How Making A “Reverse Bucket List” Can Make You Happier

Here’s a productive way to deal with FOMO.

Source: How Making A “Reverse Bucket List” Can Make You Happier

This article originally appeared on Shine, a free daily motivational text, and is reprinted with permission. 

As someone who loves to travel, I have a pretty intense bucket list of places I want to go to, sights to see, and events to attend. Right now, I have about 10 different countries I want to visit, and I need to squeeze in a drawing class to better hone my artistic skills, too. I also want to challenge myself at work by pitching and writing for different publications, and there’s a handful of musicians I want to see perform live at least once in my lifetime. Oh, and did I mention that I someday want to try reading my poetry at an open mic night?

While my bucket list inspires me to take initiative, it can also make me feel, well, overwhelmed. Like a shame-y reminder of all the things I haven’t done. It can feel like I have so much left to accomplish–and that any moment I’m not doing something on the list isn’t a moment well spent.

Thankfully, in the midst of a recent wave of bucket-list anxiety, I learned about something called a reverse bucket list. It’s a mindfulness exercise that has been making the rounds on blogs lately.

The reverse bucket list is pretty straightforward: Rather than writing down all of the things you hope to one day achieve, you instead write down a list of all the things you’ve already accomplished, things that make you feel proud. It’s the exact opposite of a regular bucket list–and it’s an encouraging exercise.


Researchers haven’t specifically looked into the benefits of a reverse bucket list, but the exercise taps into a couple of well-studied topics, including gratitude.

Gratitude is typically thought of as appreciating all that you have in a given moment, but it can also include appreciating all you have done and the experiences you’ve had in the past.

A 2015 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology looked into how “grateful recounting” enhances a person’s overall well-being. The study showed that participants who recalled three good things from the past 48 hours–and briefly wrote about them–every day for a week had an easier time accessing positive memories. And by routinely recalling positive experiences, it sparked an increase in their subjective well-being.

Think of a reverse bucket list as an exercise in grateful recounting: You’re basking in the pride of your experiences and accomplishments, and you’re taking time to get thankful for them.

Reverse bucket lists also tap into the power of nostalgia. Research shows that revisiting positive or meaningful experiences from the past–like that music festival you went to–can help counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety, as well as make people “more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders,” according to The New York Times. Creating a reverse bucket list is like creating a nostalgia playlist–it’s a collection of your greatest hits and memories.

Finally, creating a reverse bucket list can give us a sense of progress. Traditional bucket lists can often feel like a daily to-do list–overwhelming and impossible. But taking stock of what you have accomplished can create a feeling of progress, which can boost self-esteem and motivation. It’s why productivity enthusiasts praise “done” lists–when we see that we’ve made progress, it’s more encouraging than feeling like we’re behind. And we can gain a major sense of fulfillment.


So, how do you create a reverse bucket list? It’s simple: Write down accomplishments from your past that you feel proud of. Boom–you’ve made a reverse bucket list.

There’s no official amount of examples you need, since this list is really your own to make use of. Some bloggers jotted down 50 or more accomplishments, but you can always write down 10 to 15 of your strongest memories if you don’t have time to write more.

If it’s hard to come up with examples, try looking through your social media for reminders of rewarding things you’ve done. If you did something that made you proud, you might have posted about it on Facebook or Instagram. A quick scroll through your timeline might remind you of teaching your niece to ride a bike or getting that big promotion at work.

You can also refer to your real-life social network and ask a close friend or family member to help you remember your proudest moments. Perhaps you’re too humble to remember scoring the winning goal at your rec soccer game last year, but your friend who was on the sidelines that day can help bring up the good memory.

If you still feel like you can’t find accomplishments for your list, try thinking smaller. Sure, big milestones are great additions to a reverse bucket list, but meaningful moments come in all sizes. Spending the holidays with your family, making a new friend as an adult (a goal that sometimes feels truly impossible)–that’s definitely reverse bucket list material.

