Archive for December, 2012

Six Ways to Say Goodbye to a Bad Habit

December 28, 2012

Bad habits can range from the trivial, such as biting one’s nails, to the serious, such as the use of tobacco products, excessive drinking, or over-eating. The trouble with bad habits is that many times they are easy to start, but difficult to stop. There are many simple ways to help break a bad habit. Here are a few ideas to help you start on a new path.

1. Use a journal. Sometimes it helps to really think about why the bad habit is a part of your life. Are you trying to fill a void? Is it helping you cope with stress? Are you addicted to the bad habit? You need to answer these questions. Some people find that journaling, or keeping track of their thoughts in a book (or even online) can help them work through their bad habit. If you get a craving to engage in your bad habit, stop and think about why you want to do it. Then write down your feelings and explore them. A journal can also help you keep track of your many successes as well.

2. Get expert help. It’s important to realize that some bad habits are too big to break alone. You may need the help of a mental health care professional, such as a counselor, psychiatrist or employee resource professional in order to stop your bad habit. Other people may look to spiritual leaders like pastors or rabbis for advice and counsel. If you are dealing with an addiction or other health-related addiction, your primary care physician may be able to help you assess your problem, give you tips, and possibly even treatment to help you break your bad habit once and for all. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional during this important decision.

3. Replace the bad habit with a new, good habit. One reason many people find it difficult to quit a bad habit is that they don’t know what to do with their time once they stop engaging in the habit. Boredom strikes, and they feel tempted to fall back into their habitual behavior. Taking up new hobbies or activities can help you work through your boredom and cravings. Many people find that taking up a new exercise class or sport can be a useful and healthy way of avoiding their bad habit.

4. Find resources. In the age of the information superhighway, there is no shortage of information to help you fight through your bad habit. If you don’t have internet access at home, most public libraries and even some community centers have free computer access. Online you can access tips and advice on just about everything. Additionally, many 12-step groups (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) list their local meeting schedules and hotlines on the web.

5. Find support groups. Trying to break a bad habit alone can sometimes be a difficult task, especially if the habit you are trying to break is actually an addiction. You need not suffer alone. Many people find support groups or 12-step meetings are very beneficial to the improvement of their lifestyle and can help them fight through the urge to engage in their bad habit or addiction. There are 12-step groups for a variety of problems and addictions such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Over-Eaters Anonymous. Support groups meet in a variety of locations and at all times of the day.

6. Be proud of your progress. You should always be proud of your successes, no matter how large or small. Celebrate your progress, from week to week and month to month, and reward yourself for all of your hard work. If you meet a weight loss goal, treat yourself to a new outfit. If you have managed to stay smoke-free for a month, reward yourself with a new DVD. Just make sure your rewards aren’t triggers for your bad habit.

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How To Stop Procrastinating

December 20, 2012

Procrastination comes in many forms, whether you are a college student putting off a dreaded paper, or a homeowner putting off doing chores like cleaning the gutters. We all procrastinate, thinking that tomorrow will be a better time to tackle undesirable duties and chores, but it can have negative consequences.

Procrastination is a curse, and a costly one. Putting things off leads not only to lost productivity but also to all sorts of hand wringing and regrets and damaged self-esteem. For all these reasons, psychologists would love to figure out what’s going on in the mind that makes it so hard to actually do what we set out to do. Are we programmed for postponement and delay?

As reported by the Association for Psychological Science in January 2009, an international team of psychologists led by Sean McCrea of the University of Konstanz in Germany wanted to see if there might be a link between how we think of a task and our tendency to postpone it. In other words, are we more likely to see some tasks as psychologically “distant” – and thus making us save them for later rather than tackling them now?

The psychologists handed out questionnaires to a group of students and asked them to respond by e-mail within three weeks. All the questions had to do with rather mundane tasks like opening a bank account and keeping a diary, but different students were given different instructions for answering the questions. Some thought and wrote about what each activity implied about personal traits: what kind of person has a bank account, for example. Others wrote simply about the nuts and bolts of doing each activity: speaking to a bank officer, filling out forms, making an initial deposit, and so forth. The idea was to get some students thinking abstractly and others concretely. Then the psychologists waited. And in some cases, waited and waited. They recorded all the response times to see if there was a difference between the two group, and indeed there was a significant difference.

The findings, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, were very clear. Even though all of the students were being paid upon completion, those who thought about the questions abstractly were much more likely to procrastinate – and in fact some never got around to the assignment at all. By contrast, those who were focused on the how, when and where of doing the task e-mailed their responses much sooner, suggesting that they hopped right on the assignment rather than delaying it.

The authors note “merely thinking about the task in more concrete, specific terms makes it feel like it should be completed sooner and thus reducing procrastination.” They conclude that these results have important implications for teachers and managers who may want their students and employees starting on projects sooner. In addition, these findings are also relevant for those of us resolving to have better time management skills.

Manage Your Time and Stop Procrastinating

Do you typically put off work, chores or other duties until the last minute? One way to stop procrastinating is to learn better time management skills. Here are a few quick ways to better manage your time.

Get organized. To use time more wisely, organize your life and keep it that way. Go through paperwork, etc. and filter out the un-needed items. Eliminate clutter in your work area.

Make “To Do” lists. Good time managers make “To Do” lists a regular part of their lives, whether it’s on the computer, a PDA or a simple piece of paper.

Finish one task before moving on. Save yourself time by finishing one project before moving on to another.

Reward yourself for finishing tough projects. The hardest tasks are those that we have to do but which are difficult or boring. Get over the drudgery of these tasks by promising yourself a reward after finishing a tough project.

Eliminate non-productive activities. Watching television or aimlessly surfing the Internet isn’t a productive use of time. Good time managers create time by ridding their lives of these and other big time wasters.

Plan ahead. So that you’re not cramped for time, plan ahead. If you are working on a large project with a pressing time line, do a bit each day, make it manageable, so that you can avoid a huge amount of work in the end.

Making Ends Meet In Hard Times

December 13, 2012

Most people worry a little about managing their money. It is easy to compare your situation with others and feel guilty or worried that there won’t be enough, or that you are making bad decisions. It can also be hard to spend money differently when necessary because it can feel like not having enough. For many people, money is a sign of success and safety. With less money, it is easy to feel bad about yourself or anxious.

Making good financial decisions can seem overwhelming because there is so much information available. Some information can be bad or even designed to make money for the person selling it instead of helping you. It may be helpful to talk to friends or family who seem wise about finances. Even if they have more or less money, you may find what they do helpful. It can be possible to get free financial information at your library through local consumer financial information programs.

Lack of money or differences of opinion on how to spend it can cause conflicts in families. One member may be focused on having enough saved to meet long-term obligations, while another may worry about how driving an older vehicle will impact what people think about him or her. A third person may feel resentful about working an extra job to bring home enough to meet everyone’s needs. Listen to family members with an awareness that they may be scared and struggling too.

It is important to keep adjusting to changes in the economy while planning for your future. One of the first questions to ask is, how am I affected right now? Can I pay basic expenses like food, rent and utilities? If not, start by cutting out extras. Consider the wants and needs of all family members when deciding where to cut. If that’s not enough, a reputable debt consolidation program may help reduce payments, a good financial planner may be able to see options you can’t, and legal consultation can help you decide if declaring bankruptcy would be a smart choice.

If basic needs are covered, focus on priorities – not what others think you should spend, but whether you are spending your money on things that matter. Also, think about the future. Have you paid off credit cards that drain your paycheck every month? Can you start even a small savings account? And, most importantly, set up a retirement fund as soon as possible. Even setting a small amount away each month can add up to a better retirement. Sometimes making good financial decisions, especially saving, can seem like hard work, but you can make this fun. If furnishing a new home, could you buy furniture at a garage sale in order to have the extra money to buy the kitchen table you really want?

It’s Never Too Late to Get Into Shape

December 7, 2012

Even if you’re overweight, exercise has great benefits.

According to the National Institutes of Health, even if you are overweight, you still can be physically active. Those who are overweight face special challenges in trying to be active. You may not be able to bend or move in the same way that other people can, and it may be difficult to find clothes and equipment for exercising. You may even feel self-conscious being physically active around other people.

Facing these challenges is hard – but it can be done!

The positive benefits of being physically active may actually help you live longer and protect you from many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis (a disease leading to weak bones that may break easily).

If you have any of these health problems, being physically active may help control or improve your symptoms.

The following information will give you ideas on how to become more active, but remember, it is always best to consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.

If you cannot do an activity, don’t be hard on yourself. Feel good about what you can do. Be proud of pushing yourself up out of a chair or walking a short distance.

Pat yourself on the back for trying, even if you can’t do it the first time. It may be easier the next time!

To start being more active and keep at it, make sure you start slowly. Your body needs time to get used to your new activity.

Always remember to warm up. Warm-ups get your body ready for action. Shrug your shoulders, tap your toes, swing your arms, or march in place. You should spend a few minutes warming up for any physical activity – even walking. Walk slowly for the first few minutes.

Cool down. Slow down little by little. If you have been walking fast, walk slowly or stretch for a few minutes to cool down. Cooling down may protect your heart, relax your muscles, and keep you from getting hurt.

Set goals. Set short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal may be to walk five minutes on a least three days for one week. It may not seem like a lot, but any activity is better than none. A long-term goal may be to walk 30 minutes on most days of the week by the end of six months.

Get support. Get a  family member or friend to by physically active with you. It may be more fun, and your buddy can cheer you on.

Track progress. Keep a journal of your physical activity. You may not feel that you are making progress, but when you look back at where you started, you may be pleasantly surprised!

Have fun! Try different activities to find the ones you really enjoy. You do not need special skills or a lot of equipment. You can do weight-bearing activities, like walking and golfing, which involve lifting or pushing your own body weight, and non-weight-bearing activities, like swimming and water workouts, which put less stress on your joints becasue you do not have to lift or push your own weight.

If your feet or joints hurt when you stand, non-weight-bearing activities may be best for you.

Regulatr physical activity helps you feel better because it:

  • lowers your stress and boosts your mood
  • increases your strength
  • helps control blood pressure and blood sugar
  • helps build healthy bones, muscles, and joints
  • helps your heart and lungs work better
  • improves your self-esteem