The Art of Changing Easily and Gracefully

The Art of Changing Easily and Gracefully

The people who are thriving and will continue to thrive in this era are those who are agile and skilled at changing easily and elegantly in response to their changing environment, and as they proactively create more of the life they want. So here are some tips to help you become more agile:

Accept yourself exactly as you are

I know that sounds totally counter-intuitive, but the paradox is that when you try to change yourself from a perspective of negative judgment of yourself, your self-criticism will make you feel bad, which will have a negative impact on your motivation.

Attacking yourself with self-criticism will also activate your stress response, which actually changes the biological functioning of your brain and body and reduces the flexibility and quality of your thinking. This in turn uses up more of your energy, makes you think and behave defensively rather than proactively, stresses your body out and makes you tired and even ill.

When you accept yourself, you stop fighting yourself and your relaxed state will improve your motivation and the flexibility and quality of your thinking. This makes it much easier for you to make your changes – and to enjoy the process of making them. We think and perform much better when we’re in a state of love, rather than fear. Love opens our hearts and minds and we change much more easily when we have open hearts and minds.

The Art of Changing Easily and Gracefully

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want

We have a natural tendency to focus on problems and sources of stress in our lives. And, this makes sense – we do it because we want to “keep an eye” on potential threats so that we can respond more quickly, and ensure our survival. This usually is a good strategy for ensuring survival but it’s not a good strategy for thriving.

Focusing on what you don’t want will elicit your stress response and close down your thinking, making it more difficult to think creatively when you respond to the threat. Knowing, and focusing on what you want, rather than focusing on what you don’t want is also important because it’s the beginning of getting familiar with what you want.

Get familiar with what you want

We move towards what’s most familiar, and we resist what’s unfamiliar. If you’re familiar with how your life has been or is, but the way you want your life to be is unfamiliar and vague, then a part of you will resist going towards the unfamiliar and you will seek to repeat your current habits.

Because you’ve survived by doing what’s familiar, a part of you assumes that familiar is safe, even if it doesn’t make you happy. Guess what, if we ever feel that we have to choose between safe and happy, we’ll usually move towards what’s safe. So, to dissolve your own internal resistance, get familiar with being the way you want to be by going their mentally, and filling out the detail even before you start making your changes.

Focus on changing your thinking, rather than focusing on changing your behavior.

Our behavior flows from our emotional state, which is informed by our thinking patterns and the stories we tell ourselves. So discover the thinking patterns and stories you’ve been using that have prevented you from already having the life you want and being the person you want to be. You can do this by asking yourself,“What have I been assuming that’s prevented me from having what I want?” And then question those assumptions, ask yourself what other assumptions are possibly true in that context, and choose to operate under those liberating assumptions instead.

Focus on the feelings

Ultimately, it’s feelings we want and we only want other stuff because of the feelings we think it’ll give us. So become aware of the feelings you’re seeking. This will have two great results: first you’ll have what you ultimately want right now rather than having to wait till you’ve changed your circumstances. Second, by feeling the way you want to feel, you’ll be getting familiar with the changes you want to make, making it easier to make those changes without your own internal resistance.

Break your change into small, achievable steps you can take on a daily basis

It’s much easier to make change incrementally than it is to make major changes in a few areas of your life all in one go. This is because more change means more unfamiliarity and the greater the unfamiliarity, the more likely that a part of you will resist the changes and try to go back to what’s familiar.

Focusing on big changes can also cause overwhelm and stress, which closes down your thinking, causing de-motivation and making it harder for you to make your changes. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the changes you want to make, break your changes into small steps and focus on doing only the next step that feels achievable and liberating.

Benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle

Benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle

The deeper we delve into minimalism, the more convinced I become that any and everyone can benefit from this mindset. Here are some benefits of a minimalist lifestyle that we’ve already found to be true in our own lives over the past couple of years, and I’m confident you could experience as well.

Less clutter, kore space, more organization

It’s probably most obvious that embracing minimalism means you will have less clutter in your life, which follows that you have more space, and organization flows naturally out of the process. The less you have, the less organization you even need!

Less laundry, less cleaning, easier maintenance

As we get rid of excess from our wardrobes, kitchen, and living spaces, we are able to spend less and less time trying to stay on top of it all. There is less laundry to do, fewer dishes, and the random piles that used to build up have dwindled and are starting to stay away. The kids have also found that it is so much easier and faster to clean up their playroom, which definitely equates to fewer headaches for us.

Save money

When you recognize that you have what you need and start to develop a more content mindset, you naturally spend less and are able to save more.

Better stuff

As you pare down, the focus becomes quality over quantity. Instead of having 10 thingamajigs that sort of work or that you sort of like, you are able to afford 1 thingamajig that you really like and that does the job right.

More time

Minimalism isn’t only about trimming away the excess “stuff” (which does also save time), it’s also about refining obligations and habits that take time away from what matters most.

Greater focus and çlarity

I can’t tell you how much switching over to a minimalist mindset has increased our clarity and focus. It’s like all the excitement of Times Square with none of the ads 😉

Less stress and worry, more peace

Refining focus and cutting out everything that isn’t life-giving lowers stress more than you can imagine. When you’re not chasing a million loose ends, and aren’t surrounded by clutter, you find yourself being able to breathe easier and be ever-so-much-more content.

Give more

As we need less time to spend cleaning and maintaining at home, our time becomes more flexible to give to others, which is one of our personal goals now. Saving more money also frees up more money to give.

More flexible life

The farther we come on this journey of minimalism, the more flexible we get. We’re no longer tied down by sentimental clutter, and we don’t have a bunch of things we never use. When we moved to this home 4 years ago it was a bit of a nightmare. Now, I think we’d be able to move in a day. Travel is also simplified, so it doesn’t feel at all overwhelming to pack and go somewhere spontaneously.

More confidence, less comparison, easier decisions

As you whittle down your stuff, time, and focus to what really matters, you know why you are doing what you’re doing, and why you are who you are and are becoming. In short, you become much more confident. Decisions are simplified. You don’t waste time playing the comparison game because you are focused on the right things.

Want to explore more of what it means to be a minimalist and the resulting space and freedom it creates in your life? Let’s take simple living from something you wish for to something you actually do. Check out the whole series here for real-life application and practical tips.

One of the best ways to dip your toes in the waters of a minimalist lifestyle is to first purge the obvious excess. Here’s a cheat sheet to get you started: 20+ Thins You Can Get Rid of Without Even Missing – Common Duplicates from Your Home | 31 Days Exploring Minimalism | simple living, declutter, unclutter, get rid of clutterdealing with sentimental clutter without losing the memories | 31 Days Exploring Minimalism | simple living | keepsakes | upcyclingThe question to ask yourself when getting rid of stuff is hard… | 31 Days Exploring Minimalism | minimalist living, simple livingWhat if having less gives you the chance to BE more? | 31 Days Exploring Minimalism | simple living

Build your business according to your lifestyle choices

Build your business according to your lifestyle choices

Here are eight things you can do to be sure you are getting the lifestyle you want first, and building your business around it. Because your happiness should be your number-one priority. Because “I wish I had worked more” is not one of the top regrets of the dying.

1. Establish your vision

Without a map, you go in circles. Your vision is that map. When you write it down, visualize yourself inside of it. Feel it, smell it, sense it. You may wonder how you are going to know what you will want 10 years from now, but your vision is a living, breathing document. It changes as you change. The important thing is to let it guide you every day.

2. Set lifestyle goals

We tend to focus only on goal setting when it comes to business. But what about your life? Some of my lifestyle goals are to salsa dance weekly, to continue my pursuit of being in the Olympics and to visit Africa this year.

3. Cultivate meaning

A purpose-filled life is the key to happiness. Each day as I meet people and interact, I plan to spread positivity and brighten the day for others.

4. Give back

I give as much as I can to many favorite charities, but I have a special love for Pencils of Promise. I am working on building my third school with them. Giving back is your unique way of adding value in the world. When we give, it multiplies. You are guaranteed to generate more prosperity than you could imagine by giving selflessly.

Call it karma. Call it cause and effect. Whatever you call it, it is the simple truth.

5. Strive for balance

There are plenty of nights when I am up later than I should be and times when I have spent more hours in a plane than I would like. I balance these times with eating healthy, relaxing with friends and connecting with family and loved ones.

