Kaizen – how to dramatically improve your life?

We know that changing habits such as getting up earlier, stopping smoking or implementing daily meditation or exercising routines is POSSIBLE (but surely not easy). We also know that it takes on average 61 days to change a habit. This is only an average, though, because it can actually vary from 18 to 254 days(!) depending on the individual. Many people get frustrated if they can’t get used to new habits quickly and then give up on them.

The Kaizen approach is used in companies such as Toyota and Ford but can also be applied in personal life.

So, what is it exactly?

It is often called a Japanese technique for improving the quality of life and work; however, as a matter of fact, the theory was created and first used in the USA. The main point of it is to make small changes. You can make little improvements in ANY area of your life.

Trying to take big ambitious steps to improve our lives may be a good idea sometimes but, according to science, most people don’t really know how to stick to their goals in the long-term. Many of us tend to get easily discouraged, change plans and give up on aims when we meet too many obstacles.

If you want to achieve something, try to focus on breaking the goal up into lots of little steps, for example:

  • If you want to start to exercise, why not do 1-2minutes of exercise today, and then add an additional minute every day instead of signing up for a gym and paying upfront to a fitness coach for a few hours of intensive training?
  • If you want to read more daily, set up a low target and add to it a page a day or every other day until you reach your upper target. One page doesn’t take much to read so this small change shouldn’t require too much effort, even if you are busy.

What’s interesting is that the Kaizen technique doesn’t have an end point, last step or final target. It is a continuous development and improvement of ourselves and our lives. For example, if you want to read 30 pages a day and, after making some small changes, you finally reach your goal, after let’s say a few weeks, then this process or aim doesn’t need to end right there. The next step in your personal development in this area could be learning how to do speed reading. The next steps all depend on our needs and ideas.

The Kaizen approach was first used in industries in the depression era in the USA because making greater improvements simply wasn’t an option. The Americans started to look at how little changes in various areas and departments could be made, and realised that, although they took small steps, they eventually added up and had a bigger impact in terms of bettering their businesses. So, they looked at how to make improvements in money, time, material waste, resources and policies.

William Edward Deming (an American engineer, professor and management consultant; 1900- 1993) is believed to be the Father of the Kaizen approach. He was known for introducing and teaching this method.

The result of implementing Kaizen wasn’t just bigger productivity. It also eliminated hard work and taught everyone in an organisation how they could constantly improve themselves and the things around them; and how the work they were doing could be more rewarding.

It was a very successful strategy and after the Second World War, when the Japanese needed help in maintaining their factories and industries, a group of American business advisors was sent to Japan to teach the Japanese how to make improvements there.

The Japanese gave a name to the approach: KAIZEN where KAI means GOOD in Japanese and ZEN means CHANGE. So, KAIZEN literally means good change, but more generally it is understood as a CONTINUING IMPROVEMENT. The Japanese expanded the theory further making it somewhat into an art of living and working.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best, aren’t they? Small changes are more manageable than huge steps, and although they may seem tiny and meaningless at first, they do add up and lead to great improvements.

If you want to try Kaizen in your private life or at work, look at an area (or areas) which you’d like to improve and think what could be the SMALLEST possible change that you could make to create a little difference, especially if done consistently and expanded further step by step in the future.

Kaizen can be applied to various bad habits, for instance, you can decide to waste a little less time watching TV or on social media every day until you reach a goal that you feel happy with.

Are you going to try to implement this approach in your life?

Self-talk and your well-being.

backlit, beach, clouds

Human beings have a tendency to negative thinking, especially about themselves. We are often afraid to do something—for instance, to change a job or start a business idea—because we feel that someone else out there is better than us or that we may not deserve to succeed, or … well, we surely can always find a different excuse.

We may not even notice how much negative talk we keep in our head on an everyday basis. Sometimes we don’t feel confident, good enough, smart enough, quick enough, clever enough, fit enough, beautiful or powerful enough … we just can so easily find a variety of drawbacks depending on the area of life, or of a discipline, that we are thinking of. Actually, we are super-creative when it comes to self-pitying and finding excuses.

We never will be ‘enough’ because there ALWAYS will be someone better at something; someone more beautiful, more powerful, richer, fitter or more skilled. It’s easy to compare ourselves with others and some people’s advice is that we don’t do it at all.

