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Mindfulness and Anxiety

Mindfulness practice, at its core, is the opposite of an anxious mind.

What Is Mindfulness?

“There have been many tragedies in my life, but most of them have not happened.” —Mark Twain

Anxiety lives in fears of the future that haven’t happened yet. How often does what you worry about actually happen? Take a second to reflect on the last spiral of worry that took over you. While bad things do happen, the odds are that it was much worse in your mind than what happened or what may happen.

The truth is, most of what we worry about never happens. We’re hardwired to be perceiving and responding to threats. It’s what has kept us alive evolutionarily; other mammals can fight with fangs and claws, but we are “thinking mammals.” We can hardly spend a few moments without thinking. This makes sense, as it’s what has kept us alive. This often causes an emergency response, despite the veracity of the actual threat.

Fear (the core of anxiety, really) is our body’s ancient response to perceived peril, no matter how negligible it actually is. It can present itself as a stress-related physical symptom, making us desperate to get rid of it. This constant state of worry and threat-scanning and detection can wear us down. This can make us avoid any danger signs, even when they often are just signs.

Unfortunately, this is often a trap. What we constantly avoid, we strengthen (i.e., the confrontational conversation or passing by the area where you were robbed), reinforcing its danger, no matter how harmless it may be and usually is.

Our propensity to plan, especially when it stems from anxiety, can also easily become excessive and counterproductive, taking us away from the pleasure and richness of the moment, the only time we can actually feel joy, happiness, pleasure, and peace. We’re also conditioned by capitalism to look for the next thing, taking us away from the now, and everything is usually OK right now unless it’s an emergency or crisis. This is where mindfulness comes in.

Mindfulness practices rewire the brain toward savoring the present moment, instead of dwelling on anxiety, which is often living the state of perceived fears. In mindfulness practice, we learn the wisdom in prioritizing. Things that we’re worrying about often aren’t urgent.

It’s easy to forget you have time to deal with many of the stressors you chronically worry about, and you’ve dealt with them well your whole life! In fact, thinking about bad things happening is worse than just dealing with them! Showing up 20 minutes late to the event wasn’t that bad after all, right?

Worry can also, covertly, feel enjoyable; it’s easy to worry even when everything is OK now. I’m personally an expert at this. The mind can think that worry is what prevented something bad from happening, which can mistakenly reinforce it, despite its factual falseness. Worry often tricks us into thinking we’re “taking action” to prevent danger, when we may actually be reinforcing it.

Mindfulness practice helps you see and prevent these mental pitfalls from decreasing your unnecessary suffering and worrying. What can be better than that? When stuck in traffic, do you want to be fuming like everyone else, or kicking back, relaxing, at ease, savoring life’s blessings? Mindfulness reveals this choice for you, no matter how elusive it felt prior.

Jason Linder, MA, LMFT, is a licensed bilingual (Spanish-speaking) therapist and doctoral (PsyD) candidate at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Diego.

Feb 08, 2020
Mindfulness-Definition-Square

Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?
The modern mindfulness is the brainchild of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American professor emeritus of medicine. He defines it as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”

In simpler terms, mindfulness helps sustain attention to feelings, emotions and thoughts in the present moment without getting carried away by them. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, and from an ancient tradition, it has evolved into a modern mind training. It is a quality that some people possess naturally, but it can also be trained and improved. Mindfulness is the bridge in between our mind and present moment that helps us understand and better react to stressful, overwhelming situations.

Benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness is a powerful practice that can help with improving wellbeing in terms of physical and mental health. From the physical point of view, mindfulness training can help with stress relief, lowering blood pressure, reducing pain and improving sleep. Mindfulness gives people a larger perspective on life, clear thinking and patience. Our minds don’t have switch off buttons for unwanted thoughts; however, it is possible to train yourself to control them. Systematic training improves focus attention and concentration. It results in having more energy to become fully engaged in important activities of everyday life instead of getting carried away by worries and intrusive thoughts. Mindfulness meditation helps develop better resilience and can help people recover faster from tension and stress.

Scientific foundation
Research on mindfulness has been expanding rapidly in the last decades. The evidence for the benefits of mindfulness is promising and proven in several trials with clinical and social applications.

People have their mind wandering almost 50 percent of the time they are awake. That means their mind is not where their body is; instead, they’re thinking about things that happened in the past, could happen in the future or might never happen at all – all while being involved in many other daily tasks. Evidence suggests that a wandering mind leads to unhappiness.

However, the brain can be trained to sustain focus and attention in the present moment. Introducing mindfulness training in daily routines has the potential to improve mental and overall health treatment outcomes.

Clinical applications of the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) have proven to be effective in several studies and trials. Researchers report that MBCT can decrease the severity of depression symptoms of currently depressed patients in just eight weeks. A number of trials show a positive effect of mindfulness on brain changes and immune responsivity, and even influence the healing process of skin diseases related to psychological stress.  In the context of mental health, mindfulness encourages people to develop a more compassionate and accepting relationship with their own thoughts and feelings.

Approach
There are many mindfulness techniques, but all of them focus on the same: paying attention and accepting your thoughts on purpose, without judgement. You can practice mindfulness where and when you want; it doesn’t necessarily need to be a lengthy process and can take a couple of minutes – on your break from work, for example.

Mindfulness starts with posture. You can choose whether you want to sit comfortably, lay down or even walk, but you need to have your back straight. You continue with breathing exercises and scanning your body. By focusing on your physical sensations, you can switch to focusing on sensory aspects as sounds, smells and touches. It’s important to observe the feelings and thoughts you’re having without judgement and let them go.

This focusing exercise is just an example of many meditation techniques. Guided meditations are popular and can be easily accessed on many resources online.

Written by Ana Maria Sedletchi     December 9, 2019
 
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3 Steps to Deepen Your Mindfulness Practice

Let’s imagine that you’re a reasonably healthy adult with all of your basic needs met, people who care about you in your life, and things you enjoy doing available to you … you should be pretty happy, right?

It turns out, even in this incredibly lucky scenario, most of us still struggle — stress, anxiety, frustration, overwhelm, letting ourselves and others down, disappointment, hurt feelings, anger, feeling like you’re always behind … it all creates a sense of unease that is not aligned with our fortunate circumstances.

So how do we go about enjoying life, finding a sense of peace and calm and purposeful focus?

I’ve found mindfulness practices to be the key. They’re not a magical solution to anything, but they do ease the suffering we experience in our lives.

Those of you who who have practiced meditation for awhile know what I’m talking about. Let’s look at a few ways to deepen into the practice, if you’re interested.

Step 1: Drop Into Direct Experience of the Moment
Most of us are caught up in our thoughts about our lives, ourselves, other people, the world around us … most of the time. We’re stuck in a movie in our minds, a storyline or narrative about the situation. This causes all of our trouble — frustration, disappointment, stress, anxiety, overwhelm, unhappiness.

The practice here is to drop into the direct experience of the moment. Not the thoughts about the moment (though those will come up), but the actual sensations happening in the moment.

You might notice the sensations present in different parts of your body, including how your breath feels, but also how your torso feels, seeing what you can notice in your neck and head, in your arms and legs. You might notice the sensation of air on your skin, or ground beneath your feet. You might notice sounds or light or colors or shapes.

Whenever you notice yourself caught up in thoughts or ideas, in a narrative or fantasies … drop back into the direct experience of the present moment. Experience everything with beginner’s mind, as if this were the first time you ever experienced this before.

This is a practice that you can get better at, returning again and again to direct experience. You move from concepts and thoughts and ideas and storylines, to direct experience. Just observe, just notice, just be curious.

If you’re feeling frustrated or stressed, try this and see if it shifts anything for you. See if you’re caught up less and present more.

Practice this for at least a month (though it’s really a lifetime practice).

Step 2: Bring a Sense of Friendliness Towards the Experience
After you’ve practiced dropping into direct experience … you might try a new way of relating to that direct experience.

Instead of just noticing as an impartial observer … see if you can bring a feeling of warmth, friendliness, gentleness, kindness, even love to your relating to this direct experience.

For example, if you see someone on the street, you can just notice that there’s a person there … or you can feel a friendliness towards them. Welcoming them into your experience like you would welcome someone warmly into your house.

In the same way, you can bring a friendliness and warmth and welcoming towards anything you notice in your direct experience. You notice the sensation of air on your skin, and you might feel friendly towards these sensations. The same with anything you hear, see, smell, touch. The same with how you notice nature all around you, or sensations in your body.

It’s a continuation of the practice of direct experience, but with a shift in how you relate — it’s unconditional friendliness to anything you bring your awareness towards.

Practice this for at least a month as well.

Step 3: Drop the Sense of Self, and Motivation from Gain & Loss
Once you’ve practiced the two steps above, you’ll be grounded in a view of reality that is much more free of conceptions and storylines, more open and unconstrained.

The next step is to notice that when you’re in direct experience, there is no self. I mean, there’s a body and brain, but it’s not separate from everything around it — it’s interconnected, not identifiable as something distinct from the world around it. Just as you might pick a drop of water in the ocean and say, “This is a separate drop of water!” … it’s only separate in our minds, in concept. In reality, it’s not separate but a part of everything around it.

