I couldn’t help it ~ I saw this article in the Harvard Health Newsletter and just had to get it into this month’s newsletter to you. Why? Not only does Harvard do a great job of summarizing information in a helpful, concise way but because this is exactly the topic I wanted to bring to you this month! If you’ve been reading any of my previous posts you’ll likely notice many elements sound the similar and there’s no co-incidence in that! A great deal of the recent work coming out around the psychology and science of change is coming out of work from Harvard University. In the spirit of Thriving, rather than ‘re-invent the wheel’, you can click the link below and read their fantastic article.

Simple steps to get happier and healthier

JAN 2014

Being grateful, doing things for others, and improving your health will pay off.

The New Year usually brings the resolve to eat better and exercise more. But here’s another resolution for the list: improve your well-being. That’s your overall emotional and physical health, which many people often give low marks when they’re asked in national polls. But we have some tips to help you boost both.

Get happy

About 40% of what determines happiness is under your control, according to Dr. Ronald D. Siegel, assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and faculty editor of Positive Psychology, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. In contrast, only about 10% has to do with good and bad fortune. “It’s not events, but our responses to events that determine our level of well-being,” says Dr. Siegel. He offers several steps you can take to improve your emotional well-being:

1. Live in the moment. When you’re fully engaged in activities, you will enjoy them more and be less preoccupied by concerns about the past and the future.

2. Be grateful. Keeping a daily gratitude journal promotes positive feelings, optimism, life satisfaction, and connectedness with others.

3. Do things for others. Happiness comes most reliably from connecting with others and not being overly self-focused. Try to do things that benefit someone or something other than yourself.

4. Take inventory of your strengths, then apply them in new ways in your daily life. For example, if you count curiosity as a strength, read about a new subject. If you consider yourself brave, try something that makes you nervous, such as public speaking.

5. Savor pleasure. Reminisce about good times; celebrate good moments with others; be happy when you accomplish something.

Get healthy

Overall well-being also includes physical health. If poor health or unhealthy behaviors are dragging down your well-being, addressing these issues will improve your well-being. That may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to. “Two-thirds of all illness is the result of our lifestyle choices,” says Dr. Edward Phillips, founder and director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He’s also the faculty editor for Simple Changes, Big Rewards, another Harvard Special Health Report. Here’s his advice:

1. Take responsibility for your health.  That means going to your doctor and actually following his or her advice. Also, don’t miss appointments or screenings you may need, such as a colonoscopy.

2. Apply your personal strengths to your health. For example, if you’re a disciplined, organized professional, use organizational skills from your work life to create a detailed chart to keep track of your medicine. If you’re creative, come up with a healthy menu that won’t bore you. If you’re adventurous, try a new exercise such as tai chi or yoga.

3. Come up with reasonable and small first goals. “Find something that’s a small change, like walking 10 minutes a day. Go for a walk at lunch, walk while you’re talking on the phone. What’s the smallest change you can make and be confident you can do it? I’ve met very few patients who can’t do that,” says Dr. Phillips.

4. Be accountable for your changes. You’ll do much better if you track and report your progress to a loved one or friend, or to a website or smartphone app. You’ll accept your effort as something you must do, not something that is optional.

5. Pay attention to the benefits. The value of the change, such as sleeping better from exercising, can become the motivation to continue that change and make others. When you see that change is possible, you’ll be encouraged to make more changes.