Resolutions

By |December 3rd, 2019|

Just because I’m not a fan of New Years’
resolutions doesn’t mean that I discount them for everyone else.  The sad fact is though that for most people
New Years’ resolutions won’t work, with around 80% failing by the second week
in February.  So how do you give yourself
the best chance?

The first way is by thinking in terms of
weeks instead of the whole year.  For
most of us the stretch of a whole year is too long to maintain momentum, or too
far away to connect with.  In that case
instead of twelve months why not think in terms of twelve weeks?

This means that it’s easier to feel that
the end is in sight, which in turn will help with maintain momentum towards
it.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t have
a longer term goal, but instead you can work towards it through staged goals.  It also means that you have the flexibility to
tackle more than one thing throughout the year – to exercise more and to start
to learn that new language.

But how do you keep the momentum going
through those twelve weeks?  Here’s where
an idea called “no zero days” comes into its own.

The idea behind no zero days is that you
commit to making sure that you never have a day where you don’t take a
practical step towards your goal.  For
instance, if your long term goal was to redecorate then you wouldn’t have a day
go by where you didn’t do something like fill holes or cracks, rub down some
paintwork, paint, etc.

The effect of this is that as you build up
an unbroken string of days you not only build momentum, but you actively become
more and more averse to missing a day with some activity in it.  What the activity is is immaterial – it can
be […]

Illness after Christmas

By |December 3rd, 2019|

Even if you’re lucky enough not to be affected
you may well know someone who’s feeling ill or low as soon as Christmas is
over.  They may come down with a bug or
even become slightly depressed.  But why
would that be?

Felling ill after Christmas

There are two main reasons for this.  The most obvious is that we tend to be in
much closer contact with other people, and warm houses and shops can be a
breeding ground for viruses

The second reason is that high levels of
stress result in higher levels of cortisol in our bodies.  Higher cortisol levels in turn lower our
resistance to illness and infections. 
The pre-Christmas rush can carry us through, but the slump after Christmas
can see us allow ourselves to be ill at last. 
Add in the fact that a cold or flu bag can take up to 72 hours to show
themselves, and you have the perfect environment for illness to catch up with
us after Christmas.

Feeling low after Christmas

There are three main reasons for low mood
after Christmas

Unmet and unrealistic expectations.  People feel that they should have the perfect Christmas, and find the inevitable gap between unachievable expectation and reality a real problem.  Better instead, as ever with Christmas, to aim for “Happy, not perfect”.

Guilt about behaviour or spending.  People feel guilt after Christmas, perhaps about someone they didn’t visit, or about an overlooked present.  And it won’t be a shock to know that they can have felt obliged to overspend as well.

Rumination.  Too much reflection at Christmas can easily turn into rumination, the excessive picking over of our behaviour and experiences.

If you found this mini Christmas blog about
feeling ill or low afterwards useful then why not check out the others here
or sign up
for my monthly newsletter, with more practical tips, […]

Loneliness at Christmas

By |December 3rd, 2019|

Loneliness at Christmas can be particularly
difficult to bear.  What you can do about
it depends in part on why you’re lonely – whether you’ve lost someone close to
you, are estranged from family, or a socially isolated.

Social media is making me feel worse.

Social media can be a great way to keep in
touch with loved ones.  But it also
offers a very distorted view of peoples’ lives. 
People tend to post about the positive things that are happening to
them, and a stream of these can very quickly leave us feeling dissatisfied with
our lives at the best of times. 

If you can have a break from social
media.  If you can’t then remember that
other people will be feeling the same way as you are, and that no one is immune
from loneliness. 

My friends or relatives are far away, and I
can’t get to see them

The physical distance doesn’t have to equal
loneliness.  Use your phone to keep in
touch, and best of all by a video call.   That way you can focus on the emotional
connection rather than the physical distance. 

It’s my first Christmas after a bereavement

This is a time to take stock about
Christmas – what traditions do you want to keep, and what new ones do you want
to start?  Christmas can’t be the same
again and trying to preserve everything the same can keep you feeling stuck, or
just underline the loss.  But just because
it can’t be the same doesn’t mean that it can’t be good again.

I feel unwanted and alone

We can’t over-estimate the importance of
social contact to our mental health.  At
this time of year charities and community groups can find themselves over-subscribed
with volunteers but don’t let that put you off asking though.  And think about other people locally who
might be lonely and inviting them […]

January sales

By |December 3rd, 2019|

The January sales of
course start in December – online they can even start as early as Christmas Day
itself.  So how can you make sure that
you don’t get caught up in buyer’s remorse?

The main thing is to
constantly ask yourself the question “Would I normally buy this item at the current
price in the sale?”  What this will do is
to help you put out of your mind the “saving” that you’re making in buying this
particular bargain.

Imagine a coat that is
normally £350.  In the sale it’s been reduced
to £115.  The question is “Do I want to
buy this coat for £115?”, and not “Do I want to save £235?”.

If you frame the reduction
as a monetary amount it becomes too easy to start thinking of that as a real amount
of money.  That’s why people will then
think of having saved £235 instead of having spent £115 if they buy the
coat.  Some might even use the £235
saving to justify spending £135, as if they are seeing a return on their
money.  They aren’t of course.  They’re buying a coat, not a coat and £235.

The other issue is the
environment in the sales.  We may have
had to make great efforts to get there and have fought through crowds just to
look at things.  In that situation it’s
very easy to want to reward that effort by buying something, or believe that we’re
getting one of only a few left.

Don’t be unaware of
how thinking that something is scarce is a huge pull for us psychologically in
buying things.  That’s why websites
duplicate that experience by stating how many are left of a certain item, or
how many have been bought in the last few days or hours.  Don’t be driven by panic anymore than by
faulty reasoning about savings.

If you found this mini […]

Presents

By |December 3rd, 2019|

Presents

Buying presents at
Christmas can be a minefield.  But why can
it be so difficult?

One frequent complaint
is about people who are “difficult to buy for”. 
However, that’s a label we’re much more likely to apply to other people
than ourselves.  Instead we think of
ourselves as being very straightforward to buy for.

That contradiction is actually
the key to making present buying easy. 
We should simply ask people what they would like and then, when
possible, buy it for them.  So why don’t
we?

It’s because we get
suckered into the idea of the ‘perfect present’.  However, this idea has very little to do with
the recipient – after all they have an idea of what they’d really like, and
they’re willing to share it with us.

Instead we make the ‘perfect
present’ about us.  We turn it into a chance
to show how well we know that person. 
Not even so well that we would pick something that we know they would
want or like.  Instead we aim to find
something that they don’t know about but would be delighted when they did.

It’s this ego about choosing
presents that gets in the way, and stops us from asking people what they would
like.  After all, they are the best guide
to their own taste.

But what if someone
has tastes that are so obscure or expensive you can’t hope to buy them
something?  Then the most popular present
to receive is cash.  It’s also the one
that’s one of the least popular presents to give.  Why?  Because
people think it doesn’t show any thought. 
But if it’s what people asked for then what else can really show them
that you listened?

If you found this mini Christmas blog about
buying presents useful then why not check out the others here
or sign up
for my monthly newsletter, with more practical tips, quirky research, and
case studies every month.

Spending too much

By |December 3rd, 2019|

Spending too much

Sadly, spending too much is a recurrent part
of Christmas for some people.  But why do
they repeat that year after year despite their best efforts?

Part of the reason is the way our brains
work.  When we shop we get a dopamine hit
when we’re given our purchases or when we receive our parcel.  Unfortunately, we soon get used to the
dopamine hit and need more and more just to get the same effect – a process called
“hedonic adaptation”.

 This
means that we need to spend more and more just to get the same effect.  And that’s why we spend too much at Christmas
– because the more we buy the more we have to pay to get the same emotional
satisfaction from it.

So what can you do if you realise you’re in
this mental trap?

Firstly, if you don’t currently have a list
then don’t start or continue shopping until you do.  It’s tempting to think that inspiration will
strike if we go to the shops, but we’ll also find crowds and pressures about
time that can make it impossible to step back and think.

This is why shopping on-line can be better.  It’s easier to compare prices and items, and it’s
easier to stick to the list that you made. 
It’s also a lot easier to step away and make an informed decision about
items before committing to buy them or finding that you’re spending too much.  Part of the reason is that the dopamine
reward isn’t quite the same on-line, so there’s not the same internal pressure
to keep spending more.

If you found this mini Christmas blog about
spending too much useful then why not check out the others here
or sign up
for my monthly newsletter, with more practical tips, quirky research, and
case studies every month.

Parties

By |December 3rd, 2019|

Parties

There are three situations around parties
that people often struggle with at Christmas – feeling too anxious to go when
they really want to go; saying ‘no’ when they don’t want to go; and staying at
parties when they really want to leave.

Feeling too anxious to go when you really want to go

The trick is not to get stuck in ‘all or
nothing’ thinking.  Typically people think that they have to be the life
and soul of the party or stay at home.  In reality there’s a lot of space
between those two extremes for you to find a point where you’re comfortable.

You can make bargains with yourself as well
– “If I’m still not enjoying it by eight o’clock then I’ll leave”.  In
most events you’ll stay past eight o’clock, and on the odd occasions you don’t
you’ve still got the positive of having faced your anxiety and gone to the
party.

Saying ‘no’ when you don’t want to go

If you’re turning down an invitation try to
use the “no” sandwich. Give a reason why it sounds as if it will be nice, a
genuine reason as to why it’s a “no”, and then something else positive.  For instance “It sounds a lot of fun, but
we won’t be able to come I’m afraid – it’s a shame because you’re such a lovely
host”.

But don’t feel pressured into having to
give an immediate yes or no when you’re asked. 
It’s fine to take your time.  The
key again is to mention something positive about the invitation when you say
that you’ll have to think about it.  And
as ever the golden rule is never to lie– when you’re found out it always looks
much worse than that polite no ever would.

Staying at parties when you really want to leave

Use the opposite of the […]

Arguing

By |December 3rd, 2019|

Arguing

Sadly, arguing can be as much a part of
Christmas for some people as crackers or tinsel.  If you want to avoid it this year then here
are some practical tips.

Every relationship and family have their
touchy subjects and flashpoints.  For
instance, most couples argue over two things at Christmas – about where to
spend the day and about telling off the children.  One of the problems around Christmas is that
while we’re aware of the tensions and trigger-points in our own families we’re
often unaware of our in-laws or other relatives’.

Perhaps the key advice is to remember the
old maxim that whilst you’re always invited to join and argument you don’t have
to accept every invitation that you get. 
If you feel that someone is really getting to you then change the
subject or even walk away.  Don’t rise to
the bait or become passive-aggressive – keep any response pleasant but
assertive.

When they’re relationships that go back to childhood
the other key thing to remember is not to revert to being childish.  It’s all too easy to revert to those old
patterns of behaviour, especially when you’re back in a family group. 

There are a further two things to avoid if
you don’t want to make any arguing even worse.  
 The first is drink, so wherever
possible minimise it or remove it entirely. 
If that isn’t practical then an agreement not to discuss certain subjects
after a drink works for many couples.

The second thing to avoid is badmouthing
their family to your partner.  No matter
how much your in-laws might wind you up this is never a good idea – you’re
pressing buttons about family relationships that you might not even realise,
and you’re asking them to take sides with you.

If you found this mini Christmas blog about
arguing useful then why not check out the […]

Other people

By |December 3rd, 2019|

Other people

Christmas can see us struggle with other
people – people we don’t know; people we don’t like; and people who don’t like us.

Other people we don’t know

Meeting new people can be nerve-wracking
for some of us.  Firstly don’t get there
late.  You might think there’ll be more people to talk to, but a crowded
room can be intimidating, and it can be difficult to break into established
conversations and groups.  Getting there early instead will give you a
much better chance of talking one-to-one with other people.

For any awkward moments at the beginning
make sure that you have some topics lined up – how they know the host or how
long they have worked at your employers at a works ‘do’ are two obvious
starters.  Looking for areas of common ground means the conversation will
be more natural.

Other people we don’t like

This is where you’ll need to use your
Emotional Intelligence.  Don’t just be aware of your emotions, but of how
you might be displaying or betraying them. 

One way of dealing with those negative
feelings is to be warm to the people you don’t like.  Welcome or greet them as you would a friend,
and don’t make them feel awkward.  That means thinking about your body
language – mirror theirs, stand at an angle facing them, and keep a comfortable
level of eye contact.  They’ll feel included, but not confronted.

Just as importantly ask yourself why, and what
it is that you don’t like about them.  If it’s a belief or a point of view
then  make sure that you don’t let the
conversation turn in that direction.  If it’s their behaviour or a habit
then make sure you’re not taking it personally when it isn’t meant that
way.  And if it’s a personality trait ask yourself why you don’t like – it
might point to […]

Saying Yes too much

By |December 3rd, 2019|

Saying Yes too much

A lot of us say Yes too much at Christmas –
to invitations, to food, to drinks – and then regret it.  But if we regret it then why do we do it?

There are normally two reasons – short term
comfort and long term problems saying No

Short term comfort

One of the main reasons we say yes is to
avoid awkwardness or discomfort.  But how
well does that work?  If the idea of
saying Yes when we want to say No is to avoid immediate awkwardness then that only
works in that moment.  What it also does
though is make you even more uncomfortable in the long-term, now you’re in a
situation you didn’t even want to be in – and which you said Yes to!

We don’t avoid discomfort when we think short
term and say yes – we actually increase it and make it go on for longer.

Problems saying No

Why we would we do this?  Because we have a long-term problem saying No.  Maybe we were brought up to believe it was impolite.  Maybe we have the kind of self-esteem that means
that we don’t feel comfortable saying No.

Think of saying No as a skill.  You aren’t going to feel comfortable with a new
skill straightaway but if you don’t persist with it you never will. 

Try using the “No” sandwich.  So, imagine that someone invites you to a
party and you don’t want to go.  Say something
positive about the party, give a reason a reason for not going, and then say something
else positive – perhaps that you hope they have a lovely time.

If you found this mini Christmas blog about
saying Yes useful then why not check out the others here
or sign up
for my monthly newsletter, with more practical tips, quirky research, and
case […]