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Experiencing the Benefits of Laughter

“Laughter is the best medicine” is a phrase that has been around for a long time. Unlike many of the “old wives’ tales” that get passed down from generation to generation, however, this one is actually true. Research has shown that there are significant benefits of laughter, particularly when it comes to mental health.

Adults, however, don’t laugh as much as they should, and so miss out on many of the benefits of laughter. To put this into perspective, children laugh up to 400 times a day, whilst adults on average laugh only 15 times a day. It’s important, therefore, to understand the benefits of laughter, and why it’s vital that we find ways to increase the amount of laughter in our daily lives.

Mental Benefits of Laughter

There are incredible mental benefits of laughter, and these go far beyond simply reducing stress levels. In fact, laughter can help people to heal from mental health difficulties, and even prevent further episodes of mental illness.

The benefits of laughter when it comes to mental health are wide-ranging. These include:

  • Reducing anger – laughter helps to defuse angry outbursts and resolve conflicts. It’s also an effective means of reducing self-directed anger and self-blame.
  • Reducing intense distressing emotions – laughter can help people to handle emotions such as anxiety and depression. Laughter can also help when someone is going through a time of grief.
  • Offering a different perspective – when you’re experiencing mental health difficulties, it can be overwhelming, but laughter aids in seeing your situation from a different point of view. It can be a means of escape from negative or distressing thinking, too.
  • Relieving stress and releasing endorphins
  • Helping with relaxation and revitalization – one of the benefits of laughter is to help us to relax and increase our energy levels and focus.

Reducing Stress Hormones

The stress relieving benefits of laughter are well documented in a variety of studies. These benefits are really important for mental and physical health. Having a good laugh reduces the levels of certain hormones that are associated with stress. These hormones include cortisol, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine. When these hormones are reduced, you experience less anxiety and are better able to cope with whatever situations arise.

Reducing stress hormones doesn’t just benefit you mentally, either. Reducing stress hormones through laughter gives your immune system a big boost, too. This means that you’re less likely to fall ill.

Releases Endorphins

Research has shown that one of the major benefits of laughter is the release of endorphins – which are known as the brain’s “feel-good chemicals”. Endorphins have many benefits, not least their ability to help us to handle pain, by increasing pain thresholds. For people living with chronic pain – which can have serious negative effects on mental health, too – laughter’s release of endorphins can be life-changing. Endorphins are generally released through exercise – so for people unable to exercise, laughter is a great alternative.

Can Help Improve Uncomfortable or Depressed Mood

Psychiatrists advocate laughter as a means of dealing with episodes of depression. In some cases, laughter can be as effective as talk therapy in coping with depressed mood. One of the reasons that laughter is so effective is because it changes brain chemistry A study conducted by Italian researchers in 2010 demonstrated that laughter has a positive effect on regions of the brain involved in depression – and can even counteract depressive symptoms.

Laughter as a Coping Skill

An important aspect of the benefits of laughter is the way that it can be used as a coping skill to handle all kinds of situations. It’s simple and costs nothing – and there are a variety of ways that you can incorporate more laughter into your life to cope with the troubles of daily life.

Benefits of Laughter

Practicing Laughter

Intentionally seeking to laugh more is a great way of reaping the benefits of laughter both physically and mentally. When you consider the number of times children laugh each day compared to adults, it’s clear that adults have a lot of catching up to do. Learning to take yourself less seriously is a good place to start.

You should aim to practice laughing more every day. When life is busy and stressful, laughter is often the last thing on your mind – but it’s important to find time to incorporate more laughter into your life. Prioritize laughter by making it a part of your daily routine. Laugh with friends, with family, or on your own. You could even consider laughter yoga and laughter clubs to get more laughter into your life.

Laughter Yoga

Laughter Yoga is a growing phenomenon that started out in India in the 1990s. It turns laughter into a form of physical exercise that more and more people are practicing. One of the great benefits of laughter yoga is that it teaches you to laugh for absolutely no reason.

Laughter Clubs

Laughter clubs have been taking place since 1995, and there are laughter clubs all over the world. It may seem like a strange phenomenon, but laughter clubs have proven to be very effective in increasing laughter. They help people to get into a laughter routine, using laughter exercises. Doctors are now recommending that people join laughter clubs to reap the benefits of laughter for their physical and mental health.

Reaping the Benefits of Laughter for Health

Laughter helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression – and the benefits can be physical, too. Laughter helps your muscles to relax, as well as increasing the amount of oxygen you breathe in. What’s more, laughter helps you to cope with pain. By far, however, the mental benefits are the greatest.

It can be challenging to incorporate more laughter into your life – especially if you’re stressed and don’t feel as if you have much to laugh about. Practicing laughter yoga or joining a laughter club might help if you’re struggling to laugh more, or you can simply be more intentional about laughter. However you go about increasing your laughter levels, it’s important to make it a priority in order to reap the benefits for your physical and mental health.

References

https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/mental-health/laughter-good-for-you/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-laughter-may-be-the-best-pain-medicine/

https://laughteryoga.org/are-you-worried-just-join-a-laughter-club/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

https://www.verywellmind.com/the-stress-management-and-health-benefits-of-laughter-3145084

https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/the-benefits-of-laughter/

http://www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/laughter-yoga/

https://www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/laughter-yoga-clubs/

The Benefits of Writing For Your Mental Well-Being

Writing is so commonplace in many of our daily lives that it is easy to forget about the significant benefits that thoughtful, intentional journaling can have. You don’t need to be a professional to obtain the positive outcomes associated with writing; all you need is something to write with, and the time to make it happen.

Writing as a Stress Management Technique

Writing or journaling can be extremely effective in combatting a range of issues, including those related to stress and mental health. By simply engaging the brain in writing down thoughts and feelings for a given period of time, it allows the individual the opportunity to make emotional connections, draw parallels to significant developments, process thoughts and emotions, and discover feelings and associations that can be related to emotional or stressful events and/or traumas (similar to talk therapy).

How Can Writing Help?

If you stop and envision what a “writer” might look like, you likely pull from imagery that is irrelevant to you; someone focused intently on their laptop in a café, or someone seated in front of a typewriter, possibly frustrated, or frantically typing away.

In reality, practicing writing or journaling is much simpler than this, and is acknowledged as being necessary for all people in order for the brain to reach its full potential. In fact, the simple act of writing can make you happier and more resilient, both at work and in your personal life. You can use a pen and paper, a laptop, a tablet, or whatever other tools you deem to be appropriate at that moment. The act of putting your thoughts, ideas, feelings, and emotions onto paper can help you to process and has numerous physical and emotional benefits, including:

Mood Booster

Those who practice effective writing and journaling often cite elevated moods and reduced negativity. This is owing to the fact that writing provides you with an outlet to release emotions and work through negative feelings and moods in a constructive way. Expressive writing in particular, or the act of writing down feelings and emotions, has been demonstrated to result in improved well-being and reduced stress levels.

Organizing Your Thoughts

Journaling or writing provides an opportunity to organize the thoughts and feelings you are having in one place, which may help you to make connections or make sense of a particularly chaotic moment, day, or series of emotions. Writing things down on paper may also help you more easily determine and organize solutions and enhance your problem-solving abilities.

Working Through Tough Memories

If you’re holding onto traumatic or difficult memories that continue to cause you pain, writing or journaling can help you begin to work through them by releasing emotions and engaging both hemispheres of the brain. Writing about the feelings you have and attempting to determine why you have them can greatly assist in dealing with the trauma and accepting the outcomes experienced.

As a Preventive Measure

Writing or journaling can be an effective means of enhancing your self-awareness and thus, can augment your understanding of how and why you may react to a situation in a certain way. By developing a higher level of self-awareness, you may be able to more quickly recognize when you’re feeling a certain way and prevent yourself from reacting negatively.

Benefits of Writing

Types of Writing

There are many types of writing that you can benefit from depending on what it is that you’re trying to achieve. Some of the more popular forms of writing include:

Gratitude Journaling

Gratitude journaling involves writing and acknowledging things, emotions, goals, and more within one’s life that the individual is grateful for. It has been demonstrated to increase happiness and improve moods, while also making the good things that were acknowledged feel more noticeable and important to the person.

