Category: Self-improvement

How To Create Goals That You’ll Actually Complete

Goals are the road map that tells us where we’re going. Without them you just live life without a sense of direction. New Years is the perfect time to reflect on where you are and plan for improving different areas of our life for the year ahead. But setting goals is the easy part. Sticking to them and achieving them not so much.

But there is a trick that I use to achieve any goal, small or large. The following is my recipe to create goals that you’ll actually complete.

Step 1. Get clear on what you really want. We have 7 categories in our life. Family, Relationships, Career/Education, Money, Health, Recreation, and Spirituality. Goals always fall into one of these categories. Be honest with your self about what you want to improve or change. Maybe you want to look good, get a job, spend more time with family, or don’t want to be single anymore.

If you don’t know what you want, work backwards. Sometimes it’s easier to know what you DON’T want. For example, maybe you know you don’t want to quit your job, or don’t need to loose weight, but maybe you need to have more fun in your life, or want to improve your relationships. From the 7 categories above, which areas are you the least happy with? Start with that area.

Step 2. Set a specific date for when you want to have completed the goal. It’s ok if you’re off by a few days or weeks. But when you give your goal a deadline, you’re more likely to achieve it. Plus it’s easier to keep track of progress

Step 3. BREAK IT DOWN. This is actually the secret weapon. Any goal that you have can feel overwhelming. Especially big goals. But when you break it down to the smallest steps, it really is not that hard to complete. For example, lets say your goal is to loose 50 pounds by the summer. 50 pounds sounds like a big number and all you can do is think about all the food you won’t be able to eat. But if you count, for example, from January 1st until June 1st, that’s 22 weeks. 50(pounds) ÷ 22 (weeks) =2.27 (pounds) So all you have to focus on is loosing about 2 pounds a week, not the 50.

If the goal is to get a job, think about the small steps that you have to take to get there. Such as Googling companies you’ll like to work at, downloading the Indeed app, and applying to 2-3 jobs a week.

You do this with any goal. Break it down to the simplest form.

Now that you have these 3 steps. Now you have to take action.

  • Write down your goal on an index card or small piece of paper, with the deadline and any small steps that you have to take. It’s been proven that people that write down their goals are more likely to complete them compared to people who don’t write them down.
  • Put the piece of paper or index card somewhere you’ll see it every day. This could be on your mirror, in your car, in your wallet or planner. It really doesn’t matter as long as it’s somewhere that you’ll see it often. Even take a picture of the paper so that you also have it saved in your phone.
  • Try to take one simple step every day or week that brings you closer to your goal. Anything from buying new gym sneakers, cleaning out your closet for the new clothes you’ll be buying, doing a little research, or asking someone for help IS a step. Remember that when working towards goals SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING. Try to do something daily no matter how small it is. This will make it easier to start and keep the momentum.
  • Look at your goal first thing in the morning and right before going to bed. The first 20 minutes after we wake up sets the tone for the rest of the day. Don’t believe me, try stubbing your toe or waking up to yelling and tell me if you’re in a good mood after. When you look at your written goal, visualize how it would feel to have already achieved it. This is supposed to be fun. Picture yourself shopping for the new clothes that you’ll need to buy because you’re fit, or feel relaxed because you know that things always work out for you.

IF you have supportive people, it’s okay to share your goal with someone. But if the people around you tend to be negative, I suggest keeping your goal to yourself and just let the results speak for its self. Goals are personal and you’ll quickly be discouraged if you share it with the wrong person.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway

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About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.

 

 

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10 Books to Improve Your Life

Sometimes in life we’re stuck in bad situations. Maybe you live in a house where you don’t feel comfortable but can’t afford to leave. Or feel stuck in a school or job full of drama. Whatever it is, sometimes you can feel helpless. But that is not true.

We can’t control other people or the circumstances that life gives us. But we can always control how we react to people and things. When you can’t physically escape your circumstances, you can always escape with your mind.

Here are 10 self-improvement books that I’ve read and feel comfortable promoting that they can help improve your life by helping you see things differently. Because as Dr.Wayne Dyer says, “change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change”

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Mental Health Resources

Pretty much everyone knows the benefits from therapy. But not everyone has the time or money to be able to get one-on-one help. With today’s technology, there are so many other resources that could help you. And if you are in therapy, some of these resources can complement the help you’re already getting.

http://openpathcollective.org

Open path is a website where you can get online therapy from $30-$50 a session with a licensed therapist.  This is a great resource if you don’t have health insurance.

National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)- provides education and support to increase awareness and understanding of mental health.

There are many apps you can download. I wrote a blog post on some of my favorite mental health apps. I would suggest typing the mood you’re in in the app store search and download a few to find a few of your own favorites.

ulifeline.org online mental health resource for college students

National Suicide Hotline- text START to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-8255

GLBT National Help Line 1-888-843-4564

GLBT National Help Center for Youth. 1-800-246-7743

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7223

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673

Psychology Today to find a therapist near you.

Center for Complicated Grief to find a list of resources for when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one.

Center Link is a center to support the LGBT community.

IMAlive lets you chat with supervised peer volunteers when ever you feel so down that picking up the phone to talk is too much. You can chat with someone and know that they will not judge you.

National Center for Victims of Crime provides resources of crime victims,  from bullying, physical abuse, stalking, and even terrorism.

National Eating Disorder Association

OK2Talk is designed for teens and young adults. The site is an online outlet for people to share their own stories. Good to find support and discuss coping with a diagnosis.

Co-occurring Disorders. Co-occurring disorders are when a person struggles with both a mental health disorder and addiction.

