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Top Tips For Lifting Mood, Fighting S.A.D.

1- Reduce clutter
Even if I want nothing more than to lie in bed, I try to get up and clean, says psychologist Jennifer Lutzon. Tidying up reduces the clutter in our home, gets our muscles moving and allows our energy to flow freely. This counteracts the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) and lifts the mood, especially once we see the fruits of our labor. Having order at home helps promote a relaxing and stress-free environment during the winter season.

2- Let the sunlight in
Sunlight helps our bodies produce serotonin, the hormone that affects our mood, appetite and sleep. Open up windows to let the sunlight inside the house and get enough serotonin to stay upbeat. Taking walks out whenever the sun is shining also helps the body get enough sunlight to produce serotonin.

3- Lose the shades
Human eyes have evolved over 3 million years to live outside during the day. Expose them to natural sunlight and build up comfort being outside with sunglasses. Certainly protect yourself from direct, powerful light by wearing a baseball cap, but more than that is rarely needed, unless you are out for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time.
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Leading The Quiet But Informed Life: Mindful Self Management

saint_paulWe here at Mindful Your Own Business are religion-neutral. We’re super keen on wisdom though. And certainly there is a lot of wisdom contained in many of the world’s spiritual traditions, not just Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism, the three that tend to be most typically associated with Mindfulness and meditation.

What about the more common phrase that has inspired Mindful Your Own Business, namely the exhortation: “Mind your own business!”?

The command usually is taken to mean: “Respect other people’s privacy” and/or “stop meddling in what does not concern you.” However, some etymologists think the phrase might have its origins in the Christian Bible (i.e. The New Testament).

St. Paul advises in I Thessalonians 4:11 to 13 that followers should lead an undistracted, focused life. The Greek phrase attributed to him is “manage yourself.” The full quotation is:

“We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands. Behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. But do not be uninformed.”
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Before There Was Mindfulness There Was Thoreau

henry_david_thoreauThis is not literally true, of course. But for many Americans, including me, this is the author who lit the flame, somewhere around 8th grade.

To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
– Henry David Thoreau

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Simple Breathing Exercise With No Mumbo-Jumbo Whatsoever

Mark_Williams2This is adapted from Mark Williams and the excellent book Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, co-authored by Danny Penman.

If you have a mind, it will wander. (I love this – it’s very reassuring!)

The goal is a calm, non-judging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance.

– Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your spine reasonably straight.

– Direct your attention to your breathing.

– When thoughts, emotions, physical feelings or external sounds occur, simply accept them. Give them the space to come and go without judging or getting involved with them.

– When you notice that your attention has drifted off and is becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that your attention has drifted, and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing.

It’s OK and natural for thoughts to arise, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.

As Tara Brach, one of my favorite meditation teachers, puts it: “The mind secretes thoughts like the body secretes enzymes.” And, of course, nobody would seek to inhibit the secretion of enzymes.

Themes: Breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation for people in business

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The Most Excellent You: How to Get the Advice You Really Need

Feedback is:

    • Evaluative
    • Focused on past performance
    • Often linked with compensation/grading
    • Historical
    • Influenced by in-the-moment impressions and feeling

Feed-forward is:

  • Coaching-oriented
  • Aimed at helping, supporting
  • Future-focused
  • Focuses on improving results/performance
  • Provides guidance, pointers, tips

Most of us want to become more effective, more successful as professionals.

What areas are you open to receiving guidance about, tips and pointers?

Any forward-looking advice that would help make you better, from the superficial to the profound. Examples:

– Your hairstyle

– Your dress choices for work

– How you sign off in e-mails

– How your outgoing voicemail message sounds

– How you greet colleagues, senior people – e.g. handshake, hug, kiss, etc.

– Whether you use people’s first names too much, too little

– How much you disclose about your personal life

– Your spelling, punctuation, and grammar

– Your tone of voice in meetings

– How much / how little you say in meetings

– How direct and concise you typically are

– Your ability to read political situations and get along with most people

– Your strategic thinking and offering of suggestions for approaches/tactics

How do we get better? Who can we turn to for help, guidance, tips, suggestions, to point us in the right directions?

Who could give you this sort of guidance?

“Think about people – teachers, coaches, former colleagues – who you could have a chat for 30-40 minutes.”

They could be anywhere in the world right now. Use Skype. Send them an e-mail, schedule a chat.

