Sun, 27 January 2019
"Resilence is more than bouncing back from adversity. People who are resilient keep pursuing their goals in the face of challenges. Consequently, learning how to regulate your brain's motivational machinery is a key aspect of resilence." —Rick Hanson, Ph. D, author of Resilient: How to Grown an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength and Happiness
Living well and successfully reaching our fullest potential in part resides in understanding what is and is not in our control. Once we understand what we have control over, for example, and for today's post/episode's purposes, the mind, then we need to be willing to take the time to learn how it functions and how we can use its talents to enhance the overall quality of our lives.
Dr. Rick Hanson shares in the introduction of his book Resilience that "the brain is continually remodeling itself as you learn from your experiences. When you repeatedly stimulate a 'circuit' in your brain, you strengthen it." After reading his book, which is organized by the needs we have as human beings - safety, satisfaction and connection - readers discover the skills, and then the tools to build those skills to build our resilience. "True resilience fosters well-being, an underlying sense of happiness, love and peace."
And in order to foster the sense of each of them and hardwire them into our being, we need to experience them, seek them out and consciously savor them so as to remember how to live each day consciously as we build a life we love living each day.
Hanson asserts and I have to certainly agree, when we practice and improve our resilience in good times or seemingly benign moments in our everyday lives, we "will feel less anxiety and irritation, less disappointment and frustration and less loneliness, hurt and resentment. And when the waves of life come at you, you'll meet them with more peace, contentment and love in the core of your being."
So let's start by looking at our everyday lives and discovering how we can strengthen the muscle, the skill, that is resilience.
1.Take care of your own well-being first
"Being good to yourself is good for others. When people increase their own well-being, they usually become more patient, cooperative, and caring in their relationships."
We can only give our best selves when we care for ourselves well. When our needs are met, we can help others who are in need of generosity, understanding and patience. Read/Listen to episode #242 for 31 Ways to Practice True Self-Care.
2. Notice and savor enjoyable moments
Creating the habit of being self-compassionate is a learned skill. And with any skill, it takes conscious effort and repetition to habituate the skill into our default systems. Hanson advises, "Once you're having [an enjoyable] experience, feel it as fully as possible and take a little time —a breath or two or ten — to stay with it. The more often you do this, the more you will tend to hardwire psychological resources for yourself." Once you have strengthened this skill, you will be better able to utilize it during difficult as well as joyous times.
~Learn more about self-compassion and how to cultivate it in episode #122
3. Welcome Enjoyable Moments into Each Day
Conscious living is thoughtful living to pay close attention to how our days are constructed. Now this doesn't mean we have to plan every minute of the day and it doesn't mean everything must be nose-to-the-grindstone work or striving for nothing but perfection. What Hanson encourages is to understand and find what is enjoyable about the tasks you both want to do and have to do.
Completing a project at work for example, while the entire task may not be enjoyable, ask yourself, what is and focus on that. In so doing, you are more engaged, more attentive and more likely to give your best and have a more positive outcome.
On the flipside, for those activities you enjoy, make sure you partake in them regularly and savor the enjoyment you derive from doing so. Each time you focus on the reward, the enjoyable part, the brain releases dopamine, norepinephrine and natural opioids which then prioritizes in your mind what actions it wants to continue to pursue unconsciously. So essentially, you are beginning to hardwire your brain for wanting to do things that you consciously know will add quality to your life whether the enjoyment comes from have-to tasks or want-to tasks.
4. Repeat the superpowers you want to be part of your brain's hardwiring
"The more [neurons] fire together, the more they wire together. In essence, you develop psychological resources by having sustained and repeated experiences of them that are turned into durable changes in your brain."
Hanson shares that our character strengths, mood, skillful ways, outlook, good habits, etc. are predominantly learned as only one-third are innate in our DNA. The remaining two-thirds are acquired through learning.
This is good news, but it also means we have a massive responsibility in recognizing that we are who we either consciously or unconsciously choose to become. As Hanson coins, "who we learn to be".
5. Encourage Beneficial Experiences
"See the jewels around you."
The brain's negativity bias is programmed to protect us, and so it will bring to the forefront, if we aren't the master of our mind, all the negative in our days. However, when we understand why the brain is doing this, we can counteract it by seeking out, observing, savoring and incorporate more positive little moments into our day.
From savoring your breakfast or that cold glass of water, observing the beauty of the day, or the happy step of your pup as you head out for your walk, when we pay attention to the good experiences, we are nurturing our well-being. Why? Because if we are regularly letting the negative take the stage of our attention, there is "wear and tear on your body and mind".
6. Understand the essence of learning
What we learn, we become, and since two-thirds of who we become is learned, knowing how to learn is essential, so we can do it well and learn what will improve the quality of our everyday and overall lives. Hanson's acrynom for learning is HEAL (H - Have a beneficial experience; E - Enrich it, A - Absorb it; and finally, L — Link it to replace or soothe painful material). The first three steps are the essence of learning.
With that said, we need to live consciously. We need to choose experiences that are beneficial or have the potential to be beneficial. To enrich each of these beneficial experiences, we need to be fully present, taking everything in, slowing down, looking for something we had not seen if we are experiencing something beyond the first time, and then become clear as to why the experience is valuable to you. (a more detailed list regarding how to enrich experiences is hared on page 58 of Hanson's book).
Once we have enriched it, we need to savor the experience, or absorb it. To be clear, and Hanson points this out and I think this is vitally important to not misunderstand: Absorbing doesn't mean hanging on, clinging and not letting go. In fact, you are letting it go because you were never holding on to it, just noticing it, being present with the experience and appreciating it. Absorbing has to do with letting yourself feel good, letting yourself bask in the warmth of what has been part of your experience and in your own way, letting it become a part of you. Experiences can stay with us forever. Make sure the experiences that stick are wants that truly jewels.
7. "Let the Flowers Pull the Weeds"
I love this analogy, and the neurology behind the concept demonstrates how we can rewire our mind to reframe or eliminate negative thoughts and unhelpful attitudes about life and replace them with beneficial ones. Hanson points out that practicing mindfulness will be a helpful tool to be able to grow flowers whilst bringing as well to your attention the weed you want to replace. Because when you are able to hold two thoughts simultaneously, it is then that the good can begin to replace the negative, as you are able to recognize that good that is true and begin to chip away at was no longer serving you.
8. Be Mindful of The Self-Critic and Strengthen the Inner Nurturer
"There are two different attitudes or 'voices' inside us all, one that is nurturing and another that is critical, one that lifts up and one that weighs down. This is perfectly normal. The inner nurturer brings self-compassion and encouragement. The inner critic helps you recognize where you've gone wrong and what you need to do to set things right . . . for most people, the inner critic goes way overboard . . . it's big and powerful, while the inner nurturer is small and ineffective, which wears down mood, self-worth and resilience."
The inner critic needs to be kept in check, and this can be hard to do when moments in life, people in our lives become frustrating or hard to work with. We can be excessively harsh on ourselves which is why in such moments, we especially need to have a strong inner nurturer. A simple truth to keep in mind is that overtime those of us who allow our inner critic to run rampant are actually less productive in what we are critical about, and ultimately, that bleeds into our overall quality of life the elevation of living well we are able to reach.
9. Practice "liking" more and "wanting" less
"The root of [wanting] means 'lack'. It's natural to like things that are pleasurable, such as a sweet dessert with friends. But issues arise as we move from liking to wanting, from enjoying a meal together to insisting on the last piece of pie."
When we let our "auto-wanting" take control, we are pulled from the present, we are infusing our minds with the belief that we are not enough or what we already have is not enough. This is draining physically and potentially financially. Instead, practice appreciating - window shopping, so to speak. Whenever you feel "any sense of pressure, compulsion or 'must-ness'", take a breath, recenter yourself and remind yourself that the advertisers are doing their job, but you can still appreciate the beauty, goodness, awesomeness, etc. without funding their cause.
This is where the skill of being content will help tremendously. As was shared last week, in episode #244, contentment can be felt everyday, all day, as contentment is not dependent upon external sources. And when we are able to be content, it becomes easier to 'like' versus 'want'.
10. Healthy Intimacy Begins with Healthy Personal Autonomy
"Paradoxically, in order to get the most out of 'we', you need to stay centered in 'me'."
