Mon, 31 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #166
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"If you want to change your partner, change yourself." —Esther Perel, relationship psychotherapist and best-selling author
~Enjoy TSLL's first book Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide in audio format on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. The unexpected adventure you embark upon when you step into a relationship with a potential life partner is that you embark on a journey of self-discovery. Of course, we can and should go on sojourns of self-discovery before we choose to step into a relationship, but because of the nature of a romantic relationship, often our less developed and tender spots don't fully become exposed. After all, when we care for someone and see potential for spending our future with them and they with us, we experience emotions at a more intense level than we may have before and perhaps emotions we may had never experienced before. Whether you are in a relationship that has been seen years together, are just beginning to get to know one another or not in a relationship at all except the one with yourself, understand what Esther Perel reminds us all of above. If we enter into a relationship in hopes of finding someone who will fill a place in our lives, do what we need them to do and forget that a relationship involves two human beings made up of emotions, aspirations, perceived as well as real limitations, than we need to step back from stepping into a relationship in order to have a healthy relationship down the road. A simple understood truth that most people accept is nobody is perfect, but sometimes we skip over this truth and jump to assumptions and high expectations rather than coming to understand the person we are involved with and finding the strength to truthfully express who we are and our curiosities as well as our boundaries. Let's take a look at at what love, real love unveils and asks of us as well.
Truths to understand
1.You must become a good partner in order to have the opportunity to find and begin to grow a healthy relationship. I must first say, you do not have to have it all figured out when it comes to relationships, what improvements you need to make, etc., etc.. What I mean is that you must come into a relationship as someone who is content in their own company. Someone who is self-aware and therefore also aware of who might make a good partner. Your ability to communicate clearly, as well as be willing to be vulnerable, but also confident and assured so as not to be taken advantage of. 2. A healthy relationship which requires being involved with a secure partner, will provide the opportunity to see faults in ourselves While we are imperfect beings, the truth is when we live on our own or we live in relationships that are not truly intimate, we can refrain from confronting what is obstructing our path to reaching our fullest potential. However, when the carrot of a loving relationship is set before us, we will have moments of opportunity to recognize where can do better. In those moments, take time to reflect, and if necessary, communicate with an objective or trusting third party that will give you tools to shift or change what is no longer working. 3. From time to time we will fall back on defaults that are unhelpful However, the key is recognize these instances when they occur, and gradually with mindful attention, understanding why you do so, choosing a new action that is helpful and healthy rather than hurtful and destructive. 4. High emotional intelligence will not only help you but your partner, and visa versa Becoming someone who can accurately identify how they feel and why they feel the way they do is a step in the direction of refraining from acting unnecessarily on emotions that will soon pass or you are feeling based on past experiences and not due to what is actually and who is actually with you in the present moment. Similarly, when you can do this for yourself, you can then begin to better accurately observe those around you and while not always telling them you know what and why they're doing what they are doing, knowing when it would be helpful and when it would not be. 5. Courage & bravery are required Initially, these may be viewed as the same skill, but the repetition is necessary. We will need to be courageous to reveal who we truly are, what we actually need and be honest about where we can let go. And we will also have to be brave to open our lives up to an individual who is not as well known to us as we know ourselves. 6. It's easy to react. It's more difficult to respond. However, with thoughtful practice, responding can become your default rather than reacting. It just takes conscious effort. Learn more about the difference between reacting and responding here.
