11 Mental Tricks to Stop Overthinking Everything Stop worrying and start growing

Being a leader requires confidencedecisiveness, and quick thinking–none of which are served by overthinking every decision or scenario or worrying about every move you make. There’s a time to think, a time to act, a time to reflect, and a time to move forward.

Overthinking causes us to spend too much time thinking, getting stuck in a loop of inaction, and turns positive reflection into debilitating worry. Not only does it not move us forward, it moves us backward and downward.

For three decades I’ve been coaching employees and entrepreneurs with tendencies to overthink things, and I can share 11 mental tricks to dash the dissecting and stop the overscrutinizing.

1. Reopen the door only when new information knocks.

Overthinking goes into overdrive when we keep revisiting decisions we make, refusing to close the door on a call that was made. Believe that you’ve done your due diligence, and only revisit something you’ve decided when you’re presented with new information.

2. Know that overthinking and problem solving aren’t the same thing.

Constantly ruminating and going over scenarios and possibilities often disguises itself as problem solving. It feels like you’re doing something good and useful. But you’re not, you’re just spinning in a circle. Recognize when you’re overthinking something, don’t act like it’s problem solving, and press fast-forward.

3. Remember the 90-10 rule.

This is a formula, a ratio, for how you should calculate how you value yourself. Which is to say it should be based on 90 percent self-worth, 10 percent assigned worth. 90 percent should come from your self-acceptance and self-appreciation, just 10 percent from that occasional sliver of external validation we all need.

Overthinkers distort the formula, even reversing it by acting like 90 percent of their worth comes from what others think or say. So they worry, which takes the form of–you guessed it–overthinking.

4. Assume good intent.

Overthinkers read too much into things. Why? They’re assuming something bad lies underneath, something like a bad perception, someone wishing them ill, or an unfavorable outcome. When you catch yourself doing this, switch your assumption to what you’re reading into was well-intended, or at least neutral. The vast majority of the time, it really is, so why not act like it?

5. Embrace informed ignorance.

News flash: You can’t read the future, you can’t read minds, and you can’t know everything. So don’t try. Thinking harder doesn’t activate the crystal ball.

6. Embrace uncertainty.

When we don’t know something, we tend to fill in the blanks, often with garbage assumptions. Why? Many of us would rather be unhappy than uncertain. Garbage assumptions can take many forms, all infusing themselves into the inner monologue of the overthinker.

A Buddhist chaplain once taught me how to handle uncertainty. I remember his teachings as an acronym: OAR. Observe uncertainty, don’t overreact to it. Acknowledge the presence of uncertainty and accept that impermanence is inevitable. Realize that uncertainty brings benefits, like unleashing creativity and resilience.

7. Replace “what if” with “we’ll see.”

Overthinkers keep asking themselves “what if,” which is an impossible question to answer. If you catch yourself asking “what if,” quickly switch it to “we’ll see,” which is a way of moving past analysis paralysis to acceptance.

8. Get outside and play.

By this I mean stop spending so much time in your head. Get outside it and switch gears to connect with what’s going on around you so you can take joy in it. It can be dark and foreboding inside that head of yours, no?

9. Do the math.

Overthinking also comes from overworrying about the worse-case scenario, which of course no one wants to experience. But ask yourself, “What is the probability the undesirable outcome will actually occur?” Odds are, not very high.

10. Stop framing the unremarkable as catastrophic.

Related to the above, this means stop taking small details and turning them into questionable conclusions. Stop making a mountain out of a molehill. Unlike at the mall, this kind of escalator lifts nobody up.

11. Evaluate the true impact of being wrong.

We often feel the need to overthink because we simply fear being wrong. It might make sense to overthink things if you’re planning to jump your motorbike over the Grand Canyon or to go swimming with a great white shark. As for overthinking the decision you made in that meeting yesterday? Not so much.

Ask yourself in such moments what the realistic cost of being wrong is. When you can lower the stakes, you raise your ability to get mentally unstuck.

So don’t overthink it. Take the inspiration here and run with it. Without looking back.

Simple Day After Christmas Ideas to Help You Catch Your Breath

It’s the day after Christmas. Generally, this day is a flood of emotions that can vary from one person to the next, however, I think there is one word that most likely describes all of us: exhausted! Maybe your home is like mine – with all the extra food, all the packaging from the gifts, the used wrapping paper, and more. And then there may even be a pile of returns. Ugh. But, the day after Christmas doesn’t have to bring you stress – it actually can be a peaceful day if you allow it.

Sound like a dream?

It’s not. Just keep reading.

Just-BreatheBreath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.

Before you go any further, one of the things you’ll need is help with clutter. Be sure to grab our download with questions to ask yourself about whether to keep things or get rid of them. Just enter your email below to have it sent right to your inbox!

You may still be in the midst of exhaustion if your Christmas festivities are still continuing. Whether today marks the end of your holiday festivities or that day has yet to come for you, we all must resume our regular lives in the midst of the exhaustion that the holidays leave in their wake.

How then, are we to do this? How do we dig ourselves out from the torn packaging, mountain of wrapping paper and the kitchen that have most likely fallen victim to holiday cooking of some kind. Then there is the endless amounts of toys that need to be assembled or brought to life with countless batteries?

Let’s not forget about the sugared up, sleep deprived, most likely “regular rule” breaking kids since there is rarely room for “regular rules” in the midst of the holiday cheer.

Feel like your head is spinning yet?

HERE ARE SOME SIMPLE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS THINGS YOU CAN DO SO YOU CAN CATCH YOUR BREATH TODAY AND BEYOND.

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1. TAKE A DEEP BREATH

We must start here. If there is one thing I know as an exhausted, sleep deprived, overloaded, overfull, and stressed out post holiday mom it is the need to start with a deep breath. Most likely, you probably have not had a deep breath since last week sometime.

2. PRIORITIZE WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE

The list of things that need to be done all seem urgent, but the entire list of what needs to be done can’t be urgent. We only have so many hours in the day. As a mom, we are in the midst of trying to get our kids to return to “normal” as well.

Take a quick inventory of what needs to be done in the near future. Then, put this inventory list in order from most important to least important.

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3. MAKE A PLAN

Plan the times that you will be devoting to working your way through your prioritized list of tasks. We all still have our “regular” lives, so fitting in all the extras that the holiday rush thrusts in our lap will have to be planned into our daily schedules, most likely little by little.

4. START WITH GOOD ENOUGH RATHER THAN PERFECTION

Start with making things good enough to get by.

Do you have a bunch of things that need to be returned?

Start by gathering them in one place. Then, get the necessary receipts and put them in a bag or box in your car, ready to be returned.

Do you have a bunch of clothes that your kids need to try on? Try putting them in a neat pile somewhere in their room. This way they are out of the way, but not causing a bunch of clutter around your home. You can get to them when you can get to them.

I am sure you have a bunch of new things that all need places to go in your house. With a family of 11, the new things that now need to find homes is astounding.

My favorite way of handling this is to break the things down, room by room, and then put each room’s things in a box or bag in the room that it will need to be put in. Again, this way I can get to it when I can get to it.

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5. ACCEPT WHAT IS

Accept that your house, your kids, and your life will be in a state of disarray for the next little while. Just accept it now – you can’t change it anyway. Know that things will go back to normal in a few days, at least ideally.

6. LOOK PAST WHAT ISN’T GREAT

Look past the things you can’t get to right now. Look past the box of stuff waiting for your attention in each room. Know that it is already partially tended to since you have started organizing things to be put away. But, look past the fact that everything isn’t done to completion at this point in the game. You’ll get there eventually.

7. START WITH THE VISIBLE AREAS FIRST

Start with putting things away in the most visible areas. Attack the main living areas first since this is where you spend most of your time. The list of things you need to take care of is most likely seemingly endless at this point.

However, if you are anything like me, the sooner you can get the areas you look at most under control, the better.

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8. WORK IN ORDER

Get one area or room completely done before moving on to another area. I find it to be so much better if I can get one room completely under control. Then, when I feel overwhelmed by another area, I can breathe in the solace of the one completed room I have.

It also motivates me to keep going on the rest as I can check rooms off my list.

9. REST

I put this last on the list not because it is least important. In fact, I think it may be the most important thing, and it is something that you need to start working in to your digging out process right from the start.

Recognize that in most cases, you have had several long days, all in a row. This means that you need some time to rest and recuperatere. Resist the urge to pass over this rest part in an effort to have more time to devote to the things on your list that are screaming at you.

Plan some time of rest into each day.

More importantly, get to bed on time tonight and in the nights that follow. You are no good to anyone when you continue to run on fumes.

Although we all love the holidays, the after part is not nearly as much fun. However, with every Christmas holiday season comes the time of transition and let down when Christmas is finally over.

