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9 Ways a Clean Eating Diet Can Help You Feel Better

19. April 2018 - 15:00

A poor diet can leave you feeling sluggish, groggy, and lethargic.

You may even find your cravings for junk food are actually stronger, rather than satisfied, after indulging in salty or sweet snacks; unfortunately, your health and your waistline will pay the price.

With all the diet fads out there, it can be difficult to weed through the hype and find concrete information on what you should be eating, what you should be avoiding, and most importantly, why to do either.

Outlined below are 9 ways a clean eating diet can help increase your energy, reduce bloat, improve your health, and maybe even slim your figure– all while making you feel stronger, more focused, and in-tune with your body’s needs.

Clean Up Your Eating Habits

There are many different opinions out there on what constitutes a “clean” diet.

In general, and broadly speaking, clean eating means to focus on nutrient-rich, whole foods. It suggests you minimize pre-packaged, overly processed foods, and it encourages you to make your food from fresh, natural ingredients whenever possible.

It is imperative to note that however you would like to interpret those guidelines is entirely up to you.

Some people choose a paleo strategy, some prefer a vegan diet, and some find their body responds best when they limit dairy.

Either way you need to choose a path that fits your lifestyle, and give yourself permission to be flexible. Once you start to weed out the processed, high-sodium, -fat, and -sugar foods, you will find it easier to pinpoint which options agree and disagree with your unique tastes.

1. Protein = Satisfaction

Some examples of lean protein include chicken, turkey, white fish, beans, lentils, and low- or no-fat dairy. Proteins are the building blocks of your muscles and help make up other structures within your body such as skin and cell membranes.

Protein is slow to digest in the stomach, which helps you to feel fuller longer, and will keep hunger at bay between meals.

Because lean proteins have a low fat content, they are subsequently lower in calories, making them easy to incorporate into any meal. For example, throw some hard-boiled eggs and chopped chicken breast into a salad and it goes from rabbit food to a filling meal.

2. Scrub Your Intestines

Fiber, or roughage, is important for keeping your digestive tract moving smoothly; it is like a scrub brush for your intestines.

While that may sound a bit harsh, both literally and figuratively, it is exactly what people are looking for in popular cleanses and fasts, but without the drastic measures and high costs.

Older adults especially, can get deposits of build-up in their intestines which cannot only lead to major discomfort, but is also been known to cause colon cancer and other significant health problems.

Fiber also naturally helps regulate your blood sugar levels. Without the spikes and dips that accompany a processed diet, your cravings for sweets will remain regulated and on an even keel. This can not only help your metabolism stay humming throughout the day, but it can be a huge emotional and mental relief as well.

A healthy portion of fruits, vegetables, peas, whole-grain foods, and beans are all great sources of fiber. These foods have also been linked to a decrease in the risk of cancer and heart disease, due to their fiber content specifically.

3. Skip Added Sugar

One way to clean up your diet is to start limiting the amount of added sugars you consume throughout the day.

Fruit naturally contains the sugar fructose; when you are looking for a sweet treat around the house, reach for a fresh piece of fruit for a satisfying snack instead of a candy bar or sugary, baked confection.

The sugar-type fructose is a form of carbohydrate. It will give you that boost of energy you may be looking for during your mid-afternoon slump, but without the blood sugar hike, and subsequent crash, of sugary candies.

It is important to note that sugar hides in many foods parading around as “healthy.”

Many popular brands of yogurt or granola bars, for example, can have an astronomical amount of added refined sugar. Be sure to read food labels and steer clear of any foods with a sugar content in the double-digits.

4. Cut Back on Saturated Fat

Less than 10% of your total daily calories consumed should come from saturated fatty acids. Total fat intake, of all types, should be between 20 and 35% of all calories. That means that if you are following a 2,000 calories per day diet, no more than 700 of those calories should be from fats; this equates to an absolute maximum of about 77 grams of fat per day.

Please read food labels; many people will find a heavy portion of those 77 grams in their “healthy” salad dressing alone!

One helpful fact is that most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Think about the white fat on bacon and other meats versus the healthier oils (also fats), such as olive oil, that are liquid at room temperature. This is an easy way to keep yourself in check with how much saturated fat you are consuming; you can often literally see the fat in many popular foods.

5. High Salt Means High Blood Pressure

The recommendation by the AHA (American Heart Association) is no more than 2,300mgs (about 1 teaspoon) of salt for adults, but they set an “ideal” limit of no more than 1,500mgs.

Far too many people reach this limit in a single meal alone, especially if they are eating out at restaurants often.

Salt enters the blood stream and disrupts the balance of electrolytes in the body, making it difficult for the kidneys to do their job. To be fair, a low potassium intake is just as likely to cause high blood pressure as an excess in salt might. However, so many people consume prepackaged foods as part of their everyday diet and still have no idea how much salt they are really consuming.

Salt is used a preservative in many foods; years ago, meats were even packed in salt to extend their shelf life.

Now, so much natural flavor is cooked out of foods during the manufacturing process, that salt is added to heighten the flavor that is left. This is why the spaghetti sauce you make at home can have drastically less salt and yet loads more flavor than the same sauce bought pre-cooked in a jar or can from the store.

Lastly, high salt intake causes your body to hold onto water as a way to dilute the sodium absorbed into your body and its tissues.

This is the reason behind that post-meal bloat you may feel up to two days after a salt-heavy meal, such as a dinner of a burger and fries from a popular chain restaurant.

6. Indulge in Complex Carbohydrates

One of the most popular diet misconceptions you will find these days is that the answer to weight loss is to eat less carbohydrates.

This is totally true if what you are eating is highly-processed, sugar-laden foods made in a factory. It is not true, however, if you are consuming nutritious, fiber-dense, complex carbohydrates that provide your body with fuel and energy.

Carbohydrates are the go-to fuel for organ activity; this includes the heart, skeletal muscles, and in particular, the brain.

White bread, bleached flour, and other processed carbohydrates are the ones to avoid when you are looking to clean up your diet.

These have little-to-no fiber and turn into sugar and then fat when not used as energy; they also likely contain many added sugars. However, fresh vegetables, 100% whole grain breads, lentils, beans, and whole potatoes are excellent sources, of energy and fuel for your body and mind.

7. Hold Out for Homemade

Here is a fact that will both astonish and astound you: legally, food labels and calorie counts on packaged foods and in restaurants only have to be accurate within 30%.

This means that if you choose to indulge in an entrée listed as a whopping 1,000 calories, it may actually contain as many as 1,300 calories, and this does not always account for the butter and oils used to grease pans during cooking.

At home, you can create the same dishes with far less of an impact on your health.

There are endless healthy-food swaps you can make to decrease calories and increase your intake of vital nutrients.

Some examples would be using condensed milk in the place of heavy cream in recipes, cauliflower in place of rice for a low-carb alternative (if you are into that sort of thing), or a quick spray of olive oil to prep a pan instead of a pat of butter.

Quite possibly the best parts of cooking at home is that you have the ability to alter recipes to meet your liking, and you can save hundreds of dollars each month with proper planning.

Some things to keep in mind if you are trying to save money on groceries is to shop farmer’s markets for fresh produce, buy foods that are in-season for peak freshness and the best value, and when necessary, opt for frozen foods over canned; frozen vegetables tend to be flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, increasing their nutrient content when compared to their canned counterparts.

8. Boost Your Antioxidant Intake

If eating a diet low in saturated fat is cleansing for your arteries and heart, and eating a fiber-rich diet is cleansing for your gut, then antioxidant-rich foods promote the same type of health benefits for your body’s cells.

The long and short of it is this: oxidants are radicals found in the environment through some unavoidable circumstances such as air pollution, but also from lifestyle choices such as alcohol, cigarette smoke.

These oxidants have been know to cause damage to our cells, possibly leading to diseases and certain cancers. Antioxidants, however, perform just as their name implies; they help balance the oxidants to a healthy level that the body can handle.

A popular tactic of modern food manufacturers is to boast the health benefits of their food on labels. Buzz words like “anti-aging” and “cancer-fighting” appear on packages as a way to draw you in. The truth is, none of these foods compare to the health benefits of whole foods in their natural state.

Grapes, blueberries, nuts, and yes, even chocolate (cocoa) contain nutrient-rich antioxidants that can help keep your cells healthy and your body operating with efficiency.

9. A Clean Kitchen Leads to a Clean Diet

Have you ever cleaned out your closet of all your old, unworn clothes?

After doing so, the next time you go to pick an outfit you open your closet doors you feel relief at the organization; suddenly you find yourself at ease in your own wardrobe! Now, imagine if opening your refrigerator or pantry made you feel the same way.

Many advocates of a clean eating diet are also fans of meal prepping.

To meal prep means to cook a batch of meals at once and save portions of them to eat throughout the week. This is ideal for people on-the-go or who often struggle with what to eat. You can cook once or twice a week and not have to worry about what to do for your next meal.

This works particularly well if you work during the day and want to be able to grab your breakfast or lunch on your way out the door.

While this strategy for weekday eating will definitely save you money and calories, the biggest benefit is the peace of mind and mental relief you may feel from taking the uncertainty out of the equation.

Many people find going out to eat stressful when they are trying to follow a clean diet. Others feel overwhelmed at the options at the grocery store and what to buy and cook at home. By preparing batches of food you can experiment with recipes, shop according to grocery store discounts and sales, and you will always have a healthy meal ready when in a pinch.

Clean Eating Can Clean Up Your Life

Clean eating can mean a number of different things to different people. Although, experts and nutritionists urge against cutting out any entire food group, such as fats or carbohydrates, from your diet.

At its core, clean eating is really about balance and fueling your body with nutrient-dense food that keeps your metabolism, muscles, and brain in peak performance.

Your body was designed as a well-oiled machine; it comes equipped with everything it needs to keep itself in gentle homeostasis, and the better quality fuel you feed it, the better you will feel.

Many people find that just by adopting a cleaner diet, they shed unwanted, excess pounds, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and eventually find themselves being taken off diet-related medications.

As you delve deeper into what foods you choose to cut out and what foods you may want to add in to your diet, your tastes will change also.

You will eventually find your body craving the healthy stuff as much as you might have once craved the junk food you thought you could never live without. This transition may take time, however, so be patient with yourself.

Finally, a clean eating diet does not mean that you never get to indulge.

Food is about satisfying your body and its needs, even if that sometimes means a treat or guilty pleasure.

When you take care of your body every day, these instances will become that much more enjoyable–especially when they don’t leave you feeling sluggish and tired afterward. So, next time you get a craving… be sure you’re reaching for foods that are “clean”!

The post 9 Ways a Clean Eating Diet Can Help You Feel Better appeared first on Lifehack.

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13 Home Remedies for Stomach Ache (Simple and Effective)

19. April 2018 - 14:00

It’s back. That I-feel-like-I-was-punched-in-the-stomach sensation that leaves you hunched over, nauseated, and without an appetite. We’ve all been there, whether because we ate something bad or because there is another digestive health issue at play. Either way, you need relief – fast.

Before you rush off to the pharmacy to pick up a big bottle of Tums or chug Pepto Bismol, I’d like you to consider these home remedies for stomach ache that can not only take the edge off quickly, but help to address the reason why you have the stomachache in the first place.

Below are 13 home remedies for a stomachache:

1. Take a “shot” of apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar packs a big and beneficial punch when it comes to our digestion. It helps to balance the acidity of the stomach, which we need a certain level of in order to even break down food fully.

Oftentimes we actually lack enough acid in our stomach, despite popular belief that we have too much, and this can make digestion quite difficult. Stomachaches are one of the telltale signs of too little acid in the stomach.

Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water and drink it as soon as you can to help boost acid production and begin relieving your stomachache. It can also help to do this in advance of eating to stimulate digestive function early on.

2. Give yourself an abdominal massage

If your stomachache is due to constipation, giving yourself a gentle abdominal massage can help move things along and relieve the blockage that may be causing the stomachache.

Massaging this area lightly with your forefinger and middle finger in a clockwise motion stimulates muscle contractions and helps break up food that may be stuck in the intestines, either due to overeating, not chewing thoroughly, dehydration, or a lack of enzymes or acid to break down the food in the first place.

Of course, all of these potential inhibitors to digestion should be addressed (and the tips in this post will help you to do so) but massaging can be a quick way to get things moving along and relieve the stomachache in the moment.

3. Do 5 minutes of breath work to focus the body on digestion

Especially if you were stressed when eating, or if you experience chronic stress, that can take a toll on digestion.

The body has two states: “fight or flight” or “rest and digest”. If you’re experiencing a stressor, such as from work, the body is in “fight or flight mode” to address the stress, not rest and digest to focus on digesting food. This makes digestion particularly difficult, which can often result in a stomachache.

To reset the body for digestion, taking a few deep breaths can help to recenter it and shift its focus to digesting your food. At the onset of a stomachache (and ideally before sitting down for a meal), take 3-5 really deep breaths in and out to help reduce the stomachache.

Watch this video to learn some deep breathing exercises (if you want to go straight to the techniques, go to 3:10):

4. Drink extra water

As mentioned earlier, oftentimes stomach pain is due to constipation and cramping of the intestines. A big contributor to that is dehydration.

Water not only helps hydrate the colon and speed up elimination, it’s also a key nutrient for the mucosal lining, which supports the small intestine bacteria for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Lack of water can cause constipation and acid reflux, among other things, so be sure to take in about 70oz of water per day to stay fully hydrated.

To remind yourself to drink enough water, try one of these free water drinking apps. They make drinking more interesting and keep you healthy.

5. Take a digestive enzyme

Our bodies need 3 categories of enzymes in order to break down food: lipase for fat digestion, amylase for carbohydrate digestion, and protease for protein digestion. Many of us lack proper levels of each of these enzymes due to over-medication, poor digestive function, and a nutrient-poor diet lacking in foods containing these enzymes.

Supplementing with digestive enzymes in the short-term can be a good option if digestion is impaired. Taking one after a meal if a stomachache comes on can help curb the pain and support digestion, and ideally, you should get in the habit of having one before the meal, as that’s the optimal time to take one.

6. Chew on a fresh piece of ginger

Like apple cider vinegar, ginger is another fantastic natural stimulant to digestion.

If you have a piece of fresh ginger in your house, or you can quickly go out to the grocery store to get some, break off about 1 centimeter of it and chew on it for a few minutes. This stimulates digestive fire (meaning your acid secretions and muscular contractions) to keep things moving along and relieve your stomach pain.

7. Drink aloe juice

The aloe plant is beneficial for more than just soothing a sunburn. It also plays an important role in digestion. Just as it’s soothing to your skin, it can soothe the cells in your digestive tract.

If your stomach isn’t agreeing with the food you ate, low-grade inflammation may be at play, and aloe can help to soothe that and help ease the system.

Drink 1/3 cup of pure aloe juice (be sure there is no sugar added as these kinds have minimal nutritional value) upon getting a stomachache to comfort your digestive tract.

8. Have a warming cup of bone broth

Similar to aloe juice, bone broth offers numerous benefits to our digestion. Not only is it potentially anti-inflammatory, it’s also extremely healing.

Bone broth is rich in both collagen and gelatin, which help to repair damage to cells. If you eat a nutrient-poor diet, have a known digestive health condition, or have taken medications that may have compromised the integrity of the digestive tract, cellular damage may have occurred and bone broth is a great way to begin repairing.

At the onset of a stomachache, drink 1 cup of warm bone broth (ideally organic) and take a few deep breaths. (As you can see, many of these tips pair well together!)

Here’s how to make organic bone broth:

9. Apply peppermint essential oil to the abdomen

Like the benefits that ginger and apple cider vinegar offer, peppermint essential oil acts in a similar way. If you don’t have ginger or ACV on hand when a stomachache hits but peppermint oil in your cabinets, this can be a great way to help relive the pain.

Peppermint offers a number of digestive health benefits, most notably it can help to reduce muscle spasms in the gastric lining and colon.

Mix a few drops of peppermint essential oil with a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil and rub across your abdomen wherever discomfort is occurring.

If you don’t have peppermint oil but you have peppermint tea, this can be equally beneficial and soothing to drink.

10. Make lemon tea or water

Lemon is another go-to for digestive health remedies. Lemon also helps to entice proper digestive secretions to ensure your food is properly broken down and moving along in your system.

If your stomach isn’t feeling so great after a meal, make a hot lemon tea, or simply add 1 tbsp of lemon juice to a cup of water and sip on it to help relieve the stomach pain.

Here’s more you can’t miss about the benefits of lemon water: 11 Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water (And How to Drink It for Good Health)

If you really want to kick it up a notch, you could also add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your lemon water. This is also a great combination to have before a meal.

11. Rest, rest, rest!

Trying to push through the pain of a stomachache often only makes it worse. Especially if bloating is accompanying your stomachache, you’re feeling quite uncomfortable.

It would benefit your body to sit down and relax for a little while. This gives your body time to focus its energy inwards and resolve the issue that caused the stomach pain.

While resting, try to incorporate a few of the tips covered so far, such as deep breathing, doing an abdominal massage, or drinking a soothing tea. Even just a few minutes of this can be quite beneficial.

12. Eat a high-fiber snack

Fiber plays a critical role in digestion, from regulating beneficial bacteria growth, to moving things along in the digestive tract, to detoxification of the colon. If your diet lacks fiber, digestion may suffer, which can result in issues like frequent stomachaches.

An easy way to address it is to simply add in more fiber. Foods like leafy greens, almonds, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, chia and flax seeds are all high in fiber.

Eat a handful of nuts or seeds, make a small green salad or add chia or flax seeds to a juice or small smoothie csn help address a potential lack of fiber and begin relieving the stomachache.

13. Evaluate what you ate

It’s important to know if what you ate was the direct cause of the stomachache. While this may not help you in the moment, it can give you good information going forward.

If, for example, you ate a lot of dairy or sugar and you find you most often get stomachaches when these foods are in your meals, that’s a signal from your body that you may either lack the ability to properly break them down (this is what lactose intolerance is) or that these foods simply don’t agree with your body.

It may be helpful to start a food journal where you write down everything you eat so that you can better correlate it with digestive upset, like stomachaches.

Treating your stomach well: Your action plan

While any number of factors can bring on a stomachache, the good news is you have many easy at-home remedies that you can now use to address it.

Taking the last point into consideration, it’s important to identify if any foods in particular trigger an upset stomach so you can begin to reduce or remove them from your diet (temporarily or long-term). Knowing how to address a stomachache if and when it comes on is far more beneficial than trying to just push through the pain and discomfort.

What’s more, most of these foods and tips provide digestive health benefits beyond just relieving the stomachache in the moment; they can also can promote better digestion in the future.

Be sure to also consider using some of the pre-meal recommendations provided in this post, such as drinking ACV or water before a meal to help overall digestion.

Let us know which of these tips was most useful to you, or which you are excited to try next!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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How Practicing Deep Breathing Exercises Can Make You a Better Parent

19. April 2018 - 13:00

Do you want to be a better parent? Chances are, the answer is “yes”. After all, as parents we are always looking out for the wellness of our children–and that especially includes our own interactions with them.

What if I told you that simple deep breathing exercises can vastly improve your parenting skills?

Not convinced? Read on to learn how this simple technique can make you a better parent.

Good Versus Better Breathing

Breathing is something that we take for granted. We’re potentially not even conscious of it, yet it is a key ingredient to human function and performance.

Breathing is a human reflex we’re born with; it’s attached to our nervous system, which has an input and an output. As a parent you most likely cried with joy at your kids first screaming breath; that very moment changing your life forever.

Most likely, though, no one told you as you dove into the art of parenthood that your breathing patterns have a profound affect on us.

If you have poor breathing patterns (input), you’ll have poor motor output, which can result in muscle compensations, stress and even possible injuries.

Breathing plays a huge role in optimal nervous system function, proper motor function, relaxation, focus, and efficiency.

Today I’m going to take you on a journey into what deep breathing is all about. You’ll learn how it is congruent with less-stressed parenting, and how to go about fitting that in with everything else you have to juggle.

Two Types of Breathing

There are two types of breathing:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing is the most natural way in which the breath utilizes the deep muscles allowing the spine to be stable and mobile. This type of breathing comes from the rib cage and allows the lungs to expand top to bottom, front to back and to each side.
  • Chest breathing (also known as apical breathing) refers to a pattern of breathing where the movement is confined to the upper chest. This type of breathing results from fewer muscles being utilized, so the muscles that are used (upper chest, neck and shoulders) undergo more stress and more movement to facilitate the breathing rhythms.

Deep breathing is not simply expanding your breath as much as possible. Deep breathing is actually defined above as ‘diaphragmatic breathing’.

“Your posture and presence is everything; how you hold yourself determines how your connect to yourself, others and the world around you.”

The diaphragm is a dome shaped band of connective tissue that sits under the ribcage. It helps to draw air into the lungs and the belly when one is taking a full breath, and it massages the body’s organs as it drops down.

The diaphragm is a storehouse for emotional tension, stress, and anxiety.

As our posture changes to a more forward folding movement, such as while sitting or driving for extended periods of time, the diaphragm is ‘locked down’ or becomes ‘stuck’. Similarly the pressures and postures put on a woman’s body throughout pregnancy and during the post-natal period is an example of this.

We go through our lives and forget to breathe into the belly at rest, the sympathetic nervous system of fight/flight and freeze is activated.

The diaphragm and breathing has a direct link to the nervous system.

Carrying out deep diaphragmatic breathing can assist you, your family and your kids to overcome the stresses of everyday life. You be able to live more vitally with more energy, better posture and less pain.

How to Breathe Better

To really get the best from your deep breathing exercises, it is wise to first understand the three main components of deep breathing:

  1. Opening up the chest
  2. Releasing the diaphragm
  3. Practicing the breath work

I’ve made a video that you can watch below, or follow the written instructions underneath the video.

  1. Open the chest by applying medium to hard pressure to the sternum area using your fingers or a lacrosse ball. Then use your fingers/the ball to ‘shift the skin’ by dragging your chosen implement back and forth. This can be a little painful but can massively assist reduction in neck/shoulder pain so I truly recommend it. Watch the video if you’d like more clarity on exactly how to do this.
  2. Release the diaphragm by doing the same ‘shifting the skin’ at the edge of the ribcage 1-2 inches below the sternum. This is where the diaphragm sits. By doing so you’re inviting movement in the tissues (muscles & fascia) of the diaphragm and surrounding area.
  3. Practice the breath work by first placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your tummy just below your ribs. Practice breathing into your lower hand and keeping the upper hand immobile. Once confident in practicing this type of breath you can add ‘resistance’ to your breath by sucking air through your fingers as you breathe.
Go Deep with Ease

Keep these tips in mind when you’re practicing diaphragmatic/deep breathing:

  • It can take some time to relearn how to breathe. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Take some time each day to practice this exercise. The nice thing is, you can do it anywhere.
  • Try to practice at a time when you’re already relaxed. This will make it easier to take deeper breaths.
  • If you’re having trouble taking deep breaths, try going to the hand on chest and hand on tummy breath. Aim to keep the hand on your chest immobile as you breath into the lower hand on your tummy.
  • Practice taking 5 breaths each morning as you rest in bed. For each breath count in for a count of 3, hold for a second then breathe out for a count of 4.
  • In time and with practice you will get an idea about how long you need to practice deep breathing exercises to reduce stress. Early on it may be helpful to set a particular time limit, for example, 5 breaths if you’re pressed for time.
  • Keep in mind that it’s usually more effective to practice several shorter periods of deep breathing rather than single long episodes of deep breathing. Practicing more often also helps you to easily incorporate deep breathing as a habit into your lifestyle.
Take a Deep Breath and Improve Your Parenting

Deep breathing is just one method of reducing–or at least coping with–stress in your life; but, there are many stress management techniques that may help you live with more joy and less worry every day.

It is something that can easily be practiced in minimal time. I suggest aiming to commit to just 5 breaths each day after the chest opening and diaphragm release.

Doing those two things in conjunction with deep breathing will massively help you to feel less stressed, more comfortable and at ease throughout your day.

Even better, encourage the idea that a stress management lifestyle can be a family affair!

Try some of the practices mentioned above with your children along with yourself so that everyone can reap the benefits of deep breathing.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

The post How Practicing Deep Breathing Exercises Can Make You a Better Parent appeared first on Lifehack.

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Why Being a People Pleaser is Terrible for Your Productivity

18. April 2018 - 15:00

You most likely were drawn to this article because you believe you are a people pleaser. Your friends ask of you one thing, your family another, and your boss is on top of you insisting that a job due tomorrow should have been completed yesterday. You say “yes” to it all.

All of this leaves no room for you or your work. Meanwhile, you’re just going around in circles, feeling as if no work actually gets done. The feeling is familiar to many, which is why it’s important to understand how people pleasing can negatively impact your productivity.

The solutions to reduce your people pleasing tendencies will be simple to implement, but not easy. So if you are expecting a magic pill, you won’t find it here. But, the good news is, with a little change of attitude and practice, you’ll be able to make positive changes in your productivity.

Below you’ll find a list of 6 things to do to stop being a people pleaser and increase your productivity:

Pass on People Pleasing for More Productivity 1. Make Sure it Moves the Needle

Have you heard about the Pareto principle? If not, the Pareto principle tells us that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.

20% of the things you do cause 80% of the effects. This can apply to wealth (20% of people hold 80% of wealth), territory (20% of people own 80% of land), productivity (20% of the things you do produce 80% of your results), and many more situations.

But how do we use the Pareto principle in action? It’s simple. Just ask yourself one question: “Does it move the needle?”

This is a question Brendon Burchard asks himself to determine his focus. If doing the action will help him come closer to his goal, he will do it. If not–and it doesn’t matter how good of an opportunity it is–he will skip it.

 “A ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ is irrelevant if it is the wrong opportunity.” –Jim Collins

Moving the Pareto 80/20 rule to 87/13

Greg Alexander, founder of Sales Benchmark Index, indexed more than 1100 B2B sales organization and found out that the rule of 80/20 shifted to 87/13. Now the 13% of salesman did 87% of all revenue.

And, this was after the salesman got the sales training and knew about the Pareto principle. But the 13% didn’t just know about the principle, they were rigorous in implementing it.

That’s why I said that these solutions are simple to implement, but not easy.

Asking yourself the question “Does it move the needle?” is easy, but implementing a change of action after getting a response is difficult. Because if you are a people pleaser, telling someone “No” will be a hard act to do.

But as you see above, doing so will yield massive results.

You may say to yourself: but there are a number of people who say “yes” to everything and still appear to be successful! What gives?

The keyword here is “appear” and the next part of the article will explain that perception.

2. Stop Running in Circles

You look around and see all of these people “making it.” They run around, say “yes” to everything, do everything, have the perfect family, perfect life, perfect job, perfect relationships.

But, that’s only what is apparent on the surface. If you actually took time to investigate how these people have been spending their last 5 years, you will most likely see that they are running in circles.

They are using speed instead of velocity and here is the difference:

Take an airplane which goes 700 miles per hour with its goal to reach Miami (point B) from New York (point A). However, instead of traveling straight there, the plane flies around in circles, covering great mileage with an enormous speed but still not getting to the targeted place. The pilot can brag later on that he flew 2500 miles in less than 4 hours, but the truth is that he still got nowhere – that is speed.

Though, if an airplane travels only 500 miles per hour but flies straight from New York to Miami, it will get there in a 2 and half hours. This plane traveled half the mileage (1250 miles) and it was slower than the first plane. Nothing for the pilot to brag about here, except that they hit their goal directly. [1]

This is the difference between people who seem to be people pleasers and still managed to do everything – they run around in circles thinking that they are getting things done while in reality, they are in the same place where they were 5 years ago.

You may be thinking, “Well I got where I am by being a people pleaser and saying “Yes” to everything.” But, as Marshall Goldsmith said it best: “What got you here, won’t get you there.” And that is the next solution we will dive into.

3. What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There

When you just start out, many people will tell you to take every opportunity there is. And, they may recommend, if there are no opportunities then create some yourself.

This is actually great advice when just starting out, as you have less to do and oftentimes saying yes leads to immense opportunity.

Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Abundance 360 and X-prize has a variation of this in his “Peter’s Law” number 2: “When given a choice, take both.”

So if you are just starting out, you know what to do: say “yes”! But as you to grow and take on more responsibility then you will quickly come to a place where being a people pleaser and saying “yes” to everything becomes a problem.

That’s when the phrase “What got you here, won’t get you there” comes into play.

At this point, you need to start saying no to almost everything – except for the things that “move the needle.”

This is really hard for our minds to comprehend because our mind is a non-stop meaning-making machine. And that means that it looks for a pattern in everything we are doing so that we believe that the thing that worked in the past will work now.

Being a people pleaser may have worked before – but it won’t work now. Convincing your mind that “what got you here won’t get you there” is a difficult task, but you can do it.

You become good by knowing what to do. You become great by knowing what not to do.

So, what else do you need to do become more productive? Procrastination and be boredom! Yes, that’s right. That is the next solution on our list.

4. Procrastinate More

If you are going to create on a big level and do only the things that move the needle, then you need to have off periods – times when you are doing nothing.

This time is necessary for the mind to recuperate even though our minds never fully go off – you can’t stop thinking.

Does this mean that by not doing anything, we can actually increase our productivity?

The answer lies in the difference between idleness and boredom.

Idleness is laziness and indolence – it’s refusing to do what needs to be done.
Boredom, on the other hand, is a pause between inactivities–a deliberate escape from activity altogether.

When you have time to be bored, take that time to cease all activities and do something relaxing such as talking a walk, showering or simply zone out with some great music.

Your conscious mind will relax and enjoy while your unconscious will actually work on your tasks and problems. In these moments of boredom and relaxation, you will find one of the biggest discoveries in your life and work.

It is how how Albert Einstein got the idea for the Theory of Relativity. [2]

Just because you have spare time, doesn’t mean you actually need to do something with it.

Rest is as important as work – and if you are a people pleaser, start defending your time like your life depends on it.

You may still not be convinced. You may think. “But isn’t everyone who is a people pleaser making it work?” Truth be told, if you do what everyone else is doing, you will end up as everyone else.

As Ramit Sethi said: “When everyone zigs, you zag.” Which is our next solution.

5. When Everyone Zigs, You Zag

There isn’t a sane person in this world who would tell you not to listen to your boss and do as he or she tells you to do.

Yet, here is a story to contradict that notion:

The Story of Shane Parrish

Shane started out his career right after graduation, in an intelligence agency, working with the government within a very niche cyber-related area.

In the first year, his boss would show up at his desk and throw new projects at him almost every single day.

And the projects weren’t the type where you spend 15 minutes and voila, get a solution. They were simply busywork. Shane’s response?  “That sounds amazing, but it’s not for me. I’m busy enough.”

Yep, his boss came to him and gave him work and he responded with a “no”.

Shane Parrish was the new kid there, and every single one of colleagues pulled him aside and told him “You’re not going to get anywhere with that attitude.”

But Shane knew the difference between busywork and work which moves the needle. While everyone was zigging, doing everything their bosses wanted them to do and going nowhere with that, Shane Parrish was zagging and focusing only on the crucial work.

Again, telling your boss “No” is quite simple, but not easy.
Enduring your peer pressure is quite simple, but not easy.
Staying on your course when everyone tells you to change it is simple, but not easy.

“The difference between successful and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” –Warren Buffett

But all of these solutions are going to be in vain if you don’t master one simple skill – and that is the art of saying “no”. Being a people pleaser is not a bad thing but you need to know that it won’t get you where you want to go.

And that brings us to the final solution:

6. The Art of Saying “No”

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” –Tim Ferriss

These words ring true no matter who you are or what you are doing with your life. All of the solutions above will work, but they will require that you are able to say “no” to people. And for a people pleaser, that is the hardest thing to do. I know because I used to have big people pleasing tendencies.

Many people feel that they need to have a really good reason for saying “no” because otherwise, others may think that you are being rude or selfish. But the art of saying “no” is the way forward. When you are clear on your purpose of doing work (does it move the needle?), you will have a compelling reason to say it.

But how to actually do it?

To do that, we will borrow the knowledge of Chris Voss, one of the negotiating masterminds who regularly beat negotiating professors at Harvard in their own games.

Say “No” like your life depends on it

So what does Chris Voss actually tells us? Instead of saying ‘No’, say “How can I do that?”

Negotiation, as he put it, is not about being a problem solver, it’s about being a people mover.

So instead of simply saying no, you can confront people – and get your way – without confrontation. And this is coming from a man who confronted terrorists and mass murders and got what he wanted.

So how to do it?

Here is a step-by-step process on how to say “No” without saying “No” by Chris Voss:

  1. Use the late-night FM DJ Voice (voice of calm and reason that conveys “I’m in control”)
  2. Start with “I’m sorry…”
  3. Mirror. (When you repeat the last three words – or the critical one to three words – of what someone just said.)
  4. Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.
  5. Repeat.

Chriss Voss gave us an example of how that looks like in a conversation between a boss who wants everything in a physical copy and employee who wants to go full digital:

“Make two copies of all the paperwork.”
“I’m sorry. Two copies?” (DJ voice + mirror)
“Yes, one for us and one for the customer.”
“I’m sorry, so you’re saying that the client is asking for a copy and we need a copy for internal use?” (wanting to understand)
“Actually – I’ll check with the client- they haven’t asked for anything. But I definitely want a copy. That’s just how I do business.”
“Absolutely. Thanks for checking with the customer. Where would you like to store the in-house copy? There is no more space in the file room here.”
“It’s fine. You can store it anywhere.”
“Anywhere? (mirror)
*silence*
“As a matter of fact, you can put them in my office. I’ll get the new assistant to print it for me after the project is done. For now, just create two digital backups”

A day later the boss emailed her with “The two digital backups will be fine.”

Wrap it Up Like a Gift

We have seen the 6 solutions that help you become more productive by stop being a people pleaser.

The solutions are:

  1. Does it move the needle?
  2. Speed vs. Velocity – Why you might be running in circles
  3. What got you here, won’t get you there
  4. Productivity involves having time for procrastination
  5. When everyone zigs, you zag
  6. The art of saying “No”

So the next time someone asks you something that you know will mess up with your productivity, it’s okay to say “yes” to them but do it like this:

“Yes. Which of the other projects should I de-prioritize to pay attention to this new project?”

If you know a people pleaser or just someone who needs help with their productivity, share this article with them; if it has helped you, it will most likely help them as well.

Featured photo credit: Photo by bruce mars from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-man-in-white-dress-shirt-holding-phone-near-window-859265/ via pexels.com

Reference [1] ^ Farnam Street: Understanding Speed and Velocity [2] ^ BBC: The Clock That Changed the Meaning of Time function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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What Am I Doing with My Life? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps

18. April 2018 - 14:00

“What am I doing with my life?”

As a life coach and business consultant, I hear this question – or some version of it – all the time. Those asking the question are likely facing one of a couple scenarios.

One, you wake up one morning and find yourself in a job you hate, a relationship you don’t want to be in, or a life that has little resemblance to the one you had imagined. You might be feeling low, filled with frustration, shame or regret. This is not where you wanted to be at this time in your life… it’s not the life you wanted to live.

Or maybe you don’t feel unhappy or lost, but you wake up and realize you want something more, new or different. You may have accomplished many of the things you’d imagined for your life and now you’re trying to figure out what to do next.

My job as a coach and consultant is to support my clients to be happier, more successful and fulfilled. To help them get from where they are to where they want to be, uncovering obstacles along the way. This usually involves working through a process and asking powerful questions so they can discover the answers to their biggest questions – including this one.

One of the very first things I share with my clients is this: you don’t have to figure out what you want to do with the entire rest of your life!

You don’t have to work out what you want to be when you “grow up” or discover your entire life’s purpose. You don’t have to commit to a career for the next 20 years. I see so many people paralyzed by thinking they must work everything out for the entire rest of their lives. Of course they feel stressed and overwhelmed!

My advice? Focus on identifying what’s next. At this age, in this stage, facing your current circumstances. I’m not saying this won’t be attached to a bigger vision, but that doesn’t mean you have to have the whole plan right now. I love MLK’s quote,

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, you just have to take the first step.”

Such is true for figuring out what you’re doing with your life.

How to answer the question – what am I doing with my life?

Back to the question. Let’s look at a couple of my recent clients.

Sabine* was a smart, successful, vibrant woman. She already had several successful jobs during her career, traveled the world, had a family, and was settling back in a new city. While she originally called wanting to take her business to the next level, we soon realized that wasn’t what she really needed or wanted.

She was trying to figure out what she was doing with her life. For her, this meant realizing she had lost her sense of self. While no one would know from the outside, she was feeling overwhelmed, lost and unsure of herself. She was doing all the “right” things for everyone around her, but she wasn’t doing all the right things for her.

Together, we were able to help Sabine:

  • Get a clear picture of what she wanted for this next stage in her life.
  • Align her life and actions with her value and priorities.
  • Remember who she was and feel more like herself than she had in years.
  • Regain confidence and take action on things she had been avoiding.
  • Gain motivation, self-trust, and security in her decisions.

Then, there’s Max*. Incredibly smart, fun and motivated, Max had successfully climbed up through his career ladder and was happily married with his first child. Life was good. He came to me because he was in the second scenario; Max was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next. Even though he had a great job, he was looking for more – something new, different, challenging and interesting.

In our time together, Max was able to:

  • Identify his priorities and what was important in this next stage of life (and what wasn’t)
  • Pinpoint several new career options/ideas
  • Uncover and work through old, limiting beliefs and thought patterns
  • Start exploring potential new careers.

Here’s the process and the questions I walked through with Sabine and Max. Following these will help you make progress towards identifying what you’re doing with your life too:

Step 1: What do you want?

Whenever you’re looking at what you’re doing with your life, it’s important to take a step back, look at the big picture and identify what you want. Frankly, if you don’t know what you want, how do you expect to get it?

This seems simple, yet it’s often quite hard to address. When I ask this question, people often tell me what they don’t want or what’s not working. They’ve gotten into the habit of making decisions based on what’s best for their career, family or others… and forget to think about what they want for themselves.

Sabine originally thought she wanted to “take her business to the next level”, but when she dug deeper, she realized there was so much more. She ultimately found that she wanted to feel like herself again; to feel secure, trust and assert herself, and regain her sense of self.

Max wanted to love what he was doing. He wanted to be in a career (or role) that he was energized and “jazzed” about.

Your turn:

What do you want? Get specific.

Is it a new career in which you feel excited and energized? A relationship where you feel honored and loved? To be confident and happy with yourself? To live in a particular place or to explore the world?

Maybe, like Sabine, when you think you have your answer, ask yourself, “what else?” and see what comes up.

Once you are clear on what you want, you can move to the next question.

Step 2: Who are you?

I have a strong belief and a lot of experience that self-awareness and a little soul searching is critical for success – especially when you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing with your life.

Understanding yourself at a deeper level and making decisions based upon those insights will make sure whatever you choose to do next is something that will make you happier, more successful and more fulfilled. It will make sure that your next step is a step in the right direction, not just another step.

While I take my clients through a series of many questions, here are a few of my favorites:

  • What is most important to you right now?
  • What are your core values? What are the beliefs, guiding principles or ideas that are deeply important to you? Which ones are you off track with?
  • What are your passions? What do you love? What interests you? What gets you engaged, motivated, excited?
  • What are your skills and talents? Which would you like to use going forward?
  • What is your wish list? What do you want and need in your life/career/relationship? This might include the type of environment you thrive in, people you want to be surrounded by, or something you want in a role.
  • What is the impact or difference you want to make? How do you want to serve, contribute or add value?
  • What do you NOT want? While you don’t want to spend too much time in this space, it’s as important to be aware of what you don’t want as much as what you do!

In addition, I always have my clients take the Instinctive Drives™ questionnaire. It’ s a profiling tool that helps you understand what you need to be at your best. While it happens to be my personal favorite, I highly recommend any tool or resource that will help you gain personal insight.

In her soul searching, Sabine identified that she needed to find and surround herself with her “people”; uncovered what she needed to feel safe and secure; learned she needed to delegate more; and discovered that her direct approach was getting in her way.

Max realized what was most important to him at this stage of his life, identified the limiting beliefs that were getting in his way, learned to stop comparing himself to others and realized how important it was to infuse humor and joy into his everyday life.

Your turn:

Grab a journal. Ask yourself these questions and allow the time and space to discover the answers.

Write everything down. Then, review what you wrote and highlight or circle what stands out or resonates the most. These are what you want to pay attention to as you move forward and think about what you’re doing next with your life.

Then, with a little soul-searching under your belt, it’s time to move on to step 3.

Step 3: What are your options?

You’re not happy where you are. You know you want something else. But what is that “something”? This question allows you to explore what your potential options.

At this point, it’s not about deciding the one thing or making the right choice, it’s about allowing your creative mind to expand and see all the possibilities.

If you hate your career, what new potential careers are on your mind? If you’re unhappy in your relationship, what can you do? If you’re feeling like you need change or an adventure, what could those possibly be?

Brainstorm ALL your options without worrying about whether they are possible or not (just yet). Make a list and keep asking yourself…. what else? This allows you to dig deeper and see opportunities you might have otherwise not explored.

Your turn

What are all of your possible options at this point in time? Don’t limit them if you can’t see how it’s possible, just get all your ideas out on paper.

Once you have your list of options, then you can move to the next step.

Step 4: Which options are the best fit right now?

Okay, so you have your list of options and possibilities. Now it’s time to narrow it down and explore those options in a little more depth.

