Wellness News

Just One Thing: Be Kind to Yourself by Being Kind to Others

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By Rick Hanson - 

We think of kindness as something we do for others. But Rick Hanson says kindness is a two-way street.

I usually describe a practice as something to do: get on your own side, see the being behind the eyes, take in the good, etc. This practice is different: it’s something to recognize. From this recognition, appropriate action will follow. Let me explain...

Some years ago, I was invited to give a keynote at a conference with the largest audience I’d ever faced. It was a big step up for me. Legendary psychologists were giving the other talks, and I feared I wouldn’t measure up. I was nervous. Real nervous.

I sat in the back waiting my turn, worrying about how people would see me. I thought about how to look impressive and get approval. My mind fixed on me, me, me. I was miserable.

Then I began reading an interview with the Dalai Lama. He spoke about the happiness in wishing others well. A wave of relief and calming swept through me as I recognized that the kindest thing I could do for myself was to stop obsessing about “me” and instead try to be helpful to others.

So I gave my talk, and stayed focused on what could be useful to people rather than how I was coming across. I felt much more relaxed and at peace—and received a standing ovation. I laughed to myself at the ironies: to get approval, stop seeking it; to take care of yourself, take care of others.

This principle holds in everyday life, not just in conferences. If you get a sense of other people and find compassion for them, you’ll feel better yourself. In a relationship, one of the best ways to get your own needs met is to take maximum reasonable responsibility (these words are carefully chosen) for meeting the needs of the other person. Besides being benevolent—which feels good in its own right—it’s your best odds strategy for getting treated better by others. This approach is the opposite of being a doormat; it puts you in a stronger position.

Flip it the other way, and it is also true: kindness to yourself is kindness to others. As your own well-being increases, you’re more able and likely to be patient, supportive, forgiving, and loving. To take care of them, you’ve got to take care of yourself; otherwise you start running on empty. As you grow happiness and other inner strengths inside yourself, you’ve got more to offer to others.

Kindness to you is kindness to me; kindness to me is kindness to you. It’s a genuine—and beautiful—two-way street.

How?

The kindness to others and to yourself that I’m talking about here is authentic and proportionate, not overblown or inappropriate.

In ordinary situations, take a moment here and there to recognize that if you open to appropriate compassion, decency, tolerance, respect, support, friendliness, or even love for others… it’s good for you as well.

See the consequences of little things. For example, earlier today, in an airport, I saw a bag on the ground and didn’t know if it had been left by someone. Thinking about this practice, it was natural for there to be some friendliness in my face when I asked the man in front of me if it was his bag. He was startled at first and it seemed like he felt criticized, then he looked more closely at me, relaxed a bit, and said that the bag was his friend’s. His response to my friendliness made me feel at ease instead of awkward or tense.

Imagine what the other person’s concerns or wants might be, and do what you can—usually easily and naturally—to take them into account. Then see how this turns out for you. Probably better than it would have been.

Also see how taking care of yourself has good ripple effects for others. Deliberately do a small thing that feeds you—a little rest, some exercise, some time for yourself—and then notice how this affects your relationships. Notice how healthy boundaries in relationships helps prevent you from getting used up or angry and eventually needing to withdraw.

In effect, you are running little experiments and letting the results really sink in. That’s the important part: letting it really land inside you that we are deeply connected with each other. Helping others helps you; helping yourself helps others. Similarly, harming others harms you; harming yourself harms others.

It’s as if we are connected in a vast web. For better or worse, what you do to others ripples back to you; what you do to yourself ripples out to others.

Recognizing this in your belly and bones will change your life for the better. And change the lives of others for the better as well.

Reprinted with permission from Greater Good - Science of a Meaningful Life.

 

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thing. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, and Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. He has several audio programs and his free Just One Thing newsletter has over 37,000 subscribers. For more information, visit: http://www.rickhanson.net/.

Why Slow is the Way to Go: 6 Reasons to Take Your Time

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By Kathy Kruger - 

“Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.” ~Unknown

I’ve been practicing yoga, on and off, for fifteen years.

It’s helped me through and out the other side of infertility, kept me company on the long and winding road of adoption, and helped walk me out of the shadows of depression.

It’s a big part of my life, part of who I am—a faithful friend, the kind that welcomes you back with open arms even after you’ve been inattentive.

In fact, I’d say yoga always gives me what I call an “Alaskan welcome”—the kind my dearly departed dog used to give me whenever I walked into the house, as though I’d been all the way to Alaska instead of around the corner to the shops.

Yoga is always willing to give, but it’s a slow-burning love, and while it has rewarded me richly, I’ve had to wait for its gifts.

I have just completed yoga teacher training, at forty-six, proving the truth that you are never too old to teach (or learn).

While I’m pleased with my pace of learning, ironically, despite my age and experience, there is still so much yoga has to teach me.

And that’s okay, because I am realizing more and more that some of the best things, in yoga and in life, come to us slowly.

Here’s why I think slow is the way to go and why staying power is the most powerful kind.

1. Slow teaches us patience.

And patience is its own gift, especially during times when things are out of our control and we have no choice but to wait it out. When we bring patience to gently moving toward a goal, we have it in reserve for when roadblocks get in the way (as they inevitably will).

2. Slow hones acceptance and gratitude.

When we rush headlong into what we want to achieve, we can get easily frustrated with any hurdle or slight delay. (And frustration is unlikely to get us to our goal more quickly.)

We also miss the opportunity to accept and be grateful for the small steps we take, those incremental achievements, and for where we are right now—for the good and the bad of everyday life.

3. Slow allows for small mistakes.

Rush at something and we run the risk of messing up big-time. Take it slow and we get the chance to experiment with small mistakes, helping us to grow so we can hopefully avoid bigger mistakes in the future. We have to earn our lessons, and we don’t learn until we allow things to sink in.

4. Slow makes room for other stuff.

When we want something fast we can become obsessed with that thing, as though the goal has taken on a life of its own.

While it’s great to prioritize what we really want, it doesn’t make sense to create imbalance in our lives with one overwhelming obsession. Who knows what (and who) you might miss out on if you do.

5. Slow builds resilience.

The lyrics “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees” might ring true, but I’m betting you’d still like to be around for a long life.

Slow is about building legacy, and along the way, resilience. That can only be won through endurance.

Fast is great for igniting passion and showing courage, but who do you think is braver and more passionate—the person who sprints out of the starting block or the one who keeps going over the long distance?

6. Slow is seasonal.

Taking things slowly recognizes that sometime we need to sit and deliberate (by a fire or by the beach). We need to wait in faith for the universe rather than selfishly expecting our own desires to take precedence.

We need to look to nature to realize that the seasons cycle at their own pace, and we should always be willing to take things slower (and faster) as required.

Slow doesn’t have to be timid, or lazy, or less-than-smart. Slow isn’t a marker for fear and procrastination, nor apathy and indecision.

There’s a yoga asana (posture) that many people find difficult at first. The Sanskrit name is Supta Vijrasana, also known as Reclining Hero pose.

Unlike the standing Warrior postures, which are strong and forceful, the Hero pose calls for quiet strength as you kneel down and then surrender backward.

When I first got seriously back into yoga two years ago, after a sporadic year of practice prior, my knees would groan and my ankle joints scream when I tried to just kneel down and sit my bottom back between my heels.

I certainly couldn’t recline backward onto my back, while keeping my knees bent and touching each other and my feet close by my hips. But now, having taken it slowly, I can feel a little like a yoga hero.

I can realize the benefits of slow that have snuck up on me in their own sweet time. And I am most grateful.

Slow isn’t dull and boring, but contemplative and considered. Slow is the yin in a very yang world.

Slow is the strength of surrender, and surrender can be the most powerful kind of victory.

This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.

 

Kathy Kruger is an adoptive mother of two beautiful kids from China. She blogs about going with the flow, finding yin yang balance, embracing change, and being grateful at www.yinyangmother.com. A former journalist, Kathy shares insights from her long journey to motherhood.

 

The Connection Between Food Sensitivities and Fibromyalgia Symptoms

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By Dr. Bill Rawls - 

Most everyone has an allergy to something, and mine is to shrimp. If I get raw shrimp on my skin I immediately develop a rash, swelling, itching, and hives.

I discovered this when I was a child. I was on a fishing trip and we were using raw shrimp for bait. The gnats were bad and I kept rubbing my face even though I’d used my hands to bait the hooks. Before long my face was so swollen I couldn’t see. I’ve been very careful about touching raw shrimp ever since.

Conveniently, I can eat shrimp all day as long as they are well cooked. As far as I know, raw shrimp is my only true allergy.

While you may not have a severe food allergy, you at least know what I mean when I say that I have one. That’s not necessarily true when it comes to food sensitivities.

Food sensitivities occur specifically as a result of damage to the intestinal tract. There is a strong link to processed food consumption. The theory goes that processed food products delay emptying of the stomach and suppress acid secretion and production of enzymes. This inhibits digestion of proteins. Processed food contributes to overgrowth of abnormal bacteria in the gut which damages intestinal linings.

Wheat fiber may additionally damage the lining, and sensitivities involving wheat are extremely common. Damage allows undigested proteins from commonly eaten foods to cross over the intestinal membrane barrier.

Antibodies, IgG type, are activated and stick to the foreign protein-forming immune complexes which circulate throughout the body causing symptoms. Blood testing for specific antibodies can define food sensitivities.

Food allergies involve a different physiological mechanism altogether. They occur as immediate reactions to allergen exposure through activation of IgE antibodies and histamine. That’s why antihistamine drugs work for this type of allergic reaction. Allergies manifest as either skin reactions or classic hay fever with runny nose and watery eyes.

Any type of exposure to the allergen causes a reaction and even slight exposure can sometimes cause an extreme reaction. Allergies of this sort are lifelong. Testing for allergies involves a tedious process of applying potential allergens to the skin and observing for reactions.

In the early stages of my struggle with fibromyalgia and chronic Lyme disease, I did a blood panel testing for food sensitivities. Interestingly, I was strongly reactive to about half the foods I commonly ate.

Eating these foods does not typically cause a skin reaction and I probably would not have known them to be a source of misery without the testing. Avoiding these foods, however, was associated with a significant decrease in muscle pain and fatigue.

The very nonspecific symptoms associated with food sensitivities most commonly include fatigue, malaise, and muscle pain. Symptoms are typically delayed hours or even days after exposure to the offending foods.

Many foods can be involved and degree of reaction is dependent on the amount of exposure. In other words, if you eat a very limited amount of the offending food, you will have only a very limited reaction.

Someone with high exposure to multiple offending foods, however, may not only have nonspecific reactions, but can also experience aggravation of hay fever type symptoms and sometimes skin reactions (as with many things, the margins between allergies and sensitivities are sometimes blurred).

This person is typically quite miserable, as I was before I gave up processed foods and started paying attention to what I ate.

The above explanation fits quite nicely for most patients I see who test positive for food sensitivities. Each person, on seeing the report, makes the immediate connection that the offending foods are the ones they consume most commonly.

Wheat, dairy, and tree nuts are usually at the top of the list, but any foods can be involved.

If that person is willing to avoid or at least limit the offending foods, symptoms typically improve over several days. If that person is willing to avoid processed foods completely, the gut will heal and symptoms associated with food sensitivities will lessen dramatically.

While all of this may suggest that consuming processed food with resulting food sensitivities is “the” cause of fibromyalgia, I think it’s really just part-and-parcel of the whole thing.

Most every fibromyalgia patient has food sensitivities to some degree, and most have a history of processed food consumption, especially wheat and dairy products. Interestingly, however, I have come in contact with a few fibromyalgia patients who have terrible food sensitivities, but do not have a strong history of processed food consumption.

This implies that there are other factors. I feel strongly that all cases of fibromyalgia are associated with hidden infections of low grade opportunistic microbes. I don’t know, however, which is the cart and which is the horse.

In other words, I don’t know whether food sensitivities cause immune dysfunction that allows for opportunistic microbes to take hold, or whether the microbes affect the immune system in such a way as to promote food sensitivities. Either way, addressing food sensitivities is part of addressing fibromyalgia.

In my case, I had been having symptoms for a many years before I defined myself as having fibromyalgia and chronic Lyme disease. Avoiding the foods I was sensitive to helped, but completely avoiding all processed food helped more. Avoiding all wheat products possibly helped the most of anything.

Ten years out, I still have to be very careful about what goes in my mouth. After years of using soy milk and other soy products instead of dairy, I have developed a sensitivity to soy. I switched to coconut, but after a couple of years also became sensitive to that. Now I’m using limited amounts of hemp milk.

I have come to appreciate the difference between a fibromyalgia flare-up (usually brought on by stress) and symptoms associated with a food sensitivity. They are different in subtle ways. I can eat foods that I am sensitive to, as long as exposure is intermittent and in small amounts.

It all keeps me on my toes. I am constantly looking for new foods and new food experiences. Fortunately, the diversity of foods available and the almost unlimited number of ways of enjoying food is one of the great pleasures of our time! You have plenty of options.

Reprinted with permission from VitalPlan.com

 

 

Bill Rawls, MD is an advocate for individuals with fibromyalgia and related conditions. Board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Rawls has always focused his practice on health and wellness. After experiencing fibromyalgia and Lyme disease first hand, he shifted toward helping others with those conditions. He uses his passions for writing and study of natural herbal medicine to reach out to those left behind by the current healthcare system. Through books and health restoration protocols available through Vital Plan, he paves the way toward a better life. His latest book, Suffered Long Enough, puts the pieces together for fibromyalgia and Lyme disease sufferers and offers a safe pathway back to normal health.

How to Turn Worry into Wisdom by Admitting What You Don’t Know

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By James McCrae - 

“Most things I worry about never happen anyway.” ~Tom Petty

There was once a wise farmer who had tended his farm for many years. One day his horse unexpectedly ran away into the mountains. Upon hearing the news, the farmer’s neighbors came to visit.

“How terrible,” they told him.

“We’ll see,” the wise farmer replied.

The next morning, to the farmer’s surprise, the horse returned, bringing with it three wild horses.

“How wonderful. You are very lucky,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“We’ll see,” replied the farmer.

The following day, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses. The horse was untamed and the boy was thrown and fell hard, breaking his leg.

“How sad,” the neighbors said, offering sympathy for the farmer’s misfortune.

“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.

The next day, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“We’ll see,” the farmer said.

This Zen koan demonstrates the wisdom of not jumping to conclusions. Have you ever worried about something, only to later discover that your worry was unfounded and untrue? The ego is afraid of the unknown, so it jumps to conclusions in order to feel a sense of certainty.

In our ego’s need for certainty, we make assumptions. And when we make assumptions, we make mistakes.

We can never know how the future will unfold. Yet fear convinces us to believe in present circumstances and future outcomes that are totally untrue. This is the origin of worry. Worry is the ego’s way of satisfying itself with an answer—any answer, no matter how irrational it is.

I worry about many things, big and small. I worry about getting stuck in my career, being rejected in my relationships, not having enough money, and whether or not I will miss the next subway into Manhattan.

But worry is dangerous. When we worry, we make mistakes. For example, I might make an assumption about you, such as thinking you are angry with me. Then I act on this assumption.

The false premise of my actions causes me to become defensive. My actions then cause you to make an assumption about me. Since you are unable to see that I am trying to protect myself, you assume I am angry with you.

Soon we are engaged in mutual anger based on a false assumption caused by worry.

The truth is, I will never know fully what is in your head, and you will never know fully what is in mine. Therefore, acting under the ignorance of assumption creates a ripple effect of mistakes.

Imagination + Fear = Worry

It is common in our society to believe that more thinking is always better. This is not always so. Intelligence is an incredible tool, but over-thinking can be just as harmful as under-thinking. Over-thinking is a sickness that creates paranoia and worry.

When we over-think, we make up scenarios in our mind and convince ourselves that these scenarios are true.

Without enough data to make a proper assessment of a situation, our ego hijacks our imagination and jumps to fear-based assumptions. Imagination is usually a powerful creative force, but when imagination is applied with fear, it becomes worry.

The Universe works in mysterious ways. Embracing the mystery of life gives us a calm within the storm of uncertainty.

Instead of over-thinking and jumping to false conclusions, learn to relax your thoughts and say, “I don’t know.”

Trusting uncertainty gives us peace and confidence; and when we wait in stillness without the need for an answer, the truth will reveal itself. The end of fearing the unknown is the end of worry.

Worry is wishing for what you don’t want.

Thoughts are magnets that attract our reality. Peaceful thoughts create a peaceful reality. Fearful thoughts create a fearful reality.

A thought repeated on a regular basis becomes a habit. When a thought becomes a habit, it forms a belief. When a thought forms a belief, it attracts external events that align with your internal state.

Energy flows where attention goes. When you focus on what you want, it is more likely to come to pass. When you focus on what you do not want, it is more likely to come to pass. When you worry, you send a signal into the Universe that attracts your worry. Your focus over time forms your future.

Will a single thought of worry cause your worry to come true? Probably not. Will sustaining your worry with attention and focus over a long period of time attract the worry into your life? The more you focus, the more likely it becomes.

Because focus forms your future, it is important to only concentrate on thoughts you want to actualize.

Your reality grows from the seeds you plant. The seeds of your beliefs grow into your thoughts. The seeds of your thoughts grow into your actions. The seeds of your actions grow into your karma.

You are responsible for the seeds you plant, not the results. When you place your attention on the present moment, without attachment to the past or worry about the future, and plant seeds according to your highest intentions, the results will fall into place.

Worry is an irrational attachment to, or fear of, a specific result. While it sounds counterintuitive, the only way you can achieve a desired result is by not focusing on the result; you must focus on your effort—here and now.

You cannot change what is already growing. Instead, start planting different seeds.

We’ll see.

I still worry. But now, whenever my ego gives me something to worry about, I take a deep breath and meditate in silence for a moment.

I sit in stillness and reassure myself. “I don’t have enough data to understand how this event will impact my future,” I say. “Perhaps there is a plan in place that I cannot see. I don’t know what will happen next and that is perfectly okay. I will not jump to conclusions. Let’s wait and see what happens.”

This post was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.

James McCrae is an author, strategist and creator of Sh#t Your Ego Says, a website with simple strategies to overthrow your Ego and become the hero of your story. An award-winning strategist and creative director, James helps businesses and individuals turn imagination into results and make work that matters. Learn more at shityouregosays.com.

Five Ways Music Can Make You Healthier

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By Jill Suttie - 

When I gave birth to my first-born, I listened to CDs of classical music in the hospital. I figured that music would help calm me and distract me from the pain.

You might use music to distract yourself from painful or stressful situations, too. Or perhaps you’ve listened to music while studying or working out, hoping to up your performance. Though you may sense that music helps you feel better somehow, only recently has science begun to figure out why that is.

Neuroscientists have discovered that listening to music heightens positive emotion through the reward centers of our brain, stimulating hits of dopamine that can make us feel good, or even elated. Listening to music also lights up other areas of the brain—in fact, almost no brain center is left untouched—suggesting more widespread effects and potential uses for music.

Music’s neurological reach, and its historic role in healing and cultural rituals, has led researchers to consider ways music may improve our health and wellbeing. In particular, researchers have looked for applications in health-care—for example, helping patients during post-surgery recovery or improving outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s. In some cases, music’s positive impacts on health have been more powerful than medication.

Here are five ways that music seems to impact our health and wellbeing.

Music reduces stress and anxiety

My choice to bring music into the birthing room was probably a good one. Research has shown that listening to music—at least music with a slow tempo and low pitch, without lyrics or loud instrumentation—can calm people down, even during highly stressful or painful events.

Music can prevent anxiety-induced increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and decrease cortisol levels—all biological markers of stress. In one study, researchers found that patients receiving surgery for hernia repair who listened to music after surgery experienced decreased plasma cortisol levels and required significantly less morphine to manage their pain. In another study involving surgery patients, the stress reducing effects of music were more powerful than the effect of an orally-administered anxiolytic drug.