Intimacy as it appears in our lives can be cultivated with mere acquaintences as well as a romantic partner of 50 years. As defined in the book, intimacy is "to make familiar or known". And the knowledge of self and security within oneself is the foundation. Because when you are confident that you are able to take care of yourself, you can step forward to be engaged with others, knowing your limits, knowing your boundaries. And if necessary, knowing that if the limits or boundaries are not respected, you can step back and take care of yourself well.
With the relationshps you begin to build or relationships you are currently in, assess if you are able to do the following things:
If you are unable or were unable in past relationships that no longer are a part of your life, you may recognize you do not have full personal autonomy in that particular relationship. These may be relationships you either now recognize need to be stepped away from as you now can pinpoint why they don't feel right, or, if it is only one of the items on the list, you have a specific focus you can bring up to try to improve the relationship.
"Much as autonomy enables intimacy, intimacy supports autonomy. Close and nurturing relationships help a person feel safe and worthy as an individual, which promotes a confident independent. In a positive cycle, autonomy and intimacy feed each other. Together, they make you more resilient."
Moving forward, keep these abilities in mind as you should be able to exercise all four in a healthy relationship as too should the other person with you in the relationship, thus embodying the paradox shared in the above quote.
We often hear the word "resilence" uttered during times of strife or hardship, but the truth is, as Dr. Rick Hanson points out, strengthening the tool or skill of resilience can elevate the quality of our everyday lives in all of the good moments that we have as well.
As is often discussed here on TSLL and on the podcast, our mind is an amazing mechanism, and to understand how it works, have patience with the rewiring process if we are choosing to do so, can yield awesome outcomes for our life, enriching the journey and lead us where we truly want to go.
~Felicity Jones stars as Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and Armie Hammer stars as her husband Marty Ginsburg
Mon, 28 May 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #210
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
“It is always the simple that produces the marvelous.” – Amelia Barr
You react in anger when a moment of frustration arises only to have to take more time (once you realize you shouldn't have reacted in such a way) to apologize and rebuild a relationship. The best decision, the simple decision, would have been to say nothing at all in the moment, step away from the situation, and decide what, if any, response was necessary. In a hurry to clear your inbox, you scan through emails too quickly, miss important details and end up having to respond twice or three times to correct the initial response. In an attempt to create a relationship, you cling or hang on to someone who doesn't fully welcome you into their lives. The simple truth regarding relationships is if people want you in their lives, they will make room for you and not create guessing games, just as you have opened your life to them. There are many ways we can complicate our lives when it is absolutely unnecessary to do so. While we often hear that we must struggle in order to reach the goals we desire, while there is much truth to the duration, there are many details along the way that do not have to be complicated. In fact, to complicate them, discourages our journey toward success. I was reminded that even those who value simplicity in order to elevate our lives (me!) can make the mistake of creating complication where they need not be. Over the past month I have been putting off a task that I knew in my good conscience needed to be tended to do. The delaying only built up more stress and fear that would have been assuaged or negated had I simply took action, discovered what the solution was and put my energy toward reaching the solution rather than putting my energy toward stressing out about the unknown. Often we complicate because we don't want one more thing to fill our plate. Ironically, we are putting more than one more thing on our plate; we are at least putting two: the task that needs to be tended to and the worry that we expend wondering. In other words, we accrue interest, and in this case, not the good kind. Today I'd like to take a look at 1o simple ways we unnecessarily complicate lives with the goal of avoiding these mistakes. Because once we recognize our mistake, we can simply correct our course.
1. Small, regular steps, to reach great success
When we see our goal at the end of the long journey, there is a natural assumption that a grand step must be made. And while, yes, the distance is long, the journey is simple. So long as you are clear about what needs to be done and break it down into mini tasks, then all you have to do is the daily tasks each day on a regular basis. Whether it comes to improving your health, saving for your dream trip or earning the degree, be clear about your plan and then let go of the longview and trust that your daily habits will carry you to where you wish to arrive.
