Emotional Resilience

3 Steps To Improve Your Emotional Resilience Now

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When I was 11 years old, I was obsessed with the Super Nintendo video game “Donkey Kong Country.” I was so into it that I ordered an over-sized DK T-shirt off the back of my cereal box that said “Tame The Beast.” After waiting the requisite & agonizingly long 6-8 weeks for it to arrive, I wore it for an entire summer. And since I just found it in, you can be sure it will make an appearance again soon.

Finding this T-shirt made me realize a few things:

  • I need to go through my closet more often
  • I still don’t have the patience to wait 6-8 weeks for something I want.
  • I need the fun distractions of childhood to help me cope with all the devastating news in the world right now. Something like a video game that caters to my adult interests.

Being the nerd that I am, it only took a quick Google to find the work of Dr. Jane McGonigal, author of the upcoming book “Superbetter.” And with all tragedies going on in the world right now, it seemed like perfect synchronicity that I would find her work on resilience. 

Check out her gamified quiz to determine whether you have enough positivity in your life (and how you can increase it!):

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The 3 Steps To Calculate Your Positive Emotion Ratio:

  1. Look over the emotional states listed in the diagram (right) and note how many from each box you’ve felt in the last 24 hours. If you’ve felt any of these VERY strongly or for more than a fleeting moment, count it twice.
  2. You should now have one number tallying positive emotions (PE) and one number tallying negative emotions (NE).
  3. Divide your PE by your NE to determine your Positive Emotion Ratio. For example, if you checked off 12 for your PE and 6 for your NE, 12/6=2.

Analyze your score:

  • If your score is higher than a 3, Awesome! Keep up the good work and amp up the self-care when you hit a rough patch.
  • If your score is 1-3, Try the activities below and address lifestyle issues.
  • If your score is lower than a 1, Try the activities below, increase social connection, and seek help if needed.

According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a professor of Psychology at UNC Chapel Hill, your Positive Emotion Ratio is a good gauge of your resilience in times of stress. In other words, the more positive emotions you have on a daily basis, the more likely you are to bounce back when shit hits the fan.

And that brings us to the million dollar question...

How do you boost your score?

Dr. McGonigal suggests creating a power-up. For those of you who didn’t have a Donkey Kong addiction as a kid, these are the bonus items you collect that make you stronger. Engage in activities that create moments of happiness, strength, courage, and connection.

To increase your resilience, do 3 or more daily:

  • Go outside (don't worry, Netflix pauses)
  • Engage in physical activity
  • Call a friend
  • Watch a funny video
  • Name one accomplishment you're proud of
  • Sing (bonus points if you use a hairbrush or kitchen implement as a mic)
  • Write a letter of gratitude
  • Close your eyes and think back to a time when you felt happy & strong
  • Help someone
  • And as always, seek professional help if needed. 

What do you do to give your life a "power-up?"
Send me a message, I'd love to share your story with the community!

Can't Focus? The 5 Stupid-Simple Tricks To Deal With Distractions

DealWithDistractions

Since I get various forms of this question emailed to me each week, I thought I’d share (with permission, of course)

Dear Amita,

Help! I want to be productive, but I keep getting distracted. I check my email and suddenly an hour’s passed and all I have to show for it is a million open browser tabs (with articles I’ll probably never read), screenshots of memes, and a half-written email. What can I do to stay focused and actually get shit done?

-Cara, Florida*

Cara, you're not alone.

The black hole of the Internet has sucked the life (and hours) out of all of us. While you can’t make the World Wide Web disappear, you can take a few precautionary steps to stop getting caught in it. Let’s break down your question:

1. Define Productivity

When you say you want to be “productive,” what does that really mean? Most people sit at their desk thinking “it's time to do work” without any real action plan for what they’ll get done. It’s easy to distract ourselves or avoid starting an unknown, undefined, or unwanted task. Simply put, No plan = No work.  

2. Limit your Email

Checking email isn’t the same as working. Sure, it feels like work, but it doesn’t equate to productivity. The click-bait headlines tempting us to waste time/money is only half the battle. The bigger challenge is the false sense of direction our inbox provides. We see an unread message and think we need to take action, forcing us to sacrifice our priorities. Inadvertently, we address the urgent rather than the important. To combat this, only check your email after you’ve created your plan. Then, close/silence your email and adjust your plan only if absolutely necessary.

3. Shut it Down

Open tabs are distracting and overwhelming. Instead, bookmark them or copy the link to a document/virtual post it. Then, close down all tabs you aren't ACTIVELY using.

4. Live a Little

Memes are hilarious and oddly empathetic to the human experience. Make time for breaks. You’re a human, not a robot.

5. Break it Up

One of the many reasons we feel overwhelmed is because we add things to our To-Do list rather than taking immediate action.  This was a major pitfall for me until I began using the 2-minute rule: If a task (or email, in your case) takes less than 2 minutes, don’t push it off. Act now! If it takes longer or feels intimidating, break it down into bite-sized, actionable items. Not only will it be easier to start tasks and take consistent action, you’ll feel less stressed and more motivated.

If you spend more time on distractions than you do on work, check out these psychology-backed tweaks to jumpstart your focus and productivity. 

(I post this cheat sheet above my desk…just in case!)

Don't Know What Makes You Happy? Here's Where To Start

Aligned Holistics

I recently had a client contact me wanting to attain “sustainable happiness,” a notion that’s been perpetuated by self-help books, crystal-pedaling hippies, and Prozac commercials.  Humans were not intended to be happy all the time.  Or to be sad all the time.  Or to watch more than one season of a show on Netflix at a time.  We are creatures who need contrast. We can’t appreciate the light without the dark, the Oreo without the cream filling.  But since debating the nature of happiness doesn’t make for a good first impression, I asked her, “What brings you joy?”  Silence.  She had no idea.

I could empathize.  I was once in her place, living in sweatpants, eating junk food, and dating crappy men. The point is, I had no idea what made me happy either.  I was so focused on being happy all the time that I barely noticed what made me happy when I was. And that’s exactly why I was unhappy.

The truth is that it’s freakin’ hard to say what makes us happy, but in the moment, when we feel true bliss, we’re able to pinpoint with certainty the exact thing that changed our state. It could be ice cream on a hot day, puppy cuddles after a bad date, or finally feeling the AC when you’re stuck on the subway.

But if you’re a vegan, a cat-lover, or chronically cold, don’t despair! There’s an easy solution to your pleasure puzzle.

Ready for it?

Next time something good happens, stop and actually appreciate it. Sounds ridiculously simple? In theory, yes. In reality, no.

How Savoring Works:

Those who said they regularly took notice of something beautiful were 12% more likely to say they were satisfied with their lives.
— David Niven

As I’m writing this, I had to turn my wifi off. Why? Because I’ve been conditioned to be a multitasking machine. Among my favorite distracting tasks (including, but not limited to making Spotify playlists, picking at my split-ends, and texting friends), is the incessant checking of Facebook. I don’t enjoy it, I’m like a mosquito drawn to a bug zapper. Even writing outside, an activity that gives me peace and clarity is greatly diminished. Why? Because the less I notice any one thing, the less I am able to enjoy anything.

So what happens when I go off the grid and savor a moment? I notice the nuances: the sights, sounds, and smells that make writing outside feel amazing. Every time we savor, we’re making a deposit into our happiness account. It all adds up. As David Niven notes, "Those who said they regularly took notice of something beautiful were 12% more likely to say they were satisfied with their lives." The truth is that we see what we look for. Practice savoring and you’ll be conditioned to notice the things that make you happy and not just the crap that brings you down. I

So How Exactly Does One Savor?

1. Slow the F*ck down.

That means turn off the TV while you eat. Don’t watch football online when you’re on a Skype date with your girlfriend (Yes, I’m still pissed about that!) The old adage “stop and smell the roses” is backed up by research in positive psychology.

2. Get grateful.

It’s easy to focus on the negative. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. It helps us to identify a problem and takes steps to solve it. When dialed up too high, this strength becomes a weakness, forcing us to only see what isn’t working in life. Instead, notice what’s going right by writing a gratitude list. Not only will this improve your mood in the moment, you’ll rewire your brain to be happier more often.

3. Celebrate your wins.

It’s easy to ignore both our small victories and big accomplishments. We’re great at supporting others, but bad at rewarding ourselves. Rather than waiting to achieve an outcome, start savoring the steps you’re taking by celebrating the mini-milestones. Don’t feel like you deserve it? How would you respond to a friend who told you she didn't deserve to celebrate her accomplishment? Simply put, take a vacation, book a massage, buy the shoes.

4. Don’t dump on others.

When asked “How was your day?" most of us are tempted to launch into a tirade of “Chad’s” obnoxious behavior, insane traffic, or some other negative experience. There’s a time and place to vent, and it shouldn’t always be on your partner. Sharing positive experiences and accomplishments will increase your happiness and strengthen your relationship.

5. Control the conflict.

Sounds counter-intuitive, but savoring helps you to keep cool during a conflict. If you’ve ever felt angry and thought “I love you, but I can’t stand you right now!” then you know how hard it is to have a productive conversation when pissed. When we’re angry, our focus narrows onto the other person’s perceived failures. Shift yourself back to a more realistic view by thinking and/or sharing something you appreciate about the other person. This simple tool allows both people to let their guard down and focus on fighting to fix rather than fighting to win.

 

The Takeaway:

Ultimately, your focus determines your happiness. If you’re so concerned with being happy all the time, you’ll ignore the moments when you actually are. Don’t know what makes you happy? That’s fine. Just focus on the feeling when it comes up. Take in the entire sensory experience. Over time, you’ll strengthen your ability to notice the good and ignore the crap, improving both your mood and your relationships. And to me, that’s much better than crystals, Prozac, or Netflix.