6 Life Lessons on Embracing Change

6 Life Lessons on Embracing Change

By

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” ~Karen Kaiser Clark

Life can be a persistent teacher.

When we fail to learn life’s lessons the first time around, life has a way of repeating them to foster understanding.

Over the last few years, my life was shaken up by dramatic circumstances. I resisted the impermanence of these events in my life and struggled with embracing change. When I resisted the lessons that change brought, a roller coaster of changes continued to materialize.

When I was seventeen years old, my immigrant parents’ small import-export business failed.  From a comfortable life in Northern California, they uprooted themselves and my two younger brothers and moved back to Asia.

The move was sudden and unexpected, catching us all by surprise. I was in my last months of high school, so I remained in California with a family friend to finish my degree.

I spent the summer abroad with my family, and then relocated to Southern California to start college upon my return. Alone in a new environment, I found myself without many friends or family members close by.

Life was moving much faster than I was able to handle, and I was shell-shocked by my family’s sudden move, my new surroundings, and college. Their relocation and college brought dramatic changes, along with fear, loneliness, and anxiety.

I felt overwhelmed by my new university campus and its vastness; alone, even though I sat in classes of 300 students; and challenged by the responsibilities of independence and adulthood.

Everything I had known had changed in a very short period of time. I tried to cope the best I could, but I resisted the changes by isolating myself even more from my new university and surroundings. It was the first and only time in my life I had contemplated suicide.

Several years after college, having achieved my career goals in the legal field, I started a legal services business. I helped immigrants, refugees, and people escaping persecution who’d come to the U.S. to navigate the hurdles to residency and citizenship.

I invested money, time, and my being into my law office. Not only was I preoccupied with the dire legal situations of my clients, but I also confronted the ups and downs of running a business.

Starting and running a new company is not easy, and mine was losing more money every month. While I found the nearly three-year venture immensely gratifying because of the lives I was able to help, it was time for me to move on.

It was a difficult decision, because I thought I’d found my career path. My life became engulfed with changes once again as I tried to close the doors to my office, close my clients’ cases, pay off my debt, and seek employment.

In between university and my business venture, I married a beautiful, gifted girl in India after an international romance. We were married for ten years and endured many of life’s personal and professional ups and downs together. Despite our problems, we both struggled to keep our marriage together.

When the tears dried, the counseling sessions did more harm than good, and our communication ended, we separated and then divorced last year. The ending of our marriage felt like the shattering of an exquisite glass vase into a million pieces.

I met the closure of our marriage first with strong resistance and then with profound sadness and loss. How could something that I valued so much and believed to be forever, cease to exist?

As much as I fought back and resisted each of these events in my life, I’ve since learned to embrace the impermanency of my life and the changes that come my way.

Here are 6 lessons life has taught me on embracing change:

1. Reduce expectations.

In each of my life’s circumstances, I had high expectations for my family, my business, and my marriage. I had expected each to remain constant and to last forever. But I’ve learned that nothing lasts forever. Nothing.

You can have reasonable expectations of how you’d like something to turn out, but you can’t marry yourself to that result. Reducing or having no expectations about a relationship, a business, or a situation can help you accept whatever may come from it.

When you set reasonable expectations, and don’t expect or demand a particular outcome, you’re better able to manage any changes that do come your way. Unreasonable expectations of life, however, will likely be met with loss, disappointment, and pain.

2. Acknowledge change.

For the longest time, I refused to believe that change was in the realm of possibility in a situation. I’ve since learned that change can happen quickly and at any point.

Be aware that change can happen in your life. This means understanding that things can and will be different from how they are now. Acknowledging change is allowing it to happen when it unfolds instead of approaching change from a place of denial and resistance.

3. Accept change.

I desperately tried to prevent and stop change from happening in my business and marriage by trying to forge ahead even in futile situations.

Instead of resisting, allow change to unfold and try to understand what’s transforming and why.

Circumstances will not turn out the way you want them to, and it’s perfectly all right. Embracing the situation can help you deal with the change effectively, make the necessary shifts in your life to embrace the change, and help you move forward after the event.

4. Learn from the experience.

If you accept and embrace change, you will start looking for and finding lessons in it.

When dramatic changes were happening in my life, I refused to acknowledge them at first, so change left me distraught and without meaning. Once I reflected back and finally accepted the changes, the lessons I started absorbing were profound.