What the journey will involve
1.Both partners consistently choosing to figure out how to best make the relationship work and work well for both individuals involved, as well as for the relationship they want to build together. What do you want? What does your partner want? What do we want as a couple? Have these conversations, don't be shy. Talk calmly and when you're ready. Explain what makes you feel loved, explain what makes you feel anxious. Talk through it and work through it. Time is often needed as you begin to mesh and move together through life, but communication of what works for you, where you can compromise and where you cannot is the only way to best make a relationship work for both individuals in a partnership. 2. A choice to love beyond the surface Exterior appearances can be beguiling, enticing and eye-catching. However, as adults, we can appreciate beauty from afar because we recognize that the beauty we see with our eyes is not the only nor the most significant beauty one can possess. 3. Choosing to treat your partner lovingly even during frustrating times It will take a conscious choice to respond rather than react. Being aware of how we are feeling, why we are feeling and not being led around by our emotions is key to maintaining and growing stable, healthy relationships. 4. Moments of deep breaths and time on your own to work through new feelings, circumstances, conflicts, etc. Everything that isn't working out in this moment doesn't need to be solved in this moment (even though we might want it to be because of the uncertainty and anguish it is causing). When we understand our emotions, when we understand ourselves well, we will also be stronger to step away from a conversation that may be highly charged due to a variety of reasons, respectfully explain you need a walk, or some time to collect your thoughts or something to indicate, that you will not move on for good, but you need to step back for now to gain some perspective and come back with a calm and clear head. 5. Understanding that our partner is not perfect We know this logically, but when we meet and begin to build a relationship with someone, it's natural to have high hopes. The key is to have hope rather than expectation. If we default to expectations, we set traps to fall through and get caught. But if we have hope, we are remaining optimistic while being open to what may be. 6. Perspective of what is truly important There will be moments during a relationship when things don't work out as you had hoped and disappointment arises. Perhaps not because of anything either partner could control, and while it is okay to express disappointment, it is also important to put it into perspective with the entire journey you are on together. Will this matter 1 year from now? Will it matter 10 years from now? Simple questions to ask yourself to enable you to not blow small hiccups into ginormous struggles. Sharing and feeling love with another person is a journey, none of which are exactly alike. And I think keeping that fact in mind is key. Key as well is understanding that your vision of a healthy, happy relationship may be slightly or drastically different from your partners and the only way to discover this is to communicate and begin to reveal your lives together, your real selves, yes, your best selves, but knowing that we will have off days and even in those days our best selves will be different. Love asks us to look within and examine ourselves. This can be scary, but often when something is scary it is life's way of saying, look a little closer, examine what is really going on because in so doing, you will set yourself free. ~TSLL's Audio Book is Now Available: What a Worthwhile Journey
Today’s sponsor of The Simple Sophisticate was Trunk. A journaling app to keep your thoughts saved recorded and a daily habit. Try it free for 30 months without having to share your buying information. If you like the app after 30 days, you can buy it when prompted. Currently available on iTunes – find it here.
Mon, 24 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #165
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"Right food, right place, right time. It is my belief . . . that this is the best recipe of all. A crab sandwich by the sea on a June afternoon; a slice of roast goose with applesauce and roast potatoes on Christmas Day; hot sausages and a chuck of roast pumpkin on a frost-sparkling night in November. These are meals who success relies not on the expertise of the cook but on the more basic premise that this is the food of the moment - something eaten at a time when it is most appropriate, when the ingredients are at their peak of perfections, when the food, the cook and the time of year are at one with each other." —Nigel Slater in The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater
Being able to have what we want is not always a blessing. But having what we need is imperative to our well-being, and what we need is nutrient-rich food and when it tastes its most delicious, it is all the more attractive to enjoy. Supermarkets have made the food we love available for consumers year-round, but we all know a tomato in December here in the states tastes nothing like its summer counterpart. Instead pick up an apple or if you are in Hawaii or on the west coast, a rambutans (seasonally available September through March). Satisfy your sweet-tooth and eat what is readily avilable and full of flavor. I can only speak for myself, but part of the reason I fall into the habit of eating the same vegetable, fruit or meal year round as a go-to is it's easy, I think it saves me time and I don't have to think about it. And while it does ease the need to have to figure out what to eat each night or for lunch, it isn't actually the best for my health. Initially, it will take time and our full attention to learn what is in season and know what to do with it when we get it back to our kitchen, but once we gain this knowledge, it becomes a habit. In essence, we are becoming our own home chef capable of cooking anything with fresh ingredients and what is left in the refrigerator. This feat may sound impossible, and you may be someone who doesn't love to cook, but most of us eat at home a majority of the time, so it doesn't have to be a passion and you don't have to be a foodie to learn the basics of seasonal cooking. Your health, your waistline and your peace of mind will thank you. 1. Shop at small local shops, markets and specialties businesses A fish market, a cheese shop, the local bakery, the farm stand, your neighbor's petite produce stand, choosing to frequent such food options rather than the giant supermarket will make the shopping experience far more pleasurable and the food you purchase will be fresher and most likely in season. As well, you can begin to establish relationships with the experts who run each business, ask them questions and learn about what you will be eating and feeding those you love. 2. Shop once a week for stock up items in the épicerie, but day to day for fresh food
"[The Kitchen Diaries] is a gentle plea to buy something, however, small, each day, to take time to shop, to treat it as a pleasure rather than a chore." —Nigel Slater
The weekly capsule menu is something I believe works wonderfully for planning the meals for the week and the ingredients, which should be versatile, for each recipe item. And while I typically do a weekly shopping run to my farmers market or Trader Joe's, I do stop by the local produce stand or the bakery, etc. throughout the week to ensure I have the freshest ingredients. 3. Curate a kitchen space that works well, no fancy gadgets necessary As anyone who has traveled in Europe and England will attest, kitchens are very small even in the most grand of cities, and while many people especially in Paris and London and well, name your favorite destination, will want to dine at the many restaurants, cooking in a small kitchen is very possible. So don't let the size of your kitchen be the roadblock. I always think of Rachel Khoo in her little Paris kitchen cooking away in minimal space. Most importantly, regardless of space, make sure you have the basic tools and essentials as well as a well-stocked épicerie. See my detailed list for both here. 4. Plant a garden, no matter how much space you have. Whether you have a large plot of land or a window sill, plant what you can, what you're curious about and with each year, add something different, try something new. As well, try to plant something to be enjoyed in each season: rhubarb in the early spring, strawberries in late spring, fresh herbs all summer (sometimes year round depending upon where you keep them), squash and pumpkin in the fall, the possibilities are endless. Have fun and play in the dirt. 5. Educate yourself on seasonal offerings Whether from books, cookbooks are a delight to read, and you learn as you peruse each recipe especially if it is organized seasonally, or textbooks, food television programs or your local farmer, become curious about what is in season where you live. Choose to see it as an adventure of discovery. When I approach cooking this way, I don't kick myself if something doesn't work out, I celebrate the opportunity to try and regardless the food (because it's in season) is usually delicious (again, not because of my prowess, but because seasonal food is good all on its own). I found this very helpful online source for all fifty states. You simply choose your state, the season and voila! It shares not only the produce that should be available and at its freshest, but recipes as well. ~Eat the Seasons (a helpful guide for North America and United Kingdom citizens) ~Epicurious is also a worthwhile resource for recipes on seasonal food, organized by the season 6. Discover the power of food The list is long of which to read to learn about what is the best balanced diet and how and where to find the nutrients you seek, but understanding where you can find fiber (grains - the less processed the better) and understanding exactly what an avocado gifts to your body encourages you to step toward these foods with curiosity and not fear that you are going to be eating too much fat or calories. With these two items, they will satiate you long before the calorie count is anything to worry about, and fat isn't bad, remember this.
"Roast rhubarb on a January morning; 'pick-your-own' strawberries in June: a piece of chicken on the grill on an August evening . . . This is more than just something to eat, it is food to be celebrated, food that is somehow in tune with the rhythm of nature. Quite simply, the right food at the right time."— Nigel Slater
7. Have a plan The primary reason I have created seasonal capsule menus is to provide a starting point or foundation for how to cook seasonally in fall and spring (summer and winter will be coming in my second book to be released in 2018!). With time and practice, you'll begin to incorporate your favorite ingredients and discover which recipes you like and even create your own. 8. Keep it simple Truly, the best meal you will make on a regular basis should be simple, because again, it is the food, the quality of food, that makes it so. For example, my go-to recipe for vegetables year round is to roast them. Name the vegetable and for the most part, I will roast it. Asparagus in the spring, add some lemon and a bay leaf; zucchini and squash in summer and fall - olive oil drizzle, salt and pepper - 400 degrees for 30 minutes; broccoli in the fall through early spring. Oh, and I just tried roasted cauliflower finished in the last two minutes with Gruyère and Parmesan - delicious! 9. Try learning and incorporating a new habit each week Perhaps one week you will learn and become confident with roasting, maybe the next week making your own herb butter, then the next a beloved go-to vinaigrette. Whenever you eat out and you taste something you love, ask the chef how they made it (or the waiter/ess to ask the chef). I recently had the most delicious huckleberry ricotta mousse, and out of curiosity (as huckleberries have a very limited season) I wanted to remember this recipe for the next year. They happily shared the ingredients, and I went online and found a ricotta mousse recipe from a trusted source and adapted it to my taste. (Check out my recipe for Homemade Ricotta Mousse with Fresh Berries here.) 10. Dine at farm to table restaurants One of the best ways to learn about seasonal food is to try it as it is prepared by well-trained chefs. More and more restaurants are following this model of seasonal recipes and in so doing are teaching and informing their patrons how to cook delicious food at home. Learning how to feed our bodies well takes time, but hopefully with these tips, the journey through the seasons will be pleasurable, delicious and an experience to savor rather than a task to complete.
"The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease." ~Thomas Edison
~Below are a handful of seasonal cookbooks that come highly recommended, some new, some time-tested.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
Today's sponsor of The Simple Sophisticate was Trunk. A journaling app to keep your thoughts saved recorded and a daily habit. Try it free for 30 months without having to share your buying information. If you like the app after 30 days, you can buy it when prompted. Currently available on iTunes - find it here.