I say strive for balance because there will be times when you are pushing hard for a deadline, or for a championship game, or a launch, and you will be outside the comfort zone for maybe longer than you wish. Set up some down time after big pushes to recharge for the next big thing. If you are playing big in life, there is always the next big thing, so balance isn’t necessarily about slowing down but being in touch with what recharges you and doing that when you first feel the need to avoid overwhelm and burnout.

6. Don’t forget to play

I am committed to add an element of play to everything I do. I live life with passion: dancing, laughing, playing my guitar, listening to music. I am always encouraging my friends, clients, or strangers to do the same.

7. Travel

I am blessed to have been to many amazing places around the world like Guatemala, New Zealand, Hawaii, Argentina, Spain and more. Travel keeps life in perspective and pushes me out of my comfort zone, challenging me to expand my understanding of the world.

8. Say “I love you”

Gratitude and love are the keys to fulfillment. I tell my family, friends, and employees how much I appreciate them as often as I can. There is no point in withholding, because you can’t take it with you. Your love is your wealth, so spend away.

Top 5 traits of lazy people that make them successful

Top 5 traits of lazy people that make them successful

According to Merriam-Webster, “lazy” means not liking hard work or being active, as well as moving slowly.

If we think about it, “being lazy” then, is open to interpretation. Would you call a colleague who’s always on social media but manages to submit his reports on time lazy? How about a locksmith that over time, has mastered enough skill to fix locks in a matter of minutes? Is he lazy because he doesn’t spend hours on his work anymore?

It’s All in the Brain

One of the most energy-consuming activities humans do everyday is decision-making. From the second we wake up, we are instantly faced with a multitude of decisions: from what to eat for breakfast, how to get to work, what to wear – or whether to just forget it all and lie down in bed again. If you’re like millions of “lazy” people who need that extra five minutes before getting up, don’t feel bad. It’s all in your brain.

A recent study conducted by scientists at Oxford University found an interesting difference between “lazy” versus motivated people. The participants were instructed to complete certain tasks with different levels of reward, while an MRI machine scanned their brains. Surprisingly, they found that there’s an area in the brain of apathetic people that showed HIGHER activity when taking action.

Professor of Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Masud Husain, explained that perhaps it is due to inefficient connections that’s why their brains ended up using more energy than usual. This means that if a certain decision requires more effort, “lazy” people would either pass on the chance OR feel totally exhausted afterwards.

It may seem as if apathetic individuals aren’t doing the hard work you expect – but that’s only because they approach work a bit differently.

They Work Smarter – Not Harder

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” – Bill Gates

Like mostly everyone you know, you were also probably brought up to believe that working hard is the only way to get what you want in life. Apparently, that’s not the rule that “lazy” people follow. Often, it’s not what you do but HOW you do it.

Back when Bill Gates and his team were working with IBM on developing MS-DOS, they had to beat a tough deadline of only a few months before upper management pulled the plug on the project. Instead of creating an operating system from scratch, Gates bought the rights to an OS made by another software company in Seattle and just built MS-DOS on it.

They Avoid Burnout by Taking Breaks

“It’s important to prepare for the demands of the everyday, but it’s equally as crucial to enjoy life.” – Richard Branson

One of the things that scare busy people – especially entrepreneurs – is taking a break. There’s something about NOT doing anything on a hectic Monday morning that gets a good number of people upset and illicit such responses as “you’re wasting time”. However, being swamped with work isn’t good either. In fact, being too busy may in fact, lead to burnout and less productivity.

That’s why businessman Richard Branson invests a lot on his vacations. In one of his blog entries on Virgin Australia, he encourages busy folks to stop, relax, and be inspired. According to Branson, his breaks have been crucial to his decision-making and they have helped him achieve a work-life balance.

They Focus on Quality – Not Quantity

“Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs

People often assume that someone is lazy when they see a person doing only one thing, as opposed to a million other tasks (i.e. multi-tasking). It’s built into our system to feel impressed when we see folks with a hundred tasks to cross off their to-do list. But the real question is: what kind of work are you really doing?