When I created my reverse bucket list, I tried to alternate between big and small accomplishments. That way, I didn’t underestimate how the smaller things are just as important as the more significant.

Here are the first 10 items from my reverse bucket list:

1. I’ve had my work printed in a national magazine

2. I’ve allowed myself to dance and have fun at Zumba classes even though I’m not a great dancer

3. I’ve climbed the Thórsmörk mountain range in Iceland

4. I disciplined my spending habits and saved up for tattoos I want

5. I’ve scored a spot on both the dean’s and honor’s lists while studying at my university

6. I taught myself how to cut my own hair to save money between haircuts

7. I’ve traveled to foreign countries on my own

8. I was the featured guest on a podcast when I was 19 years old

9. I’ve performed on stage at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis—twice!

10. I’ve had the strength to walk away from a couple of toxic relationships in my life

After you’ve created your list, try placing it right next to your traditional bucket list or keep it as a note on your phone. It might feel like a “brag list”–and a bit uncomfortable to write at first–but know it’s okay to take pride in your accomplishments. This list is by you, for you, and to benefit you.

When I created my own reverse bucket list, I found it counteracted my bucket list shame. Instead of getting anxious about all the things I still have to do, I could look back with satisfaction and pride.

Just as bucket lists can inspire us for the future, reverse bucket lists can make us grateful for the now–for all we’ve experienced and all we’ve done. Create your own list, and see if it can make today feel a bit more meaningful.


After 12 Years of Searching for Cause of Bipolar Disorder, Researchers Conclude it Has Many

Following a 12 year long study, researchers have identified seven phenoclasses that can help doctors to diagnose and track the progression of bipolar disorder in patients.

Source: After 12 Years of Searching for Cause of Bipolar Disorder, Researchers Conclude it Has Many

NEUROSCIENCE NEWS                  

Source: University of Michigan

Nearly 6 million Americans have bipolar disorder, and most have probably wondered why. After more than a decade of studying over 1,100 of them in-depth, a University of Michigan team has an answer – or rather, seven answers.

In fact, they say, no one genetic change, or chemical imbalance, or life event, lies at the heart of every case of the mental health condition once known as manic depression.

Rather, every patient’s experience with bipolar disorder varies from that of others with the condition. But all of their experiences include features that fall into seven classes of phenotypes, or characteristics that can be observed, the team reports in a new paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The team, from U-M’s Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program, collected and analyzed tens of thousands of data points over years about the genetics, emotions, life experiences, medical histories, motivations, diets, temperaments, sleep patterns and thought patterns of research volunteers. More than 730 had bipolar disorder, and 277 didn’t. Three-quarters of them are currently active research participants in the Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder..

Using those findings, the team has developed a framework that could be useful to researchers studying the condition, clinical teams treating it, and patients experiencing it. The team hopes it will give them all a common structure to use during studies, treatment decisions and more.

“There are many routes to this disease, and many routes through it,” says Melvin McInnis, M.D., lead author of the new paper and head of the program based at the U-M Depression Center. “We have found that there are many biological mechanisms which drive the disease, and many interactive external influences on it. All of these elements combine to affect the disease as patients experience it.”

The Prechter program, funded by gifts from many donors, is named for a late Detroit automotive pioneer who fought bipolar even as he built a successful business.

Long-term funding from this program has made it possible to build a massive library of data from the “Prechter cohort” of patients, which is two-thirds female, and 79 percent white, with an average age at enrollment in the study of 38 years. On average, participants had had their first depressive or manic episode when they were 17, and many had other mental health conditions.

Seven classes and the key findings that shaped them

The seven phenoclasses, as the U-M team has dubbed them, include standard measures doctors already use to diagnose and track the progress of bipolar disorder.

In addition, they include:

  • changes in cognition, which includes thinking, reasoning and emotion processing;
  • psychological dimensions such as personality and temperament;
    measures of behaviors related to substance use or abuse – called motivated behaviors;
  • aspects of the person’s life story involving family and intimate relationships and traumas;
  • patterns of sleep and circadian rhythms; and
  • measures of how patients’ symptoms change over time and respond to treatment.

