4 steps to improve your confidence

Many struggle with New Year’s Resolutions. To make some and then have them fall by the wayside is disappointing. I don’t make resolutions for just that reason. How about not making resolutions but taking action on improving something we all could use more of? Here are 4 steps to improve your confidence in the new year.

Grow and expand your mindset

Confident people are always learning. Learning new ways to do things, learning more about the world. Also, they’re learning more about themselves. Confident people are curious about pretty much everything, so want to learn. By learning more about the world, we open ourselves to different cultures and different values. People in other parts of the world do commonplace things differently than we do. And this can be completely unexpected – things that, once we’re exposed to them, we think that it makes perfect sense. 

Take time to exercise and meditate to fuel your mind and your body.
Exercise (friend optional) fuels your mind and your body. It also improves your self-worth and confidence.

Angeli Gianchandani, professor of marketing at the University of New Haven says that confident people are “avid readers and focus on self-care, making time to meditate and exercise to fuel their minds,” she says. “It is the power of their ideas and imagination to think beyond the ordinary that sets them apart.”

And confident people are unafraid of trying new things. They’re not afraid to fail. Confident people see projects that don’t go quite right as experiments. Try again and succeed! “Those who invite discomfort are able to achieve more, take more significant risks and break through barriers, and are open to facing new challenges,” says Gianchandani. “Discomfort is a form of self-growth, pushing yourself mentally to overcome fear.”

Accepting discomfort helps to eliminate the “what-if” mindset. All those bad case scenarios we’re so used to running through in our heads.

Be vulnerable

The next step to improve your confidence is to ask for advice and admit that you’re wrong (when you are!) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We all make mistakes. You’re only human, after all.

“Having courage means forgetting about being perfect,” says Jonathan Alpert, author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. “So often people don’t pursue things because they feel it has to be just right. They ruminate over how to approach things, conduct themselves, or say something to the point of getting filled with anxiety and either not taking any action at all or doing so in a way that lacks confidence.”

Don’t be so afraid of making a mistake or worry about doing something wrong that you’re paralyzed into inaction.

Be kind to yourself

Another step to improve your self-confidence is to just be kind to yourself. No negative talk! “Recent research has shown self-compassion was associated with self-worth,” says Michele Patterson Ford, Ph.D., a psychologist and senior lecturer in psychology at Dickinson College.. “Knowing your value is an important component of feeling confident in oneself. Self-compassion, however, may actually provide the benefits of high self-esteem without the potential problems associated with high self-esteem, like being egotistical. The compassionate side tames the potential to be self-absorbed.” 

You know you’re worth it, but you don’t rub it in others’ faces! We know that compassionate resilience is the way to healthy aging and happiness in the future. 

Speak up!

The last step to improve your confidence is to speak up. This is the hardest thing for us introverts. Know that what you say is right and can help others. Jonathan Alpert says there will always be people who doubt you, but don’t let that stop you from speaking up, taking a chance, and doing what you believe in. “Criticism just means you got people thinking,” he says. “Many who have taken confident and bold steps have faced resistance. Stay focused on what you believe in and forge ahead.” No one can take your beliefs away from you. If you’re firm in them, stick with them going forward.

Exercise reduces severe COVID risk

Another reason to exercise

We already have lots of reasons to exercise – improve our strength, our cardio ability, strengthen our bones, decrease depression, improve our moods, help us sleep better … (whew!) So here’s another big one to motivate us: exercise reduces severe COVID risk

I'm reducing my severe COVID risk
I’m reducing my severe COVID risk

Yup – we’ve all been so worried over the last couple of years about severe COVID – the kind that puts us in the hospital or even kills us. But we exercisers have had a secret weapon all along. Since the beginning of the pandemic, doctors have said that exercising reduces the risk of severe COVID outcomes, but there hadn’t been data to support how much exercise is actually needed. 

How much exercise do we need?

