Terri Cole should know. The New York psychologist, TedX lecturer, and author of blog Live Fearless and Free, used to be a super-crazed supermodel talent agent before she “swapped caffeine, nicotine, and adrenaline” for green juice, meditation, and IntenSati, and never looked back. “I thought my sexy job would make me happy, but it didn’t,” says Cole, who’s better at finding balance now, even though her calendar’s still as booked as yours.
Turns out, you don’t have to make a career switch or scale back your work hours to have more joy and less stress in your life (though we get that it might be tempting), says Cole. There are lots of little things you can do that add a whole lot of calm and a lot more happiness to your day. Here, Cole tells us how… —Melisse Gelula
Fact: If you’re attached to your phone from the moment you get up to the moment you go to sleep, you’re not just draining your phone’s battery, you’re taxing your own. “It’s overstimulating to your brain and exhausting emotionally and physically. So it can actually negatively impact the productivity you might think you’re getting a jump on,” Cole says. Plus, your phone-love shouldn’t be more important than the real thing. Put the (damn) thing down when you’re connecting with humans sitting right in front of you. Designate time with friends and family “as a sacred time to unplug and be present in your life,” she says.
Constantly checking the news can really bring you down. “You can stay informed without being saturated with bad news,” says Cole, who advises you limit your daily news intake (no 24-hour news cycle for you!) and just be conscious about how much time you’re spending surfing or watching it. She’s also a fan of sites that are “expressly positive” in their reporting like ODE Magazine.
You know who they are, and how they love to tell you all about their horrible marriage, their demanding boss, or whatever wrong doing they’ve experienced. But people who thrive on negativity are bad for your health and happiness. “Politely excuse yourself from gossips, and when needed be firm about not being a dumping ground for others’ unhappiness,” says Cole. Instead, “surround yourself with people who are uplifting, feed you emotionally, and are good listeners.”
“Saying yes when you really want to say no, reflexively apologizing, avoiding confrontation, and trying to take care of everyone else’s needs above your own are all symptoms of the Disease to Please. These are signs you’re reacting from a place of guilt or fear—and they typically get in the way of being your whole, authentic self,” says Cole. “Take a minute and think through why you responded the way you did. This requires you to not only be very aware of your words and actions but honest about your intentions.” Saying “yes” might make others like you, but will you like yourself or feel resentful? The more real you are, the happier you’ll be.
You have to ride the subway, steer your cart through a crowded supermarket, and wait in line for movies with hundreds of people. But your personal environment you can control. It has “an impact on how you feel, and can be a mirror of your internal state. If your office or bedroom is a chaotic mess, do you feel relaxed and expansive there or constricted and overwhelmed?” ask Cole. So putting some love into creating a space that has more in common with Dwell Magazine than Hoarders is important. “Environments that evoke peaceful calm positively impact your level of comfort and joy.”
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The act of complaining is more than simply saying something negative. Whether you realize it or not, this negativity impacts your life, says Cole. “Complaining is like praying for what you DON’T want—and it’s also a drag to be around. Try to go 24 hours without complaining—and be mindful of when you’ve wanted to. Bringing awareness to the habit is the first step to overcoming it and replacing it with a more positive one.”
Taking seriously good care of your self is crucial to your happiness. This includes what you eat, drink, and think. How much you prioritize your workouts and your sleep. Whether you give your few free moments to catching up on email or honor your evening yoga class. “Choose things daily that contribute to you feeling good,” says Cole. And if you’re no good at taking it easy (the curse of many over-achievers and selfless people), schedule it in with group meditation, a massage appointment, or a healthy lunch until the habit sticks.