2. Contentment is in our control
"It's only when you add the infinite battles of yesterday and tomorrow that life gets overly complicatd."—Getting Back to Happy, Marc & Angel Chernoff
Much of the world would have us believe that contentment lies outside of us. Described as happiness, in a semantic sense, I would agree - happiness does lie outside of us, but contentment is entirely within our control. And it is through understanding how to cultivate contentment that we are more available to appreciate moments of happiness. But because we focus on what is outside of us - what must happen that involves others, what they should do, who should be in our lives, etc. we give our power away. Simply, our power for contentment, everything we need, is in our control because it is a matter of the mind. Ahd when our mindset is in order, we become at peace with ourselves and more engaging and charismatic with the world, drawing to us what we most love and appreciate.
3. Sleep Well, Live Well
When I think about going to bed each night, I smile. I smile because my bed is soft, comfortable, and a true luxury to slip into after each day. Sleep is good. In fact, sleep is vital to living well. From how well our brain functions, to improving our health as the toxins are flushed from our bodies, to improving our mood, sleep even supercedes exercise. So protect your 7-8 hours of sleep each night and see the quality of your days improve.
4. When we complain, we aren't problem solving
It is easy to complain and it is very tempting. And while we do need to vent because often we don't know what we are truly upset about until we release the frustration either verbally or on paper, complaining is a waste of energy as it takes away the precious time and brain power that is needed to either solve the problem or move on to something that better uses our time.
5. Learn to say no - focus your attention
For nearly ten years, my focus has been my passion that is shared every week here on this blog. I continue to follow my intuition, trust that it knows what I cannot see at that moment and keep striving forward to inspire readers to have the confidence to reach their full potential, to shed the limiting views and societal confinements that would hold us back when what the world needs is what we each can uniquely give if only we could unearth it and share it with the world. In so doing my life has taken on its own construct: my daily and weekend schedules are full but much enjoyed, the sights of the world I have had the opportunity to see fill me with inspiration and I continue to arrive closer at understanding how living well, the art of living well, actually works. Because I know precisely why I am continuing to pursue my goal, saying no is quite simple. Whatever you are passionate about, whatever you discover gives you purpose, a deep, driving purpose, once you hone in on it, saying no is simple and the complications that arise from saying "yes" much more than necessary lifts.
6. Feeling loved, begins with loving yourself
The love stories depicted in cliched rom-coms or traditional fairy tales would have us accept the love we seek resides outside of ourselves. The truth is actually the reverse. As we flip this notion on its head, it sounds too simple, too on the nose to be true, but the truth is you have had the love you have been seeking all along. We cannot truly find someone to love us well if we do not know how to love ourselves. And in order to love ourselves we must get to know ourselves, and when we show the world the self-respect we have for ourselves and thus the world, we attract to us those who appreciate who we are and thus opportunities for quality and lasting, loving relationship. For many, the complicated part lies in understanding how to love ourselves because doing so has been conveyed as being selfish. Once we see someone around us who exhibits self-love, we come to understand that self-love is a form of self-respect and when we respect ourselves we protect ourselves and strike a balance between what we can give to others and what we need to keep to give to ourselves whether it is our time, our energy, or our patience.
7. Reduce excess decision making
From the clothes you wear each day (create a capsule wardrobe), to the flavor/varietal of tea/coffee you drink to start your day, once you know what works for you and if it a foundational decision that needs to be stable so that the other tasks you go about doing throughout your day will be successful, stick with it. During my work week, I drink black tea or green tea. There are many amazing teas to drink, but to ensure the foundation of the start of my day is sturdy I drink tea I know I will enjoy. It's not that I won't try different teas when I travel, enjoy brunch on the weekend, etc.. All it means is that too often we choose coffee to try something new (as a tea drinker) on a work day that needs are focus. And if the coffee does not sit well with us, we just complicated our day unnecesarily.
8. When we worry, we waste our days away
Worry is a depletion of two precious commodities - our energy and our time. As I shared a few years ago, there are many benefits to be had when we banish worry (20 to be exact). And one priceless benefit is a return to a simpler way of living and thus improving of our everyday lives. As I shared as the #1 of the linked post, often it is the "how" to banish worry that is hard. So let me share with you a four-step process you can follow to just that - banish unnecessary worry - (1) write down exactly what you are worried about, (2) write down what you can do about it (3) decide the best course of action (4) start immediately to fulfill the course of action you’ve decided upon. In other words, action is the choice you want to take when you don't know what the outcome will be, rather than worrying.
