Life is a practice and what you choose to practice is what will make up your character. It's worth considering what you value in life and then making an intention and plan to live alongside those values. This is the direct back to living Ghandi's words, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." Consider how simple it really is: If you want to be more grateful in life, practice being grateful. If you want to be confident, practice confidence. If you want to be more mindful, practice mindfulness. If you want to be more loving, practice loving yourself and others. If you want to be more forgiving and let go of stress-laden emotional burdens, practice forgiveness. If you want to live essential happiness ingredients such as compassion and generosity, practice compassion and generosity. With this said, no one said it's going to be easy. We are all blessed with this negativity bias in our brains that has kept us alert enough to negative and fearful cues to survive this long as a species. However, this negativity bias steps too far and infringes on us doing what we know inside is the direct path to happiness and well-being. It
I often say if there's two things in life that we can't evade aside from death and taxes, it's stress and pain. Suffering is a part of life, but the mindset we layer over it makes all the difference. I have so many examples in my life, and you may as well, where a difficult time was upon me and that very time was the seed which brought on the growth of the next moment. The reality is, we never truly know whether an experience in life is good or bad because we don't know what's going to happen next. In Uncovering Happiness I write about how the deepest, darkest moment of my life was exactly what inevitably opened my mind to seeking out support that led me to where I am today. It was this very experience, and many more like it, that led me to seek out mindfulness, which
We all have difficult people in our lives, it's part of the human experience. Typically, we tend to see them as a nuisance, individuals we have to put up with, or even avoid. This also comes with it's share of suffering. I'm not familiar with the author of the quote above, but the message is worth being curious about. What if we could change our perception to seeing difficult people as messengers or teachers who arouse something inside of us that needs to be cared for or loved? If we do this, might we become less reactive toward ourselves and other people? Inevitably, won't this provide a chance for more relationships to improve? Might it be easier to let go of bitter grudges and move toward strengthening mindfulness, self-compassion, and forgiveness? This isn't Pollyanna, it's a practical approach that can help us focus more on what matters in life. Moreover, consider this: If relationships improve, might that support communities, regions and countries to improve? Is it possible to set off a spark in this way that leads to not only the healing of our individual being, but the healing of humanity? Whoa, that's a bit too large to imagine perhaps, so let's just begin with today and ourselves. Today, try this...
Even though I have an awareness of my relationship to my smartphone, even though I take measures to limit my use, even though I have strong boundaries with my kids around their usage, if you asked me whether I feel like I have a handle on my relationship to it, I'd give you an unequivocal NO! The more I talk to people about their relationship to their tech, the greater sense of belonging I feel. For most people, every time they see someone reach for their phone there's a bell that goes off in the mind that creates an urge to grab their phone. Every time they're slowing down or waiting anywhere, the idea or urge to check the phone arises. Like an addiction, I know this is unhealthy and yet with all my mindfulness and with all the techniques out there, I struggle with this too. At last I'm finally understanding what this is all about and what to do about it.
Many of us have set New Year's intentions to be more compassionate, but like the mainstream spread of mindfulness, it's often something that's more talked about than practiced. But let this be the moment where we all dig deep from wherever we are to do small things every day to restore a sense of humanity in this world. Really, what would the world be like if we all were more connected with the understanding that we're all in this together. We all want to feel accepted, understood, cared about, that sense of belonging. Allow this video to be a small moment of inspiration: We can all do small things that are focused on daily giving. Here are 10 ideas, or use your own, mix it up it infuses novelty, creativity and fun:
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "Not he is great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind." I'd have to agree with Emerson. Many of us think that we have control over our reactions, but the reality is most of the time we are walking around reacting to all kinds of things. Our brain is taking in information through it's various appendages (eyes, ears, mouth, legs/arms, nose), translating the information and making decisions of what is good or bad, right or wrong, necessary or unnecessary, urgent or non-urgent, important or unimportant. We only learn about some of these decisions after we've acted on them. Corporations know about this and so they put out subtle cues in the advertising that say "If you don't have (fill in the blank), then you'll be unhappy." Right after Thanksgiving ended I walked into a Target to get a couple things and lo and behold all of the Christmas decorations were up. Immediately I sensed an opening in me, a state of cheerfulness and a desire to shop. There is some kind of Pavlovian conditioning in most of us around this time that borders around spending, spending, spending. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, our economy can always use people spending money on it. We can also view it as a time to be generous and really give to others. However, the real question is who is choosing your state of mind? Is it you or is it the media? Take this as an opportunity to choose your state of mind going into this week and through the New Year. Here are a few steps to make sure you are the one in control of your mind:
The holidays are well under way and what comes with that is the inevitable holiday stress! It can be a not-so-merry time for parents--kids are out of their normal routine, hyped-up on sugar and grumpy after being up too late at holiday parties! Instead of soothing and calming your nerves this year with sugar cookies and candy canes, one of my favorite mindful eating experts and New York Bestselling author, Dr. Susan Albers, recommends these 9 natural techniques from her new book, 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. Treat these following 9 techniques as an experiment and see what you learn along the way: 1) Ho-Ho-Ho Meditation: Holidays are stressful and a recipe for stress eating. Close your eyes and do 3 Santa Clause like belly laughs—this is a simple laughing yoga exercise. Laughing yoga has been shown to reduce your cortisol level, the stress hormone that makes you crave sugary, fatty, salty foods. Creating a moment of laughter can be as simple as googling "funny baby videos" or "viral videos" on youtube. 2) Tea Time. Bye-bye pumpkin lattes! Sip Cinnamon tea. Cinnamon is clinically shown to help regulate your blood sugar which can help to avoid sugary treats. Also, the scent of cinnamon is calming and a sweet, calorie free reminder of the holiday. 3) Munch Well. Does simply chewing on something make you feel better? Try gnawing on leftover pumpkin seeds that you dry and roast. Not only is this chewy and will satisfy your need to munch, it contains L-tryptophan which helps to naturally combat depression and the blues.
Thanks to pioneers like Robert Emmons and Michael McCollough, we now know that gratitude can have an enormously positive effect on our mental health. Not only that, thanks to the advent of neuroplasticity, practicing gratitude can even help shape our brains in ways that promote resilience and well-being. If you need a refresher on ways to practice gratitude, check out my post: 5 Steps to Gratitude and Lovingkindness: Mondays Mindful Quote with Hafiz. But this post isn’t just about gratitude, it’s about taking it a step further to another stage called altruism. Altruistic behavior is all about acting selflessly to help serve or benefit others. Altruistic behavior has been found to be a predictor of happiness and life satisfaction (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Altruism is also tied to another hot topic in our culture today and that is compassion and kindness. In this blog I have written a number of posts about compassion and kindness because they are such good nutrition for our health and well-being. Compassion has been called an antidote to anger, and kindness has been called and antidote to fear. Now, it could be argued that because of all the personal benefits you may experience from engaging with kindness, compassion and altruism that these endeavors are not pure because you know they will serve your mental health. In other words, they’re ego-driven. Try and set this argument aside for now as we move into the social implication of kindness, compassion and altruism. While the brain takes longer to register compassion for social pain than individual pain, the effect is longer lasting when awareness around social pain settles in. There are certain tragedies in this
After the recent attacks in Paris, the Dalai Lama said: “Unless we make serious attempts to achieve peace, we will continue to see a replay of the mayhem humanity experienced in the 20th century.” It's easy to feel helpless when watching the news or thinking about how deeply rooted the suffering is in this situation and in many other situations of conflict around the world today. When a person watches a relative die in a conflict, their contempt for the other side can last a lifetime. There are so many powerful people and strong forces at play, what can we really do? One answer I came up with is be a force that helps build an army of compassion. The fact is I can do this and you can too. Life is full of actions and reactions. This is what makes up the world around us from the trees we see, to the relationships that are kindled and to the babies that come from them. Every single thing we do matters. When Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” underlying that was the simple assumption that everything we do matters. Now we know the science behind the wisdom of his words, and why all the compassionate acts we do can have a significant impact on our mental health and a potential healing in the world. Part of understanding the science isn’t a whole lot different than the understanding of neuroplasticity. How we pay attention and what we pay attention to influences the way our brain grows throughout the lifespan. So if we have a continuous series of moments where we are paying attention to helpless thoughts and worrying, so goes the brain. If we have a continuous series of moments where we are cultivating compassion, joy and curiosity in life, so goes the brain. In the same way, we can have this impact not only on our mental health, but on the relationships that surround us and the world as a whole. You may not be a single force in solving the Middle East conflict or in reversing global warming, but everything you do matters. In order to better understand why everything you do matters, it’s important to understand how emotional contagion works: The social scientists Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, and James Fowler, PhD, conducted a study to look at the effect of social networks. To determine if there was a causal relationship for obesity,
There's a practice I've been doing for a while that is so simple and yet so impactful in working with difficult people and also bringing a sense of balance and perspective in the moment, it's almost shocking to me. I live in Los Angeles, which is well known as a city with one of the highest degrees of traffic. If we were to be able to peek into the average LA driver's brain I think you'd see a hyperactive amygdala and most of the blood flow moving out of the prefrontal cortex. In other words, LA drivers can be a large group of difficult people with emotions and stress running high. One day while I was driving here I was cut off by some sports car that seemed to be speeding weaving in and out of the car lanes. My teeth locked together and my shoulders tensed and what went through my mind is only appropriate on HBO. In that moment I realized how tense I was and likely how out of control that driver was. It made me think of all the cars on the road and how many people were very likely tense in their cars. That simple recognition sparked the beginning of something important. My shoulders dropped a bit and the question arose, "What is it that I'm actually needing right now?" The word "ease" came to mind. So I said...