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25 Coping Skills

Here’s a list of coping skills to try when you’re feeling really stressed out, worried or depressed. Try to do at least 2 things on this list every single day.

  1. Talk to one person about your feelings. Supportive friend, family or therapist.
  2. Have a “lazy” day or hour where you do NOTHING.
  3. Go for a walk in nature or a quiet environment.
  4. Help someone out by volunteering somewhere or help someone who you know needs help.
  5. Do a random act of kindness, on purpose.
  6.  Write out what you’re thinking as if you’re talking to someone. Then destroy it.
  7. If you don’t like writing, record yourself instead. Like a video diary.
  8. Make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for and write at least 3 sentences of why you’re grateful for that thing. Think bigger than your life, like being grateful for having the sight to read these words, or that your family does not do arranged marriages.
  9. Color/paint/draw/doodle.
  10. Listen to music.
  11. Create play lists for different moods.
  12. Take a bubble bath.
  13. Take a hot shower. Before turning off the water, turn the water as cold as you can stand.
  14. Clean/organize your environment; room, house, desk, etc.
  15. Play/cuddle with a pet.
  16. Search “guided mediation” on YouTube and listen to one.
  17. Watch a funny movie or video.
  18. Create a vision board with pictures of things that you would like to do and have.
  19. Play games. Video games, board games, or games on your phone.
  20. Take a nap or just make sure you get enough rest.
  21. Read something that makes you feel good.
  22. Pamper yourself, like doing your hair or painting your nails.
  23. Watch your favorite movie or TV show.
  24. Write down or think about 5 good things you have going for yourself. For example, if you hate your job, at least you have a job. If you don’t have one, think about your strengths that will get you one, such as being responsible or being a hard worker.
  25. Create and stick to a daily schedule. Scheduling out your day will give you a routine and a sense of accomplishment.

 

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, adults, and Spanish speaking families in  Lehigh Valley, PA.

 

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Improving your Mental Health.

Although getting psychotherapy is one of the best investments you can make in your mental health, for different reasons, not everyone can go to therapy. The good news is that you can do a lot of free things that help improve your mental health without going to therapy. Here are a few suggestions, that if done regularly, you can see an improvement in your mental health.

Surround yourself with supportive people.

If you don’t do anything else, doing this one thing can help you better handle the ups and downs of life. One of the quickest ways to feel bad is to spend time around negative people. Even worse is to be lonely. Loneliness is one of the biggest contributors to depression and poor health.  Humans are social beings, we are not meant to be isolated from others. Now, there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. You can be around a lot of people, and still feel lonely. And you can be alone and not feel lonely.

If you don’t have friends or family who are supportive, try to join a club or sport. Being around people you have something in common with is a great way to make new friends. Do you love reading? Spend time at the Library or Book Store and try to join a book club. Do you love sports? How about joining others in fantasy football? Or start saying yes to invitations from coworkers or class mates. Volunteering is another great way to be around people. Plus, when we help others, we in turn help ourselves. The point is that you want to be around people who are positive, supportive, and make you feel good.

Get your body moving.

If the gym is your thing then great. But if not, that’s okay too. You just want to get your body moving. You can go for a walk (it’s even better with a friend), stretch your body, follow along to a work out video, walk around the mall several times, or lift some weights. Get creative with it and do what works for you. When it comes to exercise, something is better than nothing.

Relax

If this is hard for you to do, then you REALLY need it. What do you do that helps you slow down your thoughts and relax? Maybe it’s painting, listening to music, taking a bubble bath, cleaning and organizing things, reading, getting a massage, watching a movie, or going for a long car ride. It doesn’t matter. You just have to do what works for you. You might even have to schedule down time if you have a lot going on. If others depend on you, you MUST set time to relax. If not, you won’t be your best self. And that doesn’t help anyone.

Guard your mind.

Every single thing we are exposed to is shaping our thoughts. Think a thought long enough and it becomes our belief. Be careful of the types of shows you watch. Do they promote drama, violence, being unfaithful? Do you start and end your day with watching the news? Do you constantly compare yourself to the pictures you see of skinny woman or muscular men?

We don’t live in bubbles so of course we’re going to be exposed to negative things. But you can limit how much time you are exposed to them. Try to balance it by spending more time doing things that make you feel good versus things that make you feel stressed out or sad.

Meditate

Meditating has been proven to lower blood pressure, lower stress hormones, help you think more clearly, and so much more. At first it might be hard to slow down your thoughts so I suggest following a guided meditation. You can simply go on YouTube and search “guided mediation” and find one you like.

If meditation is not your thing, find an activity where you have to focus all of your attention. Some people say that going for a run, driving, or working to solve a problem, like cross word puzzles, helps them focus completely.

Take care of your spirituality.

This part of our life gets ignored by a lot of people. There is a difference between religion and spirituality. I think people should practice whatever works for them. If reading the bible or attending church gives you spiritual strength, then that’s what you do. If you don’t consider yourself religious but feel that there is something more to this life, that’s completely okay too.

At some point, usually around our teen years, we begin to ask ourselves, “why am I here?” and “what’s the purpose of life?” This is a very personal area to explore and no one should tell you what is right, only you can determine that. It’s a journey, but finding what it is that strengths your spirit is important. It gives you meaning to life, and the strength you need when you’re going through hard times.

 

These are just a few, but important suggestions. Just like taking care of your physical health is about doing little things everyday to stay healthy, the same goes for your mental health. Try to do small things daily that make you feel good. Eventually it’ll be a habit and you’ll notice that you can better handle every day stresses.

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About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.

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