Performing music, versus listening to music, may also have a calming effect. In studies with adult choir singers, singing the same piece of music tended to synch up their breathing and heart rates, producing a group-wide calming effect.  In a recent study, 272 premature babies were exposed to different kinds of music—either lullabies sung by parents or instruments played by a music therapist—three times a week while recovering in a neonatal ICU. Though all the musical forms improved the babies’ functioning, the parental singing had the greatest impact and also reduced the stress of the parents who sang.

Though it’s sometimes hard in studies like this to separate out the effects of music versus other factors, like the positive impacts of simple social contact, at least one recent study found that music had a unique contribution to make in reducing anxiety and stress in a children’s hospital, above and beyond social contributions.

Music decreases pain

Music has a unique ability to help with pain management, as I found in my own experience with giving birth. In a 2013 study, sixty people diagnosed with fibromyalgia—a disease characterized by severe musculoskeletal pain—were randomly assigned to listen to music once a day over a four-week period. In comparison to a control group, the group that listened to music experienced significant pain reduction and fewer depressive symptoms.

In another recent study, patients undergoing spine surgery were instructed to listen to self-selected music on the evening before their surgery and until the second day after their surgery. When measured on pain levels post-surgery, the group had significantly less pain than a control group who didn’t listen to music.

It’s not clear why music may reduce pain, though music’s impact on dopamine release may play a role. Of course, stress and pain are also closely linked; so music’s impact on stress reduction may also partly explain the effects.

However, it’s unlikely that music’s impact is due to a simple placebo effect. In a 2014 randomized control trial involving healthy subjects exposed to painful stimuli, researchers failed to find a link between expectation and music’s effects on pain. The researchers concluded that music is a robust analgesic whose properties are not due simply to expectation factors.

Music may improve immune functioning

Can listening to music actually help prevent disease? Some researchers think so.

Wilkes University researchers looked at how music affects levels of IgA—an important antibody for our immune system’s first line of defense against disease. Undergraduate students had their salivary IgA levels measured before and after 30 minutes of exposure to one of four conditions—listening to a tone click, a radio broadcast, a tape of soothing music, or silence. Those students exposed to the soothing music had significantly greater increases in IgA than any of the other conditions, suggesting that exposure to music (and not other sounds) might improve innate immunity.

Another study from Massachusetts General Hospital found that listening to Mozart’s piano sonatas helped relax critically ill patients by lowering stress hormone levels, but the music also decreased blood levels of interleukin-6—a protein that has been implicated in higher mortality rates, diabetes, and heart problems.

According to a 2013 meta-analysis, authors Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel Levitin concluded that music has the potential to augment immune response systems, but that the findings to date are preliminary. Still, as Levitin notes in one article on the study, “I think the promise of music as medicine is that it’s natural and it’s cheap and it doesn’t have the unwanted side effects that many pharmaceutical products do.”

Music may aid memory

My now-teenage son always listens to music while he studies. Far from being a distraction to him, he claims it helps him remember better when it comes to test time. Now research may prove him right—and provide an insight that could help people suffering from dementia.

Music enjoyment elicits dopamine release, and dopamine release has been tied to motivation, which in turn is implicated in learning and memory. In a study published last year, adult students studying Hungarian were asked to speak, or speak in a rhythmic fashion, or sing phrases in the unfamiliar language. Afterwards, when asked to recall the foreign phrases, the singing group fared significantly better than the other two groups in recall accuracy.

Evidence that music helps with memory has led researchers to study the impact of music on special populations, such as those who suffer memory loss due to illness. In a 2008 experiment, stroke patients who were going through rehab were randomly assigned to listen daily either to self-selected music, to an audio book, or to nothing (in addition to receiving their usual care). The patients were then tested on mood, quality of life, and several cognitive measures at one week, three months, and 6 months post-stroke. Results showed that those in the music group improved significantly more on verbal memory and focused attention than those in the other groups, and they were less depressed and confused than controls at each measuring point.

In a more recent study, caregivers and patients with dementia were randomly given 10 weeks of singing coaching, 10 weeks of music listening coaching, or neither. Afterwards, testing showed that singing and music listening improved mood, orientation, and memory and, to a lesser extent, attention and executive functioning, as well as providing other benefits. Studies like these have encouraged a movement to incorporate music into patient care for dementia patients, in part promoted by organizations like Music and Memory.

Music helps us exercise

How many of us listen to rock and roll or other upbeat music while working out? It turns out that research supports what we instinctively feel: music helps us get a more bang for our exercise buck.

Researchers in the United Kingdom recruited thirty participants to listen to motivational synchronized music, non-motivational synchronized music, or no music while they walked on a treadmill until they reached exhaustion levels. Measurements showed that both music conditions increased the length of time participants worked out (though motivational music increased it significantly more) when compared to controls. The participants who listened to motivational music also said they felt better during their work out than those in the other two conditions.

In another study, oxygen consumption levels were measured while people listened to different tempos of music during their exercise on a stationary bike. Results showed that when exercisers listened to music with a beat that was faster and synchronous with their movement, their bodies used up oxygen more efficiently than when the music played at a slower, unsynchronized tempo.

According to sports researchers Peter Terry and Costas Karageorghis, “Music has the capacity to capture attention, lift spirits, generate emotion, change or regulate mood, evoke memories, increase work output, reduce inhibitions, and encourage rhythmic movement – all of which have potential applications in sport and exercise."

Reprinted with permission from The Greater Good - Science of a Meaningful Life

The Top 10 Insights from the “Science of a Meaningful Life”

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What are some of the most recent insights produced by the study of happiness, altruism, mindfulness, gratitude? In this article, writers with UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center recounts some of the newest findings on the relationship between our inner and outer lives.

1. Mindfulness can reduce racial prejudice—and possibly its effects on victims.

Racial bias in policing is at the forefront of our national news. So it was heartening this year to see a study that found bias could be reduced through training in mindfulness—the nonjudgmental moment-to-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, and surroundings.

Adam Lueke and Brian Gibson of Central Michigan University looked at how instructing white college students in mindfulness would affect their “implicit bias”—or unconscious negative reactions—to black faces and faces of older people. After listening to a 10-minute mindfulness audiotape, students were significantly less likely to automatically pair negative descriptive words with black and elderly faces than were those in a control group—a finding that could be important for policing, which often involves split-second assessments of people.

Why the connection between mindfulness and bias? Mindfulness has the power to interrupt the link between past experience and impulsive responding, the authors speculate. This ability to be more discerning may explain why another study this year found that people who were high in mindfulness were less likely to sink into depression following experiences of discrimination.

As we reported back in 2009, numerous programs have successfully helped officers become aware of their own unconscious biases. But by specifically looking at the effects of mindfulness training—even just 10 minutes’ worth—these new studies point to innovative techniques that might help prevent fatal mistakes from being made in the future.

2. Gratitude makes us smarter in how we spend money.

For years, Greater Good has been reporting on the social, psychological, and physical benefits of gratitude. This year, research suggested that there might be profound economic benefits to a grateful mindset as well—which might pay emotional dividends down the line.

In one study, published in Psychological Science, researchers asked participants how much money they’d be willing to forgo in the present in order to receive a greater sum in the future—a measure of their self-control and financial patience. People prompted to feel grateful were willing to pass up significantly more cash than were people not feeling grateful, even if those less-grateful people were feeling other positive emotions. For instance, happy people were willing to sacrifice $100 in the future (one year later) in order to receive $18 in the present, but grateful people preferred to receive the larger, future payment; they only gave up that $100 when the amount offered to them right away reached $30.

The results suggest that gratitude reduces “excessive economic impatience” and strengthens self-control and the ability to delay gratification, according to the authors. This finding challenges the long-held notion that we must rein in our emotions in order to make smarter spending decisions; instead, it seems that consciously counting our blessings can serve our long-term economic interests.

Another study published this year, in Personality and Individual Differences, suggests that gratitude can guide us toward better decisions about what we actually choose to spend our money on. Participants who were more materialistic—meaning that they place a lot of importance on acquiring material possessions—reported lower feelings of gratitude and lower satisfaction with life. In fact, the researchers determined that materialists feel less satisfied with their lives mainly because they experience less gratitude. Their findings help to explain why, according to much previous research, materialistic people are less happy.

Prior research has also found that less happy people make more materialistic purchases, creating a vicious cycle. But the authors of this new study argue that gratitude can help break this cycle. Based on their results, they suggest that boosting one’s level of gratitude might reduce materialism and its negative effects on happiness.

So gratitude might not only encourage financial decisions that are better for our long-term economic health but better for our long-term emotional health as well.

3. It’s possible to teach gratitude to young children, with lasting effects.

One of parents’ biggest fears is that their child will become an entitled brat; one of their biggest questions is what they can do to prevent that.

This year research pointed to an answer. In a study published in School Psychology Review, psychologists Jeffrey Froh, Giacomo Bono, and their colleagues presented the encouraging results of a curriculum they developed to teach gratitude to elementary school students.

Instead of just lecturing about the importance of gratitude, the curriculum encourages kids to think about something nice that another person did for them, and to see that kindness as a “gift.” Through the curriculum, the students reflect on the value of the gift, the cost incurred by the person who gave it, and the kind intentions that motivated the gift.

The curriculum was taught to 8-11 year olds for half an hour every day for a week—and the kids started to show increases in gratitude just two days after the curriculum ended. When Froh and Bono offered the curriculum once a week for five weeks, they found that it increased gratitude and other positive emotions for at least five months.

Dozens of previous studies—many of which we have covered on Greater Good—have suggested that gratitude can combat feelings of entitlement and foster happiness. But only a small handful of these studies have examined the effects of gratitude on children, and the kids in Froh and Bono’s study were the youngest ever involved in a study of a gratitude program.

Their results offer hope that it’s actually possible to nurture lasting gratitude—and happiness—in children from the time they’re young. And their curriculum provides parents and teachers with concrete guidelines for achieving that goal.

4. Having more variety in our emotions—positive or negative—can make us happier and healthier.

Is the route to happiness simply to feel more positive emotion and less negative emotion? Our top insights from 2013 cast some doubt on that view, and an even stronger rebuttal emerged this year in a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Researchers from four different countries and six different institutions—including Yale University and Harvard Business School—measured participants’ positive emotions (like amusement, awe, and gratitude) and negative ones (like anger, anxiety, and sadness). They not only looked at the level of these emotions but also their variety and abundance—what the researchers call “emodiversity.”

Their first study surveyed over 35,000 French speakers and found that emodiversity is related to less depression. This was the case for all types of emodiversity: positive (experiencing many different positive emotions), negative (many different negative emotions), and general (a mix of both positive and negative emotions). In fact, people high in emodiversity were less likely to be depressed than people high in positive emotion alone.

With almost 1,300 Belgian participants, the second study linked emodiversity to less medication use, lower government health care costs, and fewer doctor visits and days spent in the hospital. It was also related to better diet, exercise, and smoking habits. Surprisingly, the effect of emodiversity on physical health was about as strong as the effects of positive or negative emotion alone. 

The message? Emotional monotony is a drag, so we may be better off mentally and physically if we seek out and embrace a variety of emotional experiences—even the negative ones.

5. Natural selection favors happy people, which is why there are so many of them.

If you subscribe to the philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ view of life as “nasty, brutish, and short”—as many people do—you’d naturally expect humans to live a pretty miserable existence. But many studies from around the world have suggested that, on average, humans’ default emotional state is to be pretty happy, regardless of their life circumstances—a phenomenon researchers call “positive mood offset.”

This year, a massive review of the research on happiness set out to explore “Why People Are in a Generally Good Mood”; the study, published in Personality and Social Psychology Review, was led by Ed Diener, a pioneer in the science of happiness.

Given the benefits they find to be strongly associated with happiness, the researchers conclude that the ubiquity of happiness is a product of human evolution. Why? Because many of the chief benefits of happiness—including better health, longer lives, greater fertility, higher income, and more sociability—increase a person’s chances of passing his or her genes to the next generation.

“People are happy most of the time because they are descended from ancestors who were happier and engaged in fitness-maximizing behavior more frequently than their neighbors who were less happy,” they write.

In other words, natural selection favors happy people, leaving us with more of them today.

Of course, though based on an especially comprehensive review of happiness research, Diener and his colleagues stress that this is just a hypothesis—albeit one worth subjecting to future study. “Although our opposable thumbs, big brains, and upright posture have all received in-depth attention and study as reasons for human [evolutionary] success,” they write, “it is time to consider how positive mood offset might have also contributed.”

6. Activities from positive psychology don’t just make happy people happier—they can also help alleviate suffering.

This idea that happiness might arise from natural selection suggests that, perhaps, you’re either born happy or you’re not. But research on positive psychology activities—like keeping a gratitude journal or meditating regularly—has offered compelling evidence that it’s possible to cultivate happiness over time. What’s more, during the past year, we saw many different papers suggest that positive activities aren’t just for positive people, and that negative conditions aren’t just alleviated by targeting negative influences. Instead, nurturing positive skills can help pull people out of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

The key, it seems, lies in the way these skills enhance relationships. One study found that 11 people who had gone through an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course became less stressed about relationships with friends, family, and coworkers—which, in turn, helped prevent future episodes of depression.

A different study in the July issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders looked at the impact of another positive behavior, forgiveness, on reducing suicidal thoughts in impoverished, rural people. The researchers found that participants’ ability to forgive themselves and others seemed closely associated with the will to keep on living. They also found that forgiveness seemed to reduce participants’ feelings of being a burden to others, and people who were able to forgive themselves for being a burden to others were much less suicidal. Yet another study found that keeping a journal about gratitude or kindness helped people who were on waiting lists to receive psychological counseling.

The upshot of this research is that there are likely far-reaching applications of the skills targeted by positive psychology. As researchers move forward in understanding how we can foster human strengths and use them to save lives, clinicians and teachers can put these insights to use in real-world settings.

7. People with a “growth mindset” are more likely to overcome barriers to empathy.

Just as many people believe that you’re either naturally happy or you’re not, so many believe that you’re either naturally empathic or you’re not. The trouble with this “fixed mindset” about empathy is that the ability to sense the feelings or take the perspective of others is very sensitive to situational forces, such as when we are stressed or overwhelmed by other people’s needs. Some research is even suggesting that stressed-out, hyper-connected Americans are becoming less and less empathic.

According to a recent paper published in the Journal of Social Psychology, our beliefs about empathy are critical to fostering it. Stanford University researchers recruited 75 participants, asking them to pick one of these two statements as being true: “In general, people cannot change how empathic a person they are.” vs. “In general, people can change how empathic a person they are.” Across five studies, the researchers then observed how the participants responded in situations where empathy was challenging but “crucial to positive social outcomes,” such as pairing the participant with someone who had different political views.

In the final study, researchers told half of the participants that they had failed a diagnostic test of emotional understanding and that the other half succeeded. Then they gave participants a chance to go through exercises that might improve their empathy—theorizing that “participants induced to have a malleable, as opposed to fixed, theory of empathy would be more likely to capitalize on this opportunity to develop their empathic abilities.”

This turned out to be true. People primed to see empathy as a skill—in other words, people given a “growth mindset” about empathy, seeing it as something one can build through practice—were more likely to “stretch themselves to overcome their limitations.” What’s more, across all of their studies, they found that people who believe empathy can be developed expended greater empathic effort in challenging contexts than did people who believe empathy is fixed, suggesting that our beliefs about ourselves are key to expanding empathy on both individual and societal levels.

This insight echoes a trend we highlighted in last year’s list of top scientific insights: Anyone can cultivate empathic skills—even psychopaths. And in fact, another study this year from the United Kingdom extended those findings to narcissists, finding that even they could be coached into taking another person’s perspective.

8. To get people to take action against climate change, talk to them about birds.

Imagine what might happen in the future if climate change goes unchecked. Are you more likely to take action to prevent that outcome if you feel like it is a threat to humans? Or are you more likely to reduce your carbon footprint if you fear for the safety of other animals, like birds? Well, according to a group of scientists at Cornell University, birds may be the answer.

The researchers surveyed 3,546 people (largely bird watchers) to evaluate how their willingness to engage in climate-friendly actions might be affected by how the problem of climate change is described to them. Specifically, respondents were presented with these four statements and, after each, asked about their willingness to lessen their carbon footprint:

1. Climate change is a danger to people.

2. Climate change is a danger to birds.

3. If a large number of Americans do something small to reduce their use of fossil fuels, it would have a large impact on our national carbon footprint.

4. If a large number of Americans do something small to reduce their use of fossil fuels, it would have a large impact on our national carbon footprint—and be of benefit to future generations.

As expected, the findings revealed that the positive framing of the climate problem (numbers 3 and 4) increased people’s willingness to take action. Numerous earlier studies have shown that positive messages—such as those that emphasize the collective impact of carbon-cutting measures—are generally more effective than fear-based messages. But responses to the two fear-based messages (numbers 1 and 2) revealed a surprise: Invoking a threat to humans led to no significant impact on the respondents’ willingness to reduce their carbon footprint—while invoking a threat to birds led to the most significant change of all.

Why would a threat to birds provoke more willingness to act than a threat to humans? One theory suggests that threats to humans cause us to think about death, which activates defenses against the anxiety caused by confronting our own mortality. Researcher Janis Dickson says the findings do point to a potentially important lesson for educators and communicators: Combining a sense of empowerment (by reminding people of our collective impact) with compassion (for non-human others) can help cultivate the psychological resilience needed to overcome denial and inaction.

9. Feelings of well-being might spur extraordinary acts of altruism.

What would motivate someone to donate a kidney to someone they have never met?

A study published in the journal Psychological Science looked at this act of extreme altruism in all 50 states, cross-referencing donations with data on each state’s levels of “well-being,” which refers to people’s levels of life satisfaction, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior (e.g., exercise, good diet), job satisfaction, and ability to meet their basic needs like food and safety. By analyzing statewide data, the Georgetown University researchers hoped to find large-scale trends that might not be apparent from looking at individual cases.

Their efforts paid off. Results showed that states with high levels of well-being tended to have higher rates of “altruistic” kidney donation—kidney donation to a stranger. Indeed, the researchers found that even when controlling for key factors such as education, race, age, income, and religiosity, a state’s level of well-being still significantly predicted donation rates. Furthermore, analyses combining states into larger geographical regions confirmed that as well-being increases, so do rates of kidney donation to strangers. And because altruistic kidney donation happens relatively rarely, the researchers were able to rule out the possibility that these altruistic acts caused widespread increases in happiness rather than the other way around.

So while prior research has suggested that performing altruistic acts fosters feelings of happiness, this important study adds a new twist: Feelings of happiness might actually spur extraordinary acts of altruism. This insight has real-world implications. As the researchers write, “Policies that promote well-being may help to generate a virtuous circle, whereby increases in well-being promote altruism that, in turn, increases well-being. Such a cycle holds the promise of creating a ‘sustainable happiness’ with broad benefits for altruists, their beneficiaries, and society at large.”

10. Extreme altruism is motivated by intuition—our compassionate instincts.

While the previous insight relied upon big-picture aggregate data to understand how social context influences altruistic acts, this year the same Georgetown University team that conducted that study went deeper into the individual human mind to understand the psychology of altruism. Past research has identified patterns of brain activity related to extreme anti-social behavior, but this new study tried to locate the neural mechanisms that might support extreme pro-social tendencies.

Researchers Kristin M. Brethel-Haurwitz and Abigail A. Marsh used brain imaging technology to map the brains of kidney donors, who make an extraordinary sacrifice for total strangers; they then compared these brain images with those of psychopaths and people who did not show extremes on either side of the pro-social divide. They found that the brains of extraordinary altruists had slightly larger right amygdalae—a brain area associated with a fearful response—and they reacted very strongly to fearful facial expressions—the exact opposite of psychopaths.

How might these different brain structures show up in behavior? Another research team, this one at Yale University, examined the testimony of Carnegie Hero Medal Recipients, who all risked their lives to save others. The researchers found that recipients’ decisions to help were “overwhelmingly dominated by intuition” and “significantly more intuitive than a set of control statements describing deliberative decision-making.” This remained true even when researchers took into account that the medal winners had enough time to think before they acted, suggesting that the gut-level decision overrode any deliberative process.

Taken together, these findings from Yale and Georgetown reveal how extreme, heroic acts of altruism might be motivated by deeply-rooted, even instinctive, psychological processes.

To what degree are these different brain structures—and the instincts that spring from them—shaped by nature or nurture? That’s a question that research will need to tackle in 2015!

Written by Jeremy Adam Smith, Bianca Lorenz, Kira M. Newman, Lauren Klein, Lisa Bennett , Jason Marsh, Jill Suttie and reprinted with permission from Greater Good - Science of a Meaningful Life

Meditation Helps Inner City Kids Cope with Stress, Improve Grades and Attendance

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Transcendental Meditation in San Francisco schools

Students growing up in inner city neighborhoods live in an environment full of gang violence, gun shots, and many suffer from some degree of post traumatic stress disorder from the constant exposure to violent events. Not surprisingly, that stress often spills into the school and affects students, affecting attendance, ability to focus, and thereby grades.

According to a recent NBC News report, schools in Oakland and San Francisco have found a novel way of helping students living in violent neighborhood: Meditation. In several SF schools, such as the Visitacion Valley School in San Francisco, students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade students close their eyes for 15 minutes twice a day as they engage in the school’s Quiet Time, practicing Transcendental Meditation.

"The kids see guns on a daily basis," the school's athletic director, Barry O'Driscoll says to NBC News. “They have all the baggage with them. We used to have fights here three-to-five times a week."

While skeptical in the beginning, O’Driscoll has been won over by the results the school has seen. The school has seen a 79 % decrease in suspension, an increase in attendance to 98%, and an overall rise in academic performance. The increase in attendance is particularly significant, because school drop-out often precedes involvement in gangs and violence in what has become known as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Blocks away from the Visitacion Middle School, at Burton High School, which was once dubbed "Fight School," the results have been similar. The school has seen a 75% reduction in suspension and has moved to the upper middle rung on the academic ladder from the bottom, according to Principal Bill Kappenhagen. And students report being more conscious of their actions, calmer and less angry.

While Kappenhagen recognizes that "there is no magic wand in education, just like in life," meditation has been found to increase focus and stimulate a sense of calm, not just during the quiet time, but also for the rest of the day, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Kappenhagen says to NBC that he knows he can't change the environment the students live in when they're not at school, but he's glad he's discovered a way to "help our students find ways to deal with violence and the trauma and the stress of everyday life."

Watch the full report here:

 

Happy Holidays and Healthy Digestion: Festive Digestive Ayurvedic Tips

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By Kellen Brugman - 

We are full swing in the holidays.

Tempted by delicious treats, folks tend to overindulge in foods, libations, and sweets. Suddenly indigestion, heartburn, bloating, and acid reflux roll into town like a Grinch stealing away the joy of the holiday season.  

The National Heartburn Alliance reports two out of three people experience stress in the G.I. tract between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Don’t be one of them!

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to have your cake and eat it too—so to speak. Stoke your digestive fire and eat only according to capacity.

Three Ayurvedic Digestive Tips to Kindle Agni

In Ayurveda, the digestive fire is referred “Agni.” Healthy digestion is linked to the state of your Agni. Eat too much, and you kill the digestive fire, much like putting too much firewood on a fire. On the other hand, if you learn how to kindle your digestive power, you can enjoy the holiday extras without having to suffer a bout of indigestion.

Here are three easy, effective, and enjoyable remedies that incorporate Ayurveda and yoga.

1. Best Yoga Posture for Healthy Digestion. If you are to do one pose to support healthy digestion, pick Ardha Matsyendrasana/Half Lord of the Fishes. If your Agni is low, twist toward your upper leg and move deep into the twist, always starting the twist in the low back. If your Agni is scorching hot, twist in the opposite direction and exhale through your mouth to promote cooling.

2. Ayurvedic Ginger Relish. A magic combo for kindling Agni! Chop ¼ tsp. fresh ginger. Drizzle juice of a lime wedge and sprinkle a pinch of Himalayan pink salt over the lime. Eat 30 minutes before meals.

3.  Triphala. This is the quintessential Ayurvedic formula to support optimal digestion and elimination. Triphala is also said to cleanse the liver of toxins. Consisting of three fruits (Tri-phala), it’s a powerful source of Vitamin C. My favorite Triphala product is Triphala+ also known as Digest Tone, which is sourced from all organic ingredients.

Try these Ayurvedic home remedies and give yourself the gift of healthy digestion. It comes with a lifetime guarantee of good health and cheer.

Kellen Brugman, is the founder of "Ayurveda, Yoga, & You.” She shares the beauty and benefits of Ayurveda, yoga, and writing so people can experience greater ease, vitality, peace, and creativity in their lives. Based in Santa Barbara, Kellen is an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor, yoga teacher, and writer, and received her certifications from the Ayurvedic Institute and White Lotus Foundation. Her motto: “Daily self-care is the most important element of healthcare. Weaving together Ayurveda, yoga, and writing create an amazing roadmap that provides a lifetime of health, vitality, and optimal creative potential.” Kellen also writes for lululemon, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine, Maharishi Ayurveda, Maria Shriver, as well as her own blog. www.kellenbrugman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Steps to a Low-Stress, High-Joy Holiday Season

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By Christine Carter - 

Last week, something surprising happened: The kids turned on the radio on the way to school hoping to hear Christmas carols on the station known for holiday music. You know, because now that we’re into November, it is, at least to the kids, the most wonderful time of the year.

Many adults love the idea of the holidays more than their actual experience of them—mostly because their list of holiday-related tasks and obligations outweighs the joy of it all. So that I can actually enjoy the holidays, I’ve devised the three-part plan below.

Step One: Prioritize connection. ‘Tis the season for reconnecting. We reconnect with our friends and neighbors through a handful of annual parties. We reconnect with our more distant friends through cards and photos. And we reconnect with our extended family consistently throughout the season—our holiday rituals are what help make our family truly our family.

For example, the weekend before Christmas my cousins always fly in from Massachusetts and Washington and Florida for a big extended family Christmas party, complete with a funny “white elephant” gift exchange. My mom always makes spritz cookies with the kids, a tradition started in Germany with her mother. We light the candles of the menorah and say prayers each night during Hanukkah, something my husband’s Jewish family has been teaching me and my kids.

All of this is about renewing our sense that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. Let me not mince words here: This sense that we are connected and part of a larger whole is the single strongest predictor of happiness that we have. It is true that the holidays have become depressingly commercial in our culture, with a massive focus what each individual will get and what kids want in terms of material gifts. Soon every news report will include something about how the economy is responding to this year’s wave of massive collective consumption.

But we can choose to focus on relationships instead of individual gift lists this holiday season. Not surprisingly, people who focus on family or religion during the holidays report higher happiness than those who don’t.

Step Two: Schedule the fun, the tasks—and the necessary downtime. There is so much going on at this time of the year, I know that I have to sit down with my calendar and block out time to get a Christmas tree, shop for our Hanukkah meals, take a holiday card photo, etc.

First, I make a simple list of all the things I need and want to do in the next two months. Second, I block off time on our family calendar to actually do those things—including the not-so-obvious things, like scheduling time to update my address book so that our holiday cards make it to where they’re supposed to. (Research suggests that telling your brain when you will do something reduces stress.) Third, I actually schedule downtime on my calendar, like weekend mornings when we commit to not going anywhere or doing anything.

Once I do that, I realize that I’m not going to have enough time to do everything on my list. But I can’t skip my downtime, or I won’t actually enjoy the holidays. And so I have to decide: What are the most important things for me to do and events for me to attend?

That leads me back to Step One: Where do we get the most bang for our relationship buck? Everything that doesn’t serve to connect us to each other or something larger than ourselves gets nixed.

It is never easy to stick to the plan. Inevitably, someone will call to see if we can go ice skating on a weekend morning when we’ve scheduled downtime, and we’ll all want to go. But if we can’t easily reschedule the downtime for the next day, we’ll say no.

I’ll get a lot of pushback on this decision from my family, but I’ll remind them that more is not necessarily better, and that I’m actually not that fun to be around when I’m exhausted.

Step Three: Trade in expectations for appreciation. Most of us suffer from what I think of as an abundance paradox: Because we have so much, it becomes easy to take our good fortune for granted; as a result, we are more likely to feel disappointed when we don’t get what we want than to feel grateful when we do.

This tendency can be especially pronounced during the holidays—but we can overcome it by consciously cultivating gratitude.

We can do so in three ways. First, we can create holiday gratitude traditions (see this post for ideas how). Second, we can intentionally expose ourselves to other people’s suffering, and make a real effort to help. An afternoon spent serving the homeless can make most anyone feel instantly, and deeply, grateful. Finally, we can make an effort to notice when our expectations are leading us to desire something different than what we have—a recipe for disappointment. One of the best happiness tips I know of: find something to love in the moment you are in right now.

As the holidays approach, we will likely feel stressed and exhausted, but we need not feel like victims to this time of year. Our exhaustion is not inevitable; how tired or stressed we get is often a result of the choices we make (or fail to make) ahead of time. So while I think it is definitely too early for holiday music, it is not too early to start making the choices that will lead us to a low-stress, high-joy holiday season.

Reprinted with permission from Greater Good - Science of a Meaningful Life

 

 

Christine Carter, Ph.D., is a sociologist, happiness expert, and a Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center. She is the author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work (forthcoming in January of 2015) and Raising Happiness.

Three Inspired Steps to Sacred Living

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By David G. Arenson - 

Do you ever ask, “What is the purpose of us being here now?”

The thing that is really important to me at the moment, is this:

We all reflect the global. We make the world. We are the world.

The purpose of life is really simple.

The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.

One of my callings is to help others, help humanity and help the world. Of course, I have had to begin by helping myself. It all begins with the self.

I am calling for brave co-creators.

We live in times of great intensity. As the intensity grows, the importance of finding sacred spaces within, is elevated.

The crises played on the world stage are a battle of polarities. The sooner we clear away the darkness, the sooner humanity can embrace the light. Right now, we are on the brink, on the edge of a grand epiphany, an awakening of humanity. Long-predicted by the ancient Maya and other vastly under-estimated civilizations, these times are daunting and yet filled with unmatched opportunity for self-growth and awareness.

Sacred living is an awakening to the sacredness and interconnectedness of all life—the all-encompassing spirit of Life, Gaia, God, Holy Spirit that flows throughout eternity.

Sacred living requires action and presence that comes from a deep internal core wisdom.

I define “sacred living’ as a respect and reverence for all living beings especially the self. This translates into actions of grace, compassion and impeccable kindness for all life. The forces of yin-yang opposition are sublime and intrinsic to all life. The DNA of our life force contains a living spirit which is everlasting and married to the Creator force.

The Big Bang ties us all together physically and metaphysically in coming from the same material. We may see others as foreign, or even other planets as foreign, yet the basic material of all life stems from the same kernel of energy and condensed mass. Moreover, many are coming to see themselves as part of this energy, and hence intrinsically sacred.

Imagine looking upon a fellow being as a stranger or foreigner, especially when that being is a human. It makes no sense. Yet, many look in the mirror and see a reflection of a stranger.

The sense of coming to know oneself is the gateway to sacred living.

Without self-love, we inherently view ourselves as foreigners and everything external reflects what is within—therefore, everything outside of us is perceived as threatening.

Sacred living is about finding balance, safety and purity within one’s own form, and then seeing that externally in the world. Sacred living is really coming back home to the Divine self that is you.

Here are three inspired action steps I recommend practicing for manifesting sacred living everyday:

1. Love unconditionally.

Part 1: Tell someone you love them. (the easy part!)

Part 2: Spend at least 1 week twice daily standing naked in front of the mirror naked telling yourself “I love and accept you.”

Love, joy, and happiness exist in the space of stillness between fear and thoughts of lack.

These feelings are always here in the now just waiting to be invited into your experience and consciousness. Love is a constant essence and a constant state of presence within life. Don’t wait for tomorrow to tell your loved ones that you care. Today is all you have.

2. Feel your infinite nature.

Go outside into your favorite place in nature and get as naked as possible (barefoot is the minimum).

Meditate on where your body begins and ends and where you feel yourself within your body (Most of us hold our energy and consciousness mostly in the head and upper regions).

Feel the support of nature around you and feel its beauty expand within your being, so that you become one with nature, and nature becomes one with you.

If you can’t go outside, find a flower to commune with.

You are way beyond what you thought you were. With God, you can paint the sky with any color you choose. Letting go leads you to discover much more than you ever knew. The mind is in every cell of your being. The heart transcends matter and goes beyond you.

You are an infinite being and whatever you think you are, you go way beyond that.

3. Live in an inspired way.

Write a private letter to yourself—answering these questions:

What does living inspired mean to me?

What would I need to do, be and have in order to live this way?

What is stopping me from living my dreams?

How many ways have I already started to live inspired?



You are your own inspiration.

There is nobody holding you back from doing this, but yourself. Be in awe of possibility. Be in awe of expressing your true essence. Be in awe of love.

Be in awe of life…

 

David is a Transformational Healer and Soul-Coach actively seeking partners to co-create his vision of an enlightened and unified planet of choice. He is working on a book on self-empowerment, and developing journey retreats to places of spiritual activation. He can be reached via his websites, findshambhala.com and mretreat.com

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