trust anytime—but especially when everyone is physically distanced.

1
With remote teaching likely continuing into the next academic year, we’ll need low-tech ways to establish relationships with students whom we can’t reach digitally. An ongoing letter communication through the mail is just that—and is also an empowering way to build relational trust with students. That trust, explains Zaretta Hammond, is the foundation on which culturally responsive teaching can change learning trajectories for even our most vulnerable students.

My first year in the classroom, I saw one of my more disengaged students pass a note to a friend. I thought about confiscating it, as my teachers had done. Instead, I wrote her my own note the next day. She wrote back, and we continued writing through the year, her engagement in class strengthening alongside our relationship. Letter writing became my most essential tool for earning my students’ trust.

When we as teachers write letters to students and they write back to us, we balance power dynamics, learn from each other, practice holding space for complex feelings, and engage our natural curiosities as readers and writers. Here are several suggestions for writing meaningful letters to students.

INTRODUCING THE LETTERS

To promote authentic communication that equalizes the power dynamic, remove obligations and expectations that students participate. Keep the letters optional and clarify that writing conventions and content will not be evaluated.

Inform families, perhaps in a separate letter, that you are initiating a dialogue with students through optional letter writing. Remind parents and students that you will respect their privacy—but that you are still a mandated reporter.

Keep the lines of communication open and flexible by avoiding constraints like deadlines and page limits. Make it known that students are welcome to start new topics and don’t need to continue a topic initiated by the teacher.

Write the first letter to your students (you might start with a few students per week) to serve as a helpful example for students who may struggle with this possibly unfamiliar form. Set students at ease by using a casual tone, sharing personal anecdotes, and even including jokes or funny sketches. Model letter writing conventions like dating and signing the letter.

Get the best of Edutopia in your inbox each week.

Email

WRITING YOUR LETTERS

I used to pepper my letters with questions and suggested topics to prompt students to respond. But this approach maintains the traditional power structures of classroom communication, where the teacher is facilitating conversation. Over time, I learned to create a safe space that promotes genuine dialogue.

Participate in the conversation instead of directing it: If I know a student plays the violin, I won’t directly ask him about it. Instead, I write about my related experiences. For example, with this extra time on my hands, I have thought about finally learning how to play my guitar. I’m thinking of trying YouTube videos, but I’m worried that I won’t have the discipline to practice without a teacher. By sharing these thoughts, I open up lines of communication. My student is free to pick up this thread and respond in a variety of ways, instead of only answering my specific questions about the violin. Maybe he won’t mention his violin at all and instead choose to talk about YouTube, describe what he’s doing with his extra time, or assuage my worries about learning a string instrument.

Ask questions that stem from curiosity about topics that students initiate: Questions that are prompted by what students are choosing to share with us invite us to demonstrate genuine curiosity, offer our unique perspective, and introduce new words and ideas that probe students’ thinking. When we gain insight into our students’ unique funds of knowledge, we see their academic assets. We can use these insights to plan instruction that leverages what students already know.

Make your thinking visible: When young people get a glimpse into the thinking life of someone else, especially someone who thinks in an interesting or productive way, it’s the best kind of education. When a student recommends an app I should download, I’m honest about how I’m trying to cut back on my phone use since I’m getting addicted to the games I already play. I add that I’m trying to dock my phone after 6 p.m. and will let her know how it goes. By observing others’ thinking, our students may learn new coping skills and language to navigate their own experiences.

Encourage all forms of expression, regardless of perceived errors or informality: Zaretta Hammond has said that our students’ errors are information. As students informally write to you to connect and share their lives, avoid directives about how they should write. Simply note their errors and write your response with correct models. Use this information as you plan your instruction, but don’t instruct in your letter.

Hold space for students’ feelings: To maintain an equitable co-writing relationship, refrain from comments that evoke the authority you still have as the teacher. Instead of suggesting solutions to problems that students share, respond with acknowledgment and empathy. Instead of reassuring students with praise, show how you connect with their experience or what you’re learning from them.

When our students have uneven access to distance-learning technology, writing letters allows us to advance equity within our sphere of influence. We can give them a safe space in which to reflect, complain, disagree, express fear, ask hard questions, and hear our stories. We can practice being there for students as a trusted adult, a relationship that can nurture rigorous learning.