Master your morning routine with the five M’s

morning

Morning routines are nothing new. It’s likely you’ll have your own routine in the works but how effective is it? Many people won’t want to change up their mornings for fear of getting off to a bad start. Well, these people are far too comfortable. If your morning routine is providing you with nothing more than comfort and perhaps more sleep time, it’s time to shake it up. Here is how to bring max productivity to your morning with the five M’s. Enjoy!

1. M Is For Morning Journaling

In our busy, day-to-day lives, our minds end up collecting a lot of nonsense, fears, negativity or worse. Morning journaling is one of the best ways to resolve this.

Morning pages is a creativity-unblocking technique first described in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. It involves writing three pages by hand before you do anything else in the morning. Try it out and see what you think – it could be truly life-changing.

It really works because you declutter your mind and get rid of all your distractions before your work day has even started.

2. M Is For Meditation

Meditation is different for everyone. You are certainly not limited to sitting cross-legged saying “OOOM”.

Meditation is one of the best and most effective ways to keep your mind calm.

People typically spend 5-10 minutes on meditation each morning. There are great apps for a guided meditation – the Headspace app is particularly popular.

But more than anything else meditation helps you to stay focused and on track with a stronger and more balanced mindset. If meditation is new to you research what type would be best for you and give it a go. Meditation can be done in various ways such as listening to an app which takes you through a guided meditation, walking or even running.

Meditation is a highly personal act, so experiment until you find a way that “clicks.”

3. M Is For Make The Bed

It sounds odd but If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It sends a message to your brain that you’re not a slacker and it gives you a small sense of accomplishment encouraging you to continue to complete tasks, throughout the day.

4. M is for Morning Meal

If you want a supercharged, productive day, your body needs fuel via your morning meal.

Make sure your breakfast is healthy, nutritious and delicious. Enjoy eating it and use the time to focus on the food and just get lost in the moment. Before long you’ll look forward to waking up and enjoying your breakfast.

5. M Is For Movement

You could be the type that works out before work and if so then you’ve already nailed this M. If you’re not then you can fulfil this M by setting aside just 10 minutes, every morning, to move your body.

What does this mean? It simply means that during this 10 minutes you will focus on your body. Simply stretching for 10 minutes will activate your muscles, help you to wake up and also help you to create energy for the rest your day. You can obviously set aside more time and go further than stretching however this is the bare minimum required.

A bit of advice – implementing all five 5’s at once might be too much. Try introducing one at a time until you can do all five, with ease.

So, what are you waiting for? See how the five M’s could change your world today.

Read more on the five M’s with this excellent blog on Forbes, here.

How the most succesful spend their weekends

weekends

The only thing we shouldn’t do with our weekends is work.

study from Stanford shows that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and it drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. What this means is that people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours. Those extra hours are wasted.

So make sure work doesn’t encroach on your precious weekend and do these things instead;

How the most successful spend their weekends

1) They own their mornings

They value the time not being spent commuting to work and they use their weekend mornings to have “me-time”. Whether this is a slow breakfast, staying longer in bed, or reading their favourite book – they make sure their precious weekend mornings are used purposefully.

2) They plan mini adventures

They buy tickets to a concert or play or get reservations for an exciting new restaurant. They even decide to drive to the country and get lost in nature. The best thing is that they don’t care who is with them, they’ll do it alone if their friends are busy or with their grumpy children in tow – (they’ll love it when they get there). They do it to inject newness into their life, which significantly improves their life satisfaction. Studies show that anticipating something good to come is a significant part of what makes the activity pleasurable. Knowing that you have something interesting planned for the weekend will not only be fun come Saturday, but it will significantly improve your mood throughout the week.

3) They Pursue a Passion

Indulging in your passions is a great way to escape the stress of your day job and also opens your mind to new ways of thinking. You can’t expect to grow becoming a master of just one discipline. Learning new skills adds incredible value to your life. Whether it’s chasing entrepreneurial interests, learning an instrument, reading, writing or painting – anything that you are passionate about, can help stimulate different modes of thought that can reap huge rewards over the coming week.

4) They Disconnect

Disconnecting is one of the strategies on this list because if you can’t find a way to remove yourself from work electronically technically (no pun intended) you’ve never left.

Making yourself available to your work 24/7 exposes ruins your wellbeing. You can’t unwind if you are just an email or phone call away from work stress. If taking the entire weekend off handling work e-mails and calls isn’t realistic, try designating specific times on Saturday and Sunday for checking e-mails and responding to voicemails. However, you decide to disconnect – just make sure you do it.

5) Make sure your weekend isn’t just chores 

Chores can totally take over your weekends. When this happens, you lose the opportunity to relax and reflect and you go back to work unrested – this is a weekend, wasted. What’s worse is chores often feel like work so you’ve just created a 7-day work week. To stop this from happening, you need to schedule your chores like you would anything else during the week, and if you don’t complete them during the designated time, then you move on and finish them the following weekend.

For more fantastic tips on how the most successful spend their weekends, read this great article by Forbes, here.

The conundrum of Lawyer brain and the secret cure

Lawyer brain

Lawyer Brain arises when you spend your career critically thinking, stripping everything around you of ambiguity or mystery. It’s something entirely unavoidable for lawyers in their day-to-day careers, the issue arises, however, when Lawyer brain encroaches your everyday thinking.

The consequences of Lawyer brain 

Lawyer brain can force you to exist in the black and white when in reality, the grey can be quite enjoyable. The thing is, lawyers are so used to breaking things down and analysing facts, that it can cause them to squeeze the spontaneous fun out of their personal life. Over-analytical thinking can lead to more pessimistic thoughts. This pessimism can lead to habitual negative thinking and depression. The key is to not to normalise this negative thinking when it occurs outside of work – otherwise, you are trapped in Lawyer brain.

How to heal Lawyer brain

Interestingly, John Stuart Mill, identified with the negative consequences of critical thinking. He said that he turned to poetry to heal himself of the depression he could feel from his analytical inclinations. His favourite poet was Wordsworth who he described as saving him from depression “… the delight which [Wordsworth’s] poems gave me, proved that with a culture of this sort, there was nothing to dread from the most confirmed habit of analysis.”

Poetry exists almost entirely in the grey and is a great liberation from the strict confines of critical thinking. Just simply letting your thoughts wander, without purpose, can ignite your imagination and help you to reframe your negative thoughts into more creative and positive ones. It also helps you to train your brain to use different thinking patterns. It takes you out of the Lawyer brain trap and helps you to become more self-aware. So, when you do start to feel negative – you can simply change your thought patterns. Try it out and see what you think. It’s the perfect break from all the legal reading.

For more on this topic read this great blog from Law Care here.

The efficient trick of honouring sadness

sadness

We are told time and time again that focusing on the “good” is the best way to deal with depression or sadness.

However, this does not mean that we should suppress sadness in order to only focus on the good. In fact, we should treat feelings of sadness with the same respect we give to happiness. We should honour sadness.

Many people put pressure on themselves to be happy all the time. This is not realistic. Life is not a happy cartoon. Distracting yourself, or even ignoring sadness only makes it worse. Sadness can actually be beneficial if you deal with it correctly.

Why honouring sadness is good for you

1) Feeling sadness is the only thing that helps release it

Much like any suppressed feelings, you can only push them down for a short period of time before they shoot to the surface, at the most inconvenient time.

Instead, bringing a spirit of curiosity and compassion to sadness lets you explore feelings without getting stuck in them. Become your own detective, think about why you feel sad and just feel it.

Notice where the sadness is in your body. You might feel chest aches, heaviness on your shoulders or tears. Accept these feelings and let them rise to the surface.

2) Unpick the sadness 

Think about back to when you started to feel sad. Is there anything familiar about this feeling? Is it triggered by something in particular? What early life experiences felt similar? Start to increase your self-awareness around why you feel sad and this is a sure way for you to understand how to cope with it.

3) Invite Them In

What would you do if you allowed yourself to just be really sad? What would your day look like? Ho much would you cry? What movies would you watch? Would you sleep? What would you be in your pyjamas? If you let yourself just breakdown, would it help? What would you be thinking? Or doing? Even if you can’t take a sick day, or literally have the sadness breakdown you believe you’re on the brink of having, imagine if you did. Don’t live in fear of your sadness.

4) Get creative 

Emotion unlocks art and creativity that our rational mind tries to keep muted. It’s a great time to explore what you really have broiling under your veneer of reason. Use this time to write, draw or play an instrument. Do whatever skill takes your fancy or whichever you have a natural flair – just make sure you do something.