Emotional Journaling

Writing about your emotions can be an effective means of processing through your feelings. Taking the time to acknowledge both the good and the bad can help you to learn to reframe your experiences more positively and effectively manage stress. Emotional journaling involves writing about the emotions associated with your daily experiences and looking at them critically and constructively in a manner that helps you to more effectively cope with daily stressors and events.

Daily Planning

Journaling helps to keep your mind clear by processing your thoughts as they happen. It is no wonder then that many successful people partake in a daily planning writing ritual.

Keeping an agenda or journal of your daily goals and tasks can help to keep you organized and reduce stress by decluttering your thoughts. Daily planning through writing is a great way to keep yourself on track and set yourself up for success.

Creative Writing

Creative writing involves writing that expresses creative thought, processes, ideas, or stories. Creative writing builds a range of skills for practitioners, including problem-solving abilities, self-expression, the ability to take constructive criticism, and more. Practicing regular creative writing is a great way to build your writing abilities while working through thoughts, emotions, and concepts through the proxy of character development and storytelling.

Tips to Get Started

Getting into a practice of writing or journaling as a means of enhancing your mental health is easy. For those just beginning to incorporate journaling and writing, start simple:

Use a Pen and Paper

Using a pen and paper is an easy and effective means to get started with journaling. Find a quiet place that is free from distractions and immerse yourself in the physical act of bringing your pen to the paper.

Set a Timer

Allow yourself to fully focus on your writing by setting a timer for the amount of time that you have allotted to the practice. This will give you the peace of mind that you will complete the task within the time constraints that you have, allowing you to fully focus.

Use Writing Prompts

To avoid wasting your allotted writing time on writer’s block, have some writing prompts prepared. The Center for Journal Therapy recommends using the acronym WRITE, meaning:

W- What do you want to write about

R- Review/reflect on that topic

I- Investigate your feelings on the topic

T- Time yourself to give adequate time to focus on the topic, and

E- Exit the topic

Create an Enjoyable and Constructive Writing Practice Today

Writing is an easy and effective means of processing through your emotions and enhancing your ability to be resilient and grateful in your day to day life. Don’t cheat yourself from the benefits of introspection. Incorporate journaling into your daily routine and it just may change your life.

References

  • https://www.verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-journaling-for-stress-management-3144611
  • https://www.niu.edu/language-literacy/_pdf/the-benefits-of-writing.pdf
  • https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/3-reasons-writing-is-great-for-your-mental-health.html
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/habits-not-hacks/201408/how-writing-makes-you-happier-smarter-and-more-persuasive
  • https://writingcenter.mcdaniel.edu/the-benefits-of-creative-writing/
  • https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/benefits-of-journaling/

Stress Management: Achieve The Impossible!

We tend to think of stress as being something bad. However, it is in fact, a normal and even vital part of our human make-up. Stress can motivate us to make changes, to advance and to develop. It has been vital in the evolution of mankind and has made us what we are today.

What is Stress?

Stress is a survival mechanism. When we experience a stressful situation our bodies release stress hormones and chemicals in our brains which get us ready to take action. This is sometimes called the fight or flight response. However, if we fail to act, the stress build-up can cause both physical and psychological problems.

Good Stress vs Bad Stress

Good stress can be thought of as that which motivates and inspires us. It is the kind of stress that you feel before starting a new job or taking an exam. After we have completed the task, the stress naturally goes away.

Bad stress happens when we are unable to stop it and the effects build up. This can occur when an external situation is on-going and cannot be resolved. Also, when it is related to an internal situation such as a health or relationship problem. Long-term stress that continues over a long period without interruption is the most damaging. When chronic stress becomes unmanageable it can affect our day to day life.

Signs and Symptoms of Unhealthy Stress Levels

People who have unhealthy stress levels often suffer from headaches, muscle tension, an elevated heart rate and pain. They frequently feel tired, fatigued and without motivation. Many people have sleep disturbances; either sleeping more or less than normal. Some people suffer from digestive problems and many change their eating habits. Unhealthy stress levels can make people irritable, have mood changes and it can lead to depression.

Often, people seek to escape from their stress by turning to alcohol, street drugs or the misuse of prescribed drugs. These things may make you feel better for a short while; but in the long run, they will worsen the problem.

Prescription Medication for Stress Management

If your stress is overwhelming, you should visit your doctor who may decide that a prescription medicine would help you. While these medicines will not solve the problem provoking your stress, they can help to reduce the symptoms caused by it.

Benzodiazepines

These sedatives include Valium (diazepam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide) and Ativan (lorazepam), among others. They work by stimulating a chemical found naturally in the brain called GABA. This slows down mental activity and, therefore, calms the body. As they can cause addiction, these drugs are usually only prescribed for a short period.

Beta-Blockers

These include Tenormin (atenolol) and Inderal (propranolol). While usually used for heart conditions and high blood pressure they can also reduce some of the symptoms associated with stress.

Antidepressants

A group of antidepressants known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are most commonly prescribed for anxiety and stress. These include Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro. They increase the level of Serotonin in the brain which can decrease feelings of anxiety and improve mood.

Stress Management

Risks of Using Stress Medication

Like all prescribed medicines, stress medications can cause side effects in some people. The most common ones are a dry mouth, nausea and dizziness. If you experience side effects, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Some stress medicines can also be mildly addictive, so always take care to only take the prescribed dose at the correct time. It is also important that you never stop taking your medication abruptly without consulting your doctor.

Stress Management Strategies

Many people have been able to reduce their stress levels by using these stress management strategies and stress management techniques.

Lifestyle Changes

Eating healthily, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are all ways in which you can reduce your stress levels.

A varied diet including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables can help to ensure that you are getting all the vitamins and minerals needed to help your body deal with stress. Try to make mealtimes a calm, enjoyable time and avoid eating on the run.

Exercise improves both your physical and mental state. A morning jog or a late evening walk around the block can help you to unwind. Practicing team sports or signing up for a Pilates, dance, or yoga class, can really help reduce your stress levels.

Enough quality sleep is essential for stress management. Avoid using all electronic devices at least an hour before retiring for the evening. Do something you enjoy, to relax you before going to bed. Try reading a book or taking a hot bath. Go to bed at the same time every night and make sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible and has fresh air entering.

Meditation and spiritual practices can help with anxiety and stress and having family or peer support is also very important. Furthermore, having hobbies and getting out into the countryside can also be of help.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Most of the time we don’t pay much attention to our breathing. Becoming conscious of how we breathe can instill a feeling of deep relaxation and peace within us. Try lying on the floor and place your hands on your lower belly. Breathe naturally and become aware of the rise and fall of your belly. Gradually lengthen your breaths. As you breathe in feel yourself filling with light, positive energy. Hold this inside you for a few seconds and then (as you exhale) envision the stale, negative energy flowing out of you.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is one of the most effective relaxation techniques for stress reduction. Lie flat on your back on the floor and concentrate on your feet and lower legs. Tighten the muscles in them for a couple of seconds. Be aware of the tension you feel and then relax the muscles and enjoy the feeling. Do this throughout your body; working slowly up your legs, arms and body until you reach your head. Clench the muscles and feel the tension and then experience the lovely feeling of relaxation as you release.

Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness-based stress reduction involves putting your entire attention and energy into what is happening within and around you at the present time. It can help to reduce stress by not allowing you to dwell on the past or worry about the future. Concentrating on the present can help you to find real solutions to stressful situations.

Herbal Supplements for Anxiety and Stress

Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis) is one of the most common herbs used to combat stress. Try a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. Other herbs that can help to reduce anxiety include Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), Hops (Humulus Lupulus) and Oats. Nutritional supplements like Valerian, 5-HTP, Passion Flower and Kava can also help. A drop of lavender essential oil can calm you in moments of severe anxiety.

Stress Management That Works!

As everybody reacts differently to stress, you may need to try different techniques to find which one can help you best. Making some simple lifestyle changes for coping with stress can sometimes be really effective. If you do not find that this helps or if you continue to feel unable to cope, you should see your health practitioner as medication could be the best way to relieve your symptoms. This also counts when you are experiencing other signs of stress that interfere with your life. Remember, however, that the medications only treat the symptoms and not the problem; so talk to your doctor about other kinds of therapies or counseling which may be available.

