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 ‘A Life of Choice’: Routine, Ritual or Habit?

Grabbing a mask on the way out the door and a thorough hand-wash upon returning home, or perhaps more commonly staying home and meeting virtually for work and fun are just a few of the new habits picked up during the pandemic, and experts say some might stick around even after restrictions lift.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to change their habits, something that is usually very difficult for people to do.

“If you want to adopt a new habit, it’s like climbing up a mountain, and I imagine so many people would respond to the pandemic as a habit imposed on them,” Sam Maglio, professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Toronto, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on June 16.

Having rules and regulations in place has made it a lot easier for people to adopt the new rules, such as mask-wearing and physical distancing.

“When we talk about habits sticking, people often look to individual factors such as willpower, motivation, and decision. But “friction” in our environment also makes a difference – friction involves factors that make behaviours we want to do easier and behaviours we do not want to do harder,” clinical psychologist and board director with Anxiety Canada Melanie Badali told CTVNews.ca in an email.

WHY HABITS STICK

Determining if these habits will persist post-pandemic gets a bit hazy for Maglio, because while we can see each other’s behaviour, we never really know the “why” behind it.

“It is kind of a black box, you don’t really know why or what need is being satisfied by that behaviour. So, I would imagine that the answer, the peek inside that black box, might be very different for the different habits that people are expecting to stick around after the pandemic.”

And some habits that people want to maintain, such as remote work, virtual cocktails and at-home workouts, come with benefits. They can eliminate lengthy commutes, for example, or save money by making DIY cocktails and skipping the gym membership.

“A consistent theme through all of that, is people are doing it because they are, at least they think they are, getting some sort of benefit from this new pattern of behaviour that the pandemic forced them to adopt,” said Maglio.

It’s evidence people can find the silver lining in a situation, even one as challenging as the pandemic has been.

“One of the silver linings that comes out of this might be an 18-month hard reset on kind of just going along with the day-to-day and approach to how we’ve always done stuff,” said Maglio.

mask girl

ROUTINE, RITUAL OR HABIT?

And some of the habits picked up along the way, such as wearing a mask, and washing hands upon returning home have become ritualized.

“Rituals can make your life better by giving a sense of consistency,” he said.

A daily ritual such as making the bed each morning can set the tone for the entire day, he added.

Already, putting masks on has become such a part of our daily lives that when those restrictions begin to lift, some might feel naked without them.

“That ‘where’s my mask?’ might be the phantom phone ring of 2021, where it’s something that you think is there, but you don’t need to be there,” said Maglio.

Some of our new habits or rituals may make returning to normal life a bit awkward as we readjust to eased restrictions. For Maglio, because his mask hid his smile, he began laughing out loud while checking out at the grocery store, and he’s not sure that it’s a voluntary response anymore.

“It’s become automatic to make a sound, because for a while, the visual cue hasn’t been there,” he said.

The automatic behaviour is what he believes will carry on after restrictions are lifted, whether they are good behaviours or bad.

“Having an automaticity, for better or worse, is likely to stick around for a while until we learn that some stuff that we picked up isn’t needed or is destructive, and maybe the silver lining is that some stuff is helpful,” he added.

But for some people, wearing a mask and following physical distancing guidelines and other pandemic related restrictions has been more difficult. Badali says that this behaviour is to be expected.

“For some people, putting on a mask before they leave their home may be a routine (they have to think about putting on their mask) rather than a habit (they automatically grab their mask after their keys and put it on),” she said.

Some routines, she added, can turn into habits, especially if there’s a reward involved, such as a midnight snack. So some habits might come on faster than others, and some may be hard to break.

“In general, the habit memory system learns slowly over time and is resistant to change. Habits are like “autopilot mode” – we have to consciously switch out of it but it will remain the default setting for a while as your brain learns a new habit. The good news is that habits are more conducive to change when people are experiencing disruption in routines,” said Badali.

It will be important to pay attention to context as restrictions ease and lift across the country as it may no longer benefit to continue a habit.

“Habit loops may cease to be rewarded or reinforced when public health recommendations change,” she said.

We may also find ourselves quickly and easily returning to old, pre-pandemic habits, because as the saying goes: Old habits die hard.

“In areas where we return to pre-pandemic-like environments, we may find that we shift easily to old habits because habit memories are there to be activated. As the world opens up, we may fall back into old routines and habits mindlessly. There is an opportunity for us to be mindful about routines and habits in a way that enables us to choose what still fits for us and what we want to change,” said Badali.

WHEN FEAR INFORMS HABIT

Some people may be more anxious than others about losing the mask and getting up close with strangers on the bus or subway. For those who look upon those days with a sense of dread, Badali recommends using cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to help with the fear and anxiety.

“It is possible that mask-wearing, hand sanitizer use and other behaviours, could transition from beneficial behaviours that are worth doing to unhelpful behaviours that don’t really offer much benefit in terms of actual safety and, in fact, start to become problems because they fuel our anxiety,” she said. “The solution becomes the problem. In cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for anxiety, we often look for “safety behaviours” that are used in an attempt to prevent harm and to feel more comfortable in anxiety-provoking situations.”

For Badali, it’s important to keep up to date with the science and pandemic guidelines.

“My advice would be, live a life of choice. Follow the science rather than letting emotions boss you around. Don’t get stuck. Take small steps if you need to do so.”

Brooke Taylor   CTVNews.ca Writer     @newsmanbrooke      TORONTO    Wednesday, June 23, 2021

source: CTV News


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Building Your Resilience

Having a Strong Life Purpose Eases Loneliness of Covid-19 Isolation, Study Finds

Those Who Felt Their Life Was Guided by Meaningful Values or Goals Were More Willing to Engage in Covid-19 Protective Behaviors

Summary:
Why can some people weather the stress of social isolation better than others, and what implications does this have for their health?
New research found that people who felt a strong sense of purpose in life were less lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why can some people weather the stress of social isolation better than others, and what implications does this have for their health? New research from the Communication Neuroscience Lab at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania found that people who felt a strong sense of purpose in life were less lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Did they achieve less loneliness by flouting public health guidance? No. Although lonelier people were less likely to want to follow public health guidance, people with a stronger sense of purpose also expressed more willingness to engage in social distancing, hand washing, and other COVID-19 protective behaviors.

Purpose in life, or a sense that your life is guided by personally meaningful values and goals – which could involve family ties, religion, activism, parenthood, career or artistic ambitions, or many other things — has been associated in prior research with a wide range of positive health outcomes, both physical and psychological.

“In the face of adversity, people with a stronger sense of purpose in life tend to be more resilient because they have a clear sense of goals that motivate actions that are aligned with personal values,” says Yoona Kang, Ph.D., lead author and a Research Director of the Communication Neuroscience Lab. “People with strong purpose may also experience less conflict when making health decisions. We felt that the COVID-19 pandemic was an important context to test whether purpose in life relates to individuals’ willingness to engage in behaviors to protect themselves and others.”

Based on their prior research, Kang and her collaborators expected that people with higher sense of purpose would be more likely to engage in COVID-19 prevention behaviors than individuals with a lower sense of purpose. In order to test their theory, the researchers surveyed more than 500 adult participants to capture their levels of purpose in life, their current and pre-pandemic levels of loneliness, and the degrees to which they intended to engage in behaviors known to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

They found that higher levels of loneliness made people be less focused on protecting themselves from COVID-19, and more skeptical that behaviors to prevent COVID-19 would be effective. However, having a stronger sense of purpose was associated with lower levels of loneliness and a greater desire to take action to protect themselves from COVID-19. Those with a higher sense of purpose also expressed a stronger belief that COVID-19 prevention behaviors would work. Even when people who had a strong sense of purpose did report being lonely, they still felt strongly about taking precautions to prevent COVID-19.

“When faced with extreme loneliness and social isolation, like during the COVID-19 pandemic, wanting to connect with other people, despite the health risks, is a natural response,” Kang says. “And yet, amidst this drastic shift in social life, we found that people with a higher sense of purpose were more likely to engage in prevention behaviors. This is striking because it shows that purpose in life can empower people to make life-saving health decisions that protect their own health and those around them.”

Additionally, the researchers found that older people expressed less loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic than younger people. Kang sees this as a sign of the resilience of older adults, and she hopes to further study how to enhance purpose in life and resilience in aging populations.

“Having a stronger sense of purpose was associated with really important, positive outcomes across the lifespan,” says Emily Falk, senior author, Director of the Communication Neuroscience Lab, and Professor of Communication, Psychology, and Marketing. “Our upcoming work will test interventions to increase their sense of purpose, in hopes of bringing these benefits to more people.”

The study, published this month in The Gerontologist, is entitled “Purpose in Life, Loneliness, and Protective Health Behaviors during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” In addition to Kang and Falk, authors include Danielle Cosme, Ph.D.; Rui Pei, Ph.D.; Prateekshit Pandey; and José Carreras-Tartak.

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of Pennsylvania. Original written by Ashton Yount. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
Yoona Kang, Danielle Cosme, Rui Pei, Prateekshit Pandey, José Carreras-Tartak, Emily B Falk. Purpose in life, loneliness, and protective health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Gerontologist, 2021; DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnab081

June 16, 2021          Source: University of Pennsylvania          Science Daily

resilient

Building Your Resilience

We All Face Trauma, Adversity and Other Stresses. Here’s a Roadmap for Adapting to Life-Changing Situations, and Emerging Even Stronger than Before.

The Road to Resilience

Imagine you’re going to take a raft trip down a river. Along with slow water and shallows, your map shows that you will encounter unavoidable rapids and turns. How would you make sure you can safely cross the rough waters and handle any unexpected problems that come from the challenge?

Perhaps you would enlist the support of more experienced rafters as you plan your route or rely on the companionship of trusted friends along the way. Maybe you would pack an extra life jacket or consider using a stronger raft. With the right tools and supports in place, one thing is sure: You will not only make it through the challenges of your river adventure. You will also emerge a more confident and courageous rafter.

What is resilience?

Life may not come with a map, but everyone will experience twists and turns, from everyday challenges to traumatic events with more lasting impact, like the death of a loved one, a life-altering accident, or a serious illness. Each change affects people differently, bringing a unique flood of thoughts, strong emotions and uncertainty. Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful situations—in part thanks to resilience.

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.

While these adverse events, much like rough river waters, are certainly painful and difficult, they don’t have to determine the outcome of your life. There are many aspects of your life you can control, modify, and grow with. That’s the role of resilience. Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way.

What resilience isn’t

Being resilient doesn’t mean that a person won’t experience difficulty or distress. People who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives commonly experience emotional pain and stress. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

While certain factors might make some individuals more resilient than others, resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. On the contrary, resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. The ability to learn resilience is one reason research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. One example is the response of many Americans to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives after tragedy.

Like building a muscle, increasing your resilience takes time and intentionality. Focusing on four core components—connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning—can empower you to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences. To increase your capacity for resilience to weather—and grow from—the difficulties, use these strategies.

Build your connections

Prioritize relationships. Connecting with empathetic and understanding people can remind you that you’re not alone in the midst of difficulties. Focus on finding trustworthy and compassionate individuals who validate your feelings, which will support the skill of resilience.

The pain of traumatic events can lead some people to isolate themselves, but it’s important to accept help and support from those who care about you. Whether you go on a weekly date night with your spouse or plan a lunch out with a friend, try to prioritize genuinely connecting with people who care about you.

Join a group. Along with one-on-one relationships, some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based communities, or other local organizations provides social support and can help you reclaim hope. Research groups in your area that could offer you support and a sense of purpose or joy when you need it.

Foster wellness

Take care of your body. Self-care may be a popular buzzword, but it’s also a legitimate practice for mental health and building resilience. That’s because stress is just as much physical as it is emotional. Promoting positive lifestyle factors like proper nutrition, ample sleep, hydration, and regular exercise can strengthen your body to adapt to stress and reduce the toll of emotions like anxiety or depression.

Practice mindfulness. Mindful journaling, yoga, and other spiritual practices like prayer or meditation can also help people build connections and restore hope, which can prime them to deal with situations that require resilience. When you journal, meditate, or pray, ruminate on positive aspects of your life and recall the things you’re grateful for, even during personal trials.

Avoid negative outlets. It may be tempting to mask your pain with alcohol, drugs, or other substances, but that’s like putting a bandage on a deep wound. Focus instead on giving your body resources to manage stress, rather than seeking to eliminate the feeling of stress altogether.

Find purpose

Help others. Whether you volunteer with a local homeless shelter or simply support a friend in their own time of need, you can garner a sense of purpose, foster self-worth, connect with other people, and tangibly help others, all of which can empower you to grow in resilience.

Be proactive. It’s helpful to acknowledge and accept your emotions during hard times, but it’s also important to help you foster self-discovery by asking yourself, “What can I do about a problem in my life?” If the problems seem too big to tackle, break them down into manageable pieces.

For example, if you got laid off at work, you may not be able to convince your boss it was a mistake to let you go. But you can spend an hour each day developing your top strengths or working on your resume. Taking initiative will remind you that you can muster motivation and purpose even during stressful periods of your life, increasing the likelihood that you’ll rise up during painful times again.

Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals and do something regularly—even if it seems like a small accomplishment—that enables you to move toward the things you want to accomplish. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?” For example, if you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one and you want to move forward, you could join a grief support group in your area.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often find that they have grown in some respect as a result of a struggle. For example, after a tragedy or hardship, people have reported better relationships and a greater sense of strength, even while feeling vulnerable. That can increase their sense of self-worth and heighten their appreciation for life.

Embrace healthy thoughts

Keep things in perspective. How you think can play a significant part in how you feel—and how resilient you are when faced with obstacles. Try to identify areas of irrational thinking, such as a tendency to catastrophize difficulties or assume the world is out to get you, and adopt a more balanced and realistic thinking pattern. For instance, if you feel overwhelmed by a challenge, remind yourself that what happened to you isn’t an indicator of how your future will go, and that you’re not helpless. You may not be able to change a highly stressful event, but you can change how you interpret and respond to it.

Accept change. Accept that change is a part of life. Certain goals or ideals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations in your life. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. It’s hard to be positive when life isn’t going your way. An optimistic outlook empowers you to expect that good things will happen to you. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. Along the way, note any subtle ways in which you start to feel better as you deal with difficult situations.

Learn from your past. By looking back at who or what was helpful in previous times of distress, you may discover how you can respond effectively to new difficult situations. Remind yourself of where you’ve been able to find strength and ask yourself what you’ve learned from those experiences.

Seeking help

Getting help when you need it is crucial in building your resilience.

For many people, using their own resources and the kinds of strategies listed above may be enough for building their resilience. But at times, an individual might get stuck or have difficulty making progress on the road to resilience.

A licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist can assist people in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function as well as you would like or perform basic activities of daily living as a result of a traumatic or other stressful life experience. Keep in mind that different people tend to be comfortable with different styles of interaction. To get the most out of your therapeutic relationship, you should feel at ease with a mental health professional or in a support group.

The important thing is to remember you’re not alone on the journey. While you may not be able to control all of your circumstances, you can grow by focusing on the aspects of life’s challenges you can manage with the support of loved ones and trusted professionals.

APA gratefully acknowledges the following contributors to this publication:
David Palmiter, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Marywood University, Scranton, Penn.Mary Alvord, PhD, Director, Alvord, Baker & Associates, Rockville, Md.Rosalind Dorlen, PsyD, Member: Allied Professional Staff, Department of Psychiatry Overlook Medical Center, Summit, NJ; Senior Faculty, Center for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis of New Jersey and Field Supervisor at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University.Lillian Comas-Diaz, PhD, Director, Transcultural Mental Health Institute, Washington, D.C.Suniya S. Luthar, PhD, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City, N.Y.Salvatore R. Maddi, PhD, The Hardiness Institute, Inc., University of California at Irvine, Newport Beach, Calif.H. Katherine (Kit) O’Neill, PhD, North Dakota State University and Knowlton, O’Neill and Associates, Fargo, N.D.Karen W. Saakvitne, PhD, Traumatic Stress Institute/Center for Adult & Adolescent Psychotherapy, South Windsor, Conn.Richard Glenn Tedeschi, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

source: American Psychological Association.


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14 Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes

The mind is a wonderful thing.

It’s also a complete liar that constantly tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us, and stops many great changes in our lives.

I’ve had to learn to watch these rationalizations and excuses very carefully, in order to make the changes I’ve made in my life: a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, minimalism, writing daily, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, and so on.

If I hadn’t learned these excuses, and how to counter them, I would never have stuck to these changes. In fact, I failed many times before 2005 (when I started changing my life), because these excuses had complete power over me.

Let’s expose the cowardly mind’s excuses and rationalizations once and for all.

First, the main principle: the mind wants comfort, and is afraid of discomfort and change. The mind is used to its comfort cocoon, and anytime we try to push beyond that comfort zone very far or for very long, the mind tries desperately to get back into the cocoon. At any cost, including our long-term health and happiness.

OK, with that in mind, let’s go into the excuses:


1. I can’t do it.

It seems too hard, so we think we can’t stick to the change. We don’t believe in ourselves. This can be countered from the fact that many other people no more capable than us have done it. For example, Oprah ran a marathon a little before I started training for my first marathon, and so I told myself, “If Oprah can do it, so can I!” I was right.


2. He/she can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me.

Just because someone else can do it, doesn’t mean we can, right? We look for reasons they can do it but we can’t — maybe he can be a minimalist because he has no kids, or is a freelancer rather than someone with a real job. Maybe she’s way, way fitter than I am, so she can run a marathon. Maybe she doesn’t have all the obligations I have, or has a supportive spouse, or doesn’t have a crippling health condition. OK, fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who have worse obstacles than you who’ve done it. I have 6 kids and still managed to change a lot of things in my life. Stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve amazing things. Your obstacles can be overcome.


3. I need my ___.

Fill in the blank: I need my coffee, my cheese, my soda, my TV shows, my car, my shoe collection … these are things we convince ourselves we can’t live without, so we can’t make a change like becoming vegan or eating healthier or unschooling our kids or simplifying our lives or going car-free. And I’ve made these excuses myself, but they all turned out to be lies. I didn’t need any of that. The only things you really need are basic food, water, clothing, shelter, and other people for social needs. Everything else is not a real need.


4. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Sure, I agree with this statement (as many of us would) but the problem is this is used to justify all kinds of crappy behavior. Might as well scarf down those Doritos and Twinkies, because hey, life is meant to be enjoyed, right? No. You can do without junk food and still enjoy life. You can exercise and enjoy it. You can give up pretty much anything and still enjoy life, if you learn to see almost any activity as enjoyable.


5. I need comfort.

This might also be true, but we can push ourselves into more discomfort than we let ourselves believe. We can be a bit cold, instead of needing to be at the perfect comfortable temperature. We can do hard exercise, instead of needing to lay around on the couch. We can write that thing we’ve been procrastinating on — it might be hard, but we can push through that. When our minds seek comfort, don’t let them run — push a little bit outside the comfort zone, and begin to be OK with a bit of discomfort.


6. I don’t know how.

This is also true, but you can learn. Start with a little at a time, and learn how to deal with this new change. Do some research online. Watch some videos. Ask people online how they dealt with it. This is easily overcome with a little effort and practice. In fact, if you do it now, and learn a little at a time, then you’ll be able to do away with this pesky excuse.

change


7. I can do it later.

Sure, you can always do it later … but your later self will also feel the same way. Why should the later self be more disciplined than your current self? In fact, because you’re allowing yourself to slide now, you’re building a habit of procrastination and actually making is less likely that your future self will be more disciplined. Instead, do it now, unless there’s something more important that you need to do … don’t let yourself slide just because you don’t feel like it.


8. One time won’t hurt.

This is so tempting, because it’s kind of true — one time won’t hurt. Assuming, that is, that it’s only one time. One bite of chocolate cake, one missed workout, one time procrastinating instead of writing. Unfortunately, it’s never actually just one time. One time means your brain now knows it can get away with this excuse, and the next “one time” leads to another, until you’re not actually sticking to something. Make a rule: never ever believe the “one time” excuse. I did this with smoking (“Not One Puff Ever”) and it worked. If you’re going to allow yourself a bite or two of chocolate cake, decide beforehand and build it into your plan (“I will allow myself a fist-sized serving of sweets once every weekend”) and stick to that plan, rather than deciding on the fly, when your resistance is weak.


9. I don’t feel like it.

Well, true. You don’t feel like working hard. Who does? Letting the rule of “I’ll do it when feel like it” dictate your life means you’ll never write that book, never build that business, never create anything great, never have healthy habits. Create a plan that’s doable, and execute it. When the rationalizations like this come up, don’t believe them. Everyone is capable of doing a hard workout even when they’re not in the mood. Everyone can overcome their internal resistance.


10. I’m tired.

Yep, me too. I still did my heavy squat workout today. There is truth to needing rest, and resting when you need it (listen to your body) but this is usually the mind trying to weasel out of something uncomfortable. There’s a difference between being exhausted and needing some rest, and being the little tired we all feel every afternoon. Push through the latter.


11. I deserve a reward/break.

We all deserve that tasty treat, or a day off. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give yourself a reward or break. But if you make this rationalization your rule, you’ll always be on a break. You’ll always be giving yourself rewards, and never sticking to the original plan. Here’s what I do instead: I see sticking to my plan as the reward itself. Going on a run isn’t the thing I have to get through to get a reward — the run is the reward.


12. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop?

This again is our mind wanting to run from discomfort, and of course it’s true — it would be nice to stop if you’re pushing into a discomfort zone for too long. The thing is, the implication is that it would be better to stop, because it would be nice … but that’s a lie. It would be easier to stop, but often it’s better to continue pushing. This excuse almost beat me when I tried to run my 50-mile ultramarathon last December, because honestly it would have been much nicer to stop and not finish the race, especially in the last 10 miles or so. I pushed through, and found out I was tougher than I thought.


13. The result you’re going for isn’t important.

If you’re trying to run a marathon, this is phrased like, “It’s not that important that I finish this”. I’ve used this excuse for learning languages (it doesn’t matter if I learn this) or programming or any number of things I wanted to learn. I’ve used it for writing and exercise and eating healthy food. And while the result might not be that important, the truth is that the process is very important. If you stick with a process that will be better for you in the long run, then you will be better off. But if you let yourself go just because you are uncomfortable and at this moment care more for your comfort than the goal you set out for, you’ll have lots of problems. The goal isn’t important, but learning to stick to things when you’re uncomfortable is extremely important.


14. I’m afraid.

Now, this is the most honest excuse there is — most of us don’t want to admit we’re afraid to pursue something difficult. But it’s also a weaselly way out of discomfort — just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean you can’t do something. You can. I’ve done tons of things I’m afraid of — mostly creating things that I was worried I’d fail at. And while the fear sometimes came true — I didn’t do too well sometimes — the act of pushing through the fear was incredibly important and I learned a lot each time.


Awareness & Practice

I’ve used all of these excuses hundreds of times each, so don’t think I’ve overcome them all. And you can use them in the future too. There’s nothing wrong with giving in sometimes.

The key is to learn whether they’re true, and see your pattern. Here’s what I’ve done:

Notice the excuse. It has way more power if it works on you in the background.
Try to have an answer for the excuse beforehand — anticipate it.

If you give in, that’s OK, but recognize that you’re giving in to a lame excuse. Be aware of what you’re doing.

After giving in, see what the results are. Are you happier? Is your life better? Was it worth it giving in to discomfort?

Learn from those results. If you pushed through and are happy about it, remember that. If you gave in to excuses, and didn’t like the result, remember that.
If you consciously practice this process, you’ll get better at recognizing and not believing these lies. And then, bam, you’ve got your mind working for you instead of against you.
by Leo Babauta


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Long-Term Social Distancing May Be Traumatic. Here Is What To Expect And What To Do

Passover, Easter and Ramadan are occasions that typically bring families together to pray, reflect and celebrate – fellowship needed, perhaps, now more than ever – will look different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The loss of those traditions is added to a growing list of losses that North Americans are facing as they endure at least another month of social distancing and with it an extended departure from routines, habits, social circles and normalcy.

The protracted disruption to life as it was, mental health experts say, could bring feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and even grief.

“There is literal grief like losing loved ones,” said Dr. Vaile Wright, the American Psychology Association’s director of clinical research. “But there is a grief of experiences that we are losing right now. There can feel like there is a lot of loss right now, a loss of freedom, a lot of things we took for granted.”

The next few months may take a toll on the nation’s mental health, experts say, but it is possible to mitigate the stress.

North Americans’ collective trauma

Extended isolation and stress from the pandemic can affect everyone differently, said Dr. Dana Garfin, a health psychologist.

It could put strain on families, send children home to abusive situations, make those living alone feel isolated and threaten people’s sense of purpose by keeping them from work, Garfin said.

And those experiencing financial insecurity in the midst of the pandemic have an added stress that is difficult to resolve, said Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Despite those differences, the experience of staying home together through a pandemic can be considered a collective trauma, said Garfin, who studies collective traumas such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and earthquakes.

Collective traumas start at some point of impact and then ripple out to loved ones of the afflicted, witnesses to the devastation and people whose lives are disrupted.

In this case, many Americans fall into one or more of those categories. People in quarantine show signs of confusion, depression and anger, Garfin said.

“We necessarily run much of our lives by habit,” said Fischhoff. “We know what we have for breakfast, we know how to prepare the kids for school, and that enables us to get through the day reasonably well.”

But now that many North Americans aren’t waking up and going to school and work, it can be difficult to know how to restructure even the most rote daily habits that won’t be coming back for weeks yet.

What life might look like on the other side of coronavirus

How long the pandemic and the isolation continue will dictate how severe the effects are on people’s mental health, Garfin said.

Prolonged exposure to the traumas of coronavirus can activate the fight or flight response, which over time can cause cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression and PTSD, Garfin said. And the extended isolation can contribute to fear, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating, said Wright.

For some groups, like health care workers, those in the media and people in newly deemed “essential jobs,” the end result may be guilt, grief and PTSD, said Wright.

But, Wright and Garfin agreed, humans are resilient.

Some may forget everything they just went through and go back to their daily lives when it is all over, Wright said, but many can come out of this with stronger relationships and a better perspective on what is important.

How to get through it

The future is uncertain, but life will be different for at least the next month and that knowledge can be the first step to making this new, temporary reality as good as it can be.

Now that it is clear the change is for more than a couple of weeks, it is important to create a new routine – one that includes showering, getting dressed and maintaining family meals — not treating the time as an extended snow day or spring vacation, Wright said.

There is an opportunity for people to develop new habits around the disruption, which can relieve the stress of feeling like starting from scratch every day, Fischhoff said.

And all three say it is important to use social media to be social, not to feed the anxiety that conflicting coronavirus information on the platform stokes.

They also agree that this experience is difficult, and it is important to acknowledge that and not be too critical of what one could have done before or could be doing now.

“I think that we need to recognize that this is totally unprecedented, and we really are just doing the best we can – and that’s OK,” Wright said. And for people doing the best they can but struggling to work, study or care for their families, virtual mental health resources may be a crucial next step.

And for those who are lonely and isolated, Garfin suggests reframing for a feeling of community within that experience.

“We aren’t in our houses alone, we are doing something for each other for our community,” Garfin said. “It’s a shared effort, something that we are all a part of and something we are all contributing to.”
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not permanent.”

 

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN       Thu April 9, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
plan

Take A Breath:
How The Simple Act Of Meditative Breathing
Helps Us Cope

A global pandemic causes so much worry, concern and fear. There’s the pressure of suddenly being a homeschooling parent and trying to create structure around newfound chaos in your home.

A lot of us are adjusting to working from home, all while tending to worries about the state of the world. Maybe you fret over the health of aging parents or feel anxious over the ever-changing news cycle.

Psychological stress can damper your overall health, affecting your ability to remain resilient in the face of challenges. It can also thwart a strong immune system, which is needed to keep from getting sick.

“Living through a pandemic can be scary,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the March 18 episode of CNN’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction” podcast.

The good news: Meditation is one tool that can help our immune systems functioning optimally, according to a recent study.

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is by simply focusing your attention on your breath, according to Harvard Medical School, since it’s a form of beginner level meditation that anyone can do.

Alternative medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra, in Dr. Gupta’s podcast episode titled “Pandemic Panic,” walks us through how to do a breathing meditation to ease our stress, thus calming our minds.

Breathing through the stress of a pandemic

According to Harvard Medical School, breathing meditation requires either sitting comfortably, standing or walking in a setting with minimal distractions. Many people prefer to sit.

If you’re sitting, focus first on your posture: You should sit with your spine erect.

As you become aware of the space you’re in and sit comfortably, observe your breath without manipulating it for a few seconds, Chopra suggests.

Then, slow your breath down by inhaling deeply to the count of six.

Pause for two seconds.

Exhale to the count of four. Then repeat this six-two-four breathing method for two minutes.

“Then, when you’re done with that, bring your awareness into your body and wherever there seems to be any discomfort, just bring the awareness there without manipulating it,” Chopra said. “Awareness by itself heals. Awareness without conceptual intervention restores self-regulation.”

“The goal is really to breathe from your diaphragm,” as opposed to shallow breaths from your chest, said Vaile Wright, a psychologist and director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.

“And the way to know whether you’re doing that or not, or a trick at least, is to place your hand just below your ribs on your stomach.” When you inhale you should feel your body expanding, then contracting when you inhale.

If the initial peace is interrupted by your thoughts, the meditation isn’t a failure. Though breathing meditations are simple to begin with, they can take practice before you’re able to maintain focus for an extended period of time, Wright said. Just acknowledge the thought and try to let it go.

You don’t have to concentrate on any format, but some people find that adding some sort of mantra or visualization to it helps, Wright said.

“For example, when you’re breathing in, telling yourself [in your head that] you’re breathing in love. When you’re exhaling, telling yourself you’re exhaling anxiety. Or, breathing in positive energy, exhaling negative energy or visualizing negative energy coming out of your mouth and out of your body.”

Chopra starts his day with three or four intentions: “I’m going to maintain a joyful, energetic body today; a loving and compassionate heart today; a reflective and quiet and creative and centered mind today; and lightness of being and laughter today, whatever it takes.”

By doing these intentions, you can start to feel better, he said.

Modern technology offers up apps and smart watches that can help guide you through a meditation if you have trouble staying focused.

“Slow your breath, your thoughts will slow down as well,” Chopra said.

breathe
try this for 2 – 5 minutes

Benefits for your overall health

Breathing meditations can contribute to a state of mindfulness by bringing your focus to one thing and only thing only – your breath, Wright said.

“The goal of that is to draw your attention away from maybe worry thoughts you’re having or sort of the catastrophic thoughts or maybe depressing thoughts about feeling alone,” she added. When you’re focusing, those thoughts can be pushed aside, helping you to control your emotions.

Mindfulness has been found to influence two stress pathways in the brain, altering brain structure and activity in regions that regulate attention and emotion, according to the American Psychological Association.

In a 2015 review of studies on the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), researchers found that people who received this therapy were less likely to respond to stressful situations with negative thoughts or unhelpful emotional reactions.

Those participants were also more likely to focus on the present moment and less likely to experience ruminating thoughts.

Breathing meditations can also reduce muscle tension and your heart rate, which are signs of stress, Wright said.

Carrying yourself through a hard time

Breathing meditations are another tool you can add to your coping toolkit, which may also include journaling, baking or virtually connecting with others.

“What’s great about breathing is you can do it anywhere,” Wright said. “If music is your way of relaxing, what happens when you don’t have access to it? You always have access to your breathing, so in that sense [breathing meditations] are really portable and very accessible. We really need a variety of different coping skills in order to get through particularly unprecedented situations like this one.”

Mindfulness may not make everything go away, Wright said, but it can bring you to a “calmer state so that you’re better able to deal with all the stress that’s going on.”

By Kristen Rogers, CNN      Fri March 27, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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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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Embracing Change and Impermanence

 

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
~Karen Kaiser Clark

Life can be a persistent teacher.

When we fail to learn life’s lessons the first time around, life has a way of repeating them to foster understanding.

Over the last few years, my life was shaken up by dramatic circumstances. I resisted the impermanence of these events in my life and struggled with embracing change. When I resisted the lessons that change brought, a roller coaster of changes continued to materialize.

When I was seventeen years old, my immigrant parents’ small import-export business failed.  From a comfortable life in Northern California, they uprooted themselves and my two younger brothers and moved back to Asia.

The move was sudden and unexpected, catching us all by surprise. I was in my last months of high school, so I remained in California with a family friend to finish my degree.

I spent the summer abroad with my family, and then relocated to Southern California to start college upon my return. Alone in a new environment, I found myself without many friends or family members close by.

Life was moving much faster than I was able to handle, and I was shell-shocked by my family’s sudden move, my new surroundings, and college. Their relocation and college brought dramatic changes, along with fear, loneliness, and anxiety.

I felt overwhelmed by my new university campus and its vastness; alone, even though I sat in classes of 300 students; and challenged by the responsibilities of independence and adulthood.

Everything I had known had changed in a very short period of time. I tried to cope the best I could, but I resisted the changes by isolating myself even more from my new university and surroundings. It was the first and only time in my life I had contemplated suicide.

Several years after college, having achieved my career goals in the legal field, I started a legal services business. I helped immigrants, refugees, and people escaping persecution who’d come to the U.S. to navigate the hurdles to residency and citizenship.

I invested money, time, and my being into my law office. Not only was I preoccupied with the dire legal situations of my clients, but I also confronted the ups and downs of running a business.

Starting and running a new company is not easy, and mine was losing more money every month. While I found the nearly three-year venture immensely gratifying because of the lives I was able to help, it was time for me to move on.

It was a difficult decision, because I thought I’d found my career path. My life became engulfed with changes once again as I tried to close the doors to my office, close my clients’ cases, pay off my debt, and seek employment.

In between university and my business venture, I married a beautiful, gifted girl in India after an international romance. We were married for ten years and endured many of life’s personal and professional ups and downs together. Despite our problems, we both struggled to keep our marriage together.

When the tears dried, the counseling sessions did more harm than good, and our communication ended, we separated and then divorced last year. The ending of our marriage felt like the shattering of an exquisite glass vase into a million pieces.

I met the closure of our marriage first with strong resistance and then with profound sadness and loss. How could something that I valued so much and believed to be forever, cease to exist?

As much as I fought back and resisted each of these events in my life, I’ve since learned to embrace the impermanency of my life and the changes that come my way.

 

resilliance

 

Here are lessons life has taught me on embracing change:

1. Reduce expectations.
In each of my life’s circumstances, I had high expectations for my family, my business, and my marriage. I had expected each to remain constant and to last forever. But I’ve learned that nothing lasts forever. Nothing.

