How to Feel Better Fast When Life Goes Wrong

Beautiful-SkyEver have one of those days where you just felt like giving up? Where one thing seems to pile on the next, and all of a sudden your whole life appeared to be spirling out of control?

It happens. Even the most self-assured, confident people end up in situations where they just end up feeling badly about themselves.

The good news is: It’s all changeable.

It doesn’t matter if we feel like failures, losers, like we’re wasting our life, or that we’ve ruined our life.

Even if our string of undesirable events has lasted weeks, months – or longer, there are reliable, scientifically-proven ways to feel better. You’re about to find out how.

Why We Keep Feeling Badly

Before we look at how to feel better, it makes sense to first understand why, when we feel badly, we often continue feeling badly – even long after the negative event(s) occured.

After all, it’s not the feeling badly that’s really the problem. It’s when we can’t seem to recover from feeling badly.

 

Just like a doctor tends to find out what’s wrong with us before prescribing medication (or so we can hope), by understanding why it is we feel bad we can make direct steps to feel better.

To show you how this works, let’s take an example most people are familiar with: Christmas Music.

When it comes to holiday classics, people are generally in 1 of 2 camps: love or hate.

Why do some people hate Christmas music?

Because it readily gets stuck in one’s head, and is nearly impossible to remove.

Even long after the music has stopped playing.

Kid’s songs can do the same. Katia has worked in some kindergardens, and sometimes plays a new children’s song that she’ll be doing with her class in the morning. At noon, I can find myself humming “Old MacDonald” without even realizing that it’s there, stuck in my subconscious like peanut butter to the roof of my mouth.

Negative events and negative emotions can be like Christmas music or children’s music: they get caught in a mental loop that can be ridiculously hard to break.

This is often misdiagnosed as an individual having low self esteem. But low self esteem is rarely the actual problem! It’s got far more to do with these mental loops that play over and over – as if we’re stranded at the mall during holiday season without any earplugs.

So now let’s see how to break them.

How to Feel Better: Start With Body Language

Body language is what I’d call the real form of “positive self talk”. The power of body language is well known to anyody with more than a casual involvement with the animal kingdom – for instances displays of dominance and aggression, but we easily forget what an important role it plays in our own lives.

We are biologically wired not only to understand and react to the body language of others – displays of dominance, aggression, empathy, happiness, and others – but our own as well.

In her TED Talk, Amy Cuddy shows that perhaps we are how we stand determines even more than we are what we eat:


I enjoy doing a silly exercise courtesy of a Micky Mouse animation I remember seeing in childhood. Mickey would walk with a bounce in his step, and certainly wasn’t lacking for arm swinging action (think: strutting). So I came up with a facimile: With as much vigor as possible, I’d basically walk with two “bounces” in your legs for every step. Basically, you just have to take a step forward, and then bend your back knee twice before taking another step. Bonus points for a huge grin.

It looks ridiculous, but I can say this much: It’s basically impossible to be upset while doing it.

And if you want to add to the effect, could could always…

Put on Upbeat Music

Music is deeply connected to how we feel. If you ever get the chance to watch a movie with the sound track removed you’ll know what I mean. Music is often the thing that drives our emotions in scenes of suspense, surprise/fear, and romance.

And in our lives, music can quickly and drastically alter our mood. That’s why it’s important to choose upbeat music, not slow, sad, themes that would fit in at a funeral march or an angsty-teen party. There’s a good reason so many athletes listen to pumping techno tracks while they work out.

From Scientific American:

“Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency.” and that “one could think of music as ‘a type of legal performance-enhancing drug’.”

So when it comes to driving a wedge into a negative pattern of thought, as well as helping us achieve a much desired endorphin-release, our favorite tunes can go a long way.

Now, we could do this in the comfort of our basement with the blinds drawn and the lights dimmer, but for even better results, it’s better to think of this like a cake recipe and combine this ingredient with…

Moving Your Body

In a detailed article about the link between mood and exerise, the American Psychological Association quotes Dr. Michael Otto,:

“Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.” and “Exercise may be a way of biologically toughening up the brain so stress has less of a central impact”.

And if you don’t dig psychology, then maybe it’s time to get your heavy-duty shovels out and consider the anthropological angle: We evolved to cope with a wildly different type of stress than the modern ones we face today: gridlock traffic, a sluggish economy, and sedentary lifestyles.

Throughout human history, whenever people felt fear, anxiety, worry, and other negative emotions, it often meant there was an immenant threat of some sort.

And that usually meant one of 2 things: Fight. Or flight.

In any case, you were about to become fully physically engaged, and a short time later, the situation would be resolved.

A simplistic explanation, but the underlying truth is this: we are built to move both in order to feel good and to stop feeling bad.

Personally, I prefer short, intense bursts of activity to long, drawnout ones (like running marathons) – which I consider different sorts of chronic stressors that will wear out our bodies physically over time. But different strokes for different folks. Some people find a 2 hour jog to be rather relaxing and meditative.

Of course, you don’t have to run. Movement is the key: dance, swim, ride a bike, do parkour, gymnastics, yoga, tai-bo. Whatever it is that turns your crank.

And you can make this technique even more powerful when you…

Spend quality time with a friend

While I’m on the anthropology kick, we may as well take a look at the fact that, in addition to being built for movement, humans are also programmed to be social.

Evolving in tribes of up to 150 individuals, we have every reason to believe that the well being of our ancestors was strongly tied to the strength of their social ties, just as it is today.

