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Often times when we lash out or get angry with someone, it’s not the other person’s fault – but our own.

We are ultimately responsible for how we respond to other people. When we are angry or frustrated and we take that out on someone else, that’s often due to our own mismanagement of our stress and emotions.

Of course it’s “easier said than done.” When you find yourself amped up and heated, it becomes increasingly more difficult to regulate your emotions and how you respond to people.

The emotional parts of our brain can often hijack the thinking parts of our brain. So when we are feeling intense emotions they can over-power our better judgment, and that’s what leads to us to respond to people in destructive and impulsive ways.

You’ve likely experienced this for yourself many times.

For example, have you ever had those days where you’re just way more sensitive and irritable than usual? Even the slightest word, action, or facial expression from someone else can trigger you into a state of anger, insecurity, or defensiveness?

You know you’re not acting rationally, but your feelings are so strong that you don’t care. In the moment, all you can think about is verbally attacking the other person.

It happens to the best of us. But that’s why we need to be super mindful of our underlying bad moods and how they manifest themselves in our daily speech and actions.

If you’re aware that you’re in a bad mood, then you can take active measures to regulate it. One powerful way to do that is to simply warn others that you’re in a bad mood before the interaction even begins.

This small and simple tip can prevent a world of trouble if you know how to use it wisely.

By letting people know that you’re in a bad mood, you give them a heads up that they should be a little more cautious around you. Hopefully, if they are smart and respectful, they will take that warning and try to adjust their behaviors a little.

This type of warning is especially helpful for loved ones, friends, or family, because they are generally not going to want to upset you or anger you, so they will be more likely to heed your advice and give you the time and space you need.

It can also be effective to warn coworkers or bosses about a bad mood too. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic, just a simple, “Hey, I kinda had a rough morning, so try to go a little easy on me today.”

Of course, this method isn’t fool-proof. But even if you do fail and happen to snap at someone, you can always go back to your warning, “Sorry, I told you I was in a bad mood today…”

A bad mood isn’t an excuse to be rude to someone, but it does give people a clearer understanding of why you may have said something. Most importantly, it tells people not to take what you said personally. “It’s me, not you.”

In fact, when someone says something rude or impolite to me, I often use the same line of reasoning in reverse: “They are just in a bad mood, it’s nothing to take personally.” (Check out 7 Things to Remind Yourself When Interacting With Difficult People).

One of the main lessons that has made me way kinder and gentler toward people (including myself) is recognizing all the factors that influence ours behavior that are outside of our control, including our environment, mood, and even simple things like being hungry or not getting enough sleep.

While we are responsible for our actions and choices in life, we have to recognize this is a constant uphill battle for most people. We say and do things that don’t truly reflect ourselves on a daily basis, because we are imperfect.

So the next time you’re in a really bad mood, try giving a warning to others and see if it helps the situation. It’s not always going to work, but it’s a good tip to keep in mind if you’re prone to getting angry or rude at others.

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post Warning! I’m In A Bad Mood: Let People Know When You Are Having a Bad Day appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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When someone says a stupid or rude comment in front of you, it’s tempting to want to immediately respond to it. However, often it’s best to just keep your mouth shut and ignore it.

Of course, practicing silence is easier said than done. We have a natural impulse to want to defend ourselves when we feel personally attacked or someone says something that offends us.

But what good comes when you feel the need to always respond to others or attack them back?

Often we just end up escalating an argument, embarrassing ourselves in front of others, storming out of the room, or staying up late at night kicking ourselves for saying what we said.

At the end of the day, it sucks up our energy and drains us. And in fact, one study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships discovered that when people practice silence or “ignoring” others who are rude or annoying, it often preserves their mental and emotional resources.

It can be incredibly freeing to realize you don’t always have to respond to everything everyone says. Sometimes the best response is to just be silent, give a polite smile, and let the comment pass over you like water off a duck’s back.

When a comment affects you internally, that doesn’t mean you need to respond to it externally. And often by practicing silence you diminish the feeling quicker by not feeding it any of your attention or energy.

In this way, silence is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to emotional intelligence.

When we are in a heated situation, our emotions can often hijack our rational thinking. So it’s important to mentally prepare yourself to act in new ways before they actually happen:

Try this simple visualization:

  • Take a moment to imagine a scenario where someone you dislike says something that really gets under your skin (especially in front of a group of people).
  • Feel your emotions bubbling up. Feel a wave of hot energy filling up your body and the urge to snap back and attack growing stronger and stronger!
  • Then… visualize yourself just being silent. And letting that internal reaction wash over you without a response.
  • Now watch as your emotions begin to dissipate and the moment passes…

This is an example of urge surfing. It’s when you feel a strong urge to do something, but instead of acting on it you just “surf” on the feeling (riding it “up” and “down”) until it dies down completely.

A quick visualization such as the one above can help you to better practice silence and patience in your real-world interactions – and diminish your urge to always respond to others.