This might sound pretty philosophical, but what is very real is noticing whether everything you do is motivated by a desire for gain or desire to avoid a loss. For example, you might want someone’s praise or affection (gain), or you might want to avoid them getting mad at you (loss). You might be scrolling through and posting in social media looking for validation (gain) or worried about missing out (loss). You might buy something because of how you think it will make you look or feel (gain) or because you’re feeling worried or insecure about a situation (loss).

All of these actions motivated by a sense of gain and loss are completely normal — we all do it. But they all come from a sense of separate self — we are trying to gain something for the self, trying to avoid a loss for the self. Helping this separate self get what it wants or avoid what it doesn’t want becomes our biggest activity and goal in life. It is what makes us frustrated or angry when we don’t get what we want, or hurt or sad when we get what we don’t want, or anxious or stressed when we might gain or lose something.

Being motivated by gain or loss is what causes our struggles in life. And that stems from the sense of separate self.

What’s another way? Dropping the sense of separate self. Just being present with direct experience. Feeling a friendliness and even love for everything and everyone around us. And then being motivated by that love — I act from a place of love and compassion for everyone around me (myself included, but not only myself).

Try it! It’s an incredible practice. Be directly with your experience, dropping your sense of self, of separateness from everything around you. Start to appreciate how connected you are to the world — you breathe in air from the world, eat food from the world, drink water and get information and heat and clothes and shelter and love from everything and everyone around you. You’re completely interconnected and interdependent. Dropping the conception of self, like you drop other concepts, return to direct experience.

And then watch your actions and see if they’re motivated by a desire for gain or desire to avoid loss. See if you can come from a place of love and compassion for everyone in the world, every living being. It’s a really powerful place to be moved from.

 
BY LEO BABAUTA
 


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Should You Go Gluten-free? The Benefits Of A Gluten-free Diet

Ever wondered about the benefits of a gluten-free diet? We give what is a popular trend for some and a necessity for others, an evidence-based overview

Wondering about the benefits of gluten-free foods? And whether you should make a fairly big change to your diet? Gluten-free options are becoming more and more mainstream in restaurants and supermarkets, which is great news for people with coeliac disease and for those diagnosed with another form of gluten intolerance. But can going gluten-free benefit the rest of us?

There are lots of different claims around the wellness community which state that giving up gluten reduces bloating, improves mood and even helps fight acne. But is there any real evidence to back up these claims and prove that it’s not just anecdotal? We’re not doctors, but we take a closer look…

SHOULD YOU GO GLUTEN-FREE?
In a word, maybe. To be more precise, even if you don’t have any diagnosed gluten intolerance, you may find that reducing your gluten intake (without necessarily going completely gluten-free) may help you with a whole range of health concerns.

The jury is still out on why exactly this may be, but the most likely explanation actually hasn’t got much to do with gluten itself and it’s more to do with the fact that high gluten intake typically goes hand-in-hand with a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats.

Think of it this way: if excess weight, bloating, and fatigue are your concerns, then it’s likely that your gluten intake comes in the form of highly processed white bread high in sugar. People who go gluten-free tend to replace whole meals consisting of processed foods with healthier options high in vegetables and fibre, and that’s what contributes to weight loss and improves wellbeing.

There is some evidence, however, that wheat is an unusual food that our bodies may not have quite evolved to process, despite humans consuming wheat for millennia. Gluten contains proteins that the human digestive tract cannot digest fully, lacking the enzymes to do so. Moreover, recent studies have found that gluten has such a complex biological structure that it’s very difficult to pinpoint which compound may be contributing to a sensitivity in an individual person.

If you have ongoing digestive issues, especially IBS, you may find it beneficial to cut out gluten at least for some time and see if there is an improvement. If you don’t want to cut out bread completely, try eating less of it and switching to sourdough. It’s not gluten free, but the way it’s made at least partially breaks down the gluten in the flour, making it low in gluten content. Many people report that switching to sourdough bread helps with digestive issues.

Finally, will going gluten-free help you get rid of acne? There is no reliable scientific link between the two; however, if your acne is due to an autoimmune health condition or is related to digestive problems (a telltale sign is if you get breakouts on your forehead), then you should again consider significantly reducing your gluten intake.

BY ANNA COTTRELL

 

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Are You Brain-Fogged From Bread?

If you are fuzzy-headed after a sandwich, you may have gluten intolerance.

In my twenties, I once fell asleep at noon after eating a bagel, though there was no reason to be tired. I’d often be fuzzy-headed after a meal.

“Brain-fog” is a common sign of celiac, an auto-immune reaction, and of other kinds of sensitivity to gluten, a protein in wheat and rye.

Claire Baker, who now works for the advocacy group, Beyond Celiac, was afflicted with “brain fog” before she received her own celiac diagnosis. She was a program director at another major nonprofit and the fuzziness was affecting her productivity. “I thought there was something terribly wrong with me — couldn’t concentrate. I had no idea the problem was related to my diet, and no clue that it could be a symptom of an undiagnosed disease,” she told me.

In a new survey of patients with either celiac or gluten sensitivity, more than 70 percent said they had trouble concentrating after eating gluten. Nearly 60 percent of celiac patients (and nearly 70 percent of those with gluten sensitivity) said they became groggy. About a fifth said the symptoms showed up within a half-hour to an hour, but similar portions experienced the symptoms within the next four hours, or between one and two days later. The symptoms typically lasted a day or more.

So if you’re having trouble at work after your bagel or muffin breakfast and your sandwich at lunch, experiment with eating other foods that don’t contain gluten.

Food intolerances can also make you anxious and are linked to headaches and depression.

If you find that you can link your symptoms to gluten, don’t just go gluten-free on your own. You should get tested for celiac, a serious illness that requires monitoring. Even if you don’t have celiac, you may need help figuring out your diet. Many people get some improvement when they cut out gluten but find that other foods bother them as well. You might need to be extra careful with traditional “gassy” foods like beans and dairy.

If gluten triggers an inflammatory response, it can affect any system in your body — from your skin, to your nerves, to your brain.

One man I’ll call Tony had trouble with compulsive twitches and tics for years. The neurologists he saw couldn’t find a clear cause. One said, “This is the way God made you.”

He also was prone to becoming enraged at small irritations — for example, a dinner companion eating with her mouth open.

Both the tics and the irritability dropped dramatically when he cut gluten out of his diet.

Your primary care doctor may dismiss your interest in gluten — after all, it’s clear that “going gluten-free” has become fashionable.

Not everyone who goes gluten-free really needs to.

But you might. 

Truly cutting gluten from your diet requires attention — you need to read labels on any packaged food and ask lots of questions in restaurants. Any Chinese restaurant meal with soy sauce contains gluten.

To motivate yourself, do your best to steer completely clear and then, perhaps on the weekend, you might try a portion of a bagel. (Bagels contain more gluten than other flour products). If you experience a clear reaction, it’s time to get checked for celiac and get more advice from a doctor who takes this complaint seriously.

Temma Ehrenfeld is a New York-based science writer, and former assistant editor at Newsweek.
 
Jun 21, 2018


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Weight Loss: The Best Meal Timings To Slim Down

The meal timings that increase weight loss, lower blood sugar and fight diabetes.

Starting the day with an energy-boosting breakfast, having a medium-sized lunch and ending with a humble dinner might be the answer to weight loss, research finds.

The study shows that a high-energy breakfast, when added to the meal schedules of obese and type 2 diabetes patients, improves blood glucose levels, and boosts weight loss.

The results revealed that people who ate a high-energy breakfast lost 5 kg (11 pounds) but those in a comparison group put on 1.4 kg (3.1 pounds).

Professor Daniela Jakubowicz, the study’s first author, said:

“The hour of the day — when you eat and how frequently you eat — is more important than what you eat and how many calories you eat.
Our body metabolism changes throughout the day.
A slice of bread consumed at breakfast leads to a lower glucose response and is less fattening than an identical slice of bread consumed in the evening.”

Professor Jakubowicz and colleagues recruited a group of obese and diabetic patients who were on insulin therapy.

The participants were divided randomly into two groups to take the same number of daily calories but with two different diets.

The meal schedule for the first group was a large breakfast, an average lunch, and a light dinner for three months.

The total amount of daily calories was 1,600, in which breakfast made up 50 percent of this number, lunch 33 percent, and dinner 17 percent.

The other group had six meals designed for diabetes and weight loss, consisting of six meals which were distributed evenly during the day.

This group also consumed 1,600 kcal a day, but breakfast made up 20 percent of the proportion, lunch 25 percent, dinner 25 percent — plus they had three snacks, which each counted for 10 percent of total daily calories.

The study compared the impact of each diet plan on appetite, insulin level, weight loss, and concentration of glucose in the blood (overall glycemia) of participants.

After three months, the high-energy breakfast group lost 5 kg (11 pounds) but those who were in the the six-meal group put on 1.4 kg (3.1 pounds) more weight.

Overall, glucose levels in the first high-energy breakfast group decreased by 38 mg/dl but this was 17 mg/dl for the six-meal group.

The insulin dosage in the high-energy breakfast group reduced by 20.5 units per day, but the other group required 2.2 units per day more insulin.

Moreover, the hunger and cravings for carbs reduced a lot in the high-energy breakfast group, while it was the opposite for the other group.