Mon, 17 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #164
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"With a healthy lifestyle, it's not at all unreasonable to expect ninety or one hundred exceptionally healthy years of life, years in which we will be of sound body, mind and spirit." —Dr. John D. Day, author of The Longevity Plan: 7 Life-Transforming Lessons from Ancient China
In Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, a man who lived from 1706-1790, in Part Two along with his well-known 13 virtues for a good life, he explains his approach to bringing order to his life (the 3rd virtue - "let all things have their place; let each part of your business have its time") with his daily routine written out by the hour. At the young age of twenty, Franklin was clear about a schedule that would enable him to eventually do all that we know he was able to achieve and accomplish, which was quite impressive. Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule:
Why exactly is a daily regular routine significant when it comes to the overall well-being of our lives? If anyone has observed the stability routines provide for children, students, pets and colleagues, one will acknowledge, so long as the routines are healthy, restorative, invigorating and based on sound reasons to benefit the individuals to reach their best potential, that routines are a simple solution to much of what we wish our lives to become: fulfilling, enjoyable, tranquil, and a foundation for moments of spontaneity from which we can springboard from occasionally, all the while knowing we can and will eventually come back to the routine that enabled us to be someone who can think outside the box, who can and feels comfortable taking a risk. From the routine I keep with my blog writing, to the routine I adhere to in my classroom, as well as with my dogs when I at home, the purpose is to gain more energy, to not deplete it in myself and in others unnecessarily, to cultivate an environment in which the unexpected wonderful ideas, experiences and conversations can blossom. Because when we need not worry about our fundamental survival needs, food, shelter, social connectedness, etc., we can then make our why to self-actualization (which I talk in great depth about in episode #25). While some dislike the idea of sticking to a routine, I will admit freely, there have been routines I loathed, either they didn't work with an approach to good health for my body and mind or I was being expected to do tasks, etc., that I didn't find meaning or purpose in. We will all have times in our lives, especially when we are younger or the newbie on the job in which the routine we are given is not the routine we want. The task we are given, or that we must give to ourselves is to ask the question and do the homework, what will work best for me to reach my full potential? Areas of your life to consider aligning into a daily routine: 1. Eating schedule Dr. John D. Day's new book The Longevity Plan describes in detail a diet (not a temporary, but long-term, forever approach to eating well) that will enable you to thrive into your 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond and obliterate the Western assumption that old age is a deterioration. Especially what we eat, but as well when we eat has a powerful effect on our overall health. In fact, he shares, "Erratic eating schedules have been shown to result in decreased metabolism, which can lead to long-term weight gain." 2. Sleep time
"Nobody in Bapan had an alarm clock. When we're hitting at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, and a regular schedule, something quite amazing happens: We get the exact amount of sleep our bodies need without having to be jarred awake by a buzzer before we're really ready." —Dr. John D. Day, The Longevity Plan
3. Create a life of motion Instead of punishing your body with the workout you think is intense enough you only need to do 3-4 times a week, Dr. Day recommends, based on observing the centenarians in The Longevity Village in Bapan, China, simply live a life of movement. Granted, many of our lives don't easily support this. If we work at a desk or behind the wheel, but even by adding a standing desk to your office or a walking treadmill, the job you have to do doesn't have to keep you sedentary. Again he reminds, our bodies were meant to move, not stay in one place five days a week. Consistency is key and doing what you love is the best way to make it a habit. So if you dread the spin class or the run you are determined to take each morning before work, don't do it. Do something you love, raise your heartbeat enough, but then keep your body in motion throughout the day: park further from the front door, take a stroll after dinner (something those in Bapan do nearly daily), or get outside for lunch. Create a routine of movement that keeps your body awake and entices you to stay active. 4. Productivity As witnessed in Franklin's schedule, having a clear objective is imperative to reaching the desired goal. After all, if we don't know what we want to achieve, how can we ever feel productive at the end of the day? I have found one of the few must-have ingredients in a day that I would need to experience in order to call it a good day would be a sense of achievement, progress, accomplishment or productivity. By no means do any one of these things need to be grand or even known or understood by outsiders, but if I put the task of write the introduction to chapter four as my objective, it not only gives me something to focus on, but when I do complete the task, I feel as though progress has been made. An essential component to being productive is to know what enables each of us to be our most productive selves, and create a routine that fosters productivity rather than making it difficult to find our rhythm. 5. Social lives Social lives are less likely to fall into a daily routine only because you are engaging with others who must adhere to a schedule that works best for them and there will be times, sometimes many, when it will shift. However, the key is to focus on your engagement, how you stay in touch, how much you stay in touch, how you keep your boundaries so you can continue to be productive and how you can support those you love to accommodate their needs (and they hopefully are doing the same for your needs) without sacrificing a quality way of living. 6. Our mind-set
"The way in which we choose to perceive and deal with stress is, after all, a tremendous market of biologic age. Studies show that those who embrace stress actually live 17 percent longer. In contrast, as measured by telomere length, it appears that people who don't effectively manage high levels of stress age their bodies by nine to seventeen years." —Dr. Day
Shifting from feeling as though we are lacking and rather appreciating all that is going well is a simple way to shift your mind-set for the better. The American mind-set especially, but we are certainly not alone, tends to work more hours in order to earn more money to buy more or bigger things. But in so doing, we are racheting up our stress. As well, finding work you enjoy can reduce your stress level, and paradoxically, Dr. Day points out, enable you to be more productive as you are not depleting your energy but rather are enlivened by what you have the opportunity to do. Such an approach is helpful in both our professional and personal environments.
