Happiness

6 Signs You Need More Time With Friends

Do you find it harder to maintain relationships when you can’t see friends face-to-face very often? Many people do, and the lack of in-person connections has made the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic difficult. Fewer parties and gatherings, quarantines and lockdowns, wondering who shares your same safety levels… it’s enough to make even the strongest friendships start to feel like they’re more of a “chore” than a gift.

 

But that’s a real problem.

 

Having people you can lean on has been scientifically linked to higher happiness levels and a lower risk of illness. So whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, whether you have 100 friends or just 2 BFFs, whether you prefer to talk to friend’s every day or only sporadically, friendships are important.

 

If you’ve been prioritizing health over friendships these past 2 years, that’s totally okay. But these 6 behaviors are important signs you need to spend a little more time with friends (even if it’s over Zoom!).

 

1. You Feel Burned Out

Burnout is a commonly misunderstood feeling. We often think of burnout as an extreme form of feeling busy, but burnout is in fact more closely related to a feeling of melancholy. Burnout comes from a lack of meaning and enthusiasm, not too much stress. Spending time with friends, doing something outside your regular work routine and home routine, can help reignite some missing excitement in your life.

 

2. Your Partner Repeats Six Little Words

If your partner says “you already told me about that” more than three times in a week, that’s a sign you’re missing another outlet. Most of us need more than one close confidante to bounce our thoughts and feelings off of, because different people provide different kinds of support and feedback. If you’ve been repeating stories to your partner (I’m so guilty of this!), you’re looking for a style of support you haven’t gotten. Time to phone a friend!

 

3. You’re Bingeing Netflix

Streaming service is a handy companion, but not as good as a real friend. Especially in a pandemic, and extra-especially in the winter when it’s cold, it’s easy to fall into a routine of hunkering down instead of reaching out to someone. But reruns aren’t old friends, even when they seem comforting. Instead of watching a fun show solo, can you recruit a friend to watch, too, and chat about it afterward?

 

4. You Feel Tired Thinking About Hanging Out

If thinking about being around your friends makes you feel excited but EXHAUSTED, that’s a sign you need more friend time. You’re out of practice of being social, so it feels overwhelming. But that’s not an excuse to avoid it (like exercise!) It just means you need to start slowly and build up your tolerance for human interaction.

 

5. You Start Friend Time With *This* Phrase…

The phrase “oh my gosh, what’s going on with you?!?!” sounds like a normal way to kick off conversation with a friend, right? Wrong. If you don’t even know enough to ask specific questions like “What’s going on with your new job?” or “How is little Olivia dealing with that difficult teacher?”, you’re too out of touch. This was my warning sign midway through last year, when it became obvious I hadn’t been doing a good enough job knowing even the basics of what my friends were struggling with or celebrating. We deserve to be able to lean on one another, but we can’t if we don’t know “what’s going on.”

 

6. You Don’t Miss Your Friends

If you’ve gone so long without seeing your friends that you don’t even feel sad about it, that’s the biggest warning sign of all. It’s a little bit like being hungry: early hunger is a gnawing pain in your stomach. But if you wait long enough without eating, the discomfort disappears. It’s like you aren’t even hungry anymore! But your body is still in need of food, you just ignored the pain so long that the warning sign went away. If you’ve stopped missing your friends (assuming the relationships are healthy and reciprocal!), you’ve gone way too long without support. Try sending a short text to a long-time friend, one of those who won’t bombard you with questions but will always be there to pick up where you left off.

 

Friendships serve a purpose in our lives, providing us with morale support, sounding boards, and even making us physically healthier. If you’ve been neglecting friendships, maybe it’s time to make them a little bit more of a priority. Not just for your sake, but because your friends need you, too.

 

 

Four Habits Happy People do Every Week

If being happy was easy, everyone would do it. Instead, there’s a lot of disagreement over what makes true happiness and how we should achieve it. One thing is clear – real long-term happiness depends more on individual interpretation than the specific situation. Two people can have the same experiences, and one person can report being happy while another person reports feeling unfulfilled.

 

So if happiness depends on how you interpret your life, are there ways you can choose to be more positive? The answer appears to be yes. There are specific habits and practices that happy people have in common. By choosing to adopt these strategies, you’ll be more likely to reframe your life experiences (both positive and negative!) in a way that can allow you to be as happy as possible.

 

Give Back

 

Helping other people is one of the fastest ways to get perspective on your own problems. When I started researching my first book, The Giving Prescription, I expected to find that volunteering helped people get perspective after going through a trauma. But what surprised me was WHY. I assumed that the reason volunteerism helped was because of something called “downward perspective,” meaning when you volunteer, you’re around people less fortunate than yourself, and being exposed to the less fortunate makes you feel grateful for what you have. That can play a role, but it’s not the biggest factor.

 

A major reason volunteering boosts perspective is because when you give to someone else, you’re increasing your personal power. Sometimes in life we can start feeling helpless or powerless. It may feel like there’s nothing we can do to fix our situation. But when you give back, you have the opportunity to realize that you could have just changed someone’s life. And that boosts your sense of personal power, which increases your self-confidence. Whether you formally become a volunteer through a nonprofit, or you make it a regular habit to give back your community, volunteering will give you the perspective you need to start on your path to happiness.

 

Take Care

 

Practicing self-care is on a lot of happiness lists. Some people recommend you work out and eat healthy. Others say you should meditate or take daily bubble baths. It matters less WHAT you do, than that you do it at all. Taking care of yourself isn’t optional for happy people.

 

A friend of mine once told me “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” I was running myself ragged trying to succeed at work and at home and in my volunteer life… and I was exhausted. I was happy that other people were pleased with my efforts, but I wasn’t HAPPY. How could I be happy, when I was miserably running myself into the ground? I had to realize that making other people proud of me wasn’t the same as being truly happy within myself.

 

What does “taking care of yourself” mean to you? It can be physical, mental, or emotional… as long as you find your own version and seek it out.

I had to realize that making other people proud of me wasn’t the same as being truly happy within myself.

Give Thanks

 

When I first heard of gratitude journals, I admit I thought they sounded a little… fluffy. Like, kumbaya, let’s all hold hands and talk about what we’re thankful for around the campfire. Then I hit a period of feeling depressed, when the bad things in my life felt ever-present, and the good things in life seemed to evaporate. In the middle of a rant to my husband about how terribly my life was going, he said “whatever happens, you’ll always have my love.”

 

That moment stopped me cold, because I realized what I was saying to him. If “everything sucks and nothing good ever happens to me,” I’m insulting my marriage. I’m saying his love isn’t something to be grateful for. That day, when I picked up a pen to vent in my journal about my frustrations, I made sure to balance every negative out with a positive. I didn’t do it in list format. I just noted my struggles as usual, but then afterward I wrote about one strength to balance out each struggle.

 

I have a friend who writes a thank you note every work day. Her postage stamp budget must be through the roof! But that’s how she spends time expressing gratitude. Maybe prayer is a good way for you to express gratitude. Heck, even a text message is better than nothing! But at least once a week, do something to reflect on (and hopefully express) what’s going right. When you focus on what’s going right instead of what’s going wrong, it’s much easier to foster happiness.

 

Take Time

 

We live in a world of speed. The faster we can make decisions and solve problems, the better. Moving on quickly in the face of an upset is considered a skill. There’s even a name for it: action-bias. We’re primed to want to move fast and put our problems behind us.

 

But…

 

When we move quickly, we aren’t always taking the time to make the best choices. For the past 3 years, I’ve been researching how people can successfully move on when situations in their life change. One common thread I found in my research is that making smart decisions (especially in uncertain environments and changing situations) takes time.

 

We’re all busy people, but thoughtfulness matters. When you resist jumping to action just to be in motion, and instead pause to gather information, you’re more likely to make smart choices. Don’t do the next thing on the list just because it’s the next thing on the list. Don’t get caught up in accomplishment for accomplishment’s sake. Happy people take time to reflect on whether their choice is the right choice for long-term good.

 


 

Happiness is elusive. It’s more of a regular practice than a destination. Work these 4 habits into your regular behaviors and try to think about them at least once a week. If you do, you’ll be on the path to building happiness in no time.

Courtney Clark first name signature keynote speaker

 

What I DIDN’T Accomplish in 2020

I’m seeing a lot of people post about what they managed to accomplish in this crazy year. Lots of posts: “What did you accomplish in 2020?!?!” Don’t get me wrong – I’m super proud of people who have fought against the fear, confusion, and general “blahs” of 2020 and come out with new skills and triumphs.

 

But I also realized it could feel a little… shaming. Personally, I’ve had lots of moments this year where just getting out of bed and turning on my computer felt like a feat of strength.

 

So I decided to write about what I didn’t accomplish this year! Those things I thought in April I’d get to do with alllllllllll my new free time. But I didn’t.

 

(I may have to add to this list over time, as I remember)

 

  1. Sourdough. Yeah, it sounded like a good idea when I watched all the rest of you do it. Sourdough bread is my favorite bread. But keeping myself alive this year was feat enough, so sourdough starter shall have to wait. 😉
  2. Regular Zoom calls/game nights with all my friends and loved ones. I was so happy when we all started inviting one another to virtual gatherings! Yay – I can be there even when I’m not! I had big plans to call or text several people a day, and just generally be better about keeping in touch. The Zoom invites got overwhelming. Sorry, folks.
  3. Ukulele. I learned one new chord. I wrote silly COVID-inspired lyrics to one song. Then I got bored. Whoops.
  4. A new book. In 2019, I started my research on the topic of Adaptive Thinking. When all this free time hit without any travel, it dawned on me that it might make sense to start working on a book now. Spoiler alert: there’s no book. This right here is as much as I’ve written in months.
  5. A better workout schedule. It’s hard to get into a consistent workout routine when you’re on the road a lot. I had big plans that I’d use my time at home to ride my spin bike a little more, and maybe lift some weights. Instead, I’m writing this from underneath my comforter.
  6. Crochet. See #3, ukulele. Crochet is harder than I thought, y’all.

 

If you didn’t accomplish as much as you wanted to this year, you aren’t alone. If you had big plans for skills you could pick up in your free time, but you mostly just binged Netflix, I feel you. If someone asks you “what did you accomplish in 2020?” feel free not to answer. I’d give you a hug if I could.

 

“Free” time isn’t free when we pay for it in depression, anxiety, and disconnectedness. This year people found things to enjoy and celebrate, and I’m really happy about that. But in our desire to find sunshine after the rain, we need to offer an umbrella to the people who are still caught in the downpour.

 

It’s okay to feel depleted by 2020. If we’re being honest, I think we all do.

The Risk of Avoiding Change

Change feels risky. But there can sometimes be greater risks if you AVOID change.

 

I had a great conversation this week with a guy who was stuck after 40 years of the exact same behavior, and he’s finally ready to change.

 

If you’re avoiding shooting your shot because change feels risky, remind yourself that staying static is risky, too.

Why is it So Hard to be Happy?

You want to be happy. You want to be less stressed. You want the good times to outweight the bad. So why is it so hard to be happy, even when you want it?

 

For many of us, we’re going about happiness the wrong way. Thanks to our culture, the media, and just plain misunderstanding, we’re looking for happiness in all the wrong places. (And I want to be clear, here: if you struggle with mental health challenges like depression and anxiety, it’s not your fault. You aren’t depressed because you’re looking for happiness incorrectly. For you, it’s hard to be happy because of the chemicals in your brain, not because of your behavior. Keep reading if you want to, or bookmark this for later, but know I’m not talking to you).

 

But for most of us, a better path to happiness is possible. It just requires a few behavior shifts.

 

The Bad Stuff Really Does Outweigh the Good

 

Your brain isn’t your best friend when it comes to happiness. Your brain is wired to be much more sensitive to bad news and threats than it is to good things That makes sense when you think about your caveman ancestors, who needed to be ready to run if they caught even the smallest glimpse of a predator. It’s called negativity bias, and it’s a system that evolved to keep you safe from threats. But in today’s world, you don’t need to run from predators quite so often, yet your brain still pays more attention to negative experiences versus positive ones.

 

Scientists say it takes 5 positive experiences to outweigh 1 negative experience. But the real key isn’t to just have 5 positive experiences, you have to notice that you’re having them! So as you go about your day, take note of the good things that happen. Did someone let you merge on the highway instead of being a jerk? Did your colleague praise your work? Did your kid say “I love you” without being prompted? If you force yourself to pay attention to the good stuff, too, you’ll find it easier to outbalance the bad stuff 5 to 1.

 

The Happy Social Media Effect

 

Social media has its good points. It can help us feel more connected to our networks, which is a strategy that can build happiness. But many people feel more dis-connected when they spend time on social media. The online world allows us to glimpse all the fun, happy times other people are having, and we naturally compare our own lives to what we see on the screen.

 

I love the Anne Lamott quote “Never compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.” But that’s exactly what we do on social media! We see the bright shiny image that the person on the other side wants us to see, and that’s all. And then we compare that to our own internal worries, doubts, and struggles, and we come up short in comparison. But the person posting on social media has worries, doubts, and struggles, too! They just aren’t posting those moments. If you need to take a social media break, do it. Or at least hide the people who make you feel less-than. Make social media work for you, not the other way around.

 

You Can’t Chase Happiness

 

If you want to be happy, it makes sense that pursuing happiness should be a priority. But that’s the exact wrong way to go about it. In fact, research suggests that pursuing happiness can lead to decreased happiness. Especially in the US, our cultural expectations for pursuing happiness can lead us down the wrong paths, like expecting a big work promotion to make us satisfied.

 

Instead of chasing happiness, it’s more important to chase “meaning.” Meaning is the idea that we know our purpose and are fulfilling our purpose. Meaning isn’t as in-the-moment joyful as happiness might be, but meaning provides the long-term satisfaction and contentment that lasts. To start chasing meaning instead of happiness, think about the moments when you feel like you come alive. Think about serving the greater good. Think about what drives you to keep going. When you tie all those concepts together, you’ll be on the road to finding your meaning. And meaning makes your heart glow for a lifetime, while happiness can be fleeting.

 

It’s not easy to be happy. But it IS possible, if you pay attention to the things that truly matter.

Why “The Bachelor” Winners Are Pretty Resilient

It’s not hard to figure out who’s going to win and who’s going home on The Bachelor! 🌹(…and yes, I’m a reluctant fan!) 😉 🥀

Watch how the women handle stressful situations. Do they make The Bachelor comfort them? Do they show no fear? Do they handle it themselves? There’s a pattern on the show of who gets sent home and who gets the rose, and it applies to life, too!

As you watch the show, see if you can guess the final four based on their patterns of resilience. I swear by it!

How to Avoid End-of-the-Year Work Burnout (Part 1)

The final few weeks before the winter holidays can be full of stress. That makes it peak time for burnout. If burnout is creeping in for you or your team, practicing a few resilience techniques can mean the difference between losing your cool and feeling peace on Earth.

Step 1 – Breathe and Break

The end of the year brings with it stressors that no other time of year seems to. At work there is often budgeting, fitting in last-minute meetings, and strategic planning for the next year.  At home there is frantic shopping, too much baking, and a whirlwind of parties you are expected to make room for in the busy calendar.

When we’re stressed, our brains produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When we add these stress hormones into the mix, our brains become worse at higher-order processing, the very skill we need to perform most jobs. So when we’re frantically crossing things off our to-do list, we probably aren’t completing those tasks at a very high level. To be at our best, we have to stop and breathe. We have to take a moment to let the adrenaline and cortisol clear out of our systems.

School teachers have known for years that the weeks leading up to the holidays are the exact wrong time to try to cram in last-minute work.  So take a cue from their playbook and schedule your day with fewer tasks and more breaks, getting done the very most important things and letting the others slide.  Find time to stop and take deep breaths in the middle of the chaos. The pile in your inbox will still be there the first week in January.

Step 2 – Set Realistic Expectations

We have a rosy picture of how the holiday season is supposed to go.  When it doesn’t meet our expectations, we’re filled with frustration.  But that frustration is of our own making, so being realistic on the front end can curb that freak-out feeling on the back end.

A large chunk of holiday stress comes from the mistaken belief that this time of year is going to be magically perfect and everyone should be happy. But people can’t be happy when they’re held to unrealistic standards – including you!

No, your toddler twins might not sit still for a greeting card picture, so don’t expect them to.  Your grandmother’s holiday roast recipe might not turn out as juicy as you remember it.  And your extended family might squabble from the stress of sharing one bathroom. If you prepare for reality to be… well… real in advance, and leave room for humans to be humans, and traffic to be traffic, and work to be work, and life to be life, you may find that some of the holiday screwups lead to the best stories that you’ll laugh at for years to come.

Check back after Thanksgiving for 2 more strategies to sidestep end-of-the-year work burnout!

Getting Your Priorities Straight

Maybe you constantly struggle with what to prioritize. You wonder how to get your priorities straight.

I do, too. ESPECIALLY this year.

See, my health hasn’t been great this year. But instead of one major health problem, like it usually is, it’s been a ton of medium health problems. Juggling running a business and having a life, plus multiple doctor’s appointments each week… I’ve had moments where I feel like I’m underwater.

So I threw out the old wisdom about keeping my priorities straight, and I’m trying a new technique. I’m not setting my priorities in STONE, I’m just setting my priorities for 48 hours.

Check out what I’ve been doing and see if it’ll keep you sane during the last few crazy weeks of the year.

Burned Out By Your Job? It’s Never Too Late to Change Careers

Are you burned out at work?

Thinking it’s time for a career change?

But worried you’re too old to change careers?

In fact, if you’re feeling burned out, a lack of motivation, and disconnected in your current career path, it’s NEVER too late to change careers!

Here are 3 steps to follow to make a career change at any age…

3 Signs You Have High Emotional Intelligence

Since the mid-1990s, emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” has been a hotly discussed topic. People with high EQ are believed to be more successful than people who only have a high IQ, the measure of intellectual intelligence.

 

When I first learned about EQ, I heard about it as being “people smart,” not just “book smart.” And being able to read and understand people IS a part of emotional intelligence, but that’s just half of it. The other half is being able to understand YOURSELF. For that reason, emotional intelligence makes perfect sense as a major predictor of success. (This is one of my favorite sites describing emotional intelligence, here).

 

So how do you know if you have high EQ? These 3 indicators can give you a good idea:

 

You have close friendships

 

It’s not about the number of friends, but the type of friendships you have that counts, in this case. If you have friendships that include not just kindness and having a good time, but compassionate honesty, that’s a good sign that you and your friends may have high emotional intelligence.

 

One of my friends and I once disagreed about something in her personal life. She felt that something her boyfriend had done was “bad” and a dealbreaker. I pointed out that it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker in MY relationship, but that she had every right to draw whatever line she wanted. Having a boundary didn’t make the other person “bad,” or even wrong. She could set whatever boundary she wanted, and if it worked for both of them, then great. If it didn’t, then they should break up.

 

It was hard for her to hear, because her other girlfriends were all offering agreement and empathy about his “bad” behavior. But being able to voice a differing opinion actually brought us closer, and then several years later she was able to honestly tell me “Hey, I think you might be coming down on your son too hard for X and Y”! Having close friendships based in honesty shows EQ, because it combines both social skills and empathy.

 

You can describe your emotions

 

When you’re mad, what kind of mad are you? Are you just plain mad? Or can you recognize different shades of mad, like “disappointed,” “frustrated,” or “embarrassed.”

 

The more varied and descriptive language you use for your emotions, the higher EQ you might have. The reason is because you’re tapped into what you’re actually feeling, and you’re recognizing the nuances of your experience. There are so many different ways to be sad, for example. I’m sad when my favorite restaurant stops being open for lunch, and I’m sad when my dog is sick, but I would never say those two emotions are the same!

 

When you use descriptive, specific language to talk about your emotions, that shows self-awareness, one of the key components of emotional intelligence. So the next time you’re feeling something, reach into your mental dictionary and see if you can pull out a fancy word. It’s a good emotional workout!

 

You set hard-to-reach goals

 

How hard are your goals? Are all of them things you can accomplish in 1-2 years? Goals should be attainable (hello, SMART goals that we’ve all heard of!), but if every single one of your goals is something pretty easy for you to accomplish, then you may be playing it way too safe just to be able to say you’ve reached all your goals.

 

People with high EQ aren’t afraid to defer rewards and success for a looooong time, because having high motivation is another key indicator of emotional intelligence. So with high EQ, you can stay motivated even if reaching your goals is a long, slow process. If you can feel accomplished even before you’ve reached an end goal, that’s a pretty good sign that you’ve got emotional intelligence.

 

Here’s the best news:

 

All of these indicators are traits that can be developed and improved. So even if you only see yourself in one or two of these characteristics, you can work on it and increase your EQ. Having a high emotional intelligence DOES help you be successful. So get some practice and flex those emotional muscles!