When we’re feeling badly about things, we often want to have someone to vent our feelings to. That has a time and a place, but it’s not what our goal is here.

Here, we want to keep our focus away from our problems, and friends are one of the surest ways of doing this. The fact that we’re spending time with someone we trust and relate to is the most important factor – it could be at a restaurant, playing a sport, or anything else where we are engaged with our friend(s).

That is to say, where we’re spending our time not just in the presence of another person – while watching a movie, playing video games, or the like – but having a real interaction.

Of course, when we feel down, it’s possible to feel like we don’t have anyone who wants to spend time with us, or that we want to spend time with.

In that case, it might be better to meet up with some new people through a hobby, volunteering, or a community event. CouchSurfing, where I often go to find affordable (read: free) accommodation in new cities and get a local perspective on things can also be a great way to meet new & interesting people in your own city, as there will often be meetups for members at any given locale.

If that’s too intimidating and you’re not so keen on meeting strangers, then I’d like you to…

Remember, you don’t have to FEEL good in order to take positive action:

Maybe you don’t feel like doing a single thing on this list. Maybe you find yourself saying “that will never work” to every suggestion that’s crossed your path. Fine. Pick something and do it anyway.

We often let our emotions be in complete control over whether or not we get into action. If that’s the case, then there will always be the potential that we fall victim to cirumstances outside our control.

Of course, if we can have a strong positive emotion driving us, things are easier. But if not, we can use the practice of being mindful in order to overcome the resistence generated by our negative emotions.

Usually, when we feel negative emotions – the conversation is over. “I don’t feel like it” says the mind, and we stay stuck. By being mindful – literally, the simple act of noticing and accepting our feelings without ascribing quality or passing judgement, lets us act freely in spite of them.

During my travels, there have been countless times I’ve felt frustrated – by bureaucratic nonsense & red tape, by people, by stores or offices being closed at the wrong times, by unexpected expenses & delays, and a host of other friends. If not for the fact that I’m incredibly grateful for my lifestyle and value even the difficult times (at least – in hindsight), I’d say frustration has been one of my closest travel companions.

And yet, now, when I feel frustrated, it rarely causes my to lose my cool. I’ve learned that it’s possible to act in my best interest regardless of the color or heat of the ichor pumping through my veins.

You can do the same. You can greet your feelings, acknowledge them, and then carry on.

It’s like this: We often spend our time looking for something to make us happy. Instead of this approach, we can ask ourselves “if I were already happy, what would I be doing?” In a pinch, this is the fastest way to find some positive action to take.

So now the floor is yours. What do you do to feel better when life takes an unexpected turn for the worse? Let us know in the comments below.

Top 100 Tiny Buddha Articles – The Definitive Self Improvement Collection

TinyBuddhaTinyBuddha.com is one of the world’s best loved personal development blogs, with over 4 million readers visiting every month.

Founder Lori Deschene developed a large, passionate community of readers and authors, and as she says herself, “Though I run this site, it is not mine. It’s ours.”

I’ve contributed several articles myself, and the website was part of the inspiration for my own website, Cracking The Happiness Code.

One of the things I love about TinyBuddha – it’s a perfect example of how the internet has and is democratizing access to knowledge and information. No longer does the student of personal growth have to shell out $5,000 bucks to have a hotshot guru have us walk over fiery coals, blow even hotter air up our collective colons, and leave us with little but a scorching sensation in our wallets.

Now, we can pop online, fire up good ol’ Google, and be inundated with delectable personal development ambrosia in a matter of minutes.

There just one problem – there’s so much material available it can be hard to know where to look, and we can get mired in a sea of mediocrity instead of riding the glorious waves of personal progress.

Even on a site such as TinyBuddha, where the quality has remained high for years – it’s nevertheless the case that almost 1000 writers have contributed guest posts, and there are over 40,000 indexed pages to sift through.

TB page count

 

I don’t know how many lifetimes you have available for that, or if you employ a team of highly trained, erudite, and ambitious chimpanzees to help sort best from the rest.

So I decided to take it upon myself to create a list of the best personal development blog posts ever to be published on TinyBuddha.

It took over 8 hours to put it all together, but at last – we have it.

Selection Method

In order to objectively pick the most popular articles, I needed data from those 4-5 million monthly visitors. So instead of a team of genius chimps, I went to my friends from SEMRush and Moz – whose SEO tools I employ while wearing my SEO consulting hat.

I was able to discover how many people had shared a given article on social media, like “votes” for that article.

I was also able to see how many people had linked to each article from their own blogs – much stronger votes in my opinion, as clicking “like” or “Tweet” is a rather less dedicated action than intentionally putting a reference in one’s writing.

mozshot TB

So, after the votes were all tallied, I filtered out the other 39,000 pages and was left with the top 100 posts on Tiny Buddha.

I’ve grouped them into categories to make it easier to find articles on the theme your most interested in: overcoming negative emotions, being present and mindful, love & trust, change, happiness, relationships, and passion & purpose.

So without further ado, here’s the list:

Overcoming Negative Emotions

Life is easy when things go well, the real challenge is how to react when things don’t go as we expected and planned. How quickly we recover from setbacks, how well we cope under pressure, how we think and act when the unexpected occurs – these are the things that set happy people apart.

