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Easy Tricks To Teach Kids How To Deal With Stress Through Mindfulness

But experts say if you want to teach your children to be mindful, you have to be mindful, too.

The back-to-school season brings its own unique stressors to just about everyone: young children starting school for the first time, older kids dealing with longer days and social pressures, teenagers who have to make decisions about their futures, and of course to parents who might also feel overwhelmed. But researchers at Vancouver’s Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre have suggested strategies to deal with back-to-school stress.

“Mindfulness” has become a bit of a buzzword recently, along the lines of “radical wellness” and “living your best life.” But beyond the context of GOOP, there’s a lot of value in the idea that we could all focus more on the present moment.

The basic tenet of mindfulness is the idea that stress and pain is often the result of thinking about past regrets or worrying about the future, and that can be combated by coming up with strategies that focus on remaining in the present moment. HuffPost Canada spoke to Dr. Dzung Vo, an adolescent medicine specialist and pediatrician at British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital, about how kids can implement those strategies.

“I define mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and with unconditional love,” Dr. Vo says. “It’s not meant to be something that you succeed or fail at, it’s more of an intention and an attitude that we orient ourselves to when we practice being in the present moment.”

Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduces stress and anxiety, improve attention and memory, and encourage empathy and monitor your emotions. It’s also been shown to be beneficial physically by lowering blood pressure and heart rate. And new research is currently underway to determine whether it can be a helpful tool to fight against depression.

Vo’s pediatric practice focuses primarily on teenagers, but he says there are effective strategies that can help just about every age group understand their feelings, process their reactions, and live a healthier emotional life.

Babies and toddlers
By far the most important factor in teaching very young children to be mindful is to have a parent or caregiver who is mindful themselves.

“What we know from neuroscience is that the parent’s own mental and neurologic state has a profound influence on regulating the child,” Vo told HuffPost Canada. “If the parent or caregiver can be mindful, present, attentive, and attuned with unconditional love and presence, then that will affect the child in very deep and healthy ways.”

One of the principles of mindfulness is approaching a subject with “beginner’s mind” — a sense of curiosity and presence you might use if you were trying something for the first time. This is something young children generally do anyways. “Kids are actually pretty naturally in the moment, so it’s not too hard to do,” Vo says.

Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduces stress and anxiety

School-age kids
Vo suggests adding brief mindfulness exercises into the routine of slightly older children, maybe at bedtime or when they get home from school. One idea is to get them to lie with a teddy bear on top of their belly and ask them to slowly breathe in and out, he says. Watching the teddy bear go up and down with their breath will put them in tune with their bodies, and put them in a state of calm.

Another useful activity can be to sing songs with lyrics that remind kids to think about where they are and how they feel — he suggests “Planting Seeds” by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. “As kids go through their day, when they need a mindful moment, they just sing the song,” he says. “Singing it actually is a practice, because it cultivates that mindful attitude.”

Crafts and artwork, approached with the “beginner’s mind,” are another helpful way to practice mindfulness. Vo suggests gently guiding children to be curious and really focus on their surroundings and what they might be engaging in.

“Maybe they’re drawing a flower in front of them,” he says. “Encourage the child to really pay attention to it by asking them: What are you seeing there? What are you noticing? What are the colours? What are the shapes?”

It isn’t particularly important that children understand the idea of mindfulness, he says.

“It’s more important to have experiences than to talk too much about the concepts.” And again, he stresses that the most important way to teach mindfulness to kids is the mindful presence of the parent or caregiver.

Teenagers
In his sessions with teens, Vo will often get them to try out their “beginner’s mind” by slowly eating one single raisin. “That might seem very simple and boring, but when you bring curious attention to it, you find experiences that seem tedious or boring may be quite interesting, or quite relaxing, or quite enjoyable in ways that we hadn’t considered when we go through them in autopilot mode.”

Many teenagers will bring what Vo calls “informal meditation” to a wide variety of day-to-day activities: breathing deeply and considering their senses while walking the dog, or waiting for the bus, or washing dishes. It can particularly help before a stressful situation at school — right before writing an exam, for instance.

There isn’t a lot of research on the benefits of mindfulness for teens, but Vo says that he believes that’s the time of life when those practices would be most beneficial.

Studies of adults have demonstrated that mindful practices can actually change the parts of the brain linked to memory, self-image, and emotional regulation. Because adolescent brains are changing quickly and profoundly, Vo says he thinks the effects would be even more significant. One of the biggest adolescent brain changes involves the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and executive functioning, which develops throughout the teenage years up until the early 20s. It develops through focused attention and concentration, he says, which suggests that the more that they use these neurologic pathways to help regulate their brains, the stronger those connections will get.

By Maija Kappler                 08/22/2018
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Why Your Phone And The ‘fear Of Missing Out’ May Negatively Impact Your Mental Health

Electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, are a necessity of day-to-day life; but that reliance on devices may be taking a toll on Canadians’ mental health.

A new survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) suggests, on average, Ontario adults spend more than 11 hours per week using social media or communicating via email, and nearly four hours per week playing screen-based games. That’s 15 hours a week not including the amount of time spent on devices at work or in school.

CAMH’s study suggested nearly one in five respondents between the ages of 18 to 29 showed signs of reliance on electronic devices, based on questions like, “Have you missed school, work or important social activities because of your use of devices?”

Overall, seven per cent of those surveyed had a problematic relationship with devices, according to the survey. Of those, 24 per cent said they had tried to cut back on their use and 14 per cent reported family members expressing concern about the amount of time they spent on their device.

