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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.

 

 

Why Your Home Renovation is Making you SO Frustrated

Sure, they’re costly, noisy, and time-consuming. But home renovations can also get under your skin because they’re out of your control.

 

Here’s why doing a reno can be maddening (even when they’re exciting!), and some steps you can take to keep yourself calm during the demolition drama.

It’s Cooking Light’s Fault. (Aka: how I was trying to solve a problem all wrong)

When I married my husband, he was really good cook. I could feed myself but I was not (okay, I still am not!) what anyone would call a really good cook. I am the person who lit the toaster oven on fire when I was in college! Apparently, too much cheese dripped down into the coils. But the good news is I learned how to use a fire extinguisher that day! That’s a life skill.

 

When my husband and I got engaged, I thought, “I am going to learn how to cook. I think that would be a good skill for me to have. I’m going to learn how to cook.” I started taking cooking classes. I learned how to roast a chicken. I learned how to hold my knives, learned the most efficient way to chop an onion. I felt like a real grown up. My cooking got incrementally better with practice, but it was still just… okay. I was practicing all the time – I worked fewer hours than he was, so I’d pull out the Cooking Light magazine and cook us dinner most nights a week. He’d cook about once a week, and his food was just better than mine. Significantly better. He was so confident in kitchen, and his food was so full of flavor.

 

And then we went on our honeymoon.

 

We ended up in Italy, where I ate 5 meals a day, 4 of them pasta. Our first Sunday home after we got back from Rome, we were grocery shopping. There, at the checkout, was a copy of Gourmet Magazine: “The Pasta Issue.” And the photo on the cover was of penne salsiccia, which I’d had a LOT of in Italy. I thought to myself, “Oh, this is a sign.” I threw that magazine down on the conveyor belt and committed to reading it cover to cover.

 

The next Sunday, I had my grocery list ready. I was going to make that Penne Salsiccia from the cover. I was so excited. My husband and I were going around the grocery store shopping. We pick up the sausage. We pick up the cheese. I grab the heavy whipping cream. It was when I was putting the heavy whipping cream in the cart that he looks at all the heavy ingredients, looks back at me and he goes, “Is this from Cooking Light?”. Since that’s where almost all of my recipes came from, he was surprised.

 

I said, “No, this is not from Cooking Light. This is from that gourmet magazine. We’re going to make real Italian pasta like we had on our honeymoon.”

 

That evening, I was so excited to get started.

 

6pm. I’m starting dinner. This recipe calls for VERY expensive, very fragile threads of Saffron to be soaked in water. I’m trying not to panic.

 

6:28. I’m trying not to scald the heavy whipping cream in the pan.

 

6:47. I’m trying not to overcook the pasta

 

6:52. I carry the plates out to the table. I set them down with a deep breath. For a moment I consider letting my husband take the first bite and tell me what he thinks but then I think FORGET THAT THIS WAS MY IDEA I MADE THIS MEAL. I put the bite in my mouth and I turn to my husband in shock.

 

I can’t believe what I’m tasting.

 

“I don’t stink at cooking! Cooking Light must stink at cooking! Because I. am. AMAZING” I would have said more but I needed to use my mouth for the important work of eating my phenomenal pasta.

 

Here’s what I realized: I had a materials problem. I had been trying for years to solve it with more skills training.

 

I’m sure nothing like that has ever happened to you has it? No workplace of yours would EVER try to solve a materials problem with more skills training, right? <wink, wink>.

 

But that’s what happens when we jump to solve a problem too quickly, “Oh, I know what the problem is. I know what the problem is.” Action bias is a common impulse. It’s a feeling of being compelled to act quickly and solve a problem, and psychologists think it happens in order to regain a sense of control over a situation. There’s a cultural conditioning that can occur, where we learn as children to favor action over waiting, because waiting could be interpreted as “laziness” or “indecisiveness.” So action bias isn’t just internal – there’s a lot of societal pressure to take action! In some cases, we can even be rewarded tangibly for being the kind of person who leaps to action and solves problems quickly.

 

If we want to thrive and be successful in an uncertain environment (like we’re all in in 2021!), we need to give ourselves time to experiment. Time to think about what the problem could really be and what else we could really do about it so that we’re certain we get to the right answer. If the past two years have given us anything, it’s the opportunity to take a moment to make sure that we’re solving problems the right way and not the wrong way.

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 NOT To Do As You Navigate out of COVID-19

The world is showing signs of emerging from its long, COVID-19 fog. As restrictions lift, groups gather, and businesses bounce back, people are expressing excitement to return to some kind of normalcy.

But if you aren’t prepared for the changes we’re going to be experiencing – both individually and within organizations – the transition into a post-COVID world may not be comfortable or successful for you. Here are 4 important problems to avoid as you shake off the COVID fog.

