Psychology Tip of the Day

Psychology Tip of the Day: Goal Setting--Why End High?

"Shoot for the moon...even if you miss, you'll end up among the stars." I used to have a sweatshirt with this saying. It was one of my favorite sweatshirts when I was younger, not because it fit well or was stylish (it was probably neither :) ), but because I loved the message. I dreamed big, and it reminded me to keep trying even if things weren't going quite right.

So where does this fit in with setting low goals, which I talked about in my last post? As I mentioned, aiming high from the start can seem overwhelming and get in the way of doing anything at all. Once you've started to make progress toward your goal, however, it's a good idea to switch gears and end on a high note.

While setting small attainable goals can help  get you on the right track, setting higher goals that seem slightly out of reach can help you reach your full potential. So once you feel comfortable with the steps you're taking, try challenging yourself to do just a little more or go just a little faster than you think you can.

Always make sure to always keep your goal specific (e.g., "I will hit this number," as opposed to "I will do as much as I can.") Why? Research shows that having a specific goal, even if it seems unattainable, leads to better results than setting vague goals of doing "as much as possible." The team with the specific goal will almost always outperform the team with the goal to do "their best."

This is how Olympians set world records. They aim not to go just as fast as they can, or even faster than the others in the competition, but to beat the specific number that is the best anyone has ever done. Even if they miss, they may still win a gold!

Psychology Tip of the Day: Goal Setting--Why Start Low?

Who among us hasn't had a goal they've had difficulty accomplishing? What's gotten in the way? Maybe the goal felt TOO BIG. In my previous post on setting goals, I mentioned that it can be helpful to start small when setting goals. This may seem counter-intuitive if you have a big goal in mind. So why start "low" with your goals?

Setting ambitious goals can feel good, but trying to reach those goals can feel overwhelming...especially if it requires a big time commitment. Setting small, well-defined, and easily attainable goals to start can get you on the right track working toward your goal by building confidence in your ability to achieve the goal and getting you into the habit of taking steps toward that goal. Don't start lower than where you already are, but if you're feeling overwhelmed by all that's in front of you, try adding just a little at a time.

Psychology Tip of the Day: Setting Goals Can Be a Balancing Act

Looking to make a change? Take a lesson from the playground. Setting goals effectively can be a bit like a seesaw or a swing; you don't want to start at the top. Whether you have a large ambitious goal (like running a marathon) or a less defined desire to change something (like a desire to be healthier), you may benefit by starting low and ending high. Stay tuned to find out why.

Psychology Tip of the Day: Help Kids Relax their Muscles

Just as tensing muscles first helps adults ;earn to relax (see yesterday's post), it also helps kids learn to relax more than they would by just thinking relaxing thoughts. To keep the exercise interesting enough to keep kids engaged, a little creativity is needed. You don't want your kid acting out more to avoid a boring activity! In my practice, I provide parents with a script to use every night with their kids. They tense their muscles by doing fun exercises like pretending to squeeze lemonade from lemons, stretching like cats, and chewing jawbreakers. Another blogger has written about a creative spin on a similar script: relaxation flip-books for kids. She provides images and instructions for turning the script into portable flip-books so you can not only teach your child muscle relaxation, but also have a fun reminder on the go!

Psychology Tip of the Day: Learn to Identify Tension

Because many of us are so used to carrying around tension, it can be difficult to recognize when our muscles are tense. Even when we scan our bodies for tension, we may overlook it because it feels "normal." In order to increase your awareness of tension, you have to learn to recognize it. Try intentionally tensing a muscle for 5-7 seconds and then quickly releasing the tension while paying close attention to the sensations of tension and then relaxation. Relax each muscle for about 30 seconds. (This is best done lying down so you  don't have to rely on your muscles to support your posture). By doing this with each of our muscle groups, we can learn to more easily identify and release unnecessary tension throughout the day.

Not sure how to tense a certain muscle group? Check out this chart.

Psychology Tip of the Day: Positive Thinking for Children

Tracking positive events is a great exercise for children, too. This can be especially helpful if your child tends to complain or focus on the negative. Sit down at the end of the day and make a game out of seeing how many positive events you can list for the day. This can help them learn that even when things aren't perfect, they're rarely all bad.

Psychology Tip of the Day: Track Positive Events

Keeping track of positive events is a great way to improve your mood. Each day,  make a list of every positive event that occurred that day. Nothing is too small to count for this exercise. Did you enjoy the weather? That counts! Did you hear a song on the radio that you really liked? That counts! Did you find your keys that you thought were lost? That counts!

Some people also like to think of this as counting their blessings or keeping track of what they have to be grateful for. Whatever you want to call it, add up those positives, and watch your mood improve!

Check out this article for more insights on the power of gratitude.

Psychology Tip of the Day: Take a Break

In our go-go-go world, it can be hard to find time to relax. Worse yet, many people find themselves feeling guilty or anxious about taking time to unwind. If you feel like you need to be productive all the time, give yourself permission to take a break. Not only will you feel better, but research shows that taking small breaks (e.g., 5 minutes out of an hour) actually helps you to be more productive when you are working.

Psychology Tip of the Day: Be Present

Have you ever noticed that your mind is rarely where you are? We're usually either thinking about what we've already done, what we plan to do, or what we wish we'd done differently. This can detract from truly experiencing your life, and can result in negative emotions. Try taking some time each day to be present in the moment. During this time, try to really focus on what you are doing. Notice all of the sensations you are experiencing. Try not to judge your experience. When you find your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the present. Try not to get frustrated by your wandering mind. Just notice it and move on. The more you practice, the less you'll find your mind wandering, and the easier it will be to be present in any given moment.

This practice, also known as mindfulness, can help you to feel more centered and help to manage negative emotions such as distress about the past or anxiety about the future. Research also shows that even short periods of daily mindfulness practice may lead to positive changes in brain structure. Click here for more information about how mindfulness positively impacts your brain and mental health.