Ten per cent reported feeling an “irresistible urge or uncontrollable need” to use their devices and seven per cent had experienced anxiety that could only be relieved by using a device.

“It’s clear that, for most of us, our use of electronic devices has skyrocketed over the past five to 10 years,” said Dr. Nigel Turner, scientist at CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, in a press release.

“While our understanding of problematic use is evolving, we know that some people do end up harming their career or educational opportunities by excessive use.”

How to cut down on your device use and improve your mental health

When Canadians talk about limiting screen time, the conversation usually revolves around children – but experts say it’s equally important for adults to consider putting tech restrictions on themselves for the sake of their mental health.

“Technology prompts us to respond – those beeps and buzzes gets our dopamine flowing,” Lisa Pont, therapist and educator with CAMH. “The fear of missing out is huge.”

family tech phones computer

As Pont points out, all of those text messages, Facebook Likes and Instagram notifications lighting up our devices provide us with a hit of dopamine – which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centre. This often leads to people constantly being tuned in to their devices.

“There is this expectation of people in our lives to be immediately responsive because everyone knows you have your smartphone on you,” Pont said.

Pont says it’s important for adults to reflect on their tech use to see how it’s affecting their day-to-day lives and attitude – do you feel the pressure to respond right away; do you feel anxiety due to information overload, or do you feel FOMO (fear of missing out) when you aren’t using your device; have you argued with your partner because they feel you are disconnected?

“You have to look at the consequences. If it’s affecting your work, or its impacting relationships, those are negative consequences,” she said. “This idea that I have to know what’s going on, it sounds so benign, but I think it truly affects our stress level.”

If you feel your device is impacting your mental health, try imposing limits on yourself – for example, no devices after 8 p.m., turn phones off during family dinners, or no phones in the bedroom.

“Consciously not using it at times when you want to be present,” Pont said. “We have anxiety detaching from technology, but you might discover you like it.”

Another important habit to break: using your phone as your alarm. Although sleeping next to your device may not seem like a big deal, Pont said those beeps and vibrations have the same effect our sleeping brain, causing you to lose sleep – and a lack of sleep can contribute to stress.

The light emitted from a smartphone or tablet, for example, can suppress the production of melatonin – a hormone that regulates a person’s circadian rhythm – and multiple studies have shown that using blue light-emitting, like smartphones and computers, before bed can lead to poor sleep.

Of course, cutting down on your screen time might be hard to do if you have a job that requires you to be available after-hours.

That’s why France banned work emails outside business hours earlier this year, Germany’s labour ministry banned managers from calling or emailing staff outside of work hours in 2013, and Volkswagen made it so that its servers would shut down the ability to send emails 30 minutes after an employee’s shift ended in 2011.

No such bans have been implemented in Canada, however.

These latest survey findings are based on the 2015 CAMH Monitor, a collection of survey data which allows researchers to track long-term trends in the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, as well as identifying problematic behaviours related to mental health within Ontario’s population.

Another alarming issue in the survey: 37 per cent of respondents reported they had texted while driving at least once during the past year, while 11 per cent admitted texting behind the wheel 30 or more times over the previous year.

If you have the urge to text and drive, Pont suggests turning your phone on “Airplane Mode.” If you have a hands-free solution in your car and want to keep your phone on for emergency situations, then try leaving it in the backseat or somewhere out of reach.

By Nicole Bogart       National Online Journalist, Breaking News Global News
source: globalnews.ca


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5 Great Ways To Experience More Joy and Feel Happy About Life

I think the majority of us in this world want to be happy, whether we know it or not. With all that life brings us, however, it can be easier said than done at times, and we can forget how to just be simply happy. They say the goal behind every goal is happiness, and I would tend to agree with that. When we choose to be happy, our life just flows, and that happiness can have a positive effect on everybody that we meet. When we are not happy, however, that affects everybody too.

Esther Hicks, in her book Ask and It Is Given, offers some wonderful insight into happiness:

The greatest gift that you could ever give to another is your own happiness, for when you are in a state of joy, happiness, or appreciation, you are fully connected to the Stream of pure, positive Source Energy that is truly who you are. And when you are in that state of connection, anything or anyone that you are holding as your object of attention benefits from your attention.

Here are some methods I have found useful for helping me to achieve happiness in my life.

1. Stop Comparing

Many of us can compare ourselves, our lives, our possessions, our jobs, our money, etc. to other people around us. We can compare ourselves to what is being portrayed on the media as the perfect life and feel that we are not good enough as a result. We may even compare where our lives are now to where we were at another time.

When somebody has a so-called better house, car, or job, it doesn’t mean that they are happier than you, or happier than they were before they had these things. Some of the happiest people I have met are people who have very little. Happiness doesn’t come from the external things, as we are brainwashed to believe. It is an inside job.

When we compare ourselves to something or somebody outside ourselves, we are essentially not loving or accepting ourselves. We can never know what another person’s journey is. The first step is to start to love and accept yourself exactly as you are and where you are.

2. Be Present

If we are living our lives in the past or in the future, it is practically impossible to be in the here and now, where all happiness exists. When we choose to be present, we allow ourselves to be happy. We all have things that we regret and that we would like to change about the past. Similarly, there are certain things or ways that we would like our future life to be, but the only moment we ever have is now.

We can live our lives attached to the story of our past, or we can choose to be happy now and let go of the past. It’s important to plan for the future but still be present in what you are engaging with right now, knowing that it is moving you in the direction of where you want to be.

