Tag Archives: Psychology

An Exercise in Kickstarting Your Day for the Unenergetic, Unmotivated Dreamers

It’s a bright day, the natural light reveals all the outside world, and the birds are chirping. The world is alive. But you don’t know it, and you don’t care. You slouch on your couch hunched over with the blinds shut so not even a fraction of light shines through to warm your numb, expressionless face.

You have no energy to do anything today, and the meaning of “productive” has long been filed away in the deepest, forgotten crypts of your mind. So you sink into your couch, and hide behind your pillows – a false comfort – rationalizing, “Well, I deserve at least one more lazy day,” but we both know you said this yesterday.

And you know how dogs feed off their master’s energy? Max is sprawled on the recliner as if his muscles turned to jelly, looking around the room with slow, slow puppy dog eyes sighing and wondering, “When is something going to happen around here?”

You haven’t written a single word for your novel in weeks maybe months, and you stopped your small bout of exercising just short of it being consistent. Sometimes, you don’t even feel like going into work. And sometimes you just don’t.

What are you thinking? What are you feeling? You certainly aren’t thinking, “Man, what an amazing day. I feel so alive!” or “I have energy and momentum today! I want to get things done.”

But isn’t that what we should all be thinking?

What I described is a seemingly down, unmotivated, and numb human being. Someone merely existing, and not living. This was me two weeks ago.

I never thought or felt anything truly positive during those times, and I probably didn’t genuinely feel anything at all. There were so many things that I wanted to do, but I lacked motivation. I had no energy, no will, and no inner foundation of thoughts that set the base and mood for my day. But two weeks ago, I started my vacation from work with a purpose. I thought, “Okay, here’s 336 absolutely free hours of my life, what am I going to do?”

Sitting around playing video games and marathoning “Lost” was my first thought, but then the idea of using the 336 hours to do something extremely unproductive, in the biggest sense of the word, was appalling to me. I was ashamed that I had even given that notion a thought.

So what I decided is that I would use these two weeks as a sort of jolting, “Revival Retreat”. I wanted to shake my life up, I wanted to be progressive, energetic, and motivated. (Did any of those words come to mind when you pictured someone slouched on the couch in the dark?)

Of course, I know not many of you have this much free time, I am very lucky to have such a generous and flexible schedule, but I want to share the few little exercises that gave me the perfect kickstart to each day:

Now it’s your turn.

Close your blinds, make it very dark in the room, and get on your couch, your computer chair, or bed (wherever you lounge around). Now slouch over and wipe the emotion off your face, maybe even frown. Your eyes are only half open as you stare numbingly at your computer screen or television. You browse facebook for the fifth time today, and check your email for the sixth, and yet you’ve only been up for three hours.

Now a big, heavy, long sigh. Your energy is draining, and you may even yawn. What are you thinking? Can you honestly think, “It is the most gorgeous and magnificent day out today!” without feeling… weird?

While writing this, I did this exercise and the first thought that came to mind was, “Can I really finish this post in time?” It was negative right off the bat! I had to reassure myself that it was only an exercise.

Now, all of a sudden…

…you rocket yourself off the couch or chair, and make a beeline to the windows. Pull open the blinds all the way, and let the ALL the light shine in. Notice how you immediately feel better?

Your surroundings have an instant effect on your mood. (Especially light!) So now the light is shining on your face, and already you feel more energized.

Now lift up your head and straighten your back in the most perfect posture, your natural posture. Just think: You are an ancient god or goddess, and now you’re showing confidence to your people, assuring them that, yes, you can take care of things.

Channel your inner Nefertiti or your inner Julius Caesar!

Pretend that, in any moment, someone will make a bust of you to capture your confidence, brashness and boldness for years and years to come. Feeling any better? Good posture harbors more confidence. (And it doesn’t hurt to pretend you’re ancient royalty!) More about confidence and posture here.

Last, but not least, give a big, toothy, genuine smile. If it’s difficult to do, think of your favorite delicious dessert or your loved one unwrapping and freaking out over a thoughtful gift from you. Not only are you a confident ancient ruler, but now you are also charismatic, and people eat that up. Don’t worry about giving an inaugural wave or anything, because your smile alone is an instant pick-me-up. Biopsychology theorists call this “facial feedback“.

Me and my little sister.

Practice switching between these two dramatically different scenes, and try focusing on the outlook of your inner thoughts as you do so. Are they pessimistic? Optimistic? Did you feel a difference?

Any time that I find myself having an uninspired, stagnant day, I try to give myself and my surroundings a little jolt. Even if you don’t feel happy, confident, and charismatic, taking in the light, smiling, and straightening up will at least give physical cues to your mind telling it to “Get up and get going!”

photo credit (1) (2) (3,4) (5) (6)

Reviving Your Childhood and Satisfying Your Insatiable Curiosity

At a young age, my brother and I were constantly encouraged to explore. I spent my childhood satisfying my insatiable curiosity and conducting my own little experiments outside during summer days in Texas. Even today, at 18, I still enjoy going outside and lifting up rocks to find a slew of different bugs and creatures. (Only now I look them up online if I want to identify them – which I usually do!)

