Archives for compassion

compassion

The Secrets to Wiring a Happier Brain

One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic.

Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. The fact is, we all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that influence states of unhappiness or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain.

To help us really get to the root of all the elements necessary to make happiness a practice, I did my research. I interviewed over 20 highly respected and accomplished people in the field of happiness and well-being like Sharon Salzberg, Byron Katie, Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Dan Harris, Kelly McGonigal and so many more. I wanted to hear what their definition of happiness was and discover the practical ways we can make it come alive.

This is the online Uncovering Happiness Symposium and it's live daily right now through July 3rd.

For now, here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the Daily Now Moments that many people receive in their inbox:
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compassion

Be Mindful of Music – Science Says It’s Good for Your Heart (and Mind)

When people think of mindfulness, they often think that it means "being present," but everyone has a different idea of what you "should" be being present to. For example, I was at a friend's house the other day and some wonderful music was playing and I was "being present" to it. However, apparently he was talking to me and I wasn't paying attention to him. So he said, because he thinks of me as the mindfulness guy, "you're not being very present are you."

The fact is, I was being present, just present to what I felt was most important in that moment, the music.

As it turns out, certain music is being found to be good not only for our mental health, but also for our physical health.

Take a moment to listen to this and see what you notice:

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Addiction

10 Seconds to Less Stress

Most people I meet would like to be calmer and more focused on what matters in the moments of their lives. But the more stressed we are, the less open we are to creative ideas and the more prone we are to procrastination.

Here is a 10-second practice that I challenge you to practice a few times a day and realize its power to help you focus on what matters moment-to-moment. Inevitably, as you practice and repeat this, you'll become more of a PRO at life.
The Be a PRO Practice

P - Pause - This is the initial step that helps break the auto-pilot stress cycle.
R - Relax your body - When we're stressed, our muscles get tight which sends signals back to the brain to fight, flee or freeze, making thoughts more distracted and chaotic. Relaxing the body, does the opposite, it begins to open the mind again, making it easier to focus.
O - Open to what matters in the moment - As the body is relaxed we have a greater chance to be more aware of creative ideas or simply the ability to focus on the task at hand.

Here are 10 really good places where practicing being a PRO at life can come in handy:

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compassion

How to Practice Forgiving Yourself

Self-blame is a human dilemma. We may blame ourselves for shouting at our kids or not protecting our siblings from abusive parents when we were young, or hating ourselves for something we wish we hadn't said. But blame creates a destructive amount of continual stress that holds us back from learning from our mistakes and also uncovering a real happiness.

So, assuming many of us agree that forgiving ourselves and learning from past mistakes is important for our health and well-being, the next question is how do we actually go about forgiving ourselves?
Know that you are not the first or the last
One of the first things to do is understand that you are not the first person who has made this mistake; it has likely been made thousands if not millions of times before you by other people. I am not condoning the action, but simply letting you know that you are not alone and that many people have made this mistake in the face of common human challenges. One of the common things we do as humans is taking things personally to a fault. When we come to understand that no one is immune from being unskillful, we can begin to take it a little less personally. This helps us in the process of forgiveness.
Understand that it's in the past
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compassion

The Simplest Happiness Tip

At the root of it all we want to feel a sense of safety and security. We want to feel a sense of belonging and that we're connected to something greater than ourselves.

In an upcoming online symposium on Uncovering Happiness that includes people like Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Dan Harris and others, you'll see and hear Byron Katie talk about an essential truth saying, "If you have something valuable, you must give it away."

This can be seen as a fairly extreme statement, but if we unpack it, what's the potential net effect?

When we give things away, we're reminding brain that we're not alone and that we're connected to others. And when we give things away to those in need, we recognize that we have the power to make a positive impact on other people's lives.

We are not islands, we are not alone and there's a sense of purpose. Feeling a sense of purpose is an essential ingredient to our well-being.

One of the simplest happiness tips around is to make giving a part of your daily life.

It doesn't necessarily come naturally to give since life is routine and many of us are often self-focused, so that becomes the routine. So we need to set a daily intention.
Just in case you are stuck on ways to give, here are 10 ways to give:

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Addiction

The Key Mindset that Can Never Lose

Life is full of ups and downs and often times because our brains our wired to pay attention to the negative more, the losses are magnified, rehashed and fertile ground for self-criticism. Maybe you fall short on a test, don't get the feedback you were expecting from a work project, end an intimate relationship, keep falling into bad habits or continue falling into bouts of stress, anxiety or depression. We see all of these as negatives in life.

But the key mindset that turns on this on it's head and catalyzes growth and happiness is the learning mindset.

This is a single thread that weaves throughout Uncovering Happiness and also the newest release MBSR Every Day: Daily Practices from the Heart of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. 

Every single experience in life contains information to help us get better and better with our intentions in life.

If you've followed my writings you know I'm a big fan of a short phrase to help us grow from the inevitable obstacles of life:
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Addiction

What Does It Mean to Let Go?

In this human life we get our share of joys and our share of sorrows. The brain is wired to hang onto the fears and sorrows more than the joys so that it guard against what's uncomfortable and keep us safe. However, in doing this we have the experience of holding onto the difficult in our lives and many of us would enjoy the ability to "let go" a little easier.

One of my favorite paths in teaching isn't through the intellect, but through poetry which can reach beyond the rational brain and more directly to the emotional brain where our decision making and "holding" lies.

Here is a poem that speaks directly to the possibility of letting go.
Pause...Take a Breath...Read...See What Arises
She let go
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
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Addiction

Learn to Forgive Others No Matter What

A little while ago I wrote a post around the importance of learning how to practice self-forgiveness. In that same vein it is essential to learn how to practice forgiveness no matter what. This may sound extreme, but let me explain. Forgiveness, as you may have heard or experienced, is simply the act of letting go of the burden that you carry from another person who has hurt you out of their own pain, ignorance or confusion. It's a practice of freeing up your energy to focus on things that incline toward your own health and well-being or the health and well-being of others.

There's a saying:

"Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get hurt or die."

The reality is holding onto resentment, literally keeps our cortisol running and makes us sick.

The wonderful thing about forgiveness is it really only takes one to tango. You only need one person to forgive - you! You don't even need the offender.

Right now, if you have someone you're holding a grudge against or are resenting, imagine the two of you tied together in a tug of war and imagine the cord being cut...you no longer have the tension of the rope, you are free!

Of course it's not often this easy and it's a practice to forgive, but what else is there to do? Hold onto the resentment so we continue to suffer? We've already been hurt, why continue to inflict further suffering on ourselves?
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”—Paul Boese
If you are open to letting go of the resentment-habit and opening up to a better future, play with the following short forgiveness practice from The Now Effect:
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compassion

Give a Power Boost to Your Gratitude Practice

In Uncovering Happiness I talk about how the #1 bad habit that most people have can be surprising - our thinking. Before we fall into procrastination, stress eating, isolating, habitually engaging our Smartphones or any other addictive behavior there's a thought. The thought is something like, I need to get away from something uncomfortable that's here or at times, I want to elate the good feeling that's here.

One of the most powerful ways I have found to change the atmosphere of the mind is a very simple gratitude practice (but with a power boost).

Now, before your eyes roll you need to know this, thoughts may be arising in your mind right now such as, "not this gratitude stuff again, I've read this in a thousand places." If you notice this thought ask yourself, what is the net effect of this thought here. Does it incline you to move toward this practice that you've heard about a thousand times or away from it?

The answer is most likely that it inclines you away from it.

If we all know it's a supportive practice, why does the mind do this? Because the brain is wired to habituate to things. This is the classic top-down processing in effect. You
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Addiction

Learn to Forgive Yourself No Matter What

One of the greatest, most unproductive and destructive mind traps many of us face is self-blame. It's as if the brain doesn't know what to do with the uncomfortable feeling that's there and it projects it inward. I've never seen a single example where self-blame is constructive. We all make mistakes in life, some greater than others. But there is a simple truth in life that is worth understanding, we all do the best we can with what we know in any given time.

It could never be any other way.

There's a simple thing to practice that can bring us back to our senses with a bit more self-compassion. This inevitably will lead to greater ease, understanding and refocus us on a more constructive path of health and well-being sooner. Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn't know before you learned it.

No matter what you've done, it doesn't serve you or anyone else to stew in self-blame. What would serve yourself and others more is     moving into a place of understanding and making peace with yourself. From this space you are better able to more constructively serve yourself and others.

In Uncovering Happiness I share a very personal story where in my twenties I was incredibly destructive to my mind and body. I would be constantly caught in a web of blaming myself for the things I would do - only to do them again.

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