Trap #1: Going back to “The Plan” Post-COVID

Most of us were raised to believe that successful people make a plan, work hard, and get rewarded. So it’s no surprise that we want to cling to The Plan at all costs, even when circumstances change.

In 2021, I worked with the University of Northern Colorado to conduct research on how well people can adapt, and 74% of respondents expressed an unwillingness to improvise, change, and learn as they go in unfamiliar situations. Most of us struggle in some way when forced to redirect our plans and goals.

The Plan is alluring. It feels comfortable. It feels like the shortest path to success. But it’s not the same world as it was in 2019. You’re not the same person. To more easily let go of The Plan, remind yourself that The Plan 1.0 had problems, too. You may not have gotten far along enough on the journey to find them yet, but they were there. Spend your energy focusing on how to make The Plan 2.0 (or 3.0, or 117.0) the best it can be.

Trap #2: Expecting to Feel Better Right Away

There’s a lot to celebrate as more people get vaccinated and regular activities can start to resume. There’s also a lot to feel conflicted about. How do we celebrate when so many have died? How do we get excited when so many have lost everything?

Even if you’re personally MORE than ready to had back into the office or send kids back to school, and you have no fear of variants popping up, you might run into unexpected grief for the months you missed.

For the healthiest re-entry, don’t ignore the potential for grief to pop back up in surprising ways. Allow yourself to have mixed feelings about letting go of The Plan 1.0 (see above). In my research, the younger you are the easier it may be for you to move on to a new plan, possibly because you’ve invested less time than if you’re older (and committed to your plans for a longer time).

Trap #3: Thinking You Have to Operate at 100% Immediately

If you’re a “do-er” like me, you may be chomping at the bit to resume what feels like normal levels of productivity. But trying to go from wherever you are to top speed may surprisingly make you less successful.

Because of something called action-bias, many of us are primed to jump to action before we fully evaluate our options. Scientists who study brainstorming say the ideas that come up later in the brainstorming process that are more innovative and creative. Take advantage of this time to come up with new goals and strategies. Maybe the pandemic exposed new opportunities for your business or your life. Maybe it revealed gaps that you now know how to fix.

Resist the temptation to dive in and make up for lost time post-COVID. Instead, use this time intentionally to create new goals and new ways of operating that will lead to greater accomplishment in the long run.

Trap #4: Navigating Change Alone

What do you think of when you think of a resilient person? Many people imagine someone with a sense of toughness who draws on internal strength. In reality, studies show the most resilient people aren’t lone wolves relying on their own inner power, but those with strong support systems.

Many of us have spent parts of the pandemic alone or in small bubbles. We may be (or feel) less connected than we’ve ever been. But lone-wolfing isn’t a good way to accomplish your goals. In my research, the older you are, the better you get at leaning on others to help you… and the more you seek input and advice from others, the smarter the decisions you make!

Ready or Not…

If you’re expecting to run headlong back into “the way things used to be” at top speed, be prepared for a rude awakening. The changes we’re about to experience as we go *back* to life post-COVID are not that much different than the changes we faced when the world shuddered to a halt in early 2020. There will be changes, both operationally and emotionally. But if you’re prepared for them, you’ll be able to successfully make the transition back.

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.

Are Naps Good for You?

Do you know the truth about naps and success?

I’ve always been a big fan of naps (I got it from my Dad), but I recently read something VERY interesting about naps and our brains.

If you love naps or you hate naps, this is probably something you should know!

Because of something called the “default network” in your brain, your creative problem-solving is at it’s peak right as you drift off to sleep. Plus, if you’re tired, your brain shifts into threat mode, and the resulting linear thinking isn’t very good for being creative.

So feel free to take a nap – research shows it’s good for you!

What’s “Adaptive Thinking” and Why Does it = Success During COVID-19?

I couldn’t keep my new research to myself any more. Dealing with COVID-19 is actually the PERFECT time to bring the concept of “Adaptive Thinking” to the world.

If you’re struggling with the new reality of your work, your business, your home life… whatever, Adaptive Thinking is a concrete, constructive way to pivot and find a way to be successful when the world is uncertain.

Yesterday I gave a short presentation on the Adaptive Thinking concept to a group in California, and I realized that with everything that’s going on with COVID-19 and its impacts on the way we’re working and living, I couldn‘t wait any longer to send it out to everybody.

I’ve been learning a LOT over the past 18 months researching how people can develop Adaptive Thinking (and there’s still more to learn!), but here’s a very short introduction into something you can do TODAY to help you start thinking more adaptively and getting your brain primed for survival and success in this new world.

If you’ve got more questions about what Adaptive Thinking is and how it can help you – ask ’em! I’m going to be shooting more videos in the coming days and weeks.

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.