5) Be kind to yourself 

Often we can make ourselves feel a whole lot worse by our reactions to sadness. Thoughts such as “this is pathetic”, “I need to be stronger” or “Just snap out of it” – are particularly problematic – you are not a robot. Embrace your humanity. Just like being kind to others in their time of need we should equally be kind to ourselves. Not only does kindness make us feel better in the moment but it also helps us to deal with the sadness in a more efficient way. Instead of encouraging us to surpess feelings of sadness it encourages us to accept them.

The absolute best way to deal with sadness is to honour it and who knows, you may find something beautiful at the end of your blue tunnel.

 

 

How complaining can ruin your reality

complaining

Your mind should be your sanctuary. It should be the cosy place you go to when everything around you is going wrong. It should be a safe haven, a place that protects you. Imagine if your mind was full of people constantly complaining. Ruining your tranquil sanctuary with their overbearing and loud whining. Well, the reality is that when you fill your mind with complaining, you are creating this uncomfortable environment in your own mind. One question, why would you want that?

How complaining can ruin your reality

1.Trains your brain to focus on the wrong things

Complaining trains your brain to focus on the negative things in life. Your mind will be programmed to support your previous complaints with new perceived negative things. Instead of trying to see things positively you start to have a negative default.

2. Negativity makes you unpopular

Just like happiness is contagious, negativity is too. Don’t be surprised if people start to slowly back off from you, as there is a direct correlation between complainers and lack of friends. Complaining brings a negative and gloomy atmosphere around you – one that is certainly hostile to others.

3. Negativity breeds more negativity

constant complaining holds you back in life, it reduces your ability to just “get on with it’, as you’re too busy ruminating about your annoyances. You need to stop complaining today, for a better future tomorrow. Focus on what you is important in your life and forget everything else. Fill your mind with positivity and light and that is exactly what you will receive back from the universe. It’s incredible how a small change of perspective can shift your enjoyment of life.

4. Stops you from thriving

Complaining keeps you exactly where you are, on a platform of negativity and irritation. People that don’t complain turn negative situations around and make them a positive. Embrace the situations you find yourself in, remember every day is precious and you have to make the most of them. Complaining will never take your forwards only backwards.

5. Kills creativity

Innovation and creativity require freedom of thought. It requires the ability to step outside of the confines of your mind. When you are stuck in complaining mode, you are well within the realms of constraint. Let your mind be free and then the creativity will follow.

 

 

Beat the January blues with these happiness hacks

Happiness

Happiness impacts everything you touch. If you’re feeling down at work, you simply won’t have the motivation you need to reach your targets. Instead of struggling through your work days and annoying your family when you get home with your persistent moping, inject some much-needed happiness into your life with these foolproof happiness hacks.

Exercise

Getting your sweat on, releases endorphins throughout your whole body, ridding you of your negativity and generating a mood filled with happiness! Studies have shown that exercise can help to alleviate depression. The best time to hit the gym is first thing in the morning to get your pump on before you start work. Think about it, is that extra hour in bed doing you any favours? Instead, wake up a little earlier and start your day right.

Turn on a lightbox

Light therapy is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this can be a major cause of January blues, but even if it doesn’t, experts agree that it works to treat symptoms of most major depressive disorders as well. So whenever you’re feeling blue simply turn on the light box for 30 mins to an hour and feel instantly better. To feel its full effects, use it daily.

Go outside and walk

Starting to feel down? Head outside to take a walk in the closest nature you can find. Science research shows, again again, that spending time in nature helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety and phycological stress. When you feel your mood taking a downward spiral, simply step outside and bring yourself back to the surface.

Citrus scents

Citrus scents, such as orange, lemon, and grapefruit actually draw out positive chemical reactions in your brain. Not only this but they help to relieve symptoms of stress. If you want a quick uplift at work put a few drops of citrus essential oil on your pressure points. You can buy already made mixes at any health shop. You can also mix the citrus injection

Buy flowers for yourself

A team of Harvard researchers found that keeping fresh flowers at home does successfully keeps away anxiety and negative moods. People in the study also felt more compassionate toward others and they felt a boost of energy and enthusiasm at work.

Take microbreaks

Research shows that people who take short microbreaks at work, to break up their work day, for example, to watch funny videos online, get a high emotional payoff and report feeling more energetic and happy with fewer negative emotions. This is a great way to boost your mood in just under a minute. Cat memes anyone?

For even more helpful tips read CNN Health’s blog, on happiness hacks, here.

How create more cohesion amongst your co-workers

co-workers

However you decide to see this fact, whether good or bad, you can’t deny the truth – You probably spend more time with your co-workers than you do with anyone else. Scary, ey?

When you’re in an office environment, in any major city, the people you work with become almost like family. So, it makes a huge difference to have a meaningful relationship with them.

Not only does it strategically benefit your career but it also makes work, that much more bearable and you have a solid support system for when things don’t go to plan.

So, here are four simple tips to encourage a stronger bond between you and your co-workers;

1. Offer Help

Think of the last time you were struggling at work. Maybe you were swamped and overwhelmed, or perhaps you had things going on at home, diminishing your ability to deal with your workload.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had stopped by your desk and provided some support? Or even offered to take something off your plate? Wouldn’t that offer of support, alone, have made you feel so much more valued and supported? Absolutely. So, why not do that same thing for a colleague? When you see someone who’s stressed or confused, just ask: Is there anything I can do to help?

Even if your co-worker doesn’t actually take you up, on your offer, just the fact that you recognised their struggle and wanted to do something about it, goes a long way in fostering a more empathetic culture around you.

2. Make friends

Try to forge a relationship with the person, not just the job title.

Get to know their interests and hobbies – who knows you may have more in common than you first thought. Friends at work shouldn’t be totally off-limits, so long as there are boundaries and it doesn’t impact your duties, then, there is no reason why you can’t share your hours with your co-workers in a more meaningful way.

3. Give praise

Everyone loves to have their ego stroked. However, providing genuine recognition or praise for work, makes someone feel really special and even motivates them to push on during the hardest days. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you think someone in your office has done a great job. These sorts of comments make a huge impact when it comes to helping others in your office feel valued. It also creates a supportive and healthy work environment.

4. Practice kindness

Little acts of kindness go along way. You never, really, know how someone is feeling, on any given day and your small act of kindness could really uplift them.

Pick up some snacks, ask your colleague if they need anything for lunch or bring someone a coffee, or a cup of tea. These things might sound simple but they are effective ways to sprinkle kindness into your colleagues day.

If you want to take it to the next level – be mindful of when your co-worker has reached their stress capacity and if you have a lot less work – offer to help them, even stay late with them. This type of support will be remembered and it’s likely they’ll help you out in the future too.

Plus, as an added bonus, doing these sorts of things makes you feel good too!

These four strategies are incredibly simple and they are great for showing your co-workers that you actually care about them. And they’re incredibly simple and take almost zero effort on your part.

So what are you waiting for? Create a better, kinder and more supportive work environment and reap the rewards!

 

How to start a self-development strategy

self-development

Self-development allows you to be the best version of yourself.

You can address gaps in your knowledge, break down mental barriers, enhance existing skills and learn new ones.

Everyone will have different self-development goals and it can be anything from improving physical fitness or self-esteem to learning more skills to enhance your career.

Whatever you choose to do, the business and personal benefits of self-development will be astounding.

Once you decide to commit to personal self-development goals, utilise this list of great strategies, created to help you reach your targets;

1. Set clear actionable goals

You have to have very clear goals. You have to understand exactly what you want to achieve so that further down the line you’ll be able to measure your success.

2. Write your goals down

Committing your goals to paper (or your laptop screen) makes it more real. Your goals become a target and if you don’t work on them you are letting yourself down. An untouched to-do list will not let the most ambitious sleep.

3. Start small

Break your goals down into small actionable steps. Not only does this look less overwhelming if you’re already busy but it actually motivates you to start – because it doesn’t seem like such a big task. Reaching small, more achievable self-development goals empowers and encourages us to continue.

4. Improve existing skills

When it comes to self-improvement, we can often concentrate on learning something new. But sometimes it can be more beneficial to improve your existing skills i.e improve your strengths and not your weaknesses. This is beneficial to career orientated, self-development goals, why focus on being the jack of all trades when you can be the master of one?

5. Be thorough

Instead of doing a broad surface approach to your self-development goals, really commit to one and get under its skin. Think about every angle of your goal. Research it intensely, understand who the experts are in that particular field. Watch videos, reach books. Eat, sleep and breathe it and make sure that when you look back at how you approached your self-development goal, you are satisfied that did all you could to commit to it. If you do it, do it well.

6. Treat it like paid work

Put your self-development, as high on your list of priorities, as your paid work. Unless you really take your self-development goals seriously, your new learning will be sidelined and you’ll deny yourself the opportunity to be the best version of yourself.

The scientific secrets behind perfect timing

timing

Daniel H Pink, in his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing explores cutting-edge research on timing and provides compelling insights into how we can live in tune with our energy and mood peaks, allowing us to live more self-aware and engaged lives.

The study

The book explores a 2011 study by Michael Macy and Scott Golder. The pair from Cornell university gathered around 500m tweets, posted by more than 2 million users in 84 countries over the period of two years. They conducted an intense analysis into the tweets in order to understand if any patterns arose in correlation to feelings and the times of the day.

To assist with their research, they used an analysis program called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), they attempted to measure the emotional states revealed by individuals in the electronic texts they sent. The patterns that were uncovered were striking.

Results on timing

Macy and Golder found that with interesting and remarkable consistency, irrespective of the time of the year – people’s positive emotions were stronger when the morning started and as it progressed and then fell significantly in the afternoon, before coming back fighting in the early evening. The study also showed that it did not matter, in what part of the world the subject was born or lived the results remained consistent, globally. In other words, regardless of culture or differing daily rituals or even weather, our moods follow a rigorous pattern that is hugely influential, revealing and to this day largely outside of our knowledge.

Interestingly several other studies support these findings. In one Danish study, children’s results for exams in the afternoon were significantly lower than those being tested in the morning.

Essentially, what the results mean for us, is that the morning time is the best time for critical decision making. We should therefore not be trying to make judgements or decisions in the late afternoon, as evidence shows this can be to our disadvantage.

In the words of Pink “First, our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of the day. And second, these daily fluctuations are more extreme than we realise,”

Why is our internal timing like this?

The reason for us being sharper in the morning is due to our body temperature. When we wake up our body temperature is relatively low and then starts to rise. That rising temperature starts to boost our energy levels and we feel a significant increase in our alertness which in turn “enhances our executive functioning, our ability to concentrate, and our powers of deduction”.  As the morning develops, the more focused and alert we become, until we reach our absolute peak, after which our energy levels decline and our alertness decreases, only to be restored in the early evening.

 

Serotonin food hacks to enhance your mood

serotonin

Serotonin helps to create the “happy molecule” in our brains resulting in a wonderfully happy and positive mood.

A brain that has high levels of serotonin, helps to regulate appetite, behaviour, sleep, libido, memory and learning. Meaning, on the contrary, if you have low levels of serotonin, then all of the above are directly affected.  Even worse a low level of serotonin is linked to depression.

One way to boost serotonin is through drugs, namely antidepressants. But resorting to this is the last case scenario as messing around with antidepressants can lead to all sorts of side effects.

Fortunately, there are a few simple dietary hacks that can effectively increase serotonin.

Whilst some foods do naturally contain serotonin, there is no evidence that these foods actually transfer serotonin to your body and as such, they will do nothing to boost your mood.

There are a handful of foods that do not contain serotonin but work by a variety of mechanisms to increase serotonin naturally.

Turmeric

The spice turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin which readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases levels of both serotonin and dopamine.

Interestingly, turmeric works so well that it has proven to be as effective Prozac for depression.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate, is always popular, especially on a cold winter night however did you know it also works as a natural mood enhancer? Dark chocolate increases serotonin levels in both the brain and the digestive tract.

The digestive tract? Why do we need serotonin there? Surprisingly, 95% of serotonin resides in the gut and not in the brain

Another plus factor about dark chocolate is that they are significantly less processed as well.

Fatty Fish

People with low serotonin levels commonly have low levels of DHA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid that forms an essential structural building block of the brain. it also contributes to healthy hair, skin and nails and is often a suggested food for those about to take exams or enter situations that require large amounts of brain power.

Cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids can help to raise serotonin levels.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and unpasteurized sauerkraut naturally and Kambucha tea contain psychobiotics, probiotics that help establish a normal balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut.

An overabundance of bad bacteria creates toxic byproducts called lipopolysaccharides which can have numerous negative side-effects on your brain, including lowering serotonin levels and even causing depression. That’s why it’s crucial to have a balance in your gut as this largely affects your serotonin levels and overall mood.

Interestingly, stress, sugar, artificial sweeteners, pharmaceuticals, chlorinated tap water, inflammation, and even antibacterial hand soap can disrupt your intestinal balance. So, looking after your gut is also a lifestyle choice, that when mixed with diet hacks, can increase your serotonin levels.

 

For more on this top read this helpful blog written by Be Brain Fit, here

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