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Seven Steps Toward Building Resiliency

How do you define resiliency?

Many define resiliency as the ability to bounce back from a setback. Some refer to it as one’s ability to push through difficult times.

Following a keynote speech recently, this definition of resiliency was shared: Putting the pieces of a dropped vase back together as close to the original form as possible, knowing that sometimes it’s impossible to put things back exactly, which results in the creation of a new normal.

Awareness – While the above definitions provide some insight on resiliency, they don’t explain how a person develops it. A person who doesn’t bounce back quickly may be judged by some as being weak. As well, these kinds of definitions can imply that resiliency is something a person has or doesn’t have, which isn’t true. Resiliency is a trainable skill and, like all skills, requires practise for mastery and to maintain top performance.

I prefer to think of the term resiliency as a verb, which requires building up resiliency reserves so they can be drawn upon in difficult times. However, we all have a limit to our resiliency reserve levels, and asking for support to get through a difficult time is not a sign of weakness.

Accountability – Building resiliency reserve levels requires accepting that what we do daily influences them. We don’t get physically fit by thinking about it; it requires actions such as exercising, eating a healthy diet and getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Action – One proactive approach for building resiliency is to adopt a daily resiliency hierarchy: actions that can have a positive impact on resiliency.

The following resiliency hierarchy is an example of seven things that, when done daily, can build resiliency. Although each action is helpful, it’s suggested that you start with one and work your way up to practising all seven each day.

resiliency-child-emotionally-strong

 

RESILIENCY HIERARCHY

Acknowledge others – None of us can get through life alone. Recognizing, acknowledging and thanking the people we interact with daily can help to build and maintain our relationships, as well as expand our social connections.

Gratitude – Take a moment each day to be grateful for three good things you have in your life. Life is challenging, and not everything may be the way we want it to be. Being grateful for all the things we have can remind us how fortunate we are.

Movement – We can improve our mental health and resiliency levels by increasing our movement, because of the mind-body connection. Movement includes walking, running, exercise, recreational activities and sports. Set daily goals and count your movement minutes or steps.

Self-acceptance – Self-acceptance is being aware of your strengths and weaknesses. None of us will or can be perfect. Learn to be okay with who you are and your weaknesses. Stop any negative or self-critical talk that only creates hurt and serves no real purpose.

Nutrition – What we put in our mouth feeds our brain, where our thoughts and feelings come from. Our lifestyle and nutritional choices matter for both our mental and physical health. They also affect our resiliency reserve levels. Making good choices one meal at a time doesn’t have to be hard. Cut out processed foods, and focus on eating meals high in fibre, healthy fats and good sources of protein.

Hope – Without a plan, there can be no hope. Having one or two clearly defined goals for what you want in life can give a positive focus and purpose for each day. Purpose can be a source of energy that pushes us toward the things we want in life.

Sleep – Perhaps one of the most important things we can do to build resiliency is to ensure we get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a day. Without proper sleep we put our physical safety and mental health at risk.

BILL HOWATT             MAY 28, 2019
Bill Howatt is the chief of research for work force productivity at the Conference Board of Canada and a co-creator of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award.
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The 11 Life Lessons

The 11 Life Lessons It Turns Out I’ve Taught My Six Kids

On my 46th birthday recently, my (mostly adult) kids wrote out a list of lessons I’d taught each of them in their lives so far. Each wrote their own list, and my wife Eva sweetly put them together in a notebook.

As I read through them, I felt like crying. It’s so incredibly touching that they appreciate what I’ve been trying to pass on to them, things I’ve been learning and want them to understand.

As a father, there are few things more meaningful than to see how you’ve helped your kids through your example and talks over the years. We have a mixed family of 6 kids, aging from 13 years old to 26 years, and all of them are wonderful human beings.

It turns out, there were some lessons that all or most of the kids put on their list, which I’m going to share with you here. These lessons they had in common made me wonder if these were the more powerful lessons, or if they were simply the ones I talked about the most. 🙂

So here they are, roughly ordered in how frequently they showed up on my kids’ lists:

  1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and it’s okay to fail. This was tied (with the next one) as the most common lesson on their lists — it made all their lists, I think. I really love that this lesson hit home with them.
  2. Have empathy & try to see things from others’ perspectives. This was the other lesson on all their lists, and again, it’s beautiful that they all took this to heart. I’ve tried to show them this through my actions, though of course I’m not at all perfect.
  3. Push out of your comfort zone. This is another one I’ve tried to teach by example, from running several marathons and an ultramarathon to doing things that scare me, like speaking on stage or writing books. This lesson is so important to me that
  4. Don’t spend more than you have. This is such a simple idea, but one that is rarely followed. I’m glad my kids are starting out with this mindset — live within your means, save as much as you can.
  5. Appreciate what you have & enjoy where you are right now. I love this one. It’s something that I try to embody, but also remind them when they are thinking about what they don’t have. Each time we’re stuck in complaint, it’s an opportunity to wake up to the beauty that’s in front of us.
  6. Sadness is a part of life, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling it. Despite what I said in the previous item, it’s OK to feel sadness, pain, grief, frustration, anxiety, anger. In fact, most of us never want to feel those things, so we’ll do whatever we can to ignore them or get away from the feelings. Instead, I try to actually feel those things, as an experience. It teaches me about struggle — if we’re not willing to face our own struggles, how can we be there for others when they struggle?
  7. Don’t give up just because something gets hard. As new adults, our four oldest kids are facing various struggles in new ways. This is part of growth, of course, but struggles never feel good. My job as dad has been to encourage them not to give up just because it’s hard — to keep going, and to use the struggle to grow.
  8. But don’t overwork yourself. That said, I’m not a fan of overwork. I believe the brain doesn’t function well if you keep studying or working past the point of exhaustion, so I try to teach them about taking breaks, resting, going outside and moving.
  9. It’s okay to be weird in public. Have fun. I’m not sure why several of them had this on the list — they must have learned to be weird from someone else? OK, in truth, they might have gotten it from my tendency to dance and skip with them while we’re out walking around in a city, or to encourage us all to do weird things as a group, no matter what other people might think.
  10. Your reality is a reflection of the narrative you tell yourself. This is something I learned late in life, and I’m glad my kids are learning this. The good news is that you can learn to drop that narrative, if it leads to suffering. What would this moment be like without a narrative? Beautiful and free.
  11. Make people laugh. It makes their day brighter. I’m so happy they picked up this important lesson from me! With my kids, I’m mostly always joking, except for when I get (too) serious about teaching them an important lesson. The rest of the time, I try to take a lighthearted approach.

I love my kids with all my heart, and it has been a privilege to be their dad. I take 10% of the credit and give the rest to their moms, grandparents, and themselves.

Btw, you can read Chloe’s full list in her blog post.

dad kids

Also … from them, I’ve learned some lessons that are just as important:

  • Kids deserve to be heard, to be listened to, to be respected. I started out as a dad with the idea that what I say goes, and they just need to listen to me! But over the years, I’ve learned to listen to them, and treat them as I’d want to be treated.
  • Kids have tender hearts that hurt when you aren’t kind to them. As a young dad, my frustrations and insecurities led me to angry bursts of scolding, yelling, spanking. I’ve grown since then, but more importantly, I’ve learned to see the tenderness of their hearts, and how it hurts to be yelled at by someone they trust and love so much. I am much more gentle with those hearts these days.
  • I should relax and not take myself so seriously. Whenever I think too much of myself, my kids humble me. Whenever I get too serious, my kids laugh at me. I love that playful reminder to loosen up.
  • Dads are goofy, dorky, uncool. And that’s how we should be. I sometimes harbor the notion that I can be a “cool” dad. When I try to break out newish slang or reference a meme, my kids will tease me about it. When I break out a joke or pun that I think is hilarious, they’ll laugh while rolling their eyes and calling it a “dad joke.” So I’ve learned just to embrace my uncoolness, and be myself with them.
  • All they need is love. There are lots of things to stress out about as parents, and nowadays we tend to obsess about getting everything right with our kids. But really, we’re stressing about it too much. All the details are just details — there’s only one thing that really matters. They want you to love them. And to receive their love. That’s all. Feed them, clothe them, shelter them, educate them, sure … but beyond that, they just want you to love them. Drop everything that gets in the way of that and let it come out as simply and clearly as you can.

 

BY LEO BABAUTA
source: zenhabits.net


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The Practice of Letting Go

There are a number of times when our mind clings to something tightly, and it is rarely helpful:

  • I am right, the other person is wrong
  • That person is living their life in the wrong way, they should change
  • My preference is the best way, others are wrong
  • This is the thing I want, I don’t want anything else
  • I really don’t like that, it sucks
  • I should have that person in my life, loving me
  • I shouldn’t be alone, shouldn’t be overweight, shouldn’t be however I am, shouldn’t have this life

In all of these cases, and more, our minds are fixed in a certain viewpoint, and we often judge others. We complain. We are attached to what we want and what we don’t want.

It leads to stress. Unhappiness. Anger. Righteousness. Being judgmental. Distancing ourselves from others. Closed-offedness.

And it leads to being closed off to the beauty of this moment, as it is, full of openness and possibilities.

If you’d like to work on letting go, I would like to offer a simple practice.

mind

 

The Practice of Letting Go

You can actually practice this all day long, because even if we don’t realize it, we’re clinging and hardening and fixing upon viewpoints all day long.

Here’s how to practice:

  1. Start by realizing that you’re hardened. Notice that you are stressed, upset at someone, feeling like you’re right, complaining about someone or a situation, not open to other viewpoints, putting something off, avoiding, tensed. These are good signs that you are holding on, hardened in your viewpoint, fixed, attached, clinging. Get good at noticing this.
  2. Notice the tension in your body. It’s a tightening that happens from your stomach muscles, through your chest, into your throat, up to your forehead. Think of this as your central column, and it tightens up when you think you’re right, or someone else is wrong, or you really want something or don’t want something.
  3. Start to relax those tightened muscles. This is the heart of changing from holding on to letting go. Whatever is tight in your central column, relax. Try it right now. What is tight? Relax that. Soften.
  4. Open your awareness beyond yourself. Once you’ve done this (and you might have to repeat the relaxing, multiple times), you can open your awareness from just your own body and your self-concern, to the world around you. Become aware of the space around you, the people and objects, the light and sound. Open your awareness to the neighborhood around you.
  5. Become aware of openness & possibilities. With your mind opening, you can start to feel more open. Your mind is no longer closed, but has made space for possibilities. You are not fixated on one right way, but are open to everything. This is the beauty of not-knowing.
  6. Open to the beauty that is before you. Now that you are not fixated on rightness or your way or the way things should or shouldn’t be … you can take in the actual moment before you. You’ve emptied your cup, and made room for seeing things as they actually are, and appreciating the beauty of this moment, the beauty of other people, and of yourself.
  7. Step forward with a not-knowing openness. From this place of relaxing your fixed mind, of opening up … take the next step with a stance of not-knowing. You don’t know how things should be, let’s find out! You don’t know if you’re right or wrong, let’s explore! You don’t know the answers, you just hold the questions in your heart, and move into open possibilities.

