Tag Archives: psychology and learning

3 Quick Life Hacker Tips: Sunday Edition

  • It’s important to be consistent in healthy and creative habits.
  • Remain positive even if you have to force yourself: adjust your attitude.
  • Put your goals in your view everyday, all the time — write them down, think about them, be a little bit obsessed — it’s how you become great.

check this out for great positive images on Pinterest.

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February, or the month of GSD

So January is almost over, and PROGRESS-WISE, that leaves me barely a stone’s throw away from where I started since 2012 ended.

I figure since February is such a short month (28 days!) that it’s time I mentally, physically, and metaphorically get shit done. Hence, Feb 2103 = Get Shit Done Month (GSD for short or if you don’t like swearing).

I’ve been lurking over at jessicamullen’s blog for a while to generally inspire myself and to think more positively about stuff. I’ve been trying to inject pieces of positiveness into the universe, take risks, and do things that terrify me, like participating in my classes. Just recently I took the plunge and gave myself a raise, technically speaking, on Fiverr: instead of getting 500 words for $5, I’m charging $5 for 250 words. And people are still ordering from me! My fears have been abated. I deserve more. I write good (er..well). People like my work. I’ve been committing to going to classes like it’s my job. I like learning when I’m there. I like my teachers. I like feeling productive, instead when I skip I feel useless and generally crappy.

the only thing that I’m not working on at all is my weight situation, which is, er, a huge problem. I’m tired of gaining and not losing. I want to be healthy, happy in my own skin. But I’m not acting like I want to be those things. I’m behaving like I want to be unhappy, unhealthy, and uncomfortable. I have to reverse this horrible habit. So this month I’m mostly going to concentrate on going to the on-campus gym (which is right there and, free) after classes at least three days per week for 30 minutes to start. The weather is a tad less wintry and awful, so I’ve been walking to school some days, which takes 15 minutes one direction. I will end up not taking my car completely when it is consistently warmer out.

I’ve been adding healthier things in my diet, but I also eat a lot of nonhealthy things, and just plain unfood. Cookies, chips, and other things I inhale to distract myself from other things just has to stop. It’s time for lettuce. tomatoes. broccoli. Things that make me feel better after eating, not worse. not things that make me sick. figuratively and literally.

I also need to make my DAYS more productive. How do business people act? People who freelance professionally? People who have the lifestyle I want? I need to emulate that. People who create multiple streams of income online do not sleep until 2pm. People who freelance professionally do not stay up until 3am eating cookies (I think).

These people wake up early, at a set time everyday, exercise first thing in the morning, eat a real breakfast, get their work done early and don’t bullshit on the internet half the time, and keep their house clean and orderly. They manage their time well and don’t have to rush for deadlines, well unless they like the rush (don’t all writers? we like punishing ourselves this way, don’t we). They know how to get into FLOW and FOCUS. They take breaks and eat regular, balanced meals. They still have plenty of time for other creative and social activities. They know what to do to avoid getting depressed or feeling hopeless.

This February, I will GSD. Will you take the challenge with me?

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How To Stop Emotional Eating – For Good

Eat Eat Eat Me... Hunger is a basic sensation that all creatures feel and respond to with the appropriate action: to eat. Hunger stems from the very basic idea of stimulus and response as well as the pain principle. The body realizes that there is a lack of nutrients caused by an empty stomach. The body then releases chemicals that inflicts an uncomfortable feeling of emptiness, weakness, and desire to eat (called appetite). The body searches for food to stop this discomfort. This then additionally becomes motivation – a call to action.

So hunger is already very complicated, even in the state of nature. Operating on biology, chemistry, motivation, the pain principle, and the most basic behavioral psychology of stimulus and response. This is important to understand. For a more thorough explanation, click here.

The pain principle – we don’t like feeling pain. It is a natural self preservation tool used to survive in the state of nature. Hunger pangs, terrible contractions of discomfort which begin 12-24 hours after not eating, can be so painful that it is difficult to concentrate on anything else. Add to this state the decreased level of blood sugar and general feeling of lightheadedness and anxiety, and hunger can be almost unbearable. Most people living in developed countries rarely feel real hunger pangs because they are able to eat at normal intervals – every 3-4 hours or so. However, the biological response is still rampant, and once the first sign of discomfort hits, many people instinctively race to stop the pain.

Motivation – The most basic ideas of motivation stems from the pain and pleasure principles. There are two types of motivation – extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic is when we are motivated by external things, like a piece of cake, when then stirs a biological response. Intrinsic motivation is internal, and could be anything from a thought or a memory that triggers the same biological response. Motivation is the desire to act to accomplish a goal or fulfill a need, such as eating or sleeping

Behavioral psychology – the most basic theories of behavioral psychology stem from the stimulus and response theory. A stimulus is noticed, a response follows due to that stimulus. The stimulus could be anything – a rabbit sees movement in the bushes, and flees to escape a preconceived notion of danger. the rabbit knew to flee because last time she saw movement in the bushes, a snake came out and lunged at her. The fear response kicked in from seeing the stimulus and caused her to flee. Now the rabbit knows that whenever she sees movement in the bushes, that she must run to avoid getting eaten. In humans this could transfer over to almost anything. The alarm clock makes an annoying buzzer sound, you shut it off and get out of bed. The commercial shows a delicious looking cheeseburger, you decide to buy from that restaurant that night.

What does this have to do with emotional eating? Everything.

When we eat, it is meant to fulfill a need. In nature, this need is strictly biological. We eat to stop the hunger pangs, and we eat to gain nutrition and to feel satiated. As a complex society, hunger means something completely different. We eat because we’re hungry, yes, but we eat for other reasons, too. We eat because we are bored. We eat because we are tired. Angry. Frustrated. Stressed. Sad. Annoyed. Happy.

Eating just got so much more complicated. Eating is no longer just a necessity, it is a social function. Eating is everywhere, at funerals, weddings, work meetings, movie theatres, and eating is shared as a community. Eating is also done after buying or cooking the food, not after hunting or gathering for hours or days. Eating is an easy task, and we don’t even have to cook at all to eat – we just pay other people to. Eating is done on purpose, and it is done as a social obligation. It is also done absentmindedly, when one is not paying full attention.

How do we stop emotional eating for good? We start paying attention.

  • Next time you eat, take note of the time and how you felt right before eating. Note how hungry you felt (on a scale of 1-5) and your mood.
  • Then write down exactly what you ate, including portion sizes and beverages. Note the time when you are finished.

Do this for a day, or a few days, to get a better view, and then sit down in a quiet spot and take a good, hard look. Do you notice any patterns of eating when not particularly hungry (at a score of 1 or 2), or only waiting to eat until you are starving (5) and then eating a large amount in one sitting? How about your mood? Do you eat when you are happy, sad, or mad? How long does it take you to eat? If you are eating in less than 5 minutes, then you are waiting too long to eat, or you eat too fast and don’t feel satisfied because you don’t notice what you are eating. The general rule is that the body needs 20 minutes before it realizes that it is full.

  • If you are not eating when you are hungry, wait until you feel like you’re at a 3-4 before eating. Consciously force yourself to wait until you feel physically hungry. Don’t just eat because it is a certain time of the day (“lunch time”) or because that’s when you’re friends are eating.
  • If you are waiting until you are at a 4-5, find out why you wait until you’re starving until you eat. Do you have a pattern of eating large meals in-between longer periods of time? Do you, for one reason or another (which you should find out and write down), skip meals?

Steps to Stop Emotionally Eating

If you are eating when you are sad/depressed/angry, catch yourself the next time you realize what you are doing. Stop yourself in your tracks and ask yourself, are you really, physically hungry? Do you need to eat to gain fuel and nutrition, or do you feel sad and need to distract yourself with food?

Physically remove yourself from the eating area and go somewhere else where no food is allowed. Stay there for at least 20-30 minutes, if not more.

Bring something to do, such as a journal to write in, polish to paint your nails, or a favorite book to read. Keep a stash of things to do and keep them around you so that whenever the feeling strikes you, you can distract yourself.

Do this every single time you find yourself eating when in a depressed state. Soon the process will become automatic, and you will disengage the link of [sad + food] to [sad + something else]. 

A lot of people have found that writing is the most helpful, so that they can write out their feelings and get it off their chests and away from their minds. But you can pick anything that is not food and that is ideally creative and constructive, not destructive. Find something that you genuinely love to do and find yourself getting lost in.