Being intentional in breathing deeply, prioritizing and planning, creating ways that things can be good enough to get by while looking past everything else and getting adequate rest will help get you back on the path to sanity in your life once again.

Fill Your Heart with Christmas – A special holiday post

Merry Christmas!

This time of year is the perfect time to reflect and show appreciation. Christmas is a time of giving, I want to give my love to everyone. I am truly grateful for all of my readers, family, and friends that have and continue to support me in my journey. Honestly, I could never have done it without you all.

Take some time this holiday season to be appreciative of those who work when they should be with family and friends, those who are away from those they love, and those who sacrifice for our needs.

 

Among all the memorable events of the year, Christmas is one of the most-awaited festivals. And preparation for this day starts much before the day arrives.

People start planning for the festival, buying gifts for friends and family, making travel plans, preparing cakes and selecting the Christmas Tree and the festivities add warmth to the cold December days.

Christmas Day, which is celebrated on December 25, marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Given the importance of the day, prayer sessions are held in churches and people’s houses from the night of December 24 itself.

The true meaning of Christmas is giving and sharing the love and reaching out to those who have touched our lives. It is a time to count our blessings and be grateful for them. You have touched my life in so many ways, and I thank you for being a wonderful friend. I wish you the best of Christmas.

As you celebrate Christmas, make wonderful memories that will linger in your home, make great friendships that will last a lifetime and may this season filled with peace and joy. Have a merry Christmas.

 

Morning Habits, Jump-Start Your Brain For Success

Ever wondered why most successful people have morning habits? No, it’s not because they’re OCD or odd in any way. They develop habits for this one simple reason: to reduce friction in their lives so they can focus on what they do best. Makes sense, right?

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” — John Dryden

Those who have tasted success, whether it’s big or small, will come to realise that time holds the most value in life — there is simply never enough time and there is always too much to think about. So, by adding, changing, or developing habits or routines will simplify our lives and save us time.

Here are a few questions to help you jump-start shaping your own ideal morning habits:

  • If I could plan my ideal morning, what would it look like?

Your First Minutes

About one year ago, I watched this YouTube video from Jim Kwik, Brain Coach, where he shared his morning habits on how he jump-start his brain for success, focus and productivity.

According to Kwik: “The first 60 minutes of your day can either set you up for maximum productivity and bring you closer to your long-term and short-term goals or cause you to lose another day to distractions and mental fog. Just like an athlete takes care of his body, we need to take good care of our brains to become who we aspire to be.”

And he’s right. What you do to start your day determines how the rest of your day will look like. Therefore, your morning habits are critical for lifetime success. Therefore, I started to change my morning habits bit by bit.

Do keep in mind that morning habits are different for everyone. For example, my morning habits usually take 120 minutes. Yes, that’s two hours. Knowing exactly how the first 120 minutes of my day looks like is powerful. It helps me feel in control, which in turn reduces anxiety and increases my productivity throughout the day.

Here are my top five morning habits to jump-start my brain towards success:


1. Remember Your Dreams

Often when you’re awake, you live your life through the everyday learning, facing challenges, and thinking about solutions and ideas in different aspects of your life. However, it’s not always the case that you find them in that exact moment of time.

So, when you’re asleep, your mind is still working on this search for solution and ideas. Did you know your dream could contain the very advice and insight you needed? Most of us don’t remember our dreams or don’t make the effort to remember them. When dreams are properly interpreted, they bring guidance to achieve what may seem impossible in the first place.


2. Brush Teeth With Your Non-Dominant Hand

This one is fun and challenging. Try to use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth. You will notice it is harder to be precise with your movements. When I first started to brush my teeth with my non-dominant (right) hand, it was hard to move my hand instead of my head.

Here is why it helps you jump-start your brain: Your brain is an organ that improves through mental stimulation, which adapts and rewires itself non-stop through the growth of new neurons.

Therefore, by using your non-dominant hand will support neural connections in your brain, and even grow new ones. Basically, it is similar to how physical exercise improves your body’s functioning and grows muscles.


3. Drink Up To Two Glasses Of Water

The recommended nightly sleep of six to eight hours is a long period to go without drinking water. Hydration is a must when it comes to daily productivity because your brain is made up of 73% water. So, staying hydrated is critical for maintaining optimal brain activity. Of course, it is a daylong process, but starting with a glass or two of water right away is a step in the right direction.

One of the biggest underestimated indicators of weariness or low energy is that you are dehydrated. Water helps in both body regulation and brain function. Also, it is closely related to balancing out our moods.


4. Hit The Gym

A recent study published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice suggests: “Exercise affects the brain in a variety of different ways, from preserving the brain’s nerve network that starts to decline with age, to boosting the function of neurons and improving blood flow to brain cells, as well as promoting the production of growth factors to help cells involved in higher level thinking tasks.”

Therefore, living an active lifestyle with regular physical activities greatly helps to keep every bit of tissues in your brain as young and active as those throughout the rest of your body. In fact, it seems to help slow or even reverse the brain’s physical degeneration over time.


5. Eat Healthy Brain Food Breakfast

Eating a healthy breakfast can jump-start your brain and boost your productivity and focus throughout the morning. Try combining these five “brain foods” in your morning meal to give yourself a mental edge.

  • Blueberries — These tiny berries are packed full of antioxidants that protect your brain from oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, helping to improve cognition and memory.

You can be creative in how you combine these five brain foods. Whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast, even if you’re short on time. By skipping a healthy breakfast, you might save some time but at the cost of your creativity, as well as problem-solving ability. So, head to the kitchen before heading out the door in the morning. Your brain will thank you.

  • What is your current morning habit?

Focusing on “We” Instead of “Me”

Getting your first leadership role is exciting, isn’t it? There’s the office with your name on the door. Being invited to meetings once closed off and mysterious. Getting to make the big decisions. People asking for your advice.

Heady stuff that sends the wrong message to people who think being a leader is all about them.

Being a leader is a little bit about you, but mostly it’s all about others.

One of my first bosses told me that it would be impressive performance metrics and my contribution to the bottom line that would determine my success. It took a while before I understood that his advice about results was only partially right. Managing just to the numbers only gets you so far.

A few epic fails highlighted the reality that results don’t miraculously deliver themselves. They’re delivered by people. Treat people well, they deliver—and everyone succeeds. Treat people like crap and, well, results falter.

Listening with the eyes and the heart, not just the ears and the brain, requires a deeper level of paying attention and understanding. It requires we hear the heart and soul. ~Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge

My way of describing the inclusive reality Kouzes and Posner defined was leading with your heart and managing with your head.

Inclusive leaders know the value of balancing opposing goods, rather than labeling one right and the other wrong. Inclusive leaders deliver results and maintain relationships. They watch both the bottom line as well as employee satisfaction and engagement. They think about today and five years from now.

How do inclusive leaders pull off this balancing act?

They are curious.

One boss I had worked very hard to fulfill the unrealistic expectation that he had every answer. Two sentences into describing a problem to him, and he had the solution—without bothering to ask a single question. Other bosses of mine had the inclusive thing down pat. They were knowledgeable and knew where to go to find answers to what they didn’t know. They openly asked questions, invited debate, poked holes in the status quo, and encouraged those around them to do the same.

They trust.

That know-it-all-boss-with-zero-curiosity didn’t realize it, but he was conveying to his team that they were without skills, knowledge, and the ability to figure things out for themselves. Inclusive leaders surround themselves with bright, inquisitive people and trust them to do their job.

They explain.

At one company, my boss assigned me the project of improving customer service. When I asked for specifics, he told me that since I had to ask, I obviously wasn’t as smart as he had thought I was. Because he couldn’t or wouldn’t or both clarify his expectations, my finished project didn’t please him, and everyone lost.

They listen.

Organizational development and management consultant Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communications is hearing what isn’t said.” Employees perceive reality through their own filters, values, and biases. Deeply, empathically, and actively listening to what employees say—and don’t say—enables inclusive leaders to expand their perspectives, thus entertaining diversity of thought, opinion, and experience.

They care.

Years ago, a woman told me her boss treated her no differently than the file cabinet in the corner—both utilitarian objects there to do a job. Isn’t that a sad story? Inclusive leaders keep both logic and emotion in their management toolkits. They know both are necessary for success, satisfaction, and engagement over the long-term.

Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin. ~Hermann Hesse, poet and novelist

If asked, would those around you describe you as being curious, someone they trusted, a thorough explainer, a good listener, and a leader who cares about them as a person? Would they say you’re inclusive and can balance opposing goods? Ready to find out?

Gratitude makes you happier, healthier, and more popular

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What does it mean to “give thanks?”

Well, it depends. It depends on who, where, when, and how.

If you were around in October 1621 at the Plimouth Plantation, you might have been part of the “First Thanksgiving”. Here, the Native Americans and Pilgrims came together to celebrate the first harvest in the New World.

The settlers had struggled the previous winter due to a lack of supplies and food. Many had starved or became ill and died as a result. Yet, a number survived. Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag tribe, had given the colonists food to get through their first winter.

After the snow thawed, the Pilgrims gradually learned to live off the land. Squanto, from the Patuxet tribe, taught them how to grow corn and catch eel. After this successful harvest, they threw a three-day feast that included waterfowl, turkey, venison, corn, and various shellfish.

Although such festivities were held intermittently in the years since, Thanksgiving finally became a federal holiday in 1863, thanks to Abraham Lincoln. Since then, Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the U.S. on the fourth Thursday of every November.

Fast Forward to Gratitude Today

While roast turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce are staples for the Thanksgiving holiday today, how often do we really practice gratitude?

We complain about this and that. We get agitated when deciding what to wear if we’re not served right away at a restaurant, and after a store doesn’t stock our favorite brand of coffee. But is it a surprise, given we live in an age of abundance?

When it comes to our everyday needs and wants, we have variety right at our fingertips. We can have any type of food delivered right to our doorstep. Our phones ping notifications on today’s trending news. And if you’re looking for entertainment, just open up your internet browser. While these are all good things, we easily take what we have for granted.

People’s acts of kindness often go unrecognized. In many cases, the recipient fails to say a simple “thanks” or give any acknowledgment. In an everyday quest to get things done, people are consumed by their own lives and forget to take the time to thank others.

It seems as if the original intent behind that first Thanksgiving feast has been lost with time.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Both giving and receiving thanks are important. But in order to understand why we need to see the benefits.

There are three main benefits to being thankful:

1. Strengthening social relationships

Gratitude can help us befriend others, improve existing relationships, make amends, and recognize others’ good deeds. In romantic relationships, practicing gratitude for the little things can make all the difference. In one study, expressing gratitude towards the partner improved the relationship quality for both people.

Letting someone know that you’re grateful for the person’s actions, or simply for being in your life, can improve your relationship. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a stranger, friend, parent, relative, or whoever. Thanking others breeds positive feelings all around.

2. Improving our personal sense of well-being

In a study, one group of participants wrote about the things they were grateful for, a second group reflected on the daily things that irritated them, and a third group wrote about their week with neither a positive nor negative slant. 10 weeks later, the grateful group was more optimistic and happier about their lives, while the group that focused on negativity was more likely to visit the doctor.

Giving thanks is not only rewarding intrinsically, but it also helps us feel better about what we have. We’re more joyful overall. Even if you’re having a bad day or things don’t go the way you want, there are definitely some things that you have to be grateful for.

3. Maintaining good health

According to one study, gratitude is linked to the quality of your sleep. People who reflected on the positive things that happened in their day had a better night’s sleep than those who with a negative outlook.

The quality of your sleep is directly related to how you feel during the day and your overall health. Those who were less grateful were more stressed, anxious, and depressed. The opposite was true for those who were more grateful.

To sum it up, here’s a quote from the Wall Street Journal article “Thank You. No, Thank You” on how gratitude affects our lives:

“Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections, and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics.”

How to Practice Gratitude

Now that we’ve seen all the benefits of gratitude, we need to incorporate more of it into our lives Practicing gratitude can easily be done using these three ways:

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Jot down a few things you’re thankful for. Place a notebook on your bedside table so that it’s convenient. The best time of the day to write in your journal is right before sleeping. That way, you can reflect on everything that’s happened during the day and you get a happier night’s rest.

To start and end your day on a good note, try The Five Minute Journal.

Remember to be specific. Instead of writing that you’re “thankful for your friend”, think of a specific example, such as “my friend shared her own experiences with work conflict, which helped me navigate a similar situation.” Thinking of particular instances forces you to think hard about the good things that have happened.

2. When in doubt, say “thanks”

We often forget to thank people for the little things, such as lending a pen. Sometimes, we even forget to say “thanks” for the bigger things, such as gifts or loans. If you’re not sure what to say, a simple word of thanks does wonders in making the other person feel valued.

If you met someone interesting at a networking event or completed an academic course, reach out and send an email to the person to thank them for what they taught you. Opening up the lines of communication can lead to opportunities down the road.

3. Use positive phrases

When you’re faced with a dilemma, switch out those negative phrases for positive ones. For instance, I had a power outage that lasted for days. While it was definitely inconvenient, at least I had a chance to interact with people, free of electronics, and catch up on good old-fashioned books.