Professor Jakubowicz, said:

“This study shows that, in obese insulin-treated type 2 diabetes patients, a diet with three meals per day, consisting of a big breakfast, average lunch and small dinner, had many rapid and positive effects compared to the traditional diet with six small meals evenly distributed throughout the day: better weight loss, less hunger and better diabetes control while using less insulin.”

The other improvement was a large decrease in overall glycemia within 2 weeks for the high-energy breakfast group.

This was only due to changes in meal timings, suggesting a correct meal schedule itself can positively affect blood sugar levels.

The study was presented at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting 2018 in Chicago.

About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
source: Psyblog
breakfast

The Weight Loss Diet That Cuts Belly Fat

The diet helps people control their blood sugar more effectively.

Going on a vegan diet accelerates weight loss and reduces harmful belly fat, new research suggests.

People following a plant-based, vegan diet for 16 weeks lost an average of over 12 pounds, including almost 9 pounds of fat mass and belly fat.

More fibre is the most critical element of the diet, researchers think.

Plant-based diets contain plenty of fibre which helps to boost healthy bacteria in the gut.

The study included 147 overweight people who were randomised to a vegan diet or no change for 16 weeks.

The results revealed that a vegan diet reduced weight significantly.

A vegan diet also helped people control their blood sugar more effectively.

The study’s authors write:

“A 16-week low-fat vegan dietary intervention induced changes in gut microbiota that were related to changes in weight, body composition and insulin sensitivity in overweight adults.”

The diet also increased the health of the gut.

People with a greater abundance of critical healthy bacteria in the gut lost more weight.

Bacteria that a vegan diet boosts include Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Bacteroides fragilis.

The authors conclude:

“A plant-based diet has been shown to be effective in weight management, and in diabetes prevention and treatment.
We have demonstrated that a plant-based diet elicited changes in gut microbiome that were associated with weight loss, reduction in fat mass and visceral fat volume, and increase in insulin sensitivity.”

Fibre is the key to weight loss and a healthy gut, the authors write:

“The main shift in the gut microbiome composition was due to an increased relative content of short-chain fatty acid producing bacteria that feed on fibre.
Therefore, high dietary fibre content seems to be essential for the changes observed in our study.”

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) .

The study was presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Barcelona, Spain (Kahleova et al., 2019).

source: Psyblog

 

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Is a Vegan Diet Healthy?

People might change to a plant-based diet because of concerns about animal welfare, the environment or their own health.

But can you be truly healthy on a diet that excludes both meat and dairy?

The answer is a definite yes — but it takes some effort.

Transcript
Dr Karl: G’day, Dr Karl here.

Way back in 1925, Donald Watson was just 14 years old and living with his family on a farm in Great Britain. One day, he saw a pig being slaughtered.

The pig was terrified and screaming.

This moved Donald so much that he stopped eating meat, and then eventually avoided dairy as well. A few decades later, in 1944 he invented the word “vegan” — by joining together the first and last syllables of the word “vegetarian”.

People sometimes wonder if you can be truly healthy on a diet that excludes both meat and dairy. The answer is definitely yes — but you have to understand your food much more deeply than the person living on meat-and-three-veg.

There are many reasons for changing to a plant-based diet. Some include concerns about animal suffering and cruelty, or about health, while other reasons relate to the environment.

From a health point-of-view, plant-based diets have been linked to lower risks of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as type II diabetes, heart disease, inflammation and cancer. And the evidence does link colorectal cancer with red and processed meats.

But these benefits don’t come without risk.

Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Newcastle, says there are four essential nutrients that have to be especially considered if you choose to go vegan. They are vitamin B12, iron, calcium and iodine. If you’re not eating meat or dairy products, you’ll struggle to get a decent supply of them.

Let’s start with vitamin B-12. It’s essential for making DNA, fatty acids, red blood cells and some neurotransmitters in the brain.

A deficiency of B12 can cause a fast heart rate, palpitations, bleeding gums, bowel or bladder changes, tiredness, weakness, and light-headedness — which doesn’t make for a healthy lifestyle.

Vitamin B12 is easily found in animal foods such as meat, milk and dairy products.

But vegans can get only traces of vitamin B12 in some algae and plants that have been exposed to bacteria contaminated by soil or insects, and in some mushrooms or fermented soybeans. So vegans really need to consume foods with vitamin B12 specifically added, like fortified non-dairy milks.

The second micronutrient, calcium, is essential for good bone health – as well as for proper function of the heart, muscles and nerves.

Calcium is abundant in milk and milk-based foods. Vegans can get calcium from tofu, some non-dairy milks with added calcium, as well as nuts, legumes, seeds and some breakfast cereals.

But both vegans and vegetarians usually need a higher calcium intake than meat eaters. That’s because vegetarians and vegans usually eat more plant foods containing chemicals that reduce the absorption of calcium into your body.

These chemicals include oxalic acid (found in spinach and beans) and phytic acid (found in soy, grains, nuts and some raw beans).

Surprisingly, vegans can also be deficient in iodine – which is essential for making thyroid hormones, and the developing central nervous system.

Vegans don’t eat the usual sources of iodine – seafood, dairy products and eggs — but they do eat seaweed, and foods that have added iodine such as salt, some breads, and some non-dairy milks.

So why would vegans be prone to iodine deficiency? Well swallowing iodine is only half the battle — like with calcium, some other foods can reduce your absorption of iodine. If you love your Brassicas – things like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts — you’re also getting a dose of chemicals in these vegetables that can interfere with the production of the thyroid hormones.

And finally, we come to iron. Most people know that iron can be a problem on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Iron is essential to make the haemoglobin in your red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body.

It is easy to get enough iron if you eat wholegrain cereals, meats, chicken and fish. And there is iron in some plants — but your body can’t absorb this type of iron as well as it absorbs iron from meat.

You can boost your absorption of plant iron (or ‘non-haem’ iron) by eating vegetables and fruit that are rich in vitamin C. Just don’t have a cuppa at the same time — tea contains chemicals that can reduce your absorption of plant iron even more!

I did say vegans need to understand food much more deeply than meat-eaters!

And if you’ve been a vegan for long time, the list of nutrients you need to keep an eye on gets longer. You also need to watch your vitamin D, omega-3 fats and protein intake.

Finally, vegans have to take even more care with their diet plans if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, or bringing up the children as vegans. In this case, it’s very worthwhile to get the advice of a professional dietician.

So it does take a bit of effort to get all your nutrients from a vegan diet. But take a look around – it’s not like eating meat and animal products is a sure-fire guarantee of healthy eating!

Credits
Presenter Dr Karl Kruszelnicki            Producer Bernie Hobbs
Tuesday 12 November 2019


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Patience

Don’t Let Frustration Get the Better of You

Patience is a virtue, and there’s a reason – it’s a tough skill to master.

Imagine, for instance, that you’re waiting for someone to finish compiling a report that you need for a meeting. You’re already late, you can feel your body getting tense, and you’re starting to get angry. Suddenly, you lose your temper and yell at the person for putting you behind schedule. You can tell that they’re shocked and upset by your outburst, but you can’t help it.

We likely all lose our patience occasionally. But doing so frequently or inappropriately can harm your reputation, damage your relationships, increase stress, or escalate a difficult situation.

In this article, we explore different kinds of patience and how they apply in the workplace. We also examine the strategies that you can use to develop and nurture this essential quality.

What Is Patience?
Patience is the ability to stay calm while you’re waiting for an outcome that you need or want. According to research by psychologist Sarah Schnitker, it comes in three main varieties: interpersonal patience, life hardship patience, and daily hassles patience.

Let’s look at these in more detail:

1. Interpersonal Patience
Interpersonal patience is patience with other people, their demands and their failings.

You may consider some people to be slow learners, hard to understand, or even downright unreasonable. Or, they may have bad habits that drive you crazy. But losing your patience with them will be of no benefit, and it may make matters worse.

Patience and understanding toward others is essential when you’re onboarding new staff, or when you’re delegating tasks. It’s also a huge help in dealing with difficult co-workers or managers, and it’s central to high-quality customer service.

This type of patience is active. Listening skills and empathy  are vital, and, when you’re dealing with difficult people , you need the self-awareness  and emotional intelligence  to understand how your words and actions affect the situation. You can’t just wait it out and hope for the best.

2. Life Hardship Patience
We could use the term perseverance to sum up life hardship patience. It can mean having the patience to overcome a serious setback in life, like waiting long term for the outcome of a lawsuit, or for medical treatment. But it can also include your ability to work toward a long-term goal – whether it’s professional, such as a promotion, or personal, like getting fit or saving for a vacation.

Whatever the obstacle you have to overcome, it will likely require determination and focus  to achieve. And you will need to keep your emotions under control throughout the journey. These emotions can range from eagerness to get it done, to anger at the frustrations you encounter along the way – which can cause you to become demotivated.

3. Daily Hassles Patience
Sometimes you need patience to deal with circumstances that are beyond your control. These are your “life hassles.” Something as trivial as getting stuck in a traffic line, for instance, or waiting for a computer program to load.

You also need patience to get through those dull but unavoidable day-to-day tasks that don’t necessarily contribute to your personal goals. The ability to maintain self-discipline , and give a job – no matter how mundane – the attention to detail it needs, is a hallmark of patience.

Research suggests that people who can stay calm in the face of these constant, petty frustrations are more likely to be more empathic, more equitable, and to suffer less from depression.

The Benefits and Risks of Patience
In general, being patient means that you’re more likely viewed positively by your co-workers and managers (and your family and friends). You’ll likely be a better team worker, and more focused and productive.

If you’re often impatient, people may see you as arrogant, insensitive and impulsive. Co-workers may think that you’re a poor decision maker, because you make snap judgments or interrupt people. If you get a reputation for having poor people skills and a bad temper, others may even deliberately avoid working with you. As a result, not surprisingly, impatient people will unlikely be top of the list for promotion.

Of course, being patient doesn’t mean you should be a “pushover.” Far from it. Sometimes it’s OK to show your displeasure when people keep you waiting unnecessarily. So, ensure that you establish strong boundaries . But, be sure that you’re polite and assertive , never angry and aggressive.

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it open.
– Arnold Glasow, American humorist.

Understanding Impatience
Impatience has its roots in frustration. It’s a feeling of rising stress that starts when you feel that your needs and wishes are being ignored. In a modern environment where we’re accustomed to instant communication and immediate access to data, it’s a growing problem. But recognizing the warning signs can help you to prevent impatience from taking hold.

Impatience Symptoms
Impatience has a range of symptoms. Physical signs can include shallow, fast breathing, muscle tension, and hand clenching. Or you may find yourself restlessly jiggling your feet.

There may be changes in your mood and thoughts, too. You may become irritable, angry, or experience anxiety or nervousness. Rushing to do things and making snap decisions – the symptoms of hurry sickness  – are clear signs that your impatience is gaining the upper hand.

Impatience Triggers
If you experience these feelings and symptoms, try to identify what has caused them. Many of us have “triggers” for impatience. These could be specific people, words or situations.

Make a list of things that cause you to become impatient. If you’re having trouble identifying your triggers, stop and think about the last time you felt this way. What caused it?

If you’re not sure, ask your co-workers (or your friends and family) about your impatience. Chances are, they know what gets you “wound up.” The 5 Whys  technique can also aid you in identifying the root cause of an issue.

Try keeping a journal  to record when you start to feel impatient. Write down the details of the situation, and why you’re getting frustrated. This can help you to examine your actions and to understand why you respond in this way.

You won’t always be able to avoid the triggers that make you impatient. But you can learn to manage your reactions to them.

Tip:   Many people become impatient due to physical factors such as hunger, dehydration or fatigue . Bear this in mind the next time you start to feel impatient. A simple remedy might be a snack and a glass of water!

Managing the Symptoms of Impatience
When you feel impatient, it’s important to get out of this damaging frame of mind as quickly as possible. Try to develop strategies to deal with your impatience as you notice it.

Managing Physical Symptoms
Take deep, slow breaths, and count to 10. Doing this will slow your heart rate, relax your body, and distance you emotionally from the situation. Sometimes you might need a longer count, or to repeat the process several times.

Impatience can cause you to tense your muscles involuntarily. So, consciously focus on relaxing your body . Again, take slow, deep breaths. Relax your muscles, from your toes up to the top of your head.

Force yourself to slow down. Make yourself speak and move more slowly. It will appear to others as if you’re calm – and acting patient often makes you feel more patient.

Emotional Symptoms
Remember, you do have a choice about how you react to certain situations. You can choose to be patient, or not: it’s up to you. (Read our article, Managing Your Emotions at Work , to learn more about this.)

Challenge your negative assumptions, instead of letting your impatience build. Aim to reframe the circumstances in a more positive light. For example, people might not mind if a meeting is delayed, as long as you let them know in advance that you’re running late. There may even be benefits to the delay: understanding a developing situation more clearly, for example.

Warning:Uncharacteristic displays of impatience may be a sign of underlying problems such as stress , exhaustion or burnout . If you think this may apply to you, seek advice from a qualified health professional.

Being Patient With Other People
If your impatience causes you to react angrily toward others, read our article on Anger Management  to learn how to control this powerful emotion.

Practicing empathy can also enable you to defuse your impatience. Give the other person your full attention, and try to see beyond your own frustrations by imagining yourself in the other person’s position.

Remind yourself that impatience rarely has a positive effect – in fact, it may even interfere with the person’s ability to perform. Impatience will likely generate more conflict and stress, which will be counterproductive.

Although some people are naturally patient, the rest of us need to practice, for it to become a habit. Becoming more patient won’t happen overnight, but persistence can pay off!

Key Points
Patience is a vital quality in the workplace. It can reduce stress and conflict, lead to better working relationships, and help you to achieve your long-term life and career goals.
Many of us struggle with impatience. Learn to recognize the physical and emotional symptoms associated with it, and to identify the situations that trigger it.
When you understand the causes of your impatience, you can develop strategies to prevent or overcome it. These could include attending to your physical well-being by using deep breathing and relaxation techniques, and developing your empathy and emotional intelligence skills.

 

By the Content Team
 
source: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_78.htm 

patience

 

7 Strategies to Build Your Patience Muscles

Patience is one of those virtues that sounds simple from a distance. However, while the thought of waiting for something you want or need seems easy in theory, it is much more arduous in practice. When you’re actually faced with the obstacle, the entire concept of patience grows more challenging, and it can be difficult to improve patience in the moment.
This test of patience rings true not just for Type-A East Coasters like me, but also for special education teachers, speech therapists, and nurses – who drip with patience. At times, it’s not a muscle that’s easy to flex no matter who you are.
Some people have more patience for family and loved ones, while others find strangers actually easier to be patient around. For some, the smaller the obstacle, the less the patience – and for others, the opposite is true.
Whatever or whomever your trigger, patience is most difficult to muster up when you encounter a roadblock or waiting time between you and that something you want or need. Whether it’s as simple as:
  • The long line at the grocery store when you just want to get home with your groceries
  • The hold time when you want to speak to a customer service representative
  • The five minutes you must wait when your spouse is running late for dinner
  • Waiting for your computer to reboot
  • Traffic!
Or as BIG as:
  • Waiting for your doctor to call you with test results
  • Waiting to hear back about whether or not you got that promotion or dream job
  • Waiting for an investor’s offer on a business
No matter the gravity of the situation, mindfulness can help you practice patience. What is the link between mindfulness and patience? Let’s have a look:
Patience vs. Mindfulness
To understand the role mindfulness plays in being patient, let’s make sure we are all working off of the same definition of patience, which, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary means, “bearing pains or trials calmly and without compliant” and “steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.”
You can’t really practice patience if you’re not mindful – aware of the situation you’re in and your reaction to it. In the face of discomfort, inconvenience, or difficulty, which is an inevitable part of life on this planet, you must persevere calmly, steadily, and mindfully.
This may be easier in the face of some of the simple inconveniences, like waiting in line or in traffic, and can become much more difficult at the center of a very troubling or prolonged situation.
The good news is that even the most impatient people can improve patience. And there are ample opportunities to practice being patient, given the inevitable inconveniences, annoyances, and unplanned challenges that show up pretty much all the time. So you want to get better at patience? You must practice patience. Here are seven strategies you can use to build your patience muscles.
Pause and Breathe
If you use the time you must wait to take a few deep breaths, your nervous system will slow down instead of speed up. In some situations, by the time you have taken 10 deep breaths, your wait will be over. In others, these breaths will help to center you and invite a calmer reaction to the wait.
Stop Resisting
Have you ever noticed that when you meet an unplanned inconvenience or challenge with resistance, you are really thrown off – and your mood can turn sour and heavy? Everything becomes about overcoming and removing the challenge when you resist it.
On the other hand, when you meet an unplanned inconvenience or challenge with calmness, your mood remains steady and patient. This is the power in responding, rather than reacting to unwelcome circumstances. Most often, it is not external circumstances that make you upset, it is your reaction to those external circumstances that causes the greater dose of stress in life.
How do you control this when you’re at risk for getting impatient? The trick here is to reduce resisting experiences that come your way, where you are unable to affect change. Practicing acceptance does not necessarily mean you like, want, support, or endorse everything you cross paths with. Rather, it means you’re choosing to allow it to be there without resistance, when you can’t change it anyway.
In this way, practicing patience is to practice making your default reaction to accept what is with openness, rather than resist it. This does not mean you have to welcome the situation with open arms and enthusiasm – it just means that you avoid resisting it and let it happen within a neutral attitude.
Acknowledge the Effects of Impatience
In the moment, notice what is making you impatient and ask yourself:
  • Do I have control over the situation? If not, what do I have control over in this moment?
  • Is the feeling of impatience helping or exacerbating the impact of the situation?
  • What emotion or mood would be more helpful, instead of the impatience?
Look for the Silver Lining or Lesson
Get curious about the particular moment you are in. Is there anything about the challenging or inconvenient situation that may land a positive impact on your life? Is there anything positive that was not available to you before – and now is – now that this challenge has presented itself?
This may be include meeting someone new, discovering a new coffee shop, or having the opportunity to practice patience and exercise those muscles.
Use the Extra Time Wisely
Now that you have extra time in this moment, what will you do with it? Instead of focusing on the thing that is in your way, or the thing you are after, focus on something else you normally don’t have time for.
After all, how often do you find yourself with “extra time?” Probably not very often. Use that time to meditate, read an article, listen to a podcast, text something nice to a loved one, or practice gratitude.
Try a Mini Meditation
Take a time-out and practice a short meditation to help you calm any frustration or anger that may result from the situation you are in. Here are 10 mini meditations you can try.
Befriend the Situation
Assume that the obstacle before you was put in your way because you needed to slow down and take a break.
Watch your impulse to perceive the challenge before you as unfair or as bad timing. Instead, shake off any anger or frustration and take this as a cue that an old friend is reminding you that you need a moment to slow down and reset.
If you shift your thinking about the meaning of the obstacle, you’ll wind up arriving wherever you’re headed with a calmer, clearer mind and attitude.
Getting better at being patient will make your life (and the lives of those around you) easier and ultimately will make you a happier person. After all – adversity won’t be going away anytime soon – it’s part of the human experience and you can’t escape it. So you may as well learn to improve your patience and calmly endure the setbacks, difficulties, and unwelcome roadblocks along the way.


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Psychologists Explain How to Focus Your Mind

Frazzled. Confused. Stressed. Discombobulated. Scatterbrained. These are just a few ways of describing the tendencies of the human mind.

Indeed, it can be difficult to understand ourselves. It’s not altogether uncommon to wonder, “Where’d that thought come from?” It’s a fair question, too! Why do we produce random thoughts – and why are the majority of them self-defeating? To answer this question, we must look at the brain’s two modes: default and focused.

“My mind is like an internet browser. 17 tabs are open, 4 of them are frozen and I don’t know where the music is coming from.” – Unknown (source)

UNDERSTANDING YOUR MIND’S TWO MODES
By understanding your mind’s two modes, you’ll unlock the secret to better focus.

MODE 1: THE DEFAULT MODE

“A wandering mind costs you nothing but is very expensive.” – Amit Sood, M.D.

Did you know that “at rest” really isn’t resting much at all? Neurophysiologists state that the focused mind uses just five percent more than a mind doing nothing in particular. The paradox here is that your mind is always doing something – even when you’re doing nothing – and this comes at an energy cost.

It is when we’re bored that the brain enters its default mode. If the brain could talk, it would say something like this: “Is this something interesting that is worth my time? No? Leave me alone to brood.” This brooding always takes place when the brain is in default mode.

Most people will recognize when their brain is in its default state, but not all. Some people feel as if their attention rarely wanders or enters default mode. Unless you are a monk or a long-time meditation or yoga practitioner, this is probably untrue. But here are a few questions to answer if you think this is the case:

  • Do my family or friends complain that I’m often too distracted?
  • Do I arrive at home with little memory of the commute?
  • Have I become more forgetful?
  • Do I experience mind racing in the shower?
  • Have I ever read a book with no idea of what I just read?
  • Do my thoughts wander when someone is talking or giving a presentation?
  • Do I wake up to a mind whirling with thoughts?

If you’ve answered in the affirmative to any of the above questions, your brain was in its default state. Please remember this about the default mode: the default mode takes away from your enjoyment of life; in fact, it often contributes to the pain and suffering you sometimes feel.

MODE 2: THE FOCUSED MODE

“Concentration brings with it a natural job as the mind settles and is absent of distraction.” – Shaila Catherine (source)

The brain’s secondary mode – and unfortunately so – is the focused mode. It’s not a stretch to say that the focused mode is the answer to most of life’s ills. This mode is recognizable when you become absorbed in something and lose track of time. Activities that activate focused mode includes:

  • Eating a delicious meal
  • Reading a good book
  • Watching an enthralling movie
  • Staring at a newborn baby
  • Watching the sunset
  • Solving a meaningful problem

The focused mind is relatively free of distractions, including the inner distractions of anxiety, restlessness, boredom, and so forth. As such, the focused mind is a happy mind. The focused mind becomes activated while you are paying attention to anything interesting and meaningful.

While there aren’t any official statistics on how often a person spends their time in focused mode, it’s probably in the ballpark of 25 percent. But fret not. You can substantially increase the amount of time that you spend in focused mode by committing to do so. This process takes a bit of effort at first but quickly becomes rather effortless. More on this later.

THE HUMAN MIND IS BEAUTIFUL

How powerful is what you just read? Simply by knowing and being mindful of the brain’s two “modes,” you can live a happier, more peaceful, and more meaningful life. Your brain innately understands the differences between the two modes – and the above descriptions should help.

Remember the differences:

Default mode: anxiety, stress, depression, restlessness; internally-focused, directionless.  The majority of people spend most of their time in this state.

Focused mode: content, happy, peaceful; externally-focused, time seems to fly. Most of us only spend about 25 percent in this state.

“WHY CAN’T I STAY IN DEFAULT MODE?”

Listen up as this is a critical point: no matter how much you learn about the brain and its processes, you will never be able to remain in a state of complete focus. How often you can stay in focused mode depends upon your initial capacity for attention, as well as your willingness to learn mindful techniques like meditation.

But what are these things even required? Why can‘t you just stay in a focused state? Well, as great as being focused all of the time sounds, it would be counterproductive and even dangerous.

Our brain has evolved an autonomic system that responds to threats – real or perceived. How important is the autonomic nervous system? Have you ever involuntarily taken a breath or moved to avoid a collision with a car or person? Sure, you have – all of us do this. It’s called survival, and our brain and body are finely tuned to survive in even the most challenging scenarios.

The problem is that the brain doesn’t know the difference between real and perceived threats. It is when we are prone to mind-wandering that these threats become more challenging and profuse. Biologically, the human brain in its current state is not designed to allow conscious thought to dominate. Will the brain ever reach that point? That remains to be seen.

OVERCOMING RESISTANCE IN THE MIND

“What you resist not only persists but will grow in size.” – Carl Jung (source)

Read and re-read the following statement as often as you’d like: to resist wandering thoughts is futile. Go ahead, reread it.

One of the first things that someone does when trying to get into a more focused state is to suppress wandering thoughts. Not only does this fail, but it actually makes things worse. Think of trying to resist negative or wandering thoughts as tightening a spring – the harder that you try, the more it recoils.

What is the answer, then? To bring the wandering mind back to the task, whatever it happens to be – whether reading a book, writing a paper, having a conversation, etc. – over and over again without denying other mental states. It is this directing and re-directing of focus that allows your attentional muscles to grow.

Remembering to redirect your attention throughout the day can be challenging, but it isn’t the most challenging part. The hardest part is resisting the urge to criticize yourself for losing focus in the first place. You must try and get over this tendency as much as possible. Not only will self-criticism drain your mental energy, but it may very well derail any efforts to become more focused and mindful.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE HUMAN MIND: A BLUEPRINT FOR FOCUS

“Everyone in your life is vying for your attention.” – Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D. (source)

Here’ s another tidbit that you may want to keep in mind: distractions (i.e. mind wandering) further depletes your brain’s energy levels. In turn, this energy depletion makes it easier to succumb to distractions.

What to do? Here’s a four-point blueprint for maximizing focus.

POINT #1 – MONITOR YOUR ATTENTION.
You must track where your attention is going to make better use of it. When do you feel the most focused and attentive? What things cause you to lose focus on the task at hand? Track these things and prepare a plan of action.

POINT #2 – MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS.
There is a correlation between mental and bodily emotions and energy. If you are feeling happy or content, your brain will be more alert and active than if you’re downtrodden and lethargic. Do the things that make you feel more of the former and less of the things that make you feel more of the latter.

POINT #3 – LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY.
While it may sound downright paradoxical to call upon tech for more focus, the right type of technology can indeed help. Try downloading an app that blocks distracting websites. Or maybe one that tracks productivity and emails daily reports. Do whatever works for you.

POINT #4 – DON’T GIVE UP.
For the vast majority, building up a cognitive reserve of focus is a timely and challenging undertaking. Don’t allow your emotions and negative self-talk (both forms of mind-wandering) to take you off track. If you put in the time and effort, you will be a more focused, happier, and productive individual!

source: https://www.powerofpositivity.com/focus-mind-psychologists-explain/ 

focus

 

Dealing with Uncertainty About What Path to Take

The amount of time we spend fretting over what path to take, when we’re feeling uncertain, can sometimes be staggering.
We’re entering into unknown territory, and we don’t know how to proceed. It happens all the time for many of us: we start a new job, launch a new venture, change careers, have to deal with incredible change, decide to write a book or create something online, put ourselves in a new social situation.
Some of the things we do in response to this uncertainty:
  • Extensive research, often to the point of very diminishing returns, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed by how much information we’ve found.
  • Buy books, courses, programs, other materials that we think will guide us — this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but in truth, none of this will give us certainty.
  • Try to find teachers or other people who will guide us, who have been there before — again, hoping that they’ll give us certainty, but often this isn’t a magic pill either.
  • Delay making a decision, putting it off over and over because it’s too hard to decide. Avoid, avoid. This might be the most common option, actually.
  • Give up because you don’t know if you can do it, don’t know what to do, don’t know what the hell you’re doing. This is pretty common too — in fact, most people give up before they even start.
  • These are very common reactions to entering into uncertainty, but usually not very helpful. They get in the way of doing the work and living the life we’d like.
So how do we deal with the uncertain path that we’d like to embark upon?
It’s not always easy, but I’ve found there to be a set of practices that can help tremendously.
The Mindset Shift
The first mindset shift to consider is that uncertainty is not bad, or something to be avoided. It’s a natural part of doing anything meaningful. In fact, feeling uncertainty is a great sign that you’re doing something challenging and meaningful.
Uncertainty can be embraced, opened up to, even loved. We can learn to cherish the uncertainty in our lives, if we shift our mindset and practice with it.
The second mindset shift is to see an uncertain path as a practice opportunity. It’s not something to run from, but a place to stay, so that we can grow, learn, and create.
Every time we feel uncertainty, it can be seen as a calling to open up and practice. To turn towards and try a new way of doing things, rather than indulging in old, unhelpful patterns.
The Uncertainty Practices
So let’s say you’re about to head down an uncertain path — starting a new job, moving into a new phase of your life, writing a book, launching a business or product …
How do you open to the uncertainty and practice with it?
Here’s what I’ve found to be useful, in writing books and launching programs, along with dealing with huge life changes:
  1. Stay in the uncertainty as a practice, and with devotion. You are staying in this place of uncertainty to practice with it, but also to serve those you care deeply about. They are worth it. Remind yourself of them, and that doing this for them is more important than your discomfort with uncertainty. Let yourself feel uncertainty in your body, staying with the sensations in the moment — and learn that it’s not a big deal to feel that uncertainty. With practice, this becomes easier and easier.
  2. Go with the gut (or the heart). If you’re unsure of what path to take (need to make some decisions), it’s easy to get frozen in indecision, because there’s not clear answer. You can ask a hundred people, and not get a clear way to make a decision. You can read a million articles and books, talk to experts, but there’s no right answer. And so, you have to learn to trust your gut. Or your heart. When I’m at a crossroads, what I try to do is sit still for a little while, contemplating the question. I feel into my heart, and decide what feels right. I don’t have any certainty, because there’s no right answer. Instead, I have to trust my gut or heart, and just go with it … the real trust is that even if it’s the wrong answer, I’ll be perfectly fine. More on that bit below.
  3. Embrace the not knowing. So you’ve used your heart to make an uncertain choice … but you don’t know exactly how it will go. That’s OK. In fact, you can embrace this not knowing … it’s like reading a book or watching a movie without knowing how things will unfold. That’s part of the fun! Not knowing is a beautiful thing, even though most of the time we really want to know. Can you take the next step without knowing, being completely open to how things might turn out? Being curious to find out more, without having a fixed idea of how it should be? Letting things be fluid and fresh? Try it and see!
  4. Let things unfold as you walk the path. As you move along this uncertain path, see how things turn out. Notice what you can notice, learn from this new information. For example, if I’m going to launch a new product, I don’t know how people will respond. I can launch it without knowing, and see how they respond, listen to their reactions, talk to them and find out more. If I’m dealing with a health issue, I can try different solutions, noticing how they affect things. I don’t know how things will unfold, but I can walk the path and find out.
  5. Get information, adjust the path. As you let things unfold, you’ll be gathering new information. You’ll learn whether things turned out as you expected or not. You’ll be open to all of this, but it might turn out that you need to make adjustments. For example, when I launched my Fearless Training Program, I didn’t know exactly what people would need in the program, or how they’d respond to the training. Listening to them has helped me to understand better, and I’ve adjusted the program a lot in the past 18 months. Over and over, I listen and learn and adjust. It’s good to build in regular reviews so you can make adjustments as you walk the uncertain path — weekly reviews are great.
  6. Learn to trust you’ll be fine. You might flop on your face — but what’s the worst-case scenario (of all likely outcomes)? Probably nothing too bad. You won’t die, in most cases. What I’ve learned is to trust that things will turn out fine. Not as I expect, but fine. I might fail, but I learn to deal with the failure. A failure is just a way to grow, learn, get better. It’s not the end of the world. Walking the uncertain path, let yourself develop trust in yourself to respond resiliently to whatever happens. With this trust, you’ll learn that you don’t need to avoid the uncertainty.
  7. Create rituals to support the uncertainty. All of this is great in an ideal world — but in reality, we’re likely to go to our old patterns. The way to work with this is through rituals designed to support these practices. For example, you might start your day with meditation, letting yourself feel the uncertainty in your body. You might set a focus session for first thing in your work day, where you let yourself push into uncertainty every day, at least once a day. You might set up a weekly review, where you make adjustments based on how things are unfolding. In that review, you might notice how things are going just fine, and let that cultivate trust in the process and in yourself to handle things. You might get a group of advisors and check in with them once a month, talking to them about your uncertainty. Figure out what rituals you need to support your practice with uncertainty, and set them up.
  8. This path of uncertainty isn’t anything you can’t handle. Many people have walked similar uncertain paths in the past, and are doing so now. You can do it just as well as anyone.
Our paths must contain uncertainty, because no one knows what the hell they’re doing. We’re making it up as we go along, learning as we go, and if we’re conscious about it, we can dance with the uncertainty with a smile on our face.
BY LEO BABAUTA
POSTED: TUESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2020


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Conquering Emotional Blind Spots Is Challenging, But Worth It

Knowing you have them is the first step.

I’ve signed up to get emotionally attacked by my phone every day. Along with hundreds of thousands of people, I get a daily notification from the astrology app Co-Star. It sends an A.I.-generated nugget of wisdom based on what my horoscope and the message is usually ruthless.

“Who do you trust with your most intense feelings?” Co-Star asked me recently. The question stunned me so much that I had to sit down to think about it. When I could think of no one, I ended up booking my first therapist appointment in months.

“Taking the time to correct a friend’s behaviour is an act of love,” the app quipped. I realized that I was holding back from talking to an acquaintance about a hurtful remark they made because of how much I hate confrontation.

I’m no masochist and would be mortified if anyone talked to me like Co-Star does. But I won’t be deleting the app anytime soon. These regular roasts serve an important function in my life that little else can: they force me to self-reflect on my emotional blind spots that erode my relationships.

What is a blind spot?
Emotional blind spots cause life obstacles that aren’t visible to us, but are obvious to others. Maybe you never apologize authentically because accepting blame makes you feel bad. Or you could be a habitual people-pleaser, to the detriment of your stress levels. This hard-wired obliviousness is often due to our cognitive biases. Our brains are constantly filtering endless amounts of information, making them prone to decision-making shortcuts that are based on memories and emotions rather than rational thinking.

When it comes to uncomfortable situations or interactions, our cognitive biases are likely to kick in and lead to reactions that are unhealthy for us or the people we care about. But like rear-view mirrors, there are tools that can help us spot what obstructs our judgement.

Find a blind spot
Listen to how others describe you. Counsellor Kevin Beauchamp advises keeping an ear out for “the just factor:” it’s when your social circles use the word “just” before referring to you as an excuse for your behaviour.

“That’s just Paul, he gets angry … She doesn’t take feedback well, that’s just the way she is,” he gives as examples.

Mindfulness exercises can also unearth uncomfortable truths. Oprah Magazine recommends looking at patterns in bad relationships and listing what makes you unhappy in your current ones. If it seems like all your exes have the same negative quality, it might be time to question the common denominator. For example, if you blame former lovers for never knowing how you feel, it could be that you’re prone to shutting loved ones out.

Mood-tracking can also be revealing. Should certain encounters frequently make you feel unhappy or if certain statements about your life (from friends or astrology apps alike) cause you to double-take, you might be able to trace your mood to a warped line of thinking you regularly fall into.

OK, I know my personality flaw. How do I change it?
Counsellor and mental health journalist Kathleen Smith writes we should question some personal adages. These might look like:

  • I must be loved at all times.
  • I must avoid all conflict.
  • I must have control over everything.

If you find yourself agreeing with statements that support an “I must” mentality, it’s worth asking yourself why and work towards proving that statement wrong.

This can be easier said than done. But our personalities are a lot more flexible than we think.

University of Cambridge psychologist Brian R. Little studied the “personal projects” people undertake in the pursuit of changing themselves, such as getting over social anxiety by volunteering. Little found they could eventually change their personality traits permanently, as long as their project was something they really cared about.

You can do this by setting attainable goals related to your shortcomings. A 14-week long study suggests that participants who kept challenging themselves to change were more successful than those who just expressed a desire to be different.

For those who want to be less neurotic, study author and psychologist Nathan Hudson said activities like saying positive affirmations can directly intervene in one’s neurotic thought process.

Personal project ideas for common blind spots
You don’t need to step completely out of your comfort zone to change your personality. Starting small and being consistent are key steps to making progress:

Trying to be less avoidant? Send a difficult message over text, instead of saying it in-person.

Want to be less self-critical? Say three compliments every time you have a negative thought about yourself.

Quick to anger in an argument? Before replying, slow down your breathing and consider the other person’s perspective.

Trying to listen more? Pay attention to how much others speak and ask questions about what they bring up.

20 Ideas For 2020 is our month-long series that explores easy ways to take action on the ideas and changes you may have already been thinking about.
By Al Donato       01/07/2020 

2 Mindfulness Steps To Silence Your Inner Critic

Self-Care For Leaders: 2 Mindfulness Steps To Silence Your Inner Critic

“What will they think of me?,” “I’m not good enough,” “I am lazy,” “What if I fail?,” “I am overwhelmed at work.” “Everyone is more beautiful, smarter, stronger, thinner.” “I can never be a good leader.”
Our minds seem to have an infinite supply of critical comments. And those comments are hard to ignore. They distract us and they limit us and they even interfere with our ability to enjoy a peaceful sleep. To be clear, I am not talking about our ability to reflect on where we are in life, and assess our strengths and weaknesses so we can choose what we might want to change. That ability is fundamental to our growth as a human being.
The inner critic is different. It is not constructive and it does not deal with the facts. It is a story-teller. And when we feed the words of the inner critic, the story becomes a full-length feature film that keeps us frozen to the status quo. We begin to believe the criticisms. And those critical comments have the power to prevent us from following our dreams, or taking the chances needed to find happiness or love or success. They can also begin to make us feel sad or anxious.
So, how can mindfulness help?
  1. Begin by calling to mind an example of an inner critic statement. As you do so, notice if other thoughts start to pop up to enhance the statement, or if you start feeling any sensations of discomfort in your body. Are they familiar? When else do you notice those thoughts or feelings?
  2. Now see if you can meet those words and thoughts with this sentence: “This may or may not be true.” Once again pay attention to sensations and feelings that arise.
There is no need for you to try to deny the critical comment, it is enough to simply begin to generate some spaciousness around it. You are beginning to develop a different relationship to the words that pop into your head. And with that shift, some spaciousness begins to develop and some of the weightiness begins to lift. What decisions will you make now that all that chatter in your head is beginning to quiet down?
This post is the second in a series on Self Care. The first post looked at ways to get a better night’s sleep Self Care for Leaders.
Janice Marturano       Jan 7, 2020
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20 Ways To Be A Happier Person

20 Ways To Be A Happier Person In 2020, According To Therapists
If you’re going to make a resolution for the new year, it may as well be improving your mental health.

Looking to make 2020 your happiest, most fulfilling year yet?

If your mental and emotional wellness took a backseat in 2019, there’s no better time than right now to prioritize it. (If anything, it’ll make the election year just mildly more bearable.) Your mood affects everything in your life ― your relationships, your work, your self-care ― so improving it should be at the top of your goal list.

That might feel like a huge and lofty task, but small, actionable habits can help you get there, according to experts. Below are the most common happiness tips therapists recommend. Maybe they’ll sound challenging or unrealistic (more on that later), but maybe they just might change your life.

1. Conquer one anxiety

Give yourself a motivational benchmark to start conquering your biggest fears this year.

“Single out the goal of selecting an anxiety that is holding you back, and thoroughly commit yourself to obliterating that fear,” said Forrest Talley, a clinical psychologist. “Hold nothing back in your assault; treat that fear as though it is enemy number one.”

Perhaps you’ve been worried about signing up for a half marathon. Maybe you’re afraid to reach out to book agents because you don’t want to be rejected. Perhaps you’re fearful of having a difficult conversation with a toxic friend or family member and you’re putting it off. Set the goal, pick a reward you’ll get when you complete it, then get to it.

“The thing to keep in mind is that very often happiness is found just on the other side of a doorway guarded by our anxieties,” Talley said. “And the new year is a great time to start kicking down some doors.”

2. Lock down a sleep schedule that works for you

You may think you’re doing OK on sleep, but take a closer look at your schedule. Are you really getting optimal hours? Are you maintaining relatively the same bed time every night?

“Getting a [consistent] good night’s sleep is vital; chronic sleep deprivation is a huge problem, especially for those who work late or are extremely busy,” said Joanna Konstantopoulou, a psychologist and founder of the Health Psychology Clinic. “It’s not just the 40-hour marathons without sleep which can be detrimental to your psychological health, but simply losing an hour or two on a regular basis can have a significant impact on your mind and well-being.”

That last bit is important. If you’re constantly shaving off an hour here or there ― thinking you can get by on five hours a night ― it’s time to reevaluate that sleep schedule.

“Start with small steps by giving yourself a sensible and realistic bedtime,” Konstantopoulou said. “Try to go to bed half an hour before your usual bedtime and stick to it. Evaluate this new habit every day by having a journal and writing down your progress.”

She noted that this new routine will improve your memory, reduce anxiety, and “transport toxins out of the brain” to potentially prevent chronic illnesses.

3. Find one small self-care act that works for you and prioritize it

Pick a you-centric activity and engage in it regularly, said Elena Touroni, co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.

“The most impactful mental health goal a person can set is the commitment to balance workload and responsibilities alongside activities that bring them a sense of well-being and enjoyment,” she said. “When there is an imbalance in what we’re giving out to the world, and what we’re taking for ourselves, that’s when our psychological resources get depleted.”

Her suggestions to get you started? Try beginning each day with a five-minute mindfulness meditation session. Want to go further? “Go to therapy to unravel a lifelong pattern, get a personal trainer, or make time for reading,” she said. “This commitment can be broken down into specific and concrete goals, depending on your personal preferences, but it all comes down to making self-care a priority.”

4. Spend 10 minutes a day outside

Go for a walk during your lunch break, spend a few minutes drinking your morning coffee outside or pick up running. It doesn’t even have to be for a long period of time.

“This year, resolve to spend less time inside and more time outdoors in natural settings,” said Michael Brodsky, a psychiatrist. “Research in multiple countries show that spending time in green spaces can lift your mood and relieve anxiety in as little as 10 minutes.”

5. Regularly practice a simple mindfulness exercise

“Many of us spend our days worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, thus, missing a great deal of what is happening in the here-and-now,” said Anna Prudovski, the clinical director of Turning Point Psychological Services.

Making an effort to be more present “increases the sense of well-being, promotes vitality, heightens our awareness, helps train our attention, improves the quality of our work, and enhances interpersonal relationships,” she said. Sounds pretty nice, right? “Be more present” can feel a little vague, so here’s how you can get started:

Each day, spend five minutes noticing your surroundings and how you feel. Do this by naming five things you see, four things you can physically feel, three different sounds you hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It’s OK if you point out something far away from you. Then take a second to label how you’re feeling in the moment (like, “I’m frustrated,” “I’m bored,” or “I’m excited”). This is known as a grounding exercise, which experts say helps with anxiety.

6. Say nice things about yourself

Roseann Capanna-Hodge, pediatric mental health expert and psychologist, suggested an adjustment to your everyday vocabulary, both in your thoughts and out loud.

“Instead of always focusing on the negative, flip your dialogue to only positive outcomes. For example, instead of saying, ‘If I get that job,’ switch it to, ‘When I get that job.’ Those subtle changes in using positive language helps to change your mindset to a glass half full instead of a glass half empty.”

You can also increase your positive thoughts by stating one thing you like about yourself when you look in the mirror each morning. Cheesy, but worth a shot.

7. Give up or cut back on one unhealthy habit

We know when things are bad for us, which can cause stress. You can curb that by reducing them or giving them up entirely, said Sarah C. McEwen, a cognitive psychologist. Think activities like high alcohol consumption or excessive caffeine consumption.

Getting those things in check “will all help to manage stress levels,” McEwen said.

8. Find a physical activity you love

“Exercise plays a large role in mental health,” said physician Jena Sussex-Pizula. “While studies are ongoing, a review article found consistent beneficial effects of exercise on depressive symptoms across multiple studies.”

How often? McEwen suggests 30 minutes a day if you can. “This [amount] has been shown to produce the most benefit for improving mood and reducing stress levels,” she said.

The most important part is finding something you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it’s pilates, martial arts, spinning, running, dancing or lifting weights ― just make sure the activity is something that excites you.

9. Try meditation

Haven’t jumped on the bandwagon just yet? Now is as good a time as ever. McEwen suggests meditation for those who want to improve their level of stress resilience.

“A mindfulness meditation practice will have a tremendous positive effect longterm,” she said. “I recommend allocating at least 30 minutes daily, which can be divided into morning and evening.”

Feeling intimidated by the concept? McEwen suggested trying a local class or an app like Headspace, Waking Up or Insight Timer.

“Research has shown that the regular practice of meditation can actually improve your health because it lowers the negative effects of not only high cortisol, but also high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” she said. “Other great benefits of regular meditation include mental clarity and focus, improvement of memory and overall higher level of mental performance.”

10. Stop negative thoughts in their tracks

“Our thoughts are not always reality,” said Judy Ho, a clinical and forensic neuropsychologist and author of ”Stop Self Sabotage.” “And we need to get into the routine of challenging them and changing our relationships to our thoughts.”

You can do this by asking yourself a simple question when you’re beating yourself up. Next time you have a negative thought, ask yourself: Does this completely and accurately capture what’s going on?”

Ho said from there, you can transform the thought using one of two tactics. One is called “yes, but” and one is called “labeling.”

“‘Yes, but’ involves recognizing a not so great thing, and [adding] something that is positive or shows progress,” she said. “Example: I did eat three cupcakes while trying to cut down on sugar, but I have been doing a great job with healthy eating and can start fresh tomorrow.”

And as for labeling, try mentally recognizing or acknowledging that the thought you’re having is toxic. According to Ho, this “takes the wind out of the sails of a negative thought and reminds you that a thought is just a mental event, and nothing more.”

11. Invest in a quality relationship

“If you want to have good long-term mental and physical health, you need to first see if you have meaningful, loving relationships,” said clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland. “Who knows you better than anyone and who do you know better than anyone? Have you invested in that relationship by staying in touch and talking on the phone (not just texting)? And when was the last time you got together?”

Gilliland suggests picking one person close to you this year, and planning to spend quality time together.

“If we’re not careful, we will end up giving our best in places that aren’t good for our mental health,” he said. “Study after study finds that loving meaningful relationships are good for our mental and physical health.”

12. Read self-development books

“Read at least one book on someone you admire, and how they have dealt with the struggles in their life,” Gilliland said. “There are a lot of ways to learn about your mental health, from therapy to self-help to the lives of other people.”

You can pick up many tips and find a lot of inspiration in these motivational books, whether they’re memoirs or expert-backed advice. Need a specific suggestion?

“I have so enjoyed Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography and recent album ‘Western Stars’ where he talks about his struggle with depression and family issues,” Gilliland said. “It’s powerful and encouraging … You can’t help but see yourself in some of his stories, he can paint with words like very few people can. It’s a wonderful way to learn about your mental health without feeling like its work.”

13. Cut back on your social media use

So often we view people’s highlight reels on social media. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy in our own lives, according to experts. And given that research shows spending too much time online is linked to poor mental health, now’s the perfect time to cut back.

“External validation is temporary; it’s difficult to maintain the pressure to chase ‘likes,’” said therapist Jennifer Musselman. “Build your self esteem from competence of something important to you, and by being of service to others.”

14. Set better boundaries

Did you find yourself feeling chronically overwhelmed and stretched thin in 2019? Time to reel that in and make more space for you by setting boundaries.

“This one is more important than people realize, and they have way more control than they realize,” Gilliland said. “If you don’t want to go, then don’t go!”

Consider: Is it something you think you “should” do? If so, then why? In the words of a popular therapist joke, stop should-ing yourself. Set those boundaries to thrive in 2020.

15. Make a progress list each week

Expecting perfection guarantees you’ll feel like a failure at least part of the time, and can lead to serious anxiety.

“Learn the art of progress, not perfection,” Musselman said. “We are setting ourselves up for failure from the get-go [when we expect] to ‘have it all’ perfectly balanced. In other words, we will always feel like we are failing.”

From “doing it all” as a mom to building your entrepreneurial business to perfecting your talent, it’s time to let go of that expectation that things are always going to be perfect. Instead, try writing down the incremental improvements you made each week. Celebrate small successes that eventually will lead to big ones.

17. Get a therapist if you’re able to do it

If you were trying to get in physical shape and had no idea where to start, you might turn to a coach or personal trainer. Mental health works the same way.

There are so, so many benefits to seeing a therapist. And there are affordable options, too: Attend group therapy at a local mental health center, seek free options in your community, opt for a sliding-scale psychologist, find a provider through your health insurance or try an app like Talkspace to get started.

“Getting a therapist in 2020 would be a good goal if you need a therapist and have been putting it off,” Talley said.

18. Write in a gratitude journal

Practicing gratitude “is so essential for a full and happy life,” Talley said.

Instead of allowing your brain to go to a place of anxiety and stress, Talley says to arm yourself with grateful thoughts. Writing them down helps.

“If you wake up and focus on that which you have to be grateful for, your brain becomes better at finding even more [gratitude],” Talley said.

19. Turn your phone off

It’s been shown in many studies that too much tech time can negatively impact mental health.

Become less available via text and email so you don’t feel emotionally tethered to your phone, and spend more time off your devices. Opt for screen-free activities ― especially at night ― that help you disconnect from certain social and work stressors.

“While it’s unclear if sedentary screen time is a marker for or risk factor for depression (as all that has been shown is a correlation), there appears to be a consistent association of increased screen time in patients with depression and anxiety,” Sussex-Pizula said.

20. Reduce food shame and stress through mindful eating

Have thoughts around food, calories, dieting, etc. been weighing on you in 2019? Lisa Hayim, a registered dietitian and founder of food therapy program Fork The Noise, said it’s time to kick this to the curb.

“When we feel nervous, scared, anxious, or even unsure of what to eat or how much, our stress hormones begin to fire,” she said. “Our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, and we’re no longer making empowered decisions.”

Does this sound like you? Are you constantly thinking about what a food choice might “do” to your body?

“Breathe. Your body knows what it wants and how much it wants, when it wants it,” she said. Listening to it is called intuitive or mindful eating: enjoying whatever you want and taking cues from your body when it’s hungry and full.

“Decreasing stress around food choices is not just good for the body, it’s good for the mind and the soul,” Hayim said.

 

By Dominique Astorino   12/30/2019
wellness@huffpost.com.
happiness-comes-from-within-and-is-found-in-the-present-moment-by-making-peace-with-the-past-and-looking-forward-to-the-future

 

6 Things To Let Go Of
If You Want To Be A Tiny Bit Happier This Year

Examining the toxic thoughts and behaviors that you should kick to the curb and advice on how to do it.

Most people kick off January by creating resolutions that drastically aim to add healthy habits to their daily lives (which doesn’t always work, by the way ― and that’s OK). But sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to let some things go instead.

“The new year offers a fresh opportunity, while the weight of the past keeps us in a place of inaction,” said Olecia Christie, a certified life coach and owner of Optix Communications in San Antonio, noting that it’s important to discern when to release the things that no longer serve our own growth and happiness.

With that in mind, here are a few things you should consider leaving behind in the new year, according to Christie and other experts:

Comparing your life to others’ on Instagram

In this era of social media, it always appears that everyone is living their best life — that is, everyone except you. Ibinye Osibodu-Onyali, a licensed marriage and family therapist at The Zinnia Practice in California, said you should remember that social media is a highlight reel. Comparing your daily life to a single picture capturing a perfect moment isn’t the best use of your time.

Instead, Osibodu-Onyali suggested engaging with the people you admire in 2020.

“Rather than spending so many hours per week scrolling mindlessly, begin to actually connect with people you admire on social media. Send them a DM, ask for advice, seek out actual mentorship,” she said. “You’ll be surprised how many new friends you will acquire just by reaching out, rather than being a jealous onlooker.”

Letting fear hold you back from something you want to do

Anthony Freire, the clinical director and founder of The Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling in New York, said in order to release fear, shame and guilt, you must first “shine a spotlight” on them.

“On your deathbed, you don’t want to be kicking yourself for not having completed your bucket list for any reason, but especially because of feelings like guilt, fear and shame — which are only problematic feelings because you’ve told yourself that you should feel that way,” he said.

Worrying about things you cannot control

It’s unrealistic to suggest giving up worry or stress entirely ― these feelings are a normal part of life. Instead, try to focus just on the worries you can take action on.

“Focus your thoughts on things you can change. When you have a list of worry thoughts, write out what you can change and what you can’t. Work on the situation that you can change, and just release the rest. It takes a lot of time and practice to learn this skill, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that you’ll worry less,” Osibodu-Onyali explained.

For some, this is easier said than done. If you find that you’re unable to manage your excessive worrying ― especially over things out of your control ― it might be worth seeking advice from a professional. This could be a sign of an anxiety disorder, which is a very real and common condition.

Old grudges or grievances

Research shows holding onto a grudge or anger for longer than necessary can be toxic for your physical and mental health. Right now is the perfect opportunity to work on letting go of some old baggage “by either working on repairing strained relationships or closing the chapter on relationships that cannot be salvaged,” Osibodu-Onyali said.

This doesn’t apply to people who have severely damaged or hurt you, but could be useful for someone you’ve grown distant with or just no longer envision as a healthy part of your life. You can either choose to move forward or let go.

“Although saying goodbye to a relationship can be tough, the closure can be very freeing,” Osibodu-Onyali said.

What other people think of you

There’s a saying that goes “what other people think of you is none of your business.” It’s important to know what your values are and to be grounded in them, so that you’re not swayed by the thoughts of others. Osibodu-Onyali said she often challenges her clients by asking: “So what if they don’t like you? What happens next?” She said more often than not, the answer is usually “nothing.”

“The truth is that the world doesn’t end and you don’t have to be liked by everyone,” she said. “Stick to your core group of supporters who truly love and respect you, and don’t spend time worrying about the people who don’t quite get you. If they don’t get you, that’s OK. You can’t be a part of every group.”

The need to be right in every conflict

We’ve all strived to win arguments; however, that can cause more stress than it’s worth. Freire said letting go of the need to win “takes up enormous energy because people tend to want to be right.”

“How many times do we fight with someone and we’re simply fighting to be right?” he said. “We say things we can’t take back and later we apologize and think to ourselves ‘I overreacted’ or ‘We fought over something so stupid.’ Sometimes we don’t even remember why we were fighting to begin with. Sometimes trivial things we get stuck on are just smaller manifestations of larger underlying issues.”

These kinds of interactions can often lead to “negative self-talk and anxiety as [we] overanalyze the situation and stress about the impact of the interaction,” according to Elise Hall, a licensed and independent clinical social worker in Massachusetts.

Instead, try looking at a fight as a problem to be solved (experts say there’s one phrase that can easily help you do this with a partner). This can help you let go of the need to be right and put your focus on a solution.

This all might be challenging, but it could be worth it to increase your joy — even just by a fraction.

By Stephanie Barnes      01/02/2020