Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Looking Forward to 2015

I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone Happy New Year! 2014 has come and gone and with it, we all can reflect and grow from our experiences. Here's to a healthy and happy 2015! Thank you for your continued business!

-Inner Passages

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mindfulness with Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper reports on what it's like to try to achieve "mindfulness," a self-awareness scientists say is very healthy, but rarely achieved in today's world of digital distractions

The following is a script from "Mindfulness" which aired on Dec. 14, 2014. Anderson Cooper is the correspondent. Denise Schrier Cetta, producer. Matthew Danowski , editor.

Our lives are filled with distractions -- email, Twitter, texting we're constantly connected to technology, rarely alone with just our thoughts. Which is probably why there's a growing movement in America to train people to get around the stresses of daily life.

It's a practice called "mindfulness" and it basically means being aware of your thoughts, physical sensations, and surroundings.
Tonight, we'll introduce you to the man who's largely responsible for mindfulness gaining traction. His name is Jon Kabat-Zinn and he thinks mindfulness is the answer for people who are so overwhelmed by life, they feel they aren't really living at all.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: There are a lot of different ways to talk about mindfulness, but what it really means is awareness.

Anderson Cooper: Is it being present?

Jon Kabat-Zinn: It is being present. That's exactly what it is.

Anderson Cooper: I don't feel I'm very present in each moment. I feel like every moment I'm either thinking about something that's coming down the road, or something that's been in the past.
Jon Kabat-Zinn: So ultimately all this preparing is for what? For the next moment, like the last moment, like, and then we're dead (laugh) so in a certain way...

"There are a lot of different ways to talk about mindfulness, but what it really means is awareness."
Anderson Cooper: Oh God, this is depressing.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Are we going to experience while we're still alive? We're only alive now.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, is an MIT-trained scientist who's been practicing mindfulness for 47 years. Back in 1979, he started teaching mindfulness through meditation to people suffering from chronic pain and illness. That program is now used in more than 700 hospitals worldwide.

Anderson Cooper: So how can you be mindful in your daily life?

Jon Kabat-Zinn: When your alarm goes off and you jump out of bed, what is the nature of the mind in that moment? Are you already like, "oh my God," your calendar pops into your mind and you're driven already, or can you take a moment and just lie in bed and just feel your body breathing. And remember, "oh yeah, brand new day and I'm still alive." So, I get out of bed with awareness, brush my teeth with awareness. When you're in the shower next time check and see if you're in the shower.

Anderson Cooper: What do you mean check and see if you're in the shower?

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Well, you may not be. You may be in your first meeting at work. You may have 50 people in the shower with you.

Kabat-Zinn says mindfulness takes practice...a lot of people start with a training class to learn how to meditate.

He agreed to teach us at a weekend retreat on a remote mountaintop in northern California.

When we arrived we were told there would be no television to watch, no Internet, not even an alarm clock.

The retreat was full of professionals - neuroscientists, business leaders, Silicon Valley executives.

Before we began we all had to surrender our last ties to the outside world.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Put your devices in the basket. I'm contributing my MacBook Air and my iPhone. Happily.

I wasn't exactly happy to give up my phone. I usually check emails several times an hour.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: So let's take a few minutes and just settle into an erect and dignified posture.

The retreat lasted three days and most of that time was spent just sitting there, silently meditating - with occasional guidance from Kabat-Zinn.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: There's no place to go. There's nothing to do. We're just asking you to sit and know that you are sitting.

Knowing that you're sitting may sound simple...turns out...it's not. The mind constantly wanders.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: The mind has a life of its own. It goes here and there.

To not get lost in thought, Kabat-Zinn recommended focusing on the sensation of breathing in and out.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Can we actually ride with full awareness on the waves of the breath -- at the belly, at the nostrils and the chest. And then simply rest here in awareness.

"Resting in awareness" is one of those phrases used a lot by people who practice mindfulness. But when I tried to do it, it wasn't restful and I worried I wasn't doing it right. I kept thinking about work.

Anderson Cooper: I miss my cell phone. I'm having withdrawal, I must say.

Kabat-Zinn, who has written 10 books on mindfulness and led nearly a hundred retreats, describes meditation as a mental workout.
Jon Kabat-Zinn: The mind wanders away from the breath and then you gently and nonjudgmentally just bring it back.

Anderson Cooper: So it's okay that the mind drifts away but you just bring it back.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: It's the nature of the mind to drift away. The mind is like the Pacific Ocean, it waves. And mindfulness has been shown to drop underneath the waves. If you drop underneath the agitation in the mind, into your breath deep enough calmness, gentle undulations.

After hours of meditating in 30-minute sessions it does get easier. Those waves of thought Kabat-Zinn described - they're still there but you get less distracted by them.

At breakfast, we spent time relearning some of the very basic things in life - including how to eat food. Eating a meal in complete silence is a little awkward, but without conversation as a distraction...you taste more and eat less.

This is something called "walking meditation." The goal is to learn to be aware of each and every movement and feeling. I know it seems ridiculous, but it does change the way you experience walking.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: The Zen people from Ancient China, "When you're walking, just walk." It turns out to be the hardest thing.
Anderson Cooper: That's an ancient saying?

Jon Kabat-Zinn: When you're walking, just walk. When you're eating, just eat. Not in front of the TV, not with the newspaper. It turns out, that's huge.

Congressman Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, says mindfulness might look a lot like nothing, but he really believes it can change America for the better.

He attended his first meditation retreat in 2008, just days after winning a grueling reelection campaign.

"When you're walking, just walk. When you're eating, just eat. Not in front of the TV, not with the newspaper. It turns out, that's huge."
But being mindful at a retreat is one thing, we wondered if, back in Washington, Congressman Ryan ever worries about how all this looks...

Tim Ryan: Well, you know, I can see myself in high school going, "Whoa. Stay away from those guys." (laugh)

Anderson Cooper: So, how do you use it here on Capitol Hill?

Tim Ryan: I'm on the budget committee, for example. There's a lot of conflict. And people say things that get you ramped up. I find myself, as my body clenches up when somebody says something that I know is wrong or I-- I wanna catch them in a lie or whatever, that just, "Calm down. When it's your turn, you make your point."

You don't hear the words "calm" and "Congress" together very often, but Ryan is trying to change that. He hosts weekly meditation sessions open to members and staff of both parties.

He's written a book about mindfulness and obtained a million dollars of federal funding to teach it to school children in his Ohio district.

Tim Ryan: I've seen it transform classrooms. I've seen it heal veterans. I've seen what it does to individuals who have really high chronic levels of stress and how it has helped their body heal itself. I wouldn't be willing to stick my neck out this far if I didn't think this is "The Thing" that can really help shift the country.

Anderson Cooper: To some people though this may sound like kind of New Age gobbledygook?
Jon Kabat-Zinn: Yeah, there's so many different compelling studies that are showing that this not New Age gobbledygook, this is potentially transformative of our health and well-being psychologically as well as physically. It can be useful for anxiety, depression, stress reduction.

There have been a number of studies that show mindfulness can lead to those benefits, as well as improvements in memory and attention.

And, at the University of Massachusetts, Judson Brewer, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, uses mindfulness to treat addiction.

Judson Brewer: This is just the next generation of exercise. We've got the physical, you know, exercise components down. And now it's about working out how can we actually train our minds.

Dr. Brewer is trying to understand how mindfulness can alter the functioning of the brain.

He uses a cap lined with 128 electrodes.

Judson Brewer: We going to start filling each of these 128 wells with conduction gel.
The electrodes are able to pick up signals from the posterior cingulate, part of a brain network linked to memory and emotion.

Judson Brewer: This is all just picking up electrical signal from the top of your head.

Since attending the mindfulness retreat, I'd been meditating daily and was curious to see if it had an impact on my brain.

Judson Brewer: We're going to have you start with thinking of something that was very anxiety provoking for you.

Anderson Cooper: OK.

When I thought about something stressful, the cells in my brain's posterior cingulate immediately started firing -- shown by the red lines that went off the chart on the computer screen.

Judson Brewer: Just drop into meditation.

Anderson Cooper: OK.

When I let go of those stressful thoughts, and re-focused on my breath...within seconds the brain cells that had been firing quieted down -- shown by the blue lines on the computer.

Anderson Cooper: That's really fascinating to see it like that.

Dr. Brewer believes everyone can train their brains to reach that blue, mindfulness zone, but he says, all the technology we're surrounded by makes it difficult.

Judson Brewer: If you look at people out on the street, if you look at people at restaurants, nobody's having conversations anymore. They're sitting at dinner looking at their phone, because their brain is so addicted to it.

Anderson Cooper: You really think there's something in the brain that's addicted to that?

Judson Brewer: Well, it's the same reward pathways as addiction, absolutely.

Anderson Cooper: I'm on mobile devices all day long. I feel like I could go through an entire day and not be present.

Judson Brewer: And what's that like?

Anderson Cooper: It's exhausting.

Judson Brewer: So all of this is leading to a societal exhaustion.

Chade-Meng Tan: Which nobody can deny.

Anderson Cooper: So, what does a Jolly Good Fellow do?

Chade-Meng Tan: My job description is to enlighten minds, open hearts and create world peace.

Anderson Cooper: That's your job description?

Chade-Meng Tan: That's my job description.

Anderson Cooper: I've heard that at some meetings at Google you actually start out with moments of silence.

Karen May: We do.

Anderson Cooper: How long do sit there quietly for?

Karen May: It's literally a minute or two of noticing your breathing, calming yourself down, being present. And then you're able to go into the meeting, the business at hand, with a little bit more focus.

Anderson Cooper: Does it make people more productive?

Chade-Meng Tan: Yes, it does. When the mind is un-agitated, when the mind is calm, that mind is most conducive to creative problem solving.

Anderson Cooper: --to innovate?

Chade-Meng Tan: Correct. And one of the powers of mindfulness is the ability to get to that frame of mind on demand.

So along with their free health clubs and other company perks...Google now offers their 52,000 employees free lessons in mindfulness.

Chade-Meng Tan: In the middle of stress, when everything is falling apart. You can take one breath.

Anderson Cooper: I can imagine some people rolling their eyes and saying, "Oh, come on, of course, like, you know, at Google, you guys have tons of money, there's massage therapists walking around and all sorts of nice things for employees, but it just doesn't seem practical."

Karen May: The advantage of this is it actually doesn't cost anything and it doesn't take much time.

Anderson Cooper: And you believe it really works?

Karen May: I absolutely believe it works.

After nearly four decades of teaching mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn is happy to see it hitting the mainstream. But if you're starting to think mindfulness is something you should start practicing, he says you may be missing the point.

Jon Kabat-Zinn: It's not a big should. It's not like, "Oh I gotta, now one more thing that I have to put in my life. Now I have to be mindful."

Anderson Cooper: And if it becomes that one more thing they gotta do after they take the yoga class?

Jon Kabat-Zinn: They shouldn't do it. Just don't do it. Don't do it. It's not a doing at all, in fact, it's a being. And being doesn't take any time.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper, anchor of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," has contributed to 60 Minutes since 2006. His exceptional reporting on big news events has earned Cooper a reputation as one of television's pre-eminent newsmen.

Monday, December 8, 2014

10 Tips for Managing Family Stress at Holidays

10 Tips for Managing Family Stress at Holidays
Posted by Dr. Elaine Ducharme
Surviving the holidays with relatives 

Holiday cheer…or is it holiday fear? While many of us are eagerly awaiting the arrival of family to help celebrate the holiday season, many are dreading the same event.

I have heard patients and friends talk about ways to avoid being with certain relatives who they know will be rude, obnoxious, drunk, or all of the above. This can get to be a bit tricky with in-laws and step families. While we can’t choose our relatives, we can choose how and when we spend time with them and how we respond to their behaviors.

Here are 10 quick tips to survive “relative stress“.

1. Avoid getting overwhelmed by feeling the need to visit with everyone on the same day. Setting up smaller get togethers during the holidays can help you enjoy longer periods of time with those you enjoy. And you’ll have time for shorter events such as getting together for a cocktail or coffee with relatives with whom you are less comfortable.

2. Establish new traditions. Decide what is best for you and your immediate family. Christmas Eve at one parent’s home and Christmas Day at another’s can work well and avoids the pitfalls of everyone being exhausted and overwhelmed on a single day.

3. Put your kid’s needs first after a divorce. Don’t make your kid’s responsible for making your holiday special. Help them figure out a way to enjoy time with each parent and let them know that you will be fine. If the other parent is far away and the child can’t spend Christmas Eve with one parent and Christmas Day with the other, one option is using technology to make the “visits.” If both parents have computers with web cameras, children and parent can talk and see other using a program such as Skype and share the holiday time.

4. Lay down your sword. I have been pleasantly surprised recently by a number of divorced parents  getting together and sharing a holiday meal. Perhaps this is what the holiday is really about.

5. Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to leave a gathering  or put your kids down for a nap if they are starting to get tired. It is OK to take charge of your family’s needs.

6. Plan time for activities you think everyone will enjoy. Whether it’s decorating cookies or playing Yahtzee, specific activities can help give you some control over how the day goes. My adult kids often go to the movies together on Christmas afternoon. I remember long games of Monopoly with cousins over the holidays.  Remember that it’s OK if not everyone wants to participate.

7. Be flexible and let go of some control. Some of the best memories are made when things are less than perfect. How many of us have forgotten to serve a dish? I recall numerous Jell-o molds left in the fridge and discovered at the end of the meal.

8. Accept help. Working together in the kitchen, cooking or cleaning up, provides good opportunities for communication. Really listening to people may help you feel more comfortable with family members. Letting others help with serving, carving and cooking also lets them feel good while decreasing your responsibilities.

9. Look for the good. So often we focus on annoying behaviors. If we really try hard, we can often find something good about most people.

10. Volunteer. If being with  relatives proves to be just too stressful, consider volunteering at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, nursing home or other local group that can use the help and will appreciate it. Volunteering is guaranteed to make just about everyone feel good!

- See more at: http://www.yourmindyourbody.org/family-stress-during-the-holidays/#sthash.HnU5qJEI.dpuf

Monday, November 24, 2014

Five Ways to Recover from a Painful Past

Five Ways to Recover from a Painful Past
Trauma survivors share their wisdom about recovery and pathways to change.
Published on March 4, 2014 by Vinita Mehta, Ph.D., Ed.M. in Head Games

We often refer to people who have experienced trauma and/or abuse as survivors. But what factors contribute to surviving — and thriving? Though childhood trauma isn't infrequent, the process of recovery remains unclear. In order to better understand what helps people move forward and live more fulfilling lives, psychologist Signe Stige led a study in which 31 women were interviewed about coping with trauma. All of the survivors had experienced their first trauma before the age of five, including incest, sexual abuse, physical abuse, rape, partner abuse, and/or psychological abuse. Remarkably, many went on to lead functional lives, engaging in “normal” activities like studying, working, and starting families.

Ultimately, however, they would seek treatment as adults for their trauma-related symptoms. All of the women in this study participated in a stabilization group, and were later interviewed extensively about their experiences with recovery. These interviews were then analyzed with the goal of better understanding the recovery process, and pathways to positive change. Five themes emerged — and can serve as lessons for all us. Here is a digest of what the investigators found:

1. Finding new ways to understand one's emotions and actions

For the women in this study, a change in perspective was of key importance. In particular, many of the survivors experienced their symptoms as “fragmented” and “incomprehensible.” Consequently, acquiring knowledge about their trauma-related difficulties was demystifying, and allowed them to view themselves and their experiences in alternative ways. In turn, these insights changed their perceptions of the parts they played in the traumas they withstood. These women felt empowered by their change in perspective, because they could now see their own reactions and/or their part in the trauma with a clearer focus.

2. Moving from numbness toward contact

Becoming more connected was another important factor which led to positive change. For many, this translated into an increased awareness of and contact with their bodies. Many of the women reported that following the trauma, keeping their symptoms and histories at a “tolerable distance” served as an effective coping strategy. And although it helped them function better, it also increased their detachment from themselves, their feelings, and their significant others. Thus, relating to their symptoms instead of shunning them proved essential for recovery.

3. Advocating for one's own needs

Becoming aware of and honoring one’s own limits and needs also proved critical to the recovery process. This largely involved relinquishing an excessive focus on others. In an effort to cope with trauma-related difficulties, many of the women had shifted the focus away from themselves and towards others. Similarly, some of the women came to realize that they basically overlooked their own well-being. Moreover, many of the survivors found that softening high-expectations was helpful.

4. Feeling a stronger sense of agency and control

All of the women in this study reported making concrete changes in how they live their lives. And of prime importance, they learned that they could proactively change their situations for the better. These survivors no longer lived under the press of their symptoms — rather they developed a “take charge” attitude. Discovering that there were things that they could do to influence their symptoms and situations was a revelation that led to positive change.

5. Staying with difficult feelings and choices

According to the women in this study, recovery doesn't necessarily mean that life becomes easier. To the contrary, some who had felt disconnected from and numb to their own experiences reported that recovery involved an increase in symptoms. Recovery can also beget difficult choices, as it involves revising one's core identity, and having unfamiliar feelings and experiences. Yet at the same time, it also encourages strength, agency, and alternative perspectives, which can embolden survivors. Though difficult, perseverance offers both purpose and meaning.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why We Laugh: How laughter can help build resilience

Why We Laugh:
How laughter can help build resilience
Published on January 23, 2011 by Alex Lickerman, M.D. in Happiness in this World

I remember horsing around once with my younger brothers in one of our bedrooms one Saturday morning when we were children. At one point, one of my brothers jumped off his bed, and as he flew up in the air, I flung a pillow at his feet.
"Ow!" he yelled when he landed, and gripped his foot. He started writhing on the floor in obvious pain. And, strangely, I started to laugh.

I remember thinking to myself that what had happened wasn't funny at all—I was, in fact, extremely concerned, both that he might be badly hurt and that I had been the cause—but I still couldn't stop laughing. Since then, my nervous laughter has recurred whenever someone has hurt themselves in front of me (falling on ice, down the stairs, off a ladder), my reaction as stereotypical as it's been puzzling and embarrassing, leading me recently to wonder why it happens at all.


Interestingly, this same nervous laughter has been noted to occur in many psychological experiments when subjects have found themselves placed under a high degree of emotional stress specifically involving perceived harm to others. Perhaps the most famous of these experiments were those conducted by Stanley Milgram, who set out to discover why some people will blindly follow authority (the impetus being a desire to understand the behavior of soldiers in Nazi Germany). He brought in test subjects and asked them to deliver a series of increasingly powerful electric shocks to an unseen person (the "learner") to see just how much voltage they would deliver before refusing to continue. An astounding 65% delivered the experiment's final jolt of 450 volts, fully believing they were actually shocking the "learners." (It turns out, they weren't. The "learners" were members of Milgram's team playing a role.) In the paper he published on his experiment, Milgram made mention of several subjects who began to laugh nervously once they heard screams of pain coming from the unseen "learners," and suggested this was a phenomenon that deserved further study.

Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran theorizes in his excellent book A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness that laughter evolved as a signal both to ourselves and others that what may appear dangerous or threatening actually isn't. As he writes, perhaps "...the rhythmic staccato sound of laughter evolved to inform our kin who share our genes: don't waste your precious resources on this situation; it's a false alarm." If true, this provides a plausible explanation for nervous laughter. We're signaling ourselves that whatever horrible thing we've just encountered isn't really as horrible as it appears, something we often desperately want to believe.

This may explain why some psychologists classify humor as one of the "mature" defense mechanisms we invoke to guard ourselves against overwhelming anxiety (as compared to the "psychotic," "immature," and "neurotic" defense mechanisms). Being able to laugh at traumatic events in our own lives doesn't cause us to ignore them, but instead seems to prepare us to endure them.

Being able to joke about a traumatic loss usually requires the healing distance of time, however. Losing a limb, for example, may make us suicidal when it first occurs, but with the passage of time we adapt to the loss and eventually may even find ourselves able to joke about it. What magic does the passage of time work on us that permits us to laugh at what once made us cry? Perhaps definitive proof that the alarm our loss raised when it first occurred was, in fact, "false." After all, we survived it and became happy again.

Being able to face an old trauma with humor may very well then be considered a reliable signal of psychological recovery. Perhaps also, by extension, being able to laugh at a trauma at the moment it occurs, or soon after, signals both to ourselves and others that we believe in our ability to endure it (which is perhaps what makes laughter such a universally pleasurable experience: it makes us feel that everything will be all right).


In light of the above, perhaps laughter could be most properly considered as a weapon against suffering and despair. If we can joke about a disappointing or traumatic event, we'll often find ourselves feeling that what's happened to us isn't so bad and that we'll be able to get through it. This expectation serves two vitally important functions:

It diminishes or even eliminates the moment-by-moment suffering we might otherwise experience as a result of a traumatic loss, which
Actually makes it more likely we will make it through a trauma unmarred and flourish once again
A key question about laughter remains, however: does it create the expectation that we'll be all right, or become possible only because we've found our way to a belief that things aren't as bad as they seem?

I'd suggest the answer is both, that laughing simultaneously creates and requires a high life-condition. We may manifest a high life-condition through other means besides laughter, but laughter also remains a means by which we can manifest a high life-condition.

When faced with adversity, some people exhibit a great ability for turning to laughter as a soothing balm, while others remain less able to do so. While this may be a result of differences in upbringing or genetics, I often wonder if it's equally as much a matter of intent. Perhaps many of us simply don't think to try to laugh, either because we're too overwhelmed by suffering or because we think laughter in the face of suffering is inappropriate.

I'm suggesting here that it's not. That in fact laughter is a powerful means by which we can encourage ourselves. That when confronted with setbacks, adversity, trauma, or terrible news, even if it may seem socially inappropriate, we should reach toward humor. We should try to find a way to make light of whatever circumstances make us afraid. Because if instead of focusing on the negative impact of an adverse event or experience we focus on simply laughing about it, actively and consciously pursuing a perspective that makes it funny, we just may be able to activate the most under recognized but powerful weapon we have against suffering.

Monday, November 10, 2014

7 Truths For Changing Your Life

Hope Is Risky But Worth It: 7 Truths For Changing Your Life
Name, define and look clearly at the change you need to make.
Published on November 12, 2013 by Gina Barreca, Ph.D. in Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

1. To change—authentically and not superficially—you must need to change; you must have sought change for a very long time. A whim, a stretch of bad luck, a passing desire, is not enough. You have to know precisely what you need to change. And you must also know what you’re willing to give—or give up—for it. There are costs and these need to be faced and factored in; name, define and look clearly at the change you need to make; ignoring possible consequences, both better or worse, will not affect the outcome.

2. Glimpses of consciousness come at exceptional moments and are rare—for much of life, we remember only bits of things, moments at best. When you were a small child, you had all kinds of experiences: you learned your first words, you took your first step, but you don’t remember those moments. Yet you can take for granted that they happened. These moments, as dramatic but unmeasurable, take place every day. It's up to you to decide which will lock you down or set you on a new path.

3. There’s enough going on in any one hour, let alone any one day, to occupy your senses and your imagination and keep you from asking the bigger questions. For some that’s enough; they stay where they are and that is a happy ending. Getting to the end of each hour and each day is a sufficient accomplishment for them. But for others it’s like living in one room of a ten room house with the curtains drawn: for some of us, such self-limitation is a small, slow death.

4. Some parts of our lives leave only a trace while some cut a swath through our essential selves; you must decide which this is and act as you need to act. Ask your later self: What do you think I should do? Listen carefully. Your later self will answer and will tell you the hard truth.

5. With good change comes triumph: maybe you’ve been living in the straw house and finally move into the brick one where the wolf can’t get at you—or maybe you're moving to beach and will buying a straw house, ignoring the wolves or howling with them. Either way, you're making a risk and you're betting on hope. And nothing—well, almost nothing—is more terrifying than hope.

6. Hope is the original risky investment: there's always a risk of losing it entirely. But it’s useless to hang on to it and pretend it isn’t there. If you believe in something that turns out not to be true, you think, will anything be as terrible as finding that out? Yes, there is something worse: not taking the risk out of fear, shame or exhaustion is a betrayal of yourself. You probably know you need to make changes, but it's conjuring up the courage that's tough. And yet, once you're on the other side of the change, you'll look back in wonder that it took you so long...

7. You know you have to make your life different from what it is; you know you must not stay where you are unless you are willing to risk misery to yourself and to others who love you; you know you have the courage to do it if only you can rid yourself of the weight of the judgment of others. Your integrity must outweigh their censure and your dignity and fierce love of life must triumph over their most well-intentioned needs to keep you fastened to an existence that is no longer your destiny.

To view the original article, click here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Are You Making Your Wellbeing Harder Than It Needs to Be?

Are You Making Your Wellbeing Harder Than it Needs to Be?
3 Tested, Simple Ways To Eat, Move & Sleep Better

Published on November 2, 2014 by Michelle McQuaid in From Functioning to Flourishing

What are you willing to try when it comes to improving your wellbeing?  Would you eat dirt to eliminate bad bacteria?  Garden under the moonlight to beat depression?  Plunge into icy water to improve your immune system?

Is it just me or does it seem like each day there is another weird and wonderful way being recommended to improve our wellbeing?

Don’t get me wrong I’m open to trying the odd “woo-woo” idea in the name of better health, but I was recently reminded by a wonderful group I’m coaching that the very best place to start when it comes to flourishing is by getting the basics right.

You see everything from how well we sleep at night, the foods we put in our mouth, and how much we’re moving - particularly while we’re at work - has a profound effect not only on our own levels of energy, happiness and productivity but on everyone around you as well.

I know improving the way you eat, sleep and move might not feel like the most exciting changes you want to be making, but be in no doubt they are the hygiene factors of wellbeing.  Without them in place you make your journey from functioning to flourishing much harder than it needs to be.

Do you have your wellbeing basics covered?

Researcher and best-selling author Tom Rath, has found if you eat, move, and sleep well today, you will have more energy tomorrow. You’ll treat your friends and family better. And you’ll achieve more at work and give more to your community.

For example, a study of more than 80,000 people suggests that the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat is a robust predictor of overall happiness. It turns out every additional daily serving of fruits or vegetables, all the way up to seven servings, continues to improve your wellbeing and move you towards flourishing.

And I was shocked to learn that while working out regularly is a great habit because most of us now spend around nine hours a day sitting down it’s essential that we’re also active throughout the day if we want to remain healthy.

Finally, if you’re anything like me and often forgo an extra hour’s sleep in order to tick that last thing off your to-do list or stay out playing with friends, you might want to re-think this strategy. You see when you lose an hour of sleep, it decreases your wellbeing, productivity, health, and ability to think the following day.

Don’t worry I wasn’t thrilled about any of this research either! The good news is Tom has found that small decisions — about how we eat, move, and sleep each day — count more than we think when it comes to your ability to flourish at work.

What are the small changes you can make to eat, move and sleep more effectively?

Firstly when it comes to eating rather than trying different diets, try to create a day-in and day-out good approach to eating.  An idea that really helped me was to look at what I was putting in my mouth and asking if it was a net gain or net loss when it came to my wellbeing.

Net gains are foods that are good for us like fruit and vegetables (the darker the color the better), nuts and seeds, seafood and chicken.  Net losses are foods that are bad for us like fatty meats, fried cooking, added sugars and junk food.  Just asking how a food would impact my energy and mood, was a great motivator to slowly move me away from decades of bad eating habits.

Secondly when it comes to how much movement you need it’s important to be aware that every hour you spend on your rear end — in a car, watching television, attending a meeting, or at your computer — saps your energy and potentially ruins your health.

Try to stand, stretch and increase activity every 20 minutes if you can - even if its just for 20 seconds. Walk to someone’s office instead of calling. Park the car a block from where you need it.  Grab a pedometer and try to get to 10,000 steps each day.  Instead of viewing a long walk as something you don’t have time for, think of it as an opportunity to fire up your brain so you can think more clearly and creatively.

Finally when it comes to sleeping know that losing 90 minutes of sleep has been found to reduce your daytime alertness by nearly one-third.  I was also surprised to learn that in studies of peak performers, one of the factors that set them apart was the eight and half hours of sleep they got each night.

To improve your sleep try to turn off technology an hour before you go to bed, make sure your room is 3 to 5 degrees cooler than what you experience during the day and get up at the same time each morning – even on the weekend – to maintain your bodies natural sleeping and waking rhythm (it’s a great excuse for a nana nap later on).

To view the original article from Psycholody today, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Living a Life You Love: Radiate Self-Acceptance

Radiate Self-Acceptance
Attract more people who love, respect, and accept you just as you are.
Published on September 30, 2014 by Susan McQuillan, M.S., RDN in Cravings

So you’re not perfect. You struggle with food issues. Maybe other issues, too. But the truth is, everyone is flawed. Accept that fact, then accept your imperfect self for who you are right now. Once you truly get this, you will stop struggling with the past at the same time you are struggling to improve your future. When you let go of that past, you leave openings for new ideas, new attitudes, and new people in your life.
The more flexible you are and the more easily you accept the idea that some things have to change, the easier it is to let go of an obsession with food and move on to a happier, healthier lifestyle. As you feel your life improving, you will experience many changes in the way you see yourself and in the way you see the world around you.

Even though these might be changes for the better, they are probably scary simply because they are different. You’ll be thinking in new ways and doing many things differently than you’ve done them before. Remember, fear can prevent you from letting go of self-destructive habits and truly enjoying the rest of your life. Don’t let that happen!

When you free yourself from obsession, you will be a different person from who you are now. You will think, look, and feel different. Getting to that truth, that place of self-acceptance, comes from exploring yourself from the inside out. Defining who you are and what you want from life is the first step to knowing yourself and getting what you want—a happier, healthier life.

Self-knowledge—a clear vision of your own character, powers, strengths, limitations and potential—isn’t something you’re born with; it’s something many people struggle to learn and, for some, it can take a lifetime. You have gathered a great deal of knowledge and experience in your life so far, which helps you understand who you are. That’s not your whole story. You are also everything you have the potential to be, if you give yourself the opportunity to reach that potential.

Self-acceptance means you’ll stop being your own worst enemy. You’ll stop picking on yourself for things no one else even notices. You’ll feel more comfortable in your own skin and have an easier time being true to yourself. You’ll stop worrying so much about what other people think and have more control over the direction of your own life. Accepting also means accepting your limitations. That doesn’t mean you have to give up hope or stop striving to improve. But rather than focusing on things you can’t change, rather than setting impossibly high standards for yourself and setting yourself up to fail, concentrate on what you do well and on all you’ve done to get your self to this point. Even if all you are doing right now is reading self-help articles, that’s a big first step toward self-acceptance.

When you accept yourself, you stop comparing yourself to other people. There is such a thing as healthy competition, but it’s not a good idea to compare yourself too closely to others. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll compare yourself to someone who is skinnier. If you’ve just joined a gym, you’ll compare yourself to someone who has been working out for ten years. In the end, that only makes you feel bad about yourself. And you won’t feel any better comparing yourself to someone who hasn’t been successful dealing with weight and health issues; that’s just looking down on someone else and propping up your own ego by feeling superior to another person. Best to turn all that attention you give to others back around to yourself.

You can accept who you are, what you look like, and how much you weigh right now and still be determined to change what you are not happy with. Acceptance is not necessarily approval. It simply means you’ve ended the emotional struggle against reality. You may not like being someone who is obsessed with diet and weight control; you may not want it in your life at all. But acceptance means “Here it is anyway; now what am I going to do about it?” When you’re no longer struggling against who and what you are, it will be so much easier to make whatever changes you want to make, because you’ll be starting from a more positive, clear-minded place.

These are the benefits of self-acceptance, and they can also serve as goals:

You will feel a sense of freedom.

You will be less afraid to fail.

You will grow in self-esteem.

You will stop struggling to win approval from others.

You will believe that you have great value and believe that others know it, too.

You will become more independent.

You will give yourself more leeway when it comes to making mistakes.

You will be able to take more risks without worrying about the consequences.

You will live your life to please yourself, not to please others.

You will accept yourself for who you are and expect others to accept (respect, love) you for who you are, not what you look like or what you appear to accomplish.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Creative Personality

The Creative Personality
Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals.
By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, published on July 01, 1996 - last reviewed on June 13, 2011

Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Call it full-blast living.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity. What makes us different from apes—our language, values, artistic expression, scientific understanding, and technology—is the result of individual ingenuity that was recognized, rewarded, and transmitted through learning.

When we're creative, we feel we are living more fully than during the rest of life. The excitement of the artist at the easel or the scientist in the lab comes close to the ideal fulfillment we all hope to get from life, and so rarely do. Perhaps only sex, sports, music, and religious ecstasy—even when these experiences remain fleeting and leave no trace—provide a profound sense of being part of an entity greater than ourselves. But creativity also leaves an outcome that adds to the richness and complexity of the future.

I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it's complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an "individual," each of them is a "multitude."

Here are the 10 antithetical traits often present in creative people that are integrated with each other in a dialectical tension.

Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they're also often quiet and at rest. They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm. This suggests a superior physical endowment, a genetic advantage. Yet it is surprising how often individuals who in their seventies and eighties exude energy and health remember childhoods plagued by illness. It seems that their energy is internally generated, due more to their focused minds than to the superiority of their genes.
This does not mean that creative people are hyperactive, always "on." In fact, they rest often and sleep a lot. The important thing is that they control their energy; it's not ruled by the calendar, the dock, an external schedule. When necessary, they can focus it like a laser beam; when not, creative types immediately recharge their batteries. They consider the rhythm of activity followed by idleness or reflection very important for the success of their work. This is not a bio-rhythm inherited with their genes; it was learned by trial and error as a strategy for achieving their goals.

One manifestation of energy is sexuality. Creative people are paradoxical in this respect also. They seem to have quite a strong dose of eros, or generalized libidinal energy, which some express directly into sexuality. At the same time, a certain spartan celibacy is also a part of their makeup; continence tends to accompany superior achievement. Without eros, it would be difficult to take life on with vigor; without restraint, the energy could easily dissipate.

Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time. How smart they actually are is open to question. It is probably true that what psychologists call the "g factor," meaning a core of general intelligence, is high among people who make important creative contributions.
The earliest longitudinal study of superior mental abilities, initiated at Stanford University by the psychologist Lewis Terman in 1921, shows rather conclusively that children with very high IQs do well in life, but after a certain point IQ does not seem to be correlated any longer with superior performance in real life. Later studies suggest that the cutoff point is around 120; it might be difficult to do creative work with a lower IQ, but an IQ beyond 120 does not necessarily imply higher creativity.

Another way of expressing this dialectic is the contrasting poles of wisdom and childishness. As Howard Gardner remarked in his study of the major creative geniuses of this century, a certain immaturity, both emotional and mental, can go hand in hand with deepest insights. Mozart comes immediately to mind.

Furthermore, people who bring about an acceptable novelty in a domain seem able to use well two opposite ways of thinking: the convergent and the divergent. Convergent thinking is measured by IQ tests, and it involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer. Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution. It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure and that most workshops try to enhance.

Yet there remains the nagging suspicion that at the highest levels of creative achievement the generation of novelty is not the main issue. People often claimed to have had only two or three good ideas in their entire career, but each idea was so generative that it kept them busy for a lifetime of testing, filling out, elaborating, and applying.

Divergent thinking is not much use without the ability to tell a good idea from a bad one, and this selectivity involves convergent thinking.

Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility. There is no question that a playfully light attitude is typical of creative individuals. But this playfulness doesn't go very far without its antithesis, a quality of doggedness, endurance, perseverance.
Nina Holton, whose playfully wild germs of ideas are the genesis of her sculpture, is very firm about the importance of hard work: "Tell anybody you're a sculptor and they'll say, 'Oh, how exciting, how wonderful.' And I tend to say, 'What's so wonderful?' It's like being a mason, or a carpenter, half the time. But they don't wish to hear that because they really only imagine the first part, the exciting part. But, as Khrushchev once said, that doesn't fry pancakes, you see. That germ of an idea does not make a sculpture which stands up. It just sits there. So the next stage is the hard work. Can you really translate it into a piece of sculpture?"

Jacob Rabinow, an electrical engineer, uses an interesting mental technique to slow himself down when work on an invention requires more endurance than intuition: "When I have a job that takes a lot of effort, slowly, I pretend I'm in jail. If I'm in jail, time is of no consequence. In other words, if it takes a week to cut this, it'll take a week. What else have I got to do? I'm going to be here for twenty years. See? This is a kind of mental trick. Otherwise you say, 'My God, it's not working,' and then you make mistakes. My way, you say time is of absolutely no consequence."

Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not. Vasari wrote in 1550 that when Renaissance painter Paolo Uccello was working out the laws of visual perspective, he would walk back and forth all night, muttering to himself: "What a beautiful thing is this perspective!" while his wife called him back to bed with no success.

Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present. The rest of society often views these new ideas as fantasies without relevance to current reality. And they are right. But the whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we now consider real and create a new reality. At the same time, this "escape" is not into a never-never land. What makes a novel idea creative is that once we see it, sooner or later we recognize that, strange as it is, it is true.
Most of us assume that artists—musicians, writers, poets, painters—are strong on the fantasy side, whereas scientists, politicians, and businesspeople are realists. This may be true in terms of day-to-day routine activities. But when a person begins to work creatively, all bets are off.

Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We're usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.
Creative people are humble and proud at the same time. It is remarkable to meet a famous person who you expect to be arrogant or supercilious, only to encounter self-deprecation and shyness instead. Yet there are good reasons why this should be so. These individuals are well aware that they stand, in Newton's words, "on the shoulders of giants." Their respect for the area in which they work makes them aware of the long line of previous contributions to it, putting their own in perspective. They're also aware of the role that luck played in their own achievements. And they're usually so focused on future projects and current challenges that past accomplishments, no matter how outstanding, are no longer very interesting to them. At the same time, they know that in comparison with others, they have accomplished a great deal. And this knowledge provides a sense of security, even pride.
Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.
This tendency toward androgyny is sometimes understood in purely sexual terms, and therefore it gets confused with homosexuality. But psychological androgyny is a much wider concept referring to a person's ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.

Creative people are both rebellious and conservative. It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it's difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic. Being only traditional leaves an area unchanged; constantly taking chances without regard to what has been valued in the past rarely leads to novelty that is accepted as an improvement. The artist Eva Zeisel, who says that the folk tradition in which she works is "her home," nevertheless produces ceramics that were recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as masterpieces of contemporary design. This is what she says about innovation for its own sake:
"This idea to create something is not my aim. To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse. A negative impulse is always frustrating. And to be different means 'not like this' and 'not like that.' And the 'not like'—that's why postmodernism, with the prefix of 'post,' couldn't work. No negative impulse can work, can produce any happy creation. Only a positive one."

But the willingness to take risks, to break with the safety of tradition, is also necessary. The economist George Stigler is very emphatic in this regard: "I'd say one of the most common failures of able people is a lack of nerve. They'll play safe games. In innovation, you have to play a less safe game, if it's going to be interesting. It's not predictable that it'll go well."

Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well. Without the passion, we soon lose interest in a difficult task. Yet without being objective about it, our work is not very good and lacks credibility. Here is how the historian Natalie Davis puts it:
"I think it is very important to find a way to be detached from what you write, so that you can't be so identified with your work that you can't accept criticism and response, and that is the danger of having as much affect as I do. But I am aware of that and of when I think it is particularly important to detach oneself from the work, and that is something where age really does help."

Creative people's openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. Most would agree with Rabinow's words: "Inventors have a low threshold of pain. Things bother them." A badly designed machine causes pain to an inventive engineer, just as the creative writer is hurt when reading bad prose.
Being alone at the forefront of a discipline also leaves you exposed and vulnerable. Eminence invites criticism and often vicious attacks. When an artist has invested years in making a sculpture, or a scientist in developing a theory, it is devastating if nobody cares.

Deep interest and involvement in obscure subjects often goes unrewarded, or even brings on ridicule. Divergent thinking is often perceived as deviant by the majority, and so the creative person may feel isolated and misunderstood.

Perhaps the most difficult thing for creative individuals to bear is the sense of loss and emptiness they experience when, for some reason, they cannot work. This is especially painful when a person feels his or her creativity drying out.

Yet when a person is working in the area of his of her expertise, worries and cares fall away, replaced by a sense of bliss. Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake. Without this trait, poets would give up striving for perfection and would write commercial jingles, economists would work for banks where they would earn at least twice as much as they do at universities, and physicists would stop doing basic research and join industrial laboratories where the conditions are better and the expectations more predictable.

From Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, published by HarperCollins, 1996.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Kicking the Habit: The Ten Keys to Positive Change

Good Morning,

Today, I want to share with you an article from Health Journeys about the 'The Ten Keys to Positive Change.'  This wellness report was written by Traci Stein, PhD, MPH and brings up a lot of great points about change, and how to accomplish the positive change you want in your life.

"Even if a significant part of you desires change,
there may be another part that fears giving up
whatever seems good about the habit."

CLICK HERE to read the article and enjoy!

Monday, October 6, 2014

How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence ― 6 Essentials

How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence ― 6 Essentials
Six Ways to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence
Published on October 5, 2014 by Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. in Communication Success

“When our emotional health is in a bad state, so is our level of self-esteem. We have to slow down and deal with what is troubling us, so that we can enjoy the simple joy of being happy and at peace with ourselves.”
― Jess Scott

Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) can be defined as the ability to understand, manage, and effectively express one's own feelings, as well as engage and navigate successfully with those of others. According to Talent Smart, 90% of high performers at the work place possess high EQ, while 80% of low performers have low EQ. Emotional Intelligence is absolutely essential in the formation, development, maintenance, and enhancement of close personal relationships. Unlike IQ, which does not change significantly over a lifetime, our EQ can evolve and increase with our desire to learn and grow.

Below are six keys to increasing your emotional intelligence:

1.  The Ability to Reduce Negative Emotions

Perhaps no aspect of EQ is more important than our ability to effectively manage our own negative emotions, so they don't overwhelm us and affect our judgment. In order to change the way we feel about a situation, we must first change the way we think about it. Here are just two examples:

A. Reducing Negative Personalization. When you feel adversely about someone’s behavior, avoid jumping to a negative conclusion right away. Instead, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. For example, I may be tempted to think my friend didn’t return my call because she’s ignoring me, or I can consider the possibility that she’s been very busy. When we avoid personalizing other people's behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.

B. Reducing the Fear of Rejection. One effective way to manage your fear of rejection is to provide yourself with multiple options in important situations, so that no matter what happens, you have strong alternatives going forward. Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket (emotionally) by identifying a viable Plan B, and also a Plan C, should Plan A not work out. For example:

Increased fear of rejection: “I’m applying for my dream job. I’ll be devastated if they don’t hire me.”

Decreased fear of rejection: “I’m applying for three exciting positions. If one doesn’t pan out, there are two more I’m well qualified for.”

For more in-depth information on reducing or eliminating over fifteen types of negative attitudes and feelings, see my book (click on title): "How to Let Go of Negative Thoughts and Emotions.”

2.  The Ability to Stay Cool and Manage Stress 

Most of us experience some level of stress in life. How we handle stressful situations can make the difference between being assertive versus reactive, and poised versus frazzled. When under pressure, the most important thing to keep in mind is to keep our cool. Here are two quick tips:

A. If you feel nervous and anxious, put cold water on your face and get some fresh air. Cool temperature can help reduce our anxiety level (1)(2). Avoid caffeinated beverages which can stimulate your nervousness (3)(4).

B. If you feel fearful, depressed, or discouraged, try intense aerobic exercises. Energize yourself. The way we use our body affects greatly the way we feel (5)(6). As the saying goes - motion dictates emotion. As you experience the vitality of your body, your confidence will also grow.

3.  The Ability to Be Assertive and Express Difficult Emotions When Necessary

"Being who we are requires that we can talk openly about things that are important to us, that we take a clear position on where we stand on important emotional issues, and that we clarify the limits of what is acceptable and tolerable to us in a relationship."

― Harriet Lerner

There are times in all of our lives when it's important to set our boundaries appropriately, so people know where we stand. These can include exercising our right to disagree (without being disagreeable), saying "no" without feeling guilty, setting our own priorities, getting what we paid for, and protecting ourselves from duress and harm.

One method to consider when needing to express difficult emotions is the XYZ technique - I feel X when you do Y in situation Z. Here are some examples:

"I feel strongly that I should receive recognition from the company based on my contributions."

"I feel uncomfortable that you expect me to help you over my own priorities."

"I feel disappointed when you didn't follow through when you told me you would."

Avoid using sentences that begin with "you" and followed by accusation or judgment, such as "you are...," "you should...," or "you need to...." "You" language followed by such directives put the listener on the defensive, and make them less likely to be open to what you have to say.

 4.  The Ability to Stay Proactive, not Reactive in the Face of a Difficult Person

Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be “stuck” with a difficult individual at work or at home. It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. What are some of the keys to staying proactive in such situations? Here are three quick tips:

A. When you feel angry and upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of complicate the problem. If you're still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

B. Another way to reduce reactivity is to try to put yourself in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the person you’re dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….”

“My child is being so resistant. It must not be easy to deal with his school and social pressures…”

“My boss is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on her performance by management…”

To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that people do what they do because of their own issues. As long as we’re being reasonable and considerate, difficult behaviors from others say a lot more about them than they do about us. By de-personalizing, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.

C. Set Consequence.The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills you can use to "stand down" a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the difficult individual, and compels her or him to shift from violation to respect. In my book (click on title) “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle People,” consequence is presented as seven different types of power you can utilize to affect positive change.

 5.  The Ability to Bounce Back from Adversity

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

— Michael Jordan

Life is not always easy. We all know that. How we choose the way we think, feel, and act in relation to life’s challenges can often make the difference between hope versus despair, optimism versus frustration, and victory versus defeat. With every challenging situation we encounter, ask questions such as “What is the lesson here?” “How can I learn from this experience?” “What is most important now?” and “If I think outside the box, what are some better answers?” The higher the quality of questions we ask, the better the quality of answers we will receive. Ask constructive questions based on learning and priorities, and we can gain the proper perspective to help us tackle the situation at hand.

“Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States.”

— Wall Street Journal

6.  The Ability to Express Intimate Emotions in Close, Personal Relationships

The ability to effectively express and validate tender, loving emotions is essential to maintaining close personal relationships. In this case, "effective" means sharing intimate feelings with someone in an appropriate relationship, in a manner that's nourishing and constructive, and being able to respond affirmatively when the other person does the same.

A person's "heart withers if it does not answer another heart."

— Pearl Buck

Psychologist Dr. John Gottman calls the expression of intimate emotions "bidding." Bidding can be any method of positive connection between two people desiring a close relationship. For example:

Verbal bidding: "How are you doing?" "How are you feeling?" "I love you." "I appreciate you." "I like it when we talk like this." "I'm glad we're spending this time together." "you're such a good friend." "I'm sorry."                      

Body language bidding: positive eye contact, hugging, smiling, patting the elbow, arm around the shoulder.

Behavioral bidding: offering food or beverage, a personalized card, a thoughtful gift, a needed favor. Empathetic listing. Engaging in shared activities that create a closer bond.

Dr. Gottman's research reveals that close, healthy relationships bid with each other in ways large and small up to hundreds of times a day. The words and gestures can be a million variations, all of which say, in essence, "I care about you," "I want to be connected with you," and "you're important in my life." Constant and consistent bidding is crucial in the maintenance and development of close, personal relationships. It's the vitamin of love.

For more essentials of a happy relationship, see my reference guide (click on title): "7 Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success."

Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. is available as a presenter, workshop facilitator, and private coach. For more information, write to commsuccess@nipreston.com, or visit www.nipreston.com.

© 2014 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Benefits of Talking

An article on the Reachout.com website mentions the thought on the importance of talking, and so we wanted to share. Although it is brief, it brings up some good points.

Talking is important for everyone. It helps you stay healthy and stops your problems from getting on top of you. You should talk to people you trust including a counselor or other mental health worker which is also a good option.

This could be for you if you...
-want to talk more
-don't want to talk more
-wonder why talking helps
-want options for people to talk to
-get angry easily
-worry too much

Why Talk to a Professional? 

Some people are good at talking, and do it a lot. Some people don't like to talk too much but it can be helpful for everyone. It's worth making an effort to talk through what's going on for you with someone you trust. Good things that can come from talking are:

-It will help you sort through your thoughts and clarify whatever is going on for you at the time. While all your stuff is internal, it's hard to see how it really works. Once you've had to say it out loud, it gets easier to get hold of.
-If you just worry about your problems without talking to someone about them, they probably start to seem worse and bigger than they are. Talking will cut them down to size.
Someone who's not involved in whatever's bothering you might suggest options you haven't thought of.
-If you're talking to someone neutral, but caring, they won't take sides or push an agenda.
-Talking is like a pressure valve for your head. Switch it on once in a while.

Talk to who?

You're going to want to pick someone you trust to talk about things that are bothering you. It might be a friend, family member, teacher, doctor or other person you see often. You may also want to consider talking to a counselor. They can help you get the skills and help of someone who's trained to be a good person to talk to, so it's worth considering too.

Some counselors specialize, so you can get someone who's experienced in dealing with whatever's going on – whether it's drugs, sadness, anger, sex, stress, family issues, school, or anything else.

What can I do now?

-Write down a list of people you trust who you can talk to
-If you want to talk to someone outside the situation, call a helpline
-Find out some great tips for better communication

Monday, September 22, 2014

100 Questions To Inspire Rapid Self-Discovery

Good Morning!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. Since it's Monday, and we all may be dragging a little bit, I wanted to share something uplifting and fun for today. Here are a list of 100 questions, meant to help inspire rapid self-discovery. Have you ever taken the time to sit down and really think about your life? Your goals? Where you are, where you wanted to be? Well, if not, there is no better time then now! Check out this great blog post from Alexandra Frazen and find out for yourself. Enjoy :)


Here are just a few to get you started:

ϟ What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

ϟ What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of — but would never put on your résumé?

ϟ What’s the most out-of-character choice you’ve ever made?

ϟ If a mysterious benefactor wrote you a check for $5,000 and said, “Help me solve a problem — any problem!” … what would you do with him or her?

ϟ What’s going to be carved on your (hypothetical) tombstone?

ϟ What are you FREAKISHLY good at?

ϟ What’s one dream that you’ve tucked away, for the moment? How come?

ϟ What are you STARVING for?

ϟ If you could have tea with one fictional character, who would it be?

ϟ Do you have a morning ritual?

ϟ Do you believe in magic? When have you felt it?

ϟ Is there something that people consistently ask for your advice on? What is it?

ϟ Have you ever fantasized about changing your first name? To what?

ϟ When was the last time you astonished yourself?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Criticism vs. Feedback--Which One Wins, Hands-Down?

Criticism vs. Feedback--Which One Wins, Hands-Down?
How to optimize the chances that your frustrations will be heard.
Published on June 30, 2009 by Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. in Evolution of the Self

What Makes Feedback So Superior to Criticism?

It's hardly a coincidence that the word criticism--though many of its synonyms are not in themselves unfavorable (such as analysis, appraisal, or review)--almost always carries negative connotations. The term feedback, on the other hand, is as likely to refer to something positive as it is negative. However, in the effort to compare apples to apples, I'll be focusing here only on negative feedback (just as earlier my attention centered exclusively on negative criticism).

In personal, non-business situations, giving someone negative feedback isn't about calling attention to flaws in their performance, but explaining to them how their behavior has adversely affected you. Consequently, any such statement is primarily about yourself, which is why such communications typically begins with the pronoun "I" (rather than "you"). For when you're giving feedback, you're not actually blaming the other person for your reactions--whether they be hurt, anger, or disappointment--but informing them that their actions do in fact relate to your negative feelings. Still, in your willingness to take some responsibility for the feelings evoked in you, you're reducing the possibility of their reacting defensively. And you're also increasing the odds that they'll show more of a desire to listen to, understand, and empathize with the distress their insensitive behavior may have caused.

An example of this might be telling your spouse about their obviously bored reaction when you shared with them the specifics of a lunch date you had with a friend. You might tell them that even though you realize you may have gotten carried away in confiding so many details of what transpired during the get-together, their response of looking away, and audibly sighing and yawning, left you feeling hurt, uncared for, and even insulted. At the same time that you're more than willing to own up to your possibly straining their patience, you're seeking to make them aware that their dismissive response was still emotionally painful to you.

 Your motive here isn't to get them to hang their heads in shame, or abjectly confess that their behavior was reprehensible, only to increase their awareness of the negative impact their behavior had on you--and, of course, to prompt them to be more considerate and responsive in the future. To the degree you're able to circumvent their defenses and prompt them to empathically enter into your world, you stand a much better chance of achieving these worthwhile "educational" goals. They'll also be more likely to reflect upon their behavior and engage in some sort of self-confrontation when they're not being actively derided as obtuse, selfish, hardhearted, or callous. Name-calling, after all, is rarely effective in promoting positive behavioral change.

To help pinpoint the distinctions between giving criticism and offering feedback, I've compiled the fairly comprehensive list below. Examining it carefully should make it clear why feedback--even though it may be negative--is far more likely to impel another to re-think and, hopefully, to change their behavior than is criticism.

• Criticism is judgmental, negatively evaluative, and accusatory. As such, it can involve diagnosing (as is psycho-analyzing), labeling, lecturing, moralizing--and even ridiculing. Feedback, on the other hand, focuses on providing concrete information that could be helpful in motivating the other person to reconsider their behavior. Rather than being judgmental, it's descriptive.

• Criticism typically involves making negative assumptions about (or "mind-reading") the other person's motives. Feedback, however, generally avoids speculating on the other person's intent, focusing instead on the actual results of their behavior. If the person giving feedback shares their impression about the other's motives, it's clearly stated as such.

• Criticism is more general and diffuse--it can include negative appraisals of the other's character, even temperament. Feedback doesn't engage in such "character assassination," but rather centers more on the particular behaviors relating to the speaker's present-day frustrations or annoyance. The examples given aren't meant to illustrate the other person's personality defects, but rather to exemplify what is specifically experienced as troublesome or problematic.

• Criticism tends to exaggerate and over-generalize the behavior being objected to, and liberal use is made of such hyperbolic words as "always" or "never." Feedback attempts to be precise and delimited, and to aim attention only toward those behaviors that give offense.

• Criticism can have an unrestrained, all-inclusiveness about it--and it can revolve around things that aren't really changeable (e.g., criticizing another for being so allergic). Feedback doesn't indulge in overwhelming the other through "kitchen-sinking" complaints. And, typically, it engages the other person solely on behaviors that can be changed. (Note how common the phrase "destructive criticism" is--and how comparatively rare is the term "destructive feedback.")

• Criticism can come across as invalidating, condescending, preachy and authoritarian--and the person delivering it as arrogant, with a clear sense of superiority. Feedback, by confining itself to detailed descriptions of what is bothersome, is far less likely to imply that the person on the receiving end is somehow inferior, defective, or "less than."

• Criticism can make the other person feel under pressure, or at risk, because the angry tone in which it's typically delivered is frequently experienced as demanding, intimidating, or threatening. Feedback, offered in a calmer, more tentative, and low-keyed manner (ideally, at least), is designed to inform rather than attack--and so is far less likely to make the other person feel in jeopardy.

• Criticism commonly includes giving advice, commands, injunctions. Feedback, however, is less likely to center on how the other person should change than (by focusing on the negative interpersonal effects of their behavior) to prompt a discussion about the possible benefits of change.

• And--finally--as I've already emphasized, criticism prompts defensiveness because it's blaming and disparaging (at times, almost daring the other to refute it). Feedback, assuming that the other person is reasonably open to it, is much more likely to lead to self-reflection and re-evaluation of the behavior that might have been hurtful or provocative. It can hardly be overemphasized that, in essence, feedback has nothing to do with winning an argument, only with resolving a problem.

Many readers may recognize from all these characterizations that what I'm describing as feedback in many ways overlaps with what is more familiarly known as assertive (vs. aggressive) communication. So anyone wishing to develop greater proficiency in expressing their frustrations and complaints in ways that would optimize their getting the results they want would benefit greatly by exploring one or more of the virtual "library" of books available on the seminal subject of assertiveness.

To view original article, click here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Failure as the Single Best Marker of Human Success

Failure as the Single Best Marker of Human Success
Glorious dandelion fields betray stories of failures. The same is true with us.

Published on September 4, 2014 by Glenn Geher, Ph.D. in Darwin's Subterranean World

Failure is a predictor of success. This is, without question, one of life's great ironies. And it has deep roots into the evolution of life. And it is, without hesitation, simply true.

From a biological / natural selection perspective, the idea is that some features of organisms are more likely (on average, by chance) to make it into future generations compared with other features. Hand grip strength that is strong is likely to lead to better tree-climbing, more survival, and more reproduction than weak hand grip (just watch American Ninja Warrior for evidence of this). But while some designs (e.g., strong and versatile hand grip strength) out-compete other designs (e.g., wimpy hand grip strength), all designs will show some level of failure. Adaptations for strong hand grip strength may well have evolved over thousands of generations during the evolution of the arboreal primates in Africa - but we must note that in this process, failure, leading to primates falling from canopy to the forest floor, was necessarily a sometimes-consequence. Many-a-primate fell to a gory death during the years when advanced hand grip strength was evolving. Failure was part of what happened sometimes.

Evolutionary processes work this way. They follow a probabilistic logic - some qualities are "more likely" to lead to success than are other qualities - but they will still have failure rates that are different from zero. A "good adaptation," for instance, may lead to a 10% death rate while a "not as good" adaptation may lead to a 30% death rate. From this mathematical/evolutionary perspective, failure is necessarily part of the game. The issue is not whether one feature will fail and another will not - the issue is more subtle, nuanced, and statistical-based. The issue is whether one feature will, on average, lead to a higher proportion of successes relative to failures compared with alternative features.

Evolutionary Failure and Real Life

All this conceptual stuff about how evolution works has real implications for how our lives progress. In life, you sometimes succeed and you sometimes fail. This is just how it goes. When we step back and look at organic evolution, the same exact process is true - some biological adaptations succeed (and come to typify a species) and other such adaptations fail (and come to NOT typify any species).

Picking Dandelions to Learn about Success and Failure

But the evolution of life is relentless - and this point needs to be included in this discussion. Ever pick dandelions out of your yard? Good luck. You may start with 20 in your basket, increase to 60, commit to "pick them all," only to find that you have picked 80 after several hours and that 85 more (that you had not seen before) are now in your side yard - and so forth. In the evolutionary story of a modern yard, dandelions show an extraordinary failure rate (they get picked at lot) - only to be out-done by an even more extra-ordinary success rate (they find good environments and grow a lot).

What happens when you squash a dandelion plant? Does it cry? Does it say, "Go ahead without me - I just cannot do this anymore!" ... or does it just follow its biological design, and disseminate seeds in wayward, random directions, with the (apparent) goal of growing more plants all over the place?

Dandelions, and so many other natural forms of life, have the greatest possible lessons for all of us humans out here - whether we know it or not. And here it is: Dandelions cannot help but fail at times. They don't seem to have evolved mechanisms designed to reduce failure at all! They don't bite - they are actually pleasant to eat (with few if any toxins) - they are helpless! Rather their strategy toward proliferation seems more like this: (a) grow a lot, (b) grow quickly, (c) grow wherever, (d) turn to seed asap, and (e) go back to step (a). ... Ever see a field full of dandelions? I bet you have. And that, my friend, is because this particular evolved strategy works - it, on average, is effective at facilitating growth and reproduction. My front yard in late April is a testament to this fact.

More failure corresponds to more success.

The irony of the dandelion is this: The more failure the plants encounter corresponds strongly to the more success that the plants encounter. In essence, these plants are trying - and they consistently make efforts at replicating. They often get squashed. A six-year old may decide to make a daisy chain out of them or give a bouquet to a lucky parent. A lawn mower may actually take some of these soldiers down for some time. But in the end, the evolutionary strategy of the dandelion is just so strong. They ALWAYS come back.

Their general plan is simply this: Grit and Perseverance. Keep at it - move forward through failure, and you are likely to see another day and to grow. Or at least your offspring will.

Human Success Maps onto Dandelion Success

Humans are a lot like dandelions. We try all kinds of things. For instance, if you are a kid trying out for a part in a play, you may get rejected the first year (as a dandelion may get weed wacked in Season 1).  But the dandelion, due to its biological design, keeps trying. It tries a new area of the yard - its pods and the wind may bring it a mile away. It "gives it another go." And that may work.

Does this strategy work for you? You didn't get this particular part in this particular play. Should you just go belly-up, then? Well a dandelion wouldn't do that! Maybe try another play - another role - another venue - another group - another accent. Give something else a try - this may be the solution!

And don't get discouraged. The dandelion may fail five more times before it finally yields a plant that has just the right conditions to facilitate reproductive success. The four or so failures beforehand were just part of the process.

Think about any human domain in which success is a goal. We could learn quite well from the natural world. Suppose you want to successfully publish a scientific journal article. Well if you ask any scientist you will be told that failure early on in the process is par for the course. Any good scientific article may well have been rejected a solid 3 other times by other journals before it got accepted. But a good and dedicated scholar knows this - and keeps at it. Just like, with evolutionary ancient and non-conscious rules, dandelions seem to "decide" where and when they will take up new territory. And, like scientific manuscripts, they will probably fail, but like the scientific manuscripts of persistent and successful scholars, they will be resubmitted - ultimately to the point of production and publication.

Failure is a Prerequisite for Success in Life

Those who do not try are those who do not succeed. The most successful among us are, without exception, those who have failed the most - as a result of being those who have tried the most.

The greatest scholarly successes ever came on the heels of mountains and mountains of failures. And that is OK. That is natural. The greatest dandelion fields in the world were preceded also by fields and fields of lawnmowers and poor soil conditions and other forms of dandelion adversity. But, based on their evolutionary history, dandelions are like the honey badger - they just don't care! So they came back!

And humans who are trying to accomplish something can learn a lesson here from their sisters the dandelions. Perfectionism has little place in production and optimization. Grit, effort, and persistence trump perfectionism in cultivating success in many areas - in dandelion reproduction and in human production.

Whatever You are Doing, Channel Your Inner Dandelion

Be like a dandelion. Try, expect to fail; try, deal with a failure; try, deal with a different failure; then, one day, succeed - you will have a field full of dandelions - or a vita full of publications - or a classroom full of students who understand the material. Or whatever it is that you are striving for.

Realizing that the failure-to-success ratio in any endeavor is high should go a long way to helping people stay on track and moving toward their goals.

Based on this reasoning, the most successful among us - in any field - are those who have failed the most. And as a corollary, failing a lot is highly predictive of ultimate success and innovation - in any field. This is part of the deal of who we are - and understanding our evolutionary roots helps us get exactly why failure is ultimately (if ironically) predictive of success.

So you want to succeed in your life endeavors? Then harness your inner dandelion. Smile at adversity, welcome failure, and realize that hard-work and perseverance - peppered with failures - are the great predictors of success in life.

to view the original article, click here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201409/august-29-september-5-0/failure-the-single-best-marker-human-success

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

10 Ways To Radiate Positivity And Be Attractive

10 Ways To Radiate Positivity And Be Attractive
Feeling insufficiently beautiful? Positive vibes attract like light draws moths.
Published on July 20, 2012 by Susan Heitler, Ph.D. in Resolution, Not Conflict

There's negative and there's positive vibes. Criticism sends out negative vibes.  So do complaints, disagreement, blame and frowns.  Love, by contrast, involves the emanation of positive energies.  Expression of thanks, gratitude and appreciation, along with interest in others' lives and warm smiles, all send forth positive energy.  These positive emanations convey a loving stance.  The more positives you send folks, the more they will feel loved by you, and the more they are likely to appreciate you in return.

Folks who emanate positive vibes are upbeat to talk with. They feel "warm." Whether they are your boss, your employee or colleague, your friend, family members or loved ones; these folks feel safe to share with, and, like sunshine, radiate good feelings. Their positivity makes you want to talk with them more because they've set good vibes as a relationship standard.

Positive folks consistently avoid being critical, negating what you say, being argumentative or responding dismissively to what you say.  Those negative energy habits are what negative folks do.

Interacting with someone who is often negative or being in a group that a negative person leads induces downer feelings.  The negative energy this person emanates makes others feel insecure and can become downright unpleasant.

Positive individuals and leaders, by contrast, convey interest in your perspectives and well-being, agreement, appreciation, humor and affection. One supermarket manager circles his store every morning greeting each worker with a warm hello and a genuine "How are you?"  His workers love their jobs as well as their leader.

How can you tell if a person has or positive or a negative impacts on you?

Subconsciously, your body spurts feel-good chemicals when you hear positive words and phrases or recieve a smile, eye contact, or a pat on the back. Seretonin and oxytocin levels in your body rise.  By contrast, seretonin levels in your body go down when you interact with someone who is negative telling you, "Stay away!"

You can decide to be a positive person, and can choose how much positive energy you want to emanate.

The following a list of sentence starters that launch good vibes along with whatever information you are wanting to convey.  I'll bet you could add some more.

1. Yes...   "Yes, going swimming sounds appealing."  [Note, "Yes... but.." has the opposite impact.  The but deletes the positivity of the Yes.]

2. I agree. "I agree that it's too hot to much exercise other than swimming today."

3  I appreciate .... "I appreciate your willingness to pack a lunch before we head out."

4. Thank you for....  "Thanks so much for getting me moving.  I was stuck in my armchair."

5. I like (love, enjoy, etc) ... "I like that bathingsuit!  Looks terrific!"  And to initiate action "I would like to ...".

6. That makes sense to me because....  "Bringing lunch makes sense to me because the food at the pool is so expensive."

7. I'm pleased (happy, delighted, etc) that...  "I'm pleased that you thought to invite our friends to join us at the pool."

8.  Good! (Excellent, Great, Wow, Cool, Terrific, etc)  "Great.  Let's hop in the car."

9.  How...?  or What ....? [Note: These open-ended question words convey interest in the other.] "How are you feeling about driving since your recent accident?"  "What have you heard lately from your Mom?"

10. Positive non-verbals like enthusiasm in your tone of voice, genuine interest, smiles, laughter,  playfulness, eye-contact, plus, with intimates, hugs and other physical expressions of affection ...

Every sentence you say of course will not radiate good vibes.  Some talking is serious, or for information-sharing.  At the same time, generously seasoning your interactions with positive expressions of agreement, appreciation, affection, good humor and enthusiasm warms your relationships and brightens how people feel when they talk with you.

Of course positive words have an even more potent impact when they are accompanied by an enthusiastic tone of voice and genuine interest in the other.  Be sure therefore to add liberal sprinklings of #10's.

Especially if it feels like your close relationships need a bit of rekindling, try warming them up and see what happens.

The brief video below illustrates how positive vibes sustain the glow of love in marriage. Those principles apply to all realtionships.  (Sorry about the muddled front picture; hopefully the video itself works fine). The video can help you to assess how you've been doing in the department of positive emanations and give you further ideas on how to do more.

Be a positive leader in all your relationships.  Emanate positive vibes, even to yourself, and affection and appreciation will return your way.  Everyone will enjoy the sunshine!


Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D, a graduate of Harvard and NYU, is author of Power of Two, a book, a workbook, and a website that teach the communication skills that sustain positive relationships.