Wharton management professor, Matthew Bidwell, states that often, managers focus only quantitative aspects of work to measure productivity simply because well, they’re easier to calculate. But producing more doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re also doing better. Instead, why not just do better?

Steve Jobs made a similar statement after he talked with Nike CEO, Mark Parker. Jobs was blunt when he mentioned that while Nike produced a lot of cool products, they also made tons of bad stuff. To Jobs, productivity happens when people focus on only one thing. Focus on this single task, hone it, and improve on it – until you have something that a lot of folks would find hard to live without.

Lazy In Thought – Not In Action

Don’t feel bad if people think that you’re “lazy”. It could be your strongest point if you know how to act on it. Just because you’re not juggling 50 tasks today doesn’t mean you’re not doing something productive.

Whenever somebody points out your apathetic tendencies, just remind them of Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs: all professional, successful, lazy people who rose in their fields thanks to how they patterned their actions. By working smarter, taking plenty of breaks, and focusing on only one task at a time, they were able to become more productive – not only in their careers, but also in life.

What to do for a successful career planning

What to do for a successful career planning

Career planning is not an activity that should be done once — in high school or college — and then left behind as we move forward in our jobs and careers. Rather, career planning is an activity that is best done on a regular basis — especially given the data that the average worker will change careers (not jobs) multiple times over his or her lifetime. And it’s never too soon or too late to start your career planning.

Career planning is not a hard activity, not something to be dreaded or put off, but rather an activity that should be liberating and fulfilling, providing goals to achieve in your current career or plans for beginning a transition to a new career. Career planning should be a rewarding and positive experience. Here, then, are 10 tips to help you achieve successful career planning.

1. Make Career Planning an Annual Event

Many of us have physicals, visit the eye doctor and dentist, and do a myriad of other things on an annual basis, so why not career planning? Find a day or weekend once a year — more often if you feel the need or if you’re planning a major career change — and schedule a retreat for yourself. Try to block out all distractions so that you have the time to truly focus on your career — what you really want out of your career, out of your life.

By making career planning an annual event, you will feel more secure in your career choice and direction — and you’ll be better prepared for the many uncertainties and difficulties that lie ahead in all of our jobs and career.

2. Map Your Path Since Last Career Planning

One of your first activities whenever you take on career planning is spending time mapping out your job and career path since the last time you did any sort of career planning. While you should not dwell on your past, taking the time to review and reflect on the path — whether straight and narrow or one filled with any curves and dead-ends — will help you plan for the future.

Once you’ve mapped your past, take the time to reflect on your course — and note why it looks the way it does. Are you happy with your path? Could you have done things better? What might you have done differently? What can you do differently in the future?

3. Reflect on Your Likes and Dislikes, Needs and Wants

Change is a factor of life; everybody changes, as do our likes and dislikes. Something we loved doing two years ago may now give us displeasure. So always take time to reflect on the things in your life — not just in your job — that you feel most strongly about.

Make a two-column list of your major likes and dislikes. Then use this list to examine your current job and career path. If your job and career still fall mostly in the like column, then you know you are still on the right path; however, if your job activities fall mostly in the dislike column, now is the time to begin examining new jobs and new careers.

Finally, take the time to really think about what it is you want or need from your work, from your career. Are you looking to make a difference in the world? To be famous? To become financially independent? To effect change? Take the time to understand the motives that drive your sense of success and happiness.

4. Examine Your Pastimes and Hobbies

Career planning provides a great time to also examine the activities you like doing when you’re not working. It may sound a bit odd, to examine non-work activities when doing career planning, but it’s not. Many times your hobbies and leisurely pursuits can give you great insight into future career paths.

Think you can’t make a hobby into a career? People do it all the time. The great painter Paul Gauguin was a successful business person who painted on the side. It actually wasn’t until he was encouraged by an artist he admired to continue painting that he finally took a serious look at his hobby and decided he should change careers. He was good at business, but his love was painting.

5. Make Note of Your Past Accomplishments

Most people don’t keep a very good record of work accomplishments and then struggle with creating a powerful resume when it’s time to search for a new job. Making note of your past accomplishments — keeping a record of them — is not only useful for building your resume, it’s also useful for career planning.

