I hope your New Year is off to a great start. If you are like me, the short, dark days are a bit of a challenge, so it is especially important to get as much daylight as possible (or use a SAD light); get some exercise even if you don't really feel like it; and get energy from having great new ideas and moving toward your goals.
1: Solutions Instead of Resolutions
The key to changing anything you want - any time, not just in early January - is a phrase you've heard from me a lot: "do something different." Here are the steps to follow if there is an arena of your life which you'd like to change:
1. Identify what it is like now. Be as specific as possible.
2. What did you do (or not do) this past year that is responsible for how this situation is now?
3. What will you do differently in order to get the outcome you want?
4. What do you need to have or do in order to be sure that you can actually do what you have specified in the previous step? What resources (time, money, help from others) do you need? How will you get them? Is there anything you need to give up or stop doing in order to free these resources?
5. Do the different things for a month.
6. At the end of each month, return to step one and cycle through the steps again.
ACTION: Rather than trying to change lots of things at once, you might try selecting one thing and following the six steps. Once that thing has changed to your satisfaction, choose another change you'd like to make. If you do this for a year, you will be gratified by the end of the year at how much you have achieved.
2: Brain Training Pays Off Long-Term
Doing a mere ten hours of mental exercises can still pay off five years later, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Nearly 3000 people aged 65 or older were split into groups that were trained in improving either their memories, their reasoning, or the ability to identify an object flashed on a screen for increasingly brief moments. Five years later they showed less decline in that particular skill than a control group that had no special training.
ACTION: Regardless of your age, it may be useful for you to spend a bit of time every day exercising your brain. I find the easiest way to do this is simply to be learning something new all the time.
3: Creativity Round-Up: You Sexy Old Married Night Owl!
A flurry of recent research about creativity reveals that:
- Night owls are more likely to be creative (according to a study at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan);
- Age doesn't curtail creativity (same study);
- Professional artists and poets have about twice as many sexual partners as other people and their creativity seems to act like a sexual magnet (according to a study at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and the Open University);
- Poets and artists also have high rates of depression (same study);
- Getting married and having children stalls men's creativity. The energy of youth and the dampening effect of marriage are similar among geniuses in music, painting, and writing (according to a study at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand).
4: How to be Positively Creative
Positive moods and creativity are linked in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The author of the study, Assistant Professor Adam Anderson, writes that "positive mood changes our capacity to see and increases our capacity to take in information in our world." This, in turn, leads to greater creativity.
If, on the other hand, you have a repetitive task to do, being in a positive mood can actually hurt: Positive moods "make you more distractible," Anderson says. "I have lots of creative friends who get nothing done."
ACTION: If you are not already in a positive mood when you want to be creative, do something that is likely to make you feel that way. This might include listening to upbeat music, reading something uplifting, or taking five minutes to remind yourself of all the things in your life that you appreciate. When you are in a neutral mood, do repetitive or boring things.
5: A Testimonial to the Power of Persistence
I know Thanksgiving is over, but I only recently found out how the day came to be a national holiday in the United States. It was largely due to the efforts of woman named Sarah Josephs Hale, a magazine editor who campaigned tirelessly until finally President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of thanks. How long did she write editorials and letters to governors and presidents before this happened? Ö Forty years.
ACTION: What's your number one wish for yourself or for the world? How long have you been campaigning for it? If you're getting discouraged, spare a thought for Sarah Joseph's Hale.
6: And a Quote for the Start of Our Year:
"Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary."