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Tiredness Causes Depression Which Causes Pessimism and Vice Versa

happy-sleeping-baby-anti-depressionPeople who are depressed do, in fact, have good memories, but alas for negative information rather than positive information.

Brian Johnson highlights a study in which researchers showed subjects images and then tested people who were sleep-deprived and those who weren’t on recall of the images. The images had obvious emotional content, for example a cuddly puppy or a photo of a battleground. Sleep-deprived people had difficulty recalling the positive images but not the negative images.

Folks struggling with depression typically can remember only the negative aspects of their lives. And they are are often sleep deficient.

Everyone needs eight and half hours of sleep out of every twenty-four, Brian asserts, citing research. Everybody. If you need an alarm clock to wake up every day, if you can’t get rolling until a shot or two of espresso, and you find that you sleep long and hard on weekends, then you are probably not getting enough sleep.

The body is wonderfully homeostatic; that is, it has mechanisms to enforce its need for sleep. It’s almost as simple as this: if you are sleepy, sleep. Note: You and I would fall into that “everybody” category. If you’re committed to feeling depressed, definitely make sure you get inadequate sleep,” Brian says sarcastically.
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12 Foods That Can Help You Sleep

woman-eating-nuts foods that help you sleepKeep evening snacks light and eat no later than a half-hour before bed. This allows sufficient time for your body to digest the food and absorb the nutrients before you go to sleep.

Almonds
Almonds contain magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that plays a key role in regulating sleep. A handful of almonds or a tablespoon of almond butter before bed may help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Bananas
These nutritional powerhouses contain tryptophan, an amino acid that has been linked to sleep quality. They also contain potassium, which may prevent muscles cramps in the middle of the night.

(Breakfast) Cereal and Milk
Milk contains the sleep-promoting tryptophan, which the brain uses to make serotonin and melatonin, hormones that promote relaxation and control sleep and wake cycles. The carbohydrates in cereal make tryptophan more available to the brain. For the best results, choose a small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal.

Cherries
Cherries, especially the tart varieties (e.g. Montmorency), are one of the few food sources of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates your internal clock. Recent studies have found that volunteers who drank tart cherry juice daily fell asleep sooner and slept better and longer.
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When Trying to Avoid Suffering Makes It Worse

We all try to avoid suffering and in the process enlarge it and so make it worse, Malcolm Durham writes.

That’s because we don’t simply accept the thing that is making us suffer — say a complaint from a client — but enlarge it in a four-step process:

1. We ask questions: “How did this happen to me?”

2. We seek explanations: “It’s because I’m not good enough; because the world is against me.”

3. We heap on self-blame: “I really need to perform better.”

4. We end up feeling desperate: “I’m not going to succeed because these bad things keep happening to me.”

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Curing Your Social Media Addiction

Smart-Phone-AddictionJulia Edelstein has written a helpful article. Some highlights:

…Understand that you’re being played by programmers. A heavy social-media habit isn’t entirely your fault. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — they’ve all been designed to make you repeatedly use them and check back in…When you keep in mind that the technology is designed to hold you hostage, you might be motivated to set time limits. Think of it as buying a snack-size bag of chips instead of the party-size.

Set limits: Vow to stay off social media during meals with others, when you’re in the bathroom or in bed.

Buy an alarm clock: If you use your phone as an alarm, the last and first thing you’ll do each day is stare into that screen.
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Resisting Naysayers, Distractions and Egotistical Tendencies

Stoicism is supposed to be a living, breathing thing. Not just words you look at on a page once, but something you carry with you, something you use to live, says @dailystoic. So that, as Seneca put it, the “words become works.”

Recalling Epictetus’s advice in our daily lives: “Two words should be committed to memory and obeyed by alternatively exhorting and restraining ourselves, words that will ensure we lead a mainly blameless and untroubled life. Those two words were “persist and resist.” So that we persist in our efforts, despite any obstacles we might face, and that we resist naysayers, discouragement, selfish and egotistical tendencies and distractions.

The world is constantly testing us. We set out to do something and it’s more trying than we expect. We face resistance. We get criticized. We run out of options. We experience technical difficulties. What will we do?

Marcus Aurelius would say that the Stoic finds a way to turn every negative into a positive. In this famous line, what he’s suggesting is that no matter how bad or seemingly undesirable a situation becomes we always have the opportunity to practice virtue, to use the situation as an opportunity to be our best selves.

We don’t control when things get hard, but we always control how we respond. We can show patience, courage, humility, resourcefulness, reason, justice, and creativity. The things that test us make us who we are.
The Stoic grows stronger and better with every obstacle they face. They rally to every challenge and thrive as a result. So can you.

As the Haitian proverb puts it: Behind mountains are more mountains. One does not overcome one obstacle only to enter the land of no obstacles. No matter how successful we are or will be, we¹re going to find things that stand in our path. @dailystoic

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Being at Peace with the Pain of Others: Compassionate Listening

listening woman photoRick Hanson notes that we humans are an empathic, compassionate, and loving species, so it is natural to feel sad, worried, or fiery about the troubles and pain of other people.

“…How do you find that sweet spot in which you are open, caring, and brave enough to let others land in your heart . . . while also staying balanced, centered, and at peace in your core?

…Let the pain of the other person wash through you, Rick advises. Don’t resist it. Opening your heart, finding compassion – the sincere wish that someone not suffer – will lift and fuel you to bear the other’s pain. We long to feel received by others; turn it around: your openness to another person, your willingness to be moved, is one of the greatest gifts you can offer.
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How Just One Breath Can Help

meditating stream just one breath photoSome evocative writing from Gary Snyder:

In this world of onrushing events the act of meditation – even just a “one-breath” meditation – straightening the back, clearing the mind for a moment – is a refreshing island in the stream.

Although the term meditation has mystical and religious connotations for many people, it is a simple and plain activity. Attention, deliberate stillness and silence. As anyone who has practiced sitting knows, the quieted mind has many paths, most of them tedious and ordinary. Then, right in the midst of meditation, totally unexpected images or feelings may sometimes emerge, and suddenly there is a way into a vivid clarity.
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Ground-Breaking Study Demonstrates Mindfulness Benefits

meditation-groupFor the first time in a scientifically rigorous study, it has been shown that Mindfulness Meditation – as opposed to a more generic type of relaxation training – can change the brain biochemistry of ordinary people over the medium-term and potentially improve their health.

The researchers, from Carnegie Mellon University, recruited 35 men and women who were unemployed and experiencing considerable stress. Blood was drawn and brain scans were carried out. Half the subjects were then taught formal mindfulness meditation at a residential retreat center; the other participants completed a similarly comprehensive training program but one devoid of mindfulness-oriented exercises.

‘‘We had everyone do stretching exercises, for instance,’’ lead researcher David Creswell explained. The mindfulness group paid close attention to bodily sensations, including unpleasant ones. The non-mindfulness-oriented relaxation group was encouraged to chatter and generally not pay attention to their bodies,

At the end of three days, all the participants told the researchers they felt refreshed and better able to withstand the stress of unemployment. Yet follow-up brain scans showed differences in only those who underwent mindfulness meditation. There was more activity in the portions of their brains that process stress-related reactions and other areas related to focus and calm.

Four months later, those who had practiced mindfulness showed much lower levels in their blood of a marker of unhealthy inflammation than the relaxation group, even though very few in the mindfulness group had continued to do practice exercises on their own.
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Top Ten Questions Everyone Asks About Meditation

Concentrated meditating confident girl sitting on the floorLots of good advice in an article by Tara Healey on the top 10 questions that everyone asks about meditation. Some edited excerpts:

Q: Should my eyes be open or closed?
A: There are no hard and fast rules. Try each style. If open, not too wide, and with a soft, slightly downward gaze, not focusing on anything in particular. If closed, not too hard, and not imagining anything in particular in your mind’s eye.

…While meditating, we don’t have to fight off distractions like a knight slaying dragons. If your dog or cat comes into the room and barks or meows and brushes up against you or settles down on a part of your cushion, no big deal. Let it be.

Q: Is it possible I’m someone who just *cannot* meditate?
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How Ancient Roman Stoicism is Changing Modern Lives for Better

modern_stoicismA useful overview of the Stoicism movement currently building momentum across the world, by Sarah Berry:

Stoicism encourages us to carry out thought experiments on ourselves so that we are not held captive to our comfort zone and enables us to practice courage in the face of change.

“Stoicism is not a set of ethics or principles. It’s a collection of spiritual exercises designed to help people through the difficulties of life. To focus on managing emotion, specifically non-helpful emotion,” explains Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle Is the Way

The Four-Hour Body author, Tim Ferris uses the philosophy to address his own fears of poverty, regularly conducting lifestyle experiments such as wearing the same white T-shirt and pants for weeks in a row, have periods of living modestly (rice and beans, about $3 a day) and fasting once a week.

“It’s inoculating yourself against unfounded fears,” Ferris says. “When I find myself defensive, fearful of losing whatever success or money or prestige or status… they’re usually nebulous. You worry that your quality of life will drop, you’ll be very unhappy, but if you rehearse that condition – the worst-case scenario – you realize it’s not that bad and that’s tremendously empowering.”

“Stoicism allows you to make better investment decisions,” Ferriss says. “It allows you to take the steps to start your own company, start a relationship, end a relationship – because you are rehearsing the worst-case scenarios instead of letting them bounce around your head in a very unformed, nebulous way.”

Four quotes from  the seminal Stoic philosopher Seneca:

“There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us. We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”

“No prizefighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue. The only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the man who has seen own blood, who has felt his teeth rattle beneath his opponent’s fists, who has been tripped and felt the full force of his adversary’s charge, who has been downed in body, but not in spirit, one who, as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever.”

“Let us become intimate with poverty so that fortune may not catch us off our guard. We shall be rich with all the more comfort if we learn how far poverty is from being a burden.”

“When you challenge yourself by living without luxuries or indulgences, say to yourself: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’ The soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress. It is while fortune is kind that it should fortify itself against its violence.”

The full article is here.

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Brain-Boosting Green Leafy Vegetables Made Easy

woman-spinach

It bears repeating (again and again), a healthy mind lives inside a healthy brain, which in turn lives inside a healthy body.

Eat your greens – everyone has heard this but most people just don’t eat much, certainly not more than once per day, unless you count the one or two weeks per year in the summer when they are on holiday in a Mediterranean country.

There’s one relatively easy addition to your daily food routine that could have a big boost to your mental and physical health.

Children are always being forced to eat their greens. Ironically it’s much more important for adults – especially middle-agers – to eat these greens because middle-agers need to combat the effects of oxidization – young children don’t!

Fresh greens are super foods. During autumn and winter months they are best eaten “wilted” (i.e. lightly sautéed or steamed) in soups, curries, stews, etc. The absolute easiest way to “prepare” them is to put some soup in a big bowl, sprinkle two or three handfuls of greens onto the soup and heat in a microwave for about 4 minutes.

Shopping list:

Arrurgula (rocket)

Kale

Spinach

Parsley

Mustard

Cilantro (coriander)

Watercress (cress)

Swiss chard

A simple recipe:

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Seven Ways to Carve Out Time to Meditate

Some very practical tips by Alex Orlov for creating more moments for Mindfulness.


1. Type it into your phone calendar
Instead of simply hoping you’ll be able to squeeze in meditation on the fly, try setting aside a specific time for it. Rather than thinking of meditation as another item on your to-do list, think of it as a gift to yourself.

2. Do it in the morning
Especially for parents with young kids, doing it before the day gets underway is your best bet for fitting in some “me time,” she says. Don’t set goals too high in the beginning. “If you can do five minutes, that’s better than nothing.”

3. Start with one breath
A tiny habit should be a behavior that requires little effort and can be performed in less than 30 seconds. That seed of a habit can grow into a full-blow tree.

4. Do a bit of meditation after an existing habit
For example, breathe mindfully for 10 seconds after you go to the bathroom at work. This is called anchoring. Chose a daily occurrence or existing activity to remind yourself to meditate.

5. Use headphones
There are four ways to meditate: Walking, standing, sitting or lying down. Get a pair of noise canceling headphones to meditate in airports and on planes.

6. Divert time away from discretionary activities
Make a commitment to spend 25% less time on every e-mail you write or respond to. Only read urgent *and* important articles right away; all the others put in a “Read Eventually” folder. Schedule meeting to be 15 to 20 minutes shorter than usual – instead of 10 to 11 a.m., schedule it for 10 to 10:40 a.m.

7. Practice when you’ve got time to kill
Resist the urge to scroll through social media the moment your dining companion heads to the bathroom. Have some moments in the day where you’re just being rather than doing. Look around, smile at other people and enjoy some momentary calm. While it’s not the same as doing a seated meditation, being fully present during these small moments can help you feel more comfortable confronting the thoughts rattling around in your mind.

Meditation, broadcaster Dan Harris says, is “fighting a lifetime pattern of letting your thoughts lead you by the nose… “Don’t put the pressure on yourself that you have to do it forever,” Harris says. It’s okay if you fall off the wagon for a few weeks, so long as you muster the grit to return to your practice. The power of meditation, he says, is derived from practicing daily.

The article on finding time to meditate, prioritizing mindfulness practice:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/life-by-dailyburn-/time-meditation_b_7545328.html

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Mindfulness: It’s Not Just For Trendy Tech Companies Anymore

Professional service firms are reporting encouraging results with Mindfulness at Work programs. Berger Singerman, a business law firm with approximately 85 attorneys and a total of 165 employees, has run one since 2013.
mindfulness_at_work_law_firmsParticipants report significant improvements in:

– focus on the task at hand
– active listening skills
– more accurate observation and data gathering skills

The program has increased “professionalism, collaboration and business performance,” says the firm’s co-chair, Paul Singerman. Moreover, the new skills have “enriched and improved our team members’ personal and family lives as well.”

“Mindfulness helps us interact more effectively with each other, our clients, our referral sources and our opposing counsel,” Singerman writes in a recent article. And when we hear and understand each other better, we work more effectively and less stressfully.

Singerman believes that “the smaller the business, the greater the impact, because each person’s role is that much more essential to executing the overall company mission.” Key in the program launch process is getting energetic support of senior management.

The Mindfulness program has taught Singerman to focus on three “buckets of data”:

#1. Myself.
I am better at my own “early detection system” for anger or fear by learning the feelings and sensations that anger or fear initiates within me, I can have a better chance of responding thoughtfully to the stimulus causing those feelings and avoid reacting to them in ways that are unhelpful or regrettable. I am better able to identify when I am off task and bring myself back to the present moment.

#2. Other people.
It has improved my listening skills and ability to gather data from my counter-ties in my communications and interactions with others. By staying present and in the moment, I can better gauge reactions of others to what I’m saying, really hear what others say, and observe important cues like body language and tone of voice.

# 3. The environment.
It has enhanced my ability to observe and gather data from the environment. That where I find myself, the dynamics of a case or deal, or even the industry that is the subject of a client matter or sales initiative. Striving to be a better gatherer of data has helped me be more aware of and sensitive to the perspectives of others.

Here’s a link to the full article on the Huffington Post.

Mindfulness at work, workplace mindfulness, law firms, mindfulness benefits, meditation practice, stress management, mindfulness to increase performance and productivity

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How Google, Twitter and Others Are Using Mindfulness

From a recent article in Fast Company magazine:
twitter_meditation_guru
“We are in the middle of a culture shift; we are no longer interested in just getting through our workday and striving toward relief at the end of our careers. It’s about more quality and connection within the work-life continuum,” says Soren Gordhamer, founder of Wisdom 2.0, an annual technology and mindfulness conference

Melissa Daimler, head of learning and organizational development at Twitter describes the benefits: “One of our core skills of managers is coaching, which is about listening, being present, and asking questions.”

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Seven Minutes of “Free” Meditation Time Every Morning

When we’re in the shower, we aren’t on the phone or the computer, or watching TV. Generally we’re not being interrupted by anyone. That’s a great opportunity for some start-the-day-off-right “free” meditation time, notes Dina Overland.
woman_shower_mindfulness_meditation
We’re simply standing under a stream of water with the goal of becoming clean. But it’s not just our bodies we can clean while we’re in the shower, we can also clean out our minds and our thoughts.

Instead of letting your mind wander aimlessly (e.g. “what should I make for dinner tonight?”), you can consciously shape your thoughts to be more positive.

There are two parts to my shower routine to start each day with peace, gratitude and joy.

I begin with my “I ams”
– I am whole
– I am enough
– I am worthy

I take a few deep breaths as I think them, to make sure they really sink in:
– I am generous
– I am willing to change
– I am forgiving

So even if I am hating on a family member who hurt me last month or struggling with a cold, I repeat these positive statements several times.
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Continuous Compassionate Criticism: The Art of Coaching

When you make a mistake in typing or in spelling, isn’t a good thing that an icon doesn’t flash all over your screen with a green monster sticking its tongue out and screaming at you that you’re a total idiot? Those kinds of frequent attacks on your self-esteem are unlikely to motivate you to produce more and increase the quality of your work. It’s an overwhelming, debilitating form of feedback.

coach-petra-kvitova-smile

However, the opposite of this is also a problem. Most people can merrily type away while their word processing program automatically fixes mistakes that the person never realizes he made. This is not blissful ignorance. This is the kind of cluelessness that leads to arrogance and complacency.
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Stay Clear of the Mindfulness Trend: Six “Good Reasons”

Melissa Georgiou points out some possible “risks” of jumping on the Mindfulness bandwagon:

1. Your health might improve.
Relaxation is entirely overrated; we need to stay busy and always vigilent.

2. You might enjoy your life more.
Who needs to appreciate the beauty that is right in front of them? Nature, connectedness and beauty are so last year! And attention spans. Who needs it anymore? We have so many flashing lights and colorful advertisements surrounding us that we need to stay tuned in case we miss out on something!

3. You might learn to breathe better.
When you continue with the shallow breathing, your body is always in a state of urgency. How on earth do you suppose you will do all of that multitasking if you learn mindfulness? Short sharp breaths help
everything happen faster!

4. Your friends and family might want to spend more time with you.
You might become a better listener who really cares about connecting with other humans. N.B. This would mean less time on social media.
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Effective Leaders Focus on Well-Being to Increase Productivity

Highlights from an article by Rich Fernandez in the Harvard Business Review:
empathic leadership happy office
Model and encourage well-being practices.
Individual team members who reported experiencing well-being at work were 20% more likely to have other team members who also reported thriving six months later, according to recent Gallup research.

Offer mindfulness and resilience training; explicitly encourage people to take time for exercise or other renewal activities, such as walking meetings; build buffer time so that people can work flexibly and at a manageable pace.

Allow time to disconnect outside of work.
The McKinsey Quarterly asserts that “always-on, multitasking work environments are killing productivity, dampening creativity, and making us unhappy.” The “always on” state of mind, is dangerous because it fails to take recovery time into account. Even the best athletes (*especially* the best athletes) require rest.

Be intentional about when you expect team members (and yourself) to engage in the office or digitally, and be intentional and explicit about when not to engage. No emails after 8 PM or on weekends, for example.

Train the brain to deal with chaos.
Leaders and teams who practice mindfulness collaborate better, navigate stress more effectively, and are more able to sustain high performance.
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Of Horses, Humans and Authentic Leadership

A very insightful short essay about authenticity and the power of working with horses, by Ali Schultz at Reboot.io.

Authentic leadership; horses, empathy & attunement

Some highlights:

“…A lack of trust in a company feels awful. It’s stressful. No one is saying what needs to be said. There’s fear, anxiety, tension, and conflict. Meanwhile, the product is going nowhere…

“…When a horse trusts you, he looks to you for leadership… without trust, a horse-rider relationship lacks connection and is instead fraught with anxiety, fear, and conflict. When that happens, neither critter feels safe and will react defensively in an act of self-preservation.

“…Horses are barometers for how authentic and real you are being in their presence. They have this incredible built-in bullshit meter and know when you’re posturing. If I was emotionally congruent when I was with them, they could trust me. In other words, if I was feeling sad on the inside and aware of that within myself, it showed in my exterior differently than if I was trying to hide it.
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Keeping Your Head When All About You Are Losing Theirs and Blaming It On You

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
rudyard_kiplingIf you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
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Why Meditation Practice Isn’t Really Comparable to Physical Exercise

meditation_time_mindfulnessMany people start off with goals for meditating that just aren’t realistic. While a meditation practice might be similar to a physical exercise practice, the analogy is limited.

The reality for a lot of us is that getting out on a bicycle or making our way to a gym is the hard part, but once we start, we can usually last for 30, 40 minutes or more. That’s especially true when happy chemicals get released into our brain triggered by our physical efforts.

Not so for the practice of meditation. For many people, there is no immediate “runner’s high” type of payoff. The benefits of mindful breathing, for example, accumulate gradually and aren’t always felt in the moment, but rather hours or days later.

What’s required to get started with meditation is first: The suspension of disbelief. That doesn’t mean permanently turning off your faculties of discernment and skepticism. It’s OK and sometimes quite useful when you approach life with an analytical mindset. This can prevent all manner of mistakes, getting trapped by trickery and wasting your time.
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Three Minutes to Contentment: Let’s Keep This Simple

Mindfulness_meditation_faceSet your phone timer for 3 minutes.

As you breathe in, count “one, two.” As you breathe out – count “one, two, three.”

In other words, the exhalation should take about 50% longer than the inhalation.

It’s that simple – and that hard. Just keep practicing. Be patient and persistent and gentle with yourself. Turn any self criticism way down.

Of course hitting free throws in basketball is quite simple too. The trick is to hit them consistently, under pressure amid lots of distractions.

You lower stress, attain contentment and get to play first violin at Carnegie Hall in the same way: Practice, practice, practice.

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The Tastiest Meditation Practice You’ll Ever Have

Woman-eating-chocolate-26sep14

  • Get a small piece of your favorite chocolate or other candy (about half the size of your thumb)
  • Find somewhere cool and quiet to sit
  • Sit up nice and straight in a dignified manner, but not tense or stiff
  • Set your timer/stopwatch for 4 minutes
  • Pop the candy in your mouth
  • Focus on the flavor of the candy until it fades away
  • For the remainder of the 4 minutes, focus on your breathing

That’s it!

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Jerry Seinfeld: Meditation and the Path to Perfect Sleep

Many have wondered about Jerry Seinfeld and his post-TV series life.

Why doesn’t he make new shows? Why didn’t he form a production company and crank out series for other people? He could be making a fortune…
jerry_seinfeld
The short answer is: Because he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t feel a need to. He’s happy with life the way it is. The longer answer is that he has a crystal-clear understanding of what makes him happy and what makes him miserable. Spending lots and lots of time on administration and on convincing other people to do what they are reluctant to do makes him miserable. That’s at least 50% of what film and TV production is about, he says. He likes doing stand-up comedy and currently performs about 75 shows per year.

Where does this clear sense of purpose come from? This ability to cut through noise and distraction and focus on what really matters? Meditation of course. He says it makes stress float away. In a superb podcast interview with the actor-producer Alec Baldwin, Jerry explains that he has been meditating regularly since he was 19 (he’s currently 61). Here’s an edited excerpt from the interview:
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Performing Under Pressure: How to be “Clutch”

Why do some people excel under pressure while others fail?

Paul Sullivan has written an excellent book exploring this question, called Clutch.

We talk about the numerous case studies he’s looked at including the likes of Tiger Woods in golf, as well as examples from basketball, baseball and football.
Paul is a columnist for the New York Times and a contributor to several other major publications. He’s also on a quest to become a better golfer while still being a decent husband and father.

Transferring what you can do in a relaxed atmosphere to a tenser one is not easy—or else everyone would be clutch.

Five Key Traits to be Clutch:
1. Focus
2. Discipline
3. Adaptability
4. The ability to be present
5. The push and pull of fear and desire

People cannot succeed under pressure if they are thinking of anything other than what they are doing right now.

This interview originated at our sister site: www.sportscoachradio.com

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Achieving Happiness Even During Tough Times

autumn_leavesFor some it’s already been a long winter and during these times, many people have to work harder at happiness. Here are nine practical and concise suggestions, as compiled by the Daily Express newspaper.

1- Help others: Humans are hard-wired for altruism, which is why it makes us happy. Our ancestors had to help each other to stay alive, and being kind strengthens our relationships and makes us feel good too.
Try it: Perform an act of kindness every day such as serving a loved one breakfast in bed, letting a stranger have your parking space or calling a sick friend.

2- Reach out: Those with strong relationships are happier, healthier and live longer.
Try it: Ask a friend, relative or colleague about the best part of their day and listen intently to their answer.
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How Mindfulness Can Improve Business Leadership

Business_mindfulness_Bill_GeorgeIt’s very reassuring when someone with serious experience as a senior business leader writes compellingly about the benefits of meditation. Bill George was a senior executive for about two decades, including six years as CEO of medical device company Medtronic. He is now a professor at the Harvard Business School.

Here are some excerpts from a recent article by Bill in the Huffington Post:

“…What is causing this shift to mindful leadership? In the stress-filled 24/7 world in which we live, leaders of all organizations need the opportunity for a “time out” period. It is their opportunity to relax, breathe deeply, de-stress and gain clarity about their work and the decisions they are facing. As I stressed at last week’s summit, mindfulness practices enable leaders to ensure the important issues are taking precedence over immediate pressures.”

“…This practice is the best thing I have done to calm my mind and my emotions, focus on what is most important while releasing trivial worries and think clearly about important decisions. Perhaps even more importantly, my most creative ideas have come from meditation.”

“…Of course, meditation is not for everyone. What is essential for all of us — as I share in my classes and lectures — is having a daily practice of taking twenty minutes to quiet your mind, reflect and be introspective. For you, it may come through prayer, journaling, reflecting in a beautiful place or taking a long walk or jog. The goal? To create more self-aware leaders who understand themselves, their motivations, their values and the purpose of their leadership.”

“…Becoming a mindful leaders requires daily practice. It is easy to say, as I did back in 1974, that you don’t have the time to fit this practice into your busy schedule. In fact, the opposite is true — you don’t have the time not to pursue it.
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Eight Practical Tips for Coping With Anxiety

breathe_cope_with_anxietyIn the U.S. and the U.K., about one in five people reporting that they feel anxious a lot of the time or all of the time.

The most popular ways to cope include speaking to a friend, exercise and taking a walk. AsapTHOUGHT, a Youtube channel, has compiled a useful list of additional ways to cope with anxiety:

Don’t google your symptoms
When you’re in the middle of a panic attack, it’s easy to feel like your symptoms are a signal for something bigger. Often panic attacks come with physical symptoms such as chest pains or nausea. While it’s tempting to search online to see what’s going on – don’t.

HALT ­- Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?
These are all things that can contribute to a potential anxiety attack. If you can figure out what the trigger may be, you may help solve it.

Breathing
It sounds obvious, but focusing on your breathing can help calm you down. Try a 4-4-8 method: Breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 4 seconds, and breathing out for 8 seconds. By focusing on your breathing, it’s easier to ignore any bad thoughts trying to creep their way into your subconscious.

Find a distraction
Perhaps you have a favorite podcast that you enjoy listening to, or a favorite Youtuber.
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Better Sleep: A How-To Checklist

Spend time outdoors every day; ideally around noon or the sunniest point of the day; at least five minutes

Exercise during daylight hours; 20 to 40 minutes, ideally outdoors

No caffeinated coffee after about 3pm, stop earlier if desired sleeping rhythm isn’t achieved

Drink 1 to 2 cups of green or white tea after 2pm but no later than 6pm

Before finishing work for the day, write down on a blank piece of A4 the important meetings/appointments for the next day

Only moderate amounts of alcohol during or after dinner, e.g. 2 glasses of wine maximum

A well-balanced meal for dinner, e.g. 30% fat, 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates

A short walk around the neighbourhood after dinner; 5-10 minutes

Minimise or eliminate in front of a screen 60 to 90 minutes before desired sleeping time; read a book or magazine made out of paper instead

Data-and-worry dump (15 to 30 minutes before bedtime); quickly write down everything currently on your mind onto an empty page of A4 paper

Mobile phone switched off at least 60 minutes before desired sleep time, put in a draw in a room that isn’t the bedroom

Bedroom as dark as possible; black-out blinds, no LED lights, no lights on alarm clocks

Accept the evolutionary reality that human beings aren’t capable of fully rational, logical thoughts between the hours of (approx.) 2300 and 0700; remind yourself that middle-of-the-night thinking is by definition anxiety-based and somewhat paranoid

Decide ahead of time that you will *not* try to use some of your sleep-time hours to catch up on thinking/planning not accomplished during the day

Practice slow, *shallow* breathing during nighttime waking periods
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Mindfulness: An Effective Mental Health Treatment But Not a Panacea

mindfulness-therapy-groupSome useful caveats in a recent article in The Guardian newspaper in the U.K.

“Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy isn’t suitable for patients who are in the grip of a drug or alcohol dependency, as they won’t be able to fully engage with the therapy. Also, patients who are recently bereaved may find MBCT too overwhelming.” – Dr. Christina Surawy, a clinical psychologist.

Mindfulness is not useful for patients during an episode of severe depression. These patients should wait until they recover to a mild or moderate state before engaging with MBCT.” – Florian Ruths, psychiatrist.

Ruths adds that unlike some drug treatments, side effects are very rare with MBCT, though “minor side effects, such as a temporary drop in mood before an improvement in mood, are more common but manageable”. He emphasises that it is important for MBCT therapists to be properly trained to deal with any side effects and support their patients appropriately.
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