9. Tell the truth (about what happened and who you truly are)
"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." — found in Mark Twain's notebook, 1894
On a surface level, as Twain points out, when we tell the truth, we don't have to remember which story to whom, but on a much deeper level, when we tell the truth about who we are and reveal to the world who we actually are, we do not draw to ourselves those who think we are someone else. In other words, not everyone will be drawn to us in our authentic state, but those who are are individuals with whom we have a far greater chance of connecting in such a way that has the opportunity to last, deepen and lift each party involved to their fullest potential. 10. Respond rather than react As I shared in the introduction in one of the examples of unnecessary complication, when we react, our emotions have us by the throat, but when we respond (while it may take more time), we are being thoughtful and inviting logic to join the conversation so to eliminate having to make apologies later. The key to living simply throughout our everydays is to make sure where we can simplify, we are. Because when we reduce the complications that need not be in our lives, we open up vast, beautiful windows for the opportunities we seek to introduce themselves. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~13 Benefits of Seeking Out Quality, episode #174
~Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality and Turn Your Trials into Triumph by Marc & Angel Chernoff
~SPONSORS of Today’s Episode:
Mon, 5 February 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #194
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
"When we are happy —when our mindset and mood are positive — we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it."—Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work
Both success and happiness, what they consist of, look like and feel like, can only truly be defined by each individual. For one person's happiness may be another person's hell. And one person's definition of excess stress and misery may be another person's place of bliss and fulfillment, in other words their happy place. Conceptually, happiness has been a hard term to pin down. As I shared in this post about the myths of success, if we look at the construction of the word "happiness" it implies luck, external circumstances; however, with time and cultural shifts in understanding, the definition changes and it will undoubtedly change again. In Shawn Achor's bestselling book The Happiness Advantage, he shares the definition the scientists he worked with agreed up . . .
". . . as the experience of positive emotions —pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future."
Moving forward with this definition in mind, the deeper revelation was the need for happiness to be present in our everyday lives in order to attain the true success we seek. Again, success will be defined differently by all, but success regarding the quality of our "relationships, health, creativity, community involvement and friendships."
"It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive."
The irony his book points out is that for some time the belief has been accepted that we must work hard in order to attain success and then we will be happy. But studies have flipped this false notion on its head. Rather "we become more successful when we are happier and more positive". At about the same time I was reading Achor's book I heard a quote shared on Headspace during one of my meditation sessions, "When the mind is calm, there is clarity; with clarity, there is contentment; with contentment, there is compassion." The progress toward happiness (contentment) comes from knowing where we wish to go, what we wish to do and the qualities we wish to develop. The journeys with each of these realizations is just that, a journey, but when we are clear about our choices, we find contentment and thus we are able to step toward success. The truth about individuals, I have found, who embody this awareness is that there is a sincerity about the work they produce, the lives they live and an indifference toward seeking approval. The work they do and the life they live is their conscious choice made by them and them alone. When someone who is striving toward a life they think they should have, a goal they think they want, but not enjoying the journey, eventually this truth is revealed in the work that is offered forth, the engagements with others along the way and mood they bring to the process. The magnetism is absent or false, the energy is flat and the passionate flame is nowhere to be found. As we know, our lives have expiration dates, so why not stop chasing what you think will make you happy when you finally reach it and create a life right where you are that you enjoy living?
"Waiting to be happy limits our brain's potential for success, whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative and productive, which drives performance upward."
