2020-06-22 05:48:00

A Positive Outlook Can Add Years To Your Life

I worked with a guy who was always so positive that it got annoying at times. He had this zest for life that didn’t stop. Nothing ever seemed to get Andy down. From the first moment in the morning that I saw him to the time he went home, he would tell me and everyone else. “Look on the sunny side of life.” [bctt tweet="Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day." username="DBrettWilliams"] "See the glass as half-full, not half-empty." He had dozens of phrases like these, hallmarks of his optimism and positive outlook on life.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="401"]man with positive outlook "I am not trendy. I am not 'in fashion.' I am simply a positive human being who has a positive outlook on life." - Thierry Mugler[/caption]
He was trying to change people’s moods, to lift their spirits. While I tend to regard myself as a positive person, sometimes it can be hard to look on the bright side of life. I didn't always appreciate his upbeat approach. I owe him an apology. It turns out he was doing more than lifting my spirits. Researchers are finding that thoughts like these can not only improve health but also extend life.  

Benefits of a positive outlook

There can't be any doubt that the brain influences the body. Our thought processes, in particular, our mindset, affects how our body works and the processes that happen within it. When facing any health-related crisis, it has been demonstrated many times that cultivating positive emotions boosts the immune system and counters depression. There is a significant link between a positive outlook and health benefits. Things like healthier blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, less heart disease, and better weight control. Even when faced with an incurable illness, positive feelings and thoughts can improve one’s quality of life. A positive outlook means living longer and stronger for people dealing with heart disease. This from the American Heart Association about the number one killer of adults in the US. [bctt tweet="The study looked at 607 patients. It found that patients whose moods were overall more positive were 58% more likely to live at least another five years." username="DBrettWilliams"] These people exercised more, too. The scientists can’t say for sure if positivity led to them exercising or if exercising improved their mood. The important message is the same either way. Positive thinking and regular physical activity are vital for life. The chicken-or-egg thing doesn’t bother me at all.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="399"]happy toys "Your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you." - Les Brown[/caption]
Physical activity improves mood, so if working out makes you feel better, that’s great. The other side of the coin is that feeling happier and more optimistic helps motivate you to engage in more healthy habits. That might mean hopping on a treadmill, applying sunscreen, eating more vegetables or all three. That is a win-win as I see it.  

Cancer treatment

Dr Wendy Harpham has authored several books for people facing cancer. Nearly 30 years ago, she was a practising internist when she learned she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A cancer of the immune system. During the 15 years of treatments for her cancer, she set the stage for happiness and hope. She would surround herself with people who lifted her spirits. She still keeps a daily gratitude journal. Every day she would do something good for someone else. And she watched funny and uplifting movies. “Fostering positive emotions helped make my life the best it could be,” Dr Harpham said. “They made the tough times easier, even though they didn’t make any difference in my cancer cells.” Dr Harpham maybe like Andy and have a natural disposition to see the hopeful side of life even when the outlook is bleak. But new research demonstrates that people can learn skills to help them experience more positive emotions. Even when faced with the severe stress of a life-threatening illness.  

A positive outlook and ageing

[bctt tweet="A study of more than 4,000 people 50 and older demonstrated that having a positive view of ageing can have a beneficial influence on health outcomes and longevity." username="DBrettWilliams"] Dr Becca Levy said two possible mechanisms account for the findings.
  • Psychologically, a positive view can enhance belief in one’s abilities. This decreases perceived stress and fosters healthful behaviours.
  • Physiologically, people with positive outlooks on ageing had lower levels of C-reactive protein. This is a marker of stress-related inflammation associated with heart disease and other illnesses.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400"]happy and sad face "You need to be able to manage stress because hard times will come, and a positive outlook is what gets you through." - Marie Osmond[/caption]
This remains true even after accounting for possible influences like age, health status, sex, race and education than those with a negative outlook. They also lived significantly longer.  

Fostering positive emotions

Judith T. Moskowitz developed a set of eight skills to help foster positive emotions. In earlier research at the University of California, she and colleagues worked with people with new diagnoses of H.I.V. infection. They found those who learned the eight skills were less likely to need antidepressants to help them cope with their illness and incredibly carried a lower load of the virus. The research followed people who had recently learned they were H.I.V. positive. They were randomly assigned to one of two groups; either five sessions of general support or five sessions of positive emotions training. After fifteen months the subjects were reviewed. Those receiving positive emotions training maintained higher levels of positive feelings and fewer negative thoughts related to their infection.

Eight skills

An essential goal of the training is to help people feel calm, happy, and satisfied despite being in the midst of a health crisis. Any improvements in their health and longevity are a bonus. Each participant in the positive emotions training group is encouraged to learn at least three of the eight skills. And they are instructed to practice one or more of the skills each day.

The eight skills are:

  • Recognise a positive event each day.
  • Savour that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.
  • Start a daily gratitude journal.
  • List a personal strength and note how you used it.
  • Set an attainable goal and note your progress.
  • Report relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.
  • Recognise and practice small acts of kindness daily.
  • Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather than the past or future.

Living longer

Dr Moskowitz inspiration was observing people with Type 2 diabetes, AIDS, and other chronic illnesses living longer when they demonstrated positive emotions. The next step was to see if fostering positive emotions could be taught and what impact it would have on how well they coped with the stress and their physical health as their conditions progressed. The goals were to:
  • improve patients’ quality of life,
  • enhance adherence to medication,
  • foster healthy behaviours,
  • increase social support by building personal resources
  • broader attention to the more enjoyable aspects of life
Another group of researchers set to determine if learning positive emotions skills training would be effective online. They had 49 patients with Type 2 diabetes perform internet-based training. The results show it was effective in enhancing positivity and reducing negative emotions and feelings of stress.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="399"]Positive women and dog "I truly believe in positive synergy, that your positive mindset gives you a more hopeful outlook, and belief that you can do something great means you will do something great." - Russell Wilson[/caption]
Reviewing prior studies, we know that, for people with diabetes, positive feelings were associated with an increase in healthy eating and physical activity, less use of tobacco, better control of blood sugar, and a lower risk of dying. Dr Moskowitz undertook several other studies to examine the effectiveness of online positive emotions skills training. Women with advanced breast cancer found the training decreased levels of depression amongst them. Meanwhile, the same was found to be true with the caregivers of dementia patients. Online positive emotions skills training works. As Dr Moskowitz says, “None of this is rocket science.”

How to get on the positive track

It’s not like you can go to your doctor and get a prescription for positivity. “Go home and tell two jokes to yourself every 4 to 6 hours.” You have to take the initiative. A gratitude journal can play a huge role. Recognise a positive event each day, something that you are grateful for having experienced. Recording it in a journal helps you savour that event. Even better, tell your friends about it. Talking about your friends. Are they people who lift your spirits or do you need to find your Andy? Could you start every day with the intention to do something good for someone else? When you look to accomplish small acts of kindness, you tend to recognise them when they happen to you. If you want more options to remember that Dr Moskowitz developed eight skills to help foster a positive outlook.

Make time to laugh

A long time ago I realised I didn't laugh enough. So every day I look to inject humour into my life. You can watch anything as long as it makes you laugh. Chuckling doesn't count. It needs to be a full-on laugh. Hang out with friends who make you laugh. Go to the park for a walk.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="399"]happy kids playing "Most of the people I know who exercise seriously do so because they have such a positive outlook on life. They work out to be more active and more positive." - David Brett-Williams[/caption]
Even better if you have a dog. Play with your children or grandchildren. Humour has been shown to improve immune cell function. This helps you ward off illness, decreases your chances of cancer and also increases your chance of living after heart disease hits. Time for those reruns of Friends !! There are also less apparent choices to enhance your positive outlook. Studies have shown that helping others helps you, too. Volunteering is a great way to give as much as you get and get as much as you give. It increases your sense of community which is one of the five foundational elements for living an OUTSTANDING life. A positive outlook can add years to your life and life to your years. The link between a positive outlook and health benefits is indisputable. Research shows benefits such as lower blood pressure, less heart disease, better weight control and healthier blood sugar levels. It’s a positive cycle. The more positivism you practice, the easier it gets and the better you will feel. What helps you get through those hard times? Drop a comment below, and let me know how you keep yourself optimistic.

2020-06-15 20:23:00

How To Find More Time In Your Day

Most days time is my enemy. I need another three hours each day to get everything done. Work and life are both pretty hectic schedules for me. I deluded myself that when my children grew up that I would find more free time. Is time your enemy too? While a lot of us regard time as an enemy when we get more of it we consider it a luxury. When your boss says, “That work I needed for tomorrow, I can’t look at until next week. Why don’t you get it to me Monday?” Those extra days are a luxury.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="399"]enemy in time "Once you have commitment you need the hard work and discipline to reach your goals." - David Brett-Williams[/caption]
My Mum is well read and would always have a relevant quote when I was struggling with an issue. [bctt tweet="Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst." username="DBrettWilliams"] Sounds relevant to my problem today. Safe to assume that things weren’t much different when William Penn wrote that in 1682.

A strange relationship

We have a strange relationship with time. When you feel you have plenty of it, the world opens up. You find the motivation to act on this luxury and explore. And on the other hand, we revel in the luxury of it. Contrast that to when you feel short of time. There are not enough hours in your day. It’s stressful and taxing. You start making decisions based on that anxious feeling that you lack enough time. For me, it meant breaking my well-intended routines and reaching for that quick, unhealthy snack. The non-urgent but important activities got put on hold. Things like preparing my fresh food, exercise, personal projects and relationships. Crazy stuff when I know that they nourish and enrich me.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="399"]key strap "They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself." - Andy Warhol[/caption]
One of the keys to managing my time better was to understand my relationship with it. Sounds too complicated? Let's think of it this way, knowing how I respond when time is scarce lets me control my actions and panic less.

This is the key

How you think about time affects the reality of how you spend it. That makes the ability to influence your perception of time incredibly powerful. Here are three surprising methods, backed by research, that will help expand your sense of time. When that happens, you will have the motivation to make better decisions about how you use the time you have.

1.  Give your time away to others

One of the most counterintuitive things you can do to increase your sense of time is to give some of it away. Researchers from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania looked at how we spend our time. Spending time on other people instead of spending unexpected free time on yourself, expands your sense of present and future. In one experiment, participants had to perform one of two tasks. Either write a short letter to a seriously ill child or count the number of times the letter “e” showed up in some text. The letter-writers reported that they felt like they had more time. In a follow-up experiment, they had two groups. One spent 10 or 30 minutes “doing something for yourself that you weren’t already planning to do today.” The other spent 10 or 30 minutes on someone else. Doing an unplanned, spontaneous act.  The duration of the time spent didn’t matter but what they spent it on did. And again, spending time on others expanded people’s sense of the future.

A sense of usefulness

They concluded that this expansion happens because helping people increases your sense of usefulness and effectiveness.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="399"]two people “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” - Charles Dickens[/caption]
Decompressing in front of the television or getting a massage might be fun and relaxing, but activities like these are unlikely to increase feelings of self-efficacy. Other research backs this up. Modern life has an increase in leisure. But this increase in leisure time has not increased people’s sense of time affluence. Could this be due to people’s choice to spend that additional leisure time on themselves? Instead, spend minutes on others to help that stressful feeling like you’re trying to squeeze your day into a shoe size that’s too small. You don’t have to donate extraordinary amounts. The researchers noted that little acts of prosocial behaviour are enough: “Carve out 10 to 15 minutes a day to do something for someone else.”

2. Seek Awesome

Think about a point at which time stood still or even melted away. Do it right now. A point when you were totally caught up in the moment. There is a reasonable likelihood that you just experienced awe. Indeed, researchers from Stanford University confirmed in a series of studies that awe expands your sense of the present. The feeling of awe, itself, is quite expansive. It’s what you feel when you perceive a kind of vastness that shifts your understanding of the world. It alters your perspective about your place in it. I experienced a sense of awe at the birth of my children. You might experience awe from encountering immensity or beauty. Things like seeing the Alps or the pyramids in Egypt or from experiencing a personal turning point. In one experiment, participants watched two different commercials. The awe-eliciting commercials featured images like beautiful waterfalls and astronauts in space. The participants reported feeling like they had more time than people who watched the happiness-eliciting commercials. Researchers found that this expanded sense of time even increased people’s willingness to volunteer to help others because they felt less impatient.

“Oh my!”

Awe helps you live in the present, captivating your attention. This stretches out daytime because you’re not as concerned with how much of it you have.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="399"]awe "He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." - Albert Einstein[/caption]
You might think that awe-eliciting experiences might be hard to find, but small doses can be enough. Remember that even the one-minute ads that the researchers used in the experiment were effective. Seek out things that make you go “Oh my!” One of the best ways to do that is to get out and experience the beauty and wonders of nature. Experience new things such as travel, which helps you focus on the present moment and increase the chance of an awe-inspiring moment. Or look up at the night sky.

3. Schedule good stuff

Enjoying the moment seems like an obvious answer to increasing our happiness and reducing anxiety over how we’re spending it. The problem is that we often deny ourselves those moments. [bctt tweet="We think we are too busy, creating an unhealthy feedback loop. Or we feel guilty, which lessens our enjoyment of it." username="DBrettWilliams"] In a paper for The Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers examined how rethinking time affects our happiness. They concluded that it also depends on our sense of control. They wrote: “…having spare minutes or hours and perceiving control over how to spend those moments, correlates to a strong and consistent effect on life satisfaction and happiness. Even controlling for the actual amount of free time one has. Feeling an expanded sense of present makes us happier because we feel like we’re not victim to forces totally outside of our power.” Using daytime wisely requires managing our sense of control over how we spend our hours rather than letting time happen to us. An excellent way to do this is to schedule things that you want to do as diligently as you might schedule a business meeting. If you want to exercise or spend more time with a friend or read more, literally put it on your calendar. The suggestion sounds almost too simple. And even a little too type-A personality or OCD. But the fact remains that we don’t follow through on our goals. Research explains that even though our smarter selves know what energises and sustains us, “there is often a gap between where people say they want to spend their time and how they spend their time.”

Make it an easy decision

You can close the gap and regain a better sense of control by making your desired activity an easier decision. Design it, so you are less at the mercy of self-doubt, procrastination, and inertia to overpower you. When you put something on a calendar, you’re more likely to do that activity. Partly because you’re less likely to have to make an active decision whether you should do it. Because it’s already on your calendar. Think that the smarter past-you has got future-you’s back. Fill in your time with what you want to do. Too often we fill our thoughts with regret on missed opportunities. Or how we will get to our goals when we have a spare moment. The spare productive moment is a rare beast indeed. Chances are higher that you’ll have the time when you schedule it.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="398"]time on the beach "For some reason, as the minutes get short in life, wasting it escaping through entertainment bothers me." - Dick Van Dyke[/caption]
The secret to changing your temporal mindset comes down to convincing yourself that you have enough time. A simple way to find more time is to stop procrastinating. What helps you to manage your time better? Drop a comment below, and let me know how you keep yourself on track.

2020-06-08 01:31:00

How To Put An End To Procrastination Right Now

Why do I procrastinate? Even worse, why do allow procrastination to come back when I know it causes me so much anxiety? I know what I need to do, but I don’t do it. Or I wait until the last minute. Time and time again, the pattern repeats itself. Caught, trapped in a whirlwind of anxiety, stress and procrastination. I tell myself that I procrastinate because I am disorganized, or lazy, or because I don’t care enough! But I know that isn’t true. Most of the time, nothing could be further from the truth. I am smart enough. And I am capable. And I am hardworking but can’t get things done on time and can’t seem to figure out why. If you are reading this, the chances are that like me. You don’t consider procrastination as an ally.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="401"]procrastination killer “Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” - Victor Kiam[/caption]
For me, procrastination leads to nothing but anxiety, disappointment and embarrassment for me. So, if that is all procrastination gives me, then why is changing it so darn hard? Could it be that like most things, there are also benefits to procrastination?

Active and passive procrastinators

I have friends who delay tasks deliberately because they like to feel under pressure. That sense of challenge from an approaching deadline. They thrive on the adrenaline rush and buzz that comes with getting things done right at the wire. These masochists are addicted to the challenge, and they don’t want to change. Call them active procrastinators. Active procrastinators are comfortable because they feel in control of their time. They have lower stress levels than passive procrastinators. So while they put things off, they get things done. Unlike passive procrastinators, they don’t freeze by worry and indecision. I identify more with the passive procrastinator. I know how procrastination interferes with my life. The missed opportunities and the constant stress, anxiety, and guilt. I have tried before but changing is hard. One of the main barriers to building the motivation to change is that procrastination has some benefits.

Benefits of procrastination

I don’t think of procrastination as having benefits. And most people don't see that there are a lot of good things about it. We typically think of procrastination as a negative thing. It can be difficult to see the benefits of procrastination as they are entwined in your psyche, the hidden benefits reduce your motivation to change nonetheless.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="401"]man in a train station “You may delay, but time will not.” - Benjamin Franklin[/caption]
Some examples of the benefits of procrastination include:
  • Problems sometimes solve themselves without any effort from you.
  • The opportunity to defer the less than pleasant tasks in favor of more enjoyable things.
  • You can avoid the possibility of failure or success.
  • You get to avoid the discomfort associated with doing something you dread.
  • Someone may take pity on you and do it for you.
  • You get to avoid some or all of the anxiety you feel about doing the task.
  • The demands placed on you get reassigned to another because you showed little progress.
It helps to be aware of the benefits of procrastination as you work to turn your habits around.

Cost versus benefit of procrastination

Do you want to build genuine motivation to change? The motivation that will see you through the hard work necessary to achieve your goals? If you do, it can be helpful to conduct a cost versus benefit analysis. You play the costs and benefits of procrastination against each other to see which one wins out. To do a cost versus benefit analysis, draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper, dividing it in half. On the left side, put the heading “Costs” and on the right side, put the heading “Benefits”. Under "Costs" list all the drawbacks of avoiding unpleasant tasks. Under “Benefits” list all the benefits of putting things off. When finished, examine each side. Does Costs or Benefits of procrastinating win? Is your procrastination working against you or for you? The answer will be different for each person reading this. Are the benefits of procrastination worth the havoc it wreaks on your personal and professional life? If not, now may be the time to make some changes. In my case, my procrastination became so severe that it became career hampering. I coped with the stress for ages. It may have hurt my health, but I am sure there were also other potential causes. When my livelihood got threatened, I had to get working on it.

Why do I procrastinate?

I asked myself this question many times. There was a fear of failure coupled with a desire for perfection. My feelings of insecurity would paralyse me especially if it were an important project. Then I would struggle to complete it fearing that it wasn’t good enough. It had to be flawless. Rarely was it disorganisation. I had no problem creating a to-do list or checking items off it. I didn’t consider depression. Feelings such as hopelessness and fatigue were alien to me. Both are hallmarks of depression and depression is demotivating. You have your reasons for procrastinating, or you wouldn't do it. Whatever the reasons are, it is a good idea to figure out why you’re doing it. Then you can change your approach to starting and completing tasks. In addition to hampering your success on the job, procrastination acts as stressors that can cause all sorts of physiological problems. Here are some tricks to help you stay on task.

A change of scenery

I don’t know about you, but my desk is covered with distractions. Comforts such as pictures and food not to mention vitamins, bills, books I’m supposed to be reading, papers that need signing. Loads of things scattered around me begging for my attention.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400"]women in a library “Getting an idea should be like sitting on a pin; it should make you jump up and do something." - E. L. Simpson[/caption]
What works beautifully for me when I need to get work done is to pick up my laptop and camp out somewhere else. You might try working somewhere completely out of your element, like a library. I chose quiet coffee shops where no one knows me.

Go offline

Online distractions destroy your productivity. It is so easy to get consumed by eBay or Facebook and lose hours of your day. My friend, John, who works from home and never procrastinates has a secret. “Sometimes I unplug my router and put it in a closet. Then I go back to my computer. I can’t browse or do anything else, so I just work. It’s a pain to go get the router, so I don’t just reconnect.” I am not that extreme, or maybe I am lazier. My concern is that I might never plug the router back in again. Instead, I put my iPhone on flight mode and close email and messaging on my laptop.

Stop bouncing between projects

It is common for me to have several projects on the go at the same time. But I don’t work through one, finish it and then repeat the process for the next one. I behave like a moron. I will work on one for a while, then flip over to another, and so on. As a result, all of them seem to take forever to complete. Prioritise what is urgent to do, then do it without thinking of the side activities. If none of your projects are urgent, tackle the most difficult one and complete it. The easier ones that follow will seem like a piece of cake in comparison.

Quit social media

Really? What benefit are you getting from Facebook or Twitter other than a point of distraction? For many folks, social networks are nothing more than a time suck to check into because there’s work waiting to be done.

Keep a detailed to-do list

I used to put a mammoth, multi-component project down as a one line item on my to-do list. Now I break it down into action items that I can check off frequently. A little thing that I find important when trying to stay in control. Update your to-do list at a minimum once every day. If you don’t then you are wasting more time.

Figure out which tasks you don’t like doing and why

Thinking about the reasons you’re putting things off is particularly effective. A frequent one for me was boredom. Come on, the same weekly and monthly reports that no one ever comments on!
[caption id="attachment_1217" align="aligncenter" width="401"]nipping procrastination “Doing just a little bit during the time we have available puts you that much further ahead than if you took no action at all.” - Byron Pulsifer[/caption]
When you write it down, it helps to almost get it out like a confessional type of thing, like therapy. Then you can try to look and find help for how to overcome that.

Don’t expect perfection

Stating the obvious, if the task is for a client, this doesn’t apply. But how many mundane things are sitting in the queue, waiting for you? Sometimes getting 80 percent of tasks done is better than not at all. It is like saying you want to run a mile. Getting off the couch and merely walking half a mile is better than staying glued to the couch and not running at all.

Tell someone you respect when you’ll finish

Absolutely love this one. I term it my accountability partner. I tell them my task and my deadline so they can check progress. And I do the same for them. What makes it work for me is that my accountability partner is very competitive and I don't want to look bad by not completing my task. If I avoid them, my accountability partner will chase me for progress so I can’t ever evade the topic. Oh, bugger! Drop a comment below, and let me know how you avoid procrastinating and keep yourself on track. Want to find more time in your day? Find out here.

2020-06-01 04:33:00

What Makes An Outstanding Life?

Most of us have the desire to live an OUTSTANDING life. We want more than we have now. Continually we are bombarded with messages telling us what we need to do to live an outstanding life. Advertisers say it is simply a matter of buying the right car. Are you telling me that my lifestyle won't change as soon as I purchase the car? Social media says it is accumulating more fame and wealth. Am I told old to live like a rock star? All fantasy and joking aside, I am just like you, looking to improve my life. I am looking to make better choices and engage in more productive activities. How we approach our lives is the key to living an OUTSTANDING life.

What does your best possible future look like?

Indulge me and take a few moments to answer this question: What does your best possible future look like? That question freaks me out. All the factors to consider. My age, education, life expectancy, potential and other factors. Stuff that when I think about it, I get uncomfortable. Does that question have the same effect on you? One thing I know is that I want my future to be outstanding. Another thing I know is that we have something in common. We all strive to improve our lives. All that time spent studying. All that time spent at work. Even the time spent exercising or meditating. Isn’t that all to improve your life?


For some people, that desire may be a small flame gently flickering. For others, it may be an all-consuming inferno. That desire drives us to look for ways to improve, to get better, to gain an advantage. [caption id="attachment_1348" align="aligncenter" width="400"]outstanding view of life on earth "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." - Charles R. Swindoll[/caption] But I have a guilty secret. Those programs that promise to help me make money, lose weight, or strengthen my relationships are snapped up by me in a heartbeat. Bouncing from ‘quick fix’ to ‘guaranteed result’ hoping for some magic elixir to solve what ails me. These critical areas of my life get treated as if they are independent entities, but they are not. Maybe, I do that to focus on one smaller thing rather than the larger and scarier picture. If you watch the news, you will see lots of stories about well-being. We are bombarded with advice about positive lifestyle choices. Simply put, wellbeing is about people and creating the conditions for them to thrive.  It’s about your quality of life. Issues such as prosperity, positive physical and mental health and sustainable, thriving relationships.

A good day leads to a good life

Despite the landslide of information about lifestyle, the Western World continues to be more sedentary and obese. Increasing numbers of people suffer from unregulated stress, too little sleep, a high-fat, high-sugar diet, and so on. Gallup surveyed over a hundred countries to find out what habits create well-being. The study concluded that having a good day leads to having a good life. In other words, habits that make you feel good right now are the essential elements of a long, healthy life. All of us have an ingrained tendency to seek immediate gratification. And this need for instant gratification frustrates the people interested in our well-being.

Instant gratification

Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfilment without delay. It’s when you want it, and often you want it now. To get it now means we trade off our longer-term goals. [caption id="attachment_1349" align="aligncenter" width="401"]man flying through life "Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don't wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Every minute should be enjoyed and savoured." - Earl Nightingale[/caption] Want an example? In the survey, only 10% admit to buying candy. But if asked if they take the candy when it is put in front of them, 70% say yes. When it is easy to get, we succumb to the immediate gratification that eating the candy brings.

What harm will it do?

Trust me; I get it. I get all too well. The candy was right there. It looked so delicious. What harm will a few pieces do? It's not candy for me but chocolate chip cookies. Especially if they have soft centres. We all have our weakness! Let’s think of this a different way. You are on your lunch break and have the intention of ordering a salad. An excellent idea that will help you in your desire for better health. You walk into a fast-food outlet. When you get to the counter, what do you order? If you are anything like me, it is most likely a burger and fries. You have an exercise regime. With the real intention to improve your health over the long haul. Given the choice between going for a jog and crashing on the couch to catch Game of Thrones what do you choose?  

Short versus long-term

Immediate gratification makes people opt to catch up with John Snow's latest exploits. This lack of discipline places improving our health firmly in second place.We allow short-term decisions and desires to over-ride our long-term wellbeing. Cake, retail therapy, alcohol, television, etc. all triumph, especially if we are unhappy or depressed. But we can take immediate gratification and turn it on its head, making short-term satisfaction an ally rather than an enemy. So what makes for a good day that will also lead to a good life? Habits that make you feel good right now are the essential elements of a long and healthy life. [bctt tweet="Having a good day leads to having a good life." username="DBrettWilliams"]

The research

Gallup scientists have been exploring the demands of a life well-lived since the mid-20th century. As part of this research, they conducted a comprehensive global study of more than 150 countries. This provided a viewpoint into the wellbeing of more than 98% of the world's population. In the initial research, they asked people what "the best possible future" for them would look like. They found that when evaluating their lives, people often give disproportionate weight to income and health.

The Wellbeing Finder

In response, Gallup set out to construct a comprehensive measure of individual wellbeing. They designed an assessment composed of the best questions to create the Wellbeing Finder. After analysing the Wellbeing Finder data, five distinct statistical factors emerged. These five are the elements that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering. The five elements are interdependent. If we focus on any single element in isolation, it can lead to feelings of failure. But, we all tend to do it. We all fall into that trap. So what are the five elements of a good day that will also lead to an OUTSTANDING life?

The five elements of an OUTSTANDING life

These elements are the currency of a life that matters. They represent five broad categories that are essential to us.
  • The first component regards how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day: Career.
  • The second component regards having strong relationships and love in your life: Social.
  • The third component regards effectively managing your economic life: Financial.
  • The fourth component regards having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis: Physical.
  • The fifth component regards the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live: Community.
While 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five. If we're struggling in any one of these domains, as most of us are, it wears on our daily life. When we strengthen any of these areas, we will have better days, months, and decades.

Living effectively

But we're not getting the most out of our lives unless we're living effectively in all five. And when we are performing well in all five elements then we are living an OUTSTANDING life. [caption id="attachment_1350" align="aligncenter" width="401"]Outstanding human life "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." - George Bernard Shaw[/caption] Thriving and not merely surviving in all five elements is the key to living an OUTSTANDING life. Although these elements are universal across faiths, cultures, and nationalities, people take different paths to increase their well-being. For many people, spirituality is the driving force in all these areas. They consider their faith the foundation of their daily efforts and one of the most important facets of their lives. For others, a calling, such as protecting the environment, inspires them each day. While the things that motivate us differ significantly from one person to the next, the outcomes do not.


If you do work that you love and are passionate about, that is found to be foremost among the factors for well-being. Fundamentally, to keep humans happy, we all need something to do and look forward to each day. This is why work is important to our well-being, and depression can set-in when out of work. The Economic Journal published a study of 130,000 people over several decades. It showed that unemployment is the ONLY major life event that people do not get over within five years – surpassing even the death of a spouse. This is particularly the case for unemployment more than 12 months.

“Do you like what you do each day?”

Only 20% of respondents gave a strong “yes” to this question. Being disengaged from your career means you are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression in the next year. What if you have a boring job? Then it’s recommended that you spend a few hours a day away from work doing something you love. You could find someone who shares your passion, whatever it is, and spends time with that person on a frequent basis. A walk is good as you chat about what you both love.


Your life’s most memorable events and experiences (best and worst) tend to involve someone else. We often underestimate the impact of our closest relationships. Emotions are scientifically proven to spread from one person to another. A happy friend causes you to smile, which improves your day and you go on to improve someone else’s. We synchronise moods with those around us. Your odds of being happy, if a direct contact is happy, increase by 15%. If a friend of your contact is happy, your odds still increase 10%. Even if a friend’s friend’s friend is happy, you are 6% more likely to be happy. Not impressed with 6%? A $10,000 increase in salary is shown to increase happiness by 2%. The health and wellbeing of people significantly affect that of their connections.  When you improve the wellbeing of one person, then it will have a marked effect on their connections.

Real life domino effect

If your best friend has a healthy diet, you are five times more likely to have healthy eating. If your spouse becomes obese, you are 37% more likely to become obese. These connections are a stronger predictor than your parents and genetics. Relationships serve as a buffer during tough times; they assist with resilience. [caption id="attachment_1351" align="aligncenter" width="401"]outdoor social life "The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it." - Hubert H. Humphrey[/caption] People with very few social ties are twice as likely to die from heart disease or catch colds – even though they have much less social contact! To “have a thriving day” we need 6 hours of social time a day. Social time at work even helps significantly. Even idle chit-chat has been shown to improve productivity.


This is an important contributor to well-being, but how much you have isn’t the main thing. Beyond having the wealth to purchase necessities, the greatest influence on happiness is spending money on others. A Harvard Study in 2008 showed that when given up to $20 to spend on oneself, a charity or others, those that devoted the money to a charity or others received a significant boost in wellbeing, compared to no increase in those who spent it on themselves. What can you do with your money? Buy experiences rather than things. Buying a flat-screen TV may bring a shot of enjoyment, but what if you purchase a vacation in the Bahamas? You get three stages of enjoyment: anticipation beforehand, immediate pleasure in the present and fond memories afterwards.

Status Symbols

We strive to possess “status symbols” such as the latest TV and mobile phone. These help us to overcome feelings of loss of status or failure. Sometimes, these activities can often put us into debt, compounding problems. Financial wellbeing is really about a sense of financial security and lack of worry, rather than absolute measures of wealth. It is the perception that you have more than enough money to do what you want to do. In fact, focusing solely on the accumulation of wealth can even reduce our wellbeing. The fundamental tenets of Financial Wellbeing are:
  • satisfaction with your standard of living
  • expenditure on experiences rather than material goods
  • giving to others


Every bite and drink we take has a net positive or net negative impact on our health. There are hundreds of moments each week where we make these seemingly insignificant decisions. Having a few fries seems to have no immediate net adverse effect, but over weeks and months it all builds up. Instead of punishing yourself for falling short of some ideal diet and fitness program, use immediate gratification to your advantage. Ask yourself, "If I eat that fatty lunch with the sugar thing for dessert, how will I feel in two hours?" Compare the prospects of a fat hangover and sugar drowsiness with how you will feel if you have salad and a piece of broiled fish instead. Feeling light and energetic is immediate gratification that is just as pleasurable and longer lasting than a five-minute sugar high. The same holds for exercise. If you take a brisk walk for 20 minutes in the morning, it will set an energetic tone for the rest of your day. 20 minutes of exercise is proven to improve your mood for up to 12 hours. Two 20 minute walks a day are even better. As far as specific recommendations, we are advised to buy healthy foods and refrain from buying processed and artificial foods. Omega-3 oils as in salmon, nuts, and seeds and also unsaturated oil such as olive oil, are also good.

Sleep helps you reset

Get enough sleep to feel well rested, around 7-8 hours for adults but no more. Average sleep in western society is reducing each year: now 6.7 hours, below the 7-8 hours needed to “reset” the brain and body. New research shows the brain finds solutions while we sleep. They sleep well to process what they learnt the day before and get a good start to the new day. This sleep helps them to look better, feel better and live longer. Meditation is being scientifically shown to have a similar impact upon neural pathways to aid decision-making, problem-solving and health. Again, the goal is to eat, rest, and be active with having a good day in mind, nothing more elaborate. People with thriving physical wellbeing exercise regularly and are in a better mood all day. They make net positive food choices and have higher energy and sharper thinking each day.


This one element can be the differentiator between a good life and a great one. It starts with a basic sense of security where you live – regarding crime and environmental contaminants. People like somewhere aesthetically and socially pleasing – parks, trails, playgrounds, social locations & nightlife. [caption id="attachment_1352" align="aligncenter" width="401"]life symbol "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." - Confucius[/caption] The key influencer, though, is community involvement: belonging to groups that help others and the environment. Welcome to the concept of “WELL-DOING”. When people with thriving wellbeing are asked about their greatest contribution they’d made in life, invariably they mentioned the impact they’d had on another individual or group of people.

The gift of time

No gift is as valuable as our time. When we do things for others, we see how we make a difference. This gives us CONFIDENCE in our ability to create change. Johnson, Beebe, Mortimer and Snyder (1998) showed that adolescents involved in volunteering have higher future aspirations, higher self-esteem and increased motivation towards schoolwork. It is reasonable to extrapolate that the impact upon adults will be at least equal to these outcomes. Longevity is increased when people engage in altruistic behaviour. In fact, as Harvard political scientist Robert Putnum described, “if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying in the next year by half.” Thus your groups and community involvement could simply focus on your existing interests - sport, art, craft, dancing etc. – to have a positive impact on your Community Wellbeing.

Peer pressure

The biggest influence on a person’s actions is peer pressure. Most people didn’t quit smoking because of the long-term health issues; they did it because friends stopped, and restaurants, pubs and employers literally left them out in the cold. Your success rates with weight loss, alcoholism etc. are all significantly improved if you undertake the challenge with others. If you join a weight-loss programme with three friends, your odds of maintaining weight loss improve by 66%.

Assemble each day

[bctt tweet="Living an OUTSTANDING life is not a solitary project." username="DBrettWilliams"] You have seen that the interconnectedness of career, social, financial, physical and community that make for a good day and then for a good life. [caption id="attachment_1440" align="aligncenter" width="401"]Take your shot "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." - Maya Angelou[/caption] To create a good day we need to thrive in all five areas. Combine career, social, financial, physical and community and then share this with our family, friends and co-workers. The majority of us keep postponing the good things we know we should be doing. But if you want to change your life you can start by having a good day. Make having a good day your goal. That short-term goal will reap immense long-term benefits as your good day leads to an OUTSTANDING life. Look out for future posts where we will discuss ways to thrive in career, social, financial, physical and community. If you want to know what to read next, then try this. Drop a comment below, and let me know what your strategies for thriving in these five areas are and what does your best possible future look like?


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