Whether something is a problem or an opportunity depends on how you look at it. And the way you look at things changes your mindset, attitude, and actions.

A Simple Act of “Thanks” Can Blossom into Something More

The Pilgrims held a feast to celebrate the promise of a bright future. They made it through a difficult winter and recognized how much they had to be thankful for. They saw a place where they and their descendants could thrive.

It’s interesting how such a simple, seemingly insignificant event would go on to become an important annual tradition. If only the Pilgrims who celebrated in those early days recognized the weight of their actions then.

Who knows what significant events can unfold from the small actions you perform today?

Fathers & Daughters – Michael Bolton

“Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad, and that’s why I call you dad, because you are so special to me. You taught me the game and you taught me how to play it right.”

 

Fathers & Daughters – Michael Bolton

Lyrics:

If I could catch a star for you
I swear I’d steal them all tonight
To make your every wish come true
And every dream for all your life

But that’s not how the story goes
The world is full of perfect plans
If there’s a promise that I broke
I know one day you will understand

When times are hard I know you’ll be strong
I’ll be there in you heart when you’ll carry on
Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye

An Angel I will read to sleep
Gave me one dream of my own
So learn to love and spread your wings
And find the one to call your home

When times are hard I know you’ll be strong
I’ll be there in you heart when you’ll carry on
Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye

When times are hard I know you’ll be strong
I’ll be there in you heart when you’ll carry on
Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye

Audio & Video Produced by Boyce Avenue
Engineered, Mixed & Mastered by Adam Barber
Directed by Alejandro Manzano & Adam Barber
Filmed by Adam Barber & Fabian Manzano
Edited & Colored by Adam Barber
Cello by Isaac Mingus
Violin by Joy Chatzistamatis
Video Assistant: Blake Gregor

The Happiest and Healthiest Beach Towns in America

News flash: Being near the beach is good for you (says science!). But, according to a report, some beach towns might actually be better for your health than others. Gallup-Sharecare polled more than 337,000 people across the country on their life satisfaction—from physical well-being to the amount of time they spend worrying—and it seems saltwater therapy might actually pay off (plus a margarita every now and then—that helps, too!). Of the top 25 cities with the highest well-being, 10 of them are on the coast. See which beach towns made the cut:

10. Crestview – Fort Walton Beach Destin, Florida 

Beach umbrellas and deck chairs on beach, Destin, Florida, USA

7 Destinations in Europe You Wouldn’t Think to Visit (but Really Should)

Vence, FranceAnia Kropelka/Getty Images
As one of the most accessible and beloved parts of the world, Europe is home to plenty bucket list–worthy places. History will draw you to ancient cities like Rome, Athens, and Lisbon, while culinary feats on nearly every corner call from Paris and London. And we can’t forget the rolling, robust lands of Ireland and Scotland. It could take a lifetime to fully immerse yourself in every destination.

While these iconic stops are definitely worth your attention, there are others that might not have as much search traffic, but can give you a whole new perspective on a place and its people. These little-known wonders — most of which are not-so-far from larger metropolitan areas — will add depth and dimension to your getaway, offering a unique opportunity to see and experience something beyond the usual circuit.

Below, seven underappreciated European gems you need to know about.

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Scotland’s Outer Hebrides

Scotland’s Skye and the Hebrides snagged the seventh spot in this year’s World’s Best Islands in Europe ranking, but the former is arguably the most popular with travelers. Take a ferry ride beyond the Isle of Skye to explore what’s considered to be one of Europe’s last natural habits, the Outer Hebrides. This collection of islands — the largest being the Isles of Lewis, Harris, and North and South Uist — offers a full immersion into Celtic history, heritage, and charm.

You can hear locals speaking or singing in Gaelic, marvel at medieval churches, and see Neolithic standing stones up close. On Harris, where tweed fabric was originally woven, local artisans continue to craft capes, bags, and more traditional goods with the makings of an excellent souvenir. To visit, carve out your own schedule or book one of the many the tours that explore this region. This 11-day, 10-night optionthis link opens in a new tab from CIE Tours International includes whiskey tasting, beach hopping, and more. Depending on the season, you’ll want to pack layers, as summers can be ideal beach weather, but winters are often unforgiving.

Sardinia, ItalyManuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images

Sardinia, Italy

The expansive island of Sardinia is just an hour-long flight away from Rome. If you’ve ever been to the Algarve on Portugal’s southern coast, you might recognize the jagged — and breathtaking — landscape that defines Sardinia’s 1,200 miles of coastline, blending beaches into mountains. There are two special qualities that set this destination apart from others: its Bronze Age stone ruins that look like beehives and its microclimate. Thanks to the headland behind Santa Margherita di Pula, which shields the coast from cold north winds, this region has 300 days of sunshine. Though it’s lovely to visit from March through December, June and July will give you the warmest ocean temperatures. For a luxe, beachfront stay, book the Forte Village Resortthis link opens in a new tab in Santa Margherita di Pula.

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Thessaloniki, Greece

On your next trip to Greece, hop on an hour-long flight from Athens to spend a few days in the country’s “second city,” Thessaloniki. This Northern port offers plenty for history lovers, but it’s also got a modern liveliness to it. You can wander through ruins from the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans — thanks to its numerous occupations — and then make your way to Valaoritou Street for stylish cocktail bars and plenty of music. Since the heart of the city was entirely rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1917, the 20th-century architecture of this area will feel far away from the traditional Greek vibe. The city is also popular with locals because the beaches are also less crowded than on the islands. Don’t miss White Tower, Roman Forum, and the cobblestone streets of the historic quarter, Ano Polithis link opens in a new tab.

Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia

If you’ve already experienced the bath scene in Budapest, danced ’til dawn at the infamous five-story club in Prague, and ordered just-one-more cocktail while admiring the moonlit sea in Dubrovnik, set your sights on a lesser-known party destination: Belgrade. The capital of Serbia is becoming quite the watering hole for young travelers who, thanks to its many teeming bars and restaurants (and coffee shops to wake you up when morning comes). Here, you can experience splavovi — splav, for short — floating lounges anchored along the Danube and Sava rivers, each featuring a different musical genre. These tend to rage every night of the week, but if you need a break, make sure to see Beogradska Tvrđava, the historical fortress representing the city’s part in the Ottoman, Serbian, Austrian, Byzantine and Roman empires.

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Vicenza, Italy

You’ve heard of Venice and Verona, but a short 30- to 40-minute train ride from either of these known Italian destinations is Vicenza. Within the country’s northeastern Veneto region, you’ll be amazed by how little foot traffic this beautiful town hosts. It’s most known for its unique buildings, specifically those of 16th-century architect Palladio. If you enjoy spending hours winding through halls of art, you’ll find yourself sipping cappuccinos in between visits to the Basilica Palladiana and the Palazzo Chiericati. You might even catch a movie at the Teatro Olimpico, an outdoor theater that’s indoors. As a bonus? You can add “wandered through a UNESCO World Heritage Site” to your checklist, since the longstanding value and importance of the architecture in this town earned it a nod. If your budget allows, consider staying for a long weekend where you can talk about the beauty you’ve witnessed over wine al fresco at the Villa Valmarana Ai Nanithis link opens in a new tab.

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Ljubljana, Slovenia

Though small in size, Slovenia is big on personality, led by its diverse and robust capital, Ljubljana. As a college town, you might find a younger crowd here, but they bring plenty of outdoor cafes along the river. Here you can stroll through plenty of green patches, most notably Tivoli Parkthis link opens in a new tab (not to be confused with the amusement park in Copenhagen). As a true melting pot squished between Italy, Croatia, and Austria, the food scene has recently become one of Europe’s most intriguing. Don’t miss the tasting menu at Strelecthis link opens in a new tab and the pastries at Zvezdathis link opens in a new tab. When you’re in town, book your stay at the Intercontinental Ljubljanathis link opens in a new tab and ask for a top floor in this 20-story high hotel, so you can wake up to one of the city’s best views.

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Vence, France

It’s hard not to fall for the refined charisma of France — from the quaint, streetside cafes of Paris to the glittering grape vines of Bordeaux. But if you want to go off the grid? Head 45 minutes east of Cannes to find Vence, a small commune in the hills of the Alpes Maritimes. You might want to speak French, or at least attempt, when you pull into to this town, which is known for its landscape and the luxury destination spa at the Chateau Saint-Martin & Spathis link opens in a new tab. You may also want to pack your watercolor palette, as inspiration struck for many an artist — Picasso and Matisse, namely — in this idyllic Côte D’Azur perch.

5 habits of truly happy marriages, according to a marriage expert

Positive psychology is the science of strengths and looking at what makes individuals and couples thrive.

Marriage takes work. Everyone knows this. But what many don’t realize is that they might be working on the wrong things. Or even working on the right things in the wrong way.

“In our culture, there’s so much focus on getting together rather than on being together and staying happy together,” says Suzann Pileggi, who, along with her husband, James Pawelski, director of education at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, authored Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. “Looking at positive psychology research and seeing what is it that can actually lead to a happier marriage.”

Positive psychology is the science of strengths and looking at what makes individuals and couples thrive. “The research shows that, if you’re focusing more on growing the nuggets of what’s good, you have a better chance of having a happy relationship.” In other words, know your strengths and spend time maintaining them. Here, then, are five tips that Suzann and James say will lead to better days for you and your spouse.

1. Cultivate a healthy passion

That idea of starry-eyed lovers who are forever on each other’s minds and obsess over each other daily? Total B.S. In fact, per Pileggi this thinking is detrimental, as it can give rise to the idea that obsessive passion is a healthy thing.

“In the beginning of a relationship, you can’t stop thinking about your partner, you might be distracted at work, you might cancel plans with friends to see your girlfriend or future spouse,” she explains. “But if that continues months or years into the relationship and you’re not seeing your friendsanymore, you’re not engaging in activities that you did before the relationship, and you can’t focus on anything else, that could be more of an obsessive passion.”

In order to create a healthy passion, Pileggi says to be sure to make room in your mind for your other interests and other people. Then, when you are with your partner, find ways to connect over things that you both enjoy. “It’s about forging a deeper bond, not trying to be competitive,” Pileggi says. “So don’t choose something that you really like and enjoy and your wife has no interest in. The idea is to connect, not to compete.”

2. Embrace the upside

At the beginning of a relationship, positive emotions are flowing with regularity. Excitement, joy, passion are all right at your fingertips. But, as the relationship progresses and you both get more comfortable with each other, some people expect that those positive emotions will just happen without any effort. Not so.

“The research shows that the happiest couples with the most sustainable marriages are the ones who actively cultivate them all the time and prioritize them as opposed to waiting around for them to happen,” she says. “Because, like with anything, the newness of something, those heightened positive emotions, the level and the frequency just naturally don’t occur as much as in the beginning of a relationship, the falling-in-love stage.”

So, couples in long-term relationships who are looking to cultivate positive emotions have to ask themselves what can they do each day, what activities or actions can they do in order to keep positive emotions flowing in a marriage.

“Imagine if you just bought a gym membership and went once and then said, ‘Okay, now I’m going to be fit,’” Pileggi says. “No, you work out regularly and throughout your lifetime.”

One activity that Pileggi and her husband discuss in Happy Together is a ‘Positive Relationship Portfolio,’ And yes, it is actually a portfolio: of pictures, mementos, and other such items that mean something in your relationship. If that’s your style or not, we get it. The point of the exercise is to devote time to thinking about the fond memories, which, per Pileggi, is extremely important. However you do it is up to you.

3. Savor experiences

Positive emotions and moments are fleeting. Pileggi says that it’s important to slow down and take time to enjoy them. “Research shows that if you spend at least 15 minutes savoring something you could increase your satisfaction,” she says. “One way to do that is sharing secrets with one another. Ask your spouse about a favorite childhood experience, or a secret they never told anyone or big idea or dream they always had for the future.” The point is this: The more you open up and talk about these sorts of things, the deeper a bond you’re able to create.

4. Locate and focus on character strengths

What are your partner’s strengths? Do you know? Positive Psychology researchers have identified 24 character traits that people possess in different measures. Things like creativity, curiosity, zest, love of learning, leadership. Pileggi recommends taking a Character Strengths test with your partner (one is available here). Then, once you’ve determined what your strengths are, you can have conversations with each other about them. From there, Pileggi says, you both can go on what she and her husband call a “strength date.”  Sounds weird right? But the idea is sound: each of you to pick a top strength and go on a date that plays to — and satisfies — both of them.

5. Emphasize gratitude

“If your partner feels taken advantage of and not acknowledged, they’re not going to be satisfied,” she says. And just saying “thanks” isn’t enough.

An example: If your spouse gives you a gift or does something kind for you, don’t just thank them, but also say something like, “You really know what I need and you’re such a good listener.” or “You’re so thoughtful, and I can see how thoughtful you are with our children and the way you are at work.”

It’s about being deliberate and specific in how you express appreciation for your partner. “Express your thanks and express it well,” says Pileggi. “Which means focusing on your partner and her actions and her strengths rather than solely on the gift and the benefit to you.” The end result: Per Pileggi, couples who did this decreased their chances of breaking up six months later by 50 percent.