My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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Take a Look At These Fascinating Happiness-Related Word Clouds.

A thoughtful reader sent me the link to Michael Kelley’s piece, “Scientists Used Facebook for the Largest Ever Study of Language and Personality, about a fascinating study done by University of Pennsylvania researchers, “Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media.”

They used 700 million words, phrases, and topic instances taken from Facebook, from 75,000 volunteers,  to analyze linguistic patterns. This might not sound fascinating, but looking at the word clouds generated by this study is riveting.

They generated word clouds that track the traits of introversion and extroversion, neuroticism and emotional stability, gender, and age.  It’s quite funny to compare the word clouds generated by 13-18 year old, 19-22 year olds, 23-29 year olds, and 30-65 year olds (I didn’t notice an explanation of why they picked these particular age groupings).

From a happiness perspective, I was most interested in the word clouds for extraversion, introversion, neuroticism, and emotional stability. (For more on those terms, read here.)

Here it is, but note, there are a lot of curse words, if that bothers you.

Facebookstudy

 

Hmmmmm. What, if any, conclusions do you draw from this information? And here’s another question. The way that you feel will influence what you post, but do you also think that what you post influences the way that you feel? From my own experience, I’d say yes.

I'm deep in the writing of my next book, Before and After, about making and breaking habits, and there's nothing more satisfying than reading the success stories of people who have changed a habit. If you have a Before-and-After story of a habit you changed, and you're willing to share it here on the blog, please contact me here. Once a week, I'll post a story. We can all learn from each other.

Do You Fall Prey to These 4 Types of Impulse Purchases?

impulse-purchase

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Do you fall for the four types of impulse buys?

When we’re trying to change our buying  habits, one challenge is that marketers are so clever at enticing us into making impulse purchases.

In David Lewis’s book Impulse: Why We Do What We Do Without Knowing Why We Do It, he provides a list of the four main types of impulse buys, developed by industrial economist Hawkins Stern in 1962.

Do you recognize any of these categories in your own purchasing patterns?

1. Pure impulse buying — you make a true novelty purchase, or escape purchase, that’s very different from your typical purchasing pattern

2. Reminder impulse buying — you see an item or remember something that reminds you that you need an item

3. Suggestion impulse buying– you see a product for the first time and imagine a need for it

4. Planned impulse buying — (isn’t this label an oxymoron? oh well) you make a purchase based on price specials, coupons, etc.

Now, I know that some folks out there are my fellow under-buyers, and we have to force ourselves to make impulse purchases of the #2 sort. Even when I know I need something, I hate to buy it!

Interestingly, Lewis notes that people generally don’t consider it a mistake to make impulse purchases. Research suggests that only about 1 in 5 people regret it, and 2 out of 5 say they feel good about it. (If you don’t feel good about it, here are 5 tips to resist impulse shopping.)

If you battle impulse purchasing, what category gives you the most trouble? How do you combat it? Of course, we’re always told to shop with a list–and seeing these four categories makes it clear why that’s helpful in fighting impulsive spending.

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Revealed! Book Club Choices for October. Happy Reading.

Stitched PanoramaBecause nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

  • One outstanding book about happiness.
  • One outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature. I have a crazy passion for kidlit.
  • One eccentric pick. This is a book that I love, but freely admit may not be for everyone.

I’ll post these recommendations here, or to make sure you don’t miss them, sign up for the monthly Book Club newsletter.

Shop at the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD, BN.com, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness:  Daniel Nettle, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are.

Buy from WORD; BN.comAmazon.

An outstanding children’s book: Joan Aiken, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:  Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

I didn’t plan this, but all three books are quite short, so if you’re busy, these three make good choices.

I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds. So I won’t describe these books, but I love all the books I recommend; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely loved.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think? Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness; L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time; and Churchill’s My Early Life.

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Do You Prefer to Aim Big or Aim Small?

big_small_With any kind of happiness project or habits change, we need to figure out what kind of change at which to aim.

For instance, I think it’s important to be very concrete and specific about what you’re asking of yourself:  “Plan lunch with a friend once a week” instead of “Have more fun.”

Along the same lines, research suggests that some people have better success changing a habit when they start small. A series of small but real accomplishments gives people the energy and confidence to continue. For instance, a person who wants to write a novel might resolve to write one sentence each day. Or a person who wants to start running might resolve to run for one minute.

These little steps also help to shape the patterns of our days, to make room for the new activity. The habit of the habit is even more valuable than the habit itself; that is, being in the habit of going to the gym is more valuable than any one particular work-out (this is related to the tricky one-coin argument). Keeping a habit, in the smallest way, protects and strengthens it. I write every day, even if it’s just a sentence, to keep my habit of daily writing strong.

On the other hand, research suggests–and common experience confirms–that some people do better when they’re more ambitious. Sometimes, counter-intuitively, it’s easier to make a major change than a minor change. When a habit is changing very gradually, we may lose interest, give way under stress, or dismiss the change as insignificant. There’s an excitement and an energy that comes from a big transformation, and that helps to create a habit.

A person might be better off giving up sugar than giving up dessert at lunch. A person who wants to wake up earlier than the usual 8:00 a.m. time might find it easier to start waking up at 6:00 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m.

In some situations, and for some people,  lowering the bar helps; sometimes raising the bar helps. What works better for you? To aim big or to aim small? To make a small change that’s easily within your grasp, or to aim at a bigger, more exciting challenge?

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“The Fountain of Content Must Spring Up in the Mind.”

Samuel-Johnson-reading“The fountain of content must spring up in the mind…he who has so little knowledge of human nature, as to seek happiness by changing any thing but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove.”

– Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. 6

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