New Habit Mindset

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How you view stress is the key to living with it.

You probably have heard how stress can cause havoc to your health by increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and reducing your immune system.

The mind-body connection began with Harvard Medical School physiologist Walter Cannon who was a pioneer in discovering the emotional connection of pain, fear, anger, and hunger with the sympathetic nervous system. Your body, when sensing danger, immediately prepares for a fight-or-flight (or freeze) response by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure among other physiological reactions.

In the event of a life-threatening attack, these physiological responses are critical to your survival. However, your daily road rage or excessive irritability at various life events, people, or even at yourself, can easily lead to a self-induced state of chronic stress causing all sorts of ailments.

Most of you probably have probably heard this already. But here’s some new ( to me ) research that completely changed the way I now experience stress in my life.

What if you could override your physiological fight-or-flight response by developing a stress-hardy mindset? What if changing the way you think about stress could actually make you healthier?

Several studies have found that the way people view stress has a greater impact on personal health and longevity than those who live a low-stress lifestyle.

When faced with a challenging or fearful situation, instead of viewing it as stressful, reposition it as challenging. Shifting your narrative from a fight or flight to an “excite and delight”, can temper your physiological response. Your blood pressure will rise, but your blood vessels will not constrict.

How to Pivot Your Mental Thinking Around Stress

1. Recognize what your body is doing and see it as a positive

The next time you find your heart pounding because of a giant error you made in front of 1000s of people or you are about to perform in front of a live audience reframe your thinking. Tell yourself that your body is giving you a boost of extra energy to respond and perform.

2. Give yourself credit for important risks you might be taking

Nervousness is often a result of doing something that matters to you or it could be a signal that you are stretching out of your comfort zone. When you find yourself feeling nervous ask yourself “why?” Redirect yourself away from your stressful emotions and acknowledge the steps you are taking to either stand up for what matters to you. Give yourself a pat on the back for your willingness to grow and learn.

3. Focus on today

Today it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Having too much to do can trigger a host of emotional and physical repercussions. Often thinking about your future or holding on to the past can be the largest source of stress in your life. Consider breaking your goals into smaller bite-size tasks. Learn to let go, say no, or ask for help. Focus on helping someone else in a random act of kindness which will take the focus off yourself and onto someone else.

4. Remember you have a choice

Harnessing the upside of stress requires a mindset reset. Often people wear stress and being “so busy” as a medal of honor. Don’t buy into it. And don’t feel guilty if your life is great. You deserve, along with everyone else, to have a great life. That doesn’t mean it would be challenging or without hurdles, but how you view those setbacks is critical to your overall health and wellbeing.

Reclaim your life, your mind, and your body. Your narrative is a powerful tool to reshape your life. Use stress in the same way. Reframe your thinking that allows your nervousness or fear to be guideposts and support mechanisms rather than wrecking on your life.

“Every day may not be good…
but there’s something good in every day” 
― Alice Morse Earle

Recommended Book

The Essentials of Managing Stress by Brian Luke Seaward

More Book Recommendations

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Here’s one thing that you can do easily to increase your happiness in 2019.

So many of our New Year’s resolutions are centered around doing less or stopping an activity, such as

  • Drink less
  • Lose weight
  • Cut down on extraneous spending
  • Reduce screen time

Often we don’t think about what truly brings us joy. For a country that prides itself on freedom, independence, and the pursuit of happiness, a recent study confirms that the US has clearly has lost its way.

In the World Happiness Report, the top ten happiest countries are Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Australia; the US ranks 18th and yet we are the 11th richest country in the world.

What is wrong with this picture? Why aren’t we happier?

Well-being and happiness often require factors such as family support and friendships, living with meaning and purpose in your life, a healthy lifestyle and a spirit of generosity.

Have we gotten too greedy, self-consumed, and me-oriented?

Research has already shown that after a certain threshold, more money and more toys don’t make us happier. While we may still be experiencing a holiday high, our back-to-reality everyday drudgery will hit home soon. True to our fallible nature, we think that more money will make us happier. While it is true that the wealthy are happier than the poor, once we have reached a certain threshold, around $80,000 a year depending on where you live, more money does not correlate to greater happiness.

When our income increases, our spending expands and we overestimate the joy that a new car or larger house will bring. Sure it may make us happier for the short-term, but in the long run, the initial emotional euphoria will dissipate.

If more money doesn’t make you happier, what will according to the research?

Generosity is one of the top key variables that contribute to happiness in the World Happiness Report. A recent white paper on generosity concludes that human beings are wired to help one another whether it’s through time, donations, volunteering or some other act of kindness and empathy.