Once Max had a complete list of potential career options (including advancing in his current role), he narrowed the list down to the top most interesting and compelling opportunities. We then worked through each of those in greater depth.

A fantastic way to do this is to envision your life “as if” you were in that new role/situation/relationship/option.

Max imagined himself living the life in his new career options. First, he imagined himself as an REI employee. Yes, he had grown a beard and was drinking from a metal mug.

But the next question was even more important. I asked him how he felt. He said while he was excited to be outdoors more, he realized he wouldn’t be fulfilled in that role. He definitely didn’t feel “jazzed”.

We went through all his options, envisioning what life would be like in each role until he found the one in which he felt the most connected. We could both feel a shift in his energy immediately…he was on to something.

Your turn

Go back to your options list and circle the 1-3 that you feel most connected to, energized by or engaged with. You’ll want to make sure those options fit what you want (question 1) and who you are (question 2).

Once you have a short list, imagine your life as if you took that as your next step. What would you think, feel, hear and see? Can you picture yourself there? Does it feel good? You can also do some research at this point to learn more about each of your options.

Then, armed with information and idea of the best next option for you, it’s time to move on to the next question.

Step 5: What’s stopping you?

This is a big one. As you explore your options, it’s likely you may come up against some barriers.

Perhaps you have fears or limiting beliefs of what you can or can’t do or what someone said you were capable of. Maybe it’s lack of self-esteem or confidence. When these come up, it doesn’t mean the option is wrong, it just means you need to dig a bit further to find out what’s going on It’s important to explore what’s getting in your way.

With Max, he was being held back by a deep, long time belief that he wasn’t good enough – that he wasn’t capable of taking on a higher level, higher risk role. This was holding him back. We worked together until he could move past this perception and on to his next step.

Your turn

Think about what’s getting in your way or stopping you from moving forward. Once again, don’t stop at your first answer. Ask yourself, “what else?” until you identify what’s getting in your way.

Then, it’s time to move to the last question..

Step 6: What can you do to move forward?

You’ve narrowed down and explored your options and now it’s time to take action. I know this part is hard.

What if it isn’t right? What if there is something else out there? What if it’s the worst decision I ever make? Arrgghh!

These are all real and good questions, but not if they stop you from moving forward towards a more fulfilling life. If you’re feeling hesitant about taking the next step, let me give you a different way to look at it.

If you’re unhappy where you are now, what is the bigger risk? Staying where you are out of fear of doing the wrong thing OR moving forward and seeing where it leads you? It’s better to rock the boat than to die sinking in it, right?

Once you’ve decided, it’s time to act. What’s your first step? Take it.

Give yourself a deadline, a timeline or a goal to make it happen so you can move from ideas to reality.

Your turn

Make a decision about which option is best for you to move forward into the life you want. Then, take the first step towards that option. Then the next and the next one after that.

So, what ARE you doing with your life?

Just the sheer fact that you’re asking yourself what you’re doing with your life is a step in the right direction. A mentor of mine always said, 90% of solving a problem is awareness that it exists. You know you need to do something.

Now, if you’re serious about moving forward, it’s time to take the time and put in the effort and answer the questions above. Then, like Sabine and Max, be willing to take action – to step forward into a more fulfilling future – even if you’re not exactly sure how it’s going to play out.

Be brave. You’ve got this. It’s not too late. It’s your life, and, yes, it can be everything you’ve imagined.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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How to Stop Worrying About Your Future (and Start Saving Time!)

17. April 2018 - 14:00

Have you ever lost sleep worrying about something that has yet to happen?

Has worrying about the future interrupted your productivity? Your flow? Your day? Your mood?

If you answered “yes”, you are not alone.

Worry happens to all of us, particularly when it comes to events, people, and things that are important.

The trouble with worry is it is a complete and total waste of our valuable time and energy. We all know that on a logical level, and yet we still worry.

Here’s the good news; while we may never learn how to stop worrying about the future completely, there are ways to help us better manage that worry so we can save ourselves some time. In this article, we’ll go over exactly how to do just that.

Worrying Wastes Time And Energy

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” –Leo F. Buscaglia

Part of managing worry is being aware of the costs. When we create awareness we are better able to create proactive solutions to minimize or eliminate that cost.

  • Cost #1: Worrying about what has yet to happen uses up valuable mental real estate and time.

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere” –Erma Bombeck

  • Cost #2: While worry may give you something to do, you most likely have better things to do with your time and your energy. For example, you could instead focus on your to-do list or notice the multitude of opportunities waiting for you. Focusing on worry not only makes it difficult to handle your to-do list, it also blocks you from seeing those opportunities or the steps that lead to them.
  • Cost #3: Worrying about the future is also an energy drain leaving you susceptible to more worry. Did you know that worry takes advantage of the times when your energy is low? That is when worry is at its most powerful.
  • Cost #4: It is a present moment joy crusher that can lower not just your energy but also your mood.
  • Cost #5: Speaking of mood; worry never gets you anywhere. Worry does not get you to a place where everything is OK. It does not make sure that everything is taken care of. Actually it does the opposite.
  • Cost #6: Worrying about the future creates a vicious loop of more worry about the future.

What does worrying about the future cost you?

Tried and True Worry Busting Techniques

When I find myself worrying about the future, I use the following techniques to manage the worry. (Just a little side note: I like to switch it up a bit. I use a different technique each time I find myself worried about the future, or worried about anything for that matter.)

Practice Mindfulness

Since worrying about the future pulls us into the future, nothing busts worry faster than some good old fashion present moment mindfulness.

Take a look around and notice what is surrounding you. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you taste? What do you hear? What do you smell?

Taking note of your surroundings by using your senses is an awesome way to pull yourself into the present moment where future-related worry cannot bother you.

Do Deep Breathing

Have you ever noticed your breathing when you are worrying? If not, the next time you are worried about a future-related event check in with your breathing.

Worrying causes our breathing to become shallow. And, deep breathing can help us to relax and get us out of worry mode.

Here are two techniques to use to engage those deep breathes and cue the relaxation:

The first is the 4,4,and 4 technique. Give it a try right now by taking a deep breath in through your nose to a count of four. Then let the breath out through your nose or mouth to a count of four. Do that four times. (Another side note: Be sure to do this technique slowly so you do not hyperventilate or make yourself dizzy.)

The second technique is called Oxytocin Breathing because it actually releases the powerful hormone oxytocin into your brain. This is the same hormone that is released when you are hugging or kissing someone you love or after making love.

Just a word of caution: you may not want to do this breathing technique in the middle of your busy office or a crowded street. It is best to do it some place private.

Here’s how to do Oxytocin Breathing:

Take a REALLY deep breath so that you are filling up your belly with air. Once you feel your belly expand to the point that you can no longer take in any more air, release it slowly by letting out an audible “Haaaaaaaaaaaahhh”.

Repeat this technique a few times until you feel yourself relaxing.

Check out this video to see the technique in action.

By the way, worry hates deep breathing so this is one of the quickest and the easiest techniques to use.

Express Extra Gratitude

As you are probably already aware, worry creates negative thoughts (and feelings). Gratitude does the exact opposite.

Since your brain can not think positive and negative thoughts at the same time gratitude is an awesome worry buster. Not to mention it’s something you can do any where, any time, especially when you are short on time.

I actually use gratitude when worry wakes me up in the middle of the night. When this happens, I begin listing all the things I am grateful for until I fall back to sleep. It works like a charm.

Similar to the present moment exercise, take a look around.

Really quickly begin listing at least three things (or more) that you are grateful for. It could be the chair you are sitting in or the sleeping pet at your feet. Just start listing and before you know it the feeling of gratitude will replace the negative feeling that worry causes.

Lean Into “What Ifs”

It is all too common to want to shove worry aside or try and stuff it. Especially when you have a tight project deadline or a calendar full of obligations. Doing so, however, is just an invitation for the worry to stick around even longer.

Rather than try to ignore the worry, lean into by asking yourself the following question, “What if what I’m worrying about were to actually happen?”

Once you have your answer then ask yourself this follow-up question, “Then what would happen?” Keep asking the follow-up question until you have run out of “then what’s”.

I always find that doing this exercise takes the bite out of worry. I also walk away with a plan should what I’m worrying about actually happen. (Which, by the way, usually does not happen.)

Take Back Control

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” — The Dalai Lama

What do you have control over? What can you fix? What can you do to prevent whatever you are worrying about from happening?

For many us worry creates a feeling of being out of control and not safe. Doing things that are within our control helps us to regain those feelings of control and safety.

Tighten and Release

When you are worried, do you often feel a tightness in your stomach or your neck? Use that tightness to help you relax.

It sounds funny, but go ahead and tighten every muscle in your body. Tighten your legs, suck in your stomach, clench your bottom, tighten your arms, and make fists. Hold your muscles in that tight position for just a moment, and then release all your muscles.

This technique is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. It combats worry and even stress by creating awareness around what the body feels like when it is in a relaxed state. And when you are in a relaxed state you are not in a state of worry.

Use Worry As A Gauge

Worry serves as a great gauge to let us know what is important and what is not. When you are worrying about something, tune-in to the gauge.

How important is what you are worrying about on a scale of 1-10? If you gave it a 5 or less, ask yourself this question,”Since this thing I’m worried about isn’t super important, what is really driving the worry?”

If you gave it a 5 or higher then it’s time to turn worry into a motivator to start taking action. To help, go back to the Take Back Control technique and ask yourself those questions.

Write or Talk It Out

Getting worry out of your head diminishes it. It is like the old analogy that if you shine a light on bacteria it dies. But if you keep it in the dark it grows.

If you do not feel comfortable talking it out with a friend, family member, coach, or another trusted professional, try writing about it. Get it all out on paper and then throw the paper away.

Writing about your future-related worry takes the charge out of it and creates more clarity and awareness.

Worrying Has Nothing On You

The next time you find yourself worrying about the future:

  • Create awareness around what the worry is costing you.
  • Use one or more of the worry busting techniques.
  • Remember that you are not alone when it comes to worrying (we all do it).

So, there you have it. By following the steps above you’ll be able to have a more worry-free life so that you can reclaim your precious time and get stuff done!

Featured photo credit: Freely via freelyphotos.com

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What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

17. April 2018 - 13:00

With this ever so competitive era consistently demanding people to be their best versions all the time, setbacks are bound to occur some stage. Be it failing to secure a job at the company of your dreams or not being able to marry the girl you held so close to your heart, many people dive into self-destructing coping mechanisms that take a toll on their mental as well as physical health.

This is where being resilient is so much more significant as it not only helps us to make a strong comeback whenever we lose control of our life, but also propels us in the right direction to attain the goals we cherish.

In this article, I will explain to you what resilience is and how you can apply it to life to become a better and tougher person.

What is resilience

Resilience is a method of how well a person can adapt to a situation when faced with trauma, stress, tragedy or other likewise scenarios. Simply put, it means getting your life back on track every time you’re being knocked down by a difficult experience.

Studies undertaken by numerous psychologists point out that a person blessed with good resilience has the knack of turning their fortunes fairly quickly as compared to their counterpart who might struggle for a longer duration before getting their act together.

However, it does not necessarily mean that a person who portrays resilience effectively eventually becomes untouched by difficult experiences or traumatic situations in life. It is just that those people just know how being resilient can be beneficial for them.

Resilience is not a quality that people may or may not have. It consists a set pattern of thoughts or ideas that can be mastered and used into practice by any individual over time.

Why resilience is important to your life

With a lot more people finding their lives in the doldrums, being resilient has never been as vital as it has become today.

As per a research carried out at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, depression has risen significantly over the last decade or so, especially among the teenagers. Also, the number of professionals queuing up outside a psychiatrist’s office has also registered a steep rise.

A closer sneak peek into resilience can help us throw light on the vast benefits it has in store for us:

Opportunity to introspect

Whenever we let ourselves or a close one down, a feeling of guilt can easily creep in not only making us look dejected but also lets us lose all hopes and aspirations of further doing anything right. But these moments of challenges also help us to turn a new leaf by defying all odds and reach the pinnacle of success.

During these testing times, it is wiser to take a step back and try to understand who we really are and what we would like to become. Trying to understand our thoughts and ideas can help us analyze the situation better and see alternatives that we might not have paid heed to at all in the first place.

Self-discovery can be a life changing experience that can shape the direction of our entire life, breaking barriers of orthodox mindset and paving way for a brighter future. After all, the difficulties in life are nothing but opportunities to enhance ourselves.

Immunity towards adversity

Think about a problem that had been giving you sleepless nights recently. What if you had pulled it in a corner instead of breaking sweat when it first surfaced? That’s what resilient people do.

Resilient people understand that it is not the problem but our mindset towards it that eventually matters in the end. It’s not that resilient people who have fine-tuned the art of bouncing back in life find facing their struggles a walk in the park, it is just that they know how to embrace them meticulously.

Change is the only constant, so why not adapt to the constant change happening around us? This can only not open up more career opportunities for you, but also prepare you to take every challenge of your life in the best possible way.

Enlighten your mind

Resilience is a key element that helps to re-develop our thinking and learning patterns. Whenever we find ourselves deep in trouble, we draw inspiration from similar experiences of others and try to imitate their feat to help us conquer our existing fear.

We must break away from our old selves that limit the ability of our mind. Instead, we should fuel it with meaningful knowledge and theories that build our wisdom. Strengthening the mind through habits like reading helps us to focus clearly on our long term vision.

Resilience helps you to take care of yourself not only physically but spiritually as well. When things are not going bright in the outer world, you can connect with the inner self to look for a clarity of goal and re-develop your march towards victory.

Not to mention, when you understand your inner desires better, it helps you to adapt better to the surroundings.

Fulfill your dreams

Some people put everything at stake to achieve their ambitions. However, if victory eludes them in the first attempt, they prefer giving up on the dream and follow the crowd who might have always wished for their downfall.

It is crucial to stay focused all the time and not accept defeat until you cross the finishing line. Resilience and motivation go hand-in-hand and always push you forward in your relentless pursuit of the bigger picture.

You only live once, so why not give your best shot at your dream until you can finally lay your hands on it? There is nothing like getting to live your dream when the odds were stacked up against you. This will lead you to be successful just the way you want.

Connect with like-minded people

Everyone wants to be connected with people who have a positive influence on them and from whom they can draw inspiration.

Being resilient can help you develop bond with groups and communities that think alike and love helping each other towards their goals.

How to do build resilience (a step-by-step guide)

Whether you find yourself engaged with a challenge right now or would like to be in a better position to tackle the next one, there are a few ways that can help you become resilient and improve the way you look at your challenges.

Here goes the list:

1. Believe in yourself

Research has shown that a majority of people remain unsure of what instigates their everyday behavior. Labelled as motives, our behavior is primarily based on what we think of ourselves. The beliefs we carry in our minds or the ideas we preach will determine the course of our actions.

Below are a few ways to develop self-belief that can work wonders in your life.

  • Make bold decisions. Set practical goals that you feel are achievable in a certain time-frame. Implement a strategy as to how you plan to achieve that goal. Once you reach the desired outcome, only then it is wiser to push your limits and aim for a higher goal.
  • Appreciate yourself. Most people get too harsh on themselves at times, which not only puts a dent into their self-confidence but also inculcates negative thoughts. Therefore, it’s always wiser to give yourself a pat on the back, even for a tiny accomplishment. This goes a long way in inducing self-belief.
  • Avoid comparisons. Making comparisons with others can also let your self-belief vanish in thin air. Even though you might be good at your trade, there will always be someone who could be better than you. The comparison game will only harm your self-belief. Making comparisons is instilled strongly in our nature, but can always try to reduce it by keeping your mind busy doing productive tasks.
2. Become action-oriented

Always shying away from your problem and putting it off to solve it another day will only elevate it further. You may not get all the answers to your problem initially, but solving it by bits and pieces actively will surely lead to a successful outcome.

Some ways that can help you prevent procrastination and be more action-oriented:

  • Set deadlines. Begin by making a to-do list that includes all the tasks that you probably have been avoiding recently. Then set deadlines as to when you’ll likely want to get them done.
  • Cut down on temptations. Get rid of any distractions that might pull you down from achieving your deadlines. If you think your phone texts or notifications is the biggest hindrance, keep your phone away from you or turn the notifications off until you cover your goal for the day.
  • Reveal your intentions. Take your family and friends aware of your goals and deadlines, so they can push you towards it whenever you refrain from showing up. Letting others know your intentions will also add pressure on you to perform when everyone expects a desired outcome from you.
  • Pamper yourself. Always have a reward carrot in place. In case you finish your assignment now, you can buy your favorite meal. This will help you to get things done more efficiently and timely.

If you want to start taking actions and stop putting things off, this guide can help you: A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

3. Give a helping hand

Reaching out to the needy is a great way to build your own resilience. According to researchers, the neurotransmitter serotonin that regulates mood and social behavior builds up when we engage in acts of kindness.

