Need a Cure for Party Anxiety? Pass the Cocktail Weenies

Does the idea of making small talk at cocktail parties — no matter how strong the drinks — make you nervous? If your answer is “yes,” then I have a simple solution that doesn’t require avoiding social situations: At your next party, try actively doing something nice for someone else. Socially, this could mean anything from offering to arrange all the flowers guests bring as gifts or getting drinks for guests to replenishing the platter of pigs in a blanket. As we start another season of holiday cocktail parties and dinners, it’s worth revisiting this study out of the University of British Columbia. It showed that when people with social anxiety do something nice for someone else, they feel more comfortable in a social situation and can actually mingle more easily. As the study outlines:
“Acts of kindness may help counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person’s social environment. It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations.”
These aren’t grand gestures. They’re small acts of kindness – like grabbing a fresh cup of coffee for your co-worker, doing your roommate’s dishes, donating to a charity or, in the case of the cocktail party, replenishing glasses with champagne – experienced less social anxiety than those who didn’t. They were more outgoing and less worried about rejection. It all lead to less anxiety and better relationships. (Just think, the hostess will be grateful, too.) And that’s something worth toasting to.

8 Tips To Help You Survive Thanksgiving

Just in time for the holidays. Here are a few tips that will help you and your family survive and enjoy this holiday season.

1. Walk off the stress and cravings

Family-induced stress can lead to cravings. Polishing off a pumpkin pie goes from tempting to irresistible after an argument with your opinionated cousin. Instead of heading for the refrigerator, go for a 15-minute walk.

2. Put your phone away

A visible phone undermines the quality of conversation. Don't even think about putting it on the dinner table.

3. Avoid hot button topics 

Politics, money, religion, sex and health are dinner party “no-nos” for obvious reasons. These topics tend to bring out the worst in people, even typically unemotional ones. 

4. Sit at a round table

If you are concerned about conflict, you may want to consider a scientifically proven strategy for keeping the peace: use a round table. People seated at a round table – as opposed to a rectangular or square one – get along better and are less likely to bicker.

5. Beware of what you miss when you snap a pic

Snapping pictures influences what we remember. This phenomenon is called the ‘photo-taking impairment effect.’ If you are busy taking photos, you may miss the moment. 

6. Turkey tastes better when shared

Food and wine taste better when shared. We are social creatures and our wellbeing—both physical and mental—depends on our connections. Reach out to someone who may be on their own, don't assume everyone has plans. Extend an invitation and be a bright spot in someone else's life. 

7. Be kind

Studies show that kindness breeds kindness. It's contagious, so pass it on. Research illustrates the numerous health benefits of being kind: increased happiness, closer relationships, greater life satisfaction, decreased stress, a stronger immune system including greater cardiovascular health, and decreased physical pain.

8. Gain time by giving it away

If the holiday season leaves you feeling pressed for time, try giving it away. Volunteering and doing things for others, rather than focusing on ourselves expands our sense of time. On that note, if you are interested in volunteering or making a charitable contribution this year, City-Meals-on-Wheels is a great organization that delivers nutritious meals to New York’s elder population. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” ~W.J. Cameron

Gratitude is a Verb

I probably say “thank you” at least 50 times a day. It’s not because I have excessive amounts of gratitude; it’s an automatic response. As a small child I was trained to say thank you, and it stuck. So here I am today, saying thank you for everything and anything – to the waiter who forgot my lunch order, to the receptionist who informs me my appointment was cancelled, and to the insurance agent who denied a request for a medication I prescribed to a patient. Robotically saying “thank you” is not the same as practicing gratitude. According to research, people who count their blessings on a regular basis are happier and healthier than those who don’t. Taking five to ten minutes at the end of each day to write down three things that went well and why has a measurable and positive effect on wellbeing. Researchers and wellness experts call this a gratitude journal, and for many people it does wonders. But, full disclosure, it didn’t work for me. Focusing on myself and how lucky I was made me feel good in the moment but it didn’t last. After a while it felt smug and a little self-centered. It’s not that I don’t appreciate being the beneficiary of good things. There was just something missing. It turns out there is a lot more to gratitude than being thankful for what you have. In her article, “Stop Making Gratitude All About You,” Professor Heidi Grant Halvorson captures what so many of us get wrong about gratitude:
Recent research suggests that people often make a critical mistake when expressing gratitude: They focus on how they feel — how happy they are, how they have benefited from the help — rather than focusing on the benefactor.
Halvorson’s research found that those who expressed gratitude towards another person had stronger and more loving relationships than those who focused on the benefits to themselves. In other words, if your partner sends you flowers today, you can think to yourself about how receiving flowers makes you really happy or you can channel your gratitude towards your partner by actively saying or doing something that acknowledges how awesome your partner is. Related studies by Adam Grant highlight how gratitude is not limited to passively counting one’s blessings. His research shows that reflecting on what one has contributed instead of reflecting on what one has received, is even more powerful in terms of promoting prosocial behavior. As Grant concludes:
According to a popular mantra, we should give without remembering and receive without forgetting. Our research suggests otherwise: we should take the time to remember both what we’ve given and what we’ve received. So this Thanksgiving, don’t just count your blessings. Count your contributions too.
Think of gratitude as an action. It’s a verb that works best when it is embodied, spoken aloud and when it connects you to someone else.

Take Time for Traditions

A toast before champagne; blowing out candles and making a wish before tucking into birthday cake; ceremoniously carving a turkey or saying grace before digging into Thanksgiving dinner. Ever stop to think if there’s a reason for all this tradition steeped on tradition? Research shows that we savor and appreciate food and drink more when a ritual precedes it. Delayed gratification, more enjoyment and a sense of deeper meaning contribute to the enhanced experience. By linking rituals to beneficial behaviors like healthy eating or exercise, those positive behaviors are more likely to be experienced as pleasurable and thus, more likely to be practiced. My favorite traditions for the season: a long family walk after Thanksgiving dinner and delivering meals to the elderly with Citymeals-on-Wheels in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Does Your Weekend Exhaust You?

Do you feel exhausted after the weekend? The allure of pleasant, in the moment, and easy activities is powerful. After a long week, it’s hard to resist a bowl of potato chips, a remote control, and a widescreen. However, as tempting as it sounds to lounge around in your PJs all weekend, the trick to fulfilling and restorative downtime is to do stuff. Many of us waste our leisure time in passive activities like watching TV and scrolling through social media but, as research clearly demonstrates, engaging in physically or psychologically demanding activities is far more satisfying. The strange thing is that most of us are aware of this fact and yet cannot help ourselves from turning into couch potatoes on the weekend. A study entitled The Paradox of Happiness: Why are we not doing what makes us happy?, found that the main obstacle separating us doing things that actually bring lasting happiness is that we perceive them as intimidating. The key then is to make more effortful but satisfying activities seem just a little less daunting. For example, you could put your workout clothes out the night before so that when you wake up, that extra step of finding your jog bra is already taken care of. Another strategy is to schedule activities, especially with a friend. If you are already committed and it is on your calendar, you are more likely to follow through. Don’t just slide into your weekend, decide what you want to do in advance and do it. 

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Ana Flores


A passionate leader, and advocate for portraying Latina women in a positive light, Ana Flores is both founder and CEO of #WeAllGrow Latina Network, the first and largest community of Latina digital influencers.

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