Personal Growth

Healthy Communication


 

It seems harder than ever to have a pleasant and meaningful conversation these days, especially with someone of an opposing viewpoint.

Since each of us is only half of the equation, there’s only so much we can do. But we CAN use some techniques—and encourage others to do the same—to improve communication. 

Here are five, based on compassion and mindfulness:

  1. Be fully present. This is not a good time for multitasking. Put devices away, put other conversations and issues out of your mind for now. Focus for a second on your weight on your feet, or sensations in your hands. Try to slow down the pace of your speech—choose your words carefully for clarity, and think about your tone and how you are coming across. Give this present engagement your full attention.
  2. Be a good listener. This is harder than it sounds! We usually start to think about how we’ll respond before the other person finishes, and we miss some of what’s being said. Try to listen with your complete attention. Make a quick mental note of your questions or responses, and then shift fully back into listening. (Even if you forget a question or response, that’s probably OK in the grand scheme of things!) We all want to be heard. Maybe a good extension of the Golden Rule would be: listen to others as you would have others listen to you!
  3. Seek to understand. Oren Jay Sofer, author of “Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication,” says that “The foundation for productive discussion and skillful negotiation is in the quality of connection and understanding we create. When our interactions are driven by an agenda, by getting our way, wanting to win, being right or making a point, we limit the possibilities for mutual understanding and creative outcomes.” Come to every conversation with curiosity, compassion, and respect.
  4. Focus on what matters. As we listen well and seek to understand the person we’re conversing with, we need to ask ourselves, “what really matters” about whatever the other person is saying. Why is it important? Sofer writes, “Listening with this kind of attention helps us get beyond surface positions to the underlying values in a situation, thereby creating more room for understanding, collaboration, and creative problem-solving.” How much more powerful and productive will our communication be if we can make a meaningful connection with someone—even someone we don’t seem to have anything in common with?
  5. Pause. Remember the sage advice about counting to ten? Rather than shooting back at our counterpart with rapid-fire points of our own, it can be very powerful to pause and think. Nod, ask the person to repeat themselves or repeat what you think they said in your own words. Then ask yourself, will what you’re about to say increase connection and understanding? If not…sometimes holding our tongue is the best response! We have to choose the right timing in order for speaking our truth to have the most impact.

Most of us learn communication skills in the most informal ways, often from people who aren’t skilled communicators themselves. We develop bad habits. But with practice, we can create healthy new habits!

Source: http://www.dailygood.org/story/2193/5-core-practices-for-more-meaningful-conversations-oren-jay-sofer/

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“You yourself,

as much as anybody in the entire universe, 

deserve your love  and affection”

 – Buddha

 

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Making Exercise Fun!

 

Several people have told me recently that they find this wintery after-holiday time of year rather de-motivating. It seems especially when it comes to exercise, folks have gotten out of their routines and are having a hard time getting back to it.

Sound familiar? Or maybe you’re the kind of person who always finds exercise more of a chore than a joy. Here are some ideas for making exercise fun.

Take a hike. Walking is great exercise, and being outside is best. Go to one of our local parks and explore a trail. Walk with a friend and have a nice chat. You can load apps onto your phone like Runkeeper to find routes that others have mapped out in your area for specific distances. If you’re local, you could walk around downtown St. Augustine and/or Lincolnville and check out the historic markers along the way. (Google “self-guided walking tours” for ideas!)

Dance like no one is watching. Put on some of your favorite music, or find some new tunes on YouTube, and go wild! Be as traditional or as silly as you want to be. This is a great way to uplift your spirits as you burn some calories.

Try something new. If dancing doesn’t do it for you, look up instructional videos on YouTube—yoga, Tai Chi, kickboxing, etc. You can find almost anything of interest without leaving the comfort of home.
Play video games. If you know someone with a video game console, you can play active games like bowling, golfing, fencing, tennis, boxing, dancing, etc. It’s surprisingly fun to play virtually! If you don’t have access to a video game console, you can pick a used one up inexpensively at a pawn shop, flea market or online.

