FIRST STOP: SELF-AWARENESS
Only those who face their blind spots and get to work improving themselves become successful in this world. (Unless you can pull this off and still win Grammy’s. Start at the 45-second mark. Only if you have 15 seconds to spare and you need a laugh.)
So why bother?
Self-awareness benefits us because:
It identifies unhelpful emotional triggers
It prevents reactive behaviour
It leads to effective communication and conflict resolution
It helps them channel strengths with confidence
If you’re willing to face your flaws, you’ll know how to focus on your biggest blind spots.
How do I become a master of self-awareness?
Introspection. Confront your inner dialogue, core beliefs, and subconscious motivations.
What do you suggest?
Work on becoming a good listener. Tuning into others will eventually help you tune into yourself.
Journal as you go. Look back later and see how far you’ve come.
Seek objective opinions. Here’s where you eat humble pie. Go on. It’s worth it.
Remember—the things you discover about yourself are not flaws per se; they are opportunities for growth. Have at ‘er.
Want More of This? Get Some Brain Food Every Week.
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE OF HAPPINESS
A few months ago, a team of Penn State scholars discovered a measurable connection between negative emotions and our immune system’s SOS chemical messengers, cytokines.
According to their study, our bodies respond to intense negative feelings by producing cytokines to initiate inflammation. The same can be said for germs and pesky viruses.
This study suggests dwelling on negative feelings—anger, fear, anxiety, and so on—does more than mess with your head. It messes with inflammation. Your immune system also pays the price.
So what now?
It sounds cliche but it’s true: Avoid dwelling on negativity.
For the record, this doesn’t mean stuffing your feelings and wearing a synthetic smile.
Cultivating optimism is a skill. Learn it. Practice it. It has the power to soothe your mind and calm your immune system.
How to combat negativity and reduce inflammation
Practice in-the-moment gratitude. The fact that you’re likely reading this out of your palm indicates that you have more than you need to survive. Perspective is paramount.
Practice “3 Good Things.” Martin Seligman’s method is now a necessary part of my bedtime routine. I even convinced my wife to join me. (No easy feat!)
Scroll up and read about probiotics again. Anti-inflammatories, remember?
Come up for air. Intentional breathing tames more than negativity. Read on.
FOR THE NERDY: The academic abstract
GET HAPPY, WRITE ON
If Seasonal Affective Disorder messes with you around this time of year, here’s a Harvard-backed DIY happiness treatment that’s cheaper than two weeks in Ibiza.
Researchers from the Ivy League school set up an online survey to test whether simple writing exercises could increase in-the-moment happiness among people recovering from substance use disorders.
531 entries later, the results were clear.
All you need to experience a significant dose of instant happiness is a pen, a journal, and at least four minutes.
In order to yield maximum results, the Harvard crew suggests implementing all three exercises outlined here.
For brevity’s sake, we summed up the study's ultimate crowd pleaser. If all you do is practice this, you’ll be set.
Reliving Happy Moments, a.k.a. Instagram circa 1980
1. Dig up a picture of a specific happy memory. Stare longingly at said photo. Steep in your emotions.
2. Crystallize the memory in words. Get specific. Who was there? Where were you? Maximum detail produces maximum happiness.
3. Scribble your description in a notebook. Bonus points for penning sonnets or whipping out Top-40 ballads.
Four minutes might not seem like much but 93% of participants said happiness was worth the time investment. You decide.
Want to up the ante?
KonMari the experience. Invest in a journal that sparks joy.
FOR THE NERDY: Read the study