A new month always offers the possibility of a fresh start, a new list and a new chapter. What are five goals you have this November? List ‘em out now and let the games begin!
As election results come in (hope you voted!), pay attention to local political races as well as national ones. What happens in local government often impacts you and your family even more than decisions made on the federal level.
So, teach yourself something new in the political realm today by listening to the radio, watching TV news or reading from a favorite news source. It’s a way to feel more engaged, looped in and in the know.
Create a Word of Intention
The next two months are busy ones, that’s for sure. Yet, instead of letting them carry you away in a blur, consider how you can live them with intention amidst the scurry.
A simple way to do just that is to post a word of intention somewhere you’ll regularly see it, whether it’s on your phone, on a chalkboard in your home or on a sticky note attached to your computer.
Maybe the word is Gratitude so you can remember to be grateful for the little things. Or it might be Health as you engage in 2,000 minutes of movement (see November 5th). Choose a word with meaning to you — that’s what matters most!
And then try to live with intention, using this word to guide you. It’s like having a roadmap, rather than flitting from thing to thing without full-on purpose.
Bask in Diwali’s Light
Today marks Diwali, the Indian “festival of lights” celebrating the triumph of good over evil, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. It also celebrates the blessings of victory, freedom and enlightenment.
On the night of Diwali – a five-day celebration – celebrants light clay lamps called diyas and dozens of candles that they place throughout their homes and out in the streets in order to light up the dark night. Families gather, wearing their best clothes, to eat sweets and other special foods, light diyas and pray for their ancestors.
Consider embracing the light celebrated by Diwali in your own special way. Light a candle, remember departed loved ones and share the light. You can learn more here.
That sounds like quite a lot, right? Yet, if you move somehow – from walking to swimming to taking that salsa dancing class — for 30-35 minutes each day between now and New Year’s Eve, you can do it!
Rather than waiting for the time of often-disappointing New Year’s resolutions, get moving now on a regular basis. Your body and mind will benefit greatly. And you can claim bragging rights that you moved for 2,000 minutes!
Write a Six-Word Memoir
The thought of hunkering down to write in a journal can be appealing on some days and overwhelming on others. That’s one of the reasons that folks often turn to six-word memoirs to express their feelings.
Six-Word Memoirs is “a simple concept that’s become an effective tool to spark conversation, crystalize goals, and boil anything down to its core,” according to SixWordMemoirs.com. It’s “a simple way to engage and inspire anyone and everyone to get to the essence of who they are and what matters most.”
It’s a direct process: write six words that respond to a topic prompt, whether it’s Pain & Hope, Pandemic Stories, Life, Happiness, Love, Teens or one of many others. For instance, on the site under Pandemic Stories, people have written Six-Word Memoirs ranging from “A pandemic made me do it” to “Cases are slower, masks are lower,” “Six feet apart, yet so far…” and “Am I making the right decisions?”
These quirky, yet impactful memoirs have been described: “Like traditional Japanese poetry, the new pop-culture haiku says a lot with few words” (TIME Magazine) and “a fabulously appealing exercise both for writers and for readers” (The Telegraph).
Want to give it a six-word whirl? Head to SixWordMemoirs.com for ideas and inspiration. Or read students’ pandemic-related memoirs here.
You’ll explore what’s on your mind. See what we did there?
Make Your Time Matter
Time takes on a different meaning on a day like today, when Daylight Savings Time ends and we “fall back” an hour.
Did you know that, if you live to be 80 years old, you will have lived approximately 4,000 weeks? Or, like the song from the musical RENT says, “525,600 minutes, How do you measure a year in the life?”
None of this is meant to be morbid. It’s just that, when we accept our mortality and the limited time we’re given, it can help us focus on things that are most important and have the most meaning.
Author Oliver Burkeman, who wrote Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, offers 10 suggestions about how to best live with limited time in mind. They include…
- Adopt a “fixed volume” approach to productivity
- Decide in advance what to fail at
- Focus on what you’ve already completed, not just what’s left to do
- Consolidate your caring
Has your interest been piqued? Click here to learn more about these five suggestions and to read about five other ones, too.
Practice the Art of Solitude
“There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone,” wrote May Sarton in her ode to solitude. In this busy life, how often do you intentionally practice the art of solitude?
It can prove very fruitful. “… solitary self-discovery becomes the wellspring of all the meaning-making that makes life worth living, whether we call it art or love,” wrote Maria Popova for The Marginalian. “Solitude, so conceived, is not merely the state of being alone but the art of becoming fully ourselves.”
Author Stephen Batchelor wrote in The Art of Solitude that, “By withdrawing from the world into solitude, you separate yourself from others. By isolating yourself, you can see more clearly what distinguishes you from other people. Standing out in this way serves to affirm your existence… Liberated from social pressures and constraints, solitude can help you understand better what kind of person you are and what your life is for. In this way you become independent of others. You find your own path, your own voice.”
Consider practicing some solitude as you come into your own voice more strongly. You can gain more inspiration for the journey here.
Watch a Nature Video
A new study published in Frontiers in Psychology points to nature-related content available via social media providing important well-being support. So, it may be time to watch a nature video!
Researchers found three key outcomes from doing so…
- Watching nature videos encourages the expression of emotion
- Watching nature videos inspires cognitive reflection
- Watching nature videos can help cope with stress and anxiety
These sound like some very good reasons to fire up that panda-cam and soak in all the benefits! Learn more here.
Tomorrow (Nov. 11, 2021) is Veterans Day, a time to honor military members, past and present. How can you honor those special veterans in your own life or show respect for them all? Military.com offers these 8 suggestions…
- Show Up – attend a Veterans Day event
- Donate – show appreciation through your support
- Fly a Flag Correctly – observe the proper rules for display
- Ask Someone About Their Service – show a respectful interest
- Write – send a note of recognition and appreciation
- Don’t Confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day – thank those still with us on Veterans Day, whereas Memorial Day is to reflect and remember those lost
- Visit a VA Hospital – spend some time with a veteran or help out
- Get Outdoors with a Veteran – improve physical, mental and emotional well-being with a dose of nature
On this Veterans Day, consider tapping into recommendation #4 from yesterday’s listing – Ask Someone About Their Service. StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative “provides a platform for veterans, service members, and military families to share their stories. In doing so we honor their voices, amplify their experiences, and let them know that we — as a nation — are listening.”
StoryCorps offers a collection of suggested questions to ask your conversation partner, whether you’re engaging in the Military Voices Initiative, their Great Thanksgiving Listen or another interview.
Their mission is “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? “We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters,” the StoryCorps site says. “At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.”
Consider capturing the stories of someone important to you. Everyone has a story inside them.
Enjoy Driving Alone
We take things in differently when we’re on a road trip alone. It can be a 200-mile journey or a 2,000-mile one, as we marvel at moments of beauty and feel our own power.
Sometimes we think better when we’re alone. Sure, it can certainly be nice to share vistas and driving with others. Yet, when we do so alone, we’re reminded of how alive we are and that the scenery surrounding us is something to be savored.
“I am aware that it is a great luxury to be able to do this,” writes Jamie Feldmar about driving alone. “I am able, most of the time, to capably drive across these stunning surroundings without fear, though many of my female counterparts in other parts of the world would not. I have been born into great privilege and possess a sense of independence that I consider inherent when, in actuality, it is learned. For this, I am lucky, and I feel it most acutely when I hit the road with confidence.”
Consider where you might want to go on your next solo road trip. Dream, plot, plan and anticipate. You can find more inspiration here. The road awaits.
Want to chow down on a deeee-licious harvest treat? Try a Carmelita. It contains oats and chocolate and caramel… you’re gastronomically smitten now, aren’t you?
Make a batch for your family, friends, teachers, postal carriers, favorite retail workers and many others. These treats are meant to be shared!
Chomp. You’re welcome!
Incorporate Pauses and Shorten Meetings
In August, Marschall Runge, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Michigan, Dean of the U-M Medical School and CEO of Michigan Medicine, instituted “pause month,” recommending a reduction in meeting times. After that, he decided to make 50-minute meetings, rather than one-hour ones, standard for his entire organization.
“This may seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference,” Runge wrote in his blog. “New research by Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index indicates that small increments of time can help you recharge and prepare for the next meeting or activity.”
Hmmm… what do you think? Are there some hourlong meetings that could be reduced to 50 minutes instead, upping productivity while giving participants small breaks, too?
“Meetings come in all sizes and for many purposes and reducing meetings can be applicable at all levels of our organization,” Runge wrote. “If we collectively assess and reduce meetings, where possible, it can help us build opportunities for well-being and bring us one step closer to improving our workplace culture.”
Take Stock of Your Emotional Health
As you take stock of your emotional health in honest, upfront ways, you may realize that you’re suffering unnecessarily, hiding in busyness or trying to convince those around you that you’re “fine.”
Psychologist John Duffy offers six steps to consider as you enhance your mental wellness and that of others around you…
- Begin a Daily Wellness Regimen – Stretching, meditation, not checking social media first thing… what can you do to start the day peacefully?
- Get Outside Your Own Mind Every Day – “Our depression, anxieties and other emotional concerns tend to amplify when they remain our sole focus,” Duffy writes. “If we get out and attend to serving others, we find that our own worries diminish.”
- Remove the Unnecessary – Remove the “misguided pride in the word ‘busy’” and focus on what needs to be done and what doesn’t.
- Assess Your Relationships – Friends, family, acquaintances… how are your relationships working for you? Consider if you’re spending too much time and energy on toxic or one-sided connections. And then reprioritize.
- Check in with Your People – Check in with those you care about to see how they’re doing and feeling. Just you asking can make a world of difference.
- Be Willing to Change and Learn – “Treat yourself to an hour a week of self-focus and self-care, whether it's through therapy or other practices,” Duffy suggests.
Assertively Communicate with “Yes, and…”
As the holidays quickly approach, you may be faced with some difficult people wanting to engage in difficult conversations. However, it’s important to remember that, “Your opinions, feelings, and wants matter just as much as the other person’s,” emphasizes Jen Oleniczak Brown, an instructor at the Brooklyn Brainery, when talking about assertive communication skills.
She suggests focusing on the “yes, and…” philosophy of improv comedy, which means accepting the other person’s contribution and building on it. When it comes to assertive communication, this can mean not shutting down or giving in. Instead, Brown suggests, repeat the other person’s statement to show you’re listening and understanding, and then add your own take on the situation.
Try Better-Than-Nothing Behavior
Do you find it difficult to get into a behavior that you know will be good for you, whether it’s exercising more regularly or eating those leafy greens? The good news, according to Christine Carter, PhD, in her TED Talk, is “The sole requirement is that you stop trying to be so good. You’ll need to abandon your grand plans, at least temporarily. You must allow yourself to do something so miniscule that it’s only slightly better than doing nothing at all.”
She recommends asking yourself, “How can you strip down that thing you’ve been meaning to do into something so easy you could do it every day with barely a thought?” Then…
- Try doing one better than nothing behavior
- Take only one step, but take that step every day
This helps establish a neural pathway in your brain for a positive new habit, she says. “A ‘better than nothing’ habit is easy for you to repeat, again and again, until it’s on autopilot,” Carter says. “You can do it even when you aren’t motivated, even when you’re tired, even when you have no time. Once you start acting on autopilot, that’s the golden moment that your habit can begin to expand organically.”
It’s about working to be better than our previous selves. And you’re most certainly worth it! Read more and watch the TED Talk here.
Keep Your Bones Strong
It’s easy to take our 206 bones for granted. Yet, they require maintenance in order to help us stand and walk, protect our organs, harbor bone marrow and store minerals we need, according to Popular Science.
So, give your bones some love! They’ll serve you much better as you age if you do things like…
- Follow a healthy, well-rounded diet
- Get enough calcium (1,000 to 1,200 milligrams daily, according to the FDA)
- Soak up enough Vitamin D via sunlight and/or Vitamin D-fortified foods
- Engage in weight-bearing exercises like walking or lifting weights
- Get an osteoporosis evaluation when you and your doctor agree it’s time
- Avoid harmful toxins, such as excess alcohol or tobacco smoke
- Improve your balance
No bones about it, bone health is a key to aging well and staying balanced. Learn more here.
Change Your Relationship with the Clock
By actively accepting and embracing that we have limited time in our lives, it can become easier to spend our time on what matters most to us. At least that’s what author Oliver Burkeman suggests in his new book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.
It’s about how and why to reevaluate your relationship with time. Burkeman poses five questions to help do just that…
- Are you holding yourself to, and judging yourself by, standards of productivity or performance that are impossible to meet?
- When in your life or your work are you currently pursuing comfort when what’s called for is a little discomfort?
- In what ways have you yet to accept the fact that you are who you are and not the person you think you ought to be?
- In which areas of your life are you still holding back until you feel like you know what you’re doing?
- How would you spend your days differently if you didn’t care so much about seeing your actions reach fruition?
At George Mason University, the “Mason Chooses Kindness” initiative is designed “to ensure that there are ongoing activities/resources for our Mason students, faculty/staff, alumni and community to explore, engage in, and most of all, opportunities to spread kindness.”
- Making kindness cards for Patriot Pantry users during the finals and holiday season
- Offering Mobile Hope Food Distribution boxes
- Honoring veterans on Veterans Day
- Hiring Kindness Ambassadors
- Celebrating World Kindness Day
Consider your own ways to spread kindness. It just feels good.
Stop Sitting So Much!
Sitting too much can be bad for our mental health. And the combination of more time sitting coupled with all the screen time can be toxic, reported National Public Radio (NPR).
“The sneaky effect of the pandemic that we might not even notice [is] that we’ve changed our sitting patterns,” Jacob Meyer, director of the Wellbeing and Exercise Lab at Iowa State University told NPR.
Luckily, his research showed that even some very light movement around the house to break up our sitting time can positively impact our mood. “We know consistently that the more people are active, the more that they exercise, the better their mental health is,” he said.
So, get off that chair or couch and get started with these tips NPR shared…
- Think Small – Meyer said that "going from no activity at all to even a little bit of activity is going to get some of the biggest health effects," compared with the benefits for someone who is already working out regularly.
- Make It Easier for Yourself – Know what’s realistic for yourself when it comes to the type of activity you do/don’t enjoy, the time of day, etc.
- Walk Whenever You Can – Get in extra steps around the house, around the office and more.
- Try Five-Minute Workouts – They add up and can help you reach health guidelines that recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week.
- Crank Up the Intensity, In Short Doses – Meyer said, "every minute of higher-intensity activity is associated with better health outcomes than every minute of lower-intensity activity. So if you've got five minutes, the more you can do in those five minutes, the better."
- Do Chores That Make You Move – Get your blood flowing with quick chores that involve standing or walking, from washing dishes to taking out the trash.
- Multitask – If you’re on the phone, walk around. Mute yourself, though, if you think you’ll be breathing hard!
Help Create Community Blue Zones
Community Blue Zones use a proven model to help cities, counties and organizations through community well-being programs that lower health care costs, improve productivity and happiness, and increase social connectedness and economic vitality.
And at their 89th annual meeting, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents mayors from over 1,400 of America’s largest cities, passed a resolution to “create community Blue Zones well-being initiatives to combat chronic disease and comorbidities” in a show of support for public health and well-being.
The resolution encourages cities and leaders to take a proactive approach to well-being with a focus on prevention and healthy lifestyle as “mental health awareness, a stressed-out workforce, lifestyle-related diseases, the COVID-19 pandemic and the coming ‘silver tsunami’ of an active and vibrant older population are all driving demand and innovation for well-being solutions” and “communities with higher well-being have lower health care costs, vibrant economies and thriving workforces.”
This type of initiative may already exist in your area. Why not check it out and see if you and/or your campus/organization can collaborate, making well-being a wider spread mission?
Find Words That Make You Laugh
That doesn’t matter, though! String together a series of words that sound funny to you. Come up with goofy-sounding names (Thistle Hickenlooper and Wanda Widdlewapper, together again!). Change the words to songs so their meaning becomes ridiculous. The sky’s the limit, man!
Let those words out. And have a giggle in the process.
Embrace the Value of Connections
Building ongoing connections can keep us engaged with family, friends and significant others. These social connections give us feelings of happiness, belonging and closeness to others — and research suggests that we need this to feel satisfied with our lives.
Use the worksheet below to think about five people that you want to maintain healthy connections with in the year ahead. They may be faraway friends or family members, significant others, friends who are close by, people you used to work or go to school with, and beyond.