Be a kid again. When was the last time you jumped rope? Or played tag or duck-duck-goose? Or hopscotch? Get a little group together and recreate some of your favorite childhood games—what a hoot!
Join a club or take a class. Maybe trying something different will ignite new interest in being active. Join a sports league. Take a self-defense class. Sign up for a 5K and join a group that’s training for it. (Lots of people walk them, or do a slow pace of run-walk-run-walk intervals.

Tackle a household chore. Have you been putting off cleaning out the garage? Or organizing a closet or pantry? Put on some peppy music and get to it! Plan ahead for what your reward will be for getting it done. This can be a great motivator!

Don’t just sit there—stretch! If you like to watch some TV in the evening, get up out of your seat and do a few stretches as you’re relaxing. Some people even do a few more challenging moves during commercials (a couple of push-ups, or crunches, or a plank). As long as you don’t overdo it, having a nice stretch and some deep breathing might even help you sleep.

Just remember, exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery, and you don’t have to commit to hours and hours of activity to benefit from it. Every little bit helps improve fitness. Sneak in a little bit of movement, change your routine, and keep it fun!

If you can’t find a group that shares your interest but you want to connect to others, look on a website called MeetUp. If you still can’t find your tribe, you can start a new group and let others find you!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

How Your Bedroom Can Help You Sleep

 

Do you have trouble sleeping? Try these tips to get your best night’s sleep.

Keep your room dark. Darkness triggers our brains to produce melatonin, the hormone that signals our bodies to prepare for sleep. Unplug anything that emits light. Keep a flashlight next to your bed for late-night trips to the bathroom, rather than leaving a nightlight on overnight. Use dark curtains or blinds on your windows. But be sure to open them during the day—the sunlight will help stop the production of melatonin.

Keep your room cool. An hour or two before sleeping, our body temperature begins to drop—this actually helps us feel sleepy. Keeping our rooms cool can facilitate this and help us get our optimal sleep. A temperature in the 60s or low 70s is best.

Choose the right mattress. A chiropractor told me that a foam mattress is better than a spring mattress because our weight is supported all over, and not just where the springs are. But some people find a foam mattress too warm. A softer mattress conforms better to our shape, which might be best for someone who sleeps on their back and has significant curvature in their spine. If you sleep with a partner and there’s more than a 75-pound weight difference, you might be better off getting a mattress with adjustable firmness settings.

Choose the right pillow. This is a tough assignment! Generally speaking, we just want to support the natural curve in our neck. Back sleepers need to make sure the pillow is not so thick that their chins are pointed down toward the chest. Side sleepers need to make sure their heads are not tilted up toward the ceiling or down toward the mattress.

Set up a reading space. Ideally, our beds are used only for sleeping and being intimate. If you lie in bed awake, reading or watching videos, or tossing and turning, you’re training your brain that this is what beds are for. It’s far better to have a comfortable chair with a lamp where you could sit and read, meditate or listen to music. If you have trouble sleeping for more than 20 minutes during the night, move to the chair for a bit, and get back into bed when you feel drowsy.

Feng shui your space. Sometimes people improve their sleep just by rearranging the furniture. There are many feng shui principles you can apply to your bedroom—like using the right colors, having a solid headboard behind you, having a table on either side of the bed—to help the energy flow and improve the comfort of the room overall. There are whole books on the subject, but you can do a quick Google search to get you started.

Move electronics to another room. Everything that’s plugged in emits light that stimulates our nervous systems and interferes with melatonin production. If you don’t have a cell phone or tablet in the room with you, you won’t be tempted to check email or messages! Use an alarm clock instead of your phone. It will make a big difference in your day if you start with moments of calm instead of hitting your technology first thing.

Source: “How Your Bedroom Can Help You Sleep” by Marty Munson, “Better Homes & Gardens” Magazine, November 2018

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Quelling Winter Blues

 

If the shorter days and colder temps get you down, you’re not alone. SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—is a kind of depression that can occur when we don’t get enough sunlight.

Here are 10 strategies experts recommend to lift your spirits.

  1. Wake up to flowers. Put a vase of flowers where it’ll be the first thing you see in the morning—especially cheerful, bright hues like yellow, or whatever colors you associate with joy and energy.
  2. Do something fun. Laughter reduces stress and boosts the brain chemical serotonin. Watch funny videos. Or get out of the house and meet a friend who always cheers you up (you can look up jokes and tell them to each other). Go see a funny movie or live comedy show. Even forcing fake laughter can sometimes generate genuine laughter!
  3. Change your routine. Making small changes can yield surprisingly big results. If you don’t usually make your bed, just doing that one small task tells your subconscious that you are worth the effort! You know how good it feels to finally clean the garage or organize a closet. Plan a trip so you have something to look forward to.
  4. Exercise. Just 5 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to release the feel-good endorphins. Being outdoors is even better for clearing the mind and improving our mood. It’s nice here in Florida to get some sunshine while it’s not overly hot and humid! Try going for a walk with a friend if you want to add some socializing.
  5. Brighten up. Open the curtains and let sunshine into your home when you can. Wear brighter colors in accessories like scarves or fun socks. Buy a lime green pen, or a tangerine orange towel, or turquoise sticky notes. Seeing vivid colors can increase our feelings of vitality.
  6. Make a photo album. Positive memories can reduce depression! Sort through your photos and pick out happy ones. Put them in a book you can look through any time you feel down. (I’m no expert, but I would add that creating any kind of journal—writing, doodling, collecting pictures and little bits of art that make you happy—could lift one’s spirit. In fact, creating always makes me happy!)
  7. Use all your senses. This is part of mindfulness and really being aware in the moment. Notice “seasonal” sounds around you (the clacking of bare branches maybe), and things that you can only see or smell this time of year. I miss the hummingbirds, for example, but I delight in seeing other birds that only pass through here in January as they migrate. And soon the citrus will be ready to pick and enjoy—just think of peeling off that fresh rind and feeling/seeing/smelling the juice squirt out!
  8. Eat plants. Speaking of fresh produce, fruits and vegetables feed the “good” gut bacteria that helps regulate brain chemicals and mood. It’s so easy in the winter to justify eating comfort foods that are warm and heavy. But we have a better chance of avoiding the doldrums if we eat lighter and healthier.
  9. Pamper yourself. Carve out some “me time.” Read, take a bubble bath, watch a sappy movie, treat yourself to a pedicure (or a massage or reflexology session!), whip up a new recipe—do something you thoroughly enjoy. Do something that makes you happy at least once a week.
  10. Fake it til you make it. Research shows that people who walk as if they were sad actually start to feel sadder! Just walking with an upright posture and swinging our arms more can boost our mood. And, even if we don’t feel like it, forcing a smile with our eyes and our mouth can increase feelings of happiness. Before you know it, it won’t be a fake smile and our stress level will be reduced.

Sources: https://www.activebeat.com/diet-nutrition/10-lifestyle-methods-to-cope-with-seasonal-affective-disorder/

“Winter Mood Lifters to Try Today,” by Karyn Repinski, “Parade” Magazine, December 2, 2018

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth &Reflexology

New Year, New Habits

 

Many people have given up on making New Year’s resolutions because they’ve grown tired of not being able to make them stick. I’ve even seen people defend that there’s no need for “a new year, a new you” attitude, because there’s nothing wrong with the “old” you!

And that’s true! But if you do believe that you have some areas needing improvement, an event or a milestone like a new year can be a good time to implement new habits. Mentally, it just seems like a good time to make a fresh start, and that can work in our favor. According to an article in “The New York Times,” here are 7 science-based strategies to help create new habits in the new year.