Change becomes your greatest teacher, but only if you give yourself permission to learn from it.

5. Recognize you’re growing stronger.

When you accept, embrace, and learn from change, you inevitably grow stronger. The ability to continuously accept change allows you to become as solid as a rock in the midst of violent storms all around you—even if you feel afraid.

6. Embrace the wisdom.

The more I permitted change and impermanence in my life, the more I grew as a person. Embracing change has brought newfound strength into my life and surprisingly, more inner peace.

When you proactively embrace change and learn to accept it as a part of life, you are filled with more calmness, peace, and courage. When life fails to shake you up with its twists and turns, you realize that changes can’t break you.

You’ve reached a level of understanding in life that some might even call wisdom.

While by no means have I reached that place called wisdom, I’m working through my aversions to change. I now openly welcome and embrace it.

When we can accept change, learn from it, and become all the better for experiencing it, change is no longer our enemy. It becomes our teacher.

Photo by amslerPIX

2016! New Year, New You

New Year, New You: Healthy Nutrition Hacks to Ring in 2016

Decorate your plate, trim the fat and more ways to ring in next year in optimal health.

Kidney beans in a bowl next to ingredients on a table.

Try your hand at roasted Brussels sprouts or a bean salad.

By + More

With the New Year steadily approaching, it’s time to take a look back at 2015. Did you hit your health goals? Are you getting close? It’s never too late to modify our eating, exercise and sleep patterns, especially around the holidays when an abundance of festive food makes its way into our kitchens, shows up unexpectedly at parties and lurks around office corners. The good news is you can still meet your 2015 health goals, have fun along the way and set yourself up for a new way of eating – and living – in the year to come.

Here are five ways to ring in optimal health in the New Year:

1. Decorate your plate: Aim for seven colors each day. Don’t forget to leave out your plate when you break out the bright and colorful holiday decorations this year. Prioritize dark leafy green salads and glazed carrots, or even try to find a way to get some deep purple beets in your next holiday potluck lineup. Seasonal pureed pumpkin, yams and sweet potatoes now make it easier than ever to sneak in immune-boosting beta-carotene. Be sure to keep this tradition going even after the lights and New Year’s noisemakers are put away.

2. Trim the fat: Embark on a new holiday tradition. Still ruminating over your Thanksgiving dinner?The good news is it’s never too late to start a new tradition that celebrates physical activity and the healthy basics – fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – at your next gathering. The secret to healthful trailblazing: Make it fun, and make it festive!

3. Call the shots: Create a precision eating plan. Keep a food diary, and write down what you eat, the serving sizes and how you feel after you eat specific foods. Which foods help you satiate hunger, and which ones ramp up your appetite? Plan accordingly, and stock up on those that keep hunger at bay.

4. Prepare in advance: Share your favorite recipes. We’ve all been to gatherings with foods that could derail our health and fitness goals. To avoid this situation, make a healthful pit stop along the way. Pick up a veggie platter, or if you like to cook, try your hand at roasted Brussels sprouts or a bean salad. Nobody will know if your next “meatloaf” is actually a lentil loaf, a mix of fiber-packed lentils, beans, nuts and seeds. And if they do, encourage them to have a slice and share the recipe.

5. Reset your mindset: Give it 21 days. Still need help fine-tuning your diet? Getting fit and healthy is everyone’s No. 1 goal this year, for good reason. It’s hard to prioritize our health when other demands – family, work, and the holidays – take center stage. The easiest way to make your health goals a reality, for 2015 and beyond, is to make reaching for disease-fighting foods a daily habit. It takes 21 days to begin to retrain our brains. After a few weeks, everything falls into place. With Jan. 1 right around the corner, now is the perfect time to kickstart your health into high gear. Don’t wait another day.

If you need to help, visit NutritionMD.org for recipes or to learn more about the link between diet and health.

  • Cameron Wells

    Cameron Wells, M.P.H., R.D., is a registered dietitian for the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Barnard Medical Center. With a background in disease prevention and passion for helping others, Ms. Wells guides clinical research studies, employee wellness programs and nutrition education initiatives at K-12 schools.

    Ms. Wells previously worked as a bariatric dietitian and enjoys helping others improve their health through diet education and lifestyle changes. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Virginia Tech in Human, Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, completed a Dietetic Internship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and recently earned a Master of Public Health degree with a focus in epidemiology from George Mason University.

Equality Wheel

 

equality wheel

Domestic abuse is complicated, and not everyone understands what it means if they haven’t been through it. Even some people who have been through it aren’t sure what constitutes abusive behavior. So back in the 1980s, the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) created the Power and Control Wheel to help describe the abuse women in domestic violence relationships were experiencing.

The wheel helped women identify abusive behavior and helped teach those less familiar with the issue about domestic abuse, but it didn’t help women learn what healthy relationships looked like.

“Their experience with relationships was that one person was in control and the other person was being controlled,” says Melissa Scaia, executive director of DAIP. “The women didn’t have any reference point for what a relationship was supposed to look like.”

So a short time later, the DAIP developed the Equality Wheel.

“The team listened to women in support groups saying they knew one type of relationship but didn’t know an alternative,” she says. “They wanted an example to be able to look for in their lives.”

The Equality Wheel offers an alternative to power and control. “If you lay the equality wheel over the Power and Control Wheel, you’ll see they are corresponding opposites,” Scaia says. “So, for instance, instead of emotional abuse, you’ll see respect.”

Today, both wheels are used in individual and community settings around the world. They’ve even been translated into 22 different languages. “That fact alone speaks to the socialization of the problem,” Scaia says. “Domestic violence is not an individual, psychological problem. It’s everyone’s problem.”

Recharge, Rejuvenate and Renew

Recharge, Rejuvenate and Renew

Increased body toxins can occur as a result of things we consume, such as air, food, water and chemicals. Stress, anxiety, sadness and other emotions experienced by domestic violence survivors can also increase body toxins.

Mixed opinions on the impact of toxins and the importance of cleansing the body of toxins abound. However, some believe detoxification can recharge, rejuvenate and renew the mind, body and spirit, and play a role in a survivor’s restoration.

Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, one thing that isn’t debatable is that the healing process for a survivor should involve a personalized recovery plan. You should do what works best for you, and body cleansing—or detoxification—may be an option to explore.

When you hear about cleansing these days, it is often talked about in the context of a brief change in diet. While that works for some, there are other activities you can put into play to produce a more holistic experience to create improved balance, harmony and total well-being.

For Your Mind

Meditation. Research has shown that meditation can reduce levels of stress and promote well-being. The primary goal of meditation is to obtain inner peace, which can be achieved by learning to quiet your mind. If you are a beginner, you may want to try guided meditations—listening to a recorded voice that helps you visualize images in your mind to help you relax and quiet the chatter in your mind. This can also help you to eliminate unhealthy thoughts and feelings.

For Your Body

External cleansing. Due to the many chemicals used in soap and cosmetic products on the market today, look for those containing natural ingredients. What you put on your body is absorbed through your skin and into your blood stream. EWG (Environmental Working Group) is a non-profit organization that has a large database of consumer products which contain toxic ingredients. Research the ingredients in the products you are using.

Internal Cleansing. There are natural ways to do an internal body cleanse without having to purchase expensive products from health food stores or websites. The Livestrong Foundation notes that a diet that emphasizes certain foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, organic to limit pesticide exposure, and raw preparations to keep the fiber and nutrients intact) and eliminates others (e.g., caffeine, refined sugars and flours, alcohol, saturated fat and processed foods) can help achieve the objective. Also, it is important to drink plenty of water, which naturally cleanses the body.

For Your Spirit

Elements of Nature: Connecting with nature allows you to release stress. With summer upon us, it’s a good time to enjoy the outdoors. Water hydrates the body and cleanses it internally and externally. Consider submerging yourself in a nearby ocean, lake or river; participating in water sports; or just enjoy the tranquility each offers. Camping and hiking, or even something as simple as walking barefoot through the grass and feeling the coolness of the earth beneath your feet, can work.

When cleansing holistically, keep in mind that it is a process. Therefore you are not limited to the length of time you remain on a cleanse. You can practice these methods at your own pace to experience total well-being as you recover from the after-effects of abuse and live a happier, healthier life.

By Connie Sloane
Revitalization Coach

Activist Burnout

I had a conversation the other day with a friend who told me that all she wanted was a small house by the beach, a job she loved, and a sense of peace.

But that sense of peacefulness, despite how ideal it sounds, sometimes feels out of reach for activists.

I, for one, am in a constant state of chaos.

I’m disheartened at the response of sexual assault on campus. I’m angry that people are being murdered and experiencing police violence because of racism, homophobia, and transphobia. I’m frustrated that we live in a system where women are paid less then men (and that Black and Latina women are paid even less than white women), and that there are still arguments about the validity of that statement.

I’m disheartened that I’m a part of all these systems, contributing to them while simultaneously working against them, taking two steps back with every struggled step forward.

And in addition to trying to navigate these social and political injustices, activists are trying to cope with their own everyday struggles that come with being alive.

And those are the days when I don’t think I can sustain the energy and passion that I feel.

I have spent years trying to figure out how to harness my caring in a way that feels inspiring instead of disappointing; yet, with the things that do and don’t flood my newsfeed, it’s hard to imagine that burnout won’t creep up every now and then.

We’ve talked about burnout at Everyday Feminism before – that old feeling of pessimism and physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion that comes with advocacy and helping work.

Sometimes what we experience as burnout might just be a bad fit – leading the rallies when you don’t thrive in large groups of people, doing behind-the-scenes work when you actually love being around people, or not being in a space that appreciates your experiences and perspective.

You can distinguish burnout from bad days and bad fits if you find that a) it’s persistent over time, b) you experience it in more than one situation, and/or c) if it’s a change from how you used to feel in similar situations.

We here at Everyday Feminism know the feelings of burnout all too well, so we’ve compiled some tips below for how to move through your burnout and reconnect with yourself:
1. Figure Out What Burnout Feels Like for You

Burnout isn’t something that you either have or you don’t. Rather, think of it like a thermometer.

In order to gauge where you are on this scale, ask yourself some simple reflective questions: What are you feeling? How intense is it? How well are you able to manage those feelings?

There are many feelings associated with the ways in which activists like yourself might experience burnout:

Anxiety
Guilt
Isolation
Irritability
Anger
Sadness
Pessimism
Disappointment
Numbness
Fatigue/Insomnia
Lack of motivation
Physical pain/Sickness

You may feel one, all, or none of these. You may gravitate towards one or two in one time of your life, and experience it differently during other times of your life.

But know that what you’re feeling is normal and that other activists experience similar emotions.

Many times, we can even experience secondary emotions along with our burnout – things like guilt, shame, embarrassment, or frustration. This can come from our own judgments about our feelings and unrealistic expectations from those within our movements.

Try to avoid judging your experiences. Instead, make note of the different ways you are affected by the difficult and valuable work that you’re doing.

Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

A slight twist on this sentiment is, “Do the best you can until you can do more. Then when you can do more, do more.”

We have limited time, energy, and resources. Do what you can with what you have, maintaining the social support, hobbies, and self-care that replenish you and move you forward.
2. Start Building Up Your ‘Coping Bank’

After you identify how you’re experiencing burnout, the next step is to identify how you’re currently managing those feelings. Ask yourself: Are you able to identify behaviors, activities, and ways of coping? And are those still working for you?

It’s never too early or too late to begin adding ideas to your “coping bank.”

A coping bank is your go-to list of activities and behaviors that give you a sense of fulfillment, relief, and replenishment when you’re feeling burnout.

It can be very simple, like a list on your computer or phone, or more creative, like a jar full of ideas that you can literally draw from.

Fill your coping bank with things that you’ve tried and that have worked, and things that you haven’t tried yet that might work. Sometimes we need to switch up our responses, so don’t get discouraged if usually taking a long hike rejuvenates you, and today it doesn’t. Be prepared to experiment and have some fun trying different, new things.

Here are some general start points to start brainstorming coping techniques:

Join a club or a meet-up in your area (something separate from your activist interests)
Reconnect with your body
Learn a new skill
Attend community events
Take a hot shower or bath
Listen to music
Revisit to your favorite book (or blog, website, article) unrelated to activism
Re-engage in an old pastime
Meet up with a friend

The more specific you can get based on your own needs and resources, the better.

For instance, your list might look like this:

Take a moment to reconnect with your breath.
Make a cup of tea and sit still until the cup is empty.
Go for a short walk around the neighborhood.
Try an arts and crafts exercise like drawing a picture or making someone a card.
Call someone who you know will affirm, validate, and inspire you.

Sometimes when we’re feeling burned out, it can be difficult to get the motivation to try something. The less guesswork you have to do in the moment, the easier it will be.
3. Find a Community (No Matter How Small) That You Can Confide In

Sharing your experiences demystifies burnout and can provide vital support while you’re moving through it. This can be a group of people or simply a close friend.

It can be easy to isolate ourselves when we feel alone and misunderstood. Building a community is a conscious effort to remind ourselves “I am not alone in this.”

Adrienne Rich said, “The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.”

This goes for any marginalized group.

When we are given spaces to share our experiences, we can shed light on the ways in which our individual experiences align with others. It’s through these connections that we can better understand these shared experiences, what they mean to us, and where we have power and agency.

Communities, then, can give us a collective voice when our own may be faltering. They can be the extra boost we need to push through or the sensible reminder for self-care and redirection.

Sometimes we’re not in environments where we feel comfortable or safe connecting in our local communities. In that case, finding online communities through blogs, forums, and other websites can help you create the support that might not be readily accessible where you are.

Sometimes our coping bank and support systems aren’t working or aren’t available to us. And in those situations, it might be a good time to reach out for extra support.

Finding a counselor or therapist to help you move through burnout can be a really helpful and sometimes necessary step in helping us reconnect.
4. And, Sometimes, We May Just Need a Break from What We’re Doing

I don’t believe that taking a break needs to be your first line of action, but there are definitely times when we know this just isn’t working for us right now.

And that’s okay.

In those situations, taking time to rediscover or find new passions and interests can be the most difficult and most transforming thing we can do for both ourselves and for our movements.

It can be difficult for activists to admit to themselves and to those around them that they might need a break.

There are stigmas both within and outside activist communities that contribute to the shame and guilt many feel when prioritizing their own mental and physical wellbeing.

Activists often experience burnout because of the demands put forth by their own activist communities – expecting martyrdom and perfectionism.

Additionally, many of relationships, careers, and hobbies are related to our activist work. It can be scary and intimidating to shift away from something that is such a prominent part of someone’s life.

And yet, it’s common for activists throughout their lifespan to shift, grow, and change course.

Many people become activists because they care about certain issues and how they affect people’s lives. By the time we reach the point of needing a break, we may be suffering from compassion fatigue (a temporary decreased capacity for compassion). This can be a confusing, jarring experience for individuals who entered this community because of their caring and concern.

If we are depriving ourselves of our own needs, eventually our time, energy, and caring for others will also deplete.

Sometimes the best way to treat our compassion fatigue is by taking a break.

By internally practicing and building our self-compassion, we can begin to extend that compassion again towards others.

As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”

Admitting that you need a change of pace is an incredibly brave and courageous thing to do.

In addition to potentially being a painful experience, it can also be a really empowering experience. It can ignite a new passion for you, and it can make room for others to carry forward your activist work.

Come back to yourself. Identify what you need. Listen to the feedback that others give you. Talk or learn about activists who might have also experienced burnout. And finally, tap into the parts of yourself that know when something fits and when something doesn’t fit.

***

Maya Angelou also said, “I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”

That is, as we extend help, compassion, and care to others, we should be willing to extend and accept those same things for ourselves.

Self-compassion is definitely less practiced than it is discussed. Yet, we can’t sustain ourselves if we are constantly giving and never replenishing.

For specific ways to build your coping bank, check out these awesome comics:

50 Ways to Take a Break by Karen Horneffer-Ginter
Self-Care Things by Sad Teen Queer
A Brief Guide to Self-Care by E.J. Landsman
Self-Care Tips by Virginia Paine and More Self-Care Tips by Virginia Paine

To read more Everyday Feminism articles about self-care, check out these links:

Burnout Prevention and Intervention
Top 3 Signs You May Need a Break from the Feminist Blogosphere
Self-Care 101: What It Is and How to Start
5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself Today
Self-Care for Type A Productivity Monsters Like Myself

Share on Facebook and Twitter how you experience burnout and how you cope!

Aliya Khan is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism and identifies as a feminist, activist, and life-long learner. She provided crisis support to survivors of abuse at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh and is currently studying Counseling Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Oregon. Aliya is also a co-founder of Empowertainment, a blog focused on gender, media, and mental health.

Copyright © 2015 · Everyday Feminism · Privacy Policy · Comments Policy

New book about habits by Gretchen Rubin

Hello Readers,

Today, in addition to sending you the usual daily Moment of Happiness quotation, I wanted also to let you know that my book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, just went on sale today.

No surprise, it’s packed with many of my favorite quotations. The epigraph? Publilius Syrus: “The greatest of empires, is the empire over one’s self.” One of my other favorites? From John Gardner: “Every time you break the law you pay, and every time you obey the law you pay.” But there are many…and I cut out many, too.

For a writer, publication day is a big milestone, so thanks for bearing with me as I take this opportunity to spotlight the book. As always, thank you, readers!

I’m thrilled to have Better Than Before out in the world. It explores how we can make and break habits—one of the most interesting subjects ever.

Three or four years ago, I began to notice that when people told me about a happiness challenge, they often pointed to some crucial habit that they weren’t able to master.

I became increasingly intrigued with the subject of habits, and became determined to answer the many questions that puzzled me—perhaps they’ve puzzled you, too:

• Sometimes people acquire habits overnight, and sometimes they drop longtime habits just as abruptly. Why?
• Why do some people dread and resist habits, while others adopt them eagerly?
• Perhaps it’s understandable why it’s hard to form a habit we don’t enjoy, but why is it hard to form a habit we do enjoy?
• Why do so many successful dieters regain their lost weight, plus more?
• Why are people so often unmoved by the bad consequences of their habits? For instance, one-third to one-half of U.S. patients don’t take medicine prescribed for a chronic illness.
• Do the same strategies work for changing simple habits (wear­ing a seat belt) and for complex habits (drinking less)?
• Why is it that sometimes, though we’re very anxious—even desperate—to change a habit, we can’t? A friend told me, “I have health issues, and I feel lousy when I eat certain foods. But I eat them anyway.”
• Do the same habit-formation strategies apply equally well to everyone?
• Certain situations seem to make it easier to form habits. Which ones, and why?

In Better Than Before, I answer all these, and more. I learned many things that astonished me.

My argument, in a nutshell: There is no magic, one-size-fits-all solution for habit change. To change our habits, we first have to figure out ourselves and the strategies that will work for us. My great hope is that this book will help people find ways successfully to change their habits—even if they’ve failed before.

If you’d like to know more about Better Than Before, you can read a descriptionread an excerptlisten to an audio-book clip (yes, that’s me reading); and download reading guides for book groups, work groups, andspirituality groups.

I’ve gotten some very thoughtful notes from readers who have asked me what they can do to help. Which I very much appreciate. In this era of fewer bookstores and shrinking book reviews, the actions of readers make a big difference in the fate of a book.

So please forgive me if this is an imposition, but if you’re so inclined, and you liked the book, here are some suggestions:

First, tell your friends! Word of mouth is the best. The thing that makes me most want to read a book is when friends tell me that they liked it. Mention it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…whatever social media is your habit.

Write an online review; readers respect the views of other readers. This really helps. (The book comes out today, but because Amazon Vine readers get early copies, Better Than Before already has more than thirty 5-star and 4-star reviews  on Amazon—and not from anyone I know!)

Adding a rating (the more stars, the better) also makes a big difference.

Note, too, that if you vote an existing review as “helpful,” it gets pushed to the top of the reviews list, where it’s more visible. Conversely, if you mark a review “unhelpful,” it moves down.

Request a signed bookplate for your copy of the book.

I know a lot of people plan on giving Better Than Before to other people, in a not-so-subtle bid to help them change a habit. If you’d like signed bookplates to make the books more special giftsrequest here.

If you want a “starter kit” to launch a group for people who are working together to change their habits, email your request to gretchenrubin1@gretchenrubin.com.

Come to an event! I love to meet readers and hope to see many of you when I’m on my book tour. Info here. If you don’t live in a tour city, maybe you can see or hear me talking about the book.If all goes as planned, I’ll appear on theToday show (3-part series), The Dr. Oz Show, “the Cycle” on MSNBC, on “Weekend Edition” on NPR, and elsewhere.

Finally, to give you a sense of what you’ll find in the book, here’s my Habits Manifesto:

  • What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.
  • Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong.
  • Focus on actions, not outcomes.
  • By giving something up, we may gain.
  • Things often get harder before they get easier.
  • When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves.
  • We’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.
  • It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.
  • We can’t make people change, but when we change, others may change.
  • We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.
  • We manage what we monitor.
  • Once we’re ready to begin, begin now.

If you’ve decided to tackle an important habit (or to help someone else to tackle a habit), I hope that you find Better Than Before useful. When we change our habits, we change our lives.

Thank you, dear readers, for all your support and enthusiasm, and for sharing this moment with me. I’m so grateful. And thanks for your patience with this self-promotion! I’ve worked so hard on this book; I want to do everything I can to spread the word.

(Note my excellent Better Than Before cell phone case! Fancy.)

“Do you have a bad habit you’re trying to shake, or a good one you wish you could cultivate? Gretchen Rubin is one of the most charming and erudite authors of her generation. Here, she uses her gifts to help you eat right, sleep well, stop procrastinating, and start enjoying all that life has to offer.”
—Susan Cain, New York Times bestselling author of Quiet

“Gretchen Rubin combines deep research and observations from her own life to explain how habits emerge and—more important—how they can change. It’s indispensable for anyone hoping to overhaul how they (almost unthinkingly) behave.”
—Charles Duhigg, New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Habit

“Filled with insights about our patterns of behavior, Better Than Before addresses one of life’s big and timeless questions: how can we transform ourselves? In a way that’s thought-provoking, surprising, and often funny, Gretchen Rubin provides us with the tools to build a life that truly reflects our goals and values.”
—Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and New York Times bestselling author of Thrive

“Is there a habit in your life you’d like to change? If so, here’s your first step: Read this book. It’s loaded with practical, everyday tips and techniques that will guide you to success.”
—Dan Heath, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Made to StickSwitch, and Decisive

“Almost everyone wants to be ‘better’—slimmer, smarter, better looking, more interesting, more productive—and we want to know we’re improving, we want the reinforcing evidence. Gretchen Rubin’s new masterpiece, Better Than Before, shows us how.  Unlike other books on habits, Rubin’s book gives us the specific tools and a blueprint for getting back on track—the fast track.”
 —Brian Wansink, Ph.D., New York Times bestselling author of Slim by Design and Mindless Eating

“With bold and original insights, Gretchen Rubin reveals the hidden truths about how to change our habits—from resisting junk food and hitting the gym to ending procrastination and saving money. Better Than Before is a gem, and the first habit you should form is reading a chapter every night.”
—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take

“Gretchen Rubin’s superpower is curiosity. Luckily for us, she’s turned her passionate inquiry to the topic of making and mastering habits. Weaving together research, unforgettable examples, and her brilliant insight, Better Than Beforeis a force for real change. It rearranged what I thought I knew about my habits, and I’m better for it.”
—Brené Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection

Gretchen RubinWarmly,
Gretchen
Order Better Than Before
Order The Happiness Project
Order Happier at Home
Subscribe to my podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Share on Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

Forward to a Friend

Subscribe to the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” Podcast  

Not sure how to subscribe to a podcast? Easy instructions here.

 

      

©2012, Gretchen Rubin. All rights reserved.

 

Sleep Health

 

The 11 Biggest Health Benefits Of Sleep

Posted: Updated:

By Esther Crain for Men’s Journal

Quality shut-eye is some of the best medicine available. It leads to more energy, helps you handle stress and improves overall well-being. Your system also benefits in countless little-known yet important ways when you get the seven to eight hours nightly that experts recommend. Sleep is your body’s time to heal, recharge and restore itself. Skimp on it, it that sleep debt affects every body function, from your memory to your mood to the number of sick days you take and even your risk for a heart attack, says Shalini Paruthi, M.D., a sleep specialist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. In case you need more convincing, here are the 11 biggest ways sleep gives your body a major assist.

Sleep keeps your heart healthy.
Add sleep deprivation to the list of risk factors that can leave you spending a lot of time in a cardiologist’s office. “Poor sleep quality is linked to heart health problems, from high blood pressure to heart attacks,” says Paruthi. Here’s why: Regularly shortchanging yourself on sleep can lead to a surge in stress hormones such as cortisol. The uptick in stress hormones compels your ticker to respond by working harder, and it doesn’t get the rest it needs, says Paruthi.

It prevents you from packing on pounds.
A good night’s rest won’t necessarily result in losing weight, but it can keep you from adding unwanted pounds. First, sleeplessness cranks up production of the hormone ghrelin, which boosts appetite, says Michael Breus, Ph.D., sleep specialist and author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan. “It also leads to a decrease in the hormone leptin, which signals feeling full,” says Breus. And by making you more stress-prone and low-energy, lack of sleep reduces your ability to fight junk food cravings. Give in to the office vending machine, and that candy bar will send your blood sugar surging, then crashing, leaving your appetite raging all over again.

It lowers your odds of a car crash.
Because a sleep debt slows your reaction time and reduces your ability to focus, “driving a car when you’re low on sleep is just as dangerous as driving drunk,” says Paruthi. Research backs this up: People who regularly sleep six to seven hours per night are twice as likely to get in an accident as those who usually score at least eight hours, according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Catch less than five hours, and your odds of a crash quadruple, reports the study.

Sleep strengthens your immune system.
Want to stay off the injury list and take fewer sick days? Make a habit of getting high-quality rest to keep the immune cells and proteins of your immune system in fighting shape. That, in turn, improves your ability to beat back colds, the flu, and other infections. Sleep also makes vaccines more effective. “After getting a shot, people with sleep issues don’t develop the same antibody response as well-rested people, and that leaves them more susceptible,” says Paruthi.

It keeps your brain from frying.
Remember that 1980s PSA that compared a cracked egg to your brain on drugs? Well, that sizzling egg is similar to your brain on sleep deprivation. While getting proper sleep is linked to improved concentration and higher cognitive functioning, even one sleepless night sets you up to feel fuzzyheaded, scattered and unfocused the next day. Your memory recall isn’t as sharp, and everything you do is in slow-mo, says Paruthi. That puts your job at risk. “You’re more likely to make mistakes at work, for example, but less likely to realize it and correct them,” she says.

It fires up your sex life.
Steady, quality shut-eye keeps testosterone levels high, prevents erection problems and ensures that you’re never too exhausted for sex. Cheat yourself out of sleep, however, and you cheat yourself out of great sex. Research shows that men who sleep less than six hours nightly have lower levels of testosterone, says Paruthi, and flagging testosterone can sink sex drive.

It can prevent headaches.
If you get stress headaches, scoring plenty of rest will help keep them from striking, says Paruthi. Sleep deprivation also plays an indirect role in making your head hurt as well by making you less able to cope with stress and anxiety, two things that can trigger a throbbing skull, even when you’ve had plenty of R&R.

It keeps you in top form at the gym.
Quality sleep is like nature’s sports supplement, improving your speed, hand-eye coordination, reaction time and muscle recovery. Thing is, even short-term sleep deprivation messes with these, throwing off your performance at the gym. Also, a 2013 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that sleep deprivation reduced muscle strength and power the next day, particularly if your workout was later in the afternoon.

It boosts your mood.
Think about the last time you slept really well: You probably woke up feeling brighter and optimistic, had more energy and drive and were less likely to let little challenges — like bad traffic or a heavy workload — lead to anger and frustration. Well, subpar sleep habits can have the opposite effect. “Even one night of sleeplessness can makes you cranky and irritable the next day,” says Paruthi. You’re also more vulnerable to stress and anxiety. All of these can make it harder to fall asleep the next night, so you become trapped in a cycle of sleeplessness and bad mood. The escape plan: vowing you’ll go to bed at a decent hour, and letting your system recharge and restore itself.

Sleep increases your pain threshold.
If you want to tough out physical pain, hit the sack. That’s the suggestion of a 2012 study from the journal Sleep, which divided study subjects into two groups, one that slept nine hours nightly and another that slept an average seven each night. Researchers then tested how long each participant could hold their finger to a radiant heat source. Subjects in the nine-hour group withstood the heat about 25 percent longer. It’s not clear why more sleep led to more pain tolerance, but the findings echo similar results in other studies and suggest that a long night’s sleep is a potent pain reliever.

It bolsters your relationships.
Considering that sleep deprivation contributes to crankiness and a crabby mood, it’s no wonder poor sleepers have more problems with their partner, including a greater likelihood of disagreements and a reduced ability to have empathy, says Paruthi. “Your sleep habits have a wider effect on the people around you than you think, contributing to relationship satisfaction and happiness,” she adds.

More from Men’s Journal:
6 Ways to Sleep Better
10 Products to Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep
10 Bedtime Rituals for Better Sleep