Generosity can make a huge difference in your happiness and well-being. Click to retweet

Generosity expands your capacity to think beyond yourself and build empathy and compassion toward others, important emotions to increase your happiness. According to Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology and the creator of PERMA principles, happiness can be cultivated with discipline and better habits.

The research on generosity is complex and nuanced. Several different studies note that there are social and geographic differences in giving to charitable organizations. People in the top income quintile in England and Wales were the most likely to give to charitable causes (86 percent), while those in the bottom quintile were least likely to give (65). This contrasted with studies from the US where the very poorest give the highest proportion of their income and then the line flattens with those from middle and higher income brackets.

Regardless of your income, geographic location, cultural or familial upbringing, the research clearly indicates that forming an ongoing habit of generosity not only helps others, but it is also good for you.

Make generosity your top habit to cultivate for 2019.

  1. Donate to your favorite cause every month. Remember that every little bit can help a small organization.
  2. Make it a practice to help someone at work or at home without being asked or without expecting anything in return.
  3. Volunteer your time with an organization or to make a difference in someone’s life.
  4. Be generous with your attention. Take your headphones off your head, pull out your earbuds, lift your head up and away from your phone or computer, really look people in the eyes and listen to what they have to say. In fact, say, “hello” when you pass someone.
  5. Be generous with your kind words. More compliments, more nice comments, and more positive reinforcement.

Here’s a challenge for the next 365 days. Practice one act of generosity a day. Be the change. Make a difference. And you will feel the change in your life.

There are affiliate links below for which I may receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you.

Suggested Reading

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard and S. Truett Cathy

The Paradox of Generosity by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson

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What’s your mantra for the holidays?

‘Tis the season for excess, consumption, and materialism.

Advertisers have seduced us all into thinking “more” is better and bargain deals are a must-have.

Do office parties, family gatherings, and neighborhood get-togethers cause you to overeat, overdrink, and overbook your daily life?

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21 one wishes to my 21-year-old son.

I remember so vividly turning 21.  Back then you could drink at 18 so it wasn’t about the legality of consuming booze that made the event memorable.

Somehow turning 21 meant I was really crossing the threshold into adulthood.  It was an age that put my teenage years behind me and my adult independence within a hands reach.

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5 Key areas of your well-being. Where are you thriving and where are you not?

Our consumer-driven culture seduces us daily with all sorts of reasons to buy the latest fashion, gadget, toy, game, and car.  Advertising has us chasing product deals falsely tying our self-worth to some “thing.”

While consumerism may be good for the economy, is it really good for you? Do more toys or more clothes or more gadgets really make you happier?

What really improves your well-being?

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Up your game by asking better questions.

Our educational system teaches us to think, analyze, write, compute, and create. Drawing on the Socratic method our classroom discussions are centered around a model where the expert, or the teacher, is the one with the responsibility for asking questions to stimulate thinking, dialogue, and debate.  

But what about the student?  How do our schools teach the skill and practice of formulating better questions?  

Think about it, the questions you ask in any given situation might manipulate, direct, offend, empower, inform, assume, or even influence creative input.
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How to use positive psychology to kickstart your goals for 2018.

When I ask you, “how was your day?”, what is your response?

Do you immediately recount the negative experiences that have recently happened or are you able to identify some of the positive outcomes you may have experienced?

Most people dwell on the areas of their life that are not going well or where they have experienced negative emotions.  This tendency is driven by the default wiring in your brain.  Positive psychology and strength-based questions can help override your negative thinking and improve your capacity to create success in your life by focusing on what is going well for you now and building on your key strengths.

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Reacting vs Responding: How mindfulness can tame your emotional frenzy.

Do you find yourself yelling at the TV because of something said by a politician? Maybe you engage in road rage as you drive to work because someone cut you off or the light didn’t turn green fast enough. Perhaps a colleague or a spouse questions something you did and suddenly you go into red alert prepared for a full-on self-defense attack. These knee-jerk reactions are causing havoc on your well-being and health and mostly likely impairing your ability to make better decisions.

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Stoicism revisited: how ancient wisdom can help you navigate uncertain times.

What do you when you are faced with uncertainty, fear, or stress?  How do you cope with obstacles?  Stoic philosophy could provide you with very useful tools to navigate life’s challenges.

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Fear Of Success

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Learn how the fear of success could be stopping you dead in your tracks.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.

~ Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

Many people freeze when wanting to move forward because they are afraid of failure. But what if we are really paralyzed by the fear of success.

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