Category Archives: Habits

Fall Is the Best Time for Resolutions

It’s getting cooler, and this can give us more energy to do things that we may have put off since January, like starting that new work-out routine. The Fall can be a much better time than January to start new things and revisit your resolutions. What have you been thinking of starting, but you haven’t been able to bring yourself to do? Right now may be the best time to give it a try.

I hope you like this article about changing habits, and maybe it will give you a few ideas about how to make them stick!

Read More:

Self-Help Author Says to Do These 8 Things to Make Your Habits Stick
Whether good or bad, all habits begin in your head. Here’s how to make the healthy ones stay.
by Jonathan Alpert, Psychotherapist, executive coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.


 

Carrot shutterstock_513320140-wCarrot or Stick?

Have you heard this saying? Which works better the carrot or the stick? This goes way back into the old days when donkeys were used for labor. So, which do you think the donkey would work harder for? Someone who yells and beats it with a stick  or the owner who says kind words, and encourages the donkey with a nice, fresh carrot? Carrots tend to work better and yet we fuss at ourselves, just like the yelling owner when we aren’t doing what we think we should be doing.

Beating yourself up, name-calling, and harsh talk is unlikely to be motivating. What if we could talk kinder to ourselves when we mess up? Maybe we could even offer some rewards like self care and compassion and give ourselves gentle words of encouragement? That is much more likely to get us to make the changes that we desire.


Willpower Instinct CoverI recommend…

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, to help you delve deeper into this topic. Click here to get a copy of this book. It’s for sale on Jet.com.

Two Ways to Form Habits Effortlessly

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

forming habitsSlip into new habits. Instead of making a big deal about it, just start doing it, on a very, very small scale. Meditate for 10 seconds when you wake up in the morning, do one push-up, eat one vegetable. And have a reminder set where you will look at it every day, on the screensaver of your phone or computer.  You could do the habit each time you see the message for one brief moment! – Terri

Forming new habits can be life-changing — if you start meditating, create a simple exercise habit, and eat more vegetables, you health and happiness can be transformed in a matter of months.

But sticking to a habit can be difficult because life gets in the way. And we get discouraged when the habit gets disrupted.

How can we form habits without all the struggle?

I’m going to share two strategies that I’ve found to be priceless:

  1. Slipping into the habit; and
  2. Leveraging your smartphone

They’re so painless you will barely feel them. And your life can be changed as a result, with very little effort.

Slipping Into the Habit

The first strategy is not to try to create a full habit but to slide into it effortlessly.

Let’s say you want to meditate every day. Instead of setting aside 20 minutes and a meditation space for your new habit … slip into it. When you’re getting out of bed, just pause for a few seconds and pay attention to your breath. That’s it, just a few seconds.

That’s so easy you will barely notice the habit. Don’t try to become the world’s greatest meditator, don’t try to master the habit, just do a few seconds of it, and get on with your day.

After this becomes something you do without thinking about, try doing it for 30 seconds, then a minute. But don’t rush into this, take a week or two before you increase. It will seem ridiculously easy.

You can try the same thing for exercise — instead of going to the gym or doing a 30-minute run, try just doing a pushup when you’re about to take a break from your computer. Just one pushup. Or try doing a plank as you watch TV, just for 10 seconds.

Make it super easy to start with.

Leveraging Your Phone

This one is a version of Slipping Into the Habit … but it takes advantage of how often we check our phones.

It’s simple and obvious: put a photo with a message on your phone’s lock screen. For example, put a message that says, “Breathe” on your lock screen. Or perhaps “Get fit.”

Then, when you check your phone and notice this message, slip into your new habit. If the phone says “Breathe,” then pay attention to your breath for just a few seconds. If it says “Get fit,” then simply do a pushup or something like that.

Obviously, you can’t do that every single time you look at your phone, but if you do it a few times a day, you’ll be slipping into a new habit effortlessly, and soon you’ll be on your way to a healthy habit that could change your life.

Life Coaching Made Simple

WhLife coachingat do you want your life to be about?  What gets in your way?

Have you ever stopped to answer these questions? Or do you just keep going along, like most people – doing what comes next, the next obligation, the next task that is pressing in your household, or even the next fun event?

Of course, we can’t just stop fulfilling our responsibilities or doing the things that matter, or can we?

And yet what happens if we don’t stop? Well, ‘Life happens’ and our time gets filled up with things that don’t necessarily matter.

I have a few friends that have retired in the last few years, and it has been interesting to see what happens with the large amount of time that they thought they would have. It was filled up quickly… and not necessarily with things that they wanted to be doing.

But even in our mid-life or early, adult life, I just don’t think people put enough time into answering this question for themselves. It seems that we just go along with whatever life happens to offer us, kind of letting life make our decisions for us.

So, Life Coaching can be about taking some time for yourself to explore these questions. Basically, a life coach helps someone bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be.

So, here’s a sample of the kinds of things that we would do. First, we look at where you are today, by exploring what’s important to you in several life domains {work/fun/family/friendships/health/personal growth}, and then we ask if you are living up to your hopes for each of these areas. If you are not, then we look for the barriers that get in your way. We all have barriers that we will face, especially if we are moving out of our comfort zone into new, challenging situations.

Life Coaching Example:

Let me offer an example.  I have had a desire to be a public speaker for some time. Yet, I also have a rather significant fear of getting in front of people. You might say I have a love/hate relationship with public speaking. So, in order to move forward towards my goals, I have had to push through the barrier of these fears.

In my case, I used several strategies. For example, I joined a Toastmaster’s group so that I had to practice speaking (to a small group) on a regular basis. I put in some stretch goals, like scheduling a speaking engagement about 6 months away, so that I would have something to shoot for.

Then, I continued to work on my skills on a regular basis, and with the encouragement and feedback from the Toastmaster’s members, I was able to build my skills and confidence. I continued to have issues with anxiety. And I still get butterflies every time I speak, but I also have a clearer presentation style, because I have practiced many, many times. And it feels really good to have followed my dream.

Also, I always keep in mind why I am doing it. If I begin to lose motivation or think about quitting, then I just go back to my journal notes where I had written about my goals and values and why I was doing this in the first place.

Here’s another example:

For someone considering a job change, it is quite difficult to imagine the future and a lot of fear comes up. Again, first examine your values that are involved, and then see what small steps you will need to get you there, and when motivation falters, go back to your values and renew your resolve. It also helps to have an accountability partner, or a supportive cheerleader.

Another example might be exercise and/or diet goals. As you probably know, many people have goals in these areas, and many people fail in reaching these goals. Again, the system is the same, it’s important to know why you are doing this, so you make a statement about the values involved. The next step is to make a plan, and to have routines and supports to make this easier. The final step is to plan for relapses, with methods for getting back on track.

So, one of the things that I do as a Life Coach is to help people to see what it is that they actually want to ‘be about’ in the world. What I am talking about today is that we need to take the time to stop and assess what our goals are, asking what type of lifestyle do I want to have, and how is my current schedule/habits/choices matching up with that ideal life?

As a Life Coach, I use structured and creative methods to help people explore what they want to add to their life and what they want to discard. I help you to get motivated to do the things you want to do more of and to develop the skills to push through the challenges of behavior change. It’s not easy to change habits, but it can be well worth the effort, especially if we can begin to enjoy the life we want to have even sooner!

Doing my best to Live Life on Purpose.

 – Terri Mudge

 

Stress Reduction in 5 Easy Steps

stress reductionThere are hundreds of ways to accomplish stress reduction. Why am I focusing on only 5? Because it doesn’t help to give you 100! That stresses me out just thinking about it.

Here are my favorite five stress reducers:

