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5 Simple Daily Habits to Practice This New Year

When I was in the fourth grade, my mom took me to our local bank in New Jersey – Hudson City Savings – and opened up a savings account in my name with $50 in it.

Ann Mehl

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I got a little savings book with my name neatly type-written on the cover. I remember feeling suddenly very “adult” – especially now that I was rich!

Every week, or whenever I got some money, I took that little book straight to the bank where a kindly official smiled at me, and with a hollow ka-thunk of his big rubber stamp, recorded my small deposit. Even better than the big inky smudge was the idea that, through the magic of something called “compound interest,” the money in this book would continue to grow. Even during the night while I slept. Like Jack’s Beanstalk!

At the beginning of a New Year, many of us are left looking at our depleted savings accounts, wondering what the hell happened? Where did all that time and energy and money go? Not to mention the good intentions we had at the beginning of last year. It mocks us like a cheap champagne hangover.

In this delicate state, I am loath as a business coach to offer “resolutions” on top of all the other burdens we already feel. But what I often try to do for myself at the beginning of each year, is simply to begin saving again. Small deposits, put somewhere safe, that over time, slowly accrue interest. I have five “buckets” that I like to use. You may have more or less. The trick is to make daily investments in each of these, small enough so that we don’t feel the pain.

1. Physical. Do something that improves your physical health. Instead of two hours parked in front of the TV or computer screen, can you turn it off and go for a 20-minute walk? Maybe you can walk to the store instead of driving? Climb the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. I have even started taking some meetings while strolling in the park. We’re more apt to begin on time, finish on time, and we get a little exercise in the process.

2. Emotional. It’s vital that we spend our emotional energy wisely. The ways in which our emotional energy can be squandered are endless: the 24-hour bad news cycle, traffic, unreasonable deadlines, toxic people. Try to surround yourself with people who will uplift and inspire you, not deplete and depress you.

If that jerk on the radio makes your blood boil, then why are you listening to him? Spotting the negative influences may take some practice, as we have become so used them. But we don’t have to indulge them.

3. Mental. The mind is like a muscle and needs exercise too. Can you learn one new thing every day? Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s somebody’s name, a piece of history that you’ve always wondered about. Maybe you can learn one new word from the New York Times most frequently looked-up words list?

I read where author Philip Roth recently bought himself an iPhone. “Every morning I study a chapter in my ‘iPhone for Dummies,’” he said. “And now I’m proficient.” This from the man who won the Pulitzer Prize!

4. Spiritual. Try to get in touch with a “higher force,” whatever you perceive that to be. You don’t have to meditate for three hours a day, go to a mountaintop, pray to God or even believe in a God. But try to connect with something bigger than yourself for a few moments each day.

Even it’s just to stare in awe at nature, or see your humanity reflected in another person. One of the best ways to do this is to practice gratitude daily. Pick out the things in your life that you are grateful for – especially those things you would normally take for granted.

The most effective prayer in the world has two words: “Thank you.” When you do this, you will find yourself reconnected to the source.

5. Interpersonal. I call this the daily “reach out.” It might be someone who has been on my mind recently. An old college friend I owe an email to. Someone I bumped into on an airplane once. An introduction I would like to make for someone.

It costs us nothing to pick up the phone, write 4 lines or tweet 140 characters. But it says to somebody, “Hey, I’m thinking about you.” If you can add value, or give them something, then so much the better. Nobody can do everything on their own.

We need other people, just as other people need us. So try to practice one daily reach out. You may be surprised by the results.

This past year has been tough in many ways. We’ve seen a bruising election campaign in the U.S., political unrest overseas, a heartbreaking tragedy in Newtown, the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, and a still sluggish economy trying to grow.

But every New Year brings us renewed hope, and the chance to begin saving again. By taking me to Hudson City Savings Bank, my mom knew, even if I didn’t, that I probably wasn’t going to get rich anytime soon. But she also knew that good habits, practiced regularly over time, help us to grow in the right direction.

May all your small deposits yield big dividends in 2013.

Ann Mehl is an executive coach and career strategist based in New York City. She coaches, speaks and writes about how to navigate the changing world of work.

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4 Ways to Stop Worrying in 2019

If you’re a bit of a worry-wart, you have to acknowledge this and get proactive about managing your stress, anxiety and worrying levels. Here’s how.

Fedhealth

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What if I can’t complete that piece of work in time? What if my home gets burgled while I’m on holiday? We all worry – some people more than others. A few of these worries are genuine concerns, but most are completely out of our control and are most likely never to materialise.

But still, they occupy our minds. And with the digital world now occupying even more of our time, we’ve been given even more material to worry about. Famines in far-away countries, children orphaned by a flood, if we simply turn on our TVs or look to social media, we can become completely overwhelmed by what we see. And it’s making us all desperately unhappy.

So, what do we do? If you’re a bit of a worry-wart, you have to acknowledge this and get proactive about managing your stress, anxiety and worrying levels. Here’s how:

Monitor and limit social media

social-media-management

We all know our phones are an addiction. And scrolling through Twitter or Instagram, you can compare your life to everyone else’s and add another huge worry to your ever-growing list: I’m not good enough/my life sucks. Which is why there’s a growing trend among Generation X-ers (and even some Millennials), to quit social media altogether.

“It was like breaking an addiction for the first few days, where I felt I was missing out, but after a few weeks I realised that the world carries on, and I was still in touch with those people I actually wanted to connect with. I felt lighter and happier,” says Caryn White*, a mother-of-two and small business owner. If you can’t quit social media for work reasons, then take it off your phone, and only access it on your desktop at specific times of the day.

Limit news

We’re not advocating sticking your head in the sand: just limit which channels you absorb news from, and how often you do it. The last thing you need is to open up your phone on waking up and read about the latest catastrophe, which you are powerless to do anything about.

Pick a few trusted news sources and check them at specific times. Avoid the news on the radio in your car; rather listen to fascinating audio books or podcasts that lift your mood instead of making you worry.

Assumption or fact?

This simple concept is incredibly helpful when faced with a worrying situation. Your child has a strange rash, you’ve Googled it and you’re pretty sure it’s chickenpox. Now the whole family is going to get it, you’ll miss work, your boss will be angry, and you may lose your job. Is the fact that your child has chicken pox an assumption or a fact?

Is losing your job a fact or an assumption? They’re both assumptions. So, take your child to the doctor, get a proper diagnosis and then take the next steps from there (a good medical aid can also help ease the stress of the financial cost of doctors’ visits). This approach is a simple way to deal with worries that start to spiral out of control in your mind.

Write them down

Worrying can seem insurmountable if it’s all in your head. Instead, try this strategy from Qualified FAMSA Counsellor Lynette Blomfield:

  1. Take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed, until you calm down.
  2. Once you’re calm, write down the five most stressful things on your list. It could be increasing expenses, like a huge jump in medical aid costs per month.
  3. Brainstorm what you could do to change or eliminate the worry/problem (maybe you can move to a medical aid company that charges less each month?). If necessary, ask a good friend or colleague for advice.
  4. Focus on making progress, not ticking all your worries off and striving for ‘perfection’.
  5. Stay on course and come back to your list regularly.

Dealing with worrying is about being proactive. You’re the only one that can begin the process of reducing anxiety, so now’s the time to take some steps. If you don’t know how to begin doing this on your own, it may be best to see a qualified counsellor or therapist to get you started.

*name has been changed

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Self Development

These 6 Types of Music Are Known To Dramatically Improve Productivity

Just another example of how much you gain by listening.

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Music isn’t just a means of entertaining ourselves: it can also encourage creativity and help us become more productive. Listening to music can also be therapeutic, relieving feelings of stress so you can concentrate better.

Research has found that certain types of music can be beneficial to us while we work. Some types of music seem to help with learning and improve our ability to process information. Other types help block out distracting background noise. Still other types sync with our brain waves to induce “eureka moments.”

So, if you’re struggling with productivity and want to know what you should be listening to, read on. These are the six types of music that will give you a major boost in productivity.