Sometimes reviewing your past accomplishments will reveal forgotten successes, one or more which may trigger researching and planning a career shift so that you can be in a job that allows you to accomplish the types of things that make you most happy and proud.

Are you shy? Discover best careers fit for you

Are you shy? Discover best careers fit for you

Feel like your quiet personality makes you the office outsider? Here are six careers where a reserved nature is an asset, not a limitation.

Does the phrase “small talk” make you cringe? If you’re a quiet person, navigating the social niceties of the professional world could be a real drag. You may even feel like your personality is holding you back from getting a leg up in your current career. But don’t count yourself out just yet. A quiet demeanor could conceal great powers of observation or analysis.

“People who are quiet might focus on data and things, rather than people, so there are some occupations [in which] they might be able to do a better job,” says Laurence Shatkin, a career expert and author of several books, including “50 Best Jobs for Your Personality.”

Ready to let your quiet attributes do the talking? Consider pursuing these careers where your natural inclinations could be your greatest assets.

Career 1: Accountant

When data talks, are you usually listening? An ability to sit quietly while poring over numbers could serve you well as an accountant.

If you prefer to keep quiet and focus on the details, this number-driven occupation could play to your strengths, Shatkin says. Reviewing financial statements, computing taxes, and reviewing accounting systems are some of the duties required of accountants, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Accountants carry out their duties in either an office or at home, according to the Department of Labor. Sounds like you’ll have plenty of quality time to spend with your number-friends. Just keep in mind that this job may require meeting face-to-face with clients on occasion, in order to provide recommendations or explain your findings, the Department notes.

Career 2: Graphic Designer

Would you rather express yourself through images than words? Your skills as a visual communicator could take center stage in a graphic design career. Quiet people are often considered better listeners, Shatkin says, which means they may have an advantage in this creative field.

Why do graphic designers need active listening skills? In order to “really focus on what the client is trying to convey with the graphic,” Shatkin says.

But taking direction from clients isn’t the only time you’ll find yourself keeping mum. As a graphic designer, you might spend much of your time figuring out the best way to use colors, images, text, and layouts to communicate ideas, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Sounding a little lonely? Don’t worry, graphic designers aren’t completely solitary. Being able to work in teams is also an important quality, as graphic designers often collaborate directly with a client or in conjunction with marketers, programmers, or other graphic designers, the Department of Labor notes.

Career 3: Software Developer

If you come up with your best ideas during quiet contemplation, a career as a software developer could deliver rewarding work. “Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. While they may work in teams, most of the day-to-day work is solo, Shatkin says.

Daily tasks might include designing computer applications such as word processors or games, or creating the operating systems used in consumer electronics, the Department of Labor reports. Still, software developers don’t work in a vacuum. They will need to address feedback from customers about programs they develop, says the Department.

Career 4: Database Administrator

Do you like to quietly and thoroughly think over the task at hand before taking action? If so, you may want to think over a career as a database administrator. Talk about the need for quiet concentration: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in this career “a minor error can cause major problems.”

That’s because database administrators are responsible for organizing large amounts of data for important processes, like credit card transactions, the Department of Labor reports. Of course, where there are important databases, there are also users of those databases, which is why this career can also require “a fair amount of collaborative work,” Shatkin notes.

Career #5: Writer

Do you feel most comfortable when you’re up to your eyeballs in research and facts – with not a person in sight? Then you might have a calling as a writer. Quiet people often have a great ability to concentrate on slogging through information, Shatkin says. This kind of endurance can be a prized skill for writers, who, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, need to demonstrate strong research and proper citation methods to establish credibility in their work.

Writers produce work for many different mediums. In addition to writing for books and magazines, writers might create content for an advertisement, website, or TV or film script, according to the Department of Labor.

Yes, writing is often a solitary endeavor, but a supporting cast is needed to see manuscripts through to publication. As a writer, you would likely communicate regularly with an editor or client, the Department notes.

Career 6: Survey Researcher

Surveys are used regularly to help organizations test the waters of public opinion, but did you ever wonder who designs the questions? Survey researchers – that’s who. If you’re one for long hours of quiet contemplation, this could be the career for you.

The listening skills that seem to go hand-in-hand with quiet personalities can be the key to designing surveys that deliver reliable, meaningful results, Shatkin says.

