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5 Self-Care Practices that Are Guaranteed to Change Your Life and Well-being

5 Self-Care Practices that Are Guaranteed to Change Your Life and Well-being

Far from being some hippy-dippy buzzword, self-care is absolutely critical for anyone looking to live a balanced, healthy, and fulfilling life. (Hopefully, that’s all of us!)

At its simplest, self-care is defined as any action you take that helps take care of yourself, whether it’s reducing stress or otherwise improving your mental and physical well-being. Making a habit of self-care allows us to be more fully in touch and engaged with our lives. In the process, we undergo improvements in our physical and mental well-being, our relationships, and even our income.

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It’s normal to feel resistance to self-care if you’re new to the concept. Like strengthening a muscle, it gets easier the more you often you do it. If you’re new to self-care or you’re looking to add more activities to your routine, here are five practices that are all but guaranteed to make your life better.

1. Ditch screens first thing in the morning.

If you’re like 60 percent of adults in this country, then one of the first things you do upon waking is to consult a screen for texts, missed calls, emails, social media updates, and so on. Even though the temptation is real, it sets a dangerous precedent: one in which you begin (and, likely, continue) your day in a state of reactivity and constantly prioritize other people’s desire for responsiveness over your own needs.

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To fundamentally shift the way you start each day, make an effort to avoid all screens for the first hour after you wake up. Instead of responding to emails or browsing social media, use that time to take care of yourself. Linger over a cup of coffee, do some yoga or simple stretching, or choose from any of the other entries on this list. As a bonus, there’s evidence to suggest taking time for yourself in the mornings can actually make you more productive during the day.

2. Embrace mindfulness.

You probably expected this entry to show up on the list—much ado has been made about mindfulness in recent years. The hype is well deserved. Mindfulness practices such as meditation have been shown to relieve stress, improve our ability to be compassionate, bring clarity to our lives, improve focus and concentration, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. What’s especially great about meditation is that it continues to benefit us even when we aren’t actively practicing. Dedicating just five or ten minutes a day to a meditation practice can help you reap lifelong benefits in the form of improved emotional and mental well-being.

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3. File away all the compliments you receive (literally).

Human beings are prone to a nasty condition called negativity bias, in which we allow negative comments aimed at our work, character, and so on to influence our sense of self much more strongly than positive comments. While the sting of criticism might stick around for weeks, months, or even years, compliments tend to go in one ear and out the other—even if we receive fifteen compliments and only one negative critique.

The good news is you can combat your human impulse to privilege negative feedback over the positive by taking time to affirm the positive feedback you receive. Whenever someone pays you a compliment, write it down and literally file it away. Then, make it a habit to refer to this file on a regular basis. Schedule a “review” on your calendar every other week, once a month, or every day—whatever timetable works for you. By returning to these compliments over and over again, you’ll reinforce their impact and gradually start to shift your own self-concept to one that emphasizes your positive traits and accomplishments.

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4. Keep a journal.

Throw away your preconceptions. Journaling is not just for middle schoolers. Well-regarded psychological research has found that journaling can improve both our mental and physical well-being.

Writing engages your left (analytical) brain so that your right (creative, feeling) brain is free to express itself. As a result, journaling can help you recognize your thoughts and feelings, identify solutions to challenges or personal disagreements in your life, cope with stressful life events, and generally get to know yourself better. It’s also been shown to reduce stress, improve immunity, and even relieve the symptoms of some physical conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

5. Spend time outside.

Even spending just fifteen minutes (ideally more) in the forest or another green space has been shown to reduce stress, improve overall well-being, increase life satisfaction, improve powers of focus and concentration, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and generally help people feel more alive. Spend that time walking, and you’ll help counteract the effects of sitting all day. Plus, you’ll give your body a chance to soak up some vitamin D which is a powerful immune booster and has even been linked to improvements in mood. In short, spending time outside is easily one of the most effective ways to improve your overall well-being.

At its core, practicing self-care is just good common sense. In order to stay healthy and happy you need to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. By implementing these strategies on a regular basis, you’ll help ensure that you get some serious bang for your self-care buck.

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Kenny Kline

Entrepreneur

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Published on May 26, 2020

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

Problems are, by their very nature, problematic. There are life problems, work problems, creative problems, and relationship problems. When we’re lucky, intuition takes over, and we solve a problem right away. When we’re not so lucky, we get stuck.

We might spend weeks or even months obsessing over how to write that term paper, get out of debt, or win back the love of our life. But instead of obsessing, let’s look at some effective problem solving techniques that people in the know rely on.

Ideation Vs Evaluation

It’s important to first understand and separate two stages of creativity before we look at effective problem solving techniques. Ideation is like brainstorming. It’s the stage of creativity where we’re looking for as many possible solutions as we can think of. There’s no judgment or evaluation of ideas at this stage. More is more.

After we’ve come up with as many solutions as possible, only then can we move onto the evaluation stage. This is when we analyze each possible solution and think about what works and what doesn’t. Here’s when all those good ideas from ideation rise to the top and the outlandish and impractical ones are abandoned.

7 Problem Solving Techniques That Work

Everyone has different ways of solving problems. Some are more creative, some are more organized. Some prefer to work on problems alone, others with a group. Check out the problem solving techniques below and find one that works for you.

1. Lean on Your Squad

The first of our seven problem solving techniques is to surround yourself with people you trust. Sometimes problems can be solved alone, but other times, you need some help.

There’s a concept called emergence that begins to explain why groups may be better for certain kinds of problem solving. Steven Johnson describes emergence as bottom up system organization.[1] My favorite example is an ant colony. Ants don’t have a president or boss telling them what to do. Instead, the complicated organization of the ant colony comes out of each individual ant just fulfilling their biological destiny.

Group creativity can also take on an emergent quality. When individuals really listen to, support, and add onto each other’s ideas, the sum of that group creativity can be much more than what any individual could have created on their own.

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Therefore, if you are struggling to solve a problem, you may want to find a group of people with whom you can collaborate, so you can start riffing with them about possible solutions.

2. Regulate Your Emotions

The next of the problem solving techniques is to be honest about how you’re feeling. We can’t solve problems as efficiently when we’re stressed out or upset, so starting with some emotional self-awareness goes a long way in helping us problem solve.

Dr. Daniel Siegel famously tells us to “Name it to tame it.” [2] He’s talking about naming our feelings, which offers us a better chance of regulating ourselves. I have to know that I’m stressed or upset if I want to calm down quickly in order to get back to a more optimal problem-solving state.

After you know how you’re feeling, you can take steps to regulate that feeling. If you’re feeling stressed out or upset, you can take a walk or try breathing exercises. Mindfulness exercises can also help you regain your sense of presence.

3. Listen

One thing that good problem solvers do is listen. They collect all the information they can and process it carefully before even attempting to solve the problem.

It’s tempting to jump right in and start problem solving before the scope of the problem is clear. But that’s a mistake.

Smart problem solvers listen carefully in order to get as many points of view and perspectives as possible. This allows them to gain a better understanding of the problem, which gives them a huge advantage in solving that problem.

4. Don’t Label Ideas as Bad…Yet

The fourth of the seven problem solving techniques is to gather as many possible solutions as you can. There are no bad ideas…yet.

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Think back to the two stages of creativity. When we are in the ideation stage, we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas, input, and possible solutions.

When we evaluate, judge, and criticize during the ideation stage, we inadvertently hamper creativity. One possible outcome of evaluating during ideation is creative suppression.[3]

When someone responds to someone else’s creative input with judgment or criticism, creative suppression can occur if the person who had the idea shuts down because of that judgment or criticism.

Imagine you’re at a meeting brainstorming ways to boost your sales numbers. You suggest hiring a new team member, but your colleague rolls their eyes and says that can’t happen since the numbers are already down.

Now, your colleague may be 100% correct. However, their comment might make you shut down for the rest of the meeting, which means your team won’t be getting any more possible solutions from you.

If your colleague had waited to evaluate the merits of your idea until after the brainstorming session, your team could have come up with more possible solutions to their current problem.

During the ideation stage, more is more. We want as many ideas as possible, so reserve the evaluation until there’s no more ideating left to do.

Another trick for better ideating is to “Yes And” each other’s ideas[4] In improvisation, there’s a principle known as “Yes And.” It means that one improviser should agree with the other’s idea for the scene and then add a new detail onto that reality.

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For example, if someone says, “I can’t hear over your loud music,” the other person needs to go along with that idea and then add onto it. They might say, “Sorry, I’ll turn it down, but I don’t think everyone else here at the club will appreciate it.”

Now the scene is getting interesting. We’re in a club, and the DJ is going to turn the music down. Playing “Yes And” with each other made the scene better by filling in details about who and where the improvisers are.

Yes Anding also works well during ideation sessions. Since we’ve already established that we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas yet, Yes Anding gives us something we can do. We can see the merits of each other’s ideas and try to build on them. This will make all of our possible solutions more fully realized than a simple laundry list.

5. Approach Problems With Playfulness

Approaching problem solving too seriously can exacerbate the problem. Sometimes we get too fixated on finding solutions and lose a sense of playfulness and fun.

It makes sense. When there are deadlines and people counting on us, we can try to force solutions, but stepping back and approaching problems from a more playful perspective can lead to more innovative solutions.

Think about how children approach problem solving. They don’t have the wealth of wisdom that decades on this planet give. Instead, they play around and try out imaginative and sometimes unpractical approaches.

That’s great for problem solving. Instead of limiting ourselves to how things have always been done, a sense of play and playfulness can lead us to truly innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.

6. Let the Unconscious Mind Roam

This may seem counterintuitive, but another technique to try when you become too fixated on a problem is to take a break to let the unconscious mind take over for a bit.

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Our conscious brain can only handle a limited amount of information at a time. Plus, it’s energetically exhausting to use our conscious brain for problem solving. Think about a time when you were studying for a test. It’s draining.[5]

But we’re in luck. There’s another part of our brain that isn’t draining and can integrate tons more information at a time—our unconscious.

This is why you come up with your best ideas in the shower or on your way to work or while you’re jogging. When you give your conscious brain a break, your unconscious has a chance to sift through mounds of information to arrive at solutions.

It’s how I write my articles. With my conscious brain, I think about which article I’m going to write. My problem is how to write it, so once I think carefully about the topic, I take a break. Then, the structure, sources, content, and sometimes phrasing happens in fits and starts while I’m not thinking about the article at all. It happens when I’m lying in bed, showering, and walking in the woods.

The key is to get in the habit of practicing this alternation between conscious and unconscious problem solving and to absolutely not force solutions. Sometimes, you just need to take a little break.

7. Be Candid

The last of the problem solving techniques happens during the evaluation stage. If we’re going to land on the best possible solution to our problems, we have to be able to openly and honestly evaluate ideas.

During the evaluating stage, criticism and feedback need to be delivered honestly and respectfully. If an idea doesn’t work, that needs to be made clear. The goal is that everyone should care about and challenge each other. This creates an environment where people take risks and collaborate because they trust that everyone has their best interest in mind and isn’t going to pull any punches.

Final Thoughts

In order to come up with the best solutions for problems, ideation and evaluation have to be two distinct steps in the creative process. Then, you should tap into some of the above techniques to get your ideas organized and your problems solved.

Hopefully, these seven problem solving techniques will help your problems be less…problematic.

More Tips for Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Steven Johnson: Emergence
[2] Dr. Dan Siegel: The whole-brain child
[3] American Psychological Association: Creative mortification
[4] Play Your Way Sane: And What?: Yes And
[5] Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow

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