"At least 70 percent of all visits to the doctor are for stress-related ailments."
Another way to reduce stress is to play. Play not only outside of work, but at work as well. Have fun, lighten up, keep in perspective what is important. "When we treat work as play, we change the very nature of work. We rob it of its power to stress us and deplete us of our energy." Think about someone who turned what they loved doing on the side or out of pure enjoyment into their job. It's possible to do that yourself; the key is to be able to return to that feeling of pure play because it is through play that we learn more as we are fully engaged and not worried about outcomes but rather enjoying what we are doing. Perhaps you are dismissing the concept of playing in your life, let alone at work. Here's another tidbit of information to keep in mind regarding the importance of play. National Geographic has reported that there is a "direct correlation between playfulness and intelligence, since the most intelligent animals engage in the greatest amount of playful activities. The reason is simple: Intelligence is the capacity for learning, and to play is to learn." Hmmm. Make room to play; how wonderful of a directive for living well is that? 7. Environment One of the seven lessons Dr. Day advises we all pay close attention to when it comes to cultivating a life of longevity is to place ourselves in a positive environment from the people, to the homes, to the communities that support healthy living. Where we wake up, the air we breathe, the words we hear, how much technology we consume, the support we receive, the products and furniture we live amongst, the information we consume, each of these items are details that effect our daily lives and to live in a positive environment, a supportive, healthy environment and to wake up in such a place every day is to continue to improve the quality of our lives, as the opposite would be to gradually deplete the quality of our lives.
"Yes, our electronic influencers have a powerful impact on the rhythms of our lives, but our bodies want to be in sync with the natural world." —Dr. Day
With each of these areas in which to create a routine, simply do your best. Even Ben Franklin shares in his autobiography about the creation of his daily schedule, "I enter'd upon the execution of this plan for self-examination, and continued it with occasional intermission for some time. I was surprise'd to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined, but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish." Even he did not stick to his routine fully each day, and took breaks ("occasional intermission"), but he stuck to it the majority of the time, and in so doing, saw the quality of his life improve. His routine may not appeal to you, but as he arose each morning with a question, and assessed at the end of the day how the day had unfolded, this simple habit is a grand way to determine what is working, what is not and how to do better tomorrow. Small corrections can be made and a pat on the back can be given as well each day. Find your rhythm. Create a daily routine that hums your tune, makes you tap your toes in excitement to start the day. Rhythm, your rhythm, a rhythm that enables you to reach your full potential will be a song you want to sing again and again and again.
"the reason [the village people of Bapan - Longevity Village]'s hearts are in rhythm is because their lives are in rhythm." —Dr. Day, The Longevity Plan
It will take time, or maybe for some, not much time at all because you've already been stepping into a routine and observing what is and isn't working. Now, consciously, sit down, and ask yourself, what works? How can I do more of that? And give it a shot. Each spring and each fall before my summer schedule begins and before school begins, I sit down and look at the daily schedule that will work best for me incorporating routines that will enable me to reach my goals. I love this bi-annual ritual. To help me make the best schedule, I will reflect back on past year's schedules to see what worked and if it didn't, why not. Just this year I have added something new to my routine, a weekly check-in on my progress along with my nightly journaling. This weekly check-in usually takes place on Sunday evenings after the week has wrapped up and a new week is about to begin. I find myself able to quickly rectify anything that didn't go as planned or get back on track before it goes too off the rails without much of a fuss. I also am reminded and motivated by observing what I have done well, what daily routines are producing the outcomes I have desired and this is motivation to keep adhering to my daily routines in the new week. Again, this is what works for me. I have always been someone who loves to plan, write it all out, not excessively, but in a manner that is clear for me to visualize. Today, consider for a moment the benefits of establishing a daily routine that works for you. Perhaps Dr. Day's list of benefits will provide even more motivation:
"The overwhelming majority of cases [cardiac arrest], perhaps up to 80 percent, can be prevented, and half of the people with arterial fibrillation can reverse their condition through lifestyle changes aimed at eating better food, maintaining a healthy mind-set, building supportive communities, staying in motion, and learning to connect with their own rhythms."