Keep in mind that “silence” as an individual response to something someone says is different than the silent treatment, which is often a long-term withdrawal of attention to try to punish someone or manipulate their behavior (like purposely not answering your boyfriend/girlfriend’s phone calls for a week, or refusing to acknowledge your spouse because you’re mad about something).

Silence can be a mature response to a comment that isn’t worth giving extra attention to, but the “silent treatment” is often an immature pattern of behavior to coerce people or hurt them. It’s important to understand the difference if you want to practice silence in healthy and productive ways.

One last thing, consider that the people that we most dislike can often be our greatest teachers when it comes to practicing “silence” and being more patient and tolerant toward others.

Those who find most annoying are our most difficult challenges and tests when it comes to learning how to just sit and be silent, but this can be a healthy thing that makes us better people. The Dalai Lama refers to it as the enemy’s gift.

Overall, never underestimate the power of silence. It’s an important tool for communication and social skills that can improve both your everyday relationships and your overall mental health and well-being.

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post The Power of Silence: When To Keep Your Mouth Shut and Preserve Your Energy appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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Everyone knows exercise is good for you, but many have trouble transforming that belief into action and making exercise a consistent habit in their lives.

One reason may be lack of motivation or discipline, but another reason could be that you just haven’t yet found the type of exercise that works best for you and resonates with you.

The more we know ourselves, the easier it is to create new habits that work for us.

So the first step toward exercising more is understanding your individual personality. And by doing this, you’ll be able to choose types of exercises that fit you best and actually bring you happiness, pleasure, and joy – keeping you motivated to stick with these new habits in the long-term.

In this article, we will look at the Big 5 Personality Traits (one of the most common measures of personality in psychology) and how each of these traits can influence you preferences for different types of exercise and fitness.

The Big 5 Personality Traits

The Big 5 Personality Traits are the most commonly studied traits in psychology. These traits are heavily influenced by our genes and biology, so understanding where we lie on them is important for self-awareness and improving our lives.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each trait:

  • Openness to experience – High openness to experience is associated with creativity and intellectual curiosity, while low openness to experience is associated with caution, stability, and consistency.

  • Example (high): “I like learning new things.”

    Example (low): “I don’t consider myself an intellectual person.”

  • Conscientiousness – High conscientiousness is associated with organization and efficiency, while low conscientiousness is associated with being carefree and easy-going.

  • Example (high): “I like to be prepared and follow a schedule.”

    Example (low): “I can be a messy and disorganized person.”

  • Extraversion – High extraversion is associated with being more outgoing and energetic, while low extraversion is associated with being more reserved and enjoying solitude. (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)

  • Example (high): “I like being around people and don’t mind being the center of attention.”

    Example (low): “I find people often drain my energy.”

  • Agreeableness – High agreeableness is associated with being friendly and compassionate, while low agreeableness is associated with being more challenging and critical.

  • Example (high): “I like to help people and sympathize with their feelings.”

    Example (low): “I like to debate others about controversial subjects.”

  • Neuroticism – High neuroticism is associated with sensitivity and nervousness, while low neuroticism is associated with security and confidence.

  • Example (high): “I get stressed out easily.”

    Example (low): “I am relaxed most of the time.”

This is just a quick breakdown of the Big 5 Personality Traits. As you read about them, you can probably estimate a rough guess on where you score for each one. You can find some free tests online for a more thorough analysis.

Keep in mind that none of these traits are “either/or,” but instead they exist on a spectrum. A person can be highly extraverted, moderately extraverted, or only mildly extraverted.

Also remember that none of these traits are necessarily “good” or “bad,” but it often depends on the context and situation. For example, while we typically see “agreeable” as being a positive trait, some studies show that those who rank high on agreeableness are also more conformist and obedient, like in this study done using the Milgram Experiment. And while we typically see “neuroticism” as being a negative trait, another study shows that neuroticism and conscientiousness together can help motivate more healthy and goal-oriented behaviors.

It’s important to not judge these personality traits as necessarily “good” or “bad,” but to see how they can fuel both healthy and unhealthy behaviors depending on the context.

Now let’s focus on how the Big 5 Personality Traits translate when it comes to physical exercise.

How Personality Influences Exercise Preferences

Now that we know the basics behind the Big 5 Personality Traits, let’s focus on how this can influence our exercise preferences and how we can use this information to choose a workout that fits us best.

Here’s a simple breakdown of exercise preferences for each personality trait:

    High Openness: Seek a variety of new exercises and activities (anything from Yoga to rock climbing) to keep your mind stimulated and fresh. Also practice working out at different places instead of just going to the gym, such as in nature or at the beach.

    Low Openness: Seek a stable routine by keeping exercises and activities similar on a day-to-day basis until you are comfortable with them. Also stick to only one place for your workout to build consistency and familiarity.