List of things to Do Instead of Eating

  • write a poem
  • write a short story
  • draw a picture of yourself
  • draw a picture of your pet
  • make a list of things you love about yourself
  • make a list of your goals and how you’re going to reach them
  • watch your favorite movie
  • watch a new movie
  • play a video game
  • find an online game to play
  • write a letter (real or online) to a friend
  • call a friend
  • go to the movies and skip the snack line
  • go to the mall and just walk around the area, avoiding the food court
  • go to a new park and walk around or enjoy the view
  • go to the beach and read in the sun
  • go play tennis
  • go read a book
  • write a book
  • paint a picture
  • go through your closet and organize your clothes
  • clean your entire room
  • listen to music really loud and dance in your room
  • talk a walk around the block with your dog or a friend/family member
  • start a blog or website
  • talk to people on forums
  • play with your pet
  • use stumbleupon to find interesting new sites
  • go through your photos and re-organize them or make a scrapbook
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How Positive Psychology Can Help Improve Your Life

Most psychology topics deal with dysfunction or mental illness, and it can take a toll on how we feel about the state of human life and question the intentions of people. However, the burgeoning field of positive psychology explores what makes life worth living, which can be a radical inspiration in the midst of  this crazy/beautiful life.

There are many things that the science of positive psychology has taught the world since its introduction just over a decade ago, such as that most people are happy and resilient and that strong relationships are critical to one’s sense of happiness, but perhaps the most significant one is that the good life can be taught. It is not by fate or genetics that people become happy. Happiness and feeling satisfied in one’s life truly is a journey that must be discovered through trial and error, of break ups and make ups, of reading and learning and experiencing all that life has to offer. So how can this scientific breakthrough help your life?

Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment. Grow out of your comfort zone and do something a little bit crazy. Explore a new city or town, meet a new friend, try a new dish. Take a class you would never have thought to take, read a book in a genre you thought you’d hate. Try a new exercise, a new fruit, make a recipe from scratch. Bake vegan brownies. Browse around Wikipedia and learn something new. Discover new heroes and inspirational figures. Watch the sunrise, watch the sunset. Learn a new sport, learn a new language. Try a new hobby. Try painting. The ideas are endless.

Keep your mind flexible by always reading and learning something new. Read a new blog article per day (such as this one) or a new chapter in an inspiring book. And keep your heart full by nourishing your relationships with your family, friends, and significant other. Give hugs and kisses, and talk on the phone and in person. Have deep, meaningful conversations.

Think about the positives, not the negatives. Whenever you catch yourself thinking a negative thought about yourself, catch it and re-write it in your mind so that it states something positive. Review an affirmation everyday and read your goals to keep your vision in your mind. Free write every morning in a journal and get out all of that negative thought garbage out of your head and literally rip up the page and throw it away. On a new page, write 10 things you love about yourself and 10 things you could do today to work towards your goals on improving yourself.

Think of your goals in a positive light, not negative one by stating that you wish to achieve financial abundance, not to get out of debt. Work out everyday to become a healthy, thin person instead of losing weight. Say that you want to only put healthy things in your mouth, don’t say that you want to stop eating junk food or drinking alcohol. Think of what to replace in your life, not what to get rid of, which usually has a negative connotation. Think back to operant conditioning, where the positive reinforcement system is better than a negative punishment. Think of giving yourself positive things in your life to increase good behaviors, rather than thinking of always adding punishment or decreasing good things to decrease bad behaviors. Not only will this way of thinking help you think of life as more satisfying and positive, but it also tells you more clearly what kind of life you are after, and not what you are not after.

Inspired by Psychology Today’s What is positive psychology and what is it not?

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Don’t Chase Your Dreams, Tackle Them into the Ground

dreamEveryone has at least one dream. Whether it’s to be a rock star, to own a huge mansion, to be the best author in the world, or to look hot — having dreams almost defines what makes us human. Fido over there doesn’t dream about losing five or ten pounds or finding the perfect doggie mate. (This of course, is different from dreaming at night when sleeping – quite a sight to see my dog “running” while laying down dead asleep.) Anyway, I digress.

The point is, you know what your dreams are, don’t you? When you’re bored surfing Facebook, trying to pay attention in class, or surviving a long work day, those dreams fade in and out of your mind. Sometimes you catch a mental image of that dream, such as being on the beach making passive income instead of slaving over at work for 60 hours a week. What is your image? Is it difficult to picture your dream? Search around for visuals of your dream online or in magazines. You can even cut out these pictures and glue them on a poster board and make a dream collage. You can have multiple dreams, maybe they even intersect.

So tell me: what are your dreams?

It is nice to dream, but dreaming gets you nowhere in life. Soon enough you wake up and face reality. Ouch. So how do you get yourself out of the mediocrity of your current situation? How do you use those dreams to your advantage? The key is to change these dreams, these fleeting images of happiness (what you deem happiness is, of course), into hardcore, no-fucking-around goals.

