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Showing posts from February, 2021

The Secret to Maintaining a New Habit

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We all long for self improvement.  Sometimes we have a dream:  "I want to write a book."  "I want to run a marathon."  "I want to retire at 55."  Other times, something triggers a desire for change.  We eat a big holiday meal, or step on the scale after a vacation, and think, "That's it!  I'm losing 30 pounds!"  Or we babysit our grandkids or help someone downsize and move to another state, and we realize "Wow!  I'm really out of shape!  I'm going to start exercising every day!" There's no reason to doubt our motivations.  The problem with creating a new positive habit is not that we have no resolve.  We really mean it when we decide in December to start going to the gym three times a week in the new year.  Our intentions are sincere.  But gyms are pretty empty by the end of February. The problem for most of us isn't starting a new habit.  It's maintaining one. I remember learning to type (back in the "o

Comparison, the Thief of Joy

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In a world of brand names, popular culture, cliques, and the fear of missing out, the habit of comparing ourselves to others really takes hold. "Comparisons are odious," states a 15th century proverb pirated by Cervantes, Marlowe, and others, and humorously misquoted by Shakespeare as "Comparisons are odorous."  In other words, they stink. And yet we constantly make them. Either we're prone to comparing ourselves with others in a way that helps us feel superior:  "Wow, I'd never wear that !"  "I'd be a blimp if I ate what she's eating!"  "I would never deal with my kids that way!" Or we compare in ways that denigrate and belittle ourselves.  We watch a decorating show on TV and decide that our home is comparatively ugly and outdated.  We glance at a fashion magazine and decide that we're hopelessly fat, unattractive, and unchic.  We follow someone's Instagram feed and feel stupid and uncreative compared with th

Don't Worry

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The Bible says, "Do not worry about tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34). But I've always been a worrier.  Perhaps it's part of being an introvert.  And as the oldest child, I was never able to follow in anyone's footsteps; I always felt like I was heading into "unknown territory" alone, with no one to ask questions of or rely on.  Maybe I was being fanciful (or maybe it was part of my "worry first" personality), but it made me feel that I had to anticipate and figure out everything ahead of time so I wouldn't mess up.  It made me pay attention to details and become a problem-solver, but it also made me a nervous perfectionist. Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom said that worry doesn't solve the problems of tomorrow, it simply deprives us of energy for today.  A University of Cincinnati study showed that what we worry about happens less than 15% of the time, which means we're letting our positive energy be drained for very little purpose. When

Happiness is Love

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The famous Harvard study that followed graduates of the years 1939 to 1944 throughout their lives (some of them for over 70 years) found that those who were happiest had love – close personal relationships.  "Love is happiness," said the study's lead psychologist, Dr. George Vaillant.  "Happiness is love.  Full stop." In other words, anything that substitutes for human relationships in your life is a bad trade.  You will sacrifice happiness if you crowd out relationships with work, politics, social media, material consumption, or anything else. Our society encourages us to love things and use people.  We're expected to have ever-increasing lists of things we want to buy and do and places we want to go.  But it's possible for us to achieve everything on our lists while missing out on close relationships.  That's a formula for loneliness, depression, bad health, maybe even alcoholism or other addictions. So get this straight:  Love people.  Use things.

What My Kids Taught Me About Decluttering

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Maybe you've made some headway decluttering your own belongings – your clothing, shoes, books , grooming items.  And you can usually clear a few other areas without too much consultation – excess linens, duplicate kitchen items , the contents of junk drawers.  Even removing some unloved wall art or the sagging old couch crowded into the back bedroom may not require discussion or debate with other members of your family. And then there's the kids' stuff. Outgrown (but still in good shape), torn, and stained clothing is (hopefully) something you already donate or discard, and your kids don't care.  But once children hit the age of 4 or 5, you realize that you need to have a little respect for their belongings.  Those millions of toys scattered over the house won't tidy themselves, but if you cavalierly discard some of them you're going to get some pushback.  So you need to involve the kids, and teach them to declutter. Here's how that might work: Sit down at t

How to Be a Minimalist Parent

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"Grandma is another word for love."  It's so, so true.  I adore my grandsons and think of them all the time.  I want to be their cherished Grandma.  But I also want to be a good minimalist grandma. Why? Our kids are drowning in toys.   The U.S. is home to just 3% of the world's children but consumes 40% of the world's toys. Clutter can overwhelm children and increase their stress.   It's true for us, and it's true for kids too.  Peaceful, tidy surroundings help everyone stay more calm and focused. Owning less saves time and reduces arguments.   When items are messy and scattered, it becomes hard to find what you need or function with ease in your home.  And with too many toys it may be impossible for a child to put things away.  Fewer belongings leads to less frustration and conflict. Children feel more secure with less emphasis on consumerism.   Our own ad-inspired beliefs tell us that certain products will make us happier and more acceptable to others. 

When You Want It NOW

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Microwave ovens, 24-hour shopping and one-day delivery, TV streaming, and air travel have trained us to expect that our desires can be satisfied any time, any place, and pronto.  Some of us never stop acquiring new treats.  When we're rewarded so quickly every time we push a button, we just keep pushing that button. And what about things that take a little longer?  A home-cooked meal, an auto trip, a handwritten note, a conversation?  We become "too busy" for those things, and let takeout or frozen meals, speeding, and likes and emojis do that work for us. A world addicted to speed is not very pleasant.  It makes us pushy and short-tempered.  Our bodies and nervous systems are constantly on high alert, and don't handle the too-frequent doses of "fight or flight" hormones very well.  And lasting relationships built on care and trust don't form from texts and rushed exchanges. I'm not exempt from all of this.  I have a habit of impatience, and I need t