    High Conscientiousness: Naturally good at sticking to new habits, keeping themselves motivated, and tracking their progress. Less likely to need a supervisor or trainer to hold them accountable.

    Low Conscientiousness: Not as responsible at keeping up with their habits, so benefit more from a trainer, supervisor, or “workout buddy.” It’s encouraged that they seek mobile apps and/or activity trackers to monitor their progress and hold themselves more accountable.


    High Extraversion: Feed off exercising with other people, especially team-based or group-based exercises that have a heavy social component to them. A dancing class, sports league, or group gym session are some examples of activities that would appeal to them.

    Low Extraversion: Prefer exercising by themselves, especially solitary activities like jogging, swimming, lifting weights at home, or going for a bike ride. Less likely to be motivated at a crowded gym or in a large group setting, would rather have their own space.


    High Agreeableness: Enjoy exercises that involve cooperation and teamwork where they can give and receive support from others in a kind and friendly manner. Competitive environments may be too overwhelming or intense for them.

    Low Agreeableness: Enjoy exercises that involve competition, as well as trainers or work-out buddies that challenge them and push them. Often benefit from turning things into a friendly contest that they can “win.” Also enjoy trying to beat their personal records and high scores.


    High Neuroticism: Due to high stress and anxiety, they benefit more from fun and relaxing exercises and workout environments. Should try to ease their way into new routines by taking smaller steps until they are more comfortable and stable. Need extra support and encouragement from others when starting out.

    Low Neuroticism: Have an easier time throwing themselves into new routines and environments and adapting to them. Enjoy exciting and high intensity exercises, and they are good at high pressure situations in sports and competitions.

This is just a quick summary of how these Big 5 Personality Traits can influence your exercise preferences.

Ultimately, the more you understand yourself, the easier it will be to build a healthy and fit lifestyle that works for you and not against you. It’s easier to stay motivated when you’re engaging with activities that resonate with you on an individual level.

Which traits do you find influence your fitness preferences the most? What are some changes you could make to your exercise routine to make it better suit you and your personal needs?

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post How Your Personality Shapes What Types of Exercise Work Best For You appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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It’s important for a business to “one up” their competition to succeed, but the same isn’t necessarily true for our relationships.

One-upmanship is when someone does or says something in order to show off or prove that they are better than someone else.

For example, when someone tells a story to a friend about how they finally got into the college they really wanted to go to, but then the friend responds with, “Oh yeah? Well I just got accepted into an Ivy League school!”

When someone tries to “one up” someone, they often belittle the other person’s experience while trying to boost their own ego and self-importance at the same time.

This is a common habit for some people who always want to have the spotlight, but it can actually be a very destructive behavior that ultimately makes you come off snobby, annoying, and just plain arrogant.

The simple truth is our relationships shouldn’t be viewed as a competition, and when we start treating them as such and trying to “one up” everything people say, it can often make things toxic and unpleasant to be around.

We can “one up” people when it comes to positive experiences, but we can also “one up” people when it comes to negative experiences as well.

For example, when someone shares a story to a friend about a bad day they had because their boss reprimanded them, but then the friend responds with, “Oh yeah? Well, I had a bad day where my boss almost fired me in front of everyone!”

Whether it’s happiness or suffering, people often try to “one up” to make their lives seems more interesting or important than the other person.

Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to share your story. And if someone brings up something that is related to your story, then it makes sense that you’d want to share your experience as well.

Sharing is good, but the unhealthy trap is when you always feel the need to “one up” someone else’s story. Recognize that you don’t always need to make the conversation about you.

Sometimes, it’s important to let people have the spotlight and keep your responses relevant to their experiences:

  • If something good happens to someone, be happy for other people’s success and congratulate them on their accomplishments.
  • If something bad happens to someone, learn to empathize with their suffering and let them know you are there for them if they need anything.

There’s a time and a place to share your stories, and there’s a time and a place to just be quiet and listen.

Do you know anyone in your life who always tries to “one up” people? Do you sometimes find yourself doing it?

We have a natural desire to want to look good in front of others and feel important, so we may sometimes try to “one up” people without even realizing it.

A general principle to keep in mind is that most healthy conversations start with focusing more on the other person. Be curious. Ask questions. Listen. That’s the stuff that lets people know we care and builds genuine connections.

It’s a simple and commonsense reminder, but it’s something to be mindful of in your daily conversations.

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post One-upmanship: Don’t Be the Person Who Tries to “One Up” Everyone appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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One of the biggest obstacles to self improvement is overcoming your self-image.

Your “self-image” is a mental picture of how you view yourself and how you believe others see you. This includes not only physical characteristics (like height, weight, and body shape), but also mental characteristics (such as your personality, confidence, skills, and attitude).

We often consider this self-image to be an objective truth. We think to ourselves, “Of course I know who I am! How could I not?”

But the actual truth is that our self-image is often a subjective interpretation. We take facts and events that have happened to us, and then we put them through a mental filter that ultimately creates our conception of “me” and “my story.”

At times, we need to try to step outside of our limited “self-image” before we can learn something new about ourselves or grow in an unexpected way.

One great exercise to do this is to imagine the “opposite version” of yourself.

Imagine the “Opposite Version” of Yourself

To start imagining the “opposite version” of yourself, first make a list of traits you associate with yourself and then write down what their opposite would be.

For example…

  • Introverted? What would a very extroverted version of you look like?
  • Anxious? What would a really calm and relaxed version of you look like?
  • Low Self-Esteem? What would a super confident version of you look like?
  • Emotional? What would a more rational version of you look like?
  • Closed-minded? What would a more open-minded version of you look like?
  • Disagreeable? What would a more kinder and friendly version of you look like?

Of course the traits you choose might be different, but you get the idea.

I recommend focusing more on traits that you find unhealthy or want to balance more – as the main aim of this thought experiment is to nudge your mind in a different direction.

Once you begin conceptualizing this “opposite version” of yourself, IMAGINE how they would act differently than you in certain situations.

For example, how would the “super confident” you think and act during a job interview, or first date, or public presentation? What would be different? What would it look like from a third-person perspective? What would it feel like from a first-person perspective?

Close your eyes and take a moment to visualize it in as much detail as possible.

For extra points, stand up and physically role-play as this “opposite version” of yourself. Really get into it and play pretend: talk out-loud to imaginary people, walk around the room, make gestures with your hands. Exaggerate. Have fun with it.

This thought experiment may feel a bit silly and awkward at first, but it’s not meant to be taken too seriously.

Simply see this exercise as a fun and creative way to experiment with your self-image. It’s similar to how a child “plays pretend” with different social roles as they develop their sense of self and identity.

It’s even possible you’ll find some of the new ways you “act out” this new identity resonate with you more than you would expect. Maybe you’ll discover hidden aspects of yourself that are lying dormant?

Keep in mind, the goal isn’t to become this “opposite version” of yourself, but to begin to nudge your mind in new and different directions – and open yourself up to new possibilities for self-growth.

Think about it, if you could achieve just 10% of “super confident” you, how much of a change could that potentially make in your life?

But to move in that direction, you’ll have to at least be able to see it in your mind’s eye. And if you’re not open to the possibility of this new self, then you’re going to have a difficult time turning it into a reality.

Imagining this “opposite version” of yourself can be a great first step in sparking self-change.

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post Imagine the Opposite Version of Yourself: A Thought Experiment to Spark Change appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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When something happens to us in life, our instinct is often to immediately take action and respond to it.

Make a mistake at work? Slam the desk. Someone pisses you off? Snap back at them. Want that slice of cake? Grab it and take a bite. Someone cuts you off while driving? Honk your horn and throw up the middle finger.

React. React. React.

Life is one continuous cycle between things happening to us and us responding to them. And often we aren’t even aware of these automatic reactions until they’ve happened.

However, sometimes the best response is no response. Especially in a heated moment, our first impulse isn’t always the most healthy one. Often it’s better to take a “step back” and wait before you make a final decision.

But our current society trains us to be hyper-reactive.

At any given moment, we can get whatever we want whenever we want it, whether it’s downloading a favorite song in a few seconds, buying a new product online with one click, or sending out a message instantly to hundreds of people through social media.

Thus, we’ve become addicted to instant gratification. Why wait for anything when you can get an instant reward right away? Act now, act now, act now!

In such a world, we have forgotten the life-changing art of taking a “step back.”

The Art of Taking a Step Back

To take a “step back” simply means to give yourself time and be patient. Instead of reacting impulsively, wait for the dust to settle before making a choice or moving forward.

Here are the core reasons why taking a “step back” can be so powerful…

A “step back” allows you to cool down intense emotions

Our “emotional brains” often react much faster than our “thinking brains.”

So when we feel intense emotions, it’s often difficult to think clearly in the moment – and that’s when our emotions can override our better judgment.

Worst of all, the hot/cold empathy gap shows that we are often bad at predicting how we will act in a highly-charged emotional situation until we are experiencing it first-hand. We all have a type of “Jekyll and Hyde” dual-personality living inside us, and who comes out can largely depend on our emotional state.

When you are experiencing intense emotions, often taking a “step back” is the only way to cool them down and come to your senses.

In this case, a “step back” could mean excusing yourself to go into the other room, going for a short walk, sleeping on a problem, or even just reminding yourself to take 10 deep breaths.

A “step back” allows you to re-direct your current path

If you are walking through nature and you find yourself going down a wrong path, sometimes you need to take a literal step back to correct yourself.

While it may feel frustrating or painful to take this “step back” and admit you made a mistake, it’s certainly better than continuing to go the wrong way. Right?

Metaphorically, taking a “step back” can help us re-direct the paths we choose in life as well, whether it’s in our career, relationships, health, habits, or personal goals.

The ability to take a “step back” actually gives us freedom. It means we aren’t chained to our current choices in life, and we have the power to reevaluate and make a change.

Sometimes it means taking a break from a relationship, or taking a break from your career, or even quitting goals when they no longer serve your values and interests.

Instead of blindly moving forward, it’s important for us to “step back” and reflect on how our life choices are working out in the long-term and if they are something we should stick to or not.

A “step back” allows you to slow down and enjoy the view

The ability to “step back” is also essential for our happiness and well-being.

When you are constantly moving forward and you’re always looking toward the next thing you want, it can be difficult to find time to just relax and be grateful for everything you already have.

Sometimes you just need to stop and enjoy the view.

Take a moment to sit down and reflect on all the good things in your life. Reflect on positive memories. Identify things you are grateful for. Meditate. Appreciate everyday occurrences of nature. Engage in experiences that knock you off your feet and create awe (like watching a beautiful sunset or gazing at the stars).

Life passes us quickly when we aren’t paying attention to what is right in front of us. Taking a “step back” permits us to just relax and be happy in the present moment.

We all need to find a healthy balance in life between “moving forward” and “taking a step back.” While it’s important for us to push ourselves and be ambitious, it’s equally important that we find time to just sit and be happy. Make time for both in your life.

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post The Art of Taking a Step Back appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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Our beliefs and underlying assumptions about ourselves can have a big influence on how we act each and every day.

Often times we may not even be aware of these beliefs, even though we think or say them on a frequent basis. Instead, we just take them as accurate views of the world and we don’t question them as only opinion.

One of the most important things to understand when it comes to self improvement is that there are common patterns of belief in those who are happy and successful vs. those who seem to always struggle and stagnate.

Just as there are common beliefs in happy and successful minds, there are also common beliefs in mediocre minds that don’t ever seem to change, grow, or improve.

It is important that we become more aware of these belief patterns and how they may be influencing our lives and the choices we make.

In this article, I will summarize 7 core beliefs that often halt our change, growth, or improvement. Most of these beliefs are ones I’ve held in the past, so I know first-hand how devastating they can be when it comes to holding us back.

7 Beliefs in “Mediocre Minds” That Often Halt Growth

Here are 7 common beliefs found in “mediocre minds.” Do you recognize any of them in yourself? How is this type of thinking holding you back and halting your growth?

1. “This is just who I am.”

One of the biggest causes of mediocrity is the belief that “This is just who I am.”

This reflects a fixed self that implies you will always be a certain way because that’s how you were in the past. So when people adopt this mindset, they don’t see any point in trying to change themselves because they see it as hopeless and impossible.

However, the truth is people change all the time. And some research even shows that people change a lot more than they realize over the course of a lifetime.

Our sense of “self” is dynamic and constantly evolving depending on new experiences and new things we learn. Compare who you are now to who you were 5, 10, or 20 years ago and you’ll likely find some big changes have occurred along the way.

Embracing this dynamic self is absolutely essential for self-improvement and self-growth. Once you accept that you are always changing, you’ll begin to take more power over the ways you change.

2. “Nothing ever works out.”

Another common belief that halts our growth is “Nothing ever works out.”

Often our mistakes, failures, and disappointments stick in our minds stronger than our accomplishments. Many of us have a negativity bias because our minds are naturally focused on “fixing problems” rather than “reflecting on the good.”

Unfortunately, due to this bias we sometimes mistakenly believe that “nothing ever works out” or “nothing ever goes my way.” But upon deeper reflection, we can often prove ourselves wrong by challenging our beliefs and actively finding examples to the contrary.

It’s important that we take the time to step back and remind ourselves of times when we did succeed or do something great. Even if it’s something small or trivial, it’s evidence that we can do good.

One healthy exercise is to create a jar of awesome (where you write down past accomplishments on little sticky notes and collect them in a jar). Then when you’re feeling down, take out a random note to read it and remind yourself of those positive memories.

3. “I don’t deserve happiness or success.”

Another major roadblock to self improvement is the belief that “I don’t deserve happiness or success.”

Many people suffer from very low self-esteem and low self-worth, so they simply believe that “happiness” or “success” (however we define them) aren’t meant for us, but for other people who deserve them more.

But who is to decide what we deserve? Nobody that achieves happiness is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and must learn to forgive themselves.

Maybe you have a really troubled past. Maybe you’ve even hurt people or let them down. Feeling guilty about these bad decisions is natural (and even healthy, in the right doses). But at the end of the day, you must learn to forgive yourself completely.

If you don’t fundamentally believe that you deserve happiness or success, then they will always be out of reach to you. You might even sabotage yourself when you start getting too close.

I’m here to tell you that everyone, including yourself, deserve happiness or success in some form. And hopefully you can start believing that too.

4. “Everyone else is to blame.”