And as we create a rhythm in our life that works well for us, we discover more energy to do what we most enjoy, we experience more mental clarity to make sound and successful decisions for the life journey we are on and as all of these benefits are felt, our overall well-being begins to soar. There is nothing boring about that. I am continued to be reminded that is us, humans, who make life difficult. Real luxury. The luxury of living a life of quality and true contentment is actually quite simple: create a daily routine that enables you to live well and experience your life begin to improve.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Farro Salad with tomatoes, sweet onions, avocado, herbs, a poached egg, chicken and garlic vinaigrette. Find the recipe here. SaveSave
Mon, 10 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #163
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"Growing your inner strengths through taking in the good is like deepening the keel of a sailboat so that it's less jostled by the worldly winds, it recovers more quickly from big storms, and you can now safely head out into deeper waters in pursuit of your dreams." —Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness
The founding premise of the book Hardwiring Happiness is change your brain, change your life for the better. Having discussed this fact before on the blog/podcast, it may not appear to be profound on the surface, but what always keeps me reading is how do we change our brain to change our lives for the better, how does it actually work neurologically? And the how is exactly what made the most sense to me above any other book I have read upon reading Hardwiring Happiness. Simply put, we need to deeply savor the good that occurs in our lives, the small as well as the overtly large and as we do, we begin to build new synapses into our brain, enabling it to expect the good rather than spontaneously always looking for the bad. The skill that we all need to develop, practice multiple times a day and then use habitually is to take in the good. What is meant by this is a four step process which Hanson outlines in his book, but essentially it is to be present in your life, to be engaged, to be paying attention, and thus, to recognize, and then savor those moments, no matter how small or large, that are good.
"By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience you'll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure . . . the practice brings you into the present moment and teaches you to have more control over your attention."
Did you wake up and feel rested? Savor this moment for 10 more seconds and let it truly be absorbed by your mind. Did you receive a loving gesture from your partner? Slow down and savor it, engraining into your memory to be appreciated even after the moment has passed. Did you feel safe in your home last night? Tip your hat to the world you have created and take a deep breath to again welcome even more appreciation of the fact into your being. An analogy (and he uses an abundance of them throughout the book which I found quite helpful) Hanson uses to describe the three step process of rewiring the brain is comparing it to making a fire: "Step 1 lights it, step 2 adds fuel to keep it going, and step 3 fills you with its warmth." He also further explains that often step 2 & 3 overlap which makes sense because you can adding wood to the fire to keep it going as you are remaining warm. To repeat the steps (notice the acronym - HEAL):
All of this may sound overly simplified, but after reading and coming to understand how the brain works, how it creates paths of memory and why it has evolved the way it has, Dr. Hanson, who is a neuropsychologist, demonstrates that it is in the daily routines and the daily tracks we allow to run through our mind that create a happier, I like to use the word contented, way of living every single day not matter what is going on outside of us. Why? Dr. Hanson dives deeply into this, but a basic synopsis is "In a positive circle, feeling better helps you act better, which helps the world treat you better, which helps you feel better." And on the flip-side, if we continue to let negative events run through our minds and become absorbed by them, we are making tracks in our mind, strengthening synapses that reinforce the need to be on the look out for negative and thus reactive rather than responsive which I detailed in episode #145 of the podcast. In fact, Dr. Hanson points out due to our ancestral need for survival which actually impedes our way of life in the 21st century, our brain is designed in such a away that "negative stimuli are perceived more rapidly and easily than positive stimuli". In other words, "the default setting of the brain is to overestimate threats and underestimate opportunities and underestimate resources both for coping with threats and for fulfilling opportunities". Which is why, it requires a conscious effort to rewire the brain to be less fearful and more positive seeking, and if we do nothing, the above hereditary scenario will persist throughout the duration of our lives blocking us from attaining our full potential. Knowledge of how the brain works is power. And upon reading the book, if further understanding of the most powerful tool in your body is of interest to you, you will appreciate this book and how he delivers the information. Let's talk about the "how" of savoring the good moments, both enriching them and absorbing them. 1. Slow down In order to recognize when a good moment has occurred, we need to slow down. At that time, take 10 more seconds to just fully observe, imprint in your memory