How do you do that? It’s quiet easy. You can use two popular models to help you:

First, do you want a S.M.A.R.T. goal? Just make them:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Now make your goals G.R.O.W. with these tips:

  • Goal – be specific (be S.M.A.R.T)
  • Reality – what is your current situation?
  • Options – what are your choices
  • Will – what will you do now? Commit to a choice from your options.
I’ll lead you with an example to help you get familiar with these great models.  My goal is to lose weight. Losing weight is at the top of everyone’s new year’s resolution lists, but it’s a terrible goal. It’s too vague, and it doesn’t tell you anything about how or why or when you know you’ve reached it. Here is how to make this goal S.M.A.R.T.
  • Specific – Say I want to lose 50 pounds. Losing 2 lbs a week is a healthy average, and a good goal to shoot for, so I want to achieve this goal in 25 weeks from the starting date. So if I start on August 1, 2011, my deadline would be 25 weeks from that – January 23, 2012. So I’ll say “I want to lose 50 pounds by January 23, 2012.”
  • Measureable – I will weigh myself once a week until I lose 50 pounds. The goal is 2 pounds a week to reach this goal by the deadline, so now I even have short-term weekly goals, which are easier to work on than a big goal like 50 pounds.
  • Attainable – I am overweight and I know being overweight sucks. So I know the urgency of wanting to lose weight for health and personal reasons. Know the reasons why you want to lose weight. You don’t have to list why in your goal, but it is helpful to think why you really want this goal in the first place. If you don’t really want it, what’s the point of reaching for it? This is where your dreams come into play – what will make you happy?
  • Realistic- Since I know a 2-lb a week weight loss is attainable and healthy, I know this is a realistic goal to shoot for. It’s not too within my reach like 10 pounds in 25 weeks, or overwhelming like 100 pounds in 25 weeks. Knowing what is attainable or not for your goal takes a bit of research.
  • Time-bound – The 25-week deadline is my element of urgency. If there’s no urgency, why bother doing it? Ever notice how you can slack off all semester for a term paper, but as soon as the day before it’s due comes, you’re working like a madperson to get it done – even sacrificing sleep and friends to finish writing that paper? Even better if the deadline is meaningful, maybe a big milestone birthday is coming up, or it’s March and you want to save up money for a very nice vacation this summer – Create urgency in your goal, and you’ll feel motivated to work harder for it.
To recap, my goal is: “I will lose 50 pounds at a rate of 2 pounds per week starting August 1 and ending January 23.”
Now that I’ve got a S.M.A.R.T. goal, let’s work on G.R.O.W.:
  • Goal – Just reiterating the S.M.A.R.T. goal I wrote above.
  • Reality – I eat too much, I don’t exercise, and I’m unhappy. (note: this is not entirely true, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s keep it like this.)
  • Options – I could lower my calorie intake by 500 per day. I could exercise and burn 500 calories per day. I could do both. I could be more active – park in further spots, walk during lunch break, go on hikes, play tennis.  (tons more to put here, but again, this is just for examples.)
  • Will – I decided to lose 50 pounds by eating 500 calories less per day and exercise daily, burning at least 500-750 calories per day. I could go on even further and explain how I will workout, (cardio or weight training or both, what programs, what weight amounts), and what time of the day (mornings, evenings, whenever I get out of work). The countdown of 25 weeks starts on August 1. But you should start tomorrow.
There you have it, so stop chasing your dreams – tackle them and start making goals with them.

Before something happens in the world, it must happen in your mind.
– Anthony Robbins

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Never Use the Word “Should”

♪ ♫ I hope someday you'll join us  ♪ ♫It is every person’s right to be free. But most people living in a typical civilized society are not exactly free. Sure, we have the freedoms of speech and religion and all that, but most are still slaving away for minimum wage at a hated job. You wake up too early, work too long, and don’t do nearly as many things as you desire to do, and bed time comes too soon. The days go by too quickly. You are left salivating like a dog whose owner forgot to feed. Laying in bed at night, probably having difficulty getting to sleep, what do your thoughts consist of? Things that needed to be done, bills that should get paid, chores that should have gotten done that day? Think about this. Are most of your thoughts full of “should”? Well you should never say or think that word again.