Some of the key findings made in the Prechter cohort by the U-M team include:

  • Migraine headaches are three and a half times more common among people with bipolar disorder than those without. Eating disorders, anxiety disorders and alcohol problems are also more common in those with bipolar, as is metabolic syndrome.
  • More people with bipolar disorder have a history of childhood trauma than those without the condition, it is associated with changes in self-control and attention.
  • People with bipolar disorder had higher levels of saturated fats in their diets, and the research also found associations between levels of certain fat molecules in the blood of patients and their mood or level of symptoms.
  • Looking at the microbes living in the gastrointestinal tracts of patients and comparison volunteers, the researchers found lower levels of a key bacteria type, and less diversity of microbes in patients taking antipsychotic medications.
  • Poor sleep appears to play a key role in bipolar disorder, with links found to severity of depression and mania in female, but not male, participants with the condition. Other gender differences also emerged in other aspects of the study.
  • People with bipolar disorder who have a strong neurotic tendency in their personalities are more likely to have severe illness, especially among men.
  • A range of cognitive abilities – including memory, executive functioning and motor skills – were poorer in participants with bipolar than those without, in general. The study found a particular link between the cognitive abilities of people who carried a particular genetic trait and were taking newer antipsychotic medicines.
  • Two genes, called CACNA1 and ANK3, appear to play a role in susceptibility to developing bipolar disorder. But many genetic variations have been found to be associated with bipolar risk, and more recent findings have explored the role of having a mix of these variations in the chances a person will develop bipolar.
  • Stem cells grown from skin samples taken from participants, and then coaxed to grow into nerve cells called neurons, have proven useful in studying cellular aspects of bipolar disorder. For instance, neurons derived from bipolar patients’ cells were more excitable than comparisons – but calmed down when exposed to lithium, a common treatment for bipolar. Also, the cells show differences in how they interact and function.
  • Key features of speech patterns predict mood states and may be useful outcomes measures to predict the need for intervention to prevent episodes of mania or depression.

Even though bipolar disorder tends to run in families, the long-term study has revealed no one gene that ‘carries the day’ to explain it, says McInnis, who is the Woodworth Professor of Bipolar Disorder and Depression in the U-M Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry.

a depressed looking man

The seven phenoclasses, as the U-M team has dubbed them, include standard measures doctors already use to diagnose and track the progress of bipolar disorder. image is in the public domain.

“If there was a gene with a strong effect like what we see in breast cancer, for instance, we would have found it,” he explains. “We hope this new framework will provide a new approach to understand this disorder, and other complex diseases, by developing models that can guide a management strategy for clinicians and patients, and give researchers consistent variables to measure and assess.”

He adds, “Bipolar disorder has a lot to teach humankind about other illnesses, because it covers the breadths of human mood, emotion and behavior like no other condition. What we can learn in bipolar about all these factors will be directly applicable to monitoring other disorders, and personalizing the approach to managing them.”


The Prechter Bipolar Research Program is still recruiting participants for its long-term study, and accepting donations from those who want to help the research move forward. More information is available at

Funding: This work was supported by the
Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund.

Source: Kara Gavin – University of Michigan
Publisher: Organized by
Image Source: image is adapted from the University of Michigan news release.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Cohort Profile: The Heinz C. Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder ” by Melvin G McInnis, Shervin Assari, Masoud Kamali, Kelly Ryan, Scott A Langenecker, Erika F H Saunders, Kritika Versha, Simon Evans, K Sue O’Shea, Emily Mower, Provost David Marshall, Daniel Forger, Patricia Deldin, and Sebastian Zoellner in International Journal of Epidemiology. Published online December 2 2017 doi:10.1093/ije/dyx229



Cohort Profile: The Heinz C. Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorders are a chronic, heterogeneous and complex spectrum of conditions that typically are first identified in late adolescence and consist of pathological mood swings that include varying intensities of mania and depression. A comprehensive description of the phenotype should include characterization of the longitudinal course of the disease, such as onset, symptom severity patterns, cognitive functioning and comorbidities. Outcomes include impaired social, vocational and personal functioning that often results in disability. Suicide and suicidal behaviours are common in BP and 4% of individuals with BP attempt suicide annually; individuals with BP die by suicide at a 15-fold greater rate than that of the general population.