It’s that simple. And of course, it takes a lot of practice. You can do this at any moment, but it’s helpful to have a short time of day when you set a reminder and then take a few moments to sit still and practice with whatever you’ve been clinging to today.

When we practice like this, we are shifting from our habitual patterns of self-concern and shutting out all possibilities, to openness and not-knowing, to unlimited possibilities and seeing the breath-taking beauty of the world in front of us.

BY LEO BABAUTA     FEBRUARY 4, 2019

zenhabits.net

Obstacles That Stop Us from Decluttering
—And How to Overcome Them

Years ago, Cas Aarssen would spend hours looking for lost items, cleaning and tidying, and dusting items she didn’t even like.
Sound familiar?
Sometimes, we get so entrenched in our routines that we don’t see the belongings that no longer belong in our homes. Or we feel too busy, too overwhelmed, too exhausted to tackle a big project such as decluttering. We think it’ll require energy and effort we just don’t have.
Another obstacle to decluttering is actually letting items go. “We are especially reluctant to declutter things that were expensive, have sentimental value, or things that we perceive as being useful ‘someday,’” said Aarssen, an author and professional organizer. “Unfortunately, almost everything can land in one of these categories and by holding onto too many ‘useful’ items, we are making the spaces in our homes ‘useless.’”
We also don’t get rid of items because our stuff starts to represent different possibilities. And that stuff ends up replacing our actual habits. For instance, professional organizer and ADHD coach Debra Michaud, M.A., worked with a client who had a growing yoga DVD collection, which she didn’t use. “What she really wanted was the habit, but she found herself instead buying more and more DVDs.”
Basically, our clutter can personify the people we want to be. The person who lifts weights and runs on the treadmill. The person who always looks put together in fancy (and uncomfortable) shoes. The person who uses cookbooks to make elaborate dinners for their family. The person who does arts and crafts and makes beautiful things.
“Unfinished projects are a very common cause of clutter,” Michaud said. You might be surrounded by broken things you’re planning on fixing one day and piles of magazines you’ll read next week or the week after that or the week after that or….
“People often hang on to [these items] as some sort of albatross, almost a punishment for not getting everything done.”
All of these are super-common obstacles—which you can absolutely overcome. These tips will help.
clutter
Have a clear vision
“The best motivator to declutter is to have a clear vision of what is beyond it,” Michaud said. She suggested asking yourself: What do you really want? What would you really miss?
Remind yourself regularly why you’re decluttering. For instance, clutter robs us of our time and causes a lot of needless stress, said Aarssen, bestselling author of Real Life Organizing and Cluttered Mess to Organized Success. It also zaps our energy, makes us inefficient, and prevents us from living in the present, Michaud said.
Start small
So overwhelm doesn’t stop you from starting, Michaud always suggests tackling clutter in small chunks. Really small. For instance, you might identify one item per day you’re going to donate.
Michaud also recommended using a timer, and starting with five-minute sessions. “Five minutes of focused decision-making is more productive than two hours of wheel-spinning and moving things around.” In fact, she defines clutter as “the interest we pay for deferred decisions (or projects).”
And because of the decision-making required, pick a time when you can focus, Michaud said. “At the end of a tiring workday, for example, will probably yield a frustrating and inefficient organizing session.”
Start with garbage
Aarssen suggested grabbing a garbage bag and filling it as quickly as possible with things you can throw away without any hesitation. For instance, this might include old receipts, expired medications, stale food, empty boxes, and old magazines.
Address your guilt
Michaud always tells her clients “wouldn’t you rather [an item] go to someone who needs it and uses it, than have it sitting in the back of your closet?” She also asks them if the giver would really want them to feel burdened by their gift. And, of course, they wouldn’t.
When it comes to unfinished projects, remind yourself that no one gets to everything. “In a way, letting go of clutter is…coming to terms with the finiteness of life,” Michaud said. However, “ironically, it’s when we let go that we start to feel in control.”
Self-reflect
If your stuff represents different possibilities, wishes and people, consider if those are still true for you. Consider if you even want to do these things, if you’d even enjoy them. Do you want to lift weights and run on the treadmill? Maybe you don’t—and that’s OK. Maybe you love to take walks. Maybe you actually prefer to cook quick meals, and don’t like cooking from recipes.
Either way, you’ll feel so much lighter once you let go of the stuff that represents your unrealized and unwanted dreams—along with those no longer-relevant dreams.
Donate 21 items
“I love this decluttering technique because it is a big enough number that you need to push yourself, but small enough that it isn’t overwhelming and won’t take you more than a few minutes to accomplish,” Aarssen said. Again, the key is to go quickly, and make it into a game.
Create a time capsule
According to Aarssen, when you’re really struggling to relinquish certain items, pack them in a box and write an expiration date on it: “If Not Used By September 2018, DONATE This Box.” Keep your box somewhere in your home. When that date arrives, if you haven’t missed or needed anything in the box, donate its contents, she said.
Get help
“Sometimes the biggest impediment to decluttering is just knowing when to reach out for help,” Michaud said. She suggested hiring a professional organizer or finding a neutral “clutter buddy.” This might be a close friend or a member of Clutterers Anonymous.
Whoever you pick, it’s important that they’re not judgmental and can ask you thoughtful questions, such as: “Do you love it? Do you use it? Realistically will you use it in the next 2 years? Would you buy it again today? Would you miss it?”
Decluttering does take time and energy and effort—but it’s time and energy and effort that aren’t a waste. It’s worthwhile, and it’s absolutely freeing. As Michaud said, “We often don’t even realize how much clutter is weighing on us until it’s gone.”
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. 
Associate Editor        8 Jul 2018


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15 Easy Ways To Be A Happier Person

These research-backed habits will make your life so much better.

There’s a quote from author Jaeda DeWalt that looks at joy from a different perspective: “Happiness is created and not found, it’s a state of mind and in its best form, it stands independent of life circumstances.”

Regardless of whether you buy into the idea, the maxim can assure you that acquiring at least some happiness is within your power. This means every day you can choose to do something to make yourself more joyful. And in a world where you’re dealing with devastating news, work woes, money stress, relationship struggles and more uncomfortable obstacles that are out of your control, isn’t it kind of nice to know you have a little autonomy over how you feel?

With an arsenal of simple and free techniques to lighten any situation, you’ll be better prepared to handle anything. Here are just a few ways you can make yourself happier this year (and beyond):

1. Check in with someone you love
With so many ways to connect these days, this one is simple to do ― we just often forget. Shoot a text, initiate a FaceTime or go old-fashioned and write a letter to someone who makes you smile. Research shows those who foster connections tend to lead healthier, happier lives. You might not always have time for a long catch-up over the phone, but even a simple heart emoji could do both of you some good.

2. Write down one thing you’re grateful for
Gratitude and happiness are intrinsically linked, so you might consider making gratitude journaling a habit. If journaling isn’t your thing, you can still benefit from a lower-commitment version of the practice. Try scribbling one or two things you’re grateful for on a notepad or even just jotting down a good thing that happened to you during your day. (Did you catch the train at just the right time? Did you answer the final “Jeopardy” question correctly? Did you eat a delicious meal?) This exercise will help remind you that no matter how dark you may be feeling, points of brightness exist in your life.

3. Make yourself a quick, healthy breakfast
“What we do first thing in the morning typically sets the tone for the rest of the day,” psychologist Tim Sharp previously told HuffPost. Starting the day with a nutritious, filling breakfast may very well be the thing your routine has been missing. Research suggests that eating more fruits and veggies may boost your happiness, and getting some calories in your system before you take on the world can set up your body and your brain for success.

Daunting as it may sound, prepping a morning meal for yourself is an easy task. If you haven’t yet mastered your preferred recipes, here’s a suggestion: Put some oats into a jar. Pour milk onto said oats. Refrigerate overnight. Come morning, top it with frozen or fresh fruit, peanut butter, nuts, honey or whatever you like. This fibrous number will keep you full and satisfied.

4. Forgive someone
This is a tough one, but it’d serve you well to wake up every morning with fewer grudges than you had yesterday. If you’re really struggling to let go, consider forgiveness a gift to yourself, not the person or event you’re attempting to forgive. Research has underscored the benefits of releasing resentments: The practice can improve your well-being, lower your anxiety and even strengthen your immune system.

5. Allow yourself to feel sad or angry when you need to
It sounds counterintuitive, but it works. While it’s important to let go, it’s equally important to let yourself feel what you’re feeling when the time comes. There are actually constructive ways to complain and deal with annoyances; keeping it all in may sometimes do more harm than good. One 2015 study examined the effects of letting one’s irritations fester, finding that doing so often resulted in feelings of regret. Research also shows that crying can be therapeutic.

6. Toss your negative thoughts in the garbage
If your brain continues to replay a thought that’s negative and getting in the way of your happiness, literally throw it away. Write any toxic thoughts about yourself on a piece of paper, crumple it up, then toss the paper into a garbage can. This practice has been shown to improve your feelings. It might sound a little ridiculous but give it a try — you’ve got nothing to lose but your negativity.

7. Make a point to get some fresh air
Your happiness prescription is in the clouds — you just have to go out and get it. That familiar scent of pine trees has been shown to decrease stress and help you feel relaxed, while fresh oxygen can lead to feeling energized. Ditch that stale office air, if only for a few minutes, to dose yourself with some nature.

winter_walk

8. Commit to some kind of social media detox
It’s no secret that social media can harbor toxicity. Taking a break from these platforms can be your secret weapon for fighting off the digital blues. You don’t have to fully delete your Facebook account to feel better (though if you’d like to, by all means). But if you can spend a little less time looking at random couples’ wedding photos and reading sick political burns, your brain might be able to make more room for the good stuff.

You could start by deleting certain social apps off your phone, giving yourself access only when you’re on a desktop with some time to spare. Doing so could make incessantly checking your social feeds less of a habit and more of a deliberate choice, which will give you control over these technologies, rather than the other way around. You can also try unfollowing accounts that feel a little soul-sucking and incorporating more positive ones into your feed instead.

9. Listen to a good bop
Even babies like to rock out to their favorite tunes, and studies show there’s a link between listening to music and feeling happy. Listening to music you love increases your levels of dopamine, so put on your favorite playlist and enjoy.

10. Get moving — even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing
By now it’s well-established that exercise has some undeniable, mood-boosting powers. Knowing this doesn’t mean you feel any more motivated to work out. The key here is to find an activity you don’t completely dread: maybe it’s taking a neighbor’s dog for a jog, walking a few blocks while catching up with a friend or doing YouTube workouts in your underwear. Give yourself some time to try different techniques so you can figure out kinds of movement that you love. The rest is easy.

11. Stretch
Even if you’re the kind of person who looks forward to a spin class, you might experience some off days where you just can’t bring yourself to go. Stretching is another great way to release some endorphins and get the blood flowing. Here’s permission to reap these benefits from the pillow: Check out these yoga poses you can do from the comfort of your own bed.

12. Don’t be afraid to make it known that you value your time
If you’re a people-pleaser who takes on way too much, this one’s especially for you. Give yourself the gift of turning things down more often — whether it’s a last-minute happy hour that interferes with your “you time” or a project that doesn’t fit in with the rest of your to-do list.

Experts advise that saying no more often is one of the best resolutions you can make this year. You can figure out what’s worth going to and what isn’t just by your initial, gut reaction. “If you are worrying about what is being asked of you, or you feel angry, stressed or anxious, chances are this is going to be some kind of imposition on you, or something you don’t want to do,” Rachel Tomlinson, a registered psychologist in Perth, Australia, recently told HuffPost.

Your time is just as valuable as anyone else’s, and you deserve to reclaim it.

13. Define what “self-care” means to you — then practice it
Face mask, afternoon nap, getting your nails done, watching a football game, spending time surrounded by books and quiet: Whatever it is that makes you feel good, keep it in your back pocket as a stress-busting resource.

If you’re confused about what exactly self-care means for you, know that you’re not alone. In a recent post on Instagram, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked for some self-care tips from her followers, admitting she wasn’t quite sure how to go about the practice. Later, in a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez recognized that the importance of self-care is stressed differently, often depending on things like class.

The concept can be tough to unpack “for working people, immigrants, & the poor, self-care is political,” she wrote. “Not because we want it to be, but bc of the inevitable shaming of someone doing a face mask while financially stressed.” Still, Ocasio-Cortez stressed that self-care is a necessary survival tactic for all types of people, for without it, burnout is inevitable.

“I went from doing yoga and making wild rice and salmon dinners to eating fast food for dinner and falling asleep in my jeans and makeup,” she wrote. “We live in a culture where that kind of lifestyle is subtly celebrated as ‘working hard,’ but I will be the first to tell you it’s NOT CUTE and makes your life harder on the other end.”

14. Be nice to someone
Smile at a stranger, hold the door for someone a few extra feet behind you, let the grocery shopper with just a couple of items go ahead of you in line. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, and studies show that little acts of goodness do contribute to your own well-being. And if you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these feel-good (and sometimes life-changing) stories about strangers being nice to others.

That voice inside your head can be a massive jerk, but you don’t have to let it. Research shows self-acceptance is the key to a happier life but it’s a habit we rarely practice. Squashing negative self-talk, which can be done by trying cognitive techniques on your own or with help from a professional, might be one of the best things you can do for yourself.

By Kate Bratskeir, HuffPost US       01/03/2019 
 


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How Expressing Gratitude Might Change Your Brain

A lot of so-called “positive psychology” can seem a bit flaky, especially if you’re the sort of person disinclined to respond well to an admonition to “look on the bright side.” But positive psychologists have published some interesting findings, and one of the more robust ones is that feeling grateful is very good for you. Time and again, studies have shown that performing simple gratitude exercises, like keeping a gratitude diary or writing letters of thanks, can bring a range of benefits, such as feelings of increased well-being and reduced depression, that often linger well after the exercises are finished.

Now a brain-scanning study in NeuroImage brings us a little closer to understanding why these exercises have these effects. The results suggest that even months after a simple, short gratitude writing task, people’s brains are still wired to feel extra thankful. The implication is that gratitude tasks work, at least in part, because they have a self-perpetuating nature: The more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits.

The Indiana University researchers, led by Prathik Kini, recruited 43 people who were undertaking counseling sessions as a treatment for their anxiety or depression. Twenty-two of them were assigned to a gratitude intervention; for the first three sessions of their weekly counseling, this group spent 20 minutes writing a letter in which they expressed their gratitude to the recipient, an hour in total (whether they chose to send these letters was up to them). The other participants acted as a control group, so they simply attended their counseling as usual without performing the gratitude task.

Three months after their counseling was over, all of the participants completed a “Pay It Forward” gratitude task in a brain scanner. Each was “given” various amounts of money by imaginary benefactors whose names and photos appeared onscreen to add to the realism of the task. The researchers told the participants that each benefactor said that if the participant wanted to express their gratitude for the monetary gift, they’d appreciate it if the participant gave some or all of the donation to a named third party (again, identified by photo and name), or a named charity. The participants knew this was all an exercise, but were all told that one of the transactions, chosen later at random, would actually occur — that is, they’d actually receive the cash amount offered to them by one of the benefactors minus the amount they chose to pass on (and the money they opted to pass on really would go to charity).

The researchers found that, on average, the more money a participant gave away, and the stronger the feelings of gratitude they reported feeling, the more activity they exhibited in a range of brain areas in the frontal, parietal, and occipital regions. Interestingly, these neural-activity patterns appeared somewhat distinct from those that usually appear when brain-scan subjects complete tasks associated with emotions like empathy or thinking about other people’s points of view, which is consistent with the idea that gratitude is a unique emotion.

gratitude

Most exciting, though, is the finding that the participants who’d completed the gratitude task months earlier not only reported feeling more gratefulness two weeks after the task than members of the control group, but also, months later, showed more gratitude-related brain activity in the scanner. The researchers described these “profound” and “long-lasting” neural effects as “particularly noteworthy,” and they highlighted that one of the main regions that showed this increased sensitivity — the “pregenual anterior cingulate,” which is known to be involved in predicting the effects of one’s own actions on other people — overlaps with a key brain region identified in the only previous study on the neurological footprint of gratitude.

This result suggests that the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mind-set — you could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude “muscle” that can be exercised and strengthened (not so different from various other qualities that can be cultivated through practice, of course). If this is right, the more of an effort you make to feel gratitude one day, the more the feeling will come to you spontaneously in the future. It also potentially helps explain another established finding, that gratitude can spiral: The more thankful we feel, the more likely we are to act pro-socially toward others, causing them to feel grateful and setting up a beautiful virtuous cascade.

However, let’s not allow the warm glow of all this gratitude to melt our critical faculties. It’s important to realize this result is incredibly preliminary. For one thing, as the researchers openly acknowledge, they didn’t conduct a baseline brain scan of the participants before they started the Pay It Forward game, so it’s possible, though unlikely given that participants were randomly assigned to the gratitude and control groups, that the participants who performed the gratitude task simply had more neural sensitivity to gratitude already, not because they performed the gratitude task. Another thing: Members of the control group didn’t perform a comparison writing task, so we can’t know for sure that it was the act of writing a letter of thanks, as opposed to any kind of writing exercise, that led to increased neural sensitivity to gratitude.

Still, neurological investigations into gratitude are in their early days, and this research certainly gives us some intriguing clues as to how and why gratitude exercises are beneficial. For that we can be, well, grateful.

Dr. Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer), a Science of Us contributing writer, is editor of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog. His latest book is Great Myths of the Brain.

By Christian Jarrett   JAN. 7, 2016
 


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12 Ways to Wake Up Happier Tomorrow Morning (and Every Morning)

We’d be happier if only things were different, right? If we had more money or a better job or weighed 20 pounds less? With these positivity-boosting strategies, you can be happier right now—no life changes needed.

Set your mind on being happy

Being happy is not about what you have or what happens to you, but how you react to it. In fact, research shows that the way to be happier is by actually trying to be happier. “Happiness is definitely a choice,” says Caroline Adams Miller, a professional coach, speaker, and best-selling author of Your Happiest Life Workbook. “Research on identical and fraternal twins separated at birth, among other studies, shows that at least half of our well-being is directly tied to what we choose to think about and do on a daily basis.” Another study, the Cornell Legacy Project, surveyed “wise elders” to find out their life lessons, one of which was that waiting to become happy doesn’t work. Instead, greeting each day with a good attitude puts us in control of our own positive mindset.

Do something for someone else

Wondering how to make yourself happier? Give back. Studies show that doing something for others is a great way to boost your spirits—and donating time gives a bigger boost than giving money, according to one study. “We did a study in which we asked people to do acts of kindness—one group did acts of kindness for others, another group did acts of kindness for the world such as picking up litter, and a group did things for themselves, like getting a massage or having a nice lunch,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of The How of Happiness. “We found that only doing acts of kindness for others or the world, especially for others, made people happier.” Whether you volunteer formally or simply shovel your elderly neighbor’s driveway, doing things for others gives you perspective on your own life and helps you feel you’re making a difference.

Call a friend

Research shows humans are pro-social beings, so having real, meaningful relationships in life is crucial to feeling happy. Really connecting and conversing deeply with someone has been shown to be more fulfilling than small talk, so make time each day to call or spend time with a friend or family member. “High quality, close relationships are fundamentally important for well being,” says Brett Major, a researcher in the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology (PEP) Laboratory. Plus, feeling we’ve helped out someone we love makes us feel good as well. Studies have shown that parents feel greater fulfillment when their children are happy. Strong ties can also help us feel more secure when something bad happens—research shows those in tight-knit communities fare better when faced with a crisis.

Find meaning in your pursuits

When we think, “once I achieve this goal, I’ll be happy,” we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. With success, it’s the journey, not the destination that’s fulfilling. “People don’t succeed at their goals and then become happy; being happy or emotionally flourishing first is what sets the stage for someone to become successful,” Miller says. “The research shows that when we do things that add meaning, purpose, and even pleasure to our lives, happiness is the by-product that allows us to thrive and grow in positive, proactive ways.” Even just getting caught up in an activity, called “flow” in psychology or being “in the zone,” makes you feel energized and fulfilled, whether you’re painting furniture, writing music, or just going through the junk drawer in the kitchen. “Accomplishing tasks and mastering skills helps people feel more confident in themselves and their abilities, which ultimately fuels well-being,” Major says.

Look back—and forward—with rose-colored glasses

Stewing over something you regret just breeds unhappiness. Instead, research from San Francisco State University shows that focusing on good memories makes us feel more content with our life. “In two minutes, write down every detail you can remember about a meaningful event from the day before,” suggests Michelle Gielan, a former CBS News anchor who’s now a positive psychology expert and the bestselling author of Broadcasting Happiness. “Yesterday’s high points can be today’s fuel for happiness.” This can even have an effect on our overall health: Geilan points to a study that found that patients suffering from chronic pain who did this for six months were able to reduce their pain meds. Finding the good in our past can help us look to the future with hope instead of trepidation.

happiness

Cultivate gratitude

Actively cultivating a feeling of gratefulness is one of the best ways to get happier. “There’s a lot of research on trying to appreciate what’s good about your life rather than focusing on what you don’t have or what other people have and you want,” says Dr. Lyubomirsky. “We have people write gratitude letters to their mother, for example, and not even share them. They write out all the things Mom has done, and just the process alone makes you really appreciate everything.” This can make you feel closer and even improve your bond—especially if you decide to share your gratitude letter. “Genuine expressions of gratitude help build new relationships or strengthen existing ones by demonstrating to others that we appreciate, understand, and care about them,” Major says.

Savor the moment

In the words of Ferris Bueller from the iconic ’80s movie, “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” Savoring positive experiences can help us fully appreciate the world around us. “We are so busy, always focusing on our to-do list, so stopping and smelling the roses is important,” Dr. Lyubomirsky says. The practice of mindfulness can help you be more aware of the moment and the gifts it brings. “It’s really being attuned and paying attention, as opposed to your mind wandering all over the place,” she says.

Get off the couch

It’s no surprise that exercise is good for your body—but it can improve your outlook. Research from the University of Vermont shows that the mood-enhancing benefits of a 20-minute workout last for 12 hours! “Exercise releases endorphins, which activate the body’s ‘reward system,’ basically telling the body ‘you should do this again’ by making a person feel really good, reducing stress, and improving mood,” says Acacia Parks, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Hiram College and the chief scientist of the website happify.com. For an extra bonus, exercise outdoors since being in nature also benefits your mood. Even better, do so in the morning. Geilan says morning exercise is a recipe for “double happiness” because your brain runs on the fuel of “having a win” early in the day.

Choose time over stuff

Easier said than done—but money really can’t buy happiness. Due to something psychologists call hedonic adaptation, we get used to the beautiful, wonderful things we have, so after a short period of time material possessions don’t do much to make us feel happier. If you’re going to spend money, buy experiences, like traveling, which studies have shown to lead to greater fulfillment than objects. The novelty of doing and seeing new things piques our interest and expands our perspective, helping us to better appreciate our own life. Learn the truth behind myths of happiness you’ve convinced yourself are true.

Do what you believe in

Recent research suggests that people are happier when they do the right thing for the good of others—although at the time it might be hard. That might mean missing your favorite TV show so you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, or cutting into your own reading budget so you can contribute books to a school fundraiser. “Following your conscience isn’t always pleasant, so it may not improve a person’s emotional state, but it may improve their evaluation of their life,” Dr. Parks says. Miller says tackling such hard stuff improves your “grit,” or perseverance, which boosts confidence. “People with authentic grit do hard things that build their self-respect and enlarge their vision of what they’re made of,” says Miller, who’s written a book on the topic called Getting Grit. In this way, when you make decisions that affirm your own values, you feel more secure. “People become less defensive and more open to others when they affirm their values,” Lyubomirsky says. “You feel better about yourself and more positive in general.”

Seek out good news

There is so much negativity the second you turn on the morning news shows that it can cast a shadow over your whole day. Instead, try to fill your morning with positivity. “In a study I did with Arianna Huffington and researcher Shawn Achor, we found that watching three minutes of positive, solutions-focused news as compared to negative news in the morning can lead to a 27 percent higher likelihood of reporting your day as a happy one six to eight hours later,” Gielan says. “Start your day with an inspiring story of a person or organization that overcame a challenge, or one that focuses on solutions to create positive change.” Try websites like upworthy.com, humansofnewyork.com, or huffingtonpost.com’s Good News.

Find the get-happy strategy that works for you

Actions you can take to become happier are not one-size-fits-all. If something feels artificial or you don’t identify with it, choose a different strategy. “Everyone needs to study themselves to figure out when they are at their best, and then take care to replicate those actions on a daily basis,” Miller says. Once you decide what works for you, your positivity can help you through even the worst of times. “Positive emotions enable people to build enduring resources—like friends who provide social support, psychological resilience, and new skills and knowledge—that can be helpful in coping with negative experiences,” Major says. And this can make us happier in the long run.

Tina Donvito
source: www.rd.com


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6 Ways To Start ‘Living Big’ (And How It Can Change Your Life For The Better)

Are you doing everything you can to achieve your dreams?

“Living Big” is a mindset of living with abundance. Now the abundance is not what you own, or have, it is what you share. There are as many wonderful ways to Living Big as there are water drops in an ocean, needles on an evergreen tree, grains of sand on a beach.Living Big is learning to generously share yourself, your stories, and enjoy the exciting connections that develop. It’s putting yourself out into the world and embracing the things that once scared you. It can change your life and increase your happiness and even your self-assuredness. There are people who are too afraid to put themselves out there, but this is the key to Living Big and making it work for you, so it’s important to learn how to do it!

But what exactly does this concept mean, and how can you use it in your everyday life? Simply put, Living Big means taking every opportunity that comes your way. It means seeing these opportunities and trying your best to make every day another chance for you to succeed and be happy.

You make choices all the time about how you’re going to handle situations or how you’re going to choose to live our lives. Living Big simply means you’re learning to open up to the world and share yourself so that you’re living your best possible life in return!How can you start using Living Big in your life?
Here are 6 ways you can share your talent and amazing self with the world:
1. Shift your focus to positive things.

Human beings are programmed to see the negative in life, and so it can take some time to stop focusing on this when something good happens to you. And it’s important not to dwell on the negative and to instead embrace the positive effects in your life. Focus on being abundant in the areas that count, like generousness, innovation, creativity, resilience, honesty, and happiness.These positive expressions will make sure that you’re living life according to a healthy moral compass and will draw similarly-minded people to you as well. Living Big guarantees that you’re looking at the world in a new light, making certain that you’re noticing the goodness in the world and striving to achieve it in every aspect of your life.

2. Live with humility and gratitude.

Have you taken the time to notice everything life is giving to you, and to be grateful for it? The abundance around you is unimaginably amazing! You live in a fascinating system designed to sustain our lives.

You only need to breathe, eat, drink, sleep, work, and play in order to live in this awesome system. And the miracle of support keeps on happening, every moment of every day. This is whether you are aware of it or not. The greater your awareness, the greater your humility and gratitude.

When you live with humility, you begin to recognize that every morning, you’re given a new chance to make the most out of your life, simply by waking up!

Part of Living Big is in recognizing the areas where you can be grateful and then being grateful for them. You get to pursue many wonderful things in this big, beautiful world, and every day is an opportunity to make certain that you’re in the practice of saying, “Thank you!” whether it’s to ourselves, the people who help you, the planet that supports you, or the universe that sustains you.

3. Appreciate the freedom that you have.

Freedom is not something someone gives you. It is something you take. So how can you truly appreciate this power and the ability you have to pursue the things you want in life?Stop what you’re doing sometimes. Step outdoors and take a deep breath. Smell the fresh air, feel the breeze on your skin, and look at the sky and see its magnificent, ever-changing picture.

It is all here for you. It is always here, nurturing, feeding you. It costs you nothing to appreciate it. You occasionally get so caught up in trying to move forward that you forget the amazing things you already have. It’s really important to literally stop and smell the roses every once in a while, just so you can ground yourself and appreciate your life and the world around you.

Create a commitment and every day, recognize your freedom and embrace your goals. Understand that they are possible, and go for it! Then see how accepting your freedom and your chance to do something wonderful in this world will change your life for the better. When you live enthusiastically with the knowledge that you have choices on how to respond to everything that comes your way, you will be able to see the big picture that you’re striving toward, and you’ll gain some insight into how to bring your passion to life.

And when you need grounding, step back out into the world, breathe in the air, and remember to be thankful for all that you have and all that you’ve worked toward!

GRATITUDE

4. Live your dreams like they’re already happening.

The great American mythologist Joseph Campbell described the importance of “Following your bliss.” Your dreams will take you on a life-changing and ever-evolving journey that will grow and thrive as you do. And as you live big, they will change and become even better, new dreams replacing and building on the dreams you’ve already achieved.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, you learned the importance of staying on your path with friends who love you and fighting for your dreams no matter how hard things get. Living Big encourages you to do the same.

You are all looking for something out in the world that is missing inside of you. Where is the answer? It is inside of everyone. Sometimes, you just haven’t recognized it yet. The more curious you are about your dreams, the more you nurture them to life, and the bigger you’ll live!

5. Living Big will teach you about perseverance and faith in the impossible.
Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why not follow my dreams?
  • Why can’t I make my life the way it most matters to me?
  • Why can’t I be unstoppable?
  • Why can’t failures and mistakes lead me to success?
  • Why can’t I imagine a successful future as though it has already happened?

When you look at closed doors around you as opportunities instead of losses, you’ll start to realize that you’re capable of so much more! Imagine yourself as a successful person who achieved all of their dreams, and then ask these question. Once you’ve pictured yourself where you want to be, work backward to discover what steps you think you needed to take to get there. It is all waiting for you, and it’s possible!

The greater your ability to trust in your dreams, the stronger you are. The greater is your perseverance to achieve your dreams. Remind yourself every day of the abundance around you.

Your dreams are your joyous compass to surrender, to create your success. Living Big is understanding that the world is available for you to thrive no matter what.

6. It will teach you discipline and to love and accept yourself.

Following a structure — any structure — requires discipline. Living Big and looking through the world to see the possibilities will require effort and discipline as well.

And as you practice being grateful for your opportunities and the blessings in your life, you’ll begin to appreciate and love yourself as well. After all, you’re the reason that you’re accomplishing your goals in life!

The more disciplined you are, the greater your self-love and the better the results in your life. Living Big is something everyone wants to achieve. Yet, wanting something is not enough.

Curiosity, self-discipline, and healthy connections bring light into our world. You can use these to overcome the areas where you might need help or are lacking a bit, and still look at the world with a smile and an attitude of thankfulness.

Being disciplined is loving yourself. Living Big is loving yourself with empowerment and sharing this with the world. Enjoy a better life and live big!

You deserve to be happy in life and to have the opportunity to fulfill your dreams. Living Big will help open these options to you and teach you to appreciate everything you have in life, even as you strive for bigger, better things.

Open yourself to possibilities and you can become the change you want to see in your own life!

Suzanne Kyra is a registered clinical counselor, empowerment speaker, and award-winning author. In addition to being an expert in individual, couple, family and professional development, she is an expert in Living Big. Go to her website, SuzanneKyra.com, to learn more about all of her personal and professional development programs, blogs and free information on How To Live Big and Live the Life You Love. 
Suzanne Kyra    June 22, 2018