The fuel you are looking for involves shifting how you live your everyday, and when you do, you will elevate it to experience extraordinary moments each and everyday. ~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Where True Success Resides, episode #70
~When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
Sponsor of this week’s episode: Lifesum
~Visit the Top Ranked Health & Fitness app and receive 30% off the Premium Membership. ~Visit lifesum.com/simple
Mon, 10 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #163
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"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
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"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
Mon, 19 June 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #160
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"'How does one become a butterfly?' she asked pensively. You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar." —Trina Paulus
In a blink of an eye, in an unexpected, ordinary moment, the unimaginable can materialize before our eyes. And in such a moment, due to its magnificence, a feeling of surreality washes over us and we stand confounded, yet buoyant as it feels we've reached the surface finally after much hard work, planning, and hoping what seemed against hope. Butterflies have always been a source of spontaneous glee for me. As I shared more than six years ago, spotting a butterfly is a reminder: “This was what the struggle was all about. Now you have the knowledge. Now you know how to fly on your own and reveal your gifts to the world without disguising yourself to fit in.” Much like the people that come into our lives and the opportunities that cross our paths, we cannot know when the butterfly will metamorphosize from the stage of being a caterpillar. Two weekends ago, we decided to go paddle boarding, and along the way, the butterflies began to dance around me. Like a child giddy at the sight of a new puppy, I all but tap danced on my board. As we continued to paddle, I noticed they were puddling, and it seemed endless butterflies were all clustered at this one wet, muddy puddle area on the side of the river. Never before had I been surrounded by so many fluttering wings, paying me no mind and going about their nutrient gathering behavior. Then again this past weekend, as Norman and I were on a walk amongst the pines, more than a handful of butterflies joined us as we took our daily constitutional. And I couldn't help but remember how six years ago, the butterfly was on the other side of the picture window and Norman was intent on watching it, trying to make sense of what it was. Now, the butterflies walked with us and Norman didn't bat more than an eye or a quick nod. And so I began to ponder further lessons butterflies can teach us. Always trying to remember the lesson of the butterfly, as mentioned above, these most recent encounters made me take note that no matter how badly we might want to become something or evolve into something, sometimes it is our intense focus that blinds us and prevents what we desire from materializing. While we must put out into the world, and know within ourselves, what it is we seek, what it is we wish to become, once these truths become clear, we need to step back and just go about the everyday tasks, take the necessary risks and accept the uncomfortable challenges so that we can gradually grow and evolve into the person we wish to be. At that point, we don't know when we will attract the similar energy of others or jobs or beautiful life moments that take on the guise of the "blink of an eye" moment mentioned at the top of the post. We cannot know. Just as I could not know about the many butterflies I was going to paddle into when I placed my board onto the water that morning. But here's the lesson, we have to keep putting our board in the water. We have to keep paddling in order for those moments to have an opportunity to be discovered. You may be wondering, Okay, Shannon, speak to me directly. What are you talking about? How do I keep putting my board in the water? How can I apply this to my life right now? Two things: First decide what you want and how to attain it, followed by focusing on what you've decided to pursue and letting go of what is not part of the equation. Now, what each of us will have ascertained will be unique, but something that is universal which will help you along your journey is to strengthen these 11 skills, focus more on your "to be" list rather than your "to do" list, cultivate everyday habits that build a life of true contentment, and become comfortable in your own unique skin. In tending to each of these, you let go of your strangle-hold on the outcome and hold fast to what you can elevate (yourself and the person you bring to the table each and everyday). And in so doing, the life that is meant to be yours will cross your path and you and it will begin to intertwine as you recognize how well the two entities work together. This is the butterfly moment. The natural coming together, and the ability to recognize it and appreciate it and be reminded that the life you've built did take work and will continue to take work, but the work enables the quality of your life experiences as you travel together with the partner you have found, with the friendships you have built, with the career you have invested in, to be heightened to a level you may not have truly trusted was possible. Edith Wharton says it beautifully regarding when the moment you've hoped for will happen (the butterfly moment so to speak), "They seemed to suddenly come upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in a winter wood." You truly cannot know when it will all come together, but at least you know you'll be ready to walk with it when it crosses your path. And it all begins with what the first quote at the top of the post brings to our attention, decide to let go of being a caterpillar, in order for your wings to break through and reveal themselves to not only the world, but to you. You may just be amazed at what is hidden in the depths of your being if only you would allow it to come forth. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Paris Can Wait, starring Diane Lane, directed by Eleanor Coppola
~View theaters and times here
~If you are in Bend, it plays at the Tin Pan Theater through this Thursday June 22nd. Over the weekend, the small boutique theater in Bend brought to its small screen the film written, directed and produced by Eleanor Coppola. Yes, that Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather series, The Outsiders, etc.) for 54 years. Debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival this past May, Paris Can Wait is Eleanor's first narrative feature film, but you wouldn't have known. Now, not all the critics are loving it: The Boston Globe felt it was strained and relied too heavily on clichés, even those who thought they would love it came away unsure due to the ambitious ending, but it is precisely the different approach to making the film that makes it lovely. Coppola has shared that the film's plot was inspired by her own life (be sure to read the San Francisco Chronicle's interview with her here), but not every piece and parcel of the story (there was no male companion). Along with the struggle Diane Lane's character (Anne) wrestles with is what Coppola herself did as well, the "'inner conflict, the push and pull' she’s felt her whole adult life about pursuing her own creative ambitions while raising three children and supporting her husband’s career". As well, both women (the character and Coppola) have suffered the loss of a child which is briefly, but touchingly included in the film. Some readers have shared with me, they didn't enjoy the insinuation of infidelity, but I think that may be taking it further than Coppola intended as nothing occurred, merely adoration and a woman (Anne) who was keenly aware and steadfast. What Anne's journey does do for her is awaken her to her strengths, to her passions, to the realization yes of her imperfect, but still very adoring husband. And by not giving viewers the concrete ending, leaving us wondering, Coppola does something I must applaud her for: She doesn't tell us how to think. As someone who has been immersed in Hollywood due to her husband, then daughter and son's successful involvement with silver screen productions, she doesn't fall prey to the formula. Maybe she does have a sequel in mind, but I hope not only because this film, as she has stated, took six years to raise funds as it wasn't full of "aliens, nobody dies, there are no guns and no car crashes. There was nothing that an investor wants to invest in. No sex, no violence". Rather it was a piece of her life she wanted to share and explore, and in so doing, she allows the viewers to ponder what we don't often see in movies: a leading female role who is complete all by herself so long as she embraces her passions, lets herself feel what she feels, appreciates her allure which may be initially noticed due to her beauty but is profoundly powerful and substantive due to her intellect and character. And whether or not she remains with her husband (who isn't perfect) or explores her attraction to Jacques, played by Arnaud Viard (who also isn't perfect or ideal either) shouldn't be needed for a happy ending. What the happy ending is is liberation for Anne who hears the reminder from Jacques to share her talents with her husband (and perhaps the world if she so chooses), and to savor the pleasures of everyday moments and food without rushing to Paris. https://youtu.be/LGyZnzjm7Og
Mon, 21 November 2016
"As long as one keeps searching, the answers come." —Joan Baez
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #131
Life in many ways feels as though it is a treasure hunt. However, I have good news. If my experience is any evidence, Joan Baez's quote above certainly rings true. Case in point, stumbling across British philosopher Bertrand Russell's book The Conquest of Happiness. I happened to have been perusing in my local bookstore, stopping in to pick up another book that I had ordered when I came across the simple bright yellow cover of The Conquest of Happiness. Mind you, the copyright is 1930 and as the new introduction, written in 2012, by philosophy professor at Tufts University Daniel C. Dennett reminds, Russell's views while quite progress at the time clearly leave laid bare his ignorance about women and minorities. However, these should be set aside as we look through the lens as though he is speaking about all people, because what he reveals gave me reason to take a deep breath of appreciation. As Russell reminds straight-away with his title, happiness is something we must cultivate. It is not something that we are born with. Now, this is not to say that we are born unhappy, no, absolutely not. However, we are born, each of us, into a culture and world we did not choose. We must come to understand our place in it, understand the capabilities that are innately ours and how to offer them to the world all the while protecting ourselves and vulnerable heart. Russell offers wise words about what we can and cannot do. What is true and what we should let go of as once assumed as true along the path to attaining happiness and identifying what we think is causing our unhappiness. I have gone through and found 38 points he shares that through welcoming as either habits, practices, approaches or shifts in our thoughts and beliefs, can usher in a true happiness we may have never thought attainable. First: Determine what you most desire Then . . . 1. Diminish your preoccupation with yourself (stop meditating on your perceived sins and shortcomings) 2. Focus primarily on external objects: the state of the world, attainment of knowledge in a variety of avenues, and individuals for whom you feel affection. 