When you think in “shoulds,” your thoughts become what other people expect you to do. Some of these are important (obviously you should pay your mortgage, or risk losing the house), but others are just dragging you down and creating excess stress. I want you to write down the shoulds you think the most during the day and circle the ones you must or need to do to sustain a living, such as work or pay important bills.

Now that we’ve excluded the needs, what remains? Chores that can be delegated? Mindless office tasks or functions? Things you’ve said “yes” to but now regret? Find ways to delegate or get rid of these things. They are just adding extra stress to your life. More importantly, in the future, don’t think about what you should do, for others. Think about what you could do, and you begin to put yourself into perspective in your own life. This isn’t being selfish, this is taking care of the most important person in your life – you. By all means help others and do your part in chores and other things, but not if you are overwhelmed and hyper-extended. Balance yourself with the shoulds and coulds, and most of all, only do the shoulds unless you want to.

The positive is to replace these things that you COULD do now. You’ve just freed up more time to do stuff you COULD do to improve yourself. You will also minimize the stress that you have left by taking care of other parts of your life.

  • could you exercise for 15-20 minutes?
  • could you prepare healthier meals?
  • could you spend more time with family and friends?
  • could you read a book and spend time with yourself?
  • could you work on a special goal just for you?
The possibilities are endless. So start replacing SHOULD with COULD and see how your life can open up.
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Write a Letter to Yourself

Girl Mailing a LetterWriting a letter to yourself, to be delivered at a certain time in the future (say, 5 or 10 years), is a neat little surprise. You can reminisce about the times that you are currently having, to remind future-you. You can tell yourself that things will be okay, that everything works out in the end. You can even include pictures and other mementos, and make an entire time capsule of things that are important to you. Your future self will appreciate the memories of these good times, and they will always be treasured.

A modern way to do this is to write an email to be delivered in the future at any time, from next Friday to next year. You can write anything and even view public, anonymous letters that others have sent to their future selves. Read those for inspiration, and then write your own at FutureMe.org.

It is more romantic, however, to handwrite your own letter and to physically save it somewhere safe. Write “Do Not Open Until [date]” on the envelope, and remember to seal it to avoid peeking!

In 1999, when I was 10 years old, I came across this time capsule making kit. I loved the idea, and it came with a durable bag to put whatever I wanted inside the bag and a label to write the date to open. I set the date to ten years in the future, at 2009. I would be 20 years old. Ten years felt like a million from a child’s point of view. I filled the capsule with a softball trophy, a piece of my hair, some old pennies, a souvenir from a local baseball game, some pictures I drew and painted, and some of my favorite small toys. The last thing I placed into the capsule bag before sealing was a letter, and a list of reasons why I put each item into the time capsule.

When I finally opened it 10 years later, no longer in the room I grew up in, I was close to tears as I remembered what seemed like a long-lost childhood. It was also cute to see one of the first Beanie babies I had, and a rejection letter from trying out to be a National Anthem singer at the same baseball stadium where I kept the icecream hat cup. That rejection letter surprised me, how I could be so young and still be the ambitous person going for her dreams.

Reading the letter, however, nearly brought chills to my spine. When life feels like it is passing you by in a blur, and you don’t stop to realize how far you’ve come, life can get pretty dissatisfying. I could almost go back to the same exact day where I sat on the floor of my old childhood room, writing the letter which I held in my hands ten years later. I asked myself questions about what life was like as a twenty year old, which felt so old at just ten. Some of the things I wanted to do had been accomplished: finding a boyfriend, moving out, getting a job, completing high school, going to college. Other things I was still working on: being less shy, losing weight, finding a career path, getting married. It was completely amazing to find that my life had changed in so many ways, and to still be the same in others.

Action Step: Write a letter to future you, whether online or with pen and paper. Open and read it in 5-10 years. Write about your current life, your favorite memories, things you don’t want to forget. Write about goals you were working on, and ask yourself if you have completed them. Talk about people and places close to you. Talk about the state of the current world. Tell yourself that life is beautiful.

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Where are your keys?

Keys.I want you to spend the next 10 or so minutes thinking about one thing. Not the bills due, or the kids or the spouse, or college or term papers. Not friends’ drama, or what’s on the news, or Facebook. I want you to think about yourself. Answer these questions, even better if you answer them on paper:

What do you want out of life?

What are your goals?

Are you happy or unhappy? Why?

What will make you even more happy?

What can you do this month to move your goals forward? This week? Tomorrow?

It is time to stop mulling it over. It is time to stop brooding and thinking and wishing and hoping. It is time to start doing. To grab your keys – and go.

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