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Become Worried Well : 5 Steps To Gaining Control Of Your Worry

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”- Mark Twain

Worry is the silent killer of life’s enthusiasm, energy, and promise. Many of us spend a great deal of time, needlessly in our own heads, worrying about things that usually never happen. Granted, sometimes they do happen, but almost never in the manner or severity worrythat we imagined. Worrying is something that humans do instinctively, a hardwired mental activity that we believe prepares us for some anticipated disaster. It is a part of our evolutionary development that was more beneficial when we had to worry about running out of food, abrupt changes in the seasons, and occasionally being slaughtered by predatory beasts. While it can still serve a purpose, it is usually a time waster, an energy suck, and it has the potential to lead to physical and emotional illnesses. To maintain physical and mental wellness, modern man must learn to harness this basic human instinct.

The difference between anxiety and worry is that worry is about anticipating some way to handle a future event that has not yet happened. Worry is specific, anxiety tends to be more general. Worry frequently becomes anxiety, as the specific event we are worried about takes upon a life of its own and generates physical symptoms resulting in a storm of emotions, creating a feeling of powerlessness and loss of control. These physical symptoms are interpreted in an “impending doom” kind of way and many other areas of functioning become impaired.

Humans, being tribal animals, often share these worries with significant others, family, and friends. The typical advice we receive is “Don’t worry about it.” Brilliant isn’t it? When worrying gets to be too overwhelming, a person can break down physically, losing sleep, overreacting to every day routine events, and suffer impaired levels of functioning in multiple areas of their life. Ironically, worry tends to impede a person’s ability to deal with the very thing that they were worried about in the first place. Occasionally, people will seek out professional advice in the form of primary care physicians, financial advisors, and even coaches and counselors. Quite often counseling involves trying to find ways to stop the worry from occurring. Unfortunately, this usually fails and a person believes that counseling doesn’t work and develops an “I tried that and it didn’t work” attitude towards the whole process.

Worry does serve a purpose. It prepares us for what might happen and helps us to imagine contingencies for how we will deal with the difficult events if and when they happen. When it is simply an exercise in catastrophizing, or is not accompanied by an action plan of how to cope, it is a complete and utter waste of time, physical, mental, and emotional energy. “Don’t worry” is a great idea, but virtually impossible for most thoughtful people to accomplish. We have to learn to work within the parameters of our natural inclination to worry as a way of planning for the future.

The reality is that humans are programmed to worry. To cope with this, acceptance in working with this tendency must be considered. Remember, the purpose that worrying serves is to prepare us for events that we fear might happen. Learning to “worry well” is the challenge. Worrying well is a skill that, like most behavioral skills, can be learned with a little patience and diligent practice. Here are some steps to take to become one who worries well:

1. Set aside a “worry period” each day. It should be a specific time of day and have a sit worryspecific duration. For example, every day after work sit down and worry for 15 minutes. After that 15 minutes go about the rest of your evening, but you are not allowed to go back to the troublesome thoughts of that 15 minute worry period. It’s very subtle, but what you are doing is learning to confine, thereby gaining some measure of control over your worry.

2. Identify your worry. What specifically are you afraid might happen in the future? Some are afraid to even think about what their fears are here. The belief here is “if I don’t consider it it won’t happen.” This usually doesn’t work and the event of concern takes upon a life of its own.

3. Delay your worry. As you go about your day and find yourself beginning to worry, take note of your concern and, if necessary, write it down. In that moment remind yourself, “No need to think about this now, I’ll deal with it later.” Again, what you are doing is learning to confine control your natural inclination to worry.

4. Do not allow the worry to consume you at any other time during your day except for your worry period. Focus your attention mindfully on the tasks of your day. Get engrossed and involved in the routine and events of the moment to postpone worrying until the appropriate time. Remember, you’ll deal with it later, but you will deal with it. If this is difficult to do, have a set of strategies that you can fall back on to delay your worrying. Things like, going for a brief walk, calling a friend, checking your emails, doing some deep breathing – anything that refocuses your mind on something other than the disturbing thoughts. A strategy that I have been suggesting to my clients that many like is to think of their worries as a program on a computer that is their mind. When the disturbing thoughts pop up, they click an imaginary button minimizing that program. The program continues to run in the background, but they don’t pay attention to it. During their worry period, they will open that file and attend to it then. This visualization seems to resonate with a lot of people, allowing them to function in the present moment.

5. Eliminate a worry when you no longer feel it bothers you. As you gradually delete worries, you’ll find that the worry period is a great time to brainstorm some practical solutions to what has been bothering you. As you come up with potential answers, you’ll find a decrease in tension and improved confidence in what you can control. Some worries will remain, but to a lesser degree of intensity.

Whether or not to worry is, ultimately, a choice. If you are a natural worrier, then try these strategies and notice the positive benefits of worrying well. Don’t let worry rule your emotions. While worry can never be completely eradicated, learning to worry well while continuing to function at an optimal level will give you the ability to live your life with less tension.

If you found this article helpful, my book Fear Factors: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy To gladGet Control Of Your Anxiety, Worry And Fear will give you the skills to reclaim your life. It is available for instant download here: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00LRJF0W6

There is nothing so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes. What madness it is in your expecting evil before it arrives! – Seneca

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

 

Radical Acceptance: Facing Life On Life’s Terms

“Pain is not wrong. Reacting to pain as wrong initiates the trance of unworthiness. The moment we believe something is wrong, our world shrinks and we lose ourselves in the effort to combat the pain.” – Tara Brach

Most who embark on a life of self-improvement and personal development will run into the crossfit-wheelchair-hspuinevitable roadblock that is the first and most important principle of life:

“Life is painful.”- Buddhism’s First Noble Truth

No matter how hard we work on ourselves, how powerful our intentions are, what caring and loving things we do for others, life is inevitably going to give us something that we hadn’t bargained for that we are bound to find overwhelming. At those moments most people succumb to the inevitable “life sucks” mindset. Whatever the challenge is naturally creates a flood of negative thoughts and feelings. These feelings become engrained, depending on how intense the pain and suffering the life event evokes. Some people get more than their fair share of this type of pain, others not as much. It is, however, inevitable that everybody is going to have to cope with pain and suffering at different points of their lives. Illness, deaths, physical pain, the loss of jobs and relationships, and the declining capacity of the self due to aging are the suffering that all endure. The way that a person processes these events may hold the key to leading a happier and more fulfilling life.