  1. 40 Ways to Let Go and Feel Less Pain by Lori Deschene
  2. 6 Secrets to Moving On From Serious Struggles by Beth Burgess
  3. 10 Tips to Overcome Negative Thoughts: Positive Thinking Made Easy by Michelle Uy
  4. 20 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Angry with Someone by Lori Deschene
  5. Dealing with Uncomfortable Feelings & Creating Positive Ones by Lori Deschene
  6. 10 Ways to Complain Less and Be Happier by Lauren Stewart
  7. 10 Ways to Let Go and Overcome a Bad Mood by Lori Deschene
  8. 3 Reasons to Stop Worrying About Your Negative Thoughts by Lisa Esile
  9. 4 Lessons on Conquering Fear and Living the Life You Want to Live by Ashley Johns
  10. 40 Ways to Give Yourself a Break by Lori Deschene
  11. 5 Tips to Stop Stressing About Being Perfect So You Can Enjoy Life by Ken Myers
  12. Accept Imperfection: Making Peace with “Pieces in Progress” by Melanie Edwards
  13. Finding Joy in the Ruins of a Crushed Dream by Jen Saunders
  14. Healing Depression by Taking Care of Your Mind, Body, and Spirit by Andrea Lewis
  15. How to Forgive Someone When It’s Hard: 30 Tips to Let Go of Anger by Lori Deschene
  16. The Power of Patience: Let Go of Anxiety and Let Things Happen by Cloris Kylie Stock
  17. Uplifting Depression: 15 Unexpected Lessons from Adversity by Noch Noch

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Being Present

Life is only lived in the present, and as much as we may like to plan for the future or reminicse about the past, the experiences that make our life full, vibrant experiences only happen now.

For instance, I get a ton of pleasure out of anticipating my next big tour through Europe, Asia, or South America – in fact, in many ways, the anticipation is probably more pleasureable than many of the events! But we have to balance our desires for the future with the needs of the moment. This is where we find beace, contentment, and happiness.

TinyBuddha provides a wealth of information about meditative & mindfulness practice, as well as other ways to be fully engaged in the moment.

  1. 5 Lessons about Being Present: Freedom is Where My Feet Are by Erin Lanahan
  2. 5 Meditation Tips for People Who Don’t (Yet) Like to Meditate by Sarah Rudell Beach
  3. Let Go of Control: How to Learn the Art of Surrender by Dr. Amy Johnson
  4. Creating an Inner Peace That Endures by Marilyn Briant
  5. The Gift of Anxiety: 7 Ways to Get the Message and Find Peace by Ariella Baston
  6. 20 Ways Sitting in Silence Can Completely Transform Your Life by Samuel Gentoku McCree
  7. 8 Ways to Make Meditation Easy and Fun by Goddess Leonie
  8. 7 Obstacles to Mindfulness and How to Overcome Them by Henri Junttila
  9. 10 Ways to Slow Down and Still Get Things Done by Lori Deschene
  10. 50 Things You Can Control Right Now by Lori Deschene
  11. Realizing You Have Everything You Need by Brian Webb
  12. The Power of Acceptance: Stop Resisting and Find the Lesson by Anonymous
  13. What Gifts Have You Gained from the Pains of Your Past? by AmyKate Gowland

Beautiful-Woman-in-Field

Love & Trust

We cannot be truly satisfied with our lives without loove and trust. First, the love of self, which we can then expand to the people close to us, and later the greater, wider world.

Trust allows us to act in the face of uncertainty. Trust in ourselves, our judgment, and in others. It creates space for compassion, creates space to invest our time and energy in things even when we don’t see a benefit to ourselves.

  1. 5 Ways to Feel More Love & Compassion for Yourself & Others Erin Lanahan
  2. Sharing Yourself Without Worrying About Being Accepted Erin Lanahan
  3. Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself Interview: Erin Lanahan
  4. Following Your Internal Compass and Making Your Own Decisions Greg Frucci
  5. How to Love Your Authentic Self  by Lori Deschene
  6. 5 Steps to Deal with Self-Doubt and Trust Your Self Again Petrea Hansen-Adamidis
  7. 50 Ways to Show Gratitude for the People in Your Life by Lori Deschene
  8. 7 Things to Remember When You Think You’re Not Good Enough Madison Sonnier
  9. Dealing with Loss and Grief: Be Good to Yourself While You Heal Lynn Newman
  10. How Being Vulnerable Can Expand Your World by Wendy Miyake
  11. How to Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin Mary Dunlop
  12. Stop Assuming the Worst: Your Thoughts Shape Your Reality Cloris Kylie Stock
  13. The Greatest Act of Love Is Letting Go Joanna Warwick
  14. The Secret to (High) Self Esteem Susie Newday
  15. Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself Interview: Emma Brooke
  16. You Are Good Enough and You Deserve the Best Alesha Chilton
  17. You Don’t Need to Fix Yourself to Be Healed  Danea Horn

love and trust

Change

It can be scary and uncomfortable, but it is necessary for life and growth. Since change will happen whether or not we want it to, we may as well learn to direct change in ways that create positive results in our lives: learning, growing, connecting, overcoming challenges, and gaining wisdom in different fields & endeavors.

  1. 6 Life Lessons on Embracing Change and Impermanence by Vishnu
  2. Dealing with Uncertainty: 5 Tips to Create Trust and Patience by Erin Lanahan
  3. The Power of Change: How Leaving Home Can Bring You Home by Erin Lanahan
  4. Letting Go and Starting Over When It’s Hard by Tina Robbins
  5. 50 Ways to Open Your World to New Possibilities by Lori Deschene
  6. 10 Powerful Benefits of Change by Ani Chibukhchyan
  7. 7 Ways to Deal with Uncertainty: Be Happier and Less Anxious by Lori Deschene
  8. Why Acceptance Isn’t Passive and How It Leads to Positive Change by Cloris Kylie Stock
  9. How to Deal with Criticism Well: 25 Reasons to Embrace It by Lori Deschene
  10. How to Find Your Path When Life Suddenly Changes by Cloris Kylie Stock
  11. How to Start a Gratitude Practice and Change Your Life by Helen Russell
  12. How Simple Mini Habits Can Change Your Life by Stephen Guise
  13. One New Year’s Resolution That Creates Lasting Change by Lori Deschene
  14. 10 Ways I Know There’s Nothing Wrong with You (or Me) by Lori Deschene
  15. Speaking Up When You’re Bullied, in School and Beyond by Blair Shackle
  16. Overcome 8 Common Limiting Beliefs That May Keep You Stuck by Victoria Gigante

Uncertainty

Happiness

Happiness, or whatever other word we choose to replace it with: joy, contentment, satisfaction, peacefulness, bliss – is one of the most important parts of leading a full life.

At this point, we know enough about the art & science of happiness to be able to create it with a decent amount of predictably. Certain behaviors, environments, and social settings are simply more condusive to happiness to others. We can all change how much happiness we experience by learning to change thhese factors.

  1. Life is Happening FOR Us: All Things Are Gifts by Erin Lanahan
  2. Happy Is As Happy Does: Make Your Own Joy in Life by Amy Clover
  3. 60 Things to Be Grateful For In Life by Celestine Chua
  4. 8 Ways to Be More Confident: Live the Life of Your Dreams by Lori Deschene
  5. 40 Little Things That Make a Big Difference in Your Day by Lori Deschene
  6. 40 Ways to Feel More Alive by Lori Deschene
  7. 50 Things to Love about Life That Are Free by Lori Deschene
  8. Are Your Expectations Setting You Up for Disappointment? by Amanda Christian
  9. 7 Reasons to Be Happy Even if Things Aren’t Perfect Now by  Lori Deschene
  10. How to Create a Balanced Life: 9 Tips to Feel Calm and Grounded by Jasmin Tanjeloff
  11. Be Stress-Free: Eliminate 5 Common, Unnecessary Stressors by Juha Kaartoluoma
  12. How to Wake up Every Morning on Top of The World by  Srinivas Rao
  13. 3 Lessons from Traveling That Lead to Everyday Happiness by Ehren Prudhel

Happy-Guy

 

Relationships

Humans are not isolated individuals. We are connected to each other in ways we might consider a colony of ants or a hive of bees. Evolving in groups of up to 150 individuals, humans are part individual part group-mind.

Thus, our relationships are one of the most important parts of our lives. Even if we had a difficult upbringing or faced other adverse circumstances, we can develop strong, deep, meaningful relationships with other people. As usual, it all starts with how we run our own mind.

  1. How to Let Go of a Past Relationship: 10 Steps to Peacefully Move On by Lori Deschene
  2. 10 Ways to Deal with Negative or Difficult People by Lori Deschene
  3. 10 Ways to Create a Strong, Intimate Relationship by Lynn Newman
  4. 7 Vital Choices for Happy Relationships by Lori Deschene
  5. How to Feel More Loved: 9 Tips for Deep Connection by Lori Deschene
  6. How to Release and Prevent Resentment in Your Relationships by Anonymous
  7. How to Set Healthy Boundaries: 3 Crucial First Steps by Britt Bolnick
  8. How to Let Go of the Fear of Being Hurt Again by Cloris Kylie Stock
  9. How to Overcome the Pain of Rejection by Cloris Kylie Stock
  10. The Foundation of Love: Releasing Judgments and Expectations – by Carolyn Hidalgo

Love1

Passion & Purpose

Doing meaningful work and making a contribution to the world has been proven to be one of the core factors of leading a happy life. That may mean different things to different people – a career, building a business, doing charity work, or pursuing a hobby or other creative interest.

Whatever it is for us, it’s important not to wait until “someday” to start paying attention to this area of our lives.

  1. 8 Ways to Discover Your Passion and Live a Life You Love by Ashley Wilhite
  2. 5 Questions To Ask Yourself If You’re Not Where You Thought You’d Be by Katie Manning
  3. 10 Journaling Tips to Help You Heal, Grow and Thrive by Loran Hills
  4. 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Up on Your Dream by Lori Deschene
  5. 6 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever by James McWhinney
  6. 8 Ways We Block Our Creativity and Keep Ourselves Stuck by Harish Kumar
  7. Baby Steps: A Simple Guide to Doing Something New by  Harriet Cabelly
  8. Discovering Happiness through Purpose in 3 Natural Steps by Scott Dinsmore
  9. How to Be a Leader without Really Trying by Erin Lanahan
  10. Eliminate These 5 Words to Create the Life of Your Dreams by Victoria Gigante
  11. Freeing Yourself When You Feel Limited or Stuck by Aekta Kapoor
  12. Get Started on Your Dream: Clear the 5 Most Daunting Hurdles by Rashmie Jaaju
  13. How to Grow from Mistakes and Stop Beating Yourself Up by Michelle Ghilotti Mandel
  14. How to Make a Difficult Decision: 30 Ideas to Help You Choose – by Lori Deschene

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That’s the list! If you found it useful, please consider sharing it on social media so other people can discover the incredible resource that is TinyBuddha.

How to Enjoy Anything: A Simple 3-Step Formula

A large part of our days are filled with monotonous, routine tasks.

Chores around the house, shopping, banking. Hardly the sort of stuff to get one’s heart pumping, with the adrenaline-spiking, pupil-dilating sort of excitement a lot of us could sorely benefit from.

But what if it could? What if we could make the ordinary, extraordinary?

Well I have great news, today you’re going to discover one of my favorite techniques for enjoying anything, and the 3 simple steps you can take to make it happen.

Ready?

Eating Humble Pie

When I was growing up, I was an extremely picky eater. My palate consisted of cereal (which I usually ate 3x a day), some fruit, plenty of meat, eggs, nuts, and potato chips – as well as any other form of deep fried potato.

Long story short – dishes with multiple ingredients were basically out. And about half of the things we would classify as “food” today.

It seemed like I was locked out of the extreme ends of the “healthy food” spectrum. I didn’t enjoy toxic concoctions such as Coke or hot dogs, but nor did I consume much in terms of vegetables, with carrots being the notable exception due to their sweetness.

Hell. I didn’t eat pizza until I was 13, when the peer pressure became so much that I simply caved and ate it anyway.

But my favorite one: When I was around 8 years old, my grandfather had to bribe me with $5 to try rice.

Normally people avoid rice because it’s bland and boring. I, on the other hand, thought it was going to be gross.

It wasn’t until I was in university that I decided to get a handle on this – partially for social reasons partially for health reasons, and partially psychological – I didn’t want this limitation.

So I picked a target to pick as my new food passion, to obsess over and incessantly glorify: Corn.
With my family, I’d be melodramatic about how much I loved our fine yellow friend, while maintaining an underlying seriousness that was unwavering.

I loved corn.

And I made sure the world knew.

Of course, at the start I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but all the dramatic “mmmms” and consistent extolling of it’s virtues (“absolutely delectable with a bit of melted butter and salt”) changed my mind rather quickly.

In matter of weeks, corn became a legitimate favorite of mine.

Which was somewhat ironic, because after I read about the Paleo diet I basically stopped eating it.

But the floodgates had opened. I became more ambitious, adding broccoli and kale to my smorgasbord of innovative delicacies.

Now, I eat – quite literally, probably 5x as many foods as I used to – though I admit I haven’t made a complete list.

All because I changed the way I acted and ran my mind.

And the great part that making life easy and fun is…easy and fun!

Here are the 3 keys to succeeding with your new outlook.

1) Be Ridiculously Enthusiastic:

Positivity has been shown to improve our ability to learn, and apparently this doesn’t only apply to history facts or algebra. Forming new connections in the mind happens faster when we’re positive and engaged.

And positivity goes beyond thinking – it’s the way we use our voice (think: tone and pitch), hold our bodies, move, and so on. Thinking is important too, of course, but acting the part sends our minds the message that this is real, and our thoughts had best reflect the reality.

2) Be Silly…Almost:

I picked something that I would find internally amusing to fawn over. I mean really, who in their right mind would obsess over corn. I also did this with doing the dishes with Katia in our St. Petersburg apartment.

With the dishes it worked even better, because this is a chore that most people try to avoid. I got a lot of pleasure just from breaking the expectation that dishes = annoying and boring housework.
Sometimes I would sing while I cleaned them. And I remember telling Katia once, “you’re so sweet letting me play while you do all that work setting up the movie.”

Maybe it sound strange, but it works. I also love doing dishes.

3) Be consistent:

Once I chose a target, whether it was corn, broccoli, kale, or doing dishes, I was consistent with my message, both externally and internally.

I never told the world how much I loved corn while internally grumbling about how much it sucks.

That sort of incongruity will prevent the sort of rapid transformations I experienced.

Flossing may not be the most pleasant thing to do, but if you’re consistent about your message, you can say you love it, act as if you love it, and you will end up loving those 5 minutes before bed when you take care of your oral hygiene.

The point is, there are so many of these little activities and innocuous matters of taste that affect the quality of experience we have.

I think – why not try to enjoy everything. If I’m going to have to scrub the scum off the bathtub, repair a window, eat liver & onions (which I actually love, by the way), stand in long lines and do bureaucratic nonsense – then I figure I have the options of hating every minute or loving every minute.

Why not choose love?

The great thing is that you can develop this attitude as a habit and apply it anywhere – and the more you do it the easier it will become.

Expect it to be the most challenging the first time. Doubts are okay. Inaction isn’t.

Maybe you start like I did, with a fairly soft target. Corn was hardly a big stretch for my taste buds to accept as pleasant. For you that might mean a small activity like brushing your teeth or changing the bed sheets.

But a massive change in quality of a single, small activity has compound benefits, for your good mood will trickle in to your next endeavor, just as a bad or neutral mood would have, and make that experience better too.

This is, so far as I know, one of the fastest ways to make life easy and fun.

So pick your target, one activity that you want to turn into an irrational passion, and commit to making it an absurdly enjoyably part of your day.

Let me know what you chose in the comments below.

Busyness & Overwhelm: The Unexpected Advantage of Having No Time

Do you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? You’re too busy for the important things in life: friends, family, hobbies, passions?

Funny how, even though we all get the same 24 hours a week, we can end up feeling like there’s no time!

Busyness can often be a trap – as we fill our schedules to the breaking point in order to avoid the truth that we haven’t found something meaningful to invest our time in. Overwhelm seems like a better alternative to facing reality.

But what if I told you that your lack of time – the thing that, right now, you may feel is suffocating you, is actually one of the greatest opportunities you’ll ever have to achieve more than you imagines was possible.

Sounds crazy right?

It’s not. It’s all about the adversity advantage – one of the mindsets I’ve used to learn languages, write a fast-growing advice blog, find my dream job despite no job experience, run a no-training marathon, and achieve the improbable.

The Adversity Advantage: Turning “No Time” Into Incredible Success

Not having enough time is one of the primary excuses we cite for not getting our big goals done and achieve those full HD, technicolor dreams we have.

And it is an excuse, pure and simple.

Starting with the fact that it’s ultimately up to us whether or not we take on a whole host of obligations that take away time from our goals.

It’s also up to us whether or not we let that stop us.

Lately, I’ve taken on way more than I can reasonably chew. My past self might have crumbled under the pressure. My present self sees it as one more opportunity to thrive and do the impossible.

I’m looking at 4 hours a day in university, studying Russian, another 8 hours working for an online company that makes more in a day than I have in my life doing search engine optimization and marketing strategization. This, for someone who, just over a year ago had trouble holding objects with his hands, let alone hours of potential repetitive-strain madness.

To top of the list, my commutes are north of 1 hour.

So I’m starting from a point of using 14 hours of my day, and that’s not including minutiae such as eating and washing – forget grocery shopping or laundry.

And I’m still finding a way to spend time with the two most important ladies in my life – Katia, my #1 gal – and this website.

I could find myself exhausted at the end of the day, completely unable to function or without the wherewithal to work on my own projects. I would be justified in doing so. People would understand.

They’d sympathize with my dilemma, “I just don’t have time for anything else!” I’d say, to responses of, “woah yeah you’re sooo busy.”

But I don’t, because that’s not going to get me where I want to go.
In fact, I find the time crunch invigorating.

It means I have to be fully engaged for as much of my day as possible if I want any chance of doing my writing.

I have to have impeccable posture and body mechanics at work, lest I end up back in the world of hurt that cost me 7-8 years the last time I had a repetitive strain injury.

I have to be incredibly focused with my Russian, as I don’t have extra study time and need to retain as much as possible. I also need to be fearless using it with the people I meet, instead of defaulting to English because it’s easy.

I have to use the commute to either totally unplug and recharge my mind, or to be fully engaged with some sort of language practice.

And then, when I finally get the chance to work on my website, I have to crush it, and only focus on the 1 or 2 tasks that will have an inordinate amount of impact.

There’s no time to procrastinate, check my traffic stats, make lists, organize, dawdle on email, or anything else.

I may have only 30 minutes in which to make my mark for the day, and in that place, only relentless execution counts.

Heck, even with my girlfriend I have to be more positive, upbeat, supportive, loving, romantic, thoughtful, because if we aren’t going to have a long time together, I’m sure as heck going to ensure it’s a glorious time. There’s no time to waste on petty bullshit that couples often get trapped in.

That’s why I call it the adversity advantage. Not adversity equality. Not “adversity sucks.” Not “how to overcome adversity.”

It’s an advantage. I’m able to get more done. And I’m able to do everything I do better. All because I have no time to waste.

How often in life are we put in a position where we have to absolutely thrive or be crushed by the pressure?

Possibly every day, if you’re like most hard-working folk.

But most of us don’t see this as an opportunity. It’s too much. It’s overload.

It all depends on how we look at the situation – and respond to it.

It’s like an Olympic sprinter: the key to going faster isn’t to tense up, as we tend to do naturally. It’s actually to relax, and to be more fluid and elegant with every movement, every act.

Slow, careful, deliberate action – spurred on by the power of strict deadlines, desire, and just possibly the thrill of making what for most people is impossible, easy.

Like Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson said:

You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
<<What mood is that?>>
Last-minute panic.”

The question then, is “How?”

How can we take our 60, 30, 15 minutes to spare when we wake or before bed, and turn it into something worthwhile?

In my mind, the key is isolating the single, most important thing we can do each day, and that’s it.

There’s simply no time for more.

But if we do the most important thing, and we do it every day, then in 1 year we’ve done 365 really important things, where most people – our past selves included – have done none, made victims by a lack of time.

Let me be clear, if we’re overwhelmingly busy, that’s a lifestyle choice. And probably one that we need to change before we burnout.

It’s generally not a great long-term, sustainable plan.

But if that’s where we are, we may as well get as much as possible out of the situation until we can or choose to change it.

So in addition to knocking off our most important task, I think the most important thing we can do is practice the skill of mindfulness, to be fully engaged in what we’re doing.

This, for whatever reason, takes the pressure off.

Things may be urgent, and they may move quickly, but by having this presence of mind we can feel like we’re riding a strong current with control and direction instead of just being slammed into the rocks by unforgiving torrents of roiling water.

Mindfulness – it doesn’t require any special trick or technique. Like a ton of people across time and culture have found, I like paying attention to my breathing, possibly taking deeper breaths and expanding my ribcage in all directions.

Another technique I like is to look myself straight in the eye in my mirror, and just focus.

5 minutes – when we wake, and before bed. 2 minutes: when we take a coffee break, bathroom break, are stopped in traffic or on the metro, or waiting in line.

That’s all it takes. That makes us the master instead of the victim of our business.

And in some ways, it’s exactly what we need to achieve more.

The Truth About Self Esteem (and 7 Ways to Build Rock Solid Confidence)

Hundreds of self-help books are published every year. If you check Amazon.com, you’ll find a whopping 5,000+ books under the sub-category of self-esteem.

The vast majority of these books will tell us why our self esteem & self confidence might be low and how to change it – particularly through the power of positive thinking and affirmations.

This, allegedly, is supposed to help us find more success in life.

Which in turn, is supposed to make us feel happy, confident, powerful, satisfied, effective and fulfilled.

Apparently, until recently, nobody bothered to check whether these ideas actually work. Because while the self-help movement brings in millions of dollars annually, it turns out their golden goose – self esteem, doesn’t lay golden success eggs the way we’ve long believed.

From Psychology Today:

High self-esteem does not predict better performance or greater success. And though people with high self-esteem do think they’re more successful, objectively, they are not.  High self-esteem does not make you a more effective leader, a more appealing lover, more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle, or more attractive and compelling in an interview.”

Ex-Greek oligarch and CTHC correspondent Sisyphus would agree, adding that his incredibly high self esteem landed him with a minimum wage, 168 hour-per-week job rolling a boulder up a cliff, and such a thing is not highly conducive to personal success.

Self Helpless

There is a whole wide world of useless and counterproductive advice when it comes to building self-esteem – as in a serious smoke-enema sort of bad.

For instance, you may have heard that you should buy nice clothes or lose weight in order to improve your self esteem.

At first this advice seems somewhat sensible – because it works, sort of. It can give us a bit of a boost and make us feel better about ourselves.

But we might feel better initially, it’s not going to last. If our clothes are like some sort of self-esteem shield, then we’ve only made the improvement so long as we’re fashionable. We haven’t changed our internal state or our base levels of self worth.

Add to that the fact that the hedonic treadmill, the adaptive mechanism that helps us adjust to new circumstances, will quickly return us to our initial state.

At which point we have two options, feed the beast and buy new clothes, to repeat the cycle in a way that Sisyphus would understand all too well, or give up and feel defeated by the fact that we couldn’t buy our one-way ticket to self-esteem land.

Similarly, losing weight can have a superficially positive effect since the achievement of goals improves our sense of self-efficacy.

However, creating a connection between a certain weight and being worthy of feeling good about ourselves is a dangerous proposition.

We already have more than enough neurosis about what foods we should be eating in our society, we don’t need to add a self-esteem neurosis to the world of nutrition, dieting, health and fitness.

We should use and enjoy our bodies because we are our bodies, regardless of their shape or size. Those activities are the things that will truly build solid, lasting self esteem, more than maintaining a target weight (something we could easily lose) ever could.

Ego Inflation

The whole premise of the self-esteem movement is essentially about ego inflation. It doesn’t matter whether the tactic is buying clothes, losing weight, or telling our mirror “I’m a rather swell guy/gal” 100 times every morning.

This is where the whole “power of positive thinking” thing runs headlong into a smiling brick wall.

If our happy mantras don’t correspond with reality, then all that ego massage disappears as soon as our rigid corpse lands on the tarmac.

From Dr. Randy Patterson:

If the happy thoughts happen to be true, I have no problem with them. But most of the affirmations I hear are happy lies:

•I have all the resources I need to accomplish all of my goals.
•I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
•I’m perfect, just as I am.
•Everyone loves me.

These might be nice thoughts, and we might tell ourselves such things (or any variations). But if reality doesn’t agree, we’ve just wasted a bunch of time and energy that we could have put into something useful.

I don’t know about you, but I find that I feel worse when I lie to myself.

For instance, right now I’m learning Russian. I am a reasonably functional beginner, most likely rather average for an amateur language learner.

I could tell myself, “I speak fluent Russian” 100 times in the mirror every morning or write it in my journal.

Then, I would get out into the world and receive an unforgiving reality check in the form of copious vocabulary, complex syntax, and fast speech that would shatter my illusions of perfection.

I know, because I’ve tried.

It makes far more sense, if I’m going to tell myself anything, that if I work on my Russian every day, I will continually improve. (The popular affirmation “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better is bullshit because we don’t improve in every area every day – only in the areas we apply conscious effort).

But I think it’s best of all not to bother with the pep talk at all and do the work.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re learning Russian, cello, cake decorating, trying to pick up lady-boys, become Pope, or anything else. Pumping up your head with “I’m the best there ever was” in all its wonderful and strange forms is a recipe for disappointment.

So then, if conventional self esteem techniques and ego inflation aren’t the key to an eternal romp through daisy fields on the backs of silver unicorns, what is?

And if we feel badly about the state of our lives, how can we make positive change?

The answer, I think, is quite elegant.

If you want to feel good about yourself, then do good for yourself.

Forget the posturing, the hot air, the preening and self aggrandizing behaviors.

Get down to the nitty-gritty. The actions of happy, confident people.

Exercise, forgive your mistakes, eat well, bring joy to others, create something beautiful, do meaningful work, relax. These are the things that will make us feel good – and feel good about ourselves.

So without further ado, here’s a bullshit free list of things we can do to build permanent and real self esteem – the confidence that we can do what we set out to, and feel good about who we are:

Cultivate Ruthless Integrity: The closest thing we will ever find to a self-esteem hack is this: Say what you’ll do and do what you say.

This starts with what you tell yourself. If you say you’re going to wake up at 6 tomorrow. Do it.

If you say you’re going to go shopping after work, do it.

If you tell a friend you’ll meet them at 9:30, be there and don’t be late.

When we keep our word to ourselves and to others, our self esteem builds like crazy.

On the other hand, if we don’t keep our word, we undercut our self-worth by showing ourselves that our word doesn’t mean anything – that we are incapable of following through on our desires.

And it doesn’t matter how big or small the act is. Our subconscious mind doesn’t know if we’re talking about marathons or making dinner.

This is, for most people, an ongoing learning process. There are two main things we can to do aid our progress:

It turns our Yoda was right, if you want good self-esteem, then “do or do not, there is no try.” We don’t want to use words like might, would, could, should, and try. Use “will” and “won’t” instead.

So “I’ll try to be there at 6” becomes either “I will be there at 6” or “I won’t be there at 6.”Then, more importantly, is make fewer promises.

We habitually say things like “I’ll be there at such and such a time” or “I’ll do this or that” without really thinking about the truth of these statements. They’re simple speech habits we use unconsciously.

It takes a mature and confident mind to be able to say “I don’t know” when pressed for details. When will you be there? What will you do? Stick to the facts, and don’t over-promise.

For instance, when asked about what time we’ll get home from work, we could factually state that “work ends at six, and I will be on the highway by 6:10 and head straight home, but I don’t know when I’ll get there.”

By ceasing to make offhand, unreliable remarks and becoming someone who has ruthless integrity – only making strong statements about things they definitely will or won’t do, we can cultivate unshakable self confidence – not to mention the respect and trust of our peers.

Brush & Floss: As it’s not what we’d normally think about when talking about self esteem, this suggestion might sound silly at first.

Looking a bit deeper though, it becomes apparent that self-care is really the core of self esteem. If we feel good about ourselves, we are worthy of our own love and our own care.

And if we provide ourselves with such care, it sends our mind the message “I am important, I deserve this” in a way no affirmation can – because the action is the most accurate reflection of reality we can ever have.

In this way, we are also acting with integrity. We don’t have to tell ourselves we’re taking good care of our health if we already are.

Brushing and flossing have been shown to correlate with increased life expectancy and even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Make Decisive Decisions: Confident people make most of their decisions quickly and then follow through on their choices.

Of course, some decisions – such as what university program to go into, whether to have a child, or whether to start a new career, deserve more attention.

However, a lot of us spend too much emotional energy deliberating over minutia.

This saps our strength and erodes our confidence, as worrying about whether each little decision is “right” takes a toll on our minds.

Making decisive decisions has the opposite effect. It sends the signal that we’re confident and in control of things, that we are capable of making good choices and the best of the situations that end up being less-than-ideal.

Again, notice that no self-talk is necessary. The actions we take speak volumes.

Sleep: If you want to feel good about the world and good about yourself, then getting enough sleep should be near the top of your priority list.

Memory, attention span, alertness, reaction time, reasoning skills, and creative thinking all suffer when we don’t get enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation (even mild cases) also wrecks havoc with the hormones cortisol, leptin, and ghrelin, which can result in a loss of appetite control and increases the risk of type II diabetes

How are we supposed to cope with the stresses of life if we are putting ourselves in a compromised mental and physical state day after day?

How are we supposed to feel good about ourselves if we feel like crap all the time? No amount of positive thinking can overcome the chronic misuse of our bodies. We have to take care of our bodies if we want our mind to have a shot at a healthy, optimistic outlook.

Body Language: We’ve long known how the mind can shape the body and the power of positive thinking. But we’re just beginning to realize the depths of the power of the body to shape the mind.

I guess it should be kind of obvious, since our minds are a product of our bodies, and unable to function if our bodies aren’t performing well (like when we suffer from a lack of sleep)

Amy Cuddy goes into detail during her TED Talk:

Learn to Say No: Being able to turn down the demands and requests the world puts to us shows that we value our own priorities.

By saying no, we are giving ourselves the space to pursue the things that matter to us – which is one of the most important factors of building solid self esteem.

Healthy boundaries are equivalent to self-respect, and maintaining these boundaries will bolster our self esteem every time they are challenged and we resist.

That being said, we can’t say no to everything. It’s important to realize that when we do let something past our boundaries, it’s an experiment, not a failure. We still have the option to say no next time, and will be able to do so with more knowledge of the consequences of acquiescing.

Do What You Want: The first lesson Katia taught me and words I still hold dear (unlike most affirmations). Doing what we want most, making time for what matters, fulfilling those burning desires we have inside – those are the ultimate acts of integrity.

Achieving a goal we have is one of the best ways to build our sense of self-efficacy, confidence, and create joy.

This goes hand in hand with saying no – it’s the reason we bother to say no, because there are things we value that matter to us.

For instance, I love writing new material for this website, and that means that every day I say no to 5, 10, or 100 different opportunities to use my time.

Sometimes I do those other things, but every time I sacrifice what I want most for what the world expects of me, I feel badly.

On the other hand, every time I keep my integrity, I write, publish, connect with readers, and so on – I feel confident & powerful, as if the whole world is at my fingertips.

You might have to get back in touch with what it is you’re passionate about – because doing so will have the most invigorating effect on your self confidence.

Recap

While the self-help movement has made self-esteem out to be the foundation of personal success and then found an ass-backwards way to not achieving it, I think self-esteem has a more important purpose.

Or rather, self-esteem is more a reflection of our purpose.

Because we don’t build self-esteem in order to do great things or achieve success.

We build self esteem by doing great things – the things that make us feel good, happy, fulfilled.

By acting with integrity as it pertains to our innermost desires we can create all the self esteem, self confidence, and self efficacy we could ever ask for. And it will be in our power to build and control, not through affirming it, but by acting upon it – every day, so long as it takes.