The key to being present, in my experience, is to become aware of when I am not present. Engaging in activities that I enjoy has also helped me to become more present.

the-present-moment-thich-rs

3. Let Go Of Expectations

If we have expectations of people, jobs, places, etc. to be a certain way for us to be happy then we are allowing our happiness to be dependent on something outside of ourselves. We are attached to something for our happiness.

I can see in my own life that at times I allowed my happiness to be determined by how successful I was in my job or if I had a great relationship with somebody I love. Sometimes when I was not successful in these areas, I experienced unhappiness.

What I have found helpful is to go for what I want, do the best I can, and let go of the expectation for the result to be a certain way. I was in India a couple of years ago and before I went I decided to let go of any expectations of India to be a certain way. I have found this approach very useful in having a happier experience, in any situation.

4. Be True To Yourself

A quote I heard awhile ago is:

“To be yourself in a world that is trying night and day to make you like everybody else, is probably the greatest battle there is to fight.”

At times it can be difficult for us to be ourselves, and we need great courage and strength to be true to ourselves.

I have noticed that when I’m not true to myself, I experience unhappiness. In my last job, for example, I felt that I wasn’t being true to myself and that I was compromising my happiness for the sake of a wage check at the end of the week.

As I mentioned earlier, I went to India some time ago. It had been a longtime dream of mine to travel India and embrace the culture there, and I really did feel that I was being true to myself while I was traveling India.

Be true to yourself and live life based on your own approval and acceptance. Learn to listen to and trust your heart and just go for what you want. Ask yourself, “What makes my heart sing?”

5. Be Grateful

When we are in the mode of blaming and complaining we are not in a place of gratitude. We are essentially focusing on the negative and usually creating more of that in our lives.

When I was in India, I saw people who could have a real reason to complain. Many people were actually sleeping on the streets there, sometimes whole families. Other times I saw people who had lost limbs or suffered through terrible illnesses. India taught me that I have so much to be grateful for.

Being grateful for where we are right now is definitely a key to happiness. We have so much to be grateful for, such as our health, our job, our house, our family, our friends, etc. Being grateful is not just about saying it but about really feeling and believing it.

Micheál O’mathúna      February 14, 2016

MICHEÁL O’MATHÚNA
Micheál O’Mathúna is the Producer and Presenter of the popular Radio Show called http://www.thehealthzoneshow. Previous guests on his show have included John Gray, Marianne Williamson, Robert Kiyosaki, Byron Katie and Julia Cameron. He is also a Media Journalist, Filmmaker and Media Relations Consultant. You can listen to some of his past radio shows on http://www.thehealthzoneshow.com or you can check out his website on http://www.omcommunications.ie


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Have More Patience

“Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less.”
— Mother Teresa

Patience: The Key To Peace

Patience is a spiritual lesson.

It calls us to the higher part of ourselves, that part of us that recognizes the divinity within. It overlooks our fear, mistrust, anger, confusion, and all the ways we build barriers to its recognition. It doesn’t even matter how high we build those barriers. Patience is always within reach, a steady force that sings a quiet song of peace.

Impatience isn’t a mere personality quirk or bad habit. It is a life lesson from your soul. Where there is a lack of patience there is a lack of trust and a hopeless feeling of being out of control. Impatience is fear made manifest. It tells us that outcome is uncertain. And uncertainty is never of the soul. Uncertainty is always of the ego and is your first clue that impatience is not the truth. The soul knows outcome is always assured because the soul sees your grace. When you are impatient you must ask yourself, “What is my source?” If you can truly answer that love is your source you will experience patience. “Love” meaning, the Love of God.

When we trust in the divine as our source we know we cannot be left out of the equation of life. The only thing that turns patience into perpetual waiting is lack of trust. Lack of trust comes from a lack of connection to the Infinity within. Your power really is already with you. It will never come from the outside. You will indeed wait forever if you are waiting for any force outside of you to come along and save you. Society teaches us that the “perfect” person or job will make us feel fulfilled. So many of us wait impatiently for that “perfect” something to come along. But that is not trusting. That is waiting on time and space to give you something. Patience is trusting in the presence of your soul and knowing that presence has the power to create that which you need in life. Patience is taking steps of action that lead you gently down the path of your own self. Patience does not compare and contrast. It does not judge. It keeps you in the present moment in grace and love. It is a gentle hug that reassures you that you are safe. The outcome is assured because you have allowed room for what you want to change form if that is what is needed. You have allowed room for personal growth and it is always personal growth that helps you recognize opportunity when it comes knocking.

 

patiencequote

What are you trusting in? Love. Plain and simple. Not the flight of fancy that changes with every glance or the desire that disguises itself as love. Not the wanting of the ego that drives into dark corners confusing us with promises of false satisfaction. No. The love that comes from knowing you are one with the divine, infinite nature that is the source of all there is. The love that keeps you firm in the truth of your soul. The love that cannot be altered based on the behavior of others. The love that is the constant wellspring within. From love flows peace as naturally as any river flows. It brings the calm, regal presence of trust into your conscious awareness and establishes a base of self actualization. From this base, you are centered, intuitively aware, and mindful.

When you are impatient with life remember, impatience takes away.
Patience provides.

Impatience takes you out of the present moment. Patience keeps you in the present moment. Impatience is fear. Patience is love.


by Livnam Kaur
Spiritual Intuitive, Writer, Ayurveda Wellness Practitioner, Reiki / IET Master Teacher, Speaker


Livnam Kaur is a Los Angeles based spiritual intuitive. Her work is about self-empowerment and finding the truth. Known for taking big spiritual concepts and explaining them in easy to understand language, she is a sought after teacher, writer, and speaker. She works to help people find fulfillment by connecting them to their own internal spiritual guidance, Divine Will, the Will of Soul. Once that connection is made, time and space clears and healing is welcomed. Livnam has a monthly spiritual advice column, Dear Livnam, answering questions about walking the spiritual path. She facilitates a weekly study group for A Course In Miracles, gives Spiritual Counseling and Healing sessions, teaches Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, Intuitive Development, and offers Personal Coaching.


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The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment

We live in the age of distraction. Yet one of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that your brightest future hinges on your ability to pay attention to the present.

By Jay Dixit,        published on November 1, 2008 – last reviewed on August 11, 2015

A friend was walking in the desert when he found the telephone to God. The setting was Burning Man, an electronic arts and music festival for which 50,000 people descend on Black Rock City, Nevada, for eight days of “radical self-expression”—dancing, socializing, meditating, and debauchery.

A phone booth in the middle of the desert with a sign that said “Talk to God” was a surreal sight even at Burning Man. The idea was that you picked up the phone, and God—or someone claiming to be God—would be at the other end to ease your pain.

So when God came on the line asking how he could help, my friend was ready. “How can I live more in the moment?” he asked. Too often, he felt, the beautiful moments of his life were drowned out by a cacophony of self-consciousness and anxiety. What could he do to hush the buzzing of his mind?

“Breathe,” replied a soothing male voice.

My friend flinched at the tired new-age mantra, then reminded himself to keep an open mind. When God talks, you listen.

“Whenever you feel anxious about your future or your past, just breathe,” continued God. “Try it with me a few times right now. Breathe in… breathe out.” And despite himself, my friend began to relax.

You Are Not Your Thoughts

Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past. “We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence,” says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. We’re always doing something, and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.

When we’re at work, we fantasize about being on vacation; on vacation, we worry about the work piling up on our desks. We dwell on intrusive memories of the past or fret about what may or may not happen in the future. We don’t appreciate the living present because our “monkey minds,” as Buddhists call them, vault from thought to thought like monkeys swinging from tree to tree.

Most of us don’t undertake our thoughts in awareness. Rather, our thoughts control us. “Ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall,” writes Jon Kabat-Zinn, the biomedical scientist who introduced meditation into mainstream medicine. In order to feel more in control of our minds and our lives, to find the sense of balance that eludes us, we need to step out of this current, to pause, and, as Kabat-Zinn puts it, to “rest in stillness—to stop doing and focus on just being.”

We need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience.

Cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness of the present bestows a host of benefits. Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease. Mindfulness may even slow the progression of HIV.

Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the kinds of impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems. Mindful people can hear negative feedback without feeling threatened. They fight less with their romantic partners and are more accommodating and less defensive. As a result, mindful couples have more satisfying relationships.

Mindfulness is at the root of Buddhism, Taoism, and many Native-American traditions, not to mention yoga. It’s why Thoreau went to Walden Pond; it’s what Emerson and Whitman wrote about in their essays and poems.

“Everyone agrees it’s important to live in the moment, but the problem is how,” says Ellen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard and author of Mindfulness. “When people are not in the moment, they’re not there to know that they’re not there.” Overriding the distraction reflex and awakening to the present takes intentionality and practice.

Living in the moment involves a profound paradox: You can’t pursue it for its benefits. That’s because the expectation of reward launches a future-oriented mindset, which subverts the entire process. Instead, you just have to trust that the rewards will come. There are many paths to mindfulness—and at the core of each is a paradox. Ironically, letting go of what you want is the only way to get it. Here are a few tricks to help you along.

1: To improve your performance, stop thinking about it (unselfconsciousness).

I’ve never felt comfortable on a dance floor. My movements feel awkward. I feel like people are judging me. I never know what to do with my arms. I want to let go, but I can’t, because I know I look ridiculous.

“Loosen up, no one’s watching you,” people always say. “Everyone’s too busy worrying about themselves.” So how come they always make fun of my dancing the next day?

The dance world has a term for people like me: “absolute beginner.” Which is why my dance teacher, Jessica Hayden, the owner of Shockra Studio in Manhattan, started at the beginning, sitting me down on a bench and having me tap my feet to the beat as Jay-Z thumped away in the background. We spent the rest of the class doing “isolations”—moving just our shoulders, ribs, or hips—to build “body awareness.”

But even more important than body awareness, Hayden said, was present-moment awareness. “Be right here right now!” she’d say. “Just let go and let yourself be in the moment.”

That’s the first paradox of living in the moment: Thinking too hard about what you’re doing actually makes you do worse. If you’re in a situation that makes you anxious—giving a speech, introducing yourself to a stranger, dancing—focusing on your anxiety tends to heighten it. “When I say, ‘be here with me now,’ I mean don’t zone out or get too in-your-head—instead, follow my energy, my movements,” says Hayden. “Focus less on what’s going on in your mind and more on what’s going on in the room, less on your mental chatter and more on yourself as part of something.” To be most myself, I needed to focus on things outside myself, like the music or the people around me.

Indeed, mindfulness blurs the line between self and other, explains Michael Kernis, a psychologist at the University of Georgia. “When people are mindful, they’re more likely to experience themselves as part of humanity, as part of a greater universe.” That’s why highly mindful people such as Buddhist monks talk about being “one with everything.”

By reducing self-consciousness, mindfulness allows you to witness the passing drama of feelings, social pressures, even of being esteemed or disparaged by others without taking their evaluations personally, explain Richard Ryan and K. W. Brown of the University of Rochester. When you focus on your immediate experience without attaching it to your self-esteem, unpleasant events like social rejection—or your so-called friends making fun of your dancing—seem less threatening.

Focusing on the present moment also forces you to stop overthinking. “Being present-minded takes away some of that self-evaluation and getting lost in your mind—and in the mind is where we make the evaluations that beat us up,” says Stephen Schueller, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Instead of getting stuck in your head and worrying, you can let yourself go.

2: To avoid worrying about the future, focus on the present (savoring).

In her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about a friend who, whenever she sees a beautiful place, exclaims in a near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” “It takes all my persuasive powers,” writes Gilbert, “to try to convince her that she is already here.”

Often, we’re so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience, let alone enjoy, what’s happening right now. We sip coffee and think, “This is not as good as what I had last week.” We eat a cookie and think, “I hope I don’t run out of cookies.”

Instead, relish or luxuriate in whatever you’re doing at the present moment—what psychologists call savoring. “This could be while you’re eating a pastry, taking a shower, or basking in the sun. You could be savoring a success or savoring music,” explains Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California at Riverside and author of The How of Happiness. “Usually it involves your senses.”

When subjects in a study took a few minutes each day to actively savor something they usually hurried through—eating a meal, drinking a cup of tea, walking to the bus—they began experiencing more joy, happiness, and other positive emotions, and fewer depressive symptoms, Schueller found.

Why does living in the moment make people happier—not just at the moment they’re tasting molten chocolate pooling on their tongue, but lastingly? Because most negative thoughts concern the past or the future. As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” The hallmark of depression and anxiety is catastrophizing—worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet and might not happen at all. Worry, by its very nature, means thinking about the future—and if you hoist yourself into awareness of the present moment, worrying melts away.

The flip side of worrying is ruminating, thinking bleakly about events in the past. And again, if you press your focus into the now, rumination ceases. Savoring forces you into the present, so you can’t worry about things that aren’t there.

3: If you want a future with your significant other, inhabit the present (breathe).

Living consciously with alert interest has a powerful effect on interpersonal life. Mindfulness actually inoculates people against aggressive impulses, say Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia. In a study they conducted, each subject was told that other subjects were forming a group—and taking a vote on whether she could join. Five minutes later, the experimenter announced the results—either the subject had gotten the least number of votes and been rejected or she’d been accepted. Beforehand, half the subjects had undergone a mindfulness exercise in which each slowly ate a raisin, savoring its taste and texture and focusing on each sensation.

Later, in what they thought was a separate experiment, subjects had the opportunity to deliver a painful blast of noise to another person. Among subjects who hadn’t eaten the raisin, those who were told they’d been rejected by the group became aggressive, inflicting long and painful sonic blasts without provocation. Stung by social rejection, they took it out on other people.

But among those who’d eaten the raisin first, it didn’t matter whether they’d been ostracized or embraced. Either way, they were serene and unwilling to inflict pain on others—exactly like those who were given word of social acceptance.

How does being in the moment make you less aggressive? “Mindfulness decreases ego involvement,” explains Kernis. “So people are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value.” Mindfulness also makes people feel more connected to other people—that empathic feeling of being “at one with the universe.”

Mindfulness boosts your awareness of how you interpret and react to what’s happening in your mind. It increases the gap between emotional impulse and action, allowing you to do what Buddhists call recognizing the spark before the flame. Focusing on the present reboots your mind so you can respond thoughtfully rather than automatically. Instead of lashing out in anger, backing down in fear, or mindlessly indulging a passing craving, you get the opportunity to say to yourself, “This is the emotion I’m feeling. How should I respond?”

mind

Mindfulness increases self-control; since you’re not getting thrown by threats to your self-esteem, you’re better able to regulate your behavior. That’s the other irony: Inhabiting your own mind more fully has a powerful effect on your interactions with others.

Of course, during a flare-up with your significant other it’s rarely practical to duck out and savor a raisin. But there’s a simple exercise you can do anywhere, anytime to induce mindfulness: Breathe. As it turns out, the advice my friend got in the desert was spot-on. There’s no better way to bring yourself into the present moment than to focus on your breathing. Because you’re placing your awareness on what’s happening right now, you propel yourself powerfully into the present moment. For many, focusing on the breath is the preferred method of orienting themselves to the now—not because the breath has some magical property, but because it’s always there with you.

4: To make the most of time, lose track of it (flow).

Perhaps the most complete way of living in the moment is the state of total absorption psychologists call flow. Flow occurs when you’re so engrossed in a task that you lose track of everything else around you. Flow embodies an apparent paradox: How can you be living in the moment if you’re not even aware of the moment? The depth of engagement absorbs you powerfully, keeping attention so focused that distractions cannot penetrate. You focus so intensely on what you’re doing that you’re unaware of the passage of time. Hours can pass without you noticing.

Flow is an elusive state. As with romance or sleep, you can’t just will yourself into it—all you can do is set the stage, creating the optimal conditions for it to occur.

The first requirement for flow is to set a goal that’s challenging but not unattainable—something you have to marshal your resources and stretch yourself to achieve. The task should be matched to your ability level—not so difficult that you’ll feel stressed, but not so easy that you’ll get bored. In flow, you’re firing on all cylinders to rise to a challenge.

To set the stage for flow, goals need to be clearly defined so that you always know your next step. “It could be playing the next bar in a scroll of music, or finding the next foothold if you’re a rock climber, or turning the page if you’re reading a good novel,” says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first defined the concept of flow. “At the same time, you’re kind of anticipating.”

You also need to set up the task in such a way that you receive direct and immediate feedback; with your successes and failures apparent, you can seamlessly adjust your behavior. A climber on the mountain knows immediately if his foothold is secure; a pianist knows instantly when she’s played the wrong note.

As your attentional focus narrows, self-consciousness evaporates. You feel as if your awareness merges with the action you’re performing. You feel a sense of personal mastery over the situation, and the activity is so intrinsically rewarding that although the task is difficult, action feels effortless.

5: If something is bothering you, move toward it rather than away from it (acceptance).

We all have pain in our lives, whether it’s the ex we still long for, the jackhammer snarling across the street, or the sudden wave of anxiety when we get up to give a speech. If we let them, such irritants can distract us from the enjoyment of life. Paradoxically, the obvious response—focusing on the problem in order to combat and overcome it—often makes it worse, argues Stephen Hayes, a psychologist at the University of Nevada.

The mind’s natural tendency when faced with pain is to attempt to avoid it—by trying to resist unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and sensations. When we lose a love, for instance, we fight our feelings of heartbreak. As we get older, we work feverishly to recapture our youth. When we’re sitting in the dentist’s chair waiting for a painful root canal, we wish we were anywhere but there. But in many cases, negative feelings and situations can’t be avoided—and resisting them only magnifies the pain.

The problem is we have not just primary emotions but also secondary ones—emotions about other emotions. We get stressed out and then think, “I wish I weren’t so stressed out.” The primary emotion is stress over your workload. The secondary emotion is feeling, “I hate being stressed.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. The solution is acceptance—letting the emotion be there. That is, being open to the way things are in each moment without trying to manipulate or change the experience—without judging it, clinging to it, or pushing it away. The present moment can only be as it is. Trying to change it only frustrates and exhausts you. Acceptance relieves you of this needless extra suffering.

Suppose you’ve just broken up with your girlfriend or boyfriend; you’re heartbroken, overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and longing. You could try to fight these feelings, essentially saying, “I hate feeling this way; I need to make this feeling go away.” But by focusing on the pain—being sad about being sad—you only prolong the sadness. You do yourself a favor by accepting your feelings, saying instead, “I’ve just had a breakup. Feelings of loss are normal and natural. It’s OK for me to feel this way.”

Acceptance of an unpleasant state doesn’t mean you don’t have goals for the future. It just means you accept that certain things are beyond your control. The sadness, stress, pain, or anger is there whether you like it or not. Better to embrace the feeling as it is.

Nor does acceptance mean you have to like what’s happening. “Acceptance of the present moment has nothing to do with resignation,” writes Kabat-Zinn. “Acceptance doesn’t tell you what to do. What happens next, what you choose to do; that has to come out of your understanding of this moment.”

If you feel anxiety, for instance, you can accept the feeling, label it as anxiety—then direct your attention to something else instead. You watch your thoughts, perceptions, and emotions flit through your mind without getting involved. Thoughts are just thoughts. You don’t have to believe them and you don’t have to do what they say.

6: Know that you don’t know (engagement).

You’ve probably had the experience of driving along a highway only to suddenly realize you have no memory or awareness of the previous 15 minutes. Maybe you even missed your exit. You just zoned out; you were somewhere else, and it’s as if you’ve suddenly woken up at the wheel. Or maybe it happens when you’re reading a book: “I know I just read that page, but I have no idea what it said.”

These autopilot moments are what Harvard’s Ellen Langer calls mindlessness—times when you’re so lost in your thoughts that you aren’t aware of your present experience. As a result, life passes you by without registering on you. The best way to avoid such blackouts, Langer says, is to develop the habit of always noticing new things in whatever situation you’re in. That process creates engagement with the present moment and releases a cascade of other benefits. Noticing new things puts you emphatically in the here and now.

We become mindless, Langer explains, because once we think we know something, we stop paying attention to it. We go about our morning commute in a haze because we’ve trod the same route a hundred times before. But if we see the world with fresh eyes, we realize almost everything is different each time—the pattern of light on the buildings, the faces of the people, even the sensations and feelings we experience along the way. Noticing imbues each moment with a new, fresh quality. Some people have termed this “beginner’s mind.”

By acquiring the habit of noticing new things, says Langer, we recognize that the world is actually changing constantly. We really don’t know how the espresso is going to taste or how the commute will be—or at least, we’re not sure.

Orchestra musicians who are instructed to make their performance new in subtle ways not only enjoy themselves more but audiences actually prefer those performances. “When we’re there at the moment, making it new, it leaves an imprint in the music we play, the things we write, the art we create, in everything we do,” says Langer. “Once you recognize that you don’t know the things you’ve always taken for granted, you set out of the house quite differently. It becomes an adventure in noticing—and the more you notice, the more you see.” And the more excitement you feel.

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There

Living a consistently mindful life takes effort. But mindfulness itself is easy. “People set the goal of being mindful for the next 20 minutes or the next two weeks, then they think mindfulness is difficult because they have the wrong yardstick,” says Jay Winner, a California-based family physician and author of Take the Stress out of Your Life. “The correct yardstick is just for this moment.”

Mindfulness is the only intentional, systematic activity that is not about trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, explains Kabat-Zinn. It is simply a matter of realizing where you already are. A cartoon from The New Yorker sums it up: Two monks are sitting side by side, meditating. The younger one is giving the older one a quizzical look, to which the older one responds, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”

You can become mindful at any moment just by paying attention to your immediate experience. You can do it right now. What’s happening this instant? Think of yourself as an eternal witness, and just observe the moment. What do you see, hear, smell? It doesn’t matter how it feels—pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad—you roll with it because it’s what’s present; you’re not judging it. And if you notice your mind wandering, bring yourself back. Just say to yourself, “Now. Now. Now.”

Here’s the most fundamental paradox of all: Mindfulness isn’t a goal, because goals are about the future, but you do have to set the intention of paying attention to what’s happening at the present moment. As you read the words printed on this page, as your eyes distinguish the black squiggles on white paper, as you feel gravity anchoring you to the planet, wake up. Become aware of being alive. And breathe. As you draw your next breath, focus on the rise of your abdomen on the in-breath, the stream of heat through your nostrils on the out-breath. If you’re aware of that feeling right now, as you’re reading this, you’re living in the moment. Nothing happens next. It’s not a destination. This is it. You’re already there.


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5 Non-Diet Ways to Trick Yourself into Losing Weight

June 8, 2015    By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD

Convenient. Attractive. Normal. These three words (which are the basis for the even easier to remember acronym C.A.N.) may be the key to eating healthier without really trying, according to a new paper from Cornell University. The review of 112 studies concluded that eaters make good choices when healthy foods are visible and within reach; they’re displayed enticingly; and they’re set up as the most obvious choices compared to other food options. It just makes sense: When you place gorgeous pieces of fresh fruit in a pretty bowl on your counter, you’re more likely to take one than if they’re hidden away—especially if the chips or cookies are even easier to grab. Bottom line, make it handy to eat healthfully and you’ll follow through, no “diet” or willpower required.

In addition to remembering C.A.N., there are plenty of other research-backed strategies for not dieting, and still shedding pounds. Here, four more easy tactics you can adopt.

Plate your veggies artistically

In a University of Oxford study, subjects in one group received salads arranged to resemble an artistic painting; a second group was provided with salads featuring vegetables lined up in neat rows, and salads in a third group were served in a typical piled-up fashion. While all the salads contained identical ingredients, dressing, and condiments, the artistic salad was rated the best by subjects, by a nearly 20 percent margin. In fact, people reported that they’d be willing to pay twice as much for the painting-like versions. The takeaway: We eat with our eyes as well as our stomachs, so if you’re trying to reach for healthy foods more often, put some effort into how you present them. (I think this study demonstrates one reason why Mason jar salads—and the myriad of photos of them on social media—have become so popular.)

Nosh before you shop

You’ve heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating: A 2013 study, also from Cornell University, found that skipping meals before heading to the supermarket is a surefire way to sabotage healthy shopping. Volunteers were asked to fast for five hours, then either given nothing to eat or crackers, and asked to make purchases at a simulated food market. The fasting group bought 18.6% more food—including  a whopping 44.8% more calorie-packed items, like chips and ice cream—than the cracker eating crowd. In a follow-up study, researchers observed shoppers at an actual supermarket just after lunch and in the late afternoon. Compared to post-lunch shoppers, those who strolled the aisles in the late afternoon—when they were way more likely to be hungry—bought over a quarter fewer low-calorie foods like vegetables. To prevent hunger from keeping healthy food items out of your grocery cart, eat something to take the edge off pre-shopping. Stash a golf-ball sized portion of nuts or seeds in your bag, and try to finish them before you walk through the entrance of the supermarket.

shopping

 

Spend a little time in the morning sun

The timing, intensity, and length of your exposure to light during the day may significantly affect your weight. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at Northwestern University found that compared to people who got most of their light exposure later in the day, those who enjoyed even moderately bright light in the morning had significantly lower BMIs. In fact, the later the hour of light exposure, the higher a person’s BMI, and vice versa. The numbers held true independent of an individual’s exercise regime, calorie intake, sleep timing, and age. The powerful effect, researchers say, is due to how light influences our body’s circadian rhythms, which regulate metabolism and weight regulation. To keep those rhythms in sync and your weight in check, researchers advise getting 20 to 30 minutes of bright light exposure between 8:00 a.m. and noon. And no, you don’t have to be outdoors—a room brightened by natural sun (versus a room with no windows and only artificial light) will do.

Don’t dine while distracted

Bringing your lunch to work is a smart way to control your calories. But if you surf the Web while you eat, you may consume more than you would’ve if you’d focused on your meal, both during eating and later in the day. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who played a computer game while lunching felt less full, snacked more, and had more trouble recalling what they had eaten than those who’d eaten without distractions. So while it may feel weird to sit at your desk without checking email or doing anything but eating, that’s the best lunchtime strategy for your waistline. Bonus: You’ll actually enjoy your lunch.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the New York Yankees MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three time New York Times best selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. 


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15 Things You Should Stop Putting Yourself Through

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

A lot of people put themselves through unnecessary pain because of the many unhealthy thoughts, beliefs and behaviors they have. They are so unconscious of their unconsciousness that they blame outside forces for how unhappy they are… They want the world to stop hurting them, when in fact they themselves are hurting themselves.

We are the center of our own personal universe. The thoughts we think, the words we speak, the beliefs we hold and the things we do, they all set the tone for how people, and life in general will treat us… If we want the world to stop treating us unkindly, we have to make sure that we ourselves stop doing the things that cause us pain and suffering. We have to make sure that we ourselves stop hurting ourselves.

Here are 15 things you should stop doing to yourself, things that will help clear out your mind, your heart, your body and your life of everything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy, allowing only good things to come your way.

1. Stop postponing your happiness for the future

Happiness is a journey, not a destination. And if you can’t be happy in this moment, right here, right now, chances are that you will never be happy. Always remember that “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have. And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special. And remember that time waits for no one. So stop waiting until you finish school, until you go back to school, until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Saturday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until fall, until winter, until you are off welfare, until the first or fifteenth, until your song comes on, until you’ve had a drink, until you’ve sobered up, until you die, until you are born again, to decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy.” ~ Unknown

2. Stop polluting yourself with negative thoughts

The quality of your life is in direct proportion with the quality of your thoughts.If you want your life to get better, to look better,  and to feel better, you have to stop intoxicating yourself with all kind of negative, self-defeating and toxic thoughts.

3. Stop arguing for your limitations

There are no limits to what we can be, do and have in life, expect the ones we choose to impose on ourselves. And those who continue to argue for their limitations, they will continue to create their life from a place of limitations. Because just like Richard Bach said it,

“when you argue for your limitations, sure enough they’re yours.”

4. Stop telling yourself that you’re not ENOUGH

Have you heard the saying, “Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening”?

Well, guess what. If you continue to tell yourself the same old sad stories about you not being good enough, smart enough, young enough, valuable enough, rich enough, and so on, you will continue to act upon these toxic beliefs and you will continue to attract people and experiences in your life that will prove to you that you are right. Because guess what? Life always gives you the experiences that you yourself think, and feel, worthy of receiving. Because that’s how much life loves you.

5. Stop hanging out with the wrong crowd

Jim Rohn once said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time with, and from personal experience I can tell you that that’s true. If you surround yourself with all kind of negative and toxic people, people who loooove to complain about everything and everyone, and who expect the whole world to change so that they can finally be happy, then you will start to mirror their behavior. And without you even knowing it, you will start to believe the same things that they believe, and behave in the same way that they behave.

6. Stop waiting for life to begin

This moment is your life. And if you waste this moment by waiting for life to begin, then you will waste your whole life waiting. Failing to realize that while were waiting for life to begin, your life was already unfolding.

“Waiting is a state of mind. Basically, it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. You don’t want what you’ve got, and you want what you haven’t got. With every kind of waiting, you unconsciously create inner conflict between your here and now, where you don’t want to be, and the projected future, where you want to be. This greatly reduces the quality of your life by making you lose the present.” ~ The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

stop complaining

7. Stop complaining

If you don’t like something, change it. And if you can’t change it, change the way you look at it. Change your attitude, change your perception, but stop complaining. Because trust me, complaining won’t make things better, on the contrary, it will make them worse.

8. Stop comparing yourself to other people

Your job here on this Earth isn’t to be better than other people, but better than you used to be. Better today than you were yesterday. Your job is to be better than yourself, not better than other people.

Instead of looking to your left and to your right to see what other people are preoccupied with, and instead of wasting your precious time and energy to compare yourself, and your life, to everyone else, you might want to save that energy and channel it into something that will make you happy, and bring you peace of mind.

9. Stop dwelling on the past

Each day offers you a new chance to start all over. To leave the past behind you and start a new life. So learn to treasure this beautiful gift that life is offering you. Leave the dead bury their own dead, and move on with your life.

10. Stop seeking for love in all the wrong places

Why are you looking for love in all the wrong places when there is so much love hidden deep within you, eagerly waiting to be discovered? Find the love that lies within you. Become one with it, and then the whole world will shower you with love. Just like you always wanted.

11. Stop worrying

Leave your worries behind you, they serve you no good. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7

12. Stop being ungrateful

Those who are ungrateful for what they have, they will lose the gifts that were bestowed on them by life. And when those gifts will be taken away from them, then they will realize how much they had to be grateful for. There is so much to be grateful for in this world, so much to appreciate. And the more you get into the habit of expressing your gratitude for the life you are living, and for the many wonderful things that are present in your life, the more life will give you to be thankful for.

13. Stop trying so hard to make everyone like you

If you want people to like you, stop trying so hard. Yes, you heard me. Stop trying so hard. If you want the world to rave about you, and if you want people to like you, instead of chasing and begging for their love and approval, get busy living your life in a way that will make people curious about you and your life. Get busy with creating things that you are passionate about, things that make your heart sing with joy, and if you do this, not only will people love you, but you yourself will love yourself. And that my friend, will make you very happy 🙂

14. Stop doubting yourself

Have faith in who are. Know that there is a force in you that is more powerful than anything you have ever known. Stop doubting yourself, and learn to trust this force. Learn to trust yourself, your inner wisdom, your inner power, but also the wisdom of life. Know that none of us is here by accident, none of us is flawed. We all have unique gifts and talents that are needed in this world. Who we are matters. Who you are matters.

“Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.” ~ Serbian Proverb

15. Stop taking your sense of worth from outside of you

“Why are you so enchanted by this world, when a mine of gold lies within you?” ~ Rumi

There are things in life that we do, and things that we are. That which we are, is eternal, and that which we have, is temporary. Never look outside of you for things, people and experiences to confirm your sense of value and your worth. Never get your sense of worth from outside of you, for that will only enslave you, putting at the mercy of things, people and experiences you have little or no control over.

by Luminita D. Saviuc