No, surveys won’t tell you how they should be designed, but your employers might. “Part of [survey research] is finding out what someone needs to learn from the survey, and that requires really listening,” Shatkin says.

As a survey researcher, you could enjoy a good amount of silent work – like researching the survey topic, determining the best method for accurately capturing the desired information, or using statistical software to analyze the results, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Just note that you won’t be spending all of your time on Silent Street. Survey researchers can also be responsible for conducting surveys themselves by facilitating focus groups or interviewing people over the phone or in-person, according to the Department of Labor.

Top 3 Salary Negotiation Mistakes

Top 5 Salary Negotiation Mistakes

If you want to make adults squirm like kindergartners, broach the subject of salary negotiation. Talking money makes most workers uncomfortable. And while they want such talks to succeed, they make plenty of blunders. If only they had some basic negotiation guidelines.

So what’s the best way to avoid stumbling and also boost your confidence? Rebecca Warriner, a job search coach and owner of Woodland Recruiting, a Seattle-based recruitment and outplacement firm, has some salary negotiation tips when pursuing a win-win situation for you and the employer—rather than starting out defensively, assuming you’re going to get a low offer. Warriner notes, “Salary negotiation is a dialogue that the company and the candidate should be having throughout the hiring process. It should not be a one-time conversation at the end.” She says to embrace your power and how it relates to the negotiation.

Warriner, who’s been on both sides of salary negotiation for over 15 years, offers a handy list of negotiation mistakes to avoid.

Being unprepared. “I get pretty frustrated as a recruiter when I ask somebody, ‘What are your expectations as far as pay goes?’ [and they do not have an answer],” says Warriner. She suggests doing some homework, and then determining what you’d like to earn. Warriner recommends several methods, including using salary information Web sites, talking to recruiters, asking friends who work in human resources, or connecting with local professional organizations that have salary information.

Once you have a solid answer, practice it. Get in front of the mirror, look yourself in the eye and say, “I earned $55,000 at my last job and I am targeting the $60,000s in this job search.” If you feel you were underpaid in your last gig but aren’t sure about bringing it up, Warriner advises raising the topic in a positive light, underscoring that you’d like to increase your earnings as you make your next career move to better reflect your skills and experience. It pays to be confident with your salary negotiation counteroffer, she adds.

Playing games. Telling a prospective employer what you think they want to hear is risky business. “Oftentimes, a candidate will say that they are very flexible; that they are willing to take a step back in pay. Don’t say you’re really flexible if you’re not,” Warriner says. She points out that this approach assumes the company will be more invested in and attached to you at the end of the interview process, and therefore willing to offer you more money than you first asked for—but they won’t be.

The key, she says, is to be confident in the salary range you want, and walk away from jobs that aren’t offering it. More than anything, “don’t go through the [hiring] process to have compensation be the reason it doesn’t work,” she says.

Warriner also discourages pitting offers against each other, such as going to your current employer and saying, “I’d like to stay here, but this other company is offering me more.” She says “companies are not interested in candidates that are only interested in pay.” Warriner believes this will likely result in a lost job offer, and lost respect for you from all companies involved in the process.

Comparing apples to oranges. If you’re changing careers or moving into a different industry, Warriner says you should tailor your salary expectations. For example, a person moving from a larger company to a smaller organization, or from a corporate outfit to a nonprofit, should expect lower pay. She suggests looking at compensation factors beyond salary in these cases, such as the commute, benefits, the team you’ll work with and industry experience you’ll gain.

Stringing a company along. When the time comes to say yes or no, you need to be ready. Warriner believes that “the comp package is something that should have been talked about during the entire process,” so you shouldn’t encounter any big surprises. If it really is the first time you’re seeing the offer and you need time to review it, say something positive, such as, “I’m really happy to receive this offer. I am happy to work for this company. I just want to make sure I am seeing everything and would like tonight to think about it.”

Following bad advice. “A lot of advice on salary negotiation is really old fashioned,” says Warriner. “It is based on power plays and assumes that the company is being dishonest.” Some examples include delaying the salary conversation as long as possible, not giving a salary range/figure, or delaying your response to an offer for a week. Taking this power-play approach may cause the company to be turned off by you.

Use your mind to be a happier person

Use your mind to be a happier person

These mental tweaks help cheery types live longer, stay healthier, and even look younger.

Fret Less

To banish worries, put stressors on paper. Writing them down and stashing the note in a “worry jar” (or a drawer) makes it easier to compartmentalize and move on, says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., a psychologist in Washington, D.C. Limiting anxiety is healthy. A surfeit of the stress hormone cortisol may lead to chronic pain, depression, cognitive issues and even heart problems, potentially shortening your life. Not to mention that constant worry is no fun.

Keep Your Sunny Side Up

Optimists live longer, plain and simple. In a 15-year study of more than 100,000 women, cheery types were 14 percent less likely to die in an eight-year period than gloomy gals were, the National Institutes of Health Women’s Health Initiative finds. To change your thinking, visualize a happy moment: “Imagining yourself in a hammock on the beach can have an immediate, relaxing effect on the body that makes it more difficult to stay focused on the negative,” Bonior says.

If All Else Fails, Take a Nap

When life starts getting you down, catch 40 winks. If you’re stressed out, a 45-minute daytime snooze may lower your blood pressure, a study from Allegheny College reports. Siestas also help you catch up on much-needed sleep. That’s crucial, because chronic sleep deprivation can cause aging at the cellular level. So give yourself permission to nap like a kid. We predict you’ll start feeling like one, too.

Your Relaxation Rx

Which mind / body treatments have the most rock-solid science backing them up? Brent Bauer, M.D., director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, provides the big picture.

For: Back pain Try: Yoga
For: High cholesterol Try: Qigong
For: Depression Try: Music therapy, qigong, yoga
For: Eating disorders Try: Meditation, yoga
For: Fertility Try: Visualization, yoga
For: Heart health Try: Deep breathing, qigong, yoga
For: Immunity Try: Breathing, chants, meditation, qigong
For: Insomnia Try: Acupuncture, visualization, yoga
For: Joint pain Try: Music therapy, qigong, yoga
For: Migraines Try: Acupuncture, yoga

The Science

The latest cutting-edge research proves your mind can heal your body. Here’s how:

Your body dials down stress. Dr. Benson’s research has found that mind/body practices—meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, visualization—all elicit the relaxation response, quelling the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Your heart slows, blood pressure falls and digestion eases.

The relaxation response causes cells to release micropuffs of nitric oxide, a gas that dilates blood vessels and stabilizes the immune system, Dr. Benson reported in Medical Science Monitor. Mind/body methods worked as well as drugs designed to do the same thing, without the side effects.

Gap Year Experience: Why more teens are delaying college

Gap Year Experience: Why more teens are delaying college

Taking a year off is catching on with students looking for adventure and to avoid burnout.

This summer, Monika Lutz’s life took an unusual turn. Instead of heading off to college, the high school graduate packed her bags for a Bengali jungle. Lutz, like a growing number of other young Americans, is taking a year off. Gap years are quite common in Britain and Australia, but they are just beginning to catch on in the U.S. Lutz, who grew up in Boulder, Colo., has put together a 14-month schedule that includes helping deliver solar power to impoverished communities in India and interning for a fashion designer in Shanghai – experiences that are worlds away from the stuffy lecture halls and beer-stained frat houses that await many of her peers. “I could not be happier,” she says.

No one tracks the number of U.S. students who decide to take gap years, but many high school guidance counselors and college admissions officers say the option is becoming more popular. Harvard, which has long encouraged its incoming first-years to defer matriculation, has seen a 33% jump in the past decade in the number of students taking gap years. MIT’s deferments have doubled in the past year. And Princeton formalized the trend in 2009 by funding gap-year adventures for 20 incoming first-years annually. The school’s goal is to extend this offer to about 100 students per class.

Meanwhile, a cottage industry of gap-year programs and consultants has sprouted in the U.S. Tom Griffiths, founder of GapYear.com a site that serves as a clearinghouse for gap-year programs, says that five years ago, perhaps 1% of his Web traffic originated in the U.S. Now, that figure is 10%. The number of Americans taking gap years through Projects Abroad, a U.K. company that coordinates volunteer programs around the world, has nearly quadrupled since 2005. The organization just launched Global Gap, its first effort marketed specifically to Americans; the 27-week curriculum features service projects in South Africa, Peru, India and Thailand.