It’s natural for humans to bond with others through difficult times. We visit the sick, attend funerals, and bring food to friends and family when they are suffering. It’s inevitable that someone is going to offer some kind of consolation, well intentioned, but definitely off the mark.”It’s for the best.” “You’ll get over it someday.” “This too shall pass.” (See also “Going Tribal” http://mindbodycoach.org/going-tribal/ )

Life’s pain is not always for the best and it’s not always distributed evenly. Some are consolationfortunate and get a bearable amount, others get more than can be reasonably carried by anyone. Anyone who has lost a child, suffered a life altering illness, or experienced post traumatic stress knows that it is not for the best. The pain will not, and in some cases should not, ever go away entirely. Life’s challenge is to accept what has happened. Radical Acceptance means to accept, not necessarily agree with or like, what has happened.

Radical Acceptance is a concept taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, borrowed from some basic teachings of Buddhism. The context in which the word radical is used is complete and total acceptance of a disturbing or painful event. Acceptance, not liking or agreement, but acceptance. Acknowledging this event as something that has happened and must be endured. Life has given you, for whatever reason, a bad deal. Radical Acceptance begins with that moment when you realize you have essentially two options:
1. Resist, deny, bargain, and argue with it, thereby making yourself miserable.
2. Accept what has happened as a reality. Not anything that you like or want to happen, but something that has, or is, indeed happening.

Radical Acceptance occurs when one stops fighting reality, and accepts it for what it is-reality. Trying to figure out whether or not you have any control over the situation is a critical component to acceptance. (See also “Acceptance And True Wisdom” http://mindbodycoach.org/acceptance-true-wisdom/ ) If there is something you could do to improve or better the situation, then obviously you need to pursue that. If not, it may be more healthy to realize that acceptance of this reality is the only logical way out of the pain and suffering that this event is bringing you.

Reality is very much like that cucumber which becomes a pickle. Once it becomes a pickle, it can never be a cucumber again. Accepting of this is the the most important factor in whether or not one continues to needlessly suffer through an incredibly painful event. With many disturbing life events, such as the death of a loved one, acceptance is the beginning of healing. Once one can accept the loss of a loved one, the next challenge is to find spiritual meaning and significance in the suffering that you are going through. Many use spirituality as a way to cope with pain in a very healthy way, making the loss something that, while never going away, brings meaning to themselves, others, and the memory of their loved one. The Susan B. Komen Walk for a Cure, the ALS challenge, and various other fundraisers are examples of healthy and spiritually meaningful ways that people engage in Radical Acceptance.

Having been a practicing psychotherapist for the past 18 years, I’ve noticed that there are two general ways that people respond to pain and tragedy. Some people are destroyed by, made bitter, and often are never the same. Some people come out of the transformative event seemingly even stronger, and often, despite never entirely letting go of the pain, seemingly finding life more meaningful on a much deeper level. Anyone in my position couldn’t help but ask the same question that I’ve often asked myself, what’s the difference in people who do come out the other side hurt and in pain, but a little bit better, and those that are utterly destroyed?

Those that emerge stronger intuitively process the events in a way that leads towards acceptance that it is a reality that they must deal with, changing it is out of their control, and somehow they are going to make the best of it. Yes, initially both types of people go through the same process of shock and denial, but one group breaks free of these paralyzing emotions, while the other gets stuck in an endless loop of pain and suffering. Both experience pain, but the group that processes a little bit more healthily is able to push through the suffering portion while learning to live with the pain. The pain never goes away for either group, those that come out the other side of the suffering are transformed by it and, in the process of letting it go, seemingly become stronger.

The basic principles on which Radical Acceptance are pretty hard-core. Radical Acceptance teaches us that when faced with painful problems, we have for choices that we must choose from:
1. Solve the problem
2. Change how you feel
3. Accept it
4. Stay miserable

Honest, blunt, but the hard-core reality is that these are the only options one has. Radicalvictory Acceptance teaches that, after the inevitable initial shock and denial, we must make a choice among these four possibilities. If you analyze painful events that you yourself have experienced, or those of others, you’ll come to the realization that these truly are the only choices that we have. Either be transformed, or destroyed.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”- Haruki Murakami

Ultimately, a person comes to the realization that their life, although touched by pain and suffering, can still have meaning and be worthwhile and worth living. You don’t need to look to historical figures, celebrities, or fictional characters defined concrete examples of people who have practiced Radical Acceptance, and practice it well. All of us have people that we know personally, family, friends, and acquaintances, who have come out the other side of horrific pain and tragedy as better people. Learn from these examples and hope that, whatever you face in life, you will be able to do the same.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
– Lao Tzu

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

 

Between Stimulus And Response: Developing Your Own Sacred Space

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lays our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”- Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Most of us living in this 21st century have a very strange relationship with time. We know what time is, of course, but it’s helpful to consider its working definition: “Time is a guy mtnmeasure in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also measure the durations between events and the intervals between them.” Conceptually, we know that there are gaps between moments in time, or at least there appears to be. Being able to utilize these micro-moments that occur could very well be the difference between a fulfilling and happy life and one of misery and poor choices.

As we all know too well, life tends to come at us very quickly. The more caught up in life we become, the more we are likely to find ourselves getting caught up in a rhythm and flow that life is handing us, often responding to events more quickly, and with less thought than we would like. Wouldn’t it be great if we could slow things down a bit and make decisions coming from a place of a little more thought and a little more awareness? Don’t you sometimes just wish that you could “stop the tape” and pause before making an important decision or taking an action, giving yourself a little time to do the right thing?

In theater, movies, and drama there are a number of literary devices in which the characters do just that. Some of these devices are the soliloquy, the aside, or the fourth wall. In each of these a character will pause, turn to the audience and discuss to themselves, our loud, what they are thinking, what actions they plan on taking, and why. This literary device has been used by playwright William Shakespeare, comedians Bob Hope and Woody Allen, and others as a way of engaging the audience in the deeper aspects of what a character is struggling with. Typically, a character will stop for a few moments, do some thinking out loud, and then return to the action and follow through with a better thought out course of action. Too bad we couldn’t do the same thing in their own lives. Or can we?

Victor Frankl, mentioned in the quote that started this article, was a Viennese psychiatrist franklwho survived concentration camp life during the Second World War. One of the ways that he survived was through separating himself from the horrors in front of him by asking himself questions, pausing to see the larger picture, thereby detaching himself from impulsive thoughts and poorly thought-out actions. He not only chose more prudent behaviors, but he also consciously chose how he thought-and therefore felt-about what he was experiencing. He learned that pausing to ponder and consider how he consciously and carefully chose to process and think about these events made all the difference in the world and how he experienced his world. He learned that he could not only survive concentration camp life, but even thrive in some spiritual ways, as his process allowed him to find meaning and his struggle. (His story is available here as a free download: http://www.anderson5.net/cms/lib02/SC01001931/Centricity/Domain/222/man-s-search-for-meaning.pdf)

Tara Brach, a psychologist and teacher of Buddhist meditation, speaks often of what she refers to as the “Sacred Pause,” a conscious moment where we stop, breathe, and attempt to decide how we are feeling in that given moment. It is a moment where one consciously seeks to find that “space” that Victor Frankl referred to. Finding this space is an acquired skill, but the good news is the busier you are, and the faster paced your life is, the more opportunities you will have to find this sacred space.

Brach suggests that you find time when you are engaged in an active, goal oriented, activity, one where you are likely to get caught up in the moment, such as reading, working on the computer, writing, or engaging in some physical activity. Explore pausing, breathing deeply and noticing what’s going on for you in that moment. Take a few, measured, deep breaths and with each exhale let go of any worries or concerns about what you are going to do next. Allow your body to relax, letting go of any tightness that you may be carrying at that moment. Brach says to “notice what you are experiencing as you inhabit the pause. What sensations are you aware of in your body? Do you feel anxious or restless as you try to step out of your mental stories? Do you feel pulled to resume your activity? Can you simply allow, for this moment, whatever is happening inside you?” Most of us are constantly engaging in a self dialogue, telling us stories that may or may not be true. Noticing what’s going on physically at the moment of the sacred pause will enable us to stop those stories and simply sit with the feeling that exists, rather than create feelings from some internal dialogue.

There are many ways that one can learn to recognize and utilize the gap between stimulus and response. A daily meditation practice is perhaps the best one of them. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate or complicated process, but it does have to be a consistent one practiced a few moments each day. Practicing of the sacred pause can become a meditation practice in and of itself. There is a simple awareness of breath meditation that I teach to many of my clients that they find highly effective which I am sharing here: http://mindbodycoach.org/breathing-101-improving-lifes-basic-activity/ and here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iypetAkg_pY

The daily meditation practice is an acquired skill, but if done briefly a few times each day one can recognize its potential. Utilizing meditation in order to identify the sacred pause is an acquired skill, but its benefits can be recognized immediately if accompanied by correct breathing. One of my clients, who has been practicing this skill daily, recently said to me, “It’s almost like time slows down. I have more time to make decisions. It seems like a long time that I pause, but it’s really not. It’s not even three seconds. I think it through and make a better decision.”

Start utilizing this brief moment in your life immediately. Try to identify this sacred pause when you are enjoying yourself in an activity that you love, doing something that is stressful, absorbed in something-anything that you find yourself getting caught up in. STOP, BREATHE, and NOTICE what you are experiencing in a non-judgmental way. Savor the feeling for a few moments, becoming aware of what is going on and how you are physically and emotionally experiencing that space in time. If it’s something noncritical or enjoyable, go back to it when you are ready. If it is something that is stressful or more crucial to your life, take a little more time in that sacred space. Over time you will develop a rational detachment which will allow you to enjoy some things more and allow you to make better decisions with others. In either case, time will appear to be a little bit slower, giving you a greater capacity to act in a way that you will be more comfortable with.

Start learning to recognize this sacred space between stimulus and response. Learn toguy utilize the sacred pause and learn to recognize what is really going on, as opposed to what you think is going, on or perhaps that which you are not even noticing. Increased awareness, and decreased stress can only be a good thing.

“LSD stands out for learning to slow down.”- Santosh Kalwar

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

The World Is Your Dojo: Martial Arts Lessons For Everyday Life

Dojo- a Japanese term which literally means “place of the way”. Initially, dojos were adjunct to temples. Also a”place of enlightenment.”

Traditional Asian martial arts have a lot of customs and rituals that are rooted in the Asian philosophy of Taoism, which emphasizes living in harmony with all things. The word “tao” dojois often expressed as “dao,” or “do,”and can often mean the path or way towards attaining enlightenment or understanding. The training hall, or dojo, is a place where practitioners struggle with a physical task in order to find a greater understanding of themselves and their place in the world. People from all walks of life come together to struggle, collectively, and as individuals, for something they know is unattainable- perfection of an art form. It is the exact opposite of what most Westerners would think about a place where people learn self-defense. Many practitioners devote their life to the practice of an art form of combat skills that they never have to draw upon. Often this obsession with their study gets in the way of their life outside the dojo. When a teacher notices that his student is overly involved in training and that it is getting in the way of the rest of their life, he may gently remind the student of the following saying:

Don’t make the dojo your world, make the world your dojo.”

The idea behind this advice is that one trains inside the dojo to be able to use the training outside the dojo, in life, where the real and most important battles are to be won.This is the essence of martial arts, and traditional martial arts would proclaim that it is the essence of Taoism and life. A well lived life is one in which one accepts all that life has to offer and is open-minded to the constant “teachable moments” that life offers us every single day.

Of course, not everyone who practices Taoism engages in martial arts. However, most teawho practice the philosophy of Taoism have rituals that they engage in and practices that they follow that they will never perfect. There is the art of flower arrangement,(kado), calligraphy,(shodo), martial exercises,(budo), and even the tea ceremony (chado)-all practices that Taoists dedicate their efforts knowing that they will never reach perfection. Rather than trying to focus on a goal, practitioners focus on their efforts and acceptance of the challenges of the tasks at hand with the intention of learning more about themselves, and life, along the way.

To Westerners, Asians often seem stoic in the face of adversity, resilient in some way because of their race or some intangible that they possess. It is quite possible that this resilience is from their openness to life lessons that can come in the most difficult of situations. This looking for the lesson that is available in the present moment creates a natural curiosity that leads to acceptance of what is, rather than a desire for something else. One does not need to be a martial artist to experience this, it exists everywhere and in all things.

“Be open to the lesson that life is offering you in the present moment.”-Anonymous

It is a characteristic of Western thought that we “should” be living a life that is happy and pain-free most of the time. We think of happiness as being our life’s natural state. In Asian culture, heavily steeped in Taoist and Buddhist tradition, it is rather the opposite. There is a natural acceptance of the Buddha’s first noble truth of life: “Life is suffering.”

To live, you must suffer. It is impossible to experience life without experiencing pain and suffering. Being open to this truth, rather than being restricted by it, is a liberating experience that helps one focus more intensely and urgently on the joys, beauty, and lessons that life has to offer. Rather than fighting this reality, the Asian tradition allows one to accept this as part of the human experience. Being open to this reality leads to a more rich and fulfilling existence. Taoist philosophy asks is practitioners not only to accept this, but to seek the life lessons that exist in pain and the day-to-day struggles of life with an openness and almost natural curiosity.

Seeking out the life lessons to be learned is perhaps the best way to cope as well as the best way to find the true meaning in life. Acceptance that, more often than not, life is going to be some kind of a challenge or struggle can be liberating rather than restrictive or confining.