The question you might ask these ad hoc coaches and mentors:

“I want to get to the XYZ level in my career. How do you think I can get there? What do I need to work on? What do you think my blind spots might be? When you’ve seen people succeed in this area against the odds, what have they done that others haven’t? When you’ve seen people fail when they were expected to succeed, how do you think they got in their own way, how did they trip themselves up?

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Duh! Mindlessness is the Opposite of Mindfulness

The term Mindfulness hasn’t yet fully entered mainstream vocabulary. Not everyone understands what is meant by it.

But the opposite term – “Mindlessness” – is readily and fully understandable.
texting while driving
A basic definition of Mindlessness: Doing one thing while you’re thinking about something (or many things) else.

Some further synonyms of Mindlessness: Senseless, Foolish, Forgetful, Distracted, Zoned-out, Spaced-out.

We welcome your thoughts on useful definitions of Mindfulness. Here’s a simple one: “fullness of mind.”

The Urban Thesaurus defines it as “a deep state of being in the mind which allows one to be truly united with the soul… Being Mindful is viewed as being one of the most sexy or appealing things to a female.” But that sounds a little like over-selling to us…

 

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Procrastinators Have Difficulties Managing Their Emotions, According to New Research

Procrastinators have a problem with managing emotions rather than time, new research 2- shows. Emotional centers of the brain can overwhelm a person’s ability for self-regulation.

We need to take personality into account when motivating ourselves, according to productivity expert Moyra Scott. “We need to recognize when we are procrastinating and have ‘tricks’ we can employ to get us doing something,” she says.

Her top tips are:

1- If you don’t have an external deadline, use a timer to focus for set periods – for example, 25 minutes at a time with 5-minute breaks and a longer break every 90 minutes.

2- Write a list of tasks but break it down into smaller, more specific ones. This makes them easier to action and complete.

3- Try to minimize interruptions like email notifications. Putting your phone on airplane mode or going somewhere to work where you won’t be disturbed will also help.
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Be Ready to Junk What Isn’t Working

“…In the end we almost all fail, routinely and repeatedly, quietly or conspicuously; and failure, properly handled, is one of the best teachers life can send us: a teacher and friend.

‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again’ was always terrible advice. The dreary adage may have worked for the patient Scottish spider that Robert the Bruce watched attempting its web before his victory at Bannockburn, but we are not spiders. Repeat the old lie if that comforts you, but listen down the centuries for the banging of a million heads against a million brick walls. Trying repeatedly does not usually lead to success.

Failure is telling us something, and you should notice when it gets insistent. If at first, you don’t succeed, give it another try if you like. Give it two more tries if you must. But if you still don’t succeed, get the message. Try something different; somewhere different; someone different.

…a version of Darwin’s theory of evolution can be applied not only across many generations of the same species but to a single individual within that person’s own lifetime. Failure weeds out what doesn’t work to give space, air, and light to what does. Apply that within your own life and you will see the redeeming power of failure, if only an individual will recognize and respond to it with sufficient ruthlessness. Life is short. Be ready to junk what isn’t working.” – Mathew Parris

http://tndnewsug.com/embrace-failure-it-can-be-lifes-best-guide/

Hat tip to my most excellent friend and colleague Adie Shariff

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Digital Distraction: The Constant Pinging of Devices is Driving People Crazy

A recent article in The Economist explores the surging interest in Mindfulness among people in business.

The first reason: The constant pinging of electronic devices is driving many people to the end of their tether. Electronic devices not only overload the senses and invade leisure time. They feed on themselves: the more people tweet the more they are rewarded with followers and retweets. Mindfulness provides a good excuse to unplug and chill out—or “disconnect to connect,” as some Mindfulness advocates put it. A second reason is the rat race. The single-minded pursuit of material success has produced an epidemic of corporate scandals and a widespread feeling of angst. Mindfulness emphasizes that there is more to success than material prosperity.
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Companies Increasingly See Mindfulness As a Powerful Tool

At Bridgewater Associates ($160 billion in assets under management) founder Ray Dalio encourages the practice among his employees. “It’s the greatest gift I could give anyone,” he says, “it brings about equanimity, creativity, and peace.” Dalio also considers meditation to be the “single most important reason” for his own success in building the biggest hedge fund in the world.

At Salesforce.com ($8.4 billion in annual revenue) founder Marc Benioff installed meditation rooms all over the company’s new offices.

Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Investors, relies on meditation practice for his decision-making. “Being an investor requires the distillation of large volumes of information into a few relevant insights,” he says, “Meditation has helped me discard interesting but unnecessary information and focus on the few things that make a difference to long-run investment performance.”

At insurance provider Aetna, a meditation program for employees has been credited with improving productivity by 62 minutes per employee per week, which Aetna values at $3,000 per employee per year.

For more information, read:
https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/34555-don-t-buy-into-the-backlash-the-science-on-meditation-is-clear

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Just as the Body Secretes Enzymes, the Mind Generates Thoughts

Tara_Brach

It’s helpful to remember that getting distracted is totally natural. Just as the body secretes enzymes, the mind generates thoughts. No need to make thoughts the enemy; just realize that you have a capacity to awaken from the trance of thinking. When you recognize that you have been lost in thought, take your time as you open out of the thought and relax back into the actual experience of being here.

…Attitude is everything.  While there are many meditative strategies, what makes the difference in terms of mindful awakening is your quality of earnestness, or sincerity.  Rather than adding another “should” to your list, choose to practice because you care about connecting with your innate capacity for clarity and inner peace. Let this sincerity be the atmosphere that nurtures whatever form your practice takes. – Tara Brach
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The Two Most Powerful Habits for Almost All of Us

In this order:

  • healthy eating
  • a substantial daily meditation practice

When those two habits are firmly in place, good quality sleep and healthy exercise happen almost automatically.

 

 

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It’s Probably Just a Problem, Not a Crisis

keep-calm-it-s-not-a-crisis-it-s-just-capitalism

Non-crisis management & Mindfulness

Identify which emotions you’re feeling about the problem and how strongly each one is being felt – anger, fear, disappointment, sadness, etc.

Disengage emotionally from the problem. Breathe in. Breathe out. Tell yourself: “My emotions don’t help me here.” Breathe in. Breathe out.

Remember it’s a problem, not a crisis. Breathe in. Breathe out. “Work” the problem in a professional manner.

Unless you’re a member of the emergency services or other “first responders,” most things you have to deal with can wait five or ten minutes, sometimes five or ten hours and even occasionally five or ten days.
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Meetings Should be Mindful But Not Necessarily Fun

mindful_meeting_cristina_fernandez

Productive meetings

There’s a burgeoning trend in some management advice circles. Employees are disengaged, so the thinking goes, because the work environment isn’t stimulating enough. They don’t participate in meetings because they’re not fun. Tell some jokes, devise some games, bring in snacks, a bit of music and then you’ll get more energy in the room. Make meetings more like a cocktail party and people will want to attend them.

Sorry to be a pooper, but I’m not a fan of putting fun first. Attendance in a party-style meeting doesn’t usually make the meeting productive. It might make time pass more quickly for some and for many others – your best employees – it might just cause irritation and frustration.

“Fun” meetings bring to mind the television series The Office. Both the British and American versions feature an office manager who is entirely unfocused, undisciplined and quite attention-deficit-hyperactively-disordered. He spends most of his days recounting recycled jokes and hackneyed comedy routines and forcing impromptu festivities on his employees, most of whom just want to get on with their jobs, sell some paper supplies and ensure their long-term livelihood by helping the company succeed. So it is with many employees in the real world.
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Mind-Taming Tips from Comedian Ruby Wax

Stress management and happiness tips from Ruby Wax, comedienne and now Mindfulness-based therapist (M.A. Oxford), author of Sane New World: Taming the Mind:

Find your braking system

When you’re in high anxiety mode, feeling stressed out, your mind racing and your heart pounding, focus on something in the present: a sound, taste or smell. By becoming aware of what’s around you, you will calm down and can focus more. You’ll have to experiment to find what works for you: I send my attention to my feet and their contact with the floor. As soon as my focus goes from thoughts to a sensation, the red mist drains from my brain and I can think again. You might need to do this 100 times; it’s how to tame your mind.

Stave off the darkness

Only eat what tastes good and fill your life with things you like. Surround yourself with true friends, but if you find entertaining stressful, don’t invite them for dinner all the time. How can you talk to your friends properly when you’re busy panicking that you’re not a good enough cook? Go to a restaurant instead. And don’t force yourself to go to other people’s houses, it takes energy to adjust yourself to their way of living.
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Employee Mindfulness Leads to Higher Profits at Software Giant SAP

Peter Bostelmann, an industrial engineer at Europe’s software giant SAP, discovered meditation during a personal crisis a decade ago, writes Emma Thomasson at Reuters.

The impact was so profound that he persuaded his employer to start a pilot mindfulness training in 2013.

“It’s the new jogging,” says Bostelmann, who now runs a global mindfulness program at SAP. “Employees are more healthy and more engaged and they can cope better with a changing world.”

Now SAP is rolling out mindfulness training to all 22,000 German staff and offering consulting services to other firms. It teaches them to pay attention to the present moment, and tune in to thoughts, feelings and surroundings.

Of SAP’s 91,000 employees, 6,500 have participated in a two-day program, including several top executives.

After the training, SAP employees often start meetings with a minute of stillness. Groups also get together to practice “mindful” eating and walking in their breaks, slowing down and paying full attention to their chewing or their steps.

The trend for corporate mindfulness started in Silicon Valley at companies such as Google and Intel but SAP says it has gone further than most. It is now advising the likes of Siemens and Deutsche Telekom on mindfulness programs.

Some skeptics question the benefits of firms investing in employee wellbeing, suggesting that many offerings amount to little more than “well-washing” if they only gloss over a stress-inducing corporate culture.

At SAP, mindfulness is part of a broader push to tackle stress and improve employee health that it says is resulting in higher profits.
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Going (Almost) Analogue for a Summer Break: The Doable Digital Detox

a0032-000037A lot of the problem with technology is the shear volumes of it we are consuming per day.

As with many things “the dose make the poison.” For example, some people have severe problems drinking alcohol; they need to quit entirely and stay “sober.” However, others just need to cut back. Maybe they need to cut back a lot, but there’s a big difference between drinking the equivalent of a bottle of wine every or six-pack of beer every single evening and having one or two glasses of wine twice a week.

Similarly, there is a big difference between subsuming oneself in e-mail, texting, social media and other screen-based information 14 hours a day versus just 1 hour a day.

So this summer vacation period I suggest you try this simple experiment. Limit yourself to all non-urgent uses of your computers, phones, etc. to just one 60-minute period per day. For example from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. only. Yes, you can check the weather on the internet. What about texting? Well, how about every opportunity you can possibly use your voice instead of a text, try that instead?
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How To Improve Mindfulness At Work

Mindfulness enables people to step back and consider alternative ideas rather than reacting to events impulsively, Gautam Gupta writes. When we are in reactive mode, decisions are made using the least intelligent areas of our brains.

Mindfulness helps us toggle to more active and intelligent areas of the brain, enabling us to be in greater control of our emotions and thereby a choice of more appropriate response.

Mindfulness expert, Mirabai Bush, well know for introducing it to Google, says: “Bringing mindfulness into the workplace doesn’t prevent issues from coming up. But whenever they do arise, they can be responded to appropriately after due thought and judgment. Over time with mindfulness, we learn to develop the inner resources that will help us navigate through difficult, trying and stressful situations with more ease, comfort, and grace.”

Becoming aware of one’s emotions as they arise gives an individual more choice in terms of dealing with them. Mindfulness helps become aware of one’s emotion by noticing various sensations in the body. Then one can follow these guidelines: stop doing what you are doing and breathe deeply. Notice how you are experiencing the emotion in your body. Reflect on where the emotion is coming from in your mind (personal history, insecurity etc.). Respond in the most compassionate way.
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Mending Your Ways to Contribute a Verse: Whitman and Mindfulness

97r/36/vica/8084/03Walt Whitman’s poem “O Me! O Life!” throws out numerous challenges to its readers, particularly people in business who have endured thousands of hours traveling to and from work in cars, buses, trains and planes. And those who have spent even more hours than that working in offices surrounded by unwise and unskillful people.

The challenge Whitman poses is how well do we really know ourselves? With as much humility as possible are we open to new discoveries about ourselves? After all this time and toil, who have we become? But also — more hopefully — what are we still capable of becoming? How can we fulfil our potential?

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Paraphrasing the meditation teacher Jack Kornfield: The challenge of our lives is continuously turning our internal compass toward true north; turning toward compassion.

Listen to your heart. Listen out for your own particular gifts and capacities, Kornfield advises. Listen to the cycles of your life for what it is time to do now with what you have been given. Bring your heart and your whole being into the present and respond to what is in front of you.
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Cool, Calm and Collected at Work

cool_at_workStress management is a lot about treating email as a hot medium.

Most people aspire to working in a state of being that can be summed up as “cool, calm and collected.”

The meaning here of “calm” is fairly obvious. “Collected” less so. In this context it probably means “focused” – a mind that is centred, and grounded, not distracted nor agitated

What is meant by “cool?” That’s a term that has been in common use since the 1930s, often referring to jazz musicians.

The phrase “cool as a cucumber” goes back to 1880s England.

In the 1960s it even became the last name of the alter ego of Snoopy, the rakishly loveable beagle in the Peanuts cartoon – “Joe Cool.”

In its comical representation, cool looks a bit arrogant and indifferent. And those are potentially the risks of an excessively cool posture. But for people who try to cultivate an authentically cool way of being, it can manifest itself as balanced, relaxed, untroubled, adaptable and resilient. The term in English often used by Buddhists to describe this type of cool is “equanimous” from the noun “equanimity.”
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Your Mother Was Right: Go Outside and Play

go_outside_and_playMost of us – especially if we grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s – heard this exhortation from our mother on a regular basis: Go outside and play!

Four words packed with almost infinite wisdom.

And yet many of us rarely or never do so, not even on the longest days of the year, which in the Northern Hemisphere are now here for our nourishment!

A true story, although admittedly we’re talking about an extreme case: Somehow last week our teenager managed (and somehow we let him) avoid almost all direct exposure to the sun’s rays for a 24-hour period, except for 20 minutes sitting outside during lunch. He did leave the house to watch a soccer game at a sports bar in the late afternoon, but direct outdoor exposure consisted of 5 seconds from house to car, and another five seconds from car to restaurant and vice versa.

Sitting near a window in your home or office doesn’t count as direct exposure to the sun’s rays, no matter how bright the light coming in. Nor does driving. In both cases, the glass windows filter out the parts of the visible spectrum that have health-promoting effects.
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How Busyness Can Kill Creativity

Creativity is intelligence having fun. – Albert Einstein
business_creativity
Many of us are familiar with the notion that our biggest strengths can simultaneously be overplayed and turn into weaknesses. So it might be with the ability many highly productive people have to schedule themselves, to keep themselves busy. Their own hyper-efficiency may be part of the problem.

New research suggests that children who are kept extremely active by a string of school and non-school activities are less creative, less autonomous and less self-confident than those with fewer activities. Kids who aren’t being rushed into a car to drive from one adult-directed event to another are more able to adapt to various environments, invent games and creative projects.  A link to the study is below.

But what about adults? How much space is there in our days and our weeks for unstructured, creative thought?

I know various people in business who are proud of their meticulously planned Google or Outlook calendars, some of them with days divided up into precise 15 and 20-minute slots. A successful day for them feels like one in which all the items have been “done.” Of course the next day is constantly looming large with yet another series of meetings, phone calls, and e-mails to return.

Much of this busyness is reactive rather than proactive, of course. It’s responding to the agenda items of other people, who in turn are often just responding to what others have asked them to do, in an endless, mindless chain.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that time and task management is the key for many of us to get the things done in a day that need to be done. Without structure, without plan and lists, and left to our own devices – including our electronic devices – we might waste our lives clicking around from one website to another all day long.
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Mainstream Media Becoming Mindful of Mindfulness

Woman meditatingA superb, quite long and discerning article about Mindfulness in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper.

Here are some edited highlights:

…This meditation isn’t about relaxing, emptying the mind or filling the head with peaceful thoughts… The intention is to be aware of physical sensations of the body and also simply to notice what the mind does.”

…”The mind wanders and it entertains itself with all sorts of things. All we are required to do is notice these thoughts. We are not suppressing them or ’emptying the mind,’ or making the thoughts go away.”

“It’s a preventative treatment – that’s what makes it different,” says Professor Mark Williams. “People usually seek treatment when they’re depressed or anxious, and cognitive therapy is one of the major success stories in treatment. But cognitive therapy is used when people are ill. What we wanted to do was extend this to teach people skills to stay well that they could use before depression threatens.”

Mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn calls Mindfulness “paying attention on purpose, moment-by-moment, without judging”. Practitioners argue that the brain’s habit of reliving past stresses and worrying about potential problems can become an obstacle to mental health.

“A good example of how it can work is when you’re kept awake at night thinking,” says Williams. “You toss and turn and you get angry because you can’t sleep. The anger doesn’t help, but you can’t seem to stop it. Mindfulness isn’t about suppressing those thoughts, but about enabling you to stand back and observe them as if they were clouds going past in the sky. You see them and you cultivate a sense of (acceptance of) them.”
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Is Your Self Perception More Accurate Than the Rest of the World’s?

Marshall GoldsmithThere is almost always a discrepancy between the self we think we are and the self the rest of the world sees in us…often the rest of the world has a more accurate perspective than we do. If we can stop, listen, and think about what others see in us, we have a great opportunity. – Marshall Goldsmith
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Leaving a Little Earlier Could Buy You a 1/2-Hour of Free Mindfulness

Mindful_driving_2Many people would like a bit more Mindfulness in their lives. The reason they don’t is because let’s face it, there is a cost. That cost is usually time, although sometimes the cost is energy as well as time. A lot of us have time to spend an hour or two “vegging” out on the couch, watching vapid entertainment on the television or flitting about from one gossipy piece of news on the internet to the other. In this case, what we lack is the *energy* to sit up straight, concentrate and focus on our breathing.

And yet there are times of the day when most of us are energetic enough to immerse ourselves fully in the present moment and gain the clarifying, head-clearing benefits that totally concentrated awareness often brings. But how often do we unnecessarily leave things to the last minute so that the result of our actions is needing to proceed at the greatest possible speed from one place to another?

Driving is a great example. Typically ahead of any excursion, I try to determine how long it takes to get from Place A to Place B. Sometimes I’m even meticulous about it and use Google maps to calculate the travel time. Let’s say Google tells me it takes 23 minutes, under “normal” traffic conditions. I then round the time down to 20 minutes, ignore the fact that I’ll be driving in the middle of rush hour and hey presto! I’m now running late, well before I even set out. Add to this a tendency I have to answer “one more” e-mail in my inbox and clear out “one more” task on my list before leaving, and before you know it I have 15 minutes to accomplish a trip that actually requires about 25 minutes.

Now here’s the “Mindless” part: Because I now realize I’m running seriously late, I jump in the car and am in full-on “flight” mode, with adrenaline and other stress chemicals starting to pump. Eyes bulging now, muscles twitching. Instead of driving calmly, safely and fully obeying the traffic laws, I am now searching frantically for shortcuts, intensely worried about making a wrong turn, annoyed at traffic lights, tempted to run them, and, of course, annoyed at every minor error and unskillful maneuver made by the drivers around me.

But did it really have to be this way? The benefits of driving calmly are considerable. I could have floated over the road, listening to some beautiful music, or basked in perfect quietude. I could have glanced around the countryside, I could have marveled at the wonders of a finely tuned car that drives so smoothly. At each red light, I could have done a mini breathing exercise. The cost? Stopping all my usual “busyness” about five minutes earlier than usual. In a 16-hour waking day, that’s not actually a big investment.

Mindfulness practice and time management

 

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Five Tips for Mindfulness Every Day

Simple Mindfulness practices for every day, edited extracts from Elephant Journal.

Mindfulness_meditation_face1. Know that the red light is not the enemy.
This driving metaphor comes from Thich Nhat Hanh. When you reach a red light, instead of seeing the halt in movement as a hindrance, take it as an opportunity to be still and to breathe. Instead of the anxious energy anticipating arrival at your next destination, thinking about where we will be instead of where we currently are, breathe more deeply into the present moment

2. Notice noise
External sounds are a great way to remind yourself to breathe. Any time you hear a church bell, a phone ringing, a cuckoo clock, or a car honking—take that as a reminder to breathe and reconnect with your body. We are constantly projecting our energy to move outwards, to create, to connect, to give off the frequency we’d like to attract and magnetize back towards us. To be aware of what we are manifesting externally—constantly checking in with ourselves internally is essential.

3. Look people in the eyes
This encourages clarity and truthfulness in speech. Whether you are speaking or listening, looking at people in the eyes will bring more presence into the conversation. It grounds the erratic mind and stabilizes the heart. The human mind is flighty if not trained and controlled properly.
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You Really Are Special But You Still Need To Be Extremely Nice

Bill_Bryson

“Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive,” Bill Bryson writes. “I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By a most astounding stroke of luck, an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.

“For endless eons, there was no you. Before you know it, you will cease to be again. And in between, you have this wonderful opportunity to see and feel and think and do. Whatever else you do with your life, nothing will remotely compare with the incredible accomplishment of having managed to get yourself born. Congratulations. Well done. You really are special.

“But not that special! There are five billion other people on this planet, every one of them just as important, just as central to the great scheme of things, as you are. Don’t ever make the horrible, unworthy mistake of thinking yourself more vital and significant than anyone else. Nearly all the people you encounter in life merit your consideration. Many of them will be there to help you – to deliver your pizza, bag your groceries, clean up the motel room you have made such a lavish mess of. If you are not in the habit of being extremely nice to these people, then get in the habit now.”

― Bill Bryson, I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away

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Getting Started With Meditation For Those Who Find It Challenging

Most people find it difficult to establish a daily meditation practice. We know it would probably benefit us, but how much? Is the “cost-benefit” ratio really in favor of meditation? How much pain of sitting quietly must we endure for the gain of increased calm and focus? Daniel Rodic outlines his quest to meditate for 100 days in a row.

Stress is motivating in short-bursts, but long-term sustained stress leads to burnout, exhaustion, strained relationships and general unhappiness. Daniel realized changing his environment didn’t work because he needed to focus on changing his mindset.

Knowing this was a new habit Daniel was attempting to form, he started with something very easy to do (listening to a 3 minute song) and progressed to his goal of daily meditation (12 minutes every night using a guided meditation recording) over a span of 45 days. This step-by-step progress motivated Dan, as he felt like he was getting better every day as he migrated from music to guided meditation. These are the stages Daniel went through:

Stage 1 (Day 0 to 3): Before using guided meditations, Daniel tarted listening to a favorite song each day. It was an enjoyable experience that he knew he would look forward the meditation exercise every morning.

Stage 2 (Day 4 to 6): Daniel developed a morning habit whereby he listened to an upbeat song, while at night he listened to a slower song. This trained his body to wake up or go to bed when I heard these songs. Daily repetition was key.
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Better Sleep: New Tips and Tricks

Better Sleep MindfulnessRestfulness is next to godliness. Or at least let’s understand that it’s very hard to live mindfully when you’re exhausted all the time. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson has some good sleep tips

– Make a deal with yourself to worry or plan during the next day, after you get up. An hour or so ahead of sleep, “dump” your worries on a piece of paper and put it away in a drawer, preferably in a room that isn’t the bedroom.

– Shift your attention to things that make you feel happy and relaxed, or simply to the sensations of breathing itself. Bring to mind the warm feeling of being with people who care about you. Have compassion for yourself.

– Really relax. For example, take five to ten long exhalations; imagine your hands are warm (and tuck them under the pillow); rest a finger or knuckle against your lip; relax your tongue and jaw; imagine you are in a very peaceful setting; progressively relax each part of your body, starting with your feet and moving up to your head.

– Certain nutrients are important for sleep. Unless you’re sure you’re getting these in your daily diet, consider supplementing magnesium (500 milligrams/day) and calcium (1200 milligrams/day). If you can, take half in the morning and half before bed.
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Avoiding The Self-Improvement Trap

The harsh critic that lives inside many of us is often interested in masochistic projects called “self-improvement” that it’s never satisfied with. But this can be counter-productive, resulting in you getting more stuck and feeling even more deficient, Bob Stahl writes.

To be sure, it can be helpful to seek psychotherapy and other health-promoting activities when you need support. But you can also become overwhelmed with the idea that every one of your imperfections should be fixed with workshops, new therapies, a better diet, and an intensified exercise program. In some ways, it’s similar to always striving for more money or more things.

Continuously striving to be a better person can fill up a lifetime yet never be fulfilled.
In such a state, the mind doesn’t live in the present moment, which is the only place we can experience love, peace, and happiness. This can be akin to searching for your camera to preserve an experience that you end up missing because you’re searching for the camera.

Your highly judgmental mind can always find something that isn’t quite right. We tend to get the standards by which we judge ourselves by looking around and comparing ourselves to others. But if you consider how many billions of people there are on this planet, you can see that this is a no-win proposition. There will always be someone thinner, fitter, nicer, more accomplished, more attractive, etc.

This is like a military strategy based on the idea that war can create peace – that if you can blast the inadequate self to smithereens, or maybe just threaten to do so, you will finally feel okay and have peace.
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