mindfulness

Alter Your Mind With Music

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Music in headWhat songs inspire or nurture you? Do you have a theme song that captures the essence of you or your day?

When you play music, you are exercising your brain. Music is strongly associated with the brain’s reward system; influencing the brain to release the chemical dopamine. Scientists have found music and mood are inherently linked, listening to happy or sad music can change the way you identify with the world. Music can also be used to treat illnesses and restore harmony between mind and body. Recent scientific studies have found listening to music:

  • Can have a beneficial effect on your body by slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels ofstress hormones.
  • Can relieve depression and increase self-esteem ratings.

Music can be a tool you can use to dial up a mood or mindset on demand by choosing music that elicits a specific emotional response. Emotional responses to music is very individual; not all ‘happy’ songs are universally perceived as being uplifting or are guaranteed to put you in a good mood all the time. Experiment with music to find songs that strike a particular emotional chord in you, use music to create a targeted mindset. Ask yourself: “Does this song make me feel like the glass is half empty or full? Does this song make me feel energized or depressed? What state-of-mind do I want to be in right now?”

Take constant inventory of how a specific song affects your mood and mindset. Play around with a variety of songs, artists and different genres to create a playlist of ‘power songs’ that are anthems when you need to trigger a specific state of mind on demand.

One caveat, by overplaying any song you will dilute the original mindset associated with that song. This is why a song that you haven’t heard in decades can take you right back to all the emotions, and feelings of the original time. (The same is true with scent.) If you want a song to have an emotional impact linked to a specific person, place or experience from your past listen to it sparingly and make it part of a time capsule memory vault that you consciously preserve.

Have fun searching the vast amount of music to find what works for you. Use music to click into a desired conscious state-of-mind. Music

Choices You Make

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I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday. ~Eleanor Roosevelt – 1884-1962

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When is the last time you stopped to reflect upon the type of choices are you making?  Every day you make choices, more choices than you may realize. Some choices may not seem like choices at all. These mindless choices are our habits or normative behaviors. Habits are choices we make so regularly that over time they demand less and less executive control. As a consequence, they start to seem automatic. But they aren’t. When it comes to habits, you may even be motivated to make an excuse that you are at the mercy of the automatic choice that has become a habit.

There is always a choice, even when life gets bumpy because of choices you had made along the way. When you reach a bumpy path or fork in the road, take time for yourself to reflect and evaluate the choices you had made and identify alternative or new choices you can make to bring you back to your desired path. Use positive energy to focus on solutions and positive changes you can make. Choosing to turn bumps and forks in the road into an experience that will put you back on the path to success will inspire you, enhance the quality of your life, and bring positive transformation.

Taking time to reflect on the daily choices you are making will also motivate you to achieve more in life, to reach new levels of learning and self-awareness.  This can then lead to an increased sense of self-esteem, confidence, courage, wisdom and inner peace.

Here are some tips to help you reflect and determine which path to take next time you find yourself standing at a fork in the road:

Do you hear that?

  • Listen to your intuition.  Tap into your intuition. You intuitively know what you want.
  • Weigh the pros and cons.  Take time to thoroughly analyze the pros and cons of each situation. Work to determine which situation will provide you with the best choice.
  • Get outside input. Seeking input from others may provide different perspectives on your choices. A variety of opinions and words of wisdom may help you make your decision.
  • Don’t let fear decide. Change can be scary. Making choices can be intimidating. Fear tries to convince you that keeping things the same is better and that change is not worth the risk. Learn to push fear aside and recognize that you need to make a choice that’s based on what’s best for you, not a choice based on avoiding what you are afraid of.
  • Do what’s best for you. Do what’s right for you. This can be hard to determine sometimes when you’re weighing all of the options and getting various words of advice, but ultimately you have to focus on yourself. Tune everything else out and really ask yourself, “What is the right choice for me?” If you took away all of the details and distractions and “What if” questions, you’ll come to the realization that you know what’s best for you. Once you determine what’s best for you the question is: are you going to do what’s best for you? Sometimes this is much easier realized than acted upon.
  • Trust in yourself. This ties in with the first point, but it’s not entirely the same. Once you’ve done all of the things above and you reach a decision, you may find yourself stepping back and questioning the choice your about to make. Even after all of the work you’ve done to get to this point, your mind might be filled with doubts. Don’t let those doubts overcome you. Remind yourself that you are doing what’s best for you and you’ve taken great steps to come to this conclusion. Believe in the choice you’ve made and, above all, remind yourself that everything is happening just as it should.
  • Don’t ever look back. Once you’ve made your choice, make sure that you commit yourself to it and refuse to look back. It’s easy to begin doubting your choice, but looking back and wondering about what could have happened if you had made a different choice will do you no good. Realize that there is no such thing as a bad choice – if you choose with the right mindset then every choice brings learning and growth. When you accept and move forward on your journey then choosing loses some of its daunting weight and becomes a joyful experience.
  • Choose something. Analyzing, assessing and agonizing are important, but can only go on for so long. Life is lived through actions; acting on your choice is the most important.

Life is a journey, not a destination. wandering mind

 

 

R & R (Reflect & Regroup)

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A New Year and a new opportunity for R&R – time to Reflect and Regroup.

Where are you with your responsibility to take care of yourself and nurture the next generation?  How are you doing with your social responsibilities?

A few thought starters for your mindful moments of reflection to regroup for this new year:

Physically 

  • Is your body in your best possible health?
  • Are you treating your body nicely with healthy habits (food, exercise, water and sleep)?

Mentally 

  • Are you expanding your mind with learning?
  • Are your challenging yourself to think and be creative?

Spiritually

  • Are you building a relationship with your inner being?
  • Are you nurturing your faith and belief?

Emotionally

  • Are you learning about, embracing and experiencing the wide variety of emotions we are capable of experiencing?
  • Are you focusing on being fully present in the moments?

Goal setting isn’t just a business thing; take time to set a couple S.M.A.R.T.* goals for yourself.  Make plans for R&R at the end of each quarter.

*Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound

Optimal Self

 

Resilience

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Feeling a bit stressed?  High levels of personal stress within and outside of the workplace are becoming commonplace.  Stress is not going away, which is why focusing on developing your resilience will help you deal with the daily stressors you are faced with.  Resilience is being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Resilient people have an ability to experience both negative and positive emotions even in difficult or painful situations. They are able to find potential or value in most challenges. The following characteristics will help you develop your resilience.

Filtering information and interpreting your world

  • Personal Responsibility – the extent to which you believe that your success at work is determined by you talents and motivation as opposed to external factors such as luck or good timing.
  • Realistic Optimism – seeing the world in a positive way, but also remaining grounded in reality. It is noticing and appreciating positive experiences whenever and wherever they occur, not taking things for granted.
  • Personal Beliefs– seeking and embracing the sense that life has meaning and purpose. This may be in the form of religious observance, spirituality, or devotion to a particular value system or cause.

Handling challenges

  • Self-Assurance– the extent to which you believe you can
    successfully perform work-related tasks or behaviors. Challenge your reflexive thoughts and negative self-talk; change emotional patterns, restrain your negative thinking and stoke your positive thinking.
  • Self-Composure – the extent to which you manage your stress and remain calm under pressure. Take stock of how things might Resiliencehave been otherwise, instead of just how they are, use strategic positive thinking to increase gratitude, which then builds resiliency.
  • Self-Care – good physical health, including a regular routine of healthy habits is foundational to both mental and emotional resilience. This includes taking mental breaks and time to relax, especially spending time outdoors and surrounding yourself with people you enjoy. Research suggests that spending just 20 minutes outside leads to more expansive and open thinking.
  • Problem-Solving– the extent to which you can plan and resolve problems effectively. One strategy to fostering a learner mindset is to use “question thinking” (“What is useful here?’ or ‘What are my available choices?’), as opposed to ‘Judger Questions’ (‘What’s wrong?’ or ‘Why me?’)
  • Goal Orientation– the extent to which you set appropriate goals and monitor your progress on those goals.  While it might sound cliché, the more you can consider challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and develop, the more resilient you are likely to be.

Communicating and connecting with others  

  • Courageous Conversations– the extent to which you communicate with others in a candid and courageous way in the face of difficulty.
  • Social Support– the extent to which you have a supportive social network.  Being of service to others is a potent way of fuelling resilience.  Studies have shown that serotonin (the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being) is used more efficiently by people who have just engaged in an act of kindness. There is a cumulative effect to continued acts of kindness and the serotonin boosts that accompany them. You can fill up your well of resiliency when you consistently add to it. When times get difficult, you can draw upon this well

What are you going to do today to start depositing into your resiliency account?

Your Personal Ethical Standards

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Have you taken the time to analyze your personal ethical standards and the implications of these standards as a professional in your field? The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote for school and a methodology you may find helpful.  Ethics

Ethics are what helps you choose between right and wrong behaviors, or right and right behaviors, based on your own beliefs and values. Rothwell and Sullivan (2005) recommend you take the time to define your personal ethics and align them with professional standards. In order to complete this exercise, you need to have a high degree of self-awareness and self-development. Taking the time to identify personal and professional ethical frameworks is not a onetime activity. You must regularly take time to reflect and contemplate on your experiences. This will help you discover and maintain a high sense of personal and professional standards throughout your career.

Once you search for and identify your desired personal and professional ethical standards, Matousek (2012) found you will be able to re-wire your ethical behaviors through neuroplasticity and practice. The goal is to strive to do the best thing, not just do what is right. It is searching beyond behaviors to seek wise ethical choices that lead to satisfying personal and professional relationships and life.

When creating personal and professional ethical standards, the Josephson Institute of Ethics (1999) encourages you to find and use courage, honor, humility, and forgiveness. Striving to live up to these values over the years will help you create positive relationships, a strong reputation, and a solid support system and with good returns, some refer to this as karma.

Personal ethical standards can be a few sentences or many pages. The key is they should inspire deep thought, reflection, and identify unique temptations to your life. Once personal ethics and standards are defined, Williams and Anderson (2006) encourages you to work through the below ethical checklist to verify for practicality, focus, and logic ensuring the decision will promote respect, authenticity, and responsibility.

Ethical Checklist (Williams & Anderson, 2006)

  • The legality of policy test – does my decision break the law or corporate policy?
  • The newspaper, light-of-the day, or family test – would I mind sharing my decision publicly?
  • Respect all – have I encouraged people of other cultures to express themselves in their uniqueness, regardless of the prevailing corporate culture?
  • Involvement test – Have I involved others in the decision?
  • Walk the talk, pursue authenticity – Does the client perceive me as motivational and able to retain highly capable people?
  • Personal responsibility – Do I accept personally the consequences of my actions?
  • Relevant information – Does the organization practice glass-wall management, in which people openly communicate their actions and objectives as they relate to organizational initiatives?
  • Fairness test – How do I interpret fairness?

Being consistent by matching intention with ethical behaviors and actions will help you build a strong reputation.

Howard and Korver (2008) warn not to blindly adopt the ethics of others. It is vital to draw thoughts and feelings from within. Take time, using the below ‘Area of Contemplation’ list, to examine, identify, and embrace your personal and professional ethics and standards. This will help you prepare for challenges and uncertainties when they arise, even if they are between right and right (Kidder, 1995).

 Area of Contemplation Ethics and Standards
Field of _______. ·
What purpose brought you to the field of ____? How does that purpose relate to the work you take on? ·
Whom do you serve? Is the focus a single client, the organization, the employees, a higher power, myself, society as a whole, or something else? ·
Reflect on the principles and values that guide your work. What are they? ·
How have your principles and values guided the type of work you accept and how you do your work? ·
How have your principles and values been challenged in your work? ·
How have you resolved those challenges? ·

Source: Wheatly, Tannenbaum, Yardely-Griffin, and Quade (2003).

References

Howard, R. & Korver, C. (2008). Ethics for the real world: Creating a personal code to guide decisions in work and life. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

Josephson Institute of Ethics. (1999). Five steps of principled reasoning. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://ethicsalarms.com/rule-book/ethical-decision-making-tools/.

Kidder, R. (1995). How good people make tough choices: Resolving the dilemmas of ethical living. New York, NY: Harper.

Matousek, M. (2012). Ethical Wisdom. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

McDowell, B. (2000). Ethics and excuses: The crisis in professional responsibility.

Rothwell, W., & Sullivan, R. (2005). Practicing organization development: A guide for consultants (2nd ed). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Williams, P., & Anderson, S. (2006). Law and ethics in coaching: How to resolve and avoid difficult problems in your practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

The Energy of Change

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Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”  ~Humbert Wolfesunset2

The autumn equinox marks the arrival of the season of fall, traditionally seen as a period of changes leading to the dark of winter. This change in the amount of light is a signal to animals, plants and, before the light bulb, people, of changing seasons. Darkness can be a place of silent nurturance, where the slow, steady gestation needed for inner growth can occur. It’s a time to look inside yourself and reflect on what you see. It’s a time of focus. The hustle and bustle of the warmer months is dying down and you have more time to focus on change; it’s quieter and easier to listen to your inner voice.

As you watch leaveFall2s fluttering to the ground in the fall, be reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in your life. Autumn is a time for letting go
and releasing things that have been a burden. The energy of your surroundings changes, and as energetic beings you reverberate that. What fulfills you in the winter is not going to energize you in the summer. Just as what invigorates you in the spring will not humble you in the fall. Change is important. It keeps you alive and present; it keeps you going. And it’s the only constant you can rely on.

As the seasons change, it is a good time to take a good look at your health and lifestyle. Review your dreams, hopes and desires for your personal and professional life. Do you need to make changes to your behaviors to realign to your goals?

Whatever changes are calling you this season, honor them. If it’s your job, feel inspired and excited to begin the search for a new one. If it’s your diet, enjoy the bounty of nature’s harvest available in the fall. If it’s your exercise routine, be grateful that the heat of the summer has died down and it’s easier to be outside, enjoying nature. Whatever it is welcome that change into your life. Use this change in seasons, this change in the Earth’s energy to move forward, out of the now and into the new.

Learning about and living in harmony with the nature of each season will help you stay healthy. Live in harmony with the world around you, see that nature is slowing down and contracting; preparing to rest so it is good for you to Fall4do the same. Sleeping a little longer, eating warming, nourishing foods, and moving inward – paying extra attention to your internal life. This is the season for you to give yourself some extra attention and self-love. Be content inside; be thankful for your present state because it is a gift that is meant to help you experience your life in an exceptional way.

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Unbridled Play

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When is the last time you let go and had the pure joy and ecstatic feeling of play? Play is an important source of relaxation and stimulation. It gives us time to forget about work and commitments, and to be social in an unstructured, creative way. There doesn’t need to be any point or goal to the activity beyond just having fun and enjoying yourself. Play could be simply goofing off with friends, sharing jokes with a coworker, throwing a Frisbee on the beach, wearing a costume on a Holiday, building a snowman in the yard, playing fetch with a dog, a game of charades at a party, or going for a bike ride with no destination in mind. Play may or may not involve smiles and laughter; it is always accompanied by a feeling of “Yes, this is what I want to do right now.

By giving yourself permission to play with joyful abandon, you can reap numerous health benefits.

  • Play relieves stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Play has been scientifically provento be good for the brain. Older people who get regular exercise and play are less likely to suffer cognitive decline. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.
  • Play stimulates the mind and boost creativity. Play nourishes your ability to be adaptive and problem solve. It is nature’s great tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties. When you play, dilemmas and challenges naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out. Even a few hours spent doing something you love can make you new again. One reason why play is such an ideal state Playof mind for creativity and learning is because the mind is focused on means. Since the ends are understood as secondary, fear of failure is absent and you feel free to incorporate new sources of information and to experiment with new ways of doing things.
  • Play improves relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.
  • Play can keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best. Play nourishes the spirit.

Incorporating more play into your daily life can improve the quality of your relationships, your mood, and outlook. Play can help you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. Even in the most difficult of times, taking time away from your troubles to play or laugh can go a long way toward making you feel better. The good feeling that you get when you laugh and have fun remains with you even after the fun subsides.

It’s never too late to develop your playful, humorous side. Reclaim your inner child by setting aside regular, quality playtime. Give yourself permission to do whatever you want for the time you’ve allotted. Be spontaneous, set aside your inhibitions and try something fun, try something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Enjoy the change of pace; you never know what magic may happen!

Your Wandering Mind

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When was the last time you were lost in thought when all of the sudden a profound insight to current problem popped into your head?  Daydreaming, also known as mind-wandering, may seem like a passive activity. However, research is discovering it could actually involve a highly engaged brain.

Researchers believe the average person spends close to 50 percent of their waking lives in a state of mind-wandering.

With the promotion of mindfulness, mind-wandering has been viewed as a negative state of mind. Mind-wandering can negatively impact reading comprehension, impair the ability to withhold automatic responses, and disrupt performance on tests of working memory and intelligence.

Emerging evidence suggests that the role of mind-wandering is not entirely harmful. Studies have shown that mind-wandering may play a crucial role in both planning for the future and creative problem solving. It enables goal-directed planning in relation to personal concerns. It also aids decision-making by allowing you to run future-oriented simulations in your head. Plus, you may have experienced mind-wandering will help you complete a tedious, repetitive task.

Recent research is showing mind-wandering may promote long-term learning and memory by promoting learning in short episodes versus a massed practice. Mind-wandering during learning creates breaks in the learning, creating an opportunity to return to the task with a refreshed capacity for attentive processing. So don’t get discouraged when you have to go back to reread something because your mind wandered. Look at it as an opportunity to reinforce what you just read.

You may not be entirely able to choose when and where to let your mind wander. You may find your mind wanders best during repetitive basic tasks, allowing your brain to enter the beneficial mind-wandering state.

Find a balance with being mindful and allowing the mind to wander. Determine what the situation needs from you. If you have a problem to solve or need a creative idea, go and get lost in an activity that allows your mind to wander (exercising, gardening, or basic household chores) and see what creative solutions emerge.wandering mind

Giving to Others

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Did you know volunteering will help you reach a great state of happiness and hope?  When you give your time to others you experience an euphoria known as “helper’s high”.  Researchers can see the neural “glow” from helping others on fMRI scans.

When you’re generous to others, you’re also generous to yourself. Your entire being undergoes a feel-good transformation at the cellular level when you support others; which boosts everything from your psychological outlook to heart and immune system. You’re also choosing to be “other centered,” which streams wellbeing back to yourself and can help you live longer. Giving your time to others is powerful medicine, research shows volunteering can:learning

  • Help you stay physically healthy
  • Combat depression and create happiness
  • Increase self-confidence
  • Bring fun and fulfillment to your life
  • Sharpen or learn new skills
  • Advance your career

Giving doesn’t have to be complicated or grand. It can be a formal, long-term commitment such as working at a shelter on a regular basis. Or, giving can be informal, a one-time interaction such as sharing an encouraging smile or a gentle hug. Start by paying closer attention to the people and situations you encounter as you go about your day-to-day life; soon you will recognize opportunities to give.

Use the following questions to find a coordinated volunteering opportunity that best matches you.

  • What causes or issues matter the most to me?
  • How much time can I commit? 
  • Do I want an ongoing, regularly scheduled assignment or short-term assignment? 
  • Do I like to work with adults, children, or animals? 
  • How much responsibility am I ready to take on? 
  • Do I prefer to be behind the scenes or do I want to take a more visible role? 
  • Do I want to work alone, with a group, friends, or family? 
  • What do I want to learn/experience? What are my goals? What am I interested in? 
  • Am I willing to participate in a training course, or do I want to start volunteering immediately?

The more you know about what you want to do, the more valuable you will be to the organization you join as a volunteer. You’re donating your valuable time, it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. Consider starting small so that you don’t over commit yourself. Take time to ensure the volunteer position is a good fit and to communicate openly with the people you’re working with in the volunteer organization. Ask questions. Make sure you know what’s expected. Don’t be afraid to make a change. Speak up if your experience isn’t what you expected; talk to the organization about changing your focus or consider looking for another match.

Are you convinced and ready to volunteer a small portion of your time?  Are you wondering where you can find volunteer opportunities? The following list may help you identify a match for you.Giving

  • Local animal/rescue shelters or wildlife/nature centers
  • Senior centers or libraries
  • Parks and conservation organizations
  • Service organizations such as Lions Clubs or Rotary Clubs
  • Community theaters, museums, and monuments
  • Youth organizations, sports teams, and after-school programs
  • Places of worship such as churches or synagogues

Persistence pays. The application, screening, and training may take up to several weeks to complete. Do not get discouraged if a program does not get back to you, or if a program requires several “hoops” to go through before you can start volunteering. Rewards from volunteering are well worth the effort, so hang in there and keep trying.

The most valuable skills you bring to any volunteer experience are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to do whatever is needed, and a positive attitude

Go out and give, seek ordinary moments and make them extraordinary.

Life truly is a special occasion. Enjoy yourself. 

What Motivates You?

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When was the last time you searched within yourself to answer the question – ‘What motivates me?’ What did you discover?  Was it a zest to master the next challenge? The pleasure of meeting people? Or the desire to have an influence and impact that will put your stamp on the world? Many of us strive daily to accomplish the tasks at hand. However, have you stopped lately to think of what really drives you to keep going? Are you aware of what matters most to you in your daily efforts to achieve? Do you know your WHY factor?

There are three fundamental motivators of our behavior: the need for autonomy, mastery and purpose. These are the great – largely unconscious – drivers which shape the course of our personal and working lives. Knowing what motivates you provides insightful guidance with choosing career and personal endeavors; which will help lead to a satisfying successful lifestyle. Depending on your goals, age, and at what stage you are at in your life, the factors that motivate you will be different.

Take time for you – find time to ponder what, how, or if each of the following motivators are important to you.

Autonomy – The desire to direct your own life.  
  • Being the decision maker and in control on how you spend your time.  
  • Seeking opportunities to be creative and innovative.  
  • Working in an environment that allows you to work at your agreed hours (giving you plenty of time for your personal life).
Mastery – The urge to get better and better something that matters.
  • The chance to learn more and gain new skills.
  • Striving to be your best with a skill.
  • Having opportunities to compete with your own performance or with others.
Purpose – The yearning to do what you do in the service of something larger than yourself
  • Doing something that requires you to make a contribution.
  • The opportunity to work with others closely and receive and give help as well as feedback.
  • Making an impact on something.Motivation

Knowing what excites you to act is the key to staying inspired.  No one can truly drive you but you. Others can inspire, encourage and support you. 

Take time for you, discover what truly motivates you. 

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. ~ Lou Holtz