The Best Way to End Your Workday

Fully half of U.S. workers are now experiencing burnout (feelings of exhaustion, ennui, and negativity toward one’s occupation, overall symptoms of depression and anxiety). The rise of remote work, mobile email, and other technologies has made it difficult to disconnect but doing so has become more important than ever. Creating rituals that help you disengage from work so you can fully savor your free time is key. Author Markham Heid reviews current research and offers recommendations which include:

  • Finding and scheduling 30 minutes in the morning to write replies to E-mails that came in at the end of the previous day as you were preparing to wrap-up. Rather than just letting them linger, you have created a specific task for the next day and, in doing so, swapped out something your brain one categorize as n unfinished task for one that your brain can mark as “handled.”
  • Knocking out simple, completable tasks at the end of the workday — and avoiding complicated ones — is another good way to psychologically disconnect.
  • Don’t make checking (or worse, organizing) your inbox the last thing you do each day. “In terms of detachment, checking email is really a no-win scenario,” psychologist Brandon Smit says. “If there is nothing to attend to in your inbox, checking email was a small waste of time. If there is something urgent, a new task has now been activated in your mind, which will press for completion.”

You can read Markham Heid full article, “The Best Way to End Your Workday” at https://elemental.medium.com/the-best-way-to-end-your-workday-c91caf4677d5.

The Healthy Habit Countdown

Looking for a novel approach to improving your wellness? Consider the healthy habit countdown challenge! Health behavior change is usually most successful when done gradually. Below you will find a countdown to guide you in that gradual change. In the coming weeks, consider focusing on one of these goals (steps, sleep, water intake, etc.) and only that goal for a period of two weeks. Once you have worked toward and maintained that goal, move on to the next. The order below will work for some, but if starting by upping your steps seems too much, and reducing electronic usage before bed is more feasible, start there. Reorder the list as needed, and then start your countdown to better health!

Diets Make You Feel Bad. Try Training Your Brain Instead.

A recent New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope shared that “there’s mounting scientific evidence to suggest that diets don’t work. Research shows that food restriction just makes you want to eat more. And over the long term, dieting can backfire, triggering your body’s survival defenses, slowing your metabolism and making it even harder to lose weight in the future.”

The alternative is to is a new approach to healthy eating based on brain science. According to Dr. Judson Brewer “the paradigms around willpower don’t work, you have to start by knowing how your mind works.”

One tip offered by Dr. Brewer, mapping your eating habits, is outlined below. Read the full article, including more tips and links to additional resources, can be found at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/03/well/eat/healthy-eating-habits-new-year.html

Mapping Your Eating Habits.

Use this exercise to work on an eating behavior you’d like to change, like excessive snacking or ordering fast food. Our eating habits have three elements: a trigger, a behavior and a result. By mapping your habits, you can provide your brain with new information about how the habit really makes you feel. You can download a worksheet on Dr. Brewer’s website to help you with this exercise.

  • Start by choosing one eating behavior you’d like to change. Maybe you want to snack less during the day, cut back on takeout or indulgences like cookies, potato chips or ice cream. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying these foods, you’ve identified this as a problematic eating behavior. Why is that?

  • Now think about what triggers this behavior. Is it an emotion, like anger or stress, or are you rewarding yourself with a treat? Or it could be a situation, like watching television or grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

  • Focus on the result. Before you eat, ask yourself some questions. What am I getting from this? How will eating this food make me feel? Think about how you felt the last time you ate it. Did you enjoy it? Did you end up eating too much? Did you feel uncomfortably full or nauseous? Did you feel guilty later and beat yourself up for eating it? Thinking about how a food makes you feel before, during and after you eat updates the information your brain has about how rewarding (or not) a food really is. And it can help break the hold a particular food has on you.

100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying in the new year

Whether it’s taking fruit to work or being polite to rude strangers there are countless ways to make your life better in the new year with little effort involved. The Guardian recently summarized this in their article “100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying.” Below are the top 10, but check out the article for the full list at https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/jan/01/marginal-gains-100-ways-to-improve-your-life-without-really-trying

  • Exercise on a Monday night (nothing fun happens on a Monday night)
  • On the fence about a purchase? Wait 72 hours before you buy it.
  • Tip: the quickest supermarket queue is always behind the fullest cart (greeting, paying and packing take longer than you think).
  • Bring fruit to work, bring fruit to bed!
  • Consider going down to four days a week. It’s likely a disproportionate amount of your fifth day’s work is taxed anyway, so you’ll lose way less than a fifth of your take-home pay.
  • Everyone has an emotional blind spot when they fight. Work out what yours is, and remember it.
  • Plant spring bulbs, even if they’re just in a pot.
  • Send a voice note instead of a text; they sound like personal mini podcasts.
  • Keep a bird feeder by a window, ideally the kitchen. It’ll pass the time when you’re washing up.
  • Always bring ice to house parties (there’s never enough).