  1. Watch your physical and mental intake. What are you putting into your body?  Caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, fried foods, heavy foods, ephedrine and other agitating supplements. There is also the mental:  TMA – Too Much Activity or too much of anything, too much sleep, too much TV, too much stimulation, too much noise, too much activity, too many demands, too much clutter and too much stuff! The internet is chock full of too much: info, news, stories, drama, advice, judgment, entertainment, etc.
  1. Watch your output.  Are you trying to do too much or too little?  Sleeping, bogged down with decision-making, too many choices, trying to do everything?  Instead of multi-tasking, begin a new habit of doing one thing at a time. Studies of highly productive people are now showing that multi-tasking is highly overrated. People who really get a lot done say they do this by staying focused on one thing at a time.
  1. Use your energy wisely. Exercise increases energy. Why is it that using energy in a productive way like this, creates more energy? I don’t know but I like it! Don’t you love the feeling you get when you have worked out and you have that ‘good tired’ feeling? The energy of “I worked hard, now I deserve a rest!” Research shows that exercise is great for mood, health, and improving our coping with stress. We know this, and yet, we often don’t do it. So, I will borrow a line from one of my favorite ads:  “Just Do It!’
  1. Seek support. Get together with people who lift you up. Spend time with people who make you laugh. You don’t have to “talk it all out.” In fact, this may be less than helpful. Research shows that “venting” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Instead, just connect with that friend or family member that you can just hang out with. Find some activity that is nurturing and go do it. Laugh, play, explore, exercise, learn, anything that gets you moving and connecting with life.
  1. Enjoy nature. Appreciate the outdoors. Contemplate the beauty and wonder of life. Study a leaf, or an ant, or watch the wind or water. Be still and have gratitude for the simplicity and amazing intricacies of life.

Enjoy!

Terri Mudge, LPC is a licensed professional counselor who provides individual therapy and life coaching in Mobile, Alabama. If you are feeling tossed around by the storms of life, call Terri today for a FREE Phone Consultation, at 251-343-2597.

Let’s Live a Life Worth Living

goodnewsbadnews-3Are you someone that is focused on clear goals and unaffected by outside influences or are you swayed by distractions, emotions, and other people?

I’m not saying I have it all figured out, or that I know what your life should look like. I’ve just learned the insight that comes from slowing things down for just a minute, and giving yourself the gift of examining your life and contemplating where you really want to go in life.

Many of us live our lives on auto-pilot and letting other people or circumstances decide where we go. Of course, we all have responsibilities and commitments that are influential in our daily choices. Things like, kids, spouse, job, church, and social demands. In order to become more conscious about how these influences are affecting our life choices, ask yourself this question:

“Is this a free choice, or am I being controlled by an outside influence?” If it is an outside influence, ask yourself: “Do I really want to allow this to make my decisions for me?”

Sometimes there are inside influences that push us around, too.  Things like, feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, boredom, or urges to fulfill some desire. Staying true to our values is difficult when stressors arise, like minor annoyances and irritations, whining kids, ringing phones, traffic, bad weather, being hurt or disappointed, or even rude people.

What can I do when I catch myself being pushed around by an emotion? I can stop, slow down, and notice what is there. Simply noticing what urge is happening, what desire or knee-jerk reaction is there. Then, I “consciously” choose my next step.

I like the ABC model of managing emotions or desires.

A –  Awareness – Slow down and be aware of what’s happening in this moment.   What are the external or internal happenings in my environment?   Thoughts, feelings, sensations?

B –  Breathe –  Take a few slow, deep breaths and focus attention on the breath movement.  Experience the breath like waves, flowing in and out.

C –  Choice –  Choose the next action with awareness.  Consider responding instead of reacting to your environment.

These concepts can help you to thoughtfully consider your next move with more consciousness and get off auto-pilot.

mindfulwaythroughdepressionRead more about the ABC process from the book: The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, 2007, by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. Four experts demonstrate how to avoid the mental habits that lead to despair, so you can face life’s challenges with confidence. Or watch this video: The Mindful Way Through Depression: by Zindel Segal 

Let’s Make September Resolutions and Make Them Work!

shutterstock_162526487-wNew Year’s in September!

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions.  We all hope to make huge strides to change our lives for the better on January 1st.  Buoyed with excitement and optimism, you head into the new year with ambitious new goals – learn a language, lose 20 pounds, hike the Appalachian Trail – only to have those high hopes dashed by March.

Make that February.  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, data shows that the first week of February is when many people who started working out at the gym on January 1st drop out.

Dust ‘Em Off and Begin Again
Let’s take time to revisit those New Year’s resolutions this September. It is a time for new beginnings in a lot of ways. School starts, business groups start meeting again, football season is around the corner, and we are all focused on working a little more than we have over the lazy summer months.

Besides giving your resolutions a second chance, most people still need help in creating the stick-to-itiveness to make progress on our resolutions. Here are some suggestions:

#1  Keep Starting!
Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, says we can “Keep Starting” to make the changes we want to see, and this is a great method for renewing our resolve.   We need to be prepared for the setbacks, and with understanding and self-compassion, try not to let our frustration keep us from acting in our best interest. Be patient and keep in mind that change also can happen gradually.  Each step you take gets you a little bit closer to your ideal.

#2  Re-write the resolution
Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal has written a book called, “The Willpower Instinct.”  One of her messages is that you’re not a terrible person because you’re having a hard time sticking to a resolution. Perhaps you’ve just formulated the wrong resolution.  In a TED blog she says that the kind of resolutions that work are when you slow down and ask yourself what you want for yourself and your life.  Who do you want to be? What do you want more of in your life?   How might you get there? What would that create as a consequence?  When you start from that point of view, then resolutions can be incredibly effective.

#3  Choose to be About Something
Being dedicated to a value or vision, or even just a valued way of living can offer the persistent, stick-to-it-iveness that we need to keep heading in the right direction.  If we are too focused on our goals, we can become ‘stuck.’ Instead, if we choose to “be about” something, then we can behave in this way and live by that value in whatever we do.  For example, if I hate my job, or I am being blocked in doing the best job that I can, due to certain circumstances, then by living by the value “I am a hard worker” it allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” and there’s a good deal of truth to that statement.  Perseverance and commitment are often just day-to-day choices to do what we say we are going to do.  If we can make the choice to put good things into our life, then all we have to do is keep on doing those things, creating a vital life by filling our life with good habits.

The bottom line is that to be successful in your resolutions and any goal is a matter of showing up for your life, being present, and connecting to what’s important.  Finally, do what matters whether you feel like it or not.

Good luck with your September Resolutions and wish me luck with mine – because we are all in the same boat, paddling as hard as we can. Wishing you many days of doing what matters most to you!

Change Your Story to Change Your Life

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

By Leo Babauta

Whenever we undertake a new change in our lives — whether it’s starting a new job or business, or changing a new habit — we tell ourselves a story about it.

We’re the hero of our story. Unfortunately, it’s not usually a very good story — it involves the hero not believing he or she can do it, wanting to give up and give in to the easy route.

Imagine if the great stories of all time went along the lines of our stories:

  • Harry Potter doesn’t fight Voldemort because it’s too hard and anyway, he just wants to play games and go on Reddit.
  • Odysseus decides not to make the journey home because he knows himself — he’s just going to give up, and anyway, isn’t the siren’s call of Facebook/Instagram too strong?
  • Don Quixote never ventures out for adventure on his brave steed Rocinante, because he doesn’t think he can do it, and instead stays home with his books of romance.
  • Frodo heads back to the Shire, because he believes he doesn’t have enough discipline to stick with something very long.

These would be horrible stories, wouldn’t they? Who would root for these dudes?

The story we tell ourselves goes along these lines. They’re different for each of us, but if we’re not succeeding at something, it’s quite probably because we are telling ourselves the wrong story.

Try it now: think of a habit change you’re trying to make or that you’ve tried but failed at in the recent past. Maybe exercise, meditation, writing, defeating procrastination, etc. Now think about what story you told yourself about yourself. What image did you see in your head of yourself? Was it a brave hero triumphing over all odds, never to be deterred by the forces marshalled against him by the cold harsh universe? Or was it of an ordinary character who probably would give in to the donuts and Netflix when things got hard?

Maybe you can’t hear the story you’ve told yourself. Instead, try to sense what feeling is in your heart as you think of yourself conquering this new habit change or life change. Does it feel full of doubt, anxiety, fear, dread? Or is it full of joy, triumph, deep caring? The song you’re singing to yourself (unnoticed by you) is of that note, that chord that you’re feeling in your heartstrings.

We fail because of this story. It stands in our way, more than the actual thing we’re facing. When things get tough or uncomfortable, we tell ourselves: it’s OK to quit, it doesn’t matter, we’ll do it next time, we’re not disciplined enough, we suck at this, we can’t do it, it’s too hard, it would be nice to take a break, life is too short to struggle, we deserve a reward, just this once won’t matter, we’re going to fail, it’s better to fail quietly, we just don’t feel like it right now, let’s not think about this, hey a squirrel!

So what can we do if our story is working against us?