  • Volunteer. Volunteering is one of the best ways to help others and bring a smile on their face. Take some time and visit a charity nearby, and let them know you are there to help in whatever way you could.
  • Donate. Instead of discarding your old clothes or any household items, you can give them to someone who can make better use of it. You can also get some food for a homeless person rather than just giving them money.
  • Teach. You can teach your friend a new skill that you’ve recently mastered, or lend help to a child who might be finding his homework difficult. Teaching something will always help you connect better with others and improve your problem solving skills.
  • Compliment. Compliment your colleague in front of others for a presentation that have been working hard on. You can also compliment a complete stranger for their appearance or attire that can make their day. You never know–by striking a conversation with a stranger, you could win a friend or business partner for life. Plus, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t like to be complimented.
4. Enhance your skill bucket

Learning a new skill set at any age never goes out of fashion. Want to learn how to play guitar but don’t have time for it? Look for any online course or a video session that can help introduce you to a few basics. As building up new skills becomes mandatory to get ahead in life, here are a few tips you could follow to start your journey for self-improvement.

  • Clarity of thought. While beginning a new skill set, it is important to know what we really want to attain out of it. A chef might want to learn making a new cuisine to help his restaurant attract more customers. Similarly, someone may want to learn a new language to open up more career opportunities. It is beneficial for you to know how that skill can help for you to grow.
  • Learn how it suits you. Living in an era where abundant information is just a few clicks away is always a boon to have. In case you don’t have a budget to enroll for a professional course, you can easily access all the blogs, videos and online channels. You can also join community groups where people with similar interests can bond with you.
  • Don’t rush into things. Select one skill set at a time and try to understand how you can adapt in by breaking it into smaller achievable goals. For example, if you want to be a better writer, start by reading books and articles of famous writers and writing a journal for 15 minutes everyday.
The takeaways

Rome was not built in a day, nor can resilience be built in a day. Even if you currently find yourself struggling with your share of problems, it’s time to move on and bring about a positive change in your lifestyle that can help you become a better version of yourself.

While we cannot change our personality in a blink of an eye, we can certainly make an effort to change our perspective immediately towards our problems. As you set your mind towards new challenges, your resilience towards achieving them gets stronger.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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How to Explain Things Better and Make Others Understand Your Ideas Easily

16. April 2018 - 14:00

Do you ever find that you understand a topic, yet you can’t explain it to anyone?

What if I told you there was a simple method you could use as a way to better understand and clearly communicate a concept or idea?

There actually is a very simple method you can use called SEE-I. This method was originally created by Richard Paul and Linda Elder and has been refined into its current state by Gerald Nosich.

So, what exactly is this method and how can you apply it?

Let’s take a look.

What is the SEE-I method?

SEE-I is an easy-to-use and methodological critical thinking technique assisting people in clarifying their ideas.[1] It stands for the following: State it, Elaborate, Exemplify, and Illustrate.

Let’s examine each element of SEE-I:

  • State it: Clearly and succinctly state the concept or idea in a single sentence or two.
  • Elaborate: Explain it further in your own words.
  • Exemplify: Provide concrete examples and counter examples of the concept.
  • Illustrate: Provide a picture, diagram, metaphor or analogy of the concept.

Essentially, SEE-I begins with a concise statement of the concept (S), followed by further elaboration in your own words (E). Then you are to provide specific examples and counter examples of the concept (E), Lastly, you end with an illustration of the concept (I).

Let’s examine the following example of SEE-I:

  • Concept to understand/explain: Critical Thinking
  • State it: Critical thinking is a self-directed process by which we take deliberate steps to think at the highest level of quality.
  • Elaborate: In other words, critical thinking is “thinking about thinking” (metacognition) in order to make it better.
  • Example: Critical thinking is an analysis, an evaluation, and improvement. For example, it is an analysis of thinking by focusing on the parts (or the elements); an evaluation of thinking by focusing on the quality (or the standards); an improvement of thinking by using what you have learned.
  • Illustrate: A great interactive illustration of Critical Thinking (Analysis – Evaluation – Improvement) is the Online Model for Learning the Elements and Standards of Critical Thinking.

How to apply SEE-I to explain stuff (Step-by-step guide)

Let’s examine a step-by-step approach you can use to apply the SEE-I method.

Step 1. State it

Identify the concept or idea you wish to communicate – clearly and succinctly state the concept.

Example: Learning is the gaining of knowledge, understanding, or ability.

Step 2. Elaborate

Using phrases such as: “In other words,” to further expand on your concept.

Example: In other words, learning is a process where a person gains specific knowledge. It involves different degrees of progress. The learning process occurs through stressful repetitive perception allowing neural networks to adapt to the repetitive input. True learning is the internalization of the knowledge being learned. I know I have learned something when I can not only repeat the information, but when I can explain it, use it, and integrate it along with other knowledge.

Step 3. Exemplify

Using phrases such as: “For example,” to provide an example plus a counter example to your concept.

Example: For example, a child slowly learns to ride a bike by being guided, practicing, and falling down. A counter example is repetition of the same mistakes over and over again.

Step 4. Illustrate

Find an image, picture, or design your own image to present your concept (i.e. use a metaphor or analogy as your illustration).

Example: Learning is like a sponge absorbing whatever liquid it comes in contact with, yet does not get saturated.

Summing it up

The SEE-I method is a way to provide a clear and concise narrative to explain any concept or idea along with an illustration. In other words, the method allows you to further paraphrase your idea while providing strong examples supporting the concept and counter examples opposing it.

The method clearly expresses an individuals understanding of a concept through a narrative and strong illustration through the use of a metaphor or analogy. In essence, it allows you an easy (and extremely simple) way to explain anything to anyone.

For additional information on how to use the SEE-I method, read Learning to Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum by Gerald Nosich.

Featured photo credit: Image via Gaurav Rukhana via dribbble.com

Reference [1] ^ CriticalThinking.org: The Foundation for Critical Thinking function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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Financial Freedom is Not a Fantasy: 9 Secrets to Get You There

16. April 2018 - 13:00

Have you ever considered your life now, and how it would be if you had more time to spend with your family and less worries about money?

Nowadays, financial stress is one of the most troublesome weights in life. If you’ve ever encountered financial stress, you know the difficulty of not having enough income to pay your obligations or bills.

Many people say that money is not the ultimate goal of life. While that’s true, money certainly plays a very significant role. The meaning of financial freedom changes with the different phases of our life, but ultimately, it is something that many people strive for.

In this article, we’ll explain how to capture that financial freedom you’ve been looking for. Read on to learn the secrets to financial freedom.

Break Free of Your Finances

Financial freedom is about having a constant flow of cash from your assets to cover all your regular needs.

When you are not worried about your income, or living paycheck to paycheck, you gain a great sense of freedom. It’s the freedom to be obtain and do what you truly need to make your way through everyday life.

Gaining financial freedom, though, is a process of growth, making small improvements and gaining emotional strength.

Though it seems hard to believe, it is really very simple to get financial freedom.

To do so, you simply need to make sure that your assets exceed your liabilities. In other words, you’ll need to find the sweet-spot where your residuals meet or surpass your expenses. This is something that you can achieve with the proper plan.

While not every person will accomplish financial freedom, the potential for anyone to do so is certainly there. Anyone can achieve this success, regardless of their income level.

Outlined below are 9 secrets that will help you in your goals of achieving financial freedom.

1. Stop Unnecessary Spending

We often spend money inwardly, instead of objectively.

For example, you may spend when you’re anxious, depressed, restless, exhausted, from fear of missing out, or to please others. This is a very unhealthy way to handle your finances.

To stop this habitual spending, log down all your spending over the course of a month.

Just as some people keep a food diary, keep an expense diary. Remember not to just write down how much and what you spent the money on, also include the circumstances of why you spent the money. Was it an impulse buy at the checkout line or was it something you planned to purchase?

This increased self-awareness could enable you to avoid triggering situations in the future when you are considering an impulse buy.

2. Plan a Monthly Budget

This is a great opportunity to get serious.

Take a seat with your spouse or partner and make a monthly budget based on your income, not your expenses. You are never again going to spend more cash then you have on hand.

Overspending is the thing that led you to more financial obligations. Make sure you decide every month what is coming in and what will be going out and stick to that budget… no matter what.

3. Cut-up Credit Cards

Perhaps you are the type of person who always pays your credit card balance in full before the end of your billing cycle, and enjoys the reward points you gