Back-to-the-grind blues got you down? New York psychologist Michelle Callahan says she has just the fix: Her "20 Minutes to Happiness Workout" has two de-stressing components: 1) Take 10 minutes a day to meditate, pot a plant or do some such relaxing thing for yourself. 2) Devote another 10 to doing something for someone else -- send a greeting card or hang out with one of the kids. We talked with her recently about the concept:
Just a paltry 10 minutes of personal time? You mean some of us don't get even that?
A lot of people have trouble getting in the 10 minutes. The self is the first thing to get bumped off the list of things to do for the day. That's why I push people to put it on their schedule. Coming up with a smaller [amount of] time is something that's attainable in the beginning.
What's the evidence that this works?
Qualitatively, the way I end up knowing that it works for people is getting the feedback on how much better they feel when they take the time to do these things, especially the things like strengthening the connection with others. It lessens the likelihood that people will fall to depression and anxiety. . . . [People] start with 10 minutes . . . start to spend more time doing it and then they also see the real-world effects in their lives.
Why devote the second 10 minutes to strengthening connections and building support groups?
We can see significantly different health outcomes from people who have social support in terms of recovering from illness faster, living longer lives and following through on their commitments to take care of themselves.
What about people who lead hectic lives because they attend to others' needs?
If it's something that will help build a stronger bond and relationship between you and that other person, then it's the right kind of activity. If it's something that you're just doing in service to them, like cooking or cleaning, that's not what we're talking about.
To learn more about the "20 Minutes to Happiness Workout," see www.drmichelle.com.
-- Elizabeth Agnvall