Make Every Day Thanksgiving

>> Sunday

When you notice and appreciate good things about other people, it improves your mood and the moods of the people around you, whether you're at home or at work. You get to live in a more pleasant environment.

You know that already. But it's hard to remember, isn't it? So try this trick:

At the beginning of your day, or even right now, put five pennies in your left pocket. Now try to find something nice to say about someone (something you actually think is true), either to their face or behind their back, and every time you do, move one penny to your right pocket. Try to move all five today.

You may be surprised at the extended consequences of this simple action.

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Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot

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How to Have a Good Time With Your Family for the Holidays Even if Some of Them Drive You Crazy

>> Monday

One very good way of dealing with a predictably stressful situation is to prepare beforehand to respond differently than you normally do.

In an article in the New York Times about how to handle holiday family stress, the author gives this example:

Dr. Bulik told the story of a patient whose mother scolded her for not eating her homemade cookies. “You don’t like my cookies?” she asked. As a result, the daughter relented and took a cookie. But when she then reached for a second, her mother scolded her again. “Do you really think you need another one?” she asked her.

It's the kind of stuff that drives you crazy at the holidays, right? But at the end of the article, there is a good example of doing something about it, preparing ahead of time:

Betsy, a high school teacher in Boston, said she had longstanding issues with her mother-in-law, some of which began after she underwent a Caesarean section. After the delivery, her mother-in-law, a slim woman, brought her only light lunches of lettuce salad, even though she was famished after nursing her baby.

Betsy said her cousin also complained of holiday meal tension with her own family, so the two devised a strategy to help each other cope. Each made bingo cards, but instead of numbers, the squares were filled in with some of the negative phrases they expected to hear during the meal, like “That outfit is interesting” or “Your children won’t sit still.” As comments were made at the separate family celebrations, each woman would mark her card.

“Whoever fills up a bingo row first,” Betsy said, “sneaks off to call the other and say, ‘Bingo!’”

If you normally find it stressful to hang out with certain members of your family, try something new.

Read more about how to come up with new responses: Everyday Creativity

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How To Feel Strong And Happy

>> Saturday

Being alive entails some degree of suffering in one form or another. I'm sure you know that already. If your suffering is pointless, it is just suffering. But if your suffering has some meaning, you'll be able to tolerate it much better, and if it has enough meaning, you can even find happiness while suffering.

Viktor Frankl (author of Man's Search for Meaning) discovered this powerful insight into the human condition while he was in one of Hitler's concentration camps:

You will feel strong and happy to the degree you feel your actions have some meaning.

How would this work in your life? What can you do with this insight? I have an experiment I'd like you to try. First, choose something you're unhappy about. Just one thing.

Now ask yourself, "Can my suffering serve some meaningful purpose?"

It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or what they might think about it. What matters is that your life and your struggles have meaning to you. Does your suffering serve some greater end? Is it the price you must pay for some important purpose?

Don't come up with an answer right away. Ponder it, like a Zen koan, for days or even weeks. But then come back and leave your answer here on the comments. If you find a good answer, it will shift the way you feel about your own suffering.

I'll give you a personal example. Sometimes progress on my goals seems way too slow. It has been frustrating, and sometimes I've felt discouraged and defeated by the obstacles. But I've found meaning and purpose in those struggles. I have learned much more about determination how to restore it, how to strengthen it than I ever would have otherwise, and since I'm a writer, many people have benefited from what I've learned.

I really love to learn, and I want to make a difference, so this means a lot to me. It is meaningful. As soon as I looked at my setbacks and frustrations with this new understanding, they stopped making me so miserable. The very thing making me suffer turned out to be a gift.

That's a powerful shift in perception. That's how to feel strong and happy, no matter what's happening. This principle worked for men suffering horribly in concentration camps, it worked for my comparatively minor sufferings about my goals, and it will work for your sufferings too if you'll give it a chance.

Take your time and ponder the question. Is there some meaning or purpose to your suffering?


Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.

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A Surefire Way To Raise Your Mood

>> Tuesday

Focus on raising the moods of others. This does two things simultaneously that really help. When you focus on raising the moods of others, you take your attention off yourself. When you're less focused on yourself, you usually feel better. And second, helping another gives you a helper's high, which feels good and is good for your health.

But what can you do? How can you raise others' moods? Here are a few simple things that will almost always work:

1. Simply show you are glad to see them. When you greet someone you work with or live with, it can be a fairly routine affair. But if you would make an effort to show — on your face, with your voice, and in your body language — that you are glad to see someone, it will almost always raise her mood.

2. Give a genuine compliment. This may seem like a common one, but you can make it much better by trying to compliment something that is not obvious. If you're complimenting something that is easily apparent, no doubt the person has been complimented on it many times already, so your compliment won't do much to raise his mood. Look harder and find something unique to compliment. Make sure you compliment something you genuinely like. Take a little time to think of something good.

3. Demonstrate your interest in the person. You may like someone, or even love her, and yet not show much interest in her life. Ask questions; listen; then ask more questions. Don't offer anything about yourself for the moment. It is elevating for most people to experience someone genuinely interested in the events of their lives.

4. Do the person a favor. You can do a premeditated action like baking cookies for someone, but even more important is to be on the lookout for spontaneous opportunities to do favors for people. Actions speak louder than words, and having someone volunteer to do you a favor is a strong moodraiser.

You want a surefire way to raise your mood? Raise someone else's. It works every time.

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

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Feel good more often and become more effective with your actions. Check it out on Amazon: Self-Help Stuff That Works.

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