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20 Calming Or Invigorating Mini Meditations You Can Practice Every Day

No matter how hectic or stressful our days are, whether we’re sitting at our desks or waiting in line, we have the opportunity to pause and adjust our perspective.

We have the opportunity to be kinder — both to ourselves and others. We have the opportunity to relax and slow down. And we have the opportunity to refocus. Even if it’s for a minute or two.

In her book Self-Meditation: 3,299 Mantras, Tips, Quotes and Koans for Peace and Serenity, bestselling author Barbara Ann Kipfer offers a wealth of inspiration for practicing kindness and breathing in the beauty of daily moments and the miracles that are our lives.

Here are 20 of my favorite suggestions from her book.

1. Let small chores act as a stop sign to “breathe, relax and experience peace.”

2. Sit down and “become a human still life.” Don’t do anything. Just breathe.

3. When you’re driving, focus solely on that experience. “Feel the steering wheel, the pedals, the seat.”

4. “Listen for the quietest sound.”

5. Focus on your sense of smell. Take something you’d like to smell, such as a flower or food, and put it up close to your nose. Notice the changes in the aroma. Focus on the sensations in your body as you inhale and exhale. Then try to focus on other fragrances around you throughout the day.

6. Focus on your sense of touch. Focus on the sensation of your hands touching each other, “your clothes brushing against your skin, and the air moving across your face.”

7. In the beginning of the week, pick an activity you normally do on autopilot, such as washing your hands, applying makeup or getting into your car. Pause for several seconds before starting the activity. Then perform it with your full attention.

8. “Imagine that you are a kite soaring in the sky. Surrender to the wind, but be aware of the string that anchors you to the ground and keeps you safe.”

9. When you’re performing a chore, focus your full attention on your hands. “Note all the sensations in your fingers, your palms, and your wrists.”

10. Send yourself some loving-kindness (or “meta”). Focus your attention on an aspect of your mind or body that you feel separated from. Acknowledge this. You might say something like: “May I accept this. May I be filled with loving-kindness toward this. May I use the pain of this experience for the welfare of all.”

11. As you’re trying to fall asleep, “imagine that with each breath you are melting into an ocean of light and space.”

12. When you turn on the faucet, focus on the bigger picture. “See the water flowing down from the glaciers and mountains, running deep into the earth, sustaining you and all life.”

13. When you wake up, feel your feet touch the floor. “Be aware of their weight, the floor supporting your body, and the motion of your feet and legs as you begin to walk.”

14. When you get home from work, every day, stand in front of your door and appreciate the moment. Rejoice in it. “Breathe in and out three times.”

15. Set an alarm to ring every hour to remind yourself to “wake up and appreciate the miracle of every moment. Say, ‘[Your name], wake up!”

16. Picture your thoughts as balloons floating by.

17. Visualize a mountain lake with a smooth, glassy surface. A breeze sends ripples across the water. As the breeze quiets down, so do the ripples, and the water returns to being smooth. When something ruffles you, return to this visualization. “Feel the ripples and then let them settle.”

18. Think of your mind as a swinging door. “Thoughts and feelings come in and out, like people. Be the door, not the doorman.”

19. Picture a person or pet you love greatly. Imagine they’re “giving you a look that melts your heart.” Think about the things you love most about them. With each breath you take, let your heart fill with love. “Imagine your two souls connected by the caring you have for each other.”

20. “See yourself as a small child, fragile and vulnerable, and breathe in. Smile with love to this small child within yourself, and breathe out.”

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Study Finds Cigarettes ‘Trick’ Smokers’ Brains

New research shows that smokers are more susceptible to positive images of smoking, while more biased to negative images of smoking, including the health risks.
Researchers at the Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and Université de Montréal found that chronic smokers have altered emotional reactions when they are exposed to images — both negative and positive — associated with tobacco.“We observed a bias depending on how smoking is portrayed,” said Le-Anh Dinh-Williams, a student at the Centre de recherche de l’Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and the study’s first author.

“For example, the brains of the smokers in our study were more aroused by images that showed smoking in a positive light than by images that encouraged them to stop. They were also more affected by aversive non-smoking related images than by images of the specific negative consequences of smoking.”

In Canada and the U.S., approximately 20 percent of adults smoke cigarettes despite knowing its adverse effects, according to the researchers.

“We wanted to understand why knowing about the negative health impacts of tobacco does not prevent smokers from lighting up,” she said.

Using neuroimaging techniques, the researchers compared the emotional reactions of 30 smokers as they looked at aversive smoking-related images, such as lung cancer, compared to other aversive images — like an old man on his deathbed. They also had the smokers view positive smoking-related images, such as a smoker satisfying the urge to smoke.

The study helps explain why 70 to 95 percent of smokers who quit will, despite their best efforts, start smoking again within one year, according to the researchers.

“Many factors make it difficult for people to quit. Part of the explanation could certainly be because cigarettes ‘trick’ the brains of smokers,” said Stéphane Potvin, Ph.D., a co-author of the study and researcher at the Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal.

“Specifically, we discovered that the brain regions associated with motivation are more active in smokers when they see pleasurable images associated with cigarettes and less active when smokers are confronted with the negative effects of smoking.”

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10 Practical Ways To Handle Stress

Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.

1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.

Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodgeball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.

Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?

By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.

2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.

While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.

The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.

Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.

Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.

3. Do what you love.

It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.

4. Manage your time well.

One of the biggest stressors for many people is the lack of time. Their to-do list expands while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.

5. Create a toolbox of techniques.

One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.

Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.

6. Pick off the negotiable tasks from your plate.

Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. As Vanderkam asks in her book: “Do your kids really love their extracurricular activities or are they doing them to please you? Are you volunteering for too many causes and so stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Does your whole department really need to meet once per week or have that daily conference call?”

Blonna suggested asking these questions: “Do [my activities] mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”

Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.

7. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress?

Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. That is, as Blonna said, “Each transaction we’re involved in takes place in a very specific context that’s affected by our health, sleep, psychoactive substances, whether we’ve had breakfast [that day] and [whether we’re] physically fit.”

So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and filled to the brim with coffee, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.

8. Preserve good boundaries.

If you’re a people-pleaser, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.

One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. But not to worry: Building boundaries is a skill you can learn.

9. Realize there’s a difference between worrying and caring.

Sometimes, our mindset can boost stress, so a small issue mushroom into a pile of problems. We continue worrying, somehow thinking that this is a productive — or at least inevitable — response to stress. But we mistake worry for action.

Clinical psychologist Chad LeJeune, Ph.D., talks about the idea of worrying versus caring in his book, The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Worrying is an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it, whereas caring is taking action. When we are caring for someone or something, we do the things that support or advance the best interests of the person or thing that we care about.

LeJeune uses the simple example of houseplants. He writes: “If you are away from home for a week, you can worry about your houseplants every single day and still return home to find them brown and wilted. Worrying is not watering.”

Similarly, fretting about your finances does nothing but get you worked up (and likely prevent you from taking action). Caring about your finances, however, means creating a budget, paying bills on time, using coupons and reducing how often you dine out.

Just this small shift in mindset from worrying to caring can help you adjust your reaction to stress. To see this distinction between worrying and caring, try this activity where you can list responses for each one. For example:

Worrying about your health involves…

Caring about your health involves…

Worrying about your career involves…

Caring about your career involves…

10. Embrace mistakes—or at least don’t drown in perfectionism.

Another mindset that can exacerbate stress is perfectionism. Trying to be mistake-free and essentially spending your days walking on eggshells is exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Talk about putting pressure on yourself! And as we all know but tend to forget: Perfectionism is impossible and not human, anyway.

As the researcher, Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth and it’s not self-improvement.”

Nothing good can come from perfectionism. Brown writes: “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis [‘all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect’].”

Plus, mistake-mistaking can lead to growth. To overcome perfectionism, Brown suggests becoming more compassionate toward yourself. I couldn’t agree more.

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Dumped? How To Heal The Health Effects Of A Broken Heart?

Romantic rejection can manifest in various forms of physical anguish, researchers find.

Got a stomach ache? A headache? Insomnia? Your health issues may be related to your recent romantic rejection.

When 23-year old Emmie Scott, a direct marketer in Richmond, Va., and her boyfriend/co-worker broke up and still had to endure seeing each other daily, Scott suffered a broken heart—literally. “The most uncomfortable symptom I experienced is the sensation that someone was sitting on my chest—a combination of both pain and pressure that’s left more than one of my friends commenting that my heart must actually be broken.”

Researchers now understand that romantic rejection triggers change in our brains that affect our health. Edward Smith, a Columbia University psychologist, and a team of colleagues found that intense emotional pain can activate the same neural pathways as physical pain. Seems being jilted can hurt in a primitive physical way as if you’ve been sucker-punched by a welterweight.

What’s more, that physical pain can manifest in surprising ways. Aside from chest pain, you may get hit with a kick-butt cold or flu, develop insomnia, or a range of gastro symptoms from loss of appetite to diarrhea. The precise health wallop you suffer may have to do with how your body manifests stress. Asthmatic? You could have an asthma attack. Suffer from a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis? Your skin will likely flare up. Have irritable bowel syndrome? Prepare to hit the restroom.

“While in college I found out my boyfriend (and high school sweetheart) was cheating on me. Although only 110 pounds, I dropped almost 15 and broke out with a case of shingles, which required a week of prednisone to calm,” says Christina Stoever Young, 40, producer of a historic haunted walking tour in Truckee, Calif.

Here, the top health complaints stemming from heartache:

• Complaint: Heart pressure or pain, palpitations, abnormal heart rhythms.

Why: When the stress response is triggered by a breakup or divorce, the body sends out a massive flooding of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. “Anytime your adrenaline levels are higher, you’re more vulnerable to faster heart rate, palpitations, and certain arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, as well as skipped beats, lightheadedness, feeling your chest pounding, and a fluttering feeling in your neck,” says Dr. John M. Kennedy, a Marina Del Ray cardiologist and co-author of “The 15 Minute Heart Cure: The Natural Way to Release Stress and Heal Your Heart in Just Minutes a Day.”

Women heart patients facing severe stress from marriage difficulties were found to have three times the risk of heart attack as women without such stress. Worse, there’s a syndrome that mimics heart attack called Takotsuba syndrome, or broken heart syndrome, in which an EKG, chest X-ray, and blood work all indicate a heart attack. But when a cardiologist goes inside the heart searching for the culprit blocked artery, the arteries are wide open. The stress response simulates heart attack symptoms. “A broken heart syndrome is an extreme form of what heartache can do to our bodies,” says Kennedy. While it can be lethal, the heart muscle usually recovers within six months.

What helps: Anything that relieves stress helps prevent these heart problems during relationship troubles: exercise, yoga, meditation, relaxing through breathing or visualization, even short term anti-anxiety medication.

• Complaint: Cold or flu.

Why: These same stress hormones torch your immune system leaving you vulnerable to rogue bacteria and viruses. “Normally when you’re confronted with bacteria or virus, your body will mount a defense,” says Dr. Valerie Scott, a board certified family doctor in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Post break up, however, your immune system is weakened and those defenses aren’t unable to ward off illness.

What helps: Managing your stress improves your immune system. Exercise, eat well, take a multi-vitamin, especially the B-complex vitamins, which boost immunity, rest enough and decompress with music, comedy or friends to counteract the flood of stress hormones.

• Complaint: Gastro upset (stomach pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea,).

Why: The excess cortisol shooting into your system during your break up diverts blood away from your digestive track, leaving you with GI unpleasantness–that ‘can’t eat for weeks, sour stomach, run to the bathroom feeling you get when your relationship tanks.

What helps: Try over-the-counter meds for your queasy stomach. In one study, researchers simulated rejection in the lab and found that aspirin alleviates the painful feelings triggered by being rebuffed. While it seems skeptical, it’s worth a try, as is curbing your desire to veg on the couch. Exercise prompts your brain to release uplifting endorphins that will settle your stomach. What’s more, misery loves company. “You want to surround yourself with family and friends and supportive people because it’s easy to get depressed,” says Kennedy, which may worsen symptoms. Camaraderie can stimulate a much-needed dose of missing oxytocin, a feel-contented hormone.

• Complaint: Insomnia.

Why: Sleeping patterns, not unlike eating patterns, become skewed during relationship demise. Some people want to stay in bed all day — while others can’t seem to sleep at all. Science really doesn’t understand why it happens, but it’s likely due to racing thoughts, the ‘he-said, she-said’ reenactment of the break up plays out mentally while at rest. Plus, stress hormones, still at their peak, may wreck your circadian rhythms and internal clock.

What helps: Stay active enough so your body will reach the reparative deep levels of sleep it needs, but don’t push yourself to exhaustion, which backfires. Exercise, but avoid it after 9 pm, since it could cause insomnia. Skip caffeine after 3 in the afternoon for the same reason. Turn off TV, computer and cell phone at least an hour before bed and embrace a relaxing sleep routine: low lighting, candles, and a warm bath. “Once you calm that stress response, all of these medical things resolve and get better,” says Scott.

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Boost Your Balance

There are special exercises that can prevent falls.

A well-developed sense of balance helps prevent falls and consequent injuries, according to Uschi Moriabadi, an author and instructor at the University of Applied Sciences for Prevention and Health Management in Saarbruecken, Germany.

She said it also lends confidence, be it in sports such as rollerblading or skiing, on rain-slicked sidewalks or while riding a bus or train.

Simple balance exercises once or twice a week are helpful in this regard. Moriabadi recommends the following:

Exercise 1 – Stand straight, legs and feet together, on a flat surface. Close your eyes and count to 45.

Exercise 2 – Assume the same position as in the first exercise, but with your eyes open. Slowly shift your weight to one leg, and then to the other. Can you stand on one leg till a count of 10? If you feel unsteady, you can stand near a wall or a chair that you can use for support at any time.

Exercise 3 – If you feel confident, you can now try to shift your weight slowly from one leg to the other with your eyes closed. You may even be able to stand steadily on one leg for several seconds with your eyes closed.

“Practice these exercises regularly,” Moriabadi advised. “You’ll see that you’ll feel increasingly more stable and confident.”

– The Hindu.

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3 Tips For Dealing With Disappointment

Sometimes things just don’t turn out how we want. It could be anything—a project, a relationship, a job. We enter into these situations with high hopes, and often, when our hopes are dashed, we feel intensely disappointed.

Here Are Three Tips to Help Ease the Sting of Disappointment

So that the next time things don’t go your way (and trust me, there will be a next time) you’ll be able to bounce back more easily.

1. Trust.

Many times, when things don’t work out as we planned, there’s actually something bigger and better on the horizon. You’ve probably experienced this before—you get all worked up because you didn’t receive a job offer or something like that—only to realize, in hindsight, that if you’d been offered that job, you never would have moved across the country and met your soul mate. At the time, you probably felt angry, sad, and disappointed. But in retrospect, you can see how everything was working out with perfect timing.

When things don’t go our way, it’s important to learn to trust that the universe has our back. Even though your situation might look bleak at the moment, there’s something better coming. I truly believe that when we think in this way, we actually create these bigger and better things. Call it a shift in perspective, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or the law of attraction. However you want to think of it, there’s a mountain of evidence attesting to the fact that, in all areas of life, mindset matters.

Cheryl Richardson, the best-selling author of The Art of Extreme Self-Care and You Can Create an Exceptional Life, often tells the story of her experience with the Oprah show. One day, Cheryl got the call that many people dream of—Oprah wanted to have her on her show. Cheryl was elated, until she received another call a few weeks before the show was to air. It ended up that Oprah didn’t want her anymore.

Cheryl was devastated, but after some initial mourning, she kept following her passion of being a life coach and author. Then, a year later, Oprah called again. This time, Cheryl got on the show, and she did so well that Oprah turned her into a regular guest on her Life Makeover Series.

The moral? Cheryl says that if she had gotten on the show the first time around, she wouldn’t have done as well, because she didn’t have enough media experience to nail the interview. The extra year gave her time to hone her craft so that when she did end up on the show, she knocked it out of the park.

The next time something doesn’t go your way, close your eyes and say to yourself, “I trust that everything in my life is happening in perfect, divine timing.”

2. Release.

In modern life, we often place far too much emphasis on the outcome of our actions, as opposed to enjoying the journey. We have a picture in our mind of exactly how everything is supposed to work out: we’ll have this relationship by this age, this job at this point, this much money in the bank by this year, this many children, this car, this house, and on and on.

Unfortunately, this isn’t how the real world works. Of course, it’s always nice to have goals and a vision of what we want in life, but if we attach too strongly to that vision, we end up feeling crushed when things don’t go according to our five (or forty!) year plan.

We need to loosen our grip on the outcome and learn to enjoy the process. We try so hard to control our lives, while the saying, “Man plans, god laughs” is utterly true.

Let go of your attachment to the outcome. All you have is this moment, right here, right now. This is it! Enjoy it as best as you can. If this moment is difficult, return to point one and trust that something better is on the way.

3. Expand.

When we’re working toward a goal, we often have on blinders. These blinders cause us to see a very narrow picture of the outcome that we desire. Unfortunately, this tunnel vision results in a very close-minded approach that can actually stifle our motivation and creativity.

A practice that I like to use is to ask the universe for what I want, but to keep an open mind at the same time. For example, you can visualize the outcome that you desire, and then affirm to yourself, “I trust that I am being guided toward this or something better.”

Access Consciousness recommends a fantastic question to help reduce narrow-mindedness. The next time you catch yourself obsessing over a very specific outcome, ask yourself, “What else is possible?”

The trick here is to avoid searching for an answer with your logical mind. We tend to overemphasize the capabilities of our rational mind, when in fact, research shows that we actually make poorer decisions when we rely on logic. Many times, our emotions, gut feelings, and unconscious minds lead us to better decisions. Creativity is not logical.

You’ve probably heard many examples where people came up with solutions to problems, inventions, and beautiful pieces of art through dreams or other unconscious means.

When we find ourselves getting too preoccupied with an outcome, we need to let it go for awhile and expand our mindset. Go for a walk, spend time with a loved one, or meditate. Continue to ask yourself, “What else is possible?” But don’t go searching for the answer. Let it percolate. The guidance will come exactly when it’s meant to.

Disappointment as a Gift.

In the end, life’s disappointments often bear hidden gifts. The trick is to shift our perspective so that we can see these blessings for what they are.

In his book The Gift of Fire, Dan Caro talks about how a horrible childhood accident that left him disfigured and near death was actually a gift. Dan learned early on how to make adversity work for him, and you can too.

Just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and trust, release, and expand.

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