3. Practice moderation 4. Aspire to be interested in a variety of things; the more opportunities for happiness you have, the less you are at the mercy of fate since if you lose one thing you can fall back on another. 5. Even when an unexpected negative event takes place, understand that it too can give pleasure. How? Appreciate the knowledge you have gained to better understand the world and reduce unnecessary fear. 6. Bolster your energy so when you have free time you can pursue what interests you without restraint. 7. Vow to have a zest for life, an incessant curiosity. 8. Understand this truth, affection is given to those who least demand it. 9. Those who face life with a feeling of security are much happier than the contrary. 10. You are more likely to realize what you fear by believing it. 11. Self-confidence comes from being accustomed to receiving as much of the right sort of affection as one has the need for (healthy, non-dependent, etc.) 12. A person who is hardy and adventurous can endure a great deal without damage. 13. The best type of affection is reciprocally life-giving: each receives affection with joy and gives it without effort, and each finds the whole world more interesting in consequence of the existence of this reciprocal happiness. 14. Affection, in the sense of a genuine reciprocal interest of two persons in each other, not solely as means to each other's good but rather as a combination having a common goal, is one of the most important elements of real happiness. 15. A capacity for genuine affection is one of the marks of someone who has escaped from the prison of one's self-absorption. 16. Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. 17. One must cultivate external interests that bring rest and do not call for any action, rather allow you to simply enjoy. 18. Never ignore opportunities to gain knowledge. 19. Contemplate what makes greatness of one's soul. When one is capable of greatness of soul, it will open wide the windows of the mind, letting the winds blow freely upon it from every operation of the universe. 20. During times of grief, loss or pain, turn towards something that is not the source of anxiety. (This is where having many, varied interests comes in quite handy). 21. One cultivates happiness and therefore must find ways of coping with the multitudinous cause of unhappiness. By choosing to unearth the answers, happiness expands. 22. Happiness is an achievement, not a gift. 23. Do your best (effort) and then leave it up to fate (resign). 24. Having an unconquerable hope means it must be large and impersonal (hopes for humanity and being okay with the progress made, no matter how small even if the goal wasn't reached yet). 25. Let go of worry, fret and irritation as they serve no purpose. 26. In times of quandary, it is better to do nothing than to do harm. 27. A certain kind of resignation is involved in the willingness to face the truth about ourselves. 28. Nothing is more fatiguing than to believe things that are only a myth or false. 29. Happiness requires food, shelter, health, love, successful work, and the respect of one's own herd. 30. Fear is the principal reason why humans are so unwilling to admit facts and so anxious to wrap themselves round in a warm garment of myth. 31. Accepting facts and truth is a way to tackle fear and reach true happiness. 32. The happy person is who lives objectively, who has free affections and wide interests, who secures her happiness through these interests and affections and through the fact that they in turn make the person an object of interest and affection to many others. 33. The person who demands affection is not the person upon whom it is bestowed. 34. Don't think about the causes of unhappiness; get outside of it, it must be by genuine interests, not by simulated interests. 35. Once you let go of self-absorption, let the spontaneous working of your nature and of external circumstances lead you. 36. Only what genuinely interests you can be of any use to you. 37. Undoubtedly, we should desire the happiness of those whom we love, but not as an alternative to our own. 38. A happy person feels a citizen of the universe, enjoying freely the spectacle it offers and the joys it affords, untroubled by the thought of death because they feel themselves not really separate from those who will come after them. It is in such profound instinctive union with the stream of life that the greatest joy is to be found. While there is much to digest and contemplate, what left me with hope was the reality that so much of what causes us pain is self-inflicted. While yes, there are many things that are out of our control, understanding the difference is key, but so too is recognizing when we have played a role that has adversely obstructed us from potential happiness. Simply put, we need to get out of our own way, and this list will help us all to do just that. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~soundtrack for the film ~starring Alice Taglioni and Patrick Bruel (English subtitles) https://youtu.be/XwofBhEMevw
Mon, 18 January 2016
Today the differences between Strengths and Skills will be shared, along with the significant difference that will have a profoundly positive effect on your everyday life and the future direction you wish to go.
In this week's Petit Plaisir, a simple and delicious skillet chicken recipe that includes the trinity of Italian cooking: basil, mozzarella and tomatoes. 30 minutes to yum!
Mon, 3 August 2015
Inspired by Dr. Paul Dolan's book Happiness by Design, this episode will focus 30 specific ways to cultivate a happier life. Most importantly, as revealed by Dr. Dolan's book, the equation of what makes a happy life is discussed and from that point the remaining 29 tips are shared.
In this week's Petit Plaisir, the book The French Beauty Solution is reviewed and recommended.