You can have reasonable expectations of how you’d like something to turn out, but you can’t marry yourself to that result. Reducing or having no expectations about a relationship, a business, or a situation can help you accept whatever may come from it.

When you set reasonable expectations, and don’t expect or demand a particular outcome, you’re better able to manage any changes that do come your way. Unreasonable expectations of life, however, will likely be met with loss, disappointment, and pain.

2. Acknowledge change.
For the longest time, I refused to believe that change was in the realm of possibility in a situation. I’ve since learned that change can happen quickly and at any point.

Be aware that change can happen in your life. This means understanding that things can and will be different from how they are now. Acknowledging change is allowing it to happen when it unfolds instead of approaching change from a place of denial and resistance.

3. Accept change.
I desperately tried to prevent and stop change from happening in my business and marriage by trying to forge ahead even in futile situations.

Instead of resisting, allow change to unfold and try to understand what’s transforming and why.

Circumstances will not turn out the way you want them to, and it’s perfectly all right. Embracing the situation can help you deal with the change effectively, make the necessary shifts in your life to embrace the change, and help you move forward after the event.

4. Learn from the experience.
If you accept and embrace change, you will start looking for and finding lessons in it.

When dramatic changes were happening in my life, I refused to acknowledge them at first, so change left me distraught and without meaning. Once I reflected back and finally accepted the changes, the lessons I started absorbing were profound.

Change becomes your greatest teacher, but only if you give yourself permission to learn from it.

5. Recognize you’re growing stronger.
When you accept, embrace, and learn from change, you inevitably grow stronger. The ability to continuously accept change allows you to become as solid as a rock in the midst of violent storms all around you—even if you feel afraid.

6. Embrace the wisdom.
The more I permitted change and impermanence in my life, the more I grew as a person. Embracing change has brought newfound strength into my life and surprisingly, more inner peace.

When you proactively embrace change and learn to accept it as a part of life, you are filled with more calmness, peace, and courage. When life fails to shake you up with its twists and turns, you realize that changes can’t break you.

You’ve reached a level of understanding in life that some might even call wisdom.

While by no means have I reached that place called wisdom, I’m working through my aversions to change. I now openly welcome and embrace it.

When we can accept change, learn from it, and become all the better for experiencing it, change is no longer our enemy. It becomes our teacher.

About  the author Vishnu
Vishnu is a writer and coach who helps people overcome breakups to rebuild their lives and live with purpose.  


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Emotional Resilience: 9 Ways to Be Resilient in Tough Times

How to become more emotionally resilient in the face of uncertainty.

When uncertainty rocks our world, making us wonder which path to take, what decision to make, or whether to respond at all, it can be crippling for some of us if we have not developed emotional resilience.

Not sure if you struggle with resilience? Take this well-being survey. If you do struggle with resilience, how do you move through the challenge? How do you respond effectively to the situation? And how can you become more emotionally resilient in the face of uncertainty? Here are nine ways to develop the emotional resilience that’ll help you in tough times:

1. Try to be flexible.

Often we have difficulty learning to “go with the flow.” Obstinacy, ego, fixed beliefs, expectations, and habits are some of things that lead us to resist change. But when the house you thought you’d live in forever is destroyed in a fire or hurricane, or the job you had trained for has been automated, or perhaps the “love of your life” has married someone else, what do you do?

It can be heartbreaking and crushing all at once. But it is also true that your life is demanding a “course change.” In these situations, it’s wiser to practice acceptance and acknowledge that the situation has changed. You do not control the world; you only control yourself. The only way forward now is to adjust your attitude, shift your thoughts, and create new dreams by being flexible.

2. Practice being OK with discomfort.

When we are navigating a situation in flux, most of us will feel somewhat unsure of ourselves. This is normal. Accepting yourself and your situation is a good place to begin. Calm the inner voices of fear, blame, or resentment, and resist the urge to create drama around the uncertainty. Appraise the situation from a balanced place, realizing that it is OK to feel genuinely uncomfortable at times. You’ll build emotional resilience if you use this time to practice accepting yourself despite the discomfort you feel.

3. Learn from your mistakes and successes.

Do not panic! By allowing discomfort amid uncertain circumstances to reveal something about yourself, you can grow and become more emotionally resilient. Trial and error is how we learn. Once you adapt to being somewhat uncomfortable, you can apply yourself to the challenge at hand, which often triggers a flood of new ideas. Explore the positive thoughts, emotions, and ideas. Perhaps you will learn to speak up for yourself, or you may be forced to apply new approaches to the situation in flux.

This can open up whole new avenues of experience for you that may enhance your coping skills, build resilience, and even expand the range of your resume with newly discovered abilities. Test out some new approaches to see what works in this situation. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because they will make you more emotionally resilient if you are willing to learn from them. By recognizing uncertainty as an opportunity for growth, you can more easily move through it to attain your desired goals. Ultimately, resilience is just getting back up when you fall down.

4. Step back to gain a broader perspective.

Widen your field of vision by reviewing the past and imagining the future. From this perspective, envision various plans, and estimate how they might unfold into the future, until you discover a path that shows promise. Then give it a shot. If that one doesn’t meet your goals, don’t hesitate to try another approach. A shift in perspective can help you see the situation from a new point of view and try out new solutions that make you more emotionally resilient in the future.

resilient

5. Coordinate with others.

Review your options and then enlist helpers. Before moving forward with a plan of action, share your uncertainty, and brainstorm ideas for how to move forward with colleagues and friends. Remain open to suggestions, but defend ideas that you really believe in with fervor. Then move forward, knowing you’ve considered multiple options.

6. When at a loss, imitate someone you respect.

Sometimes the hurdles seem too high, or we are at a loss about how to proceed. In these moments, we don’t feel very emotionally resilient. One trick is to think of someone you respect and imagine what they might do in this situation. For example, you might think about how your friend Jane, the most gracious and balanced person you know, maintains her poise in the face of crisis. If her method is to listen attentively, speak slowly, and establish good eye contact while responding, try that. A shift in the way you act can give you ideas for how to be more emotionally resilient.

7. Practice self-compassion.

In difficult moments, it’s essential to practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself to maintain your self-confidence. It’s OK to take some time to release your disappointment or take a break from your routine. A walk or run in nature may be helpful for processing your thoughts and releasing pent-up emotions. Or eating healthfully can help remind you of the importance of being kind to yourself. Once calm, research several options, and open your mind to all possibilities, so that a new avenue of experience can blossom for you.

8. Celebrate your successes.

After all the work you have done to wend your way through uncertain times and situations, once you have initiated a plan that is working or picked yourself back up after a tough experience, celebrate your success with those who helped you achieve positive results. Give yourself credit for a “win” that feels affirming, and let joy sweep into your heart. Congratulate yourself and commit to continuing your success. Practice being grateful for who you have been, as well as who you are becoming. Emotional resilience is about more than recovering from challenges — it’s about thriving in the face of those challenges.

9. Learn to love change.

Heraclitus once said: “The only thing that is constant is change.” Besides, doing the same thing over and over can wear us down with its accumulative boredom. Change breeds something different and potentially exciting. New efforts stimulate growth potential through new experiences. It is “our ability to respond to life” that is being put to the test here, and the more we exercise this muscle, the more we will feel invigorated by the variety of life, and therefore the more emotionally resilient we will become.

 
Sep 04, 2018        Tchiki Davis, Ph.D.       Click Here for Happiness
 
About the Author
Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., is a consultant, writer, and expert on well-being technology.
 
In Print:
Happiness Skills Workbook: Activities to develop, grow, and maintain happiness and well-being

 


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Forget New Year’s Health Goals, Try ‘Monday Resolutions’ Instead

With the end of the year approaching, it’s not uncommon to start thinking about health goals for the new year, like losing weight, eating healthier, exercising and quitting smoking. But though we may have good intentions, choosing January 1 to make promises to get on a healthier track year-round doesn’t always work. In fact, according to a 2017 Marist poll, about a third of people who make a New Year’s resolution fail to stick with it.

This doesn’t mean we should give up on setting health goals for the new year. But it does mean we might need to rethink our goal-setting strategies.

Monday resolutions

According to some experts, rather than setting a year-long goal at the start of the year, a more effective approach is to make “Monday resolutions”: weekly goals that can be thought of as mini-resolutions, taking advantage of the natural momentum of our weekly cycles, giving us a chance to start fresh each week.

“If I mess up my diet on Tuesday or Wednesday, I know I can get back on track the following Monday,” said Lindsay Schwartz, a busy mom of two based in New York, who aims to eat healthfully and stay fit but finds herself eating one too many of her kids’ Charleston Chews left over from a birthday party or her own favorite indulgence, a handful of Lindt chocolates. There’s no sense starting again on Thursday or Friday, or even Saturday, and Sunday is basically a “free-for-all,” according to Schwartz. “Monday is the only day that will work.”

Unlike other days of the week, Mondays offer the opportunity for a health reset, when you might set intentions, celebrate progress or simply get back on your plan.

“Monday can be thought of as the New Year’s of the week – a time to refresh and put our past bad deeds behind us and try and do better in the coming week,” said Joanna Cohen, director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Institute for Global Tobacco Control.

Peggy Neu, president of The Monday Campaigns initiative, agrees that “it makes achieving our health goals more sustainable. New Year’s only comes around once per year, but Mondays come every seven days. You basically get 52 chances a year to stay on track.”

Focusing on a new goal or health initiative each week that will build on the previous is also an excellent way to ease someone into a new healthier lifestyle, said Marjorie Cohn, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Monday resolutions can help create more tangible positive outcomes for people to recognize.”

Reflecting on small successes can be empowering. “Setting mini-goals creates a feeling of accomplishment, and when someone feels positive, they tend to make more positive choices. It’s the snowball effect,” Cohn said.

This may be especially true when it comes to weight loss. “Losing 50 to 100 pounds seems impossible. The amount of work, the length of time, the reality of it seems daunting and can truly deter people from even trying,” said Amy Shapiro, registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition, a New York-based private health practice. “When we break it up into weekly goals, it helps to see progress, feel confident, reach benchmarks and feel motivated to continue.”

Using Monday as a cue for quitting smoking can be particularly beneficial, according to Cohen. “For most people, it takes multiple tries to actually quit for good. But there’s a lot of self-learning that happens each time you try. With a weekly cue, you get to try again more often and learn more quickly and hopefully be more successful sooner, versus only trying to quit on New Year’s Day,” Cohen said.
In fact, research shows that Mondays are a natural opportunity to engage smokers and reduce their likelihood of relapse. “It’s the January of the week, the day that smokers are looking for help,” Cohen said.

New-Years

 

The Monday effect on health

In a study titled “What’s the healthiest day?” published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Cohen and her colleagues set out to determine whether there were any “circaseptan” or weekly patterns in health-promoting behaviors among individuals. The goal was to figure out whether the days of the week seem to make a difference in terms of when people are thinking about improving their health.

“It made sense from a practical perspective that at end of the week are parties, and you may not necessarily be at your healthiest. … Maybe you are eating more food than you should. And the idea was that maybe, when you get to the beginning of the week again, it’s behind you, and you might think of being healthier.”

Cohen’s team looked at people’s Google searches from 2005 to 2012, particularly search terms that included the word “healthy.”

“We looked at things like ‘healthy recipes,’ ‘healthy diet,’ those sort of things, to see if there were patterns in searches by day of the week. And indeed, at the beginning of the week – specifically Monday and Tuesday – more people are searching for healthy things, and then it sort of drops off as you get closer to the weekend,” Cohen said.

In fact, Monday and Tuesday “healthy” searches were 30% greater than the combined Wednesday through Sunday average. “You make the connection that the searches are an expression of what people are thinking about … and people are thinking about being healthier earlier in the week rather than later in the week,” Cohen said.

The Monday Campaigns

Cohen’s research revealed that for people who want to help others be healthier, it might make sense to reach them in the beginning of the week instead of a Friday or Saturday, when they are less likely to be thinking about being healthier. Her research helped to inform the Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit initiative that has taken the foundational concept of Monday as a health reset and applied it to health behaviors, providing individuals and organizations with tools and resources to help them achieve their health goals.

Monday Campaigns include “Kids Cook Monday,” “Meatless Monday,” “Move it Monday,” “Quit and Stay Quit Monday” and “DeStress Monday.”

For example, “Move it Monday” developed “The Monday Mile,” an activity designed to help people start their week moving together. “All you have to do is map a route wherever you’re at, gather your group and have fun walking!” said Shannon Monnat, the Lerner Chair for Public Health Promotion at Syracuse University.

“Many organizations, universities and cities have adopted the Monday Mile activity and have seen great results,” said Monnat, who has relied on resources from Move It Monday to help implement 30 permanent, easily accessible Monday Mile routes for Syracuse community members to jump-start their weekly physical activity goals.

Camille Casaretti, the PTA wellness chair at P.S. 32 in Brooklyn, started “Kids Cook Monday” in her home before bringing the initiative to her children’s school about three years ago. The program encourages families to make and eat tasty nutritious meals together and provides nutritious kid-friendly family recipes, like an “eye see you stir-fry.”

Casaretti’s daughter is a fussy eater, but the initiative has helped her daughter become a star chef.

“My daughter is 10 now, and she can basically make an entire dinner meal now by herself from start to finish,” Casaretti said.

“Just the awareness of fresh fruits and vegetables has become a regular conversation at our dinner table,” she said. “When we go to the market, my kids know where all the vegetables are. … They know how to read labels on packaged foods, and they are very aware of what is being marketed to them, and that helps them to make better choices in what they are eating.”

“Kids Cook Monday” has been very well-received at P.S. 32, according to Casaretti. “Parents really enjoy coming out with their family and cooking a meal together. We have cutting boards and knives that aren’t too sharp, and a variety of recipes, which are sent out in advance.” Recipe directions include “kid,” “adult” and “together” steps.

“The black-eyed pea stir-fry is delicious. It has kale in it, and we had just been introducing kale in the cafeteria as part of the school foods menu. The recipe is really great. It’s really easy to make, and the kids, parents and staff all loved it. It was really a winner.”

So whether your goal for the New Year is to cook more with your children, lose weight, get moving or quit smoking, just think: “Monday” is the new “January 1.”

By Lisa Drayer, CNN         Wed December 26, 2018
Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, an author and a CNN health and nutrition contributor. 
source: www.cnn.com


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8 Small Changes for a Slimmer You in 2018

It’s that time of year again. People are rushing to buy gym memberships and cleaning out kitchen cabinets, swearing that this year will be the year they follow through on their resolution to lose weight.

But reaching that goal doesn’t require a complete lifestyle overhaul. Small steps can make a big difference in your body and health.

Here are eight ways to get started:

Break it down. No matter how much you have to lose, changing your lifestyle to lose weight can seem overwhelming. So, don’t look at it all at once, advises nutritionist Samantha Heller,  from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

“Look at it one plate at a time, or even one choice at a time, but start right now, and by this time next month, you’ll see good changes,” she said. Instead of thinking about how you need to lose 40 pounds, figure out what 5 percent of your body weight is. For a 180-pound person, it’s 9 pounds.

“If you lose 5 percent of your body weight, you can significantly decrease your risk of many diseases, like prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease. You lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and A1C [a long-term measurement of blood sugar levels], and it’s so much less overwhelming to think about,” Heller noted.

 Strive for a negative calorie balance. For years, you’ve probably heard that to lose a pound, you need to eat 3,500 fewer calories (the number of calories in a pound), but research has shown that it’s not necessarily that simple.

Nutritionist Maudene Nelson, from Columbia University Health in New York City, said, “It works mathematically, but it doesn’t work physiologically. The body defends its weight,” she explained.  But you do need a negative calorie balance to lose weight – that means you need to take in fewer calories than you use in activity and exercise to lose weight.

Both Nelson and Heller said very low-calorie diets don’t work in the long term because the body goes into starvation mode. “You don’t want to lose weight too quickly, because it scares the body into thinking there’s no food available,” Heller said.

           Plate it. elson loves the simplicity of the plate method. Half of your plate should be vegetables, one quarter is protein and one quarter is starch. If you finish your plate, and you’re still hungry, she said be sure to refill your plate in the same way. “Don’t just refill on the mac n’ cheese,” she advised. In the morning, you can substitute fruit for the veggies.

Identify trouble times. Nelson asks her clients to think about the time of day they have the most trouble with food. Is it the time just before dinner when the kids are clamoring for food and you’re starving and so tired you don’t feel like cooking, so you stop at the fast-food drive-thru. Or is it at night when the house has quieted down and you can finally sit down, maybe with a glass of wine and late-night snack?

“In these times of day, it’s hard to think about how many calories you’re eating. These are times you don’t want to stop and think about self-denial. So plan for these times. Have healthy snacks ready. Make sure you have ingredients for a quick meal in the fridge so you don’t have to rely on fast-food,” Nelson suggested.

Add protein to every meal. Protein helps keep your blood sugar levels from spiking and then crashing. Without at least a little protein in your meal, you’ll be hungry soon after eating because of a fast rise and fall in your blood sugar.

And, Heller said, be sure to have protein at breakfast, too. “Having protein in the morning can really set the stage for a better day — whether it’s eggs or yogurt, nut butter on whole grain toast or apple slices, or even leftovers from the night before,” she explained.

Track it. Both Heller and Nelson said one of the most important things you can do for losing weight is keeping track of the food you eat.

“It’s not a sexy or exciting thing to do, but it can be informative and helpful,” Heller said, adding that many people are surprised when they write down every bite they take at how much they actually do eat in a day. A food diary can be done with paper and pencil, or you can put technology to work because there are lots of apps for the phone. Examples include myfitnesspal, fitday and seehowyoueat (an app that lets you use pictures to keep your diary).

“You can use your food tracker to see what happened when you did well, or on days you didn’t. If you over-eat one night, you can look back and see that maybe you skipped lunch and were starving. You can use it as a learning tool for the next time,” Heller said.

Don’t drink your calories. 
Both experts said people often get empty calories from soda and juice. “It’s just not worth it to drink your calories,” Nelson said. What about adult beverages, such as wine and beer? Nelson said those can be considered part of the plate method. Each drink replaces a starch from your plate.

Rewards.     
Nelson said to set yourself up for success by planning rewards. Whether it’s for walking a mile, or for tracking your meals for a week, give yourself more than a pat on the back. It doesn’t have to be a big treat – maybe you could buy that magazine you enjoy but usually don’t purchase, or a special body lotion because it’s pricier than what you normally spend.

By Serena Gordon   HealthDay Reporter         Dec. 28, 2017      HealthDay News
       
Sources: Samantha Heller, M.S., R.D., senior clinical nutritionist, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City;
Maudene Nelson, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., Columbia University Health, New York City
 


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The Science Behind Why Breaking A Bad Habit Is So Hard

Engaging the goal-directed side of your brain can help you override the part that controls your bad habits.

Habits are your brain’s version of autopilot. They allow you to get ready for work, navigate your way to the office, and find your way home without having to reinvent the wheel every day. They save time and energy . . . except when they involve grabbing a candy bar from the vending machine every afternoon at 3 p.m. In cases like this, bad habits can feel like a battle of wills.

To find out why some habits can be hard to make or break, researchers from the University of California performed experiments with mice and found that the brain’s circuits for habit- and goal-directed action compete for control in the area of the brain that makes decisions.

“Neurochemicals called endocannabinoids allow for habit to take over by acting as a sort of brake on the goal-directed circuit,” writes Christina Gremel, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California San Diego who headed up the study that was published in the research journal Neuron.

Endocannabinoids are chemicals that are naturally produced by humans and animals, and receptors are found throughout the body and brain. This system is involved in a variety of physiological processes, such as appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.

Earlier studies found that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is the part of the brain that relays goal-directed information. When researchers increased the output of neurons in the OFC in mice using optogenetics–a technique that involves flashes of light–goal-directed actions also increased. And when they decreased activity in the OFC using chemicals, the mice acted on habit.

A good balance of habitual and goal-directed actions helps with everyday functioning and task management. “We need to be able to make routine actions quickly and efficiently, and habits serve this purpose,” writes Gremel. “However, we also encounter changing circumstances, and need the capacity to ‘break habits’ and perform a goal-directed action based on updated information.”

The brain shifts from habit to goal-directed behavior when we need to drive to a different location, for example. The decision to make or break a habit also relies on goal-directed behavior in the beginning. Healthy mice had no problem shifting from one type to the other, but people with conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction may have a physical problem that inhibits goal-directed action, the study suggests. “It does appear some things we think of as more maladaptive like addiction seem to have a bias toward habit system,” Gremel says. “The goal-directed system is still there, and you can still rescue it. Treatment could be pharmaceutical or might involve behavioral therapy. Further research is needed.”

So what does this mean for that afternoon trip to the vending machine? It’s time to engage the goal-directed side of your brain. If you walk by the vending machine every day on your way back from a meeting, for example, alter your path.

“If you change the context or go about things in a different behavioral pattern, it can help you break out of habit,” says Gremel.

BY STEPHANIE VOZZA        06.20.16