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Phase 2 – Meditate

April 18 – May 8

The next “happy habit” we’re building is the practice of meditation. If you’ve never meditated before, a simple breathing exercise is the best place to start.  And, even if you don’t have the ideal, quiet and calm location in which to add a meditation break to your work or school day, you can still focus your intention on developing greater connectedness to your inner life and thoughts simply by slowly, gently breathing in and out, keeping your focus on your breaths. At first, your mind will wander and you will gently bring your focus back to your breathing.  As you develop greater awareness of and focus on your breathing, you may want to attach statements or affirmations to each inhale and exhale.

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Phase 3 – Exercise

May 16 – June 5

Our third activity will be exercise and even if you exercise regularly already, take at least ten minutes during your regimen to still your mind and focus your intention entirely on what you’re doing in the moment.  And, here are some characteristics of exercise that research (Berger & Motl, 2001) tells us increases its ability to positively alter our mood and sense of wellbeing:

  • Rhythmic abdominal breathing – it’s not as important that the exercise is aerobic as it is that it produces this type of breathing so that walking, running, yoga, swimming or tai chi could be equally effective in enhancing mood.
  • Non-competitive focus – if you’re focused on winning, training to win or evaluating performance rather than on the actual physical activity itself, exercise is less likely to result in a sense of psychological wellbeing
  • Closed environments – exercise performed in settings that promote predictability – like a track, a pool or a golf course – is more likely to produce a sense of wellbeing since participants are more free to let their minds wander and free associate while exercising instead of having to focus on changes in the environment
  • Repetitive, rhythmic motions – again, when engaged in activities that don’t require moment-to-moment focus on the motions being performed (running or walking as opposed to racquetball), participants are more likely to be able to engage in more meditative thought
  • Duration, frequency and intensity – exercise works best for improving mood and a sense of wellbeing when it lasts at least 20 minutes, is of a moderate intensity level and is somewhat frequent (2-3 times a week)
  • Enjoyment – this one is probably the most important; if you don’t like an exercise, you’re not likely to keep doing it and benefiting from it in the long term

 

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Phase 4 – Three Gratitudes

July 25 – August 14

The fourth happy habit is actually age-old wisdom in action: Count your blessings.  This bit of advice, which your grandmother might give you, actually has some support from researchers (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).  It seems that regularly recording things for which you’re grateful may result, among other things, in you feeling generally better, sleeping better and increasing the likelihood you’ll be helpful to others.  So, basically, this exercise may even allow our positive actions to affect not only our own sense of wellbeing but that of others we come in contact with.  So, we’ll be inviting you to write down, each day, three things for which you’re grateful – or, to count your blessings.  And, the act of writing down your three gratitudes – in longhand with a pen you love, in a journal you love – may be more powerful for you.   But, maybe you’re fully invested in the digital age so that pen and paper just aren’t your thing.  Not to worry – an online journal, blog or series of Facebook post or tweets might be the perfect medium for your gratitudes.  How you capture your three gratitudes isn’t crucial – just that you make them concrete in written language.