The Alien Exercise

In Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass, she describes the Alien Exercise for rebooting yourself and getting some clarity. Imagine you are an alien and you’ve just landed on Earth — into your body and life. Take notice of all the connections, opportunities, skills, possessions and people who love you and can help you. What would you do and how would you feel? I think this is great for brainstorming projects, ideas and new ways to enjoy your day-to-day life. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
Find out more about yourself in 5 minutes

This Personal Values Assessment takes only 5 minutes to complete and it peers right into your soul. I felt naked after reading the report of what matters to me the most and essentially, what drives me. I don’t know much about where it originates from but it seems to be used as a tool for leadership and career training. Personally, I think it’s far too personal to share with just anyone. With that said, I did ask my closest friends to take the test and send me their results. It helped me understand them so much better. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
Book excerpts about Happiness

Excerpts from the book, Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels, by Loretta Graziano Breuning:

“Finding threats makes you feel curiously safe. When you know a lion is near, you feel safer when you can see it. We keep seeking evidence of threats, and we get a dopamine boost when we find what we seek. You may also get a serotonin boost from the feeling of being right, and an oxytocin boost if the evidence bonds you to those with similar concerns. This is why people seem oddly pleased to find evidence of doom and gloom.”

“Happy chemicals were not meant to create constant ecstasy. They were meant to steer us toward things that promote survival. When we try to get constant happiness from them, disappointment is likely.“

“Celebrating small steps triggers more dopamine than saving it all up for one big achievement.”

“Your brain will never stop trying to promote your survival. It will take what you have for granted and look for ways to get more – more rewards (dopamine), more physical security (endorphin), more social support (oxytocin), more respect (serotonin). Seeking more is risky. Your brain is constantly deciding whether it’s worth giving up some of this to get more of that.”

— MF

MindClaudia Dawson
How to deal with difficult emotions

Practicing mindfulness is easier said than done. This chart breaks it down into six easy steps to make sense of your difficult emotions. I find that visualizing my emotion as a little tangled mess that lives outside of my body makes it less likely I will react impulsively. — CD


MindClaudia Dawson
Death reminder app

WeCroak (iOSAndroid) is a bit morbid but I love it. At random times throughout the day I get a notification banner that says “Don’t forget, you’re going to die,” with instructions to open the app for a quote. All the quotes are about dying. The app is inspired by Bhutanese culture where one is expected to think about death five times a day to achieve happiness. So far my favorite quote to contemplate is a question from Pema Chödrön: "Since death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?” — CD 

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Advice for talking to new people

I came across this piece of advice pertaining to job interviews, but I find it’s a helpful tip when dealing with bouts of social anxiety: Pretend the stranger you are talking to is an old friend and you’re catching up. Imagining this makes me feel more comfortable and confident. My go-to question with new people is usually a variation of “So what’ve you been up to today?” It takes the pressure off of me to talk about myself and creates a more natural conversation. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
Look and sound more confident

Here’s a chart to remind you of the small things you can do to appear more confident. Speaking slowly is one that I’m always working on. When I’m on the phone, I tap the desk for each word I tap the desk for each word I say to avoid uhms or uhhs. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
Become a mind reader

A good practice in empathy I like is copying someone’s body language to get a glimpse of what they’re feeling. Sometimes taking notice is enough, but if you mimic a person’s posture or positioning you might be able to understand them better. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
Apologize effectively

I often refer back to this Reddit LifeProTip that describes the three parts of an effective apology. (1) Acknowledge how your action affected the person; (2) Say you’re sorry; (3) Describe what you’re going to do to make it right or make sure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t excuse or explain. It’s amazing how easy this is to forget so I have it saved and pinned in my iCloud notes. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
Science of Happiness

This infograph by Happify is a great reminder to check in with yourself and your current priorities. It lists 5 instant ways to boost happiness, and the one that always works for me is to send a quick note to someone thanking them for something they did. Always puts me in a better mood. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
60-second worry soother

Pixel Thoughts is a simple website that just wants to help. Type whatever you’re stressed about into the star and watch it fade away into the universe, while relaxing music is played and you’re reminded that everything will be okay. Works better on desktop, but there is an app. — CDkeep

MindClaudia Dawson
Mood tracking

There are a lot of mood tracking apps out there and most are free, but I have yet to find one as easy to use and well-designed as Moodnotes ($4.99, iPhone). You can customize to the app to check in with you as many times a day as you want, and your level of participation can be as little as adjusting a smiley face from frowning to grinning, to journaling and learning about common “thinking traps” and practices to avoid them. It also provides insights/stats about your moods over time. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
Morning meditation

I try to set aside time to meditate every day. The easiest and quickest way for me is to play positive affirmations the morning while I shower. My favorite is a gratitude meditation that helps me focus, remember what’s important and gets me excited for the day. The narrator’s accent makes it very soothing to listen to and the 9-minute length helps me keep my showers short. Here is a free version on YouTube. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
Meditation app bundles

I’m a meditation-app junkie and have spent many dollars and downloads searching for the perfect one. I would recommend any app by Meditation Oasis. I use iSleep Easy (there is a free version) at night, which lets me create playlists of guided meditations and pair it up with either a background instrumental or nature sounds, with separate volume controls for each. My emergency go-to for quick and re-energizing naps is the 13-minute Deep Rest meditation, available on the Relax and Rest app. I usually start to doze off at around minute 10, but I come to feeling as if I had taken a super long nap, and without that awful groggy feeling. Individual apps range from $1.99-$5.99, but you can purchase bundles, which I suggest, because once you try one you’ll definitely want the others. — CD

MindClaudia Dawson
Favorite habit tracking app

I used the Way of Life app (iOS, Android) to make a habit of making my bed. The simple app lets you set up a list of habits you want to make or break. Once a day you touch a red X or a green checkmark to record your success or failure. It took me about two years to get to the point where I don’t think about making my bed. I just do it. It’s free if you track three or fewer activities. The full version, with unlimited activities, is $5. — MF

MindClaudia Dawson