what is going well. 2. Become fully aware of what surrounds you Being present in the now will help you to be fully aware of all that is going on, all that is going well and even if certain things are not, because you are fully aware, you can put it into perspective, bring forward the good and ratcheting down the not so good so that it doesn't become more inflamed than it needs to be. 3. Strengthen emotional intelligence There are many components to being emotionally intelligent (I go in detail in episode #140), but the key component to rewiring your brain is to be able to identify your emotions and what you are feeling accurately. And then once you understand what you are feeling, if it is a positive feeling, you can grow the feeling into a mood - for example as Dr. Hanson points out, you can grow a feeling of gladness and gratitude into a mood of contentment. Conversely, if you recognize you are feeling sad about something, you can combat the feeling from developing into a mood of depression simply by recognizing what you are feeling, why you are feeling and combating it by shifting your mind and even your environment to a positive scenario so that your mind doesn't become fixating on something that isn't productive or helpful. 4. Instead of wanting, choose to like or appreciate the moment Often we are fully aware that a moment or an experience is exponentially good and because we know it is good, we want more of it. But by wanting, as Hanson points out, we aren't experiencing what is going on right now. We are removing ourselves from the situation and acting in such a way that reveals we unconsciously feel we lack something, thus the "want". In fact, our "want" is killing any growth of more goodness. Instead, be present, enjoy what is occurring, appreciate it for what it is without cajoling to trying to make more and relish what you have the opportunity to be amongst. As I have learned upon bringing more appreciative and secure people into my life, is that when such beautiful moments happen, I can take that moment with me in my memory so long as I savor the experience and allow my memory to absorb it fully and then replay it whenever I need to to brighten my future days. Again, more is not better, simply deepen what you are given by following the three step process: have a good experience, enrich it/savor it and absorb it/commit it to memory. 5. Give yourself permission I recently was listening to Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio podcast, and he was interviewing Nigella Lawson who stated on the topic of guilty pleasures, "Look, if you feel guilty about pleasure, you don't deserve to have pleasure." Back in 2013 I wrote a post about the difference between pleasure and joy, and while one is not bad and the other good, knowing where each is derived is important. However, with regards to rewiring the brain, anytime we observe and experience a pleasure, we can turn the pleasure into joy which is something entirely within our own control. For example, I pulled an excerpt from the post mentioned above. Here is a list of how to welcome more joy into your life, and upon doing so, you can make all of these moments opportunities to rewire your brain as you shift to a more contented way of living each and every day. 1. Look inward – become at peace with who you are, and celebrate your uniqueness. 2. Take time to meditate, pray and be still. 3. Allow external inspiration (art, nature, music, conversation) to stir your inner creativity, and act upon those moments of inspiration – create, dream and act according to what is provoked within you. 4. Figure out your purpose/passion and then go pursue it 5. Be thankful for what you already have, rather than what you lack 6. Give when you have the resources, time and energy to do so 7. Pursue avenues/dreams that are meaningful and align with your values 8. Plan activities that cultivate more moments of joy – simple meals, gatherings, events that you are curious about, etc. The conclusion of Hardwiring Happiness that drove the point home for me of choosing to take on the task of changing the hardwiring my brain (because initially it will have to be an entirely conscious choice) was the realization that when we shift away from seeking more happiness and running or trying to avoid pain, we come to recognize that we have the ability to be content wherever we are at any given moment. We have that power. We do not have to chase it, we don't have to run from what we perceive as bad moments. Because as we begin to live more consciously, as we begin to focus on the good, take it in fully and commit it to memory, we begin to build a life that snowballs in the best of ways. The cycle that was mentioned above strengthens and we attract people, moments and environments that are full of goodness to appreciate because we are someone who brings and cultivates moments of goodness in our lives and those around us.
"Taking in the good is not about chasing after pleasure or chasing away pain. It's about bringing the chase to an end."
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The perfect simple and delicious appetizer for summer: Melons & Prosciutto (cantaloupe & cured ham)
History: An Italian antipasti favorite, dating back to the second century, it was Galeno, a doctor during this time who believed that the combination of these two ingredients was the perfect way to incorporate the four things a being needed to feed what he believed each human was made of - warm, cold, dry and juicy corresponding to the four elements fire, air, earth and water. The melon was cold and juicy and the cured ham was dry and warm (salty and cured). Learn more here.
All images via TSLL's Instagram & IG stories
Mon, 3 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #162
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"Focusing on happiness as our ultimate goal is self-defeating; being in a constant state of happiness is, simply put, impossible."—Paul Hudson
Place the word happiness on the cover of a self-help book and it will sell more times than it won't (Amazon has over 40,000 book titles with the word). The concept of happiness has a mass following as once we've experienced the feeling of our happy neurochemicals surging through our mind and being, we want more. And who wouldn't? However, as Paul Hudson reminds, "Happiness is not a natural state; it's an elevated state." Since happiness is not a natural state that we are born at (however, we can attain it, just as we can attain sadness, but we are not born sad), the question to determine is at what state are we born? A couple of years ago I shared Dr. E.P. Seligman's equation of what happiness consists of. Set range based on your biological parents Circumstances of your life (money, relationships, health, religion) Voluntary factors under your control (how you deal with the past, think about the future, etc) The Equation: H (happiness) = S + C + V Based on the realization that we individually have a set range as the foundation (accounting for 1/3 of our happiness potential), it is the other circumstances and voluntary actions that can heighten or depress the level of happiness we may attain. You may be looking at this equation and thinking, "Well, I absolutely can be happy all the time if two of the primary components are in my control." Are they though? Entirely, your circumstances and the voluntary factors are not in your control; however, how you respond to them, how you manage them, how you navigate the events, people and setbacks is in your control. Therefore it is how you navigate, it is the place from which you approach your circumstances, change them as you can and how you change them, that will either heighten the chances of moments of happiness or decrease. When we look closely at the term happiness, the root "hap", it is of Old English origin that came to be used in the 12th century. Its definition was "one's luck or lot" and "
“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
“There’s a certain tendency in our culture to want to graft some kind of happiness onto an existing structure,” Hanson said. “If you just fill in the blank — get this car, find the right shade of lipstick, go on vacation in Mexico, lose those five pounds — suddenly you’ll be happier and have the fulfillment you want in life ... Let’s be clear: The main happiness industry in America is the advertising industry.” —cognitive psychologist Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness,
Do not fall into the trap psychologist Rick Hanson points out above. Do not let the outside world, the marketing world tell you what it takes to attain happiness. Rather take a look at the list below and discover how to make the shift in our daily lives from seeking happiness to cultivating a life of contentment: 1.Shift your perspective on challenging situations 2. Understand that fear of the unknown is a good sign 3. Not being happy doesn't mean you are sad The expectation of constant happiness gets in the way of learning how to feel and exist with these other emotions that are not all the opposite of happy. We can be curious, interested, ambivalent, neutral, focused, challenged, and I am just barely scratching the surface. Take a look here at a lengthy list of different emotions. What our job needs to be is properly identifying what we are feeling, and while sometimes we may be able to explain why, we don't actually have to know the root all of the time. Simply knowing what we are feeling and letting ourselves feel that particular emotions is a very healthy skill which leads me to . . . 4. Build a life of wholeness
"We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position — it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much ... I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is." —Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay
A life of wholeness, as pointed out above will involve from time to time sadness. To feel sadness is to have known love, joy, tranquility and yes, happiness. It is how you navigate through these daily occurrences. And when you know how to navigate, much like driving a car or navigating the subway or airline travel, you empower yourself to arrive successfully at your destination. 5. Choose to handle negative situations in a productive way Which builds your resilience and persistence, thus building your opportunity to experience happiness when opportunities come along that require you to be resilient and persistent in attaining them. 6. Practice patience: Let go of the need for fast fixes 7. Practice mindfulness Being mindful asks us to be present which requires us to have the ability to be the captain of our mind. 8. Improve self-awareness
Our natural state needs to be content rather than happy. Once we realize and practice building and living a life of contentment, we broaden the opportunity for happiness to be experienced. I have written extensively about contentment here on the blog (have a look at the posts below)
"Happiness is essentially an end result of some action we’ve taken," marriage counselors Ben and Janelle Novell
So much of our discontent is a misunderstanding of what constitutes happiness. Once we put it into its rightful place, which is a glorious experience to behold, we can appreciate it all the more as well as not be so disheartened when it doesn't last indefinitely. The good news is, it will return so long as we cultivate a life of contentment. And that is something we can do each and everyday.
~Gruyère Tomato Tart, click here for the recipe