Keep this list close at hand to remind yourself of the value of true connections. Just one more thing to be grateful for during this season of gratitude.
This Thanksgiving, why not start a simple gratitude practice that works for you?
- At night, verbally listing seven things you’re grateful for from that day before you go to sleep
- Posting a grateful word(s) on a wipe board
- Writing one note of gratitude each week
- Starting a gratitude collage and continuously adding things that you’re grateful for from 2021
- Noting one thing you’re grateful for each day between today and New Year’s Eve
Happiest of Thanksgivings, all!
Handle Sleep Anxiety
Japanese Kaizen techniques can be a good way to deal with insomnia and sleep anxiety. And we all know the value of a good night’s sleep!
Kaizen techniques often go along with other positive sleep habits, reported Stylist, such as…
- Declutter Your Room – The first Kaizen step would be to just tidy up the area around your bed for five minutes, even if you don’t have time to completely declutter.
- Change Your Sheets Regularly – The first Kaizen step would be to at least change your pillowcases and/or bedsheet if you’re too tired to change the whole bed that night.
- Avoid Social Media and Emails 2-3 Hours Before Bed – The first Kaizen step would be to do a total social media/communications blackout for a few nights to see if it has an impact.
- Do Yoga or Meditate – The first Kaizen step would be to try meditating for five minutes before bed for one week.
Or try the 3-3-1 method, which involves…
- While doing some deep breathing, note three things you accomplished that day and how they positively impacted others
- Next, lie in bed and note three reasonable things you’d like to accomplish in the next 24 hours
- And then, recall one happy memory where you felt proud, close your eyes and drift off to sleep
Focus on Generosity
Generosity comes in multiple forms, defined by the University of Notre Dame’s Science of Generosity Project as “the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly… What exactly generosity gives can be various things: money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, and more.” It’s a concept that can have a very positive impact on our overall well-being.
“There is an extensive and growing body of evidence suggesting that acts of generosity are associated with reduced psychological problems and greater subjective well-being, which is a person’s emotional and cognitive sense of the quality of their life,” according to the Greater Good Science Center’s The Science of Generosity white paper.
Providing social support through time, effort or things is associated with better overall health among older adults, while volunteering is associated with delayed mortality. We’re a species biologically wired for generosity, reported the white paper.
So, on this Small Business Saturday, what do you think about focusing on generosity and how it could play out for you? You can learn more about the value of generosity here.
Revel in Simple Gifts
On this Sunday after Thanksgiving, as you head into next month’s hub-bub, enjoy a simple interlude. Cello player Yo-Yo Ma and singer/musician Alison Krauss offer the old Shaker song “Simple Gifts” to soothe your soul.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
– Dance song by Shaker elder, Joseph Brackett Jr., 1848
Build Influence at Work
When you have some influence at work, people tend to seek out your opinion and listen to what you have to say. Yet, it’s not about being the top dog, filled with power. It’s more about expanding your influence, no matter your role.
“Inside the workplace, there’s formal influence, which comes from your position—the responsibility and authority that you’ve been given,” says leadership consultant Ron Price, founder of Price Associates, and author of Growing Influence: A Story of How to Lead with Character, Expertise, and Impact. “But there’s also informal influence, which comes from who you are and how you show up.”
Fast Company’s Gwen Moran writes about four strategies you can try to build your influence at work, which include…
- Focus on What You Can Control
- Spend Your “Influence Currency” Wisely
- Make Strong Connections with Others
- Don’t Be a Jerk
As you consider how you want the next term to go, take these suggestions to heart to determine how you can positively build your influence at work. Learn more here.
Tap Into Heartwarming Stories
There’s no doubt that this has been a tough year. Yet, there’s an abundance of good news, too, if you just know where to look.
Luckily, Dave Pell, the NextDraft online newsletter editor who curates stories daily, has compiled a list of The Top Feel-Good Stories of 2021. Aaah…
From a 9-year-old saved at sea who reunited with her rescuers 35 years later to a man who helped the woman who stole his dog get into rehab to one woman’s mission to get vaccines to her rural Alabama town, the stories are heartwarming – and helpful. Reading just a few of these can help you feel better about possibilities, this difficult year and humankind.