I still capture spiders in and around my house, identify them, observe their behaviors, and let them go outside. I still pull out earthworms from the dirt and look at them with awe. I still attempt to light fires using a magnifying glass and the sun! I fly paper airplanes and try to create the most efficient one. My brother and I even have fencing matches with the water noodles at the grocery store.

Don’t ever lose this. My childhood curiosity has now blossomed into a strong interest in everything and has given me a strong basis of knowledge. (Plus it was so fun!)

If you’ve never gone outside to play wall ball or TV tag with your siblings, if you’ve never gotten your feet a little dirty, used up your mom’s popcorn to try popping it with a magnifying glass, had water gun battles, or sold lemonade or made paper boats, do it now!

Many of us have forgotten how to do this without guilt or anxiety that, as adults, we must be doing something that is worthwhile. Take some time away from your responsibilities and satisfy your natural human curiosity. If you have kids, share the experience with them!

Some psychotherapists call your inner child the “true self.” Spending some time with your inner child can boost your self-esteem and help you to solve deep-rooted problems that possibly could have followed you through your adulthood. Talk with your inner child as if you were its guardian, reassure it, and uncover any internal battles.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood!

photo credit: fayebatka | prozac74
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The Psychology Behind Procrastination

Now that people world-wide have their own personal computers, cell phones, access to the internet and video games of every variety, procrastination has arisen as a top cause of stress in our lives. I’m no exception. It’s difficult even for me to open up a Word document and start writing an Economics essay when I have a whole world of information, games, and social connections at my fingertips.

We come in many forms (we’re a highly evolved breed!) ranging from those who simply seek the excitement of working under pressure to those who refuse to make decisions as a way to avoid responsibility for the outcome of a task.

Psychologists believe procrastination has three recognizable traits: the task must be counter-productive, delaying, and needless.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Sometimes, when I think of writing my weekly essay, my stomach ties in a knot. I worry about how long it will take and if I’ll write it well. Then I think of everything else I could be doing instead of writing this paper. Important tasks we do not do daily usually come with some kind of anxiety when starting or finishing. Psychologists believe procrastination is a coping mechanism for this anxiety. It is a fear of failure. Maybe even a fear of success.

Checking your email while there’s a report to be written or a room to be cleaned is the perfect example of procrastination. We actively look for distractions that don’t require much thought. Television is also another enabler. Procrastinators yearn for this distraction to normalize their feelings of anxiety.

How does it start?

Some procrastinators come from strict parents. Having parents who control everything will lessen a child’s ability to regulate his or her self in the future. It can even be a form of rebellion! Conversely, parents who procrastinate, do their Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, and don’t pay their bills on time can rub-off on children as well.

Why is it so bad?

Speaking from personal experience alone, I have spent long and sleepless nights writing papers or completing entire projects I pushed until the very end. Just recently I put off my entire English portfolio until a FEW HOURS before it was due, and instead of an easy “A”, I received a “C” for the class. My work was not up to its potential had I have given it time. Getting no sleep can also affect your immune system and you’ll get sick easier and feel groggy. It’s obvious what kind of affect it can have on your grades. Just think what path my life would be heading down if I did this for every class and every assignment! These affects only get worse over time.

How do we stop?

People all around have published countless strategies to banish this bad behavior and different people call for different strategies. I implore you to visit some of my favorite webpages of ways to quit procrastinating and find one that fits you best!

These are just  few of many different ways to overcome procrastination and to finally make time your friend. Many books, essays, articales, and pamphlets have been published on the matter. Keep searching until you find a solution that fits you!

photo credit: spigoo | aaronescobar | sorbor
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Saturday Sprinkles 02.21.09

Saturday Sprinkles is a weekly highlight of interesting and useful finds… but I was thinking of giving each one a different theme like love, brain disorders, inspiration, and such.

What are your thoughts, readers? Making it a mixed bag seems more interesting, but is it too scattered and random? Any suggestions?

  • Vimeo featured a gorgeous short love film comprised of 4500+ still images. Very endearing!
  • Some bizarre, but truthful tips on ways to survive a recession with an empty wallet including diet changes like putting an egg in your ramen and cutting that Caramel Macchiato.
  • Exactitudes (from “exact” and “attitude”) is an interesting photography project which snaps images of individuals of certain types in similar poses and dress to observe people’s attempts to distinguish themselves from others.

"Geeks"

  • Some very interesting tests for different aspects of your mind! There’s a test for reading faces, which, afterward gives you some statistics and information on facial expressions. According to this, sticking your tongue out while concentrating could be an unconscious signal to others to just leave you alone! There’s also one testing your reliability as a witness! How did you do?
  • Stephen Wiltshire from London is an autistic savant who was able to sketch an aerial view of  Rome after one helicopter ride. See and read more at his website. Phenomenal.
photo credit: sallyrye
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Using Erikson’s Developmental Stage Theory to put your Life into Perspective

The nice thing about Psychology is that we can apply lessons learned to our daily lives, become more aware, and live to our fullest. Being self-aware and creating our own identity is an important, almost necessary concept we should practice every day.

Erikson’s  Developmental Stage theory, is nothing too fancy or complicated. It’s a simple view on eight stages we go through in our lives. According to Erikson, we grow from infancy to late adulthood, and in each stage we must master a new challenge. Once we master a challenge, we gain a certain set of skills. If we do not master a certain challenge, there could be possible psychological consequences. It is not a definitive list, but there are lessons we can learn from his eight stages!

Using this as a guide, identify what you’ve accomplished, what you need to work on, and what you should remember for your future stages.

Stage 1

Infancy (birth to 18 mos.)

  • The challenge: Trust vs. Mistrust
  • What it means: We must learn to trust parents’ care and affection or else develop the beginning of a deep distrust and view world as unsafe.
  • What to take from it: Don’t just take care of your children, let them feel comfortable and safe when you’re around. Let them know, even if they are still too young, that they can trust you.
  • Do you trust the world around you? Do you have hope?

Stage 2

Toddler (18 mos. to 3 yrs.)

  • The challenge: autonomy vs. shame and doubt
  • What it means: We learn to be competent by learning to feed ourselves, use the toilet, and play alone or else we will feel ashamed and doubt our abilities.
  • What to take from it: Encourage toddlers to be autonomous individuals who can begin to take care of themselves.
  • Do you have strong willpower?

Stage 3

Preschool (3 to 5 yrs.)

  • The challenge: initiative vs. guilt
  • What it means: We use our own initiative in planning or carrying out plans or if we cannot live within parents’ limitations, we develop a sense of guilt over misbehavior
  • What to take from it: A child should be encouraged to start projects for their own purpose. Having the ability to take initiative without feeling guilty will allow one to plan and judge accordingly giving one a sense of roles.
  • Have you found your purpose and role in life and are you satisfied with it?

Stage 4

School age (5-11 yrs.)

  • The challenge: industry vs. inferiority
  • What it means: We learn to meet the demands imposed by school or home or else we come to believe we are inferior to others
  • What to take from it: Our responsibilities are what we use to prove to others that we are capable and on equal grounds to others. If we take on no responsibilities, we may begin to feel inferior. Work hard at being productive and responsible.
  • Do you feel competent?

Stage 5

Adolescence (11-18 yrs.)

  • The challenge: identity vs. role confusion
  • What it means: In this stage, we acquire a sense of our own identity or else become confused about our role in life
  • What to take from it: Settle on an identity that you are comfortable with. Ask questions about yourself. Show through your actions, appearance, and achievements what you want your role to be in life.
  • Who exactly are you? Are you happy with it?

Stage 6

Young Adulthood (18-40 yrs.)

  • The challenge: intimacy vs. isolation
  • What it means: We develop a couple relationship and joint identity with a partner or else become isolated from meaningful relationships with others
  • What to take from it: Here, we still want to have an identity with the world around us. If you fear rejection, forming intimate relationships will be difficult.
  • Are you open to new, close relationships? Do you fear rejection and being vulnerable? Erikson argues that:

“Intimacy has a counterpart: Distantiation: the readiness to isolate and if necessary, to destroy those forces and people whose essence seems dangerous to our own, and whose territory seems to encroach on the extent of one’s intimate relations” (1950)

Stage 7

Middle adulthood (40-65 yrs.)

  • The challenge: generativity vs. stagnation
  • What it means: We make use of our remaining time developing a concern with helping others and guiding the next generation or else we become self-centered, un-accepting of not being to see the far future, and stagnant
  • What to take from it: Help growing and grown children to be responsible adults, relinquish central role in lives of grown children, accept children’s mates and friends, be proud of accomplishments of your self and your mate. In this stage, we may have much leisure time.
  • Will you use that time to benefit the next generation and yourself or become stagnant?

Stage 8

Late adulthood (60+)

  • The challenge: integrity vs. despair
  • What it means: We reap the benefits of our early stages and understand and sccept the meaning of a temprary life or else we despair over regrets, not having enough time, and not finding meaning in life
  • What to take from it: In this stage, we tend to evaluate whether we’ve reached our goals and whether we are satisfied. From here, we can choose to accept the kind of life we lived and are living now or we can mourn over the past, our loss of time, and our fate.
  • What kind of life have you lived? Did you do what you wanted? Do you have regrets? Would you have done things differently?

By looking at what is to come, we are able to ensure – through every stage – that we are happy with the life that we live. Take each stage into consideration when making choices in your life. Go down the road you feel you will be happy with in the end.

We have long, long lives to live so make sure you enrich it and give it its full potential. If you couldn’t face a certain crises before, it’s all right. We’ve been given the ability to question our lives and behaviors and the ability to change them whenever we can. Use it!

photo credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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trust vs mistrust