Change the damn story. Create a song to sing about yourself as the epic hero of your dreams. Sing this song daily, and be proud of it. Go after the dream, fight the forces of distraction and dullness and self-doubt, rise up to be your best self. You are the writer of your story, the composer of your song, and every moment is a chance to rewrite it, a new draft ready to be crafted into something better.

Or drop the story. See that without the story telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something … there’s just the physical reality of the world around you, no quitter and no hero. Just you and this moment, and it’s a good moment, and without the distraction of a story, you have a basic underlying goodness and love in your heart. That’s all you need: just take this love in your heart and be happy, and do the things that are compassionate for yourself. The struggles you’ve been up against can all go away if you relax them and turn to the goodness of this moment, and take a loving step.

Unconventional Productivity

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

I am always in search of strategies to help deal with procrastination, and this one looks good.
By Leo Babauta

There isn’t a productivity guide in the world that will solve the problems that pretty much all of us face daily.

I’m the same as you — I face these obstacles to getting stuff done:

  1. Doing busywork, instead of important work.
  2. Going to distractions instead of doing difficult work.
  3. Being tired and not feeling like tackling hard tasks.

These are all really the same problem: when you have important but difficult tasks to do, you run to distractions, or do busywork, or just goof off because you don’t have the energy.

I deal with this every day, and I don’t always solve it. But what if we could dive into this problem, and figure out what was going on? We’d be masters of the universe..

Pause Training

In truth, we face this problem of running from discomfort all the time, but we just don’t normally see it happening. This is why meditation is such a great training ground for the mind — you sit there and have nothing to do but notice the mind running from the discomfort of the present moment. Over and over. And in time, you learn how to work with this.

So I suggest you use your important tasks as meditation training, so that you’ll learn to work with the discomfort that arises.

Here’s how:

  1. Pick one important task you really should get done today.
  2. Clear space in front of you to do this task. Close the browser, or all browser tabs except the one you need to deal with this. Shut off the phone, clear everything else away, focus your mind on this one task.
  3. Sit there and do the task.
  4. Watch your mind want to run.

Now we’re going to do “pause training,” where instead of running from the discomfort, you pause. Breathe. Turn your attention to this discomfort — it might be fear, frustration, uncertainty, self-doubt, tiredness. Drop your story about this discomfort, and just notice how it feels physically, in your body. Where is this feeling of discomfort located? What quality does it have?

You’ll notice that the discomfort actually doesn’t feel that bad, even though you habitually want to run from it. It’s just energy. It’s not actually good or bad, but just energy that’s in your body, one that you normally don’t want to have and normally judge as “bad.”

Try this pause training for yourself. It won’t work to just read about it, you have to work with it. Get to know it, become intimate with it.

Unconventional Productivity

Once you’ve started to work with the discomfort, you’ll see that it’s No Big Deal. Nothing to worry about. It’s just a feeling, just energy. You’ll relax a little around it. Try to develop a friendly attitude toward it, instead of being harsh on yourself. Just notice, just smile, just breathe, just be gentle.

How do you turn this No Big Deal into productivity? Here’s a system to try:

  1. Set your 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) every morning, first thing when you start work. List a few other “should do’s” after that, but focus on the MITs first.
  2. Pick one of the MITs, and clear space to do it. Before you check email.
  3. Do some pause training. Notice when you want to run from this task, pause, investigate the physical feeling of discomfort with gentleness, friendliness and curiosity.
  4. Set a heart intention. When you relax into the discomfort, and see it’s not a big deal, set an intention around the task — are you doing it to improve your life, to do something good for someone else, to help the world? Find the heart in your intention — it’s ultimately coming out of love. Say to yourself, “It is my intention to do this task out of love for __” (fill in the blank: yourself, someone else, the world, etc.).
  5. Work with love. Open your hear and do this task with the love that comes out of your intention. Notice when you’re feeling discomfort and want to switch to something else, relax, do pause training if you need to, and then start again.
  6. Take breaks. Every 10-15 minutes, get up and walk around. Stretch. Drink water. Check in with yourself and see how you’re doing. Then return to the task or pick another MIT.

You won’t be perfect at this, so don’t expect perfection. Just work with it, gently, and you’ll get better and better with practice.