Don’t let anything get in your way of doing the things that you’ve set your heart on. Start working on managing your stress levels to achieve the impossible!

Resources

  1. https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/medication-strategies-for-stress-relief/
  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/anti-anxiety-medications-2330663
  3. https://www.medicinenet.com/stress/article.htm
  4. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx

The Power of Positive Affirmations

You may have heard of the power of self-talk or positive affirmations. Affirmations are rising in prominence because the dialogue that we have with ourselves has an enormous impact on how we perceive the world, how we handle stress, and ultimately, on our success.

If you know that you have a tendency to give in to negative thinking, it may be time to start thinking about incorporating positive affirmations into your daily routine.

What Are Positive Affirmations?

Positive affirmations, or positive self-talk, are statements or conversations that we confidently have with ourselves about perceived truths. They are messages that we repeat to ourselves to replace negative or harmful internal dialogues that keep us from growing and attracting what we want.

The goal of positive affirmations is to rewire our thinking patterns towards positivity and to foster true confidence in the statements that we are making. By repeating the words over and over to ourselves, we make a habit of believing them to be true, which can have profound impacts on self-confidence, levels of positivity and optimism, and personal success.

What Positive Affirmations Are Not

Many tote positive self-talk and affirmations as being core to successful daily routines, but positive affirmations are not a one-stop shop solution to all of life’s problems. There are a number of misperceptions that surround positive affirmations that should be noted when beginning a practice.

Blind Optimism

The goal of positive affirmations is to foster positive thinking and to rewrite negative inner dialogues with a more constructive message. They are not, however, supposed to create blind optimism in the practitioner.

Our negative self-talk tracks are often developed in childhood and have permeated into our adult lives. The reality is that we all experience things differently, and that experience will have an impact on which affirmations we need.

Making statements to ourselves like “Everything is perfect” may not be as constructive as instead saying “I have a purpose and choose to see the good in this life.” While both statements attempt to look at life more positively, the latter recognizes that there are variances in the good and bad of life. Blind optimism is not constructive and in fact, can be harmful in the wrong context.

Self Deception

Positive self-talk and affirmations generally recognize that we have a tendency to make events more stressful than they need to be by cycling an unhealthy dialogue of negativity and self-doubt in our heads. That being said, affirmations are not supposed to deceive you into believing that your stress is unfounded, that your life is free of problems, or that you are free of responsibility and/or accountability.

Affirmations can and should be rooted in reality, and should help to frame your intentions constructively. If you find yourself using affirmations to deceive yourself, you may not reap the benefits that positive self-talk can have.

Positive vs Negative Self Talk

For those who are stuck in a cycle of “negative self-talk”, a typical reaction to situations may involve assuming guilt and creating elevated levels of stress as a result of thoughts of shame, self-doubt, anger, and other unconstructive emotions. Positive self-talk, on the other hand, involves making a conscious effort to react to situations more positively and constructively. In lieu of giving in to feelings of negativity, the goal is to recognize the negative emotion and counteract it by finding a related positive truth instead. For example, in lieu of cycling, “I am not good enough” over and over in one’s head, a replacement may be “I am doing my very best, and that is enough.” The negative thought is then recognized and replaced by a more positive outcome.

Positive self-talk has proven to be an effective means of alleviating stress and reducing pain and anxiety in a range of therapies, including through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves learning to control your emotional reactions through more constructive thinking. Positive self-talk and CBT are commonly used in the treatment of illnesses such as depression and chronic stress.

What Are Positive Affirmations Good For?

Positive affirmations can benefit anyone who chooses to practice them. By committing to emphasizing positivity over harmful dialogues we can change the way that we perceive ourselves and our daily lives. Positive affirmations can be particularly helpful when dealing with issues such as:

Stress Management

How we perceive situations and the degree to which we allow them to cause us stress has a great impact on our happiness. The implementation of positive affirmations into your daily routine can significantly reduce the degree of stress that you allow yourself to succumb to. Choosing to overwrite negative thought patterns with positive self-talk can allow you to more constructively process the situation at hand, providing a higher degree of resiliency as a by-product of your elevated confidence in your abilities.

Positive Affirmations

Symptom Management

Given the propensity for stress to cause physical and biological changes (such as muscle tension and pain, headaches, distress, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more), positive affirmations can be a great, proactive way of addressing the emotional issues that harmfully manifest themselves in our bodies through negative self-talk. Those who practice positive affirmations are able to reduce their overall stress and anxiety by actively replacing negative statements with milder or more positive wording, and eliminating self-limiting declarations. This reduction in stress and anxiety can positively contribute to better symptom management in diseases, disorders, and issues that are aggravated by stress and anxiety.

Get Started Improving Your Inner Dialogue

One of the benefits of implementing positive affirmations and self-talk is that one can begin immediately. For those seeking to start a practice of changing your inner dialogue:

Start Small

Start by making small changes to your inner dialogue. Begin to recognize how you react to situations, and ask yourself why it is that you are feeling a given emotion.

Identify Negative Thoughts

When you begin to think negatively or cycle unproductive thoughts, take a moment to recognize the negativity and identify the emotion. Are you feeling doubt? Guilt? Shame? Acknowledge the feeling for what it is.

Identify Positive New Thoughts

Once you’ve identified the negative thought, replace it with something positive. Instead of saying “I’m a failure”, try replacing it with “I tried my best, and that is enough” or similarly, positively-oriented statements.

Make it Believable

Positive affirmations should be rooted in reality to be effective. For example, if your goal is to make more money, a positive affirmation may be “I am worth the salary I am seeking.” This is far more believable than “I will come into $2 million in the next week,” and far more likely to build the real confidence that you will require going into something like a salary negotiation.

Get Inspiration from Others

With so many people using positive self-talk and affirmations to bolster their daily confidence, there are an endless number of examples that you can adopt into your own daily routine. Seek out successful people that you admire, conduct research online, and adopt affirmations that are recommended to you.

Practice Daily

The key to success with positive self-talk and affirmations is repetition. Rewiring your thinking won’t happen overnight, so make sure to practice your affirmations daily. Allow them to manifest as a new and critical component of your routine.

Craft A Practice That Sets You Up For Success

The beauty of positive affirmations is that anyone can reap the benefits of the practice. The sooner you begin to identify which of your thought patterns are holding you back, the sooner you can begin to heal those thought patterns by manifesting positivity in your daily life.

References

Setting Personal Goals that Work for You

When you think about goal setting do you get excited? Or do you groan and think, “ugh, is it THAT time of the year again?”

The Importance of Setting Personal Goals

Stress Management

The world we live in today requires that we are intentional and mindful about managing the stress in our lives. While stress is not inherently bad, and some stress is a motivator, excessive or chronic stress leads to adverse mental and physical consequences. It makes sense prioritize goals and activities that help us manage stress well since that will influence our ability to achieve all other goals and aspirations in our lives.

Personal Growth

Beyond the day-to-day management of our “to do” lists, many of us feel a pull toward personal growth and self-actualization. When we engage in the same habits each day that keep creating the same life, we may feel bored or uninspired. Creating goals and working toward them feeds our inherent human need for self-mastery and accomplishment.

Kinds of Goals

Personal Goals

Personal goals are areas where we want to make a change in our lives. These goals can include weight loss, physical fitness, improving our relationships, or perhaps becoming more connected to our spirituality. In order to be effective, personal goals need to be rooted in our true desires. When we put others’ desires ahead of our own, these goals are not as effective. What do you truly want? What are your intentions in achieving the goal? It is worth considering what we truly want, and what emotion we believe we will have when attaining the goal.

Professional Goals

Most companies have a practice of setting goals on a periodic basis, annually or quarterly to help employees stay on track with work that is expected. This activity allows you to think about goals that are realistic and possibly career goals that will challenge you to grow further to stretch in your capacities. Whether you want to be promoted, or take on a new assignment to learn a new skill, or consider a side hustle, take some time to reflect on goals that excite you.

Life Goals

Life goals are bigger personal goals that may take years or decades to achieve. Some examples of life goals include buying a house, starting a family, or launching a business. They can include learning to play an instrument, traveling the world, or writing a book. Life goals can be a guiding force behind some of the smaller personal goals we set month-to-month or year-to-year. They are based on our deeper desires for meaning and purpose in our lives. When our life goals are aligned with our values and desires, we live more purposeful and fulfilling lives.

Personal Goals

How to Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is a way to start as you gain confidence in the skill of personal goal setting.

Specific

The goal should be something that is clear and specific. For example: “I am going to change my eating or drinking habits” is too general. We might instead commit to a specific action: “I will drink water instead of soda with my lunch.”

Measurable

When goals are measurable, we can evaluate them more easily. Declaring that we will “walk more” does not help us evaluate our progress.  If we decide will go for a walk 4-5 times per week (for at least 10 minutes each time) we have a clear measure for whether we achieved this personal goal.

Achievable

When we are starting out at goal-setting, particularly if the goal requires behavior change, it is helpful to set smaller, achievable goals. If you do not have any exercise as part of your daily habit, then planning to exercise for an hour a day could result in “backlash.” You may feel disappointed if you cannot meet this unrealistic goal. This could make you less likely to set progressively more challenging goals. Instead, make the short-term goal achievable (“I will walk for at least 10 minutes, 3 times a week”). This way you will build trust and confidence as you begin honoring commitments to yourself. This will allow you to move toward bigger goals.

Relevant

Personal goals should be relevant to our own desires in our lives, not based on what other people want. When we create goals based on our personal values and long-term desires, we allow the fuel of our excitement and determination to help achieve our goals.

Time-Specific

Setting specific timelines helps create accountability related to progress. Personal goals like meditating every day might start with 5 or 10 minutes a day for 2 weeks to start. Or longer-term personal goals like starting a business may have multi-year and quarterly interim goals in order to break the goal into measurable check-points.

What to do When You Miss Your Goals

We may not always fulfill our goals. This is actually one reason some people fail to set goals. They may have set goals in the past, and they were disappointed if they did not achieve them. Self-criticism may have come up. So they are reluctant to try again. When you feel blocked from setting life goals, consider getting support through coaching, counseling or accountability groups.

Identify Your Roadblocks

One relevant factor if you miss a goal is that you did not adequately plan for likely or unanticipated roadblocks. If you plan to get to the gym three times a week but have not packed your gym bag the night before, you are less likely to follow through on that commitment. So to achieve that goal, set a calendar reminder for the night before, reminding you to prepare by packing your bag. Planning ahead for how we will deal with anticipated roadblocks (including the excuses we might make when the time comes to work out) creates a stronger intention rather than letting us off the hook with a convenient excuse.

Forgive Yourself

Realize that nobody is perfect and that it is okay and normal not to execute perfectly on your goal. Have compassion for yourself. Achieving your personal goals require resilience and perseverance. The good news is that these qualities are built over time with practice.

Get Started Again

Setting personal goals that are achievable (perhaps smaller ones at first) can help you build up your trust and confidence in yourself. If you do not make it the first time, reflect on what you learned. Can you find ways to make it easier for yourself? Can you invite an accountability partner or a coach to encourage you and support you?

Sociologist Martha Beck advises people to set “wildly improbable goals” in order to challenge our assumptions about what we can do in the future. If we set goals that are slightly out-of-reach, we must grow in order to fulfill them. This is a more advanced practice, for when you have built up your self-confidence in the skill of achieving personal goals.

It takes courage to set big goals. Your self-doubt will come up when you set challenging goals. If you adopt a growth mindset you will overcome obstacles in reaching our life goals. Have fun with it and enjoy the process. When you build the skill of personal goal setting you may achieve more than you thought was possible!

Resources

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Are you suffering from stress and anxiety? Progressive Muscle Relaxation may help you to restore your physical and emotional well-being. This technique is quick and easy to learn, which makes it a great addition to your treatment program. PMR is a suitable complementary treatment for psychological conditions as well as physical ailments. Try it out to experience the benefits for yourself.

What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)?

Progressive muscle relaxation is a useful technique that can be used to relieve stress. The simplicity of this technique makes it an appealing option for people who are suffering from anxiety or insomnia. PMR can also be used to cope with some types of chronic pain. PMR involves tensing and releasing muscles groups. Muscle groups are tensed separately and then released to enter the relaxation phase. Medical professionals have used this technique in combination with traditional treatment to help people to manage headaches as well as to find relief from digestive problems. PMR can also play a role in managing cancer pain. Edmund Jacobson explained this technique during the 1930s and its founded on his belief that physical relaxation promotes mental calmness.

What Can PMR Help With?

While this technique can help with specific physical and mental concerns, it has benefits for almost everyone. With our busy lifestyles, most people need to incorporate relaxation techniques into their daily routine to release stress.

Physical Concerns

Progressive muscle relaxation can be used in conjunction with pharmaceutical medicine to treat physical ailments. If you’re experiencing physical pain, it’s advisable to seek advice from your medical professional to find out whether this is a suitable technique for you or not. While its best to seek medical advice, the risks of PMR are low and it has the advantage of not presenting any interaction risks with pharmaceutical medicine.

Stress Management

tress is an epidemic in our modern society. It’s important to learn strategies to cope with the pressures of our busy lifestyles. Prolonged stress can lead to emotional and physical problems so it’s advisable to take time out to relax. Progressive muscle relaxation is an effective technique to release tension in the body, which often results in improved mental calmness.

Mental Concerns

PMR may be helpful as a complementary treatment for a range of psychological challenges. If you’re trying to stop smoking, this technique can help you to cope with the symptoms of withdrawal. People who are struggling with schizophrenia may find that PMR makes a great addition to their treatment program. This technique can help to reduce the stress and anxiety that can be associated with this psychological condition. Progressive muscle relaxation may help to bring relief from insomnia. Practicing this technique at night can help you to feel relaxed enough to drift off into sleep. People who are struggling with dementia often suffer from anxiety. PMR can be a useful strategy to relieve tension and promote a relaxed mind in these instances.

How to Get Started with PMR

Are you wondering how to get started? We are here to help! An advantage of progressive muscle relaxation is that it requires a minimal investment of time and money. It’s easy to learn the abbreviated form of this technique so that you can practice it at home by yourself.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Breathing

Breathing exercises are an effective relaxation technique in themselves. When combined with tensing and releasing your muscles, deep breathing is particularly effective. As you tense your muscles on an inhalation bring attention to your breath. Connecting to the rhythm of your breath promotes relaxation. You can enhance the effectiveness of your PMR practice by taking deep breaths before you begin tensing your muscles. Start by focusing on your regular breathing pattern and noticing each breath. Once you’ve brought your attention to your breath, you can start to extend your inhalations and exhalations. When you’re using deep breathing to relax, you’ll need to breathe from your diaphragm.

Muscle Groups

It’s advisable to tense and release the muscle groups in order from your toes and ending with your face. To get started, change into comfy clothes and find a good spot to try the technique sitting up or lying down. Make sure that you put your phone on silent and remove all distractions before you begin. On an inhale, tense one muscle group and after 5 or 10 seconds release the muscles again. It’s important not to tense the muscle groups to the point of pain. Focus on any changes that you feel in your body after tensing and releasing your muscles. Once the process is complete, you would have tensed and relaxed your whole body.

Mindfulness

To increase the impact of the PMR process, you can use a visualization to imagine stress leaving your body. Paying attention to your body in this manner helps you to connect with your body so that you can take better care of it. As you continue to tense and release each muscle group, you’ll go deeper into this practice. Learning to acknowledge and attend to tensions in your body puts you on the right track to maintaining your mental and physical well-being.

Daily Practice

You only need to put aside 10 to 20 minutes a day to reap the benefits of this technique and you can practice it from the comfort of your own home. Getting into the routine of a daily practice will help you to cope when stressful situations arise at work or in your personal life. If you’re looking for additional guidance, you can find PMR scripts and audios online. This technique can also have benefits for children as well as teenagers. You can even consider setting aside time each day for your whole family to practice PMR.

Now that you know more about progressive muscle relaxation, you can start to benefit from this technique. Whether you’re struggling with a psychological condition or physical ailment, you may find that PMR is a useful addition to your treatment program.

Resources

  1. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/muscle-relaxation-for-stress-insomnia
  2. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2225
  3. https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/progressive-muscle-relaxation-pmr/
  4. http://www.rochester.edu/uhs/ucc/self-help-and-online-screening-resources/deep-breathing-techniques/