1. Think big picture. We’ve been told for years that goals need to be specific and manageable and measurable. So rather than saying, “I want to lose weight,” it’s better, in theory, to say “I want to lose ten pounds by the end of June.” 

But scientists suggest taking a different approach may work better. Think about next December 31—what changes will you be most grateful for making? (I like this—thinking about how something will feel if…) Then create an intention for the year. So, for example, if your goal is to reduce your stress, you can have some flexibility in that. If you try meditating for 10 minutes every day, and you hate it, you can try something else—like yoga or a gentle daily walk—rather than giving up on your goal completely.

2. Understand your bad habits. Science says the best way to change behavior is not to simply “break” a bad habit, but to transform it into a better one. To do this successfully, we need to understand what causes a behavior and what we get out of it.

Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” says there are 5 cues that trigger a habit: a time, a location, people, an emotion or a ritual. That’s fairly easy to figure out. The more perplexing piece is the reward that we get from our behavior. Take, for example, a person working in an office always having an afternoon snack. Is it real hunger? Boredom? Or a desire to socialize in the break room? Duhigg writes, “Any habit can be diagnosed and shifted. You need to give yourself time to really figure out the cues and rewards that are driving that behavior — and oftentimes the only way … is through a process of experimentation.”

3. Start small. Really small. In his book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear describes a 2-minute rule. If you want to read a book a month, for example, start by reading a page a day. Taking “the art of showing up” to a new level, he believes that even taking the tiniest first baby steps helps put a new habit on autopilot. He tells the story of a guy who wanted to work out every day. He would drive to the gym, work out for just a few minutes and then drive home. While that might sound frivolous, he was committed to doing it for 6 weeks. And little by little, he increased his time and became the guy who exercises daily!

4. Look for instant gratification. Experts say that new habits are easier to form if we give ourselves small “rewards” along the way. But the best rewards are intrinsic, not things we buy. (I love this, again, thinking about how something makes us feel!) 

Naming what you’re feeling helps build positive associations with the new activity—strong, accomplished, victorious, etc. If you’re not feeling an intrinsic reward, you may be doing the wrong activity. So if, for example, your goal is to volunteer more or exercise more, you must find something you enjoy doing. Clear says in “Atomic Habits”: “Choose the form of the habit that brings you joy in the moment. Because if it has some immediate satisfaction, you’ll be much more likely to repeat it in the future.”

5. Control your environment. My sister always says, “My willpower is at the store.” Meaning: if she doesn’t want to be tempted to eat foods she shouldn’t, she simply doesn’t buy them. Not having them in the house makes it easier to avoid indulging!

Science bears this out. The people who appear to have the best will power actually may be best at simply eliminating temptation. Want to shop less? Unsubscribe to promotional emails from retailers. Want to watch less TV? Unplug the thing. Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to embrace—then it becomes “normal behavior” and helps your new habits stick.

6. Plan for failure. No one is perfect. Despite our best efforts, at some point, we’re going to slip up. The key is to have a recovery plan. Experts recommend a couple of strategies. One is to write down any obstacles you foresee and decide in advance how you’ll cope (if you’re trying to drink less, for example, how will you deal with stressful times?). Another is to tell others what your goals are and how they can support you. Let your tribe help when you’re feeling exhausted or overwhelmed.

7. Celebrate often. Celebration tells our brain that something is beneficial and should be done more often, which definitely helps reinforce new habits. It doesn’t have to be grand—it could be anything from telling a friend you finally did something you’ve been putting off, or taking a sweaty selfie after a great workout. 

These celebrations can actually trick our brains into remembering something as more positive than we may otherwise have thought it was—and that makes us more likely to do it again! 

We could even send ourselves a thank-you note for our new behavior. Gratitude, authentic pride, hope, social connection, and compassion are the most effective emotions for promoting long-lasting changes in our behavior. All of these work better than shame, guilt or fear.

The most important emotion may be compassion. We need to be kind to ourselves as we endeavor to create new behaviors. “Habits are not a finish line to be crossed,” said Clear. “They’re a lifestyle to be lived.”

source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/smarter-living/better-habits-tips-new-year-resolutions-science.html

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Your Brain on Autopilot

 

Have you ever had a brilliant idea while you were taking a shower? Or thought up a solution to a perplexing problem while you were driving? 

This is not a coincidence!

Researchers are learning more about our brain’s “default mode,” which basically is our brain at rest.

The thing is, our brain is never really at rest! When our minds are not concentrating on something outside of ourselves—when we can be more introspective—our default network has a chance to make valuable connections that we can’t make when we’re actively engaged.

In her TED talk, “How Boredom Helps You Do Your Best Thinking,” Manoush Zomorodi says, “By doing nothing, you are actually being your most productive and creative self.”

She cites studies of young people who “multitask” by checking their phones even while they visit with friends or do their homework. Making these constant demands of their minds and NOT giving their brains any “rest” actually makes them less imaginative about their futures and in solving societal problems.

The more time we spend switching quickly from thinking about one specific thing to focusing on another specific thing, from doing one active task to doing another active task, the more we drain our brains. 

We ALL need time to reflect, to daydream, to pause and think about nothing in particular. This is one reason why meditation is so good for us. Or quiet walks, or repetitive activities. 

The next time you’re “bored,” don’t reach for your phone or tablet to distract yourself! Look out a window, or just sit with your thoughts. Zomorodi says, “Boredom truly can lead to brilliance.”

Who knows what great ideas you’ll come up with?!

Here’s a link to Zomorodi’s TED talk:

www.ted.com/talks/manoush_zomorodi_how_boredom_can_lead_to_your_most_brilliant_ideas

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Have a Healthy Autumn!

 

Sometimes in Florida, it’s hard to believe that autumn is here (it’s close to 90 degrees outside as I type this in mid-October!).

But the days are getting shorter, peach season is over (bummer!), and once in a while we can feel a hint of, the cooler, drier weather that WILL eventually be coming our way.

If you want to make the most of this season, here are some tips for having the healthiest fall ever:

  1. Eat the pumpkin. Sure, pumpkins are fun to carve into jack-o-lanterns. But they’re also good for us! The pulp is high in vitamins A and C, and the seeds may help lower cholesterol. Have fun with a new recipe—something other than pie!
  2. Enjoy other seasonal produce. Try all the squashes, and Brussels sprouts, and beets. Roasted veggies are delicious. And apples are at their peak in the fall!
  3. Boost your immune system. School starts, people spend more time together indoors and bam—it’s cold and flu season. Wash your hands a lot. Drink a lot of water. Get sufficient rest. Boost your immune system with healthy foods (like seasonal produce!). And book a massage or reflexology session!!
  4. Get outside. The more comfortable temperatures make this the perfect time to unplug and enjoy the outdoors. Walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, sports leagues—even yard work—provide opportunities to burn some calories.
  5. Go easy on the Halloween candy. It’s easy to slip into a sugar addiction.
  6. Eat well on game day. If you like watching sports, snack on veggies and dip instead of chips. If you really want something like pizza, go for a thin crust and avoid fatty toppings—and cut it into smaller pieces to nibble rather than gorge. Go for smaller helpings of chili or other favorites. Drink water in between other beverages.
  7. Have a smart Thanksgiving. Start the day with a healthy breakfast of protein and fiber so you’re not ravenous. Then have a plan for the big meal—what do you REALLY want to enjoy, and what could you do without? Include the seasonal produce—cranberries and persimmons have a LOT of nutrients. Again, go for smaller helpings and go for a walk. You’ll be glad you did!
  8. Set goals. We don’t have to wait for January! What new habits could you start practicing now? Eating healthier? Exercising more? Meditating regularly? Keeping a gratitude journal? Spending more time with friends? Volunteering—and not just for Thanksgiving? Think of what we could accomplish by the end of the year!

Maybe it’s because we grew up feeling like fall was the beginning of a new (school) year, but for whatever reason, autumn really does feel like a good time to regroup. What other things will you do to have the best season ever?

Source: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/slideshows/tips-for-a-healthy-fall?onepage

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Why Napping Is Good For Us

 

I don’t know about you, but as the days are getting shorter, I feel more sleepy.

In a perfect world, we would follow our circadian rhythms and sleep when our bodies needed it, and be awake when we naturally felt wakeful. But, alas, our modern lifestyles don’t allow for that. We impose busy schedules on ourselves, and most of us don’t get enough sleep.

More and more research is showing that not sleeping is as detrimental as the worst bad-health habit you can think of. Nothing is as good as getting enough sleep at night—the very best routine is to go to bed and rise at the same time every day (yup, even weekends).

But some of us just can’t do that, and some of us struggle to STAY asleep throughout the night. The good news is that when we don’t get enough sleep at night, naps come to the rescue. Napping is actually really good for our health! Here’s how:

  • Memory. Sleep plays an important role in our ability to store memories. A nap can help us remember things we learned earlier in the day just as much as a full night’s sleep can! Studies show that napping also improves learning.
  • Productivity. Usually, when people hit a lull during the day, they think they need coffee or some kind of stimulant. Research shows a quick nap might be better to improve performance. Feel sleepy right after lunch? Take a 20-minute siesta—it works wonders!
  • Mood. Taking a nap can lift our spirits. Even resting for a bit without falling asleep can brighten our outlook.
  • Energy. If we have something coming up, like travel for instance, where we know we won’t be getting enough sleep, taking a nap ahead of time can help prepare us for the journey.
  • Stress. You may think when you’re stressed out you couldn’t possibly make time for a nap. But that’s when we need it most! Experts say a 30-minute nap can relieve stress, and that boosts the immune system. Naps have been shown to lower our blood pressure, even after stressful situations.
  • Creativity. Have you ever woken up with a great idea? REM sleep activates the parts of our brains associated with imagery and dreaming. Sometimes we can literally “dream up” big ideas and solutions to problems!
  • Sleep. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking a nap during the day can help us sleep better at night. Studies found a 30-minute nap between 1-3 p.m., combined with moderate exercise like a walk and stretching in the evening, helped older adults sleep better at night.

The keys to successful napping include only nap for 10-30 minutes (longer than that makes us too groggy afterward), nap regularly, and nap at roughly the same time each day (usually in mid-afternoon, when we tend to have a dip in alertness anyway). 

Happy napping!

Source: Web MD, “Health Benefits of Napping ”https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-of-napping?ecd=wnl_spr_100118_LeadModule&ctr=wnl-spr-100118-LeadModule&mb=O3VPynMBBg%40z5JCe%2fHStYxXFE73IOX1ca5Fi1IEg1Vc%3d

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Choose Happiness

 

Money can’t buy happiness. But we CAN use science—neuroscience—to cultivate happiness! We can deliberately choose to help our brains feel happier. Here are four practices to try—they’re pretty simple, and they don’t cost a thing.

1. Choose to be grateful. We have at least 50,000 thoughts per day, and 80% of them are negative! According to neuroscientists, this is because pride, guilt, and shame all light up similar chemicals in the brain’s reward center. In some parts of the brain, it feels appealing to heap guilt and shame upon ourselves. Even worry feels good because it registers as doing SOMETHING (“actively” worry), which feels better than doing nothing—for a while.

But too much of this negative activity starts to feel really draining after a while. So what can we do to reverse it? Deliberately ask ourselves what we’re thankful for.

Gratitude activates our brains to produce the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Even if we can’t think of anything to be grateful for, just asking the question and trying to think of things can stimulate happiness. And it becomes an upward spiral because we start to focus more on the positive aspects of our lives, and our social interactions and relationships improve.

2. Choose to acknowledge negative feelings. Usually, when we feel awful, we try to push those feelings away—who wants to feel yucky?

However, trying to suppress negative emotions is one of the worst things we can do. Because while we might appear better on the outside, on the inside the more primitive part of our brains are even more aroused and we become even more distressed.

Labeling negative emotions, on the other hand, takes their power away. Are we feeling sad? Anxious? Angry? Fearful? When we think about it for a few minutes, we activate the prefrontal cortex (executive thinking skills) and lessen the arousal in the limbic system (“monkey brain”).

Identifying emotions is a key component in mindfulness meditation. If you’re interested in a simple practice that is very powerful in handling difficult emotions, research the R.A.I.N. method of meditating developed by Tara Brach.

Brach’s practice, and others point out that not only is important to label our feelings, it’s also imperative that we allow them. Sometimes it’s completely appropriate to feel sad or angry or whatever we feel! Only then can we process those feelings, release them, and go back to striving for authentic happiness.

3. Choose to make a decision. Scientists say that making a decision reduces worry and anxiety, and each decision we make improves problem-solving skills—we create intentions and set goals. These processes engage the thinking part of our brain in a positive way that helps overcome the worrying and more negative patterns of the “monkey brain.”

If you have trouble making decisions, experts suggest taking the pressure off by allowing yourself to make a choice that’s “good enough.” Sometimes we get stuck trying to make the “perfect” choice. Hemming and hawing for too long can add to our stress level, whereas making a decision can make us feel more in control. The act of deciding actually boosts pleasure in the “reward” center of our brain.

If we choose something—like choosing to exercise, for example—we get more out of it than if we do something because we feel forced into it. And, the more choices we make, the more our happiness is reinforced. Neuroscientist Alex Korb explains, “We don’t just choose the things we like; we also like the things we choose.”

4. Choose touch. There have been many studies on the power of human touch, and the detrimental effects of not having enough touch (babies and elders, for example, can suffer from a phenomenon called “failure to thrive” if they don’t get enough touch—it can actually lead to early death).

People need relationships. Social exclusion (and rejection) can cause the same reaction in the brain as physical pain. This explains why we can actually feel a pain in our chest when we have a “broken heart” or are grieving.

And touch is an important part of relating to others. When we touch, we release oxytocin, which reduces pain, worry, and anxiety. Touch greatly improves our sense of wellbeing—touching has been shown to help people be more persuasive, improve team performance, boost our flirting skills, and even increase math skills!

One of the most effective forms of touch is a hug. Not a quick little squeeze, but a long hold. Research shows that getting five hugs a day for four weeks increases our happiness greatly!

And guess what neuroscientists recommend if you don’t have someone to hug—massage therapy! Massage decreases stress hormones (like cortisol) and releases all the feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin AND pain-killing endorphins.

If we can’t touch others, we need to at least connect through conversation. If your loved ones are far away, talking on the phone is far superior to texting according to scientists.

Choose happiness today! One simple thing we can all do right away that combines some of these elements is to send someone a thank-you email (connection + gratitude). This is enough to start an upward spiral of happiness—for you and for the recipient!

Here’s why, according to Alex Korb: Gratitude improves our sleep, and improved sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves our mood, and a better mood reduces anxiety and improves focus and planning. That helps with decision making, which further reduces worry and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives us more to be thankful for. It also makes us more likely to exercise and be social, which makes us happier—and so the spiral continues upward!

Source: “A Neuroscience Researcher Reveals Four Rituals That Will Make You Happier,” by Eric Barker, with material drawn from the book “The Upward Spiral,” by Alex Korb.
https://www.businessinsider.com/a-neuroscience-researcher-reveals-4-rituals-that-will-make-you-a-happier-person-2015-9

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth