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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
Check out my website or some of my other work here.


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Positive People: The 3 Emotionally Intelligent Behaviors They Practice Daily

Engage negativity with the weapons of positivity.

There is simply no magic pill when it comes to becoming a more positive person. Everything behind what they do can be boiled down to one word: mindset.

To become more positive, especially in negative work environments that strip you of your joy and dignity, you have to engage the negative forces that surround you with three weapons of positivity.

1. Develop your self-awareness.

Self-awareness is a weapon used to protect you from yourself and your shortcomings. Remember to first inspect whether you’re the source of negative behavior. For example, are you a gossiper? If so, ask yourself three questions:

  •     How does it make me feel when I spread rumors?
  •     Why do I need to have this feeling?
  •     What does the behavior of talking bad behind someone’s back reveal to others about my own attitude?

This is where a boost of self-awareness does wonders. If you’re like most people bent on becoming more positive, you’ll probably gain some insight into how you are perceived when spreading gossip.

While getting to the core of your attitude and why it influences your behavior isn’t a cure-all solution, it’s a great first step to positivity. It also helps to expose the things that you’ve been hiding from yourself.

positivity

 

2. Break down your negative support systems.

Now that you’ve gained self-awareness, your next weapon is used to scan the landscape to determine what support systems are in place that reinforce negative attitudes and behaviors.

In the workplace, you’ll often find pockets of people and outdated management practices (like micromanagement or controlling behaviors) that often support and feed a toxic work culture.

Sticking with the theme of gossip, a willingness to actively participate in it and listen to circles of gossip is an example of how you may be feeding into the negative support system that fuels toxicity.

One weapon of positivity to counter this type of stronghold is to outright reject any association with negative forces that don’t promote the values of respect, trust, and accountability.

Plan to attack negative behaviors at the spot where they’re weakest. For example, if you really want to stop being around gossip, put limits on those who do it. Turn down lunch invitations from gossiping peers and co-workers, and walk away from sidebar and parking lot conversations that are beckoning to suck you into the negativity.

3. Have positive substitutes for negative behaviors.

Finally, replace those negative support systems with positive options that will deliver better results. We’re talking here about intentionally seeking out work relationships with positive people who share the very values that lead to healthy collaboration, safe work engagement, and energizing productivity.

You’ll know these positive people after a while; they’re the ones who have strict boundaries themselves and never get sucked into negativity. They think ahead about how to improve a bad situation, take accountability for their actions, and move toward contributing to solutions to organizational problems with positive intent.

By Marcel Schwantes    Principal and founder, Leadership From the Core     @MarcelSchwantes
source: www.inc.com


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The Immune System Affects Social Behaviour and Personality

The immune system was thought to have little effect on the brain — until now.

The immune system is directly responsible for social behaviour and even our personalities, new research finds.

The conclusion comes as a shock to scientists and raises questions about the cause of mental health problems like schizophrenia and autism.

A malfunctioning immune system could be at the heart of these disorders.

Professor Jonathan Kipnis explained why the finding is so shocking to scientists:

“The brain and the adaptive immune system were thought to be isolated from each other, and any immune activity in the brain was perceived as sign of a pathology.
And now, not only are we showing that they are closely interacting, but some of our behavior traits might have evolved because of our immune response to pathogens.
It’s crazy, but maybe we are just multicellular battlefields for two ancient forces: pathogens and the immune system.
Part of our personality may actually be dictated by the immune system.”

For the research in mice and other animals, the scientists blocked a critical immune molecule called interferon-gamma.

The mice (and other animals) then became much less social than they had been before.

The study follows on from findings published last year that there is connection between the brain and the immune system previously thought not to exist.

immune

The link between the immune system and social behaviour makes sense, though, as being social is important but also raises the risk of disease.

Dr Anthony J. Filiano, the study’s lead author, explained:

“It’s extremely critical for an organism to be social for the survival of the species.
It’s important for foraging, sexual reproduction, gathering, hunting.
So the hypothesis is that when organisms come together, you have a higher propensity to spread infection.
So you need to be social, but [in doing so] you have a higher chance of spreading pathogens.
The idea is that interferon gamma, in evolution, has been used as a more efficient way to both boost social behavior while boosting an anti-pathogen response.”

Professor Kipnis said:

“Immune molecules are actually defining how the brain is functioning.
So, what is the overall impact of the immune system on our brain development and function?
I think the philosophical aspects of this work are very interesting, but it also has potentially very important clinical implications.”

The study was published in the journal Nature (Filiano et al., 2016).

source: PsyBlog       21 JULY 2016


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12 Toxic Behaviors that Push People Away From You

Your behavior is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Let’s be honest – we’ve all acted in toxic, damaging ways at one time or another.  None of us are immune to occasional toxic mood swings, but many people are more evolved, balanced and aware, and such occurrences happen only rarely in their lives.

Whether your toxic behavior is a common occurrence, or just a once in a blue moon phenomena, it’s critical for your long-term happiness and success that you are able to recognize when you’re behaving negatively, and consciously shift your mindset when necessary.

The twelve most common toxic behaviors are:

mirror mirror
  1. Being envious of everyone else. – Don’t let envy (or jealously) get the best of you.  Envy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.  There is nothing attractive or admirable about this behavior.  So stop comparing your journey with everyone else’s.  Your journey is YOUR journey, NOT a competition.  You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself.  You are competing to be the best you can be.  If you want to measure your progress, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
  2. Taking everything too personally. – People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything happening around them is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them.  The truth is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you.  People’s reactions to you are about their perspectives, wounds and experiences.  Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, is more about them.  I’m not suggesting we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback.  I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally.  In most cases it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of other people’s good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.  (Read The Four Agreements.)
  3. Acting like you’re always a victim. – Another toxic behavior is persistent complaining that fuels your sense of victimization.  Believing you’re a victim, that you have no power to exert and no power over the direction of your life, is a toxic stance that keeps you stuck.  Working as a life coach with people who have suffered major trauma in their lives but found the courage to turn it all around, I know we all have access to far more power, authority, and influence over our lives than we initially believe.  When you stop complaining, and refuse to see yourself as a helpless victim, you’ll find that you are more powerful than you realized, but only if you choose to accept this reality.
  4. Hoarding pain and loss. – One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go – whether it’s guilt, anger, love or loss.  Change is never easy – you fight to hold on and you fight to let go.  But oftentimes letting go is the healthiest path forward.  It clears out toxic thoughts from the past.  You’ve got to emotionally free yourself from the things that once meant a lot to you, so you can move beyond the past and the pain it brings you.  Again, it takes hard work to let go and refocus your thoughts, but it’s worth every bit of effort you can muster.
  5. Obsessive negative thinking. – It’s very hard to be around people who refuse to let go of negativity – when they ruminate and speak incessantly about the terrible things that could happen and have happened, the scorns they’ve suffered, and the unfairness of life.  These people stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life and the positive lessons from what’s happening.  Pessimism is one thing – but remaining perpetually locked in a negative mindset is another.  Only seeing the negative, and operating from a view that everything is negative and against you, is a twisted way of thinking and living, and you can change that.
  6. Lack of emotional self-control. – An inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you.  We all know these people – those who explode in anger and tears over the smallest hiccup or problem.  Yelling at the grocery store clerk for the long line, screaming at an employee for a small error she made, or losing it with your daughter for spilling juice on the floor.  If you find that you’re overly emotional, losing your cool at every turn, you may need some outside assistance to help you gain control over your emotions and understand what’s at the root of your inner angst.  There’s more to it than what appears on the surface.  An independent perspective – and a new kind of support – can work wonders.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Happiness” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  7. Making superficial judgments about others. – Don’t always judge a person by what they show you.  Remember, what you’ve seen is oftentimes only what that person has chosen to show you, or what they were driven to show based on their inner stress and pain.  Alas, when another person tries to make you suffer in some small way, it is usually because they suffer deep within themselves.  Their suffering is simply spilling over.  They do not need punishment or ridicule, they need help.  If you can’t help them, let them be.
  8. Cruelty (or lacking empathy and compassion). – One of the most toxic behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others.  We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly unkind and hurtful to others just because they can.  They tear people down online in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a shield.  Cruelty, backstabbing, and hurting others for any reason is toxic, and it hurts you as well.  If you find yourself backstabbing and tearing someone else down, stop in your tracks.  Dig deep and find compassion in your heart, and realize that we’re all in this together.
  9. Cheating and cutting moral corners simply because you can. – Cheating is a choice, not a mistake, and not an excuse!  If you decide to cheat, and you succeed in cheating someone out of something, don’t think that this person is a fool.  Realize that this person trusted you much more than you ever deserved.  Be bigger than that.  Don’t do immoral things simply because you can.  Don’t cheat.  Be honest with yourself and everyone else.  Do the right thing.  Integrity is the essence of everything successful.
  10. Hiding your truth. – People cannot connect with you if you’re constantly trying to hide from yourself.  And this becomes a truly toxic situation the minute they become attached to your false persona.  So remember, no matter what age, race, sex, or sexuality you are, underneath all your external decorations you are a pure, beautiful being – each and every one of us are.  We each have light to shine, and missions to accomplish.  Celebrate being different, off the beaten path, a little on the weird side, your own special creation.  If you find yourself feeling like a fish out of water, by all means find a new river to swim in.  But DO NOT change who you are; BE who you are.  Don’t deny yourself, improve yourself.  (Read The Untethered Soul.)
  11. Needing constant validation. – People who constantly strive for validation by others are exhausting to be around.  Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over and over, and constantly want to win over everyone around them, are unintentionally toxic and draining.  Know this.  Over-attaching to how things have to look to others can wear you out and bring everyone else around you down.  There is a bigger picture to your life, and it’s not about what you achieve in the eyes of the masses.  It’s about the journey, the process, the path – what you’re learning, how you’re helping others learn too, and the growing process you allow yourself to participate in.
  12. Being a stubborn perfectionist. – As human beings, we often chase hypothetical, static states of perfection.  We do so when we are searching for the perfect house, job, friend or lover.  The problem, of course, is that perfection doesn’t exist in a static state.  Because life is a continual journey, constantly evolving and changing.  What is here today is not exactly the same tomorrow – that perfect house, job, friend or lover will eventually fade to a state of imperfection.  But with a little patience and an open mind, over time, that imperfect house evolves into a comfortable home.  That imperfect job evolves into a rewarding career.  That imperfect friend evolves into a steady shoulder to lean on.  And that imperfect lover evolves into a reliable lifelong companion.  It’s just a matter of letting perfectionism GO.

If you can relate to any of these toxic behaviors, remember, you are not alone.  We all have unhealthy personalities buried deep within us that have the potential to sneak up on us sometimes.  As stated above, the key is awareness – recognizing these behaviors and stopping them in their tracks.

WRITTEN by MARC CHERNOFF
This article was co-written by Marc and Angel and Kathy Caprino, and inspired by Kathy’s insightful work which can be found here.