“Cohort Profile: The Heinz C. Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder ” by Melvin G McInnis, Shervin Assari, Masoud Kamali, Kelly Ryan, Scott A Langenecker, Erika F H Saunders, Kritika Versha, Simon Evans, K Sue O’Shea, Emily Mower, Provost David Marshall, Daniel Forger, Patricia Deldin, and Sebastian Zoellner in International Journal of Epidemiology. Published online December 2 2017 doi:10.1093/ije/dyx229


A psychologist explains the 6 best ways to rewire your brain to let go of anxiety – Hack Spirit

Source: A psychologist explains the 6 best ways to rewire your brain to let go of anxiety – Hack Spirit

Anxiety inflicts all of us on a regular basis.

Whether you experience the type of anxiety that leaves you frozen in your room for days at a time, or the subtler cases exhibited only in nail-biting and teeth-gnashing, you are more than familiar with the symptoms anxiety can cause: shallow breathing, sweaty palms, a racing heart—these are all caused by the “fight or flight” response going into overdrive, activating several responses at once.

Melanie Greenberg wants to help you beat that anxiety away.

A Ph.D. cognitive-behavior therapist who has been treating patients with anxiety for over the last 15 years, in Psychology Today Greenberg describes 6 proven and effective techniques that she regularly introduces to her anxiety-ridden patients.

We’ve summarized  them below:

1) Face Your Fears

It may be cliché, but one of the best things you can do for your anxiety is to simply face your fears.

By pushing yourself into situations that make you anxious and gradually becoming comfortable with the situation, you can melt away the anxiety slowly over time. Familiarity is the key towards moving forward.

2) Shift Focus from Your Fears to Your Values

Anxiety is when we’re too caught up in what we fear, and thus to ease your anxiety, you must loosen the grip fear has over you.

ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, teaches you to accept that fear is a part of life, and therefore we shouldn’t let it control us.

Turn your focus away from worrying about your fears, and towards the idea of living out your values.

3) Breathe and Relax

One exercise that is so simple yet so easily forgotten is to simply escape from your situation and just breathe

By mindfully breathing and relaxing the tension in our muscles, we automatically calm down, mentally and physically. Let your nervous system naturally put an end to your worries.

4) Think About the Threat

Often when we are anxious, it’s because we are faced with a sizable dilemma and we are afraid of the outcome.

However, most of the time the outcome isn’t nearly as bad as we assume. You just need time to step back and reevaluate the issue properly.

5) Become Mindful of What You Are Doing

Anxiety blinds us from the rest of the world, and even from ourselves. We lose track of our reactions and responses, emotionally and physically.

Recognize your actions, and ask yourself how necessary they actually are, if at all. This will soothe your panic and help you analyze whether you are acting rationally.

6) Decatastrophize

What does this mean? It means solving the issue that happened. Anxiety isn’t always an overreaction; sometimes bad things do happen.

But if that’s the case, then it’s time to pick yourself up and fix it. Take the appropriate steps and measures to right what has been wronged; recognize that as bad as the situation may have been, it wasn’t the end of the world.


Here’s how you can be smart and beat stress

  Image: REUTERS/Joshua Lott

People who feel that they control their life events end up doing better on nearly every important measure of work performance.

Source: Here’s how you can be smart and beat stress             30 Aug 2017

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe they can make things happen and those who believe things happen to them.

The first group are convinced that the outcome of their lives and careers is more or less in their own hands, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The second group take more of a Forrest Gump approach—they sit around and wait for the bus to take them somewhere.