One of the most destructive beliefs in mediocre minds is that “Everyone else is to blame.”

While certainly we are born into circumstances that aren’t in our control, and bad things can happen to us that we don’t deserve, at the end of the day you need to take some responsibility over your choices and actions if you ever want to make a real change in your life.

Too often people try to shift the blame away from themselves and onto others. We try to blame our parents, our teachers, our friends, or society at large for why our lives are the way they are.

Some people even get a degree of pleasure by pointing out all the ways they are a victim of their circumstances. “Poor me!” is one of the many psychological games people play to avoid making a change in their lives.

The biggest problem with this mindset is that we begin to identify ourselves as nothing but a victim, so we have no motivation to try to improve ourselves or our life circumstances. By doing this, our victimhood begins to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s important to break the cycle of blaming others if you ever want to make a change in your life, otherwise it’ll be nearly impossible.

5. “I’m not ready to take action yet.”

Another common hurdle that halts people’s growth is the idea that “I’m not ready to take action yet.”

Many of us have goals and aspirations that have been lingering in our minds forever, but when it comes to taking any type of action on these goals we come up with a bunch of excuses.

For example, many people think they need to learn more or do more research first, so they become information junkies – constantly consuming new articles, books, and videos about a topic, but never taking any of the information and applying it to their daily lives. It’s like watching video after video about exercising, but never stepping foot in a gym.

In a similar way, people wait for the “perfect moment” or “perfect timing” to start making a change, but that moment rarely comes. This is a symptom of perfectionism which often eats away at our happiness and causes us to endlessly procrastinate in our lives.

The truth is you can’t wait for the stars to align, sometimes you just need to start where you are and jump right in. Start taking small steps and begin moving in the right direction; because without action, progress is impossible.

6. “I have to meet other people’s expectations.”

One of the most pervasive beliefs that holds us back is the idea that “I have to meet other people’s expectations.”

We often get trapped into chasing other people’s versions of happiness and success rather than our own. Thus we end up making life choices and career choices based on the approval of others, but neglect to take into account our own personal values.

You can do everything by the book based on what society tells you to do, but you won’t necessarily find happiness if those values don’t match your own.

While you shouldn’t rebel against society just for the sake of rebelling, you should be skeptical of how society’s expectations shape your decisions in life, and whether or not that influence is healthy for you.

To a degree, most happy and successful people “stand out” from society in some way, because they are willing to follow their own vision for how they want to live, even if it deviates from what others expect.

7. “I feel comfortable in my current situation.”

The last core belief behind mediocre minds is that “I feel comfortable in my current situation.”

In fact, most people don’t change or improve because they feel safe keeping things the same. In psychology, many of us have a status quo bias, where we prefer things that are familiar and known to us, and try to steer away from what is unknown.

If our current situation is “good enough,” there’s no real incentive to want to change it, even if in the long-term your current patterns may lead to something much worse.

One way to snap yourself out of this mindset is to zoom out and try to see the bigger picture.

For example, if you were to keep doing everything you are doing right now, would you still be happy in the future? If your answer is “Yes,” then maybe you really don’t need to change anything in your life.

However, if you zoom out into the future and think your current path will leave you unsatisfied or unfulfilled, then that may be a sign you should start changing things now to build a better future.

Don’t settle for less just because it feels comfortable or safe. You only live one life, why not aim to make the most of it?


All of these beliefs can contribute to “mediocre minds” and “mediocre people.” For those of us who seek more out of life, we’re going to need to ditch these unhelpful beliefs and create new ones that better serve ourselves and our goals.

Which beliefs above do you relate to the most? How are they influencing your life?

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post Mediocre Minds: 7 Beliefs That Halt Change and Growth in Our Lives appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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When you talk with people, do you usually share good news or bad news? The answer to this question could make a big difference in how people perceive you overall.

While we often say “don’t shoot the messenger” when delivering bad news, the truth is that most people have a hard time separating the message vs. the messenger.

In one interesting study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers conducted 11 different experiments (real and imagined) and discovered that most people have a less favorable view of someone when that person presents them with bad news.

For example, in one experiment participants were asked to choose a number with the possible reward of $2 (depending on if the number was odd or even). After choosing the number, a research assistant handed them the result to read out-loud. Participants consistently rated the “innocent messenger” as less likable when they received bad news over good news.

The researchers found this effect was even stronger when the bad news was surprising or unexpected, such as a staff member at an airport informing someone that their flight had been delayed 3 hours.

While our logical brains understand the messenger isn’t responsible for the bad news, our emotional brains can’t help but build the unconscious association between “bad news” and “the messenger.”

Thus, “shooting the messenger” is a fairly typical human response. And this is definitely something to be aware of during our own conversations and human interactions.

What if you made a conscious effort to share more good news with others?

Ultimately, the types of emotions you express most toward others is going to shape how people see you at the end of the day.

