The Quickest Way To Feel Better

>> Wednesday

Sometimes we need reminding more than we need new information. The method I'm about to tell you is something you already know. But I'll bet you don't use it nearly as often as you could. It works almost every time and it only takes a few seconds. You don't even have to stop what you're doing.

The method is to take a deep breath. If you're tense, it will help you relax and feel better. If you're angry it will help you calm down and feel better. If you already feel fine, a deep breath will make you feel better too.

Here's something you might not know about deep breaths: When you get tense, you tend to take more shallow breaths, and your breathing tends to be higher in the chest. And that kind of breathing tends to make you feel more tense, so it can become a vicious cycle.

Of course, the cycle can be broken any time by deliberately taking slower, deeper breaths, and bringing that air down lower toward your abdomen. Your abdomen should move out when you take a deep breath. This helps bring new oxygen into the lower parts of your lungs. It will make you feel better, and it's better for your health too.

Try to remember this simple practice. Do it often. It makes you feel better almost every time, you have it with you wherever you need it, and it will never wear out. While we're thinking about it, why not take a deep breath right now?

More on deep breaths:

Deep Breathing is Good For Your Health

Using Your Muscles to Relax

Beyond Deep Breaths: Slow Your Body And Mind Quickly

Adam Khan is the author of See Her Smile and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.


What Is Bringing You Down Right Now?

>> Saturday

Think of something bringing you down today. Just pick one thing interfering with you being in a great mood right now. If you're feeling great today, think of something that put you in a bad mood several times in the past.

Just pick one thing. Do this now... You have time (this is a short article).

Okay, now see if you can think of one thing you believe about it. What do you think is true about it?

Now ask yourself throughout the day today, "Am I SURE that's true?"

For example, John has a pain in his knee and it is bringing him down today. He believes it's a sign he's getting old. So he spends the day asking himself, "Am I SURE it is a sign I'm getting old?"

Try this today. It's a simple technique. You can do it while doing other things, so it doesn't need to take much of your time.

It is possible asking yourself if you're SURE it's true will make you feel uncertain about your belief. This is a good thing. The uncertainty will make you feel better. You might be surprised by that, but part of what's bringing you down is a negative assumption you're making, and when you put that assumption into question, the depressing effect of the assumption is eased and lightened, so you feel better.

Even if you think you're sure about your assumption to begin with, keep wondering, "Am I really sure that's true?"

Just wonder. Don't try to think positive. Don't try to make yourself believe something. Just wonder about it in a curious, interested way. I think you'll be surprised at how effective this very gentle technique is at improving your mood.

Learn more about this technique: Antivirus For Your Mind


Doing Less More Often Gets More Done

Making progress is good for your mood. In the following article, Klassy Evans, the editor of Self-Help Stuff That Works, explains a way of thinking that can help you make progress:

I USED TO NEGLECT my fingernails. I would garden and fix and repair things and move boxes of books for our business, and all these activities damaged my nails. But I ignored it. My nails got fairly well mangled. Then I tried to make up for lost time by giving too hard of an effort, which left and my cuticles red, and made ridges on my nails.

It was like I was angry at them. I attacked them. I pushed them back too hard in my impatience and they tore a tiny bit. Or I pulled off little pieces of dried skin and sometimes it took a piece of good skin with it, so I got little red hangnails. In other words, when they finally looked so bad I just had to give myself a manicure, I overdid it. I tried to fix the damage from my own neglect. But not in a gentle way.

I lived my life that way, too.

One morning I was looking at my nails, and I thought about something my dear friend, Bonnie, had told me. She'd always had beautiful cuticles. One day I asked her how she did it. She said she didn’t do anything. They just grew that way. Her nails are smooth. Her cuticles soft and even. Hmmmm. When I let my nails go, they don’t look like that, so I pressed her a bit more. Then she said, "I really don't do anything to my nails except gently push the cuticles back." I think the key word here is gentle.

Another woman I know (she’s a manicurist) told me the best cuticles she sees are on women who push back their cuticles when they’re done with the dishes.

So, I got my fingertips wet. Then I got out an old soft cotton napkin and very gently cleaned my nails, just a little bit. It was so gentle it seemed like I was being a pansy. But it worked pretty well. They looked surprisingly better when I was done.

Gentle action had gotten less done, but it was a pleasant process and I had obviously done nothing to harm them.

It felt odd to baby myself like that. It felt sort of silly. I’m used to the more masculine approach to life I got from my dad: Do what needs to be done and it doesn’t matter how you feel about it. I’ve been “getting my nails done” like a battle. But I learned to take care of my nails more like a farmer caring for the land.

Battles are often necessary, but they're temporary and harsh. It's not a good way to take care of a body that seems to need daily care. My cuticles and nails are much better off when I do a tiny bit of gentle care each day rather than an intense hour of care to make up for the week or two of neglect.

To accomplish things, both kinds of action are necessary. I think traditionally, men tend to accomplish great things with intense effort; women tend to accomplish great things with constant, gentle pressure. You can’t raise a child or raise a crop by infrequent, intense efforts, just like you can’t work out only one day a week. The body needs to move, but an all-out effort for six hours on a Saturday won't work. Your body wants daily exertion. It wants — and needs — regular movement.

I had taken on my dad's attitude. He was kind of proud of how much he could take. My neglected nails were a way of saying: "See how busy I am, how hard I’m working? I’m not some silly girlie-girl, always worrying about her nails."

This is true for me in so many ways. Is it true for you too? Are you too tough with yourself? Too harsh? Awhile ago I was thinking that I often try to take on too much because I know I’m capable of doing that much, even though I may not be up to it at the moment. This is like going to the gym to lift weights and knowing I’m capable of doing sixty pounds on some machine, but right now I can only do about 30. The way to build a muscle is often trying to do a bit more than you feel you can, but sometimes it's not a good idea to force yourself to do 60, even though the body has done it in the past or could do it in the future. It's best to do what I can do. Even if that seems really “light weight.”

This "male" take on life — that you must give it your all — has its place. But it also causes unnecessary harm if applied to things that grow (like children, crops, muscles, and even habits). Gentle, steady, regular efforts are not weak. A small plant can break through a concrete driveway just by gently pressing upward day after day after day, a little on a little.

This lesson is universal. Would you have more power in your life — and less pain and damage — if you were a little less harsh and forceful with yourself and more gentle?

By doing less more often, would you accomplish more? What if you did what little you can every day you can? What if you didn't worry about how hard you worked out, but focused instead on how regularly you worked out?

It's worth a look. Doing less more often can get more done.



"Frequently, success is what people settle for when they can't think of something noble enough to be worth failing at."

- Laurence Shames


Constructive Purposes Are The Key To Good Moods

>> Friday

"Morita therapists emphasize that it is important to find suitable constructive purposes and hold to them, thus guiding behavior in a positive direction. The other side of that coin is that all behavior, positive or negative, is purposeful. Whatever you do there is an aim to it, a goal toward which the behavior is directed. The goal may be destructive or constructive or mixed. For example, the shy person may avoid social gatherings in order to prevent the feelings of inadequacy and loneliness that he feels in such situations. In a sense Morita guidance asks the client to select constructive purposes and positive ways of achieving them instead of the already purposeful, but destructive behavior. Finding the purpose behind destructive behavior can be a useful undertaking because sometimes the original purpose can also be fulfilled in a positive way."

- David Reynolds
founder of Constructive Living
leading Western authority on Morita and
Naikan therapies, the two most popular
forms of therapy in Japan



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