University of Florida psychologist Tim Judge and his colleagues have shown overwhelmingly that people who feel that they control the events in their lives (more than the events control them) and are confident in their abilities end up doing better on nearly every important measure of work performance.

In Judge’s studies, these individuals—we’ll call them “the Empowered”—were found to do the following:

1. Sell more than other employees do

2. Give better customer service

3. Adjust better to new assignments

4. Take home an average of 50 to 150% more in annual income

In Good Times And Bad

Of course, when good times are rolling, nearly all of us believe we have the world by the tail. What makes the Empowered in Tim Judge’s studies special—whether they work the shop floor or in the C-suite—is that they don’t get overwhelmed when the going gets tough.

Just like you, the Empowered feel intense stress and anxiety when hard times strike, but they use this anxiety differently. Since the Empowered believe that they have control over the outcomes in their lives, their anxiety fuels passion instead of pity, drive in lieu of despair, and tenacity over trepidation.

Whether the Empowered find themselves presiding over a division with tanking revenues, on the receiving end of a scathing performance review, or staring yet another job-hunting rejection in the face, they refuse to wave the white flag. They redouble their efforts.

Here’s How It Works

The empowered outperform everyone else because the ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

Anxiety is an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are hard-wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel some level of anxiety (also called stress). In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of anxiety.

Image: LinkedIn

The trick is to manage your stress/anxiety and keep it within optimal levels in order to achieve top performance.

We all know that living under stressful conditions has serious physical and emotional consequences. So why do we have so much trouble taking action to reduce our stress levels and improve our lives? Researchers at Yale have the answer. They found that intense stress actually reduces the volume of gray matter in the areas of the brain responsible for self-control.

As you lose self-control, you lose your ability to cope with stress. It becomes harder for you to keep yourself out of stressful situations, and you’re more likely to create them for yourself (such as by overreacting to people). The Yale research shows us why so many people get sucked into progressive rounds of greater and greater stress until they completely burn out (or worse).

Dwindling self-control is particularly scary when you consider that stress affects physiological functions in the brain, contributing to chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. And stress doesn’t stop there—it’s linked to depression, obesity, and decreased cognitive performance.

Here’s How You Do It

If you don’t have the tools in place to keep your anxiety in check when it comes on strong, you’ll never realize your full potential.

You can get better at managing the anxiety you inevitably feel when facing difficult and uncertain situations. You just need to follow the steps that successful and empowered people take to keep their anxiety from taking over.

The key thing to understand before getting started is that you are indeed facing uncertainty—the outcome of your future has not been decided. It’s up to you to develop the beliefs and mental toughness that will make you one of the Empowered.

Step 1: Expect and Prepare for Change

People change and businesses go through ebbs and flows. It’s a fact that even the Empowered in Judge’s study can’t control. They’ve found themselves out of work. Their companies have fallen on tough times. The difference is that they believe they are fully capable of dealing with changes and making something positive happen.

In other words, they are mentally prepared for change—and you can be too.

If you don’t anticipate change naturally, you need to set aside some time regularly—either every week or every other week—to create a list of important changes that you think could possibly happen. The purpose of this task is not to predict every change you’ll face. Rather, it will open your mind to change and sharpen your ability to spot and respond to impending changes. Even if the events on your lists never happen, the practice of anticipating and preparing for change will give you a greater sense of command over your future.

Step 2: Focus on Your Freedoms, Not Your Limitations

We’ve all had the old mantra life isn’t fair beaten into our brains since we were young. This mantra is a voice of despair, anxiety, and passive inaction. While it’s true that we sometimes have limited ability to stop negative events from occurring, we are always free to choose our response.

On your list of possible changes from step one, jot down all of the positive ways in which you can take action and respond to each change. You’ll surprise yourself with how much control you can wield in response to seemingly uncontrollable circumstances.

Step 3: Re-write Your Script

Step three is going to be the hardest because it requires you to change the mode of thinking that you’ve grown accustomed to. Over time, we all develop mental scripts that run through our heads and influence how we feel about our circumstances and what we do in response to them. These scripts go so far as to tell us what to say and how to act in different situations.

In order to be empowered, you’ll need to rewrite your script.

To do this, recall a tough time you went through recently. What was it you believed about your circumstances that prevented you from making the most of your situation or responding more effectively?

Write this script down, and label it your hard-luck script.

Since hindsight is 20/20, go ahead and write a more effective and empowered mental script that you wish you had followed next to it. This is the empowered script you will use to replace your hard-luck script.

File these away so that you can pull them out and study them whenever you are facing stress or strong anxiety. When you do pull your scripts out, compare your present thinking to your hard-luck and empowered scripts. This will keep you honest and enable you to adjust your thinking so that you’re operating from an empoweredscript.

These periodic reminders will eventually rewrite your scripts completely, enabling you to operate from an empowered script at all times.

Step 4: Spot and Stop Negative Self-Talk

A big step in managing stress and anxiety involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them.

Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts.

When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing, and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” or “ever.” If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out.

When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and anxiety and move toward a positive new outlook.

Step 5: Count Your Blessings

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do; it also lessens anxiety because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%.

Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels.

Bringing It All Together

Overwhelming anxiety and empowerment are mutually exclusive. Any time you are overcome with enough stress/anxiety to limit your performance, just follow the five steps above to empower yourself and regain control.


Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, TIME, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

A psychologist explains why materialism is making you unhappy





Materialists lead unhappier lives — and are worse to the people around them. And it seems that social media might be fueling materialistic attitudes, too. This is all according to a fascinating interview the American Psychological Association posted in 2014 with Knox College psychologist Tim Kasser, whose research focuses on materialism and well-being.

Here are the best bits.

Materialists are sad, terrible people:

We know from research that materialism tends to be associated with treating others in more competitive, manipulative and selfish ways, as well as with being less empathetic …

[M]aterialism is associated with lower levels of well-being, less pro-social interpersonal behavior, more ecologically destructive behavior, and worse academic outcomes. It also is associated with more spending problems and debt …

We found that the more highly people endorsed materialistic values, the more they experienced unpleasant emotions, depression and anxiety, the more they reported physical health problems, such as stomachaches and headaches, and the less they experienced pleasant emotions and felt satisfied with their lives.

People become more materialistic when they feel insecure:

Research shows two sets of factors that lead people to have materialistic values. First, people are more materialistic when they are exposed to messages that suggest such pursuits are important … Second, and somewhat less obvious — people are more materialistic when they feel insecure or threatened, whether because of rejection, economic fears or thoughts of their own death.

Materialism is linked to media exposure and national-advertising expenditures:

The research shows that the more that people watch television, the more materialistic their values are … A study I recently published with psychologist Jean Twenge … found that the extent to which a given year’s class of high school seniors cared about materialistic pursuits was predictable on the basis of how much of the U.S. economy came from advertising and marketing expenditures — the more that advertising dominated the economy, the more materialistic youth were.

Materialism is linked to social media use, too:

One study of American and Arab youth found that materialism is higher as social media use increases … That makes sense, since most social media messages also contain advertising, which is how the social media companies make a profit.

Many psychologists think that materialists are unhappy because these people neglect their real psychological needs:

[M]aterialistic values are associated with living one’s life in ways that do a relatively poor job of satisfying psychological needs to feel free, competent and connected to other people. When people do not have their needs well-satisfied, they report lower levels of well-being and happiness, as well as more distress.

Check out the whole interview at the APA’s website.

Plagued by Bad Dreams? Here’s What It Means (and How to Fix It)

CREDIT: Getty Images

Lots of bad dreams are your cue to grab more autonomy, connect to others and engage in confidence building.

Source: Plagued by Bad Dreams? Here’s What It Means (and How to Fix It)

By Wanda Thibodeaux, Copywriter, 

Occasional bad dreams are part of life. (There was the dream I had about getting hit by a bus, for example.) Still, if you’re having bad dreams consistently, you might want to take some Star Wars Jedi advice and rethink your life. That’s because new research suggests there’s a connection between feeling crappy during the day and having nightmares.

The experiments and results

Led by Netta Weinstein, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Cardiff in the United Kingdom, researchers worked on the basis of three core psychological needs. These included autonomy (the ability to have control over your decisions), competence (feeling like you can do a good job or understand) and relatedness. People who have these needs met generally feel satisfied with life, while people who don’t have them met often suffer issues like depression or anxiety. The big question for Weinstein and her team thus was whether there was a connection between these needs being met and how many bad dreams people have.

The team used two separate experiments to gain insights. First, they surveyed 200 people (131 women) aged 18 to 33 about life satisfaction/frustration, asking them to report their most common reoccurring dream. They then had 110 people keep a dream diary and fill out psychological questionnaires over three days. By using two studies, the team was able to look at how meeting psychological needs influenced dream themes and dream emotions both in the long- and short-term.

Weinstein and her team found that people who didn’t have their psychological needs met as well were in fact more likely to have dreams with negative themes (e.g., being attacked, falling) and feelings. They interpreted dreams more negatively, as well.

The researchers admit there’s still more work to do to prove direct causation between unmet needs and bad dreams, and they note some limitations of the study, such as recall bias. Still, the researchers say the work suggests that what we experience on a daily basis really does reflect in what we see when we slumber. The theory is that we dream bad dreams because we’re still trying to process and find solutions for what’s challenged us through the day. This follows the popular hypothesis that dreams in general are a way for the brain to keep looking at our experiences and make more sense of them.

The significance for business leaders

Weinstein’s work is particularly noteworthy for professionals because not having needs met might create a vicious cycle that could spell disaster for your job or entire career: The worse your daily experiences are (or at least, the worse you perceive them to be), the more bad dreams you might have. That said, each bad dream you have can activate your fight-or-flight stress response. Experts have found it takes a full 20 minutes for the hormones associated with this response to fade away and your body to return to a calm state. That can mean it’s agonizingly difficult to fall back to sleep quickly and that, through the night, you lose out on quite a bit of rest. That fatigue can add up and lead into work relationship problems, poor productivity and difficulty making even simple decisions–your sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness all tank. Then the cycle starts all over again.

How to protect yourself

Assuming that Weinstein is correct and that unmet needs help shape bad dreams, the most basic answer is to do everything you can to make yourself feel connected, capable and in control. For example,

  • Reach out to others–invite someone to lunch, call a friend, etc.
  • Perform small acts of kindness for others.
  • Give others your undivided attention during conversations and practice active listening.
  • Make good eye contact.
  • Keep a list of your accomplishments to remind you how far you’ve come and what you’ve done.
  • Make daily to-do lists to help yourself see all the jobs you’re able to get through–finishing small jobs gives you a small dose of dopamine, which keeps you happy and motivated.
  • Acknowledge and accept praise instead of downplaying it.
  • Educate yourself about both general facts and your rights.
  • Identify specific goals you’d like to reach and outline specific strategies for each.
  • Ask for time to think before you say yes or no–don’t answer based solely on initial feelings or pressure.
  • Spend less time on social media so you don’t end up comparing yourself and feeling depressed.
  • Speak up politely (but unapologetically) when it’s appropriate.
  • Take time alone to stay in touch with who you are and what you want.
  • Stay organized physically and with your technology. Be good about clearing away digital and real clutter.
  • Listen to, read or watch inspiring media. (TED Talks work great!)
  • Do something creative.
  • Utilize therapists, counselors, clergy or others you trust–they can help you understand and work through a huge range of difficulties.
  • Consciously remove yourself from toxic situations you cannot fix whenever possible.

As you can see from this list, you have plenty of options to find and maintain a positive groove. The biggest thing to remember is that you are your own biggest influencer. No matter what life throws at you, you always have a choice about how to respond.

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