Like a year of college, these adventures can be expensive. The price tag for Global Gap is $30,000. Thinking Beyond Borders, a highly respected, eight-month program that parachutes students into third-world communities, costs $39,000. Yes, it’s certainly possible for students to pursue meaningful volunteer work on a smaller budget. But unless kids stay at home and get a paying job nearby, families will likely incur significant expense. The increase in interest suggests that at least some families are willing. “There are now more structured opportunities for students to take gap years,” says David Hawkins, the director of public policy and research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “That doesn’t happen unless there’s a market to sustain it.”

Why are students attracted to the gap-year concept? According to new survey data from Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, education-policy experts and co-authors of The Gap-Year Advantage, the most common reason cited for deferring college is to avoid burnout. “I felt like I was focused on college as a means to an end,” says Kelsi Morgan, an incoming Middlebury College freshman who spent last year feeding llamas at a North Dakota monastery, interning for a judge in Tulsa, Okla., and teaching English at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. The hope is that after a year out of the classroom, students will enter college more energized, focused and mature. That can be an advantage for colleges too. Robert Clagett, dean of admissions at Middlebury, did some number-crunching a few years ago and found that a single gap semester was the strongest predictor of academic success at his school.

Most experts recommend securing a spot in college before taking a gap year and warn against using the time off to pad your rÉsumÉ. “Most admissions folks can see right through that,” says Jim Jump, the academic dean of St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Va. But for students like Lutz, who, after getting rejected from five Ivies, decided to take time off, a gap year can help reprioritize and focus interests. Lutz now plans to apply mostly to non-Ivies that have strong marketing programs. “This experience has really opened my eyes to the opportunities the world has to offer,” she says.

But at least one education expert doesn’t want schools spreading the gap-year message as if it were gospel. In a study that followed 11,000 members of the high school class of 1992 for eight years after graduation, Stefanie DeLuca, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, found that, all things being equal, those who delayed college by a year were 64% less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than those who enrolled immediately after high school. DeLuca did not pinpoint whether these students voluntarily started college late, but at the very least, her work indicates that taking a gap year doesn’t guarantee success. “I’m not going to say that time off does not have benefits,” says DeLuca. “But I think we should be tempered in our enthusiasm.”

No one’s gap-year enthusiasm was more tempered than Olivia Ragni’s. In the spring of 2009, the high schooler from Arkadelphia, Ark., inadvertently missed the deadline to secure her spot at Rice University that fall and was told she would have to wait a year to enroll. “I was really down,” says Ragni, who still cries when recalling the embarrassment of informing her classmates of the unintended deferment. But through two experiential-learning organizations, she spent the year volunteering in a hospital in India, taking intensive Spanish while hiking volcanoes in Guatemala and working at an elephant camp in Thailand. “I gained confidence and independence,” says Ragni, who has just arrived in Houston to start her first term at Rice. “It was the best experience of my life.” The tears have dried up. Consider it a lucky break.

6 Ways to boost your self-confidence

6 Ways to boost your self-confidence

Self-confidence isn’t something that you’re born with. But it certainly is something that you can learn. And the more you practice it, the more confident you will become. Here are six tips that will help you look — and feel — self-confident:

1. Figure out what you’re good at and capitalize on it. Make a decision to be an expert in one area of your business or job.

2. Whenever your area of expertise comes up, take a position and share it with others. Don’t sit back and wait to see which direction everyone else is going and then follow along.

3. Make your points without apologizing. Sit or stand up straight, and speak clearly without mumbling or fumbling around.

4. Accept compliments graciously. Don’t say things like “anyone could have done it,” when in reality, you’ve put a lot of time and effort into the finished product.

5. Admit mistakes. When you make a bad decision, acknowledge it; share what you’ve learned and move on. Don’t dwell on the bad stuff.

6. Don’t be over-confident. If you’re an intern, you probably need a little more experience before you apply for the CEO job.

When you act self-confident, you inspire confidence in others and put yourself on the road to success.