Habits Articles

5 Tips for Becoming a Better Listener

Monday, January 26th, 2015

listenI’m a big fan of Elizabeth Bernstein‘s work in the Wall Street Journal, and she wrote an interesting piece, “How Well Are You Listening? We’re naturally bad listeners, even with loved ones; steps to avoid burn-out.”

Here are some of the key steps she outlines, for being a better listener:

1. Look for hints that a person wants to talk — and signal your willingness to listen. My husband rarely wants to “talk,” but when he does, I put my book down flat in my lap, to show that I’m paying close attention (and to prevent myself from sneaking a look at the page).

ADHD Tip: How to Organize Your Family and Household

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

ADHD Tip: How to Organize Your Family and HouseholdRunning a household takes effort. And it can be especially challenging for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

ADHD impairs executive functioning in adults (and kids), making it harder for people to plan, prioritize, organize and follow through with various tasks — especially boring ones.

Of course, that’s exactly what you need to do when everyone in the family has a demanding job, goes to school, is involved in extracurricular activities, and has other commitments.

Psychology Around the Net: January 24, 2014

Saturday, January 24th, 2015


Ever wonder what makes you — and keeps you — a loyal customer? How about ways to strength train your brain? Oh, and speaking of your brain — where does all that fear and anxiety come from, anyway?

We have it all and more in this week’s Psychology Around the Net.

Fear Pinpoinited: Scientists Discover Exactly Where Anxiety Resides in the Brain: Tests on mice have helped New York’s Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory researchers pinpoint the area, or “circuit,” in the brain where “fearful memories and behavior” are controlled. Could this lead to new anxiety treatments?

Your Identity Versus Your Stuff: Letting Go of Things to Find Yourself

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Your Identity Versus Your Stuff: Letting Go of Things to Find YourselfIt’s long been said that the things you own end up owning you. They fill our lives and take up space. We buy new homes just to accommodate all this stuff. How come it always seems like we’re getting more and more stuff? And why is it so hard to part with?

A lot of us have things in our house that we have never used, haven’t used in years, or have no use for to begin with. Oddly enough, we tend to avoid asking ourselves, “Is this thing important? Why am I hanging onto it?”

Of course, I have stuff on the brain. I’m packing my Brooklyn apartment to move across the country to California (as I described here). The trip is part of an emotional journey to see if it’s possible for a person to learn to be laid-back. I think letting go of a lot of useless items is a good place to start.

Fill in the Blank: X Is a Good Servant But a Bad Master

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

keep-calm-and-fill-in-the-blank-14I love to collect variations on phrases, such as the “X is the new Y”; “Orange is the new black”; “Breakfast is the new lunch”; “Forties are the new thirties”; “Halloween is the new Christmas”; or — and I was inspired by this one for Happier at Home — “September is the new January.” (I started this happiness project in September, instead of January, because September also seems like a good time for a fresh start.)

I came up with my own fill-in-the-blank phrase, “____ is a good servant but a bad master.” I’ve been thinking about different ways to fill in that blank.

The Power of Writing: 3 Types of Therapeutic Writing

Monday, January 19th, 2015

The Power of Writing: 3 Types of Therapeutic WritingSome of us think that writing is only for writers. But writing is for all of us. As Julia Cameron notes in her book The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, “I believe we all come into life as writers.”

Writing can be beneficial for all of us, because it can be therapeutic. One of the most powerful parts of therapy is cultivating the ability to observe our thoughts and feelings, said Elizabeth Sullivan, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Francisco. And that’s what writing helps us do.

“Most of us do not think in complete sentences but in self-interrupted, looping, impressionistic cacophony,” she said. Writing helps us track our spinning thoughts and feelings, which can lead to key insights (e.g., I don’t want to go to that party; I think I’m falling for this person; I’m no longer passionate about my job; I realize how I can solve that problem; I’m really scared about that situation.)

Like Jung and Wharton, Do You Remember When You First Knew Yourself?

Monday, January 19th, 2015

mirroremptyIn my writing about habits and happiness, I keep coming back to the same idea: to shape our habits, to build our happiness, we have to start with a knowledge of ourselves — our own nature, our own interest, our own temperament.

It sounds so easy to know yourself — after all, you hang out with yourself all day! But it’s very, very challenging. We’re so distracted by how we wish we were, or by what think we ought to be, or by what other people expect from us … we lose touch with what’s actually true.

Relationship Resolutions

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

start-dating-your-spouseMost New Year’s resolutions sound wonderful. But you know what happens: they’re out the window before February. The best way to keep your promise is to start small.

Although I’m about to suggest some resolutions to enrich your relationship, I recommend that you commit to just one, after first selecting carefully. You want to promise to do something that is doable now.

A Fun Way to Shape the New Year: Pick a One-Word Theme

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Magnetic-WordsI love New Year’s resolutions — and I’m not the only one. Some 44% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.

There’s one kind of resolution that I particularly love: identifying one idea, often summarized in just one word, as an overarching theme for the entire year.

My sister often does this kind of resolution. This year her theme is “Novel.” One year was the year of “Free Time,” another was “Hot Wheels” — that year, she got a car and started driving; she and I have both struggled with a fear of driving, which was much tougher for her, given that she lives in Los Angeles and I live in New York City.

5 Helpful Practices for Families

Friday, January 16th, 2015

5 Helpful Practices for FamiliesIn his book The Secrets of Happy Families author and New York Times family columnist Bruce Feiler turns to various fields and individuals — the military, Silicon Valley, sports coaches and Green Berets — for insights into creating stronger, more connected families. He also tries out these tips at home with his own family, which includes his wife and twin daughters.

In the book, Feiler shares all kinds of tools for teaching kids values, creating a more peaceful household and having more fun as a family.

Here are five tips and tools from The Secrets of Happy Families, which you might want to adopt for your family.

Trying to Keep a Resolution? Look Out for This Common Trap

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

fruit_loops2Many of us make resolutions — at the New Year, and throughout the year. For the most part, these resolutions involve habits; we want to make or break some important habit (read the Essential Seven here).

To my surprise, as I was writing Better Than Before, I learned that while it’s hard to change habits, it’s also surprisingly easy to change habits.  The secret is to know how to set yourself up for success.

For instance, one important way to set yourself up for success is to imagine how you might fail. What are the temptations, the stumbling blocks? When have you struggled in the past?

12 More Tips to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

resolutions3It took me a long time to realize that what I thought of as “resolutions” could almost always be characterized as “habits.” Most often, when people want to make some kind of change in the New Year, they want to master some kind of habit. (If you want to know the Essential Seven of habits, look here.)

Since I started working on my habits for my book on habit change, Better Than Before, and since my resolutions-based happiness project, I’ve hit on many strategies to help myself stick to resolutions. 

So what are some more tips that may help you better keep your New Year’s resolutions?

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