If you are someone who is always dwelling on the negative, criticizing, worrying, or nitpicking, people are going to naturally associate you with that negative energy – and they aren’t going to like being around you too much.

But if you are someone who focuses on the positive, encourages, compliments, and inspires, people are going to naturally associate you with that positive energy – and that’s going to make you much more likable and friendly to be around.

Instead of making people want to “shoot the messenger,” transform that into a “bless the messenger” mentality. Share positive news. Share information you think is relevant to their interests. Share funny jokes or memes you think they will get a kick out of.

Gradually, people will begin to associate you with a more positive mentality and positive outlook on life. When they see a text or phone call from you, they will light up in anticipation of what you want to share with them, rather than dreading more bad news or negativity.

This is true for both our real-world interactions as well as our online interactions on social media. What type of content do you usually share on your feeds? Is it more positive/inspiring or negative/critical?

Ask yourself, “What am I ultimately broadcasting to others?”

Of course, while it’s important to be mindful of the types of emotions you are often expressing to others (whether consciously or unconsciously), this doesn’t mean we should avoid talking about “negative topics” altogether.

At times, it’s important that we engage in serious, uncomfortable, and even painful conversations. This is a short-term discomfort that is often necessary to address problems, seek solutions, and resolve conflicts in our relationships (and society at large).

I’m definitely not against these difficult and “negative conversations,” especially if we can learn to be honest while not being too negative and we don’t become emotional manipulators.

One guideline to follow is the “positivity ratio,” which states that a healthy balance between positivity and negativity is 3:1. That means for every one instance of negativity you should aim for three instances of positivity.

Of course, this is just a guideline, but it does highlight the importance of having a healthy mix between both positive and negative emotions, with a healthy bias toward the positive.

The “positivity ratio” can be applied to many different aspects of life. For example, before giving someone criticism about something, identify 3 compliments to point our beforehand. Or on social media, try to make 3 positive posts for every 1 critical post.

You don’t have to treat this as a steadfast rule, but it is an important principle to keep in mind during any type of social interaction.

Ask yourself, “Do I usually share more good news or bad news with others?” If you lean more toward the negative side of things, it may be time to re-focus what you tend to share with others. And it could make a big difference in your relationships overall.

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post Bless the Messenger: Focus on Sharing More Good News With People appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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A lot of what we learn in life – including how we regulate our stress and emotions – is picked up by what we observe from others when we are developing at a young age.

Our parents and upbringing can play one of the biggest roles in what habits persist later in our lives. This is why paying attention to family patterns is so essential for learning how to improve yourself and changing unhelpful behaviors.

If you’re an easily stressed-out or anxious person, there’s a good chance that at least one of your parents is/was also an easily stressed-out or anxious person.

First, if they are a biological parent, then it’s likely you share some of the same genes that are associated with a higher risk of stress and anxiety. That’s definitely a factor in human behavior that can’t be ignored.

Secondly, it’s also likely that you picked up similar habits or behavioral patterns from your parents that contribute to your increased levels of stress and anxiety.

Identifying and being aware of how your parents manage their stress and anxiety is key, especially how it has influenced how you manage stress and anxiety in your own life. In what ways are your approaches similar?

Interestingly, according to one new study published in Journal of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers discovered that giving treatment to parents of children with anxiety was just as beneficial as treating the kids themselves.

This is because parents learned healthier ways to respond to their child’s stress and anxiety in the moment, as well as set a better example in their own behaviors.

For example, when parents are overly cautious and protective over every little thing, that often sends a signal of “danger” to the child and just increases their overall stress and anxiety levels.

Have you ever seen a young toddler fall to the ground, get right back up, and is completely fine… but then the parent comes rushing over and shrieks “ARE YOU OK?” – and it isn’t until that moment that the toddler begins feeling threatened and starts crying?

That’s how powerful a parent’s reaction can be when it comes to influencing their child’s stress, anxiety, and pain. Children are constantly looking at their parents (and other authority figures) to see how they should be responding to a situation.

Of course, this same principle holds true for adults as well. We are always looking to others to see how we should respond to a situation. And at an unconscious level, emotions can be very contagious.

We are social learners by nature (“monkey see, monkey do”), and at the earliest stages of our lives our parents are often our biggest role models when it comes to learning how to respond to different situations in our lives.

How Our Parents Teach Us How to Be Stressed and Anxious

Here is a quick breakdown of the main ways our parents and upbringing influence how we respond to stress and anxiety in our everyday lives.

  • We watch how they respond to their own stressful situations. When you were young and your parents made a mistake, how did they typically respond to it? Did they shake it off quickly and remain calm, or did they overreact, yell out-loud, and dwell on it for the rest of the day? In general, how we see our parents respond to their own frustrations is ultimately how we first learn to respond to our own frustrations.
  • We look to them to see how we should respond to our own experiences. When something unexpected or unpleasant happens to you and you’re really young, you often look to your parents to see what you should do or how you should respond to it. If they always overreact to your minor hiccups in life (which many over-protective parents do), then you’re going to gradually learn how to overreact to these events as well.
  • We pick up their health-related habits (diet, exercise, sleep). Physical health is another big influence over our overall stress and anxiety levels, and our parents often influence what health habits we continue into adulthood. We grow up eating what they eat, learning how often to exercise through them, and following similar sleeping routines. We are also susceptible to pick up any alcohol or substance use habits they had while they were raising us. All of these things can influence our physical and mental health in a major way.
  • We learn from them how to spend our free-time and leisure time. Healthy leisure time is crucial for managing our overall stress and anxiety levels. If we don’t know how to step back and take a break every now and then, then we’ll always feel a bit overwhelmed and frustrated. How did your parents spend their free-time? What did they do to relieve stress and unwind? This likely has influenced the ways you try to relieve stress as well.

These are the main ways our parents teach us how to respond to stress and anxiety.

Are you good at regulating your everyday stress and anxiety levels? If not, how might your parents have played a role in your self-regulation skills (or lack of)?

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post How We Learn From Our Parents How to Respond to Stress and Anxiety appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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Most of the stresses and frustrations we experience on a daily basis aren’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

According to cognitive psychologist Daniel Kahneman, “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.”

In the moment, even the tiniest things can be blown out of proportion. You spill a little coffee on yourself while getting into work, and your brain is immediately hijacked into a state of negativity that lasts the rest of the morning.

Our mental states often reflect what we fixate our attention on. And sometimes the best way to change our mental state is to simply shift our attention to something else.

When you find yourself mulling over a negative experience throughout the day, don’t forget the power of a good night’s sleep.

It often amazes me how much something seems like a big deal in the moment, but then I go to sleep and wake up the next morning not even remembering what I was so worked up about.

This is why your sleeping habits are one of the most essential aspects of your mental health and well-being.

Sleep plays an important role in how your mind processes information and digests it unconsciously. Without a healthy sleep schedule, many people can experience a wide variety of problems: fatigue, lack of willpower, cognitive impairment, and mood swings.

Your mind needs to “turn off” every now and then to function properly.

Sleep is a form of “brain maintenance.” It helps you consolidate new memories based on your experiences, but it also helps you forget experiences that the brain finds trivial, inconsequential, or unimportant.

Perhaps this is why “sleep it off” can be such a valuable strategy. It’s like hitting a reset button in your brain, turning the page, and waking up with a fresh new slate.

Sleep It Off: A Valuable Strategy for Letting Go of Life’s Little Stresses

Here are a few guidelines and suggestions for how to make the most of your sleeping habits.

  • Create a healthy sleep schedule – In general, following a healthy and consistent schedule is the best way to harness the power of sleep. This is essential for both your physical and mental health. It increases your overall focus and energy throughout the day, which helps you better manage future stress and frustrations (for example, one recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows how lack of sleep can intensify aggression and inhibit our ability to adapt to frustrating circumstances). Here are core principles behind healthy sleep to integrate into your daily routine.
  • Sleep on a big decision before you decide what to do – Due to our brain’s natural need for sleep to process and organize information, it is often a good idea to sleep on a big decision (or big conversation) before deciding what to do the next day. In the moment, we often feel like we already know exactly what we want to do – but sleep can give us a nice buffer to realize that there’s a better way to approach the situation.
  • Take advantage of nap opportunities – Napping can also serve an important function in our daily routines. A short mid-day nap helps us to digest the first half of our day and continue the second half on a fresh new note. I use naps strategically when I’m having a particularly rough or stressful day, but it’s also something you can build into your daily routine that may actually make you more productive, motivated, and energized throughout your day (depending on how your schedule works). Don’t underestimate the power of a quick nap when you need it.
  • Ask yourself, “Will I care about this in the morning?” – To give yourself perspective, whenever you’re experiencing a daily stress or problem that’s irritating you, ask yourself, “Will I care about this in the morning?” Even a simple reminder that you can “sleep it off” can help to diminish your reaction to the event and help you see the bigger picture. Sometimes the best way to respond to a negative event is to just give yourself time and patience to let it pass.
  • Practice a “brain drain” exercise at night – One common problem that hurts our sleeping habits is over-thinking. Your head hits the pillow, then like clockwork your mind starts thinking about every little thing that happened that day. One exercise I recommend before bed is a brain drain exercise, which is essentially writing whatever comes to your mind for a solid 10 minutes. Writing is a great way to express and release thoughts in general, but this particular exercise works as a free-flow of random thoughts, which can hopefully help clear your mind before you go to sleep.

Overall, don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep on your physical and mental health.

The “sleep it off” strategy can be a very underrated yet super effective way to deal with most of life’s daily stresses and frustrations.

Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:

The post Sleep It Off: Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Night’s Rest appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

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