I’ve always been interested in the wisdom of our elders and often do a practice with students and clients when they’ve seemed to veer off the path of what truly matters in their lives. I ask them to project themselves forward many years from now looking back onto this very moment right now, what do they wish they would’ve done? Bronnie Ware is an Australian Nurse who spent many years working in palliative care caring for those who were dying. She eventually published a book called the The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Regrets can be seen as something that’s good if they give us insight into what we can change today for the better. Here are the Top 5. Use them as north star to help guide your actions in the days that follow toward an even more fulfilling life. Although we can veer off the path, when we notice the star, we can always come back to it.
Top 5 Regrets of the Dying:
A research study just came out in the Journal of Neuroscience where scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston used sea snail nerve cells to reverse memory loss. The scientists were able to help the cells compensate for memory loss by retraining them when the nerve cells were primed for optimal learning. Of course they’re hoping this has implications for working with Alzheimer’s, but the implications don’t stop there, it could also support a neuroscience for learning to trust ourselves in times of difficulty.
Here’s another Daily Now Moment that if spread around can have tremendous ripple effects in your relationships, communities and beyond.
The ancient Greek writer Aesop left us with these words:
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Be on the lookout for kindness in others today. You may find more of it in the world than you think is there.
Then, try bringing more intentionality to your own acts of kindness.
We may not always get it back, but in the long run this simple practice primes your mind for good and can be life changing.
Try it out today.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Little brothers embracing photo available from Shutterstock
A study out of the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) recently came out that showed how a two week mindfulness training improved students GRE reading-comprehension scores and working memory, while reducing mind wandering among students prone to distraction. Of course this story went viral because of the value our culture places on test scores over almost anything else, including mental health. But underneath the better tests scores, this study reveals something far more important, it suggests that with practice teens can rewire the ability to regulate attention and stress. In today’s academic race to nowhere that might mean the difference between just surviving and thriving.
In my mind, it all comes down to stress.
You have a big business meeting in the morning and you ask your partner to get home at a decent hour so you can both get to bed early. Your partner sneaks in a bit later and disrupts your sleep. You wake up in the morning a bit more tired than you wish you would be, make your coffee and while bringing it to the table your fingers fumble the cup. When it falls to the ground it breaks into a million pieces and the coffee shoots up ruining your outfit. The first words that come out of your mouth are, “Dammit Jim! Why did you have to get home so late?”
This is a story adapted from Brene Brown’s new audio program The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage. This was her story, but in her version she was wearing white pants making it that much worse.
The fact is there’s always someone to blame. In Brene’s research on shame and vulnerability she says that blame is “A way to discharge pain and discomfort.” I loved hearing that
Whether you’re new or old to mindfulness, you’ve likely heard the definition that it is a “intentional non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.” There’s a lot of confusion around the term non-judgment. Years ago, before I began being more intentional with a mindfulness practice I had a friend practicing meditation and he told me that he was practicing being completely detached from everything in a non-judgmental way. That didn’t seem too fun to me. Today, many of us can still be confused by this term, so what does it really mean?
I recently led a workshop focused on helping us develop a wiser relationship to our technology (Smartphones, IPads, computers, television, etc.). In the beginning of the workshop I explained how as much as we feel that technology is a part of our lives, historically, we’re really just becoming acquainted with it. We talked about how in many ways, the people who came to the group were like “Digital Warriors,” at the frontier of optimizing this new wiser relationship to technology.
Here are a five benefits we found and one thing that surprised me most about what would come in life we practiced more digital awareness.
When I sit and reflect on the neuroscience of our relationship to Smartphones, many ideas come to mind and I’ll list them out in a moment. As for the brain, it’s common knowledge that when we practice and repeat things in life, the habit formation is tied to an area of the brain the size of a walnut called the basal ganglia. We also know that dopamine is a chemical that drives motivation and pleasure. A message arrives and there’s a reward to going and checking it, so the dopamine drives our behavior to check. One thing we may want to consider is that alongside all the wonderful things technology brings, it also often triggers our stress response. In the emotional center of the brain is the amygdala or “fear circuit” that can be easily triggered out of some perceived danger of missing a message. In other words, our Smartphones get linked to a biological stress or anxiety response.
At some point we have to pause and ask the question, “How’s this working for ya?”
One thing that most people would agree on is that at this point in time, technology, while being a great resource, is often controlling us more than we’re controlling it. It’s time to accept the reality of that and with this acceptance, step into a space of choice to build a more mature, effective and wiser relationship to it.
In a recent post I gave a number of ways to Optimize Our Relationship to Technology, but here is one more fun way you can do this in social settings.
Make it Social
One thing we’ve learned about the brain over the last 15 years is that it can form new neural connections throughout the lifespan. This is called neuroplasticity, you may have heard of it. Neuroplasticity occurs when we practice and repeat doing things and eventually it just become automatic, like a habit. We see this in walking, talking, learning new car routes, playing an instrument or even meditation. When it comes to the enormous repetition of a constant connection to our technology, you have to assume, or likely you’ve experienced that the brain is strengthening that habit often times with a stressful cost.
Technology is great, but we’re just infants with it and we have to begin evolving with a wiser relationship.
Not too long ago humans had many uninterrupted spaces in their lives. If you were sitting at lunch with a friend the focus was on the conversation and there weren’t many things that would intrude. Now the brain has rewired to constantly monitor beneath your awareness any incoming messages and if there is a sign of one, a knee-jerk reaction occurs to check it.
Sherry Turkle from MIT and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, has been studying this for decades. She talks about
Our brains are amazing, so amazing that even with all the wonderful advances in technology, neuroscientists are only still scratching the surface as to the way they work. But this fabulous brain can work for us and it can work against us stressing us out, sleepwalking into addictive behaviors or just leaving us feeling far away from any semblance of balance. But the moment we realize we’re out of balance is a moment where we have touched a glimpse of balance.
This space of awareness is a “choice point” to understand this nugget of wisdom and practice: