“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
“If you think you can, you can. If you think you think you can’t, you’re right.” – George Bernard Shaw
“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.” – Baba Amte
“Practice is the best of all instructions.” – Publilius Syrus
It’s another year gone by. Bloggers, editors, and writers are scripting about resolutions, goals, and fresh starts. Each New Year seems to bring a surge of renewed energy to make this year the best year yet. Yet come February/ March that enthusiasm fades. Why? What is it about the New Year that brings a desire for change but then it quickly dwindles?
Change is hard. Breaking old habits takes a consistent effort. Casting your magic wand doesn’t just make it so. It takes action, accountability, dedication, repeat and do it again. Research supports it takes at least 21 days, some say 8 weeks to replace a bad habit. It really depends. It depends on the new habit, how long you have been doing it, the benefits of continuing, the immediacy of the payoff, and how often and automatically you perform the behavior.
To break the cycle, it is imperative to be conscientious of your thoughts and behaviors around the routine you desire to alter. It takes consistent modifications every minute, hour and day. For how long, well depends. Just repeat the desired change.
Wow! That seems overwhelming, huh. It doesn’t have to be. Write. Put your desired behavior modification on paper. Post your desires on a visible spot that you see daily like your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or front door.
Take some time (as much as you need) and reflect on the past year. Look at what you achieved, what you learned, gained, and liked. Review what you didn’t accomplish. What were the blocks that prevented you from achieving those marks? What do you need to make them happen in 2014? Now write this down and keep it in a safe place to review often.
The answers to the questions above help you analyze past behavior, learn from successes and failures, and make fresh intentions. The best way to accomplish this thorough investigation of your life is to break it down into professional, relational, body, and spiritual goals. Again, write your thoughts down!
Next set small goals with specific due dates. Break down those big ideas, dreams, and aspirations into tiny, manageable, and achievable goals. Ensure they are realistic. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure before you even start.
Find support. Join a team or involve friends and family. Tell them your aspirations, the due date, and ask them to follow-up and inquire upon your progress. Involving others ensures accountability, support, and friendly reminders.
Here is a list of 10 Ways to Make Ideas Happen:
1. Remove the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary.
2. Focus on the possibilities instead of the limitations.
3. Remember that there is a solution for every problem (some are just harder to find than others).
4. Write it down and set a deadline.
5. Allow yourself to receive help (there is no reward for doing it all yourself).
6. Be open to feedback and suggestions.
7. Learn how to enjoy the process (it may take you a while to get there, so you might as well enjoy it)!
8. Reward yourself often. Be proud of even the tiniest steps of progress.
9. Hang around with people who make their ideas happens.
10. Start even if you don’t know how you are going to finish.
“Of all the gifts bestowed by nature on human beings, hearty laughter must be close to the top.” – Norman Cousins
“Human beings need to have fun. We need to play, and most importantly, we need to laugh.” -Hal Urban
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” – Solomon 17:22
“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest of men.”- Ancient proverb
“There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun.” – Josh Billings
Laugh out loud. Play. Be Silly. Joke around. Have Fun! These are just some of the things I think of when I see children play. I watched a young girl today make the most mundane activity a joyful experience not only for her but for her granddad and mother. All three were walking along the sidewalk, destination unknown, but she playfully walked tagging one caretaker and then the other. She giggled, skipped, and made all those around her including myself chuckle out loud.
Where does that spirit go? I see children playing at the park, laughing, and having a grand ole’ time; hopping, skipping, and twirling around with not a care in the world. When does that dwindle? Life takes over, responsibilities become priorities, and work turns into a necessity. Yet I know deep in my heart, I still love to play, giggle like that 7 year old girl, and act silly. Those are some of my fondest of memories with friends, partners, and family. It’s free, fun and even good for the mind and body.
In the book, Anatomy of an Illness, Cousins said, “It worked. I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an aesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.”
Even Einstein ensured he had a daily dose of laughter in his long, arduous hours of mathematical equations. He was known for maintaining thousands of notebooks on scientific equations and on jokes. He was able to work extremely long hours due to frequent breaks and using good ole’ fashion laughter to lighten his load (Urban, H.).
Laughter is not only used by humans such as Einstein and Edison but also animals. Chimps use laughter to solidify friendships and alliances according to lead author Marina Davila-Ross, PhD from the University of Portsmouth in England (Dingfelder, S.).
Here are just a few of the benefits of laughter:
- Strong painkiller
- Enhances respiration
- Produces endorphins
- Increases immune cells
- Strengthens immune systems
- Reduces stress and tension
- Calms tempers
- Stimulates creativity
- Improves blood flow
- Builds and strengthens relationships
- Simply makes life more fun!
There are so many positives to laughter. It’s impractical not to incorporate it into your daily routine. Doctors and laymen alike support amusement so why not you? You may be asking, well how do I begin?
There is no easier way than to start with yourself. You don’t have to look far to see humor in the silly things we do, like tripping over our own two left feet, clamoring over misspoken words, or our own goofy thoughts that run through our minds. There’s nothing like using yourself as your own tool to bring hilarity and heal yourself. When was the last time you laughed out loud; I mean a good ole-fashioned belly laugh?
Here are some recommended items to ensure you laugh daily. What do you do to ensure a good chuckle?
- Zorba the Greek
- A Thousand Clowns
- Patch Adams
- Candid Camera
- America’s Funniest Home Videos
- Reader’s Digest: “Laughter, the Best Medicine”
- Comic Books
- Mad Magazine
Dingfelder, S. Chimps’ laughter: Not just monkey see, monkey do, May 2011, Vol 42, No. 5, p. 11
Urban, H. Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter, 4th Edition, Fireside, New York
The benefits of exercise are mind-blowing. They can range from increasing memory not only for your muscles but also for your brain and all in between. Get inspired to start moving by reading the many ways working out can improve mental well-being, relationships, and an overall happier and healthier life.
1. Adapt easier to change
Once you begin a routine of exercise the benefits are reaped even after a break. Thirty minutes of endurance or strength training 3 times a week affects muscles on the cellular level first before any physiological results are seen. Thus after exercise is stopped and muscles begin to atrophy, the cellular level memory remains intact and can remember previous learned motor sensory to achieve faster results upon onset of exercise again.
2. Reduce stress
A brisk walk or weight lifting stimulates the central nervous system and increases the neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine which our body releases to adapt more efficiently to stress. The intense concentration for coordinated exercise such as dance, tennis or rowing precipitates a type of distraction that may reduce anxiety even further.
3. Relieve depression
Exercise is like taking a happy pill. It’s a form of mediation which facilitates an altered state of consciousness. Playing tag can reignite that inner child and boost mood. Press that fun button and get that body moving again.
4. Increase self-confidence and body image
Physical activity gives a sense of mastery and control. Seeing results of your hard work gives a sense of gratification. Not only are the improvements seen in your body but also running that mile faster or lifting more weight than before.
5. Inspire others
Exercising with a buddy is an instant motivator. You are more apt to exercise because your partner is there waiting. They hold you accountable for your actions and vice versa. Not only are you encouraged to show up but when you are running side by side, you are more apt to push just a little harder. There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition.
6. Make new friends
There’s no better way to make new friends than at a pick-up game of soccer, a group class at the gym, or joining a running club. Exercise is just more fun with someone else.
Working out can help prevent telomeres from shortening. Telomeres are like the plastic protector at the end of your shoe laces but for your chromosomes. Telomeres protect genetic data and determine how we age and get cancer. When we age, cells divide and telomeres shorten. Overtime, telomeres reach a point where they can no longer divide and become inactive. This process is associated with aging, cancer, and a shortened lifespan. Research shows that aerobic exercise can help delay shortening of telomeres and add years to your life. So go ahead and take those stairs instead of the elevator knowing you are doing your body and cells good.
8. Decrease onset of Alzheimer’s
Staying physically active maintains good blood flow to the brain and supports new brain cells. Research shows regular exercise such as tai chi, yoga, even gardening can increase blood flow to the brain which reduces brain cell loss. Exercise also stimulates mental activity especially when done with a partner. The social interaction and decision-making process of planning your route or coordination of a good game of softball provide added brain benefits.
9. Improve learning
Researchers who published a study in the 2011 Archives of Internal Medicine determined that even mild exercise improves cognitive functioning compared to folks who did not exercise. Learning a new sport or activity like ballroom dancing can increase the amount of gray matter in your occipital lobe, the area of the brain associated with visual memory. A 2004 Nature article stated that those who learned how to juggle increased the amount of gray matter but when they stopped the new gray matter vanished. So learn a new move, improve your learning and memory and keep practicing!
The positive effects of physical activity out way any negative, self-sabotaging excuses. Exercise doesn’t have to be at the gym to be beneficial. All you have to do is access that inner child and get that body moving again. You might just lose a few pounds and gain improved relationships, memory, and confidence.