1. Classical Music

beethoven

Researchers have long claimed that listening to classical music can help people perform tasks more efficiently. This theory, which has been dubbed the Mozart Effect,” suggests that listening to classical composers can enhance brain activity and act as a catalyst for improving health and well-being. Various studies have confirmed that listening to classical music enhances one’s ability to manipulate shapes and solve spatial puzzles.

The absence of words in the music may be one factor, as songs that contain lyrics have been found to be a distraction when you’re trying to focus. And classical music is known for being calming, relaxing and helping reduce stress. This genre of music has been found to help students perform 12 percent better on their exams. Some selections, like Beethoven’s “Für Elise,” seem to help students study longer and retain more information.

Here are other few classical selections you can use to boost productivity while working:

2. Nature Music

nature-waterfall-sounds

Listening to the sounds of nature, like waves crashing or a babbling brook, has been shown to enhance cognitive function and concentration. Nature sounds work best when they’re soothing sounds, such as flowing water or rainfall, while more jarring noises such as bird calls and animal noises can be distracting.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered that natural sounds boost moods and focus. The study found employees were more productive and had more positive feelings when nature sounds were playing in the background while they worked.

This may be because nature sounds helped mask harsher, more distracting noises, such as people talking or typing. Researchers found that workers not only performed better on tasks, but calming nature sounds also had a restorative effect on cognitive abilities.

Here are some selections to try:

3. Cinematic Music

the-bourne-identity

An intense film score can make you feel like you’re doing something inspiring or important, even if you’re just chipping away at your to-do list. A grandiose, epic soundtrack playing in the background may make even the most mundane tasks feel like you’re changing the world, thus heightening your concentration and productivity.

Cinematic music scores can be empowering, lifting your spirits and brightening your mood. So, if you’re feeling tired and drained, try listening to some epic-style cinematic music to give you that extra boost of motivation.

Some great movie scores to try include:

4. Video Game Music

halo-soundtrack

It might seem strange, but listening to music composed for video games can be a great tool to help you focus. Every element of a video game is designed to create an enhanced gaming experience for all your senses, and the music has been composed specifically to help you focus on your task without being distracted by a cacophony of sounds.

This music generally has no lyrics or human voices and is fairly fast-paced to keep you moving forward. Many of these video games involve solving puzzles and dealing with intense situations, so you’re subjecting yourself to simulated stressful challenges. Video games have invested a lot of resources in figuring out the perfect balance to the music they use.

Video game music is composed in a way that keeps you engaged as you evaluate, navigate and often fight your way through these make-believe worlds. These musical compositions may be just the thing to propel you onward and keep you zooming through your tasks and daily to-do list.

Here are some excellent video game music selections to check out:

5. Music between 50 and 80 beats per minute

bruno-mars

Some research suggests that it’s not the type of music that’s important in helping you stay focused and productive, but the tempo of that music. Studies have found that music with 50 to 80 beats per minute can enhance and stimulate creativity and learning.

Dr. Emma Gray, a cognitive behavioural therapist, worked with Spotify to research the benefits of certain types of music. She found that listening to music set in the 50- to 80-beat range puts the brain into an alpha state.

When we’re awake, we’re typically in a state of mind known as beta, a heightened state of alertness where our brain-wave activity is between 14 and 30 HZ. When our brain slows to between 7 and 14 HZ, we’re in a more relaxed alpha state of mind that allows us to be more receptive and open, and less critical. This state of mind is what scientists associate with activities that involve our imagination, memory and intuition, including our “eureka moments.”

If you have ever listened to music that you’re familiar with, only to find yourself deep in thought and not really hearing the music at all, this is an alpha state induced by music. You’re tuning out while being tuned in.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

10 Secrets To Finding A Job You Love

Entrepreneur and social media sensation Gary Vaynerchuk and nine others tell us how they found their calling and how you can find yours.

Entrepreneur

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Research suggests that more than half of us are unhappy at work. From lawyers to brokers and CEOs, these Advisors in The Oracles are proof it’s possible to be successful and have a job you love. Here, they share how they found work that fulfills them — and how you can too.

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