Do you have to work out like a maniac for an hour every day? Is a stroll after dinner enough? Or somewhere in between, for exercise to reduce the severe COVID risk? A study released just last week studied almost 200,000 adult patients at Kaiser Permanente in California who were diagnosed with COVID-19 between early 2020 and mid-2021. Participants were asked to evaluate their own level of activity prior to their COVID diagnosis. Increments ranged from always inactive (10 minutes or less exercise per week) to always active (300 minutes of exercise per week). We want to do everything we can for our healthy aging, and the CDC’s recommendation is 150 minutes per week.

Researchers found that the more active a patient was before infection, the less their risk of hospitalization or death within 90 days of their diagnosis. “Always inactive patients were 191 percent more likely to be hospitalized and 391 percent more likely to die than those who were always active.”

The more exercise, the lower the risk

The risk of serious infection was reduced for every increment of activity. People who were “consistently active” – 150 minutes or more per week –  were 125 percent more likely to be hospitalized and 155 percent more likely to die than the “always active” group. That is a huge decrease from the “always inactive” group!

Everyone benefits from exercise

The researchers also found that the results were consistent across all demographics. No matter the age, gender or ethnic group, people who were more active were less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID. In fact, researchers even supported the notion that exercise should be promoted as a way to avoid severe COVID. 

One thing to note – this research does not make the distinction between people who were vaccinated or not. But, I always want to boost my chances of a good outcome. So I’m going to keep exercising. 

3 Morning rituals to start your day positively

Have a day filled with wonder!

I woke up yesterday and could not remember what day it was… The day before was unremarkable. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. And all the days are running together. But then I thought of something special I had planned for later in the day which lit a spark. (I planned to design a cover for my new fitness journal that’s in the works.) And suddenly the day filled with wonder. I did the 3 things to start my day positively, and the rest of the day was bright and happy and full of purpose.

It stands to reason – if your day starts well, it will progress the same way. So, let’s consider the start to the day. Everyone has morning rituals. Are yours positive? Do they inspire you to find light in your day? 

Wake up

Paul Valery, a French poet and essayist, said “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” He recognized he wouldn’t get anything done by lying around in bed all day. You need to wake up and get moving to make things happen. So, start your day positively by actually getting out of bed when your alarm goes off rather than hitting the snooze button and turning over. I have it easy – if I don’t get up when my alarm goes off my dogs will step on me…

One positive thought

“Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.” The Dalai Lama knows a great deal about having the right mindset. To create positive energy which will follow you throughout the day, start with a positive thought from the moment you wake up. So even if you don’t have something special planned for the day, think of something positive and that will create positive energy for your day. You’ll grow your resilience with your optimism and create that uplifting mindset. Most days I choose happiness! Whatever else I have going on, happiness makes the day brighter.

Today is my future

“My future starts when I wake up every morning.” Jazz Musician, Miles Davis, realized the value of a fresh and positive start to every day. Embrace this attitude by reminding yourself from the moment you wake up just what you’re striving for and why this is important. Reach forward toward your goals. Davis also was famously frustrated by fellow musicians retreating – going backward rather than forward: “Instead of going forward he was going backwards. I told him not to lose what he brought from Chicago, but some guys just go backwards, man.” (about Darryl Jones, bassist) 

Every day: wake up and stretch. Have a positive thought while brushing your teeth. And remember that today is your future: it’s going to be great!

Do workouts you enjoy

For fitness contributor Elizabeth Enochs, sticking with workouts she actually enjoys is the key to staying motivated to exercise on a regular basis. “I used to work out nearly daily, spending hours in the gym each week. I looked forward to intense cardio and strength training — but for the last couple of years, I’ve only been interested in exercising outdoors and stretching in my house. Hikes, long walks, bike rides, and kayaking trips are my workouts of choice these days. Currently, I’m working out less than I did for most of my 20s and my workouts are easier, but I wouldn’t be exercising at all if I only allowed myself to do HIIT.”

A struggle to stay motivated

Such great advice. It’s a struggle to stay motivated to exercise, day in and day out. I’ve written that it’s not one and done. I wish it were, but you can’t exercise once and say, “I’m good for life. Never have to do that again.” Nope. as one of my workout instructors says, “Fitness is a journey, not a destination.” And especially now, as we get older, exercise is crucial for our healthy aging.

In it for the long haul

I enjoy the books I listen to while running.
I enjoy the books I listen to while running.

We’re in it for the long haul, so you have to stick with workouts you actually enjoy. Because if you don’t enjoy your workout, you’re not going to do it again. As simple as that. I don’t enjoy the act of running, but I do it a couple of times a week. Why do I do it if I don’t enjoy it? Because I enjoy the books I listen to. I see the benefits of running in my improved stamina and endurance, but I wouldn’t keep at it if it weren’t for the audiobooks I listen to on the treadmill.

CDC recommendations

Of course, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week for adults, so I need more than the 40 minutes of running I do a week. On Tuesdays I usually do Pilates to give my knees a rest. Why Pilates? I enjoy the muscle-lengthening feeling I get, plus it’s a terrific core workout. That half hour goes by quickly. 

And a couple of other days every week I do combined aerobics and strength training workouts. I have a library of workout DVDs that I … kind of … enjoy. Combining the aerobics with weights gives me a double bang for my buck.

Do workouts YOU enjoy

But that’s what I do. You have to do the workouts that you enjoy … or sort of enjoy … or don’t mind doing … otherwise you won’t do it at all. So, go for hikes or bike rides. Or dance up a storm and get your heart rate up and the sweat running down your face (and other parts). Do yoga or pilates and get flexible. Because if you don’t exercise, you don’t get the benefits. And you can’t eat that extra half-serving of pasta.

Make it painful to not exercise

Exercise shouldn't hurt, but if the reward for doing it isn't motivating, make it hurt not to.
The exercise shouldn’t hurt, but not exercising should have consequences.

Cue the finger wag! I’ve suggested some ways to help motivate yourself to exercise, including a reward for a good sweat-soaked session. But when you really, really don’t feel like putting down the remote and getting off the nice comfy couch, and changing into your workout gear, something more drastic may be what’s needed. Sometimes you have to make it painful to not exercise.

Reward yourself to exercise

Promise yourself a real, tangible reward for getting in that exercise session today. (I’m a big fan of rewards!) Like a yummy strawberry smoothie with maybe a couple of shavings of dark chocolate, or a quiet place to read a chapter in the book you’re into, or an episode of that series you’re streaming on Netflix. Every day that you exercise, that reward will kick in. It’s OK to do nice things for yourself. Be mindful of that smoothie, though. Be sure that it fits into your eating program for the day. Remember that a smoothie is not a milkshake, although sometimes it can taste like one! 

Over time, with enough rewards, you’ll actually look forward to exercising. Exercising becomes a habit, and one that you would miss if you don’t do it. And exercising is such a great habit for our healthy aging. Your brain actually equates the act of exercising with the ensuing reward – and over time you don’t even need the reward. Things become easy when they’re habits.

When the reward isn’t motivation enough

But some days, not even those tempting treats will prompt you to get up. On days like that, you need the other part of the equation.

If I don’t do X, then I have to Y

Here’s where it becomes painful to not exercise. Not physical pain, of course. How about pain in the pocketbook. Make a contract with yourself. For every day you don’t exercise and there’s no good excuse, you have to pay your favorite charity $20. These days, that’s real pain. Or, if you’ve told your friends and family that you’ve started an exercise program, then you have to tell them that you didn’t exercise. That embarrassment is also real pain.

Make it hurt in your wallet or hurt your pride. Even if you don’t actually tell your friends that you haven’t exercised, you’ll feel the guilt. That hurts too.

Make it painful not to exercise. So go do it.