However, if you focus on your strengths and positive traits, and if you start to accept and love yourself more, then comparing yourself to someone who is better should be an inspiration, rather than a problem, frustration or disappointment.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

If you can’t achieve the same or better results, then maybe it’s not what you should be doing. Do what you love, where your strengths can be used, not what you’re supposed to do or what may give you slightly more money.

Love yourself because no-one has the same unique mixture of knowledge, skills, talent, grit, ideas and experience that you have!

Be proud of who you are. You never know who has been looking at you and wishing they were you!

How to be happier? And why we should think of others more?

beach, blue sky, cheerful

Make someone happy. Make someone smile. You’ve surely heard that good vibes and emotions, a positive mood and optimism are contagious. Studies from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, using MRI scans, indicated that people who spent money on others instead of themselves had more activity in the brain areas associated with happiness and altruism. In the research it was also highlighted that the amount of money spent on others did not matter.

The simple act of giving, not always expensive or material things, improves our well-being a lot.

In a different study, carried out by UK researchers, it was found that people who performed some acts of kindness regularly every day for 10 days had a significant boost in their happiness level. Such a short period of time as 10 days had made a huge difference! Again, the conclusion is: helping others makes us happier.

There is a popular Chinese proverb that fits here perfectly:
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. 
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. 
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. 
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

How to reduce stress levels and feel more in control? 

Do you feel you are getting stressed too often? Let’s look at what studies say about dealing with this problem. Being aware that stress can affect our well-being enormously and how to deal with it is certainly crucial for our well-being!

Remember that your emotions are just emotions and they are temporary. Don’t let them dictate how you feel. If something is overwhelming and you feel stressed and you feel that there is no solution, just TAKE A BREAK.

Depending on the situation, different things may help: talk to a trustworthy and supportive friend, watch a movie (preferably a comedy!), unplug and disconnect for a few hours and take a nice hot bath, practice mindfulness or go for a run (take headphones and turn on your favourite music).

When it’s difficult to deal with problems and we feel overwhelmed, it’s best to do some physical activity. Getting more oxygen to your brain, making your muscles tired – this always does the trick and will make you feel better, more confident and calmer!

Diverting your attention to your passion can also be very helpful but it may not always work, for example, if your passion requires quite a lot of attention and focus, because your mind may just not be in the right state, with lots of meandering and not-so-constructive thoughts.

It’s been proven that reading (a minimum of 6 mins) can reduce your stress levels by as much as 70%!

Whatever you decide to do, just don’t withdraw from your life, society, or work. That’s not a solution or a good method to deal with stress. It actually increases anxiety, stress and depression instead of giving you an opportunity to focus and find a solution.

One of the most helpful techniques that you can use on a daily basis to improve your resistance towards stress is to work on your outlook. The way you perceive different situations impacts on how you feel and how your body reacts. Studies found that perceiving difficult tasks more positively, as challenges rather than problems or threats, improves stress levels and makes us feel more in control and calmer. Try to avoid self-pitying, blaming others, and pessimistic and critical thoughts.

And remember. EVERYONE has problems, large and small, now and then. You are not the only one!

How much your happiness can be affected by a major event?

When psychologists talk about happiness, they don’t mean a temporary emotion and people who are happy just in a particular moment in their life (although of course ‘being happy’ is also considered as a short-term state of mind). Positive psychology as a science perceives happy people as those who are optimistic and content with their life more in general and in the long term. They use the terms life satisfaction or SWB (subjective well-being) to cover this in their research.

There is a term called the hedonic treadmill in psychology (which I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts) and it basically means that we get used to new things and situations quite quickly and come back to our usual happiness level after big events have happened in our life – which are significant in either a positive or negative way. Thus, lottery winners and people who lose a limb in an accident are on average, after around a year, as happy as they used to be before these major events took place! It sounds quite unbelievable but there is a lot of evidence that external factors, situations and events, even if significant, don’t have that large an impact on our well-being as we think they would have.

Happiness can be achieved and enhanced by using the power of your mind and inner abilities! We now know, for example, that a change of habits is possible. Our mind is a lot more powerful than we think it is. We often underestimate what we can achieve just by changing our mindset, setting goals and taking actions; and we overestimate external factors. Maybe because that’s easier? What do you think?

Have a look at my recent video about science & happiness: https://youtu.be/xd0KT9gJask and let me know what do you think about it! Thank you!:)

Science & happiness: Does having children make us happy?

baby-child-kid-girl-161593.jpeg

Do you think that having children can increase our happiness or subjective well-being as scientists like to call it?

According to science having children who are up to 5 years old or teenagers makes us actually LESS HAPPY! However, children can make our life more meaningful and what’s interesting (in spite of all the stress and worries), parents live on average longer!

One of the reasons for the drop in happiness levels is that many people who have children feel less happy because they believe that if they were only more organised or could improve their work-life balance they would be better parents. They feel that this is an individual problem but nowadays it’s a bigger social issue particularly in developed countries where people seem to work longer hours and take work home.

In 2016 The Independent indicated that according to studies in the USA parents report they are 12% unhappier than non-parents. In the UK the number is slightly smaller as of 8% parents feel less happy. For Poland, the result was nearly a 5% drop in happiness level compared to non-parents. There are however a few countries where people feel happier when they have children, for example, in France, Norway, Spain or Portugal.

Researchers looked at differences between the countries to try to find out why in some countries parents are happier than in others and they found that government policies or lack of them, and less support from the government contribute a great deal to the increased cost, stress and anxiety felt, for example, by American or British parents.

It was estimated “that a middle-income American family is likely to spend $234,900 to raise a child to age 17.” If the teenager then decides to go to college, that figure may even double.

What makes parents happier in other countries? For example, in Norway or France there are more supportive family policies. In Spain and Portugal extended family networks seem to be very helpful in taking care of children.

I must say as a person who is about to start maternity leave in the UK, I feel happy but at the same time quite anxious about the lack of sufficient support for parents.

How does it look in the UK then?

  • for most women (depending on if and where they work)– very low maternity leave pay (around £500 a month) that is given only for 9 months (then you can have 3 months of unpaid maternity leave if you like)
  • only 2 weeks of paternal leave (for fathers)
  • unpaid parental leave (4 weeks a year, max. 18 weeks in total)
  • in many companies unpaid sick leave/careers days
  • no support from government in terms of childcare until the child is 2 years old
  • although the country is regarded as a developed one, in some companies taking sick leave by women during pregnancy is perceived negatively by employers because some believe that (although we assume that we all know that every pregnancy is different) “pregnancy is not a disease” and women should “get on with it!”

To compare it with Poland, mothers there receive:

  • 12 months paid maternity leave
  • 500 zlotych per month per child for parents who have more than 1 child (imagine that you live e.g. in the USA and receive $500 for every child except the first one on a monthly basis and this doesn’t depend on your earnings at all)
  • paid sick leave during pregnancy

Are you a parent or planning to become one? Are you satisfied with the support given by your government in your country?

 

 

Happy Wednesdays! So what EXACTLY does science say? – part 2

pexels-photo-459953.jpeg

On Wednesdays I always post something about happiness and science. Last week I described aspects which, according to science, are not related to happiness. This week let’s focus on what actually makes us happier.

According to various research findings done in positive psychology happiness IS AFFECTED by your:

  • Subjective health – which means basically how healthy you feel and what you think about your health rather than what doctors tell you;
  • Social class  – this is due to lifestyle differences and better coping BUT remember your circumstances DON’T define you
  • Optimism (naturally!) 🙂
  • Social relationships – meaningful relationships are vital for your well-being. You don’t need to socialise a lot but spending some quality time with people who you trust and who support you is very important for your mental health.
  • Extraversion. “Lucas and E. Diener (2001) have recently argued that extraverts may be more sensitive to rewarding social situations than introverts, and that this may manifest itself as greater feelings of happiness by extraverts.”
  • Being married (but as you know from part 1 of this blog post – having children may make you less happy! Anyway that’s what scientific findings say… )
  • Having engaging work 

pexels-photo-257897.jpeg

  • Leisure
  • Religion or spirituality

Apparently watching soap operas can increase your well-being too but… I feel I probably won’t be very unhappy if I don’t try it…

You can read about this more in Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. The science of happiness by Ilona Boniwell, which is available here . Fantastic read I must say! 😉

41vyhe6spjl

What do you think about these studies’ findings?

What makes YOU happy?