When it comes to so-called “self-help” books, I cannot get enough. I love learning about myself and discovering new ways to think and understand and change. I recently read the book: Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive, and Energy. (This is an affiliate link so you can purchase the book on Amazon if you wish).
It was a really quick read (two days), so you can easily fit it into your schedule.
The authors’ premise is that making small changes can have big effects. I think most of us know this, but a lot of us get trapped into thinking we have to make BIG changes all at once. This is why most New Year’s Resolutions fail. It’s actually a relief to know that doing a few simple things differently can have such a profound effect.Here are some points I think you will find most interesting:
- A study was done where two criminals were brought before a judge. They had committed the same crime, but one went before the judge in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. The judge handed down a harsher sentence in the afternoon, even though the crime was identical. Another study indicated that doctors tend to overprescribe antibiotics in the afternoon or end of the work day. This just goes to show that our decisions are affected by the time of day, or the time since we’ve eaten, rested, or exercised. Bottom line: if you have an important decision to make or something that really needs to get done, do it in the morning. If you can’t do it in the morning, make sure you have taken time to eat or otherwise get your energy back up before you try to do it. I have found personally that my energy really flags in the afternoon, so I don’t often get a lot done then. My thinking is more fuzzy and I’m much less motivated.
This correlation between moods, motivation, and clear thinking also helps us realize that there is such a thing as “good timing” and “bad timing.” If you really want something (say, cooperation from children or a spouse, or a raise from your boss) best to approach the subject right after they have been rested and fed. Again, this seems like common sense, but research bears it out. Being “hangry” is a real thing. And nothing good happens when people are hangry.
2. We all know that we should exercise. Most of us feel guilty that we don’t do it enough. And most of us don’t realize that exercise not only improves our physical health but our mental health. Namely, our ability to express our thoughts, generate new ideas, and be more flexible in our thinking. However, the authors of this book state that although we tout the benefits of long-term exercise, taking a walk TODAY benefits your brain TODAY. In other words, you don’t have to wait weeks or months to “get in shape” before you can benefit from exercise.
In four experiments conducted at Stanford University in 2014, the researcher showed that creativity dramatically increased during walking, and that the effects lasted even after the walking stopped. And it didn’t matter if the test subjects walked outside in the sunshine or on a treadmill in the basement. The main take-away from these studies is that exercise generates significant same-day improvement in mental performance. So if you need to get your thoughts in order or need to solve a problem, go for a walk.
3. “Awfulizing” or “catastrophizing” are unwieldy words that basically indicate the act of imagining the worst possible outcome to every situation. Do you know someone who does this? Are YOU someone who does this? If a friend doesn’t text you back, do you imagine that they don’t like you? If your kids are a few minutes late getting home, do you picture them in a terrible car accident? The problem with doing this is that stress hormones are released, and you emotionally and physically have to deal with something that never even existed. It’s as if we’re living our lives twice–one is our real life, and one is our imaginary life where all kinds of bad things happen. As Mark Twain once said, “I’ve seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it never came to pass.”
One way to reset your thoughts and emotions (rather than letting your imagination run away on a collision course with death) is to label your emotions (because that takes away some of their power), and then rename them with a new, positive label. For example, if you are feeling nervous or stressed-out before a presentation, you can reframe those emotions as “excited” or “intensely caring.”
4. Positive thinking is real, and it is effective. Forget about being a “realist” (which is really a pessimist who wants to justify their negativity, in my opinion). Tons of research across numerous fields has shown that optimism is linked with higher earnings, better health, longer life, and more satisfying relationships. One study showed that optimistic life insurance agents sold 88 percent more than their pessimistic counterparts. I realize that for people who are clinically depressed, being optimistic may be out of reach for now. But many of us have just gotten into the bad habit of thinking the worst. I’m not condemning anybody, because this is something I have battled with in my life. But I am consciously trying to choose to imagine good outcomes and positive scenarios rather than the opposite. A meme my daughter found on Pinterest sums this up perfectly: “Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.” Amen to that.
One way to combat our negative thoughts is to try what the authors call the “Reversi Reframe.” Basically, you write down the limitation or obstacle you have. Then you write down the exact opposite of that, whether you believe it or not. For example, you might say, “I never have enough money to do what I want.” The opposite would be, “I always have enough money to do what I want.” The act of writing the positive statement (or even just thinking about it) shifts something in your brain and causes it to start coming up with solutions to your problem. It’s really amazing, but this totally works! I’m not saying the results will always be instantaneous or tangible, but getting into the habit of doing this can entirely change your outlook on life.
I really liked this book because it offered practical, simple solutions that can have a major effect right away. Pick it up from the library or order it from Amazon.
What tips do YOU have for improving the quality of your life? I love hearing new ideas, so please share in the comments! And be sure to catch my whole series on How to Be Happy.