Next time life places some difficulty in your path ask yourself, “What’s gem-teaching-children-sanchinlife trying to teach me right now?” Accepting that pain and suffering is a natural part of life, as well as a powerful teacher, can allow you to see that your world is truly a dojo, a place of learning and perhaps even enlightenment.

“Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.”-Bruce Lee

Whether we realize it or not, life is always teaching us something. Better to notice it and accept it rather than resist.

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

The Evolutionary Origins of Depression: Why Depression Always Returns

“Sadness and low levels of depression are adaptive since they lead the individual to try and make up a loss. By contrast, severe or clinical depression is not adaptive, but can be thought of as sadness having become malignant.”- Lewis Wolpert

Major depression, also known as major depressive disorder, clinical depression, or simply depression, is a leading cause of disability worldwide. In and of itself it is a devastating affliction, but it also is the fourth leading contributor to all diseases. Approximately 50% of all people will meet the criteria for major depression at least for some portion of their life. Despite its prevalence, people tend to whisper when they talk about this disease, making it hard to identify and hard to treat. In fact, the average person doesn’t think of it as a disease at all. The disease of depression has no Race for a Cure, no car washes, fundraisers, or people dumping ice water over their heads on Facebook. The crushing and debilitating effects of depression are usually borne in silence, a private cross carried alone.

Occurrences of depression are so common in the human animal that there must be some reason and logic behind it. Mankind has been trying to eradicate depression since the depressedStone Age with only moderate success. Depression is largely thought of as a dysfunction, modern psychiatry usually labels it as a “mental disorder,” perhaps further stigmatizing with this label. Evolutionary psychologists who have studied the disease believes that the disorder may have an evolutionary and adaptive purpose and explain its prevalence as a hardwired behavior that at one time in human development was a survival mechanism. This theory, although controversial, would explain why depression is so prevalent and often treatment resistent.

Dr. Jonathan Rottenberg, author and professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, has researched the evolutionary purpose of depression and has come up with a number of plausible, if not probable, reasons that humans have historically been plagued with treatment resistant depression. He is the author of a fascinating book called The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic, in which he discusses reasons that depression serves and adaptive function for the human animal.

Rottenberg believes that humans are, in fact animals, albeit highly intelligent and insightful animals. Humans have competed for millions of years with other forms of life on the planet. What has allowed us to survive is the adaptive abilities that come from human intelligence and the human psyche. He cites the comparative way that a human mother and a chimpanzee mother would grieve the loss of an infant: “A chimpanzee cannot report I’m feeling sad. Nevertheless, when the modern chimpanzees sees the baby chimpanzee die, it has a very similar behaviors and very similar things going on inside the mother chimp’s body as human’s do when they’re grieving the loss of their own infant.” He goes on to explain that grief, depression, and profound sadness are not only universal in these situations, but serves and adaptive purpose. “Death,” he says, “is always a sign to pay attention to what’s going on and what we can learn from it. Low mood makes us stop. It makes us analyze the environment really carefully, so you don’t repeat the same mistakes that got us into a situation in the first place.”

The psychiatric world classifies depression as a “mood disorder.” Mood is a perceptual interpretation of what a person is feeling internally at a given moment in time. We know what kind of mood we are in, even if it’s not readily visible to everyone else. “Moods,” says Dr. Rottenberg, “also organize us. When we’re in a good mood, we not only feel good but we’re prepared to take certain actions. For example, I’m in a good mood and that’s when I want to get together with friends. That’s when I want to have fun. Conversely, when I’m in a really low mood, I tend to withdraw. The mood actually makes me more likely or less likely to do certain things. Moods actually have this ability to change our cognitions, they change what’s going on in our body. They’re more than just feelings, they actually organize our activities.”

Depression, in many who suffer with it, can be correlated with seasonal changes. People paleolithic-hunter-gathererswho live in climates that have contrasting seasons often are more prone to depression in the winter months of November to March. The same people usually find a lifting of the symptoms in the month of April. This also has an evolutionary component to it as primitive man had to slow down to survive during those long, cold Stone Age winters, almost hibernating as a means of survival. The Spring months were a time of gathering food and preparing to survive the rest of the year. The longer days provided more sunlight to utilize for the hunt for sustenance and, therefore, more energy and enthusiasm for life. As the human species developed, the tendency of mood to be influenced by seasonal changes remained.

Depression is also associated with low energy and diminished enthusiasm for normal activities of daily living, leading to staying indoors and other isolating behaviors. This deprives a person of sunlight, perhaps triggering an evolutionary cause of depression. Contemporary man, in many parts of the world, spends most of his time and conducts most of their his activities indoors away from the mood lifting benefits of sunlight. A study done in San Diego California showed that approximately 50% of the population there spent around a half an hour per day in sunlight, hardly enough to gain any mood elevating benefit. Sleep, also a major factor in combating depression, is something that virtually everyone struggles with from time to time. Even those who get the required amount of sleep don’t necessarily get the quality of sleep needed to be fully energized and to optimize their mood. Primitive man didn’t have clocks and technology forcing them to sleep at predetermined and artificially constructed times. These realities could be the reason that your doctor prescribes vitamin D supplementation and explains why you sleep great on a vacation. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/natural-ways-cope-depression/ )

Even those who do not struggle with clinical depression will experience its symptoms as a result of living a normal life. Depression is often referred to as the common cold of psychiatry. No sane and rational person can live life and not experience it periodically. Sadness, a normal human emotional experience, is usually caused by some sort of loss, from loss of person, money, a job, or a meaningful relationship. This too has a evolutionary origin. Man is a social animal whose survival is largely determined by his ability to remain connected to a larger group of his own kind. The loss that we feel from a relationship or the grief we feel from the death of a loved one is programed in us to reinforce the fact that we must be part in a larger group of humans to survive. These types of attachments are adaptive from an evolutionary perspective, driving mate selection, procreation, and to bond with and protect with our offspring.(See also http://mindbodycoach.org/going-tribal/ )

The research of evolutionary psychologists indicates that depression, rather than being a malfunction, is actually an adaptive mechanism. An understanding of this can allow for the acceptance of the painful emotions that follow many of the difficult challenges that normal life throws at us. Accepting these as a natural part of the human experience doesn’t necessarily dull the pain, but may allow you to keep it in perspective and prevent it from crossing over into a major depressive episode. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/acceptance-true-wisdom/ )

It’s also important to understand that humans are not meant to be ecstatically happy all the time. With the artificial community created by television and the Internet, many peopleadaptive-images.php believe that everyone but them is leading these wonderful, perfect lives, doing all these exciting things, and living free of emotional pain. They know this by looking at the Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and Instagram selfies of the beautiful people and ask themselves, “What’s wrong with me?” The answer is nothing, you are a normal human being adapting to your world in a normal and entirely human fashion, and what you see on Facebook and the Internet is an idealized reality.

You’re normal, and so are your feelings. Feel what you feel and be patient. This too shall pass.

“Perhaps what we call depression isn’t really a disorder at all but, like physical pain, an alarm of sorts, alerting us that something is undoubtedly wrong; that perhaps it is time to stop, take a time-out, take as long as it takes, and attend to the unaddressed business of filling our souls.”- Jonathan Rottenberg

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

The Eisenhower Method Of Time Management: Still Reasons To Like Ike

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight David Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, holding the office ikefrom 1953 until 1961. If you are a GenXer or a Millennial, his name might get vague recognition. If you are are a Baby Boomer or beyond, then you have a greater appreciation for the role that he played in American history. You can bet that his name meant a lot to your Grandpa.

Eisenhower was a West Point graduate, college football star, five-star general, supreme Allied commander during World War II, president of Columbia University, and President of the United States. Despite his lofty achievements, he retained the Everyman quality of his Kansas upbringing. In 1952 he was drafted by the Republican Party to run for the presidency, his campaign pushed along by a simple, yet effective slogan: “I Like Ike.” Like everything else in Eisenhower’s career, simple was effective, and he won the election by a landslide.

If you are someone who struggles with time management, juggles multiple responsibilities, and feels like your life consists of one crisis to the next, then there are still many reasons for you to like Ike. There is a simple, yet highly effective, time management method known as the Eisenhower Method based upon a quote attributed to Eisenhower when he was president: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are seldom important, and the important are seldom urgent.”

Using this principle, Eisenhower separated his task basket into categories based on the criteria of important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent, then placed them in quadrants on a piece of paper. By having the tasks systematically laid out in front of him, Eisenhower could clearly see the tasks that lay ahead of him that day in the same manner that he would have used as a general poring over maps during the Second World War. These task maps have become known as and “Eisenhower Box.” Tasks are assigned to one of the quadrants based on relative importance and urgency.

When organizing your daily tasks the two most important questions to ask yourself are:
“Is it urgent?”
“Is it important?”

You can now put the task in the correct quadrant using the image below as a model.

posec-eisenhower-matrix

Quadrant 1 is for tasks that are both urgent and important, requiring our immediate attention. These tasks will typically consist of problems, crises, and things that have an impending deadline. Some examples are:
· tasks that have a deadline
· crises such as health, medical, and family demands

Quadrant 2 is for tasks that are not urgent but important. Some examples are:
· your exercise routine
· home and vehicle maintenance
· anything requiring long term planning

According to Stephen Covey, who popularized the Eisenhower Method in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, felt we should spend most of our time on Quadrant 2 activities. Quadrant 2 activities tend to be those that give us the most life satisfaction and prevent life events from crossing over into Quadrant 1 emergencies and crises. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/seven-habits-success/ )

Quadrant 3 activities are those that are urgent, requiring our immediate attention, but are not important because they don’t contribute to our own long-term goals. Quadrant 3 tasks are frequently interruptions and involve helping other people attain their goals. Someone else makes their crisis your problem. Some examples are:
· phone calls, text messages, and emails
· a co-worker, family member, or friend asks you for help with something
· someone drops by to visit you unannounced

Many people spend the majority of their time dealing with Quadrant 3 tasks, believing that they are working on Quadrant 1 tasks. While these tasks seem to be important at the time, quite frequently they are not. Often Quadrant 3 tasks contribute to someone else’s goals more than our own. Some people have a personality style that is frequently referred to as people pleaser, spending a large amount of their time helping other people attain their goals. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but just be aware of how much Quadrant 3 activities can detract you from your own personal goals. Delegate these to someone else if at all possible.

Quadrant 4 activities are those that are not important and not urgent. These are the junk food activities of life, giving us no nutritional value, but filling us up. Some examples are:
· watching television
· mindlessly surfing the Internet
· video games, Facebook, and chronically checking your iPhone
· procrastination

There is certainly nothing wrong with Quadrant 4 activities in and of themselves. The problem arises when you find yourself spending too much time in Quadrant 4. Minimizing the amount of time you spend here can allow you to enjoy these Quadrant 4 activities without becoming addicted to them. Monitor how much time you spend doing these activities for a few days and see if the time spent is consistent with your long term goals. Remember, this is junk food, so consume sparingly.

If you are someone who procrastinates and struggles to decide which activities to tackle 1415711980787.cachedfirst, then this is something you should try. If you are a visual learner, having an Eisenhower Box to refer to will make your life a heck of a lot easier. Be like Ike, give this a try and see how much it improves your time management.

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

“Wicked Busy,” A Boston Tale

“I wanted to figure out why I was so busy, but I couldn’t find the time to do it.”- Todd Stocker

Spring is here, and summer is sure to follow. It’s that time of year when humans, like everyovsched animal that hibernates, comes out of the cave, shakes off that long nap, and looks around to see what everyone else is doing. You’re bound to run into a lot of people who you haven’t spent much time with in a while. They’re going to ask you “How are you doing,?” and no matter what’s going on in your life you’ll respond with, “Good!” Then they’re going to ask you what you’ve been up to, to which you’ll respond with your second lie of the season, “Been busy, real busy.”

Modern life has forced humans to prioritize in ways that mankind has never had to before. It gets more complicated each year to prioritize our activities, and despite all the conveniences, creature comforts, and luxuries we enjoy, we still find ways to remain “busy.” Many of the activities we engage in are necessary, such as our jobs, caring for our children, washing, bathing, eating, sleeping, etc. But, our ancestors did the same daily chores without all the assistance and support that the modern world gives us. Great grandma probably canned a lot of her own vegetables, killed her own chickens, wrung out her laundry by hand, and made homemade spaghetti sauce. Great grandpa walked a couple of miles each way to the factory where he worked 50+ hours per week, did all his own yard work, carpentry, and found time to make sure that his kids stayed out of trouble. If you think about it, they probably cared about their spouses, children, and family as much as we do, and perhaps even more. I wonder if, when Great grandpa ran into an old buddy he hadn’t seen since last December if he lamented that he was “Busy, real busy?” Somehow though, I don’t think so.

The reality is that the term, busy, is a relative term, subject to changing with the times, societal norms, and our own personal evolution. Humans learn through imitation. You’ve been learning this way your whole life, even if you don’t realize it. As young children, we watch what others do, follow along as best we can, and eventually make some of those activities our own. This pattern continues in various ways, shapes, and forms for the rest of our lives. Granted, there are some things that we learned to do from books and school, but most of the more subtle and ingrained behaviors that we adopt are learned this way. This style of learning is one of the reasons that many of us believe that we are “too busy.” Some of the stuff that we are too busy with would make great grandma and grandpa roll over in their graves.

Evolutionary psychologists talk about a concept called “maladaptive evolution,” which is a behavior that persists in a species because it was adaptive in the past, but is maladaptive in current conditions. A simple example is the human craving for sweets. We crave sugar in our foods because our bodies are more inclined to store it as fat. Thousands of years ago, accumulating body fat was necessary for survival and was a reason that some survived and others died. We no longer have a need for all the body fat that we accumulate, having outgrown the need to provide our own heat. Likewise, we no longer need to be on the go 16 to 18 hours per day to satisfy survival needs. Many of the problematic behaviors that humans engage in in the 21st century can be traced back to our evolution and a previous time in human history when that kind of behavior was not only necessary, but was considered virtuous.

The “too busy” phenomenon remains as part of modern man’s attempts to feel significant, important, and in control of what happens to us. Much of what we are busy doing may not be as important as we think, but it is a way to feel in control of things that “could happen” and the “what if’s” of life. For example, I spoke to a guy the other day whose daily life is in havoc because of his son’s youth hockey schedule. It is “wicked important” that young Jason not miss practice, (keep in mind I live in the Boston area), because if he doesn’t he won’t skate with the A level team next year. This means that he will fall behind, skate with inferior players for a year, which will retard his athletic development, he won’t be able to get into a prep school, which means no Division I hockey scholarship and, of course, no lucrative NHL career.

Many parents schedule every aspect of their children’s lives, particularly when they are younger. They place their children into “playgroups,” ostensibly to give them socialization and healthy interaction with their peers. This is all well and good, but a secondary reason for this is to choose who their children will associate with. They usually pick children of families in similar social and economic circumstances as theirs, unconsciously insulating zne ladytheir children from kids of other races, backgrounds, and religious denominations. Many also over schedule their children with “healthy” activities, regardless of whether the child shows an interest in that activity or not. They do so in an attempt to protect their children from harm, idle time, and to teach them discipline. This is adaptive up to a point, but it is important to know where that point is. You have to ask yourself at some point, is your daughter’s dance class leading to a role in the Nutcracker in 15 years, or is it just a fun activity that she enjoys right now? Is it so important that your child is reading at a sixth grade level in grade 1? Does she really need tutoring with this if she is only reading on a first grade level? Many parents over schedule their children’s lives in an attempt to create meaning in their own lives, and to feel that they can control the future for their child. I was a classroom teacher for many years and witnessed firsthand the stress that this placed on children, as well as their families. Maybe your kid will learn more by choosing their own activities than they will by you presenting them with a smorgasbord of things to do.

Many people, regardless of what they do for work, take a strange pride in “taking work home,” and working at their job on their own time. I know, it’s a very difficult habit to break, as this is one of my own problems. I frequently find myself on camping trips in the dead of summer, in the middle of nowhere, checking my iPhone for emails to see what’s going on at my day job. Yeah, I know, I’m working on it. Like all behaviors, you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge and recognize.

The adaptive function of work is that it gives our lives meaning and purpose. We’ve all heard stories of that guy who retired after working hard his entire life and then dropped dead his first week into retirement. Anecdotal evidence, or is there something to this? Maybe learning to relax and prioritize along the way to retirement may keep us from becoming that guy.

Being “wicked busy” (remember, I’m from the Boston area), prevents us from sitting with ourselves, our families, and some of our deeper thoughts. Most of us are afraid of introspection and being left alone with ourselves. This is a reason why so many people when asked to discuss what they believe in will begin with a discussion of politics, Republicans versus Democrats, conservatives versus liberals, Obama, 9/11 conspiracies, etc. They never talk about how they feel about life, death, the universe, families, values, or ultimate questions. Even our beliefs appear to be influenced by other’s opinions, learned much as we did during childhood. It keeps us “busy,” distracting us from things that are frightening.

Coping with this need to be busy and occupied cannot be accomplished without recognizing that we are doing it. Sitting down and making an honest assessment of how you spend your time and what is truly important in your schedule is a must. If you have a family, particularly if you are currently parenting, It’s a good idea to sit down with your spouse and decide why you are scheduling that soccer practice, right after that hockey practice, on the afternoon of little Joey’s tutoring class, just before the sleepover that he is hosting for his birthday.

So, when you are emerging from that long winter’s hibernation this season and find yourself complaining to somebody the you are “busy,” ask yourself some questions, one of which is “Am I really?” It’s also a good idea to think about what you say to others and yourself about how busy you are. Here’s an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal essay written in 2012:

“Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”

There are 168 hours in a week. Spend some time taking a look at how you are really pupspending them. Are you doing things that are important and what you are consciously choosing to do, or are you falling into some perverse kind of competition, a 21st century “keeping up with the Joneses?” If you are, stop, breathe, and reassess what you are doing with your life. And, take notice how frequently people you haven’t seen for a long time tell you that they are “wicked busy.”

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Transcendence In Everyday Life

“No matter where you go, there you are.”- Confucius

We are living at what is probably the most exciting and velocitized moment in all of humandistracted history. We have access to methods of communication, medicine, foods, information, and transportation that could not have been imagined as recently as 200 years ago, not a long time in the entire span of human history. It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment in a negative way. Life can very quickly denigrate into a rat race where one finds themselves waking, traveling, working, traveling home again, sleeping, and then rinsing and repeating the same sequence over and over again. A lot of people live for weekends, and vacations, building up all kinds of stress and tension in the meantime. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.

My “day job” is working in the city of Boston. My workday consists of a 42 mile door to door trip that I have to take every day. The employee parking lot is a quarter-mile from the counseling center where I work in a rather nice neighborhood of the city. I can’t help but notice as I walk to and from that parking lot that most people walk with their head down or connected to a cell phone. In fact, most people in the city never look above eye level. Too bad. They may be missing some of life’s transcendent moments.

Part of the human experience that is missing in the contemporary world is our intimate connection with nature and our environment. This connection has become increasingly more distant over the past 100 or so years, as fewer of us produce our own food, perform our own work, or spend time outdoors. We have more technology and information than we probably need, yet remain very disconnected in a literal sense from our nature and our surroundings, keeping us feeling apart from our environment and the natural world. Finding ways to reconnect with this aspect of life is incredibly important to our emotional well-being. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/ecotherapy/ )

I’m sure many of you are responding to this with a “Yeah, but…” as in, “I live in the city,” or “a crowded area,” or “there’s too many people we are I live.” For most of a day’s 24 hours that may be true. However, too many people never frequent the parks, hiking trails, bike paths where they live. They have a scarcity mindset which encourages them to focus on what they don’t have, and a superficial look at their living situation confirms for them that nature, and the transcendent moments it can provide, are not available to them because of geographic location. They simply do not notice the things that are potentially available to them that could be very helpful to their physical, emotional, or spiritual wellness.

starsRegardless of where you live, when was the last time you sat and watched a sunrise or a sunset? When was the last time you spent a few moments looking up at the night sky pondering the totality of the universe and the wonders of the stars? Spending a few moments doing that from time to time as a tendency to put the day-to-day problems of your own existence in a better, healthier and realistic perspective. These simple actions done daily, or at least a few times a week, can create transcendent moments that allow you to feel connected to things larger and greater than yourself. It’s a nice way to realize that you, and your problems, maybe aren’t that important.

And, for you “yeah but…” people, it may just be a matter of your getting up a little bit earlier, before everybody else, to get outside and possibly witness a sunrise. Maybe look up and notice where the sun sets each evening and spend a little bit of time observing. Take that nasty bag lunch outside, sit on a bench, and partake of some fresh air and sunshine along with that baloney sandwich.

Four years ago I bought a dog, and energetic boxer which I named Boss. I bought him in the wintertime, which dog people know is one of the worst times in the Northeast to be house breaking a dog. I had to bring him outside two to three times during the middle of the night for him to go to the bathroom. Normally, you stop doing this in a few weeks because a trained dog no longer needs this, being able to sleep straight through the night. I realized that it was so cool to go out at least once per night to look up at the stars, breathe in some cool clean air, and enjoy that feeling of “I guess I’m not as important as I thought I was” that only a transcendent moment can give you. We have been repeating this ritual at least once per night ever since.

A few moments in nature each day can be found regardless of where you live. As far as I bostonknow, sunrise, sunset, the moon, and the stars don’t discriminate. A few moments each day, connecting to something far greater than ourselves, can only be a good thing.

“He is one of those who has had the wilderness for a pillow, and called a star his brother. Alone. But loneliness can be a communion.”- Dag Hammarskjöld

 

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Death And Taxes: What To Do Before You File

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes”- Benjamin Franklin

It’s that time a year once again, tax season. We gather a bunch of papers and numbers, ben_franklinbring them to our tax expert or accountant, hold our breath, and hope for the best. It is one of the most anxiety provoking events of the year, one of the prices that we pay for living in this great nation. I dread that sitting next to a complete stranger every year, bearing my financial soul, and sitting back anticipating the outcome. At that moment I feel like a Native American chief signing a treaty with the American government. I don’t have a clue about what I am signing, and have to fight the urge to ask, as many Native American chiefs did, “What do the leaves say?”

Tax season can also be a time to assess a lot of things, and gain a different perspective on what we have that we often do not focus on. Tax season coincides with the end of winter and the middle of spring. If you live in the Northeast, I live in Massachusetts, it is a great time of the year, one of great beauty and contrast, a time to reassess and reconsider the tremendous things that sometimes get hidden during the dead on a New England winter. It’s also a great time to take an inventory of the positive things going on in your life. If you do so, you’ll learn that, despite what Benjamin Franklin said, there’s a lot of good stuff going on somewhere between death and taxes.

“Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”- Cree Indian prophecy

We all know intuitively that there are more important things the money. Contemporary life is such that we find ourselves getting so caught up in trying to get by that we can lose focus on those little things that make life worth living. One of the best examples of this is a story that I have used in the past on this website to illustrate the point. It bears repeating here:
One summer, many years ago, a banker was vacationing in a small village on the coast. fishingHe saw a fisherman in a small boat by the pier with a handful of fish that he just caught. The businessman asked him how long it took him to catch the fish, and the man said he was fishing for only a couple of hours.
“So why didn’t you stay out there longer to catch more fish?”
The fisherman said he catches just enough to feed his family every day, and then comes back.
“But it’s only 2pm!” said the banker, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman smiled and said, “Well, I sleep late everyday, then fish a little, go home, play with my children, take a nap in the afternoon, then stroll into the village each evening with my wife, relax, play the guitar with our friends, laugh and sing late into the night. I have a full and wonderful life.”
The banker scoffed at the young man, “Well, I’m a businessman from New York! Let me tell you what you should do instead of wasting your life like this! You should catch more fish to sell to others, and then buy a bigger boat with the money you make so you can catch even more fish!”
“And then what?” asked the fisherman. The banker’s eyes got all big as he enthusiastically explained, “You can then buy a whole fleet of fishing boats, run a business, and make a ton of money!”
“And then what?” asked the fisherman again, and the banker threw his hands in the air and said, “You’d be worth a million! You can then leave this small town, move to the city, and manage your enterprise from there!”
“How long would all this take?” asked the fisherman. “15 to 20 years!” replied the banker.
“And then what?”
The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. You can then sell your business, move to a small village, sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take afternoon naps, go for an evening stroll with your wife after dinner, relax, sing, and play the guitar with your friends. You would have a full and wonderful life!”
The fisherman smiled at the banker, quietly gathered his catch, and walked away.

As part of your tax season assessment, it would be a good idea to make a list of things that money cannot purchase or influence. Your list should be uniquely your own. If you’ve got a little Ebenezer Scrooge in you, it’s a good idea to do this with somebody else of significance in your life-wife, husband, children, or good friend. Once the two of you get rolling, you’ll be surprised at how long this exercise can go. You also be surprised at how it provides in instant attitude adjustment and puts a smile on your face. Here’s a short list of things that are likely to come to mind:
· Health. “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything,”is perhaps one of the truest statements ever spoken.
· Relationships. If you’ve got family and friends that you can count on, you’ve got something beyond any measurable value. If you have a wife, husband, or partner that is there through thick and thin, you have perhaps the greatest thing that money can’t buy. And, if you have those tax deductions called children, then you are truly a rich person.
· Meaningful work. Work is one of life’s paradoxes, particularly in the 21st century. We gripe and complain about it, dread doing it, and we get bored when we don’t have enough of it. It is so important that Sigmund Freud identified it as one of two core needs that all humans must satisfy, the other being love.
· Laughter. This is truly life’s best medicine. If you still have reason to laugh, even if for an instant, then you have the ability to experience joy. Next time you have a good, healthy, laugh about something, pause and savor it. Notice the feeling it gives you, and try to duplicate it at least three times per day.
· Your body and your mind. Each one of us has been blessed at birth with an incredible kissingfamilymachine. Yeah, neither one works perfect all the time, but a lot of that is on us. As we go through life we all too often focus on what doesn’t work with this wonderful machine, rather than focusing on what does and what this machine can do. The human mind and body is, undoubtedly, nature’s masterpiece. Granted, other living things have incredible gifts too, but man is the only living creature that has the ability to consciously choose its own actions and thoughts. Take control of the powerful machine that is the body, and learn to run that incredible software program that is the human mind. We often complain about both mind and our bodies, but how can we? We got it for free.

During this time of the year, assessing all the positive things that we have that money cannot buy is perhaps the most important spring cleaning that one can do. The human mind is designed so that what we focus on becomes our reality. By focusing on what we have, rather than what we have not, we are the best way to make sure that we are not losing sight of what’s important.

Good luck on that 1040 form!

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?”- from Tao and Zen

John

P. S. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Play 30: What The NFL Isn’t Telling You

“NFL PLAY 60 is the National Football League’s campaign to encourage kids to be active for 60 minutes a day in order to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity.” – from NFL.com, the website of the National Football League

If you have been watching NFL games over the past few months, and there is a pretty play60good chance you have, you are probably familiar with the NFL’s Play 60 campaign. It’s a public service project of the National Football League designed to encourage American youth to get outside and play at least 60 minutes per day. It is an attempt on the part of the league to do something good for America’s youth and to also improve the league’s image, which has taken a plunge in this age of instant information. (Any organization that makes multimillionaires of males between the ages of 21 and 25 would be bound to have that problem, right?) It’s a great concept, play 60, and I’m sure it’s gotten more than a few kids off the Xbox and out the door. But, what about us adults? When do we get to go outside and play?

If you grew up in what was known as the Baby Boom Generation, you grew up in the Golden Age of American childhood. You had enough television to keep you entertained, and not enough to overwhelm you. Yes, there was violence on TV, but the special effects were so weak that you knew it was not real. Bad guys clutched their chest when shot, shouted “Ahh, you got me!,” and died like the rats that they were. No one complained, the ACLU did not get involved, and life went on. Routine displays like this taught a whole generation that people were accountable for their actions and, if you play the game wrong, you lose.

60s kidsWhen there was nothing good on TV in those days, you simply went outside and played. When your mother called you to come home for dinner, you often pretended that you didn’t hear her and continued to play anyway. You didn’t think of blatantly defying her orders, you pretended you didn’t hear her in the best passive aggressive manner that you could. Eventually, you returned home, had a healthy meal, maybe pretended you did some homework, and got to bed at a reasonable hour. The next day it was rinse and repeat. You walked everywhere or at least rode your bike. If you were told back then to “Play 60,” you would have been upset, feeling that you’d been ripped off because it wasn’t enough.

You probably played a lot of sports and games in your neighborhood. When you went to high school, you were still pretty active even if you were not in the athlete. You walked a lot, not for exercise alone, because back then walking was considered a form of transportation, not the form of punishment that kids sometimes think it is today. You walked to school or the bus stop, to work, and to your friends houses. Even if you didn’t think you were on a formal exercise program, you were in pretty good shape weren’t you?

You went off to college or started to work and were probably active for a few more years. Somewhere between then and now something happened. It’s really hard to pinpoint when and how it happened, but it did. Work, marriage, children, and life got in the way of your formerly active lifestyle. You began to stress out over things you could have never imagined as a child. You soon got caught up in a whirl wind of activities that became your new lifestyle. Unfortunately, most of these new activities weren’t very active all. Somewhere in those first 10 to 15 years things changed for you. You became “successful” and were “doing great.” Physically, however, things were beginning to go downhill and it was only a matter of time before your attitude and enthusiasm for life began to decline along with it.

Once a year you see your doctor for your annual physical. You get a decent review from your PCP, and you’re told that your numbers are “normal or just a little out of the normal range. We’ll keep an eye on them.” You get a few suggestions and head out the door relieved that your okay. Technically, your doctor is correct. You are okay. Over time that chronic state of okayness becomes pretty depressing, despite what your “numbers” say. Denial is a wonderful thing.

If you’re still with me at this point, it’s probably because you can relate to this story.You’re not alone.This story has happened to millions of Americans from the ages of 25 or so onward.. What’s the solution to this epidemic of blah that all too many of us live with. It’s not a pill or something that you can take or consume. And, so far, it’s not something that you’ll see advertised on television, at least not yet. If I became the Commissioner of the NFL, (and don’t worry, that ain’t happening) I would encourage the NFL to engage in a campaign for us adults. The campaign would be called Play 30 and it would encourage all adults over the age of 21 to engage in at least 30 minutes of activity each day. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, I don’t have the time to go out and play 30 minutes each day. You’re right, most of you don’t have 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to get outside and play. The Play 30 campaign is about adjusting to the realities of being a grown-up while seeking to retain the joys and health benefits of being a kid. It’s a chance for us adults to actually engage in a “wish I knew then what I know now” lifestyle.

So, how can us grown-ups engage in Play 30? There is good news here. It’s not going to be as hard as it seems, and it may even be a lot of fun. Here are some basic principles of Play 30:
-The 30 minutes each day do not have to be continuous. They can be cumulative.
-The 30 minutes do not have to be strenuous, at least not every day. They can fit into your normal routine. Parking your car a little farther from your destination, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking your dog for 15 minutes when you get home from work, all count towards your 30.
-Your 30 minutes do not necessarily have to include outdoor activities. They merely have to include some. outdoor activities as often as you can work them in.
-Your 30 minutes do not have to be things that you consider “working out.” It’s great if you can discipline yourself to “work out,” but it’s not necessary towards the accumulation of your daily 30.
-Your minutes only count if they are minutes that you are active. That 20 minute drive to the gym doesn’t count. In fact, you may want to reconsider if you want to go to the gym all. There may be ways that you can effortlessly find 30 minutes of activity without spending any money or making your life difficult. After all, the optimal word is “play.” If this becomes tedious, then it becomes work and that’s not the idea here.
-Your 30 minutes must be activities that are either fun or mindless. When you were a kid you engaged in the present moment, what self-help experts today call “the now.” That’s what you’re looking for, activities that don’t require thought. Deep, troubling thoughts and worries are one of the plagues of being an adult. The point of Play 30 is to get away from that mindset.

Use your imagination. There is never an excuse to be inactive unless you are sick. The simple act of laying on the floor and stretching gently can be an activity that is touch football 1beneficial. In fact, the mere act of laying on the floor and getting up repeatedly is a great activity. Formal exercise in the form of an exercise class of some sort, such as yoga, tai chi, a martial art, or dance are all good, but keep in mind the goal is 30 minutes EVERY day. There will be days that you do more than 30, but keep it realistic. You’re striving for a lifestyle change. This is not something that you will roll out every spring so you don’t look disgusting in the summer, it’s something you do for your mind, body, and spirit. The goal is to get you in touch with the joy of movement that you had as a child.

Get out and Play 30!

“Inside every old person is a young person wondering ‘What the heck happened?'” -Unknown

John

P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Also check out my YouTube channel through the link to the right of this post. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

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