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/jan/01/marginal-gains-100-ways-to-improve-your-life-without-really-trying

4 Steps to Fun

Prioritizing fun may feel impossible right now, but science journalist Catherine Price offers a four-step plan to help you rediscover how to feel more alive. In a recent New York Times column, she summarizes some of the key points from her book “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again.” These include findings from five years or research into the question of what makes us feel the most engaged and alive. She feels that many people radically underestimate how important fun is to their resilience, happiness, and mental and physical health, and offers these four starting points to help change that. You can read the full article at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/23/well/mind/having-fun-suceeding-coronavirus-pandemic.html

Most Beautiful News of the Year

As we continue to round out the year we can acknowledge but the difficulties and challenges that we have faced individually and as a group, and also at the same time give some attention to the good things that have happened. To that end, the folks over at informationisbeautiful.net have put together an interactive graph of the most beautiful and inspirational news of the year. Whether you are interested in the environment, health, or community there were many good things. Check it out!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Holiday Social Anxiety

Jancee Dunn of the New York Times recently wrote: “Last winter, with the Covid-19 pandemic in full force, some families sat out the festivities, keeping celebrations with friends and family small or virtual. Some even admitted that the slower pace worked for them, said Thema Bryant, president-elect of the American Psychological Association and a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University. Now, with nearly 60 percent of the country fully vaccinated and restrictions loosened, all the things we took a pass on last year seem to be roaring back — and many are feeling uncomfortably out of practice when it comes to social situations. Not everyone, it turns out, is ready to party like it’s 2019.”

Whether you think you are completely ready for the holidays, are dreading it, Dunn offers the following advice that can help you get through the season. You can read her full article at, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Holiday Social Anxiety,” at NYTimes.com.

  • Reflect on What You Missed (and Didn’t) During the Pandemic: We all only have so much social energy these days, so be sure to reflect on what you did and did not miss throughout the pandemic, and spend your social energy wisely only on those things that you truly missed.
  • Leaving the House is a Win: If you have committed to leaving the house to socialize for even just a little you have already won. But be sure to prepare yourself before hand, have some tools to cope if you get overwhelmed during, and plan some self care afterward. For example, listen to music that matches you want to be in for the party before going, know where to sneak away to during the party to takes some deep breaths and reset and, when you get home, get right into your bedtime routine.
  • Know the Difference Between Pre-Party Jitters and Anxiety: Nervousness before coming into a social setting is common, said Itai Danovitch, an associate professor and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. “But if you find that your anxiety is distressing and disproportionate and interferes with your daily living, and is preventing you from doing things that you would otherwise be doing, then that impact on function is an indicator that there’s a problem.” If this anxiety is persistent and recurs in multiple settings, Dr. Danovitch added, “it’s a good idea to be evaluated by a professional to determine if you have an anxiety disorder.”
  • If You’ve Ventured Out, Be Present: Have a review of the wellness programs “Minute to Arrive” exercise and apply these principles as you get to your gathering, and keep them in mind if you need them throughout to stay present and focused on what is actually in front of you.

Dialectics for the Holidays!

The period from late November through to the new year is marked by multiple secular and religious holidays. For many people these holidays can mean trying to balance multiple competing priorities, and ostensibly competing emotions. For those looking for some guidance on how to navigate this we can turn to the world of DBT, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

In DBT, the term dialectical refers a synthesis or integration of opposites. Observing and reconciling these dialectics leads to relief of distress and overall improve wellbeing by helping people get unstuck from extreme positions, e.g. “either I host the perfect holiday dinner or I am a failure.”

The image below highlights a number of dialectics that people often get trapped in, especially during the holidays. Have a look, see which might hit home with you, and take a moment to consider how you can honor both sides of the dialectic today and going forward.

Mindfulness Meditation: Gratitude at Thanksgiving

As we have highlighted throughout the month of November, gratitude is an important part of psychological wellbeing, and has several health benefits. As we prepare for Thanksgiving we are invited to pay extra close attention to gratitude, to all we are thankful for. This can be a busy time of excitement for some, a time of anxiety for others, and there are those of us who will experience sadness through this and other upcoming holidays. Regardless of what emotions you are experiencing, making space for an eased sense of gratitude can be helpful.

As such, today we will spend a few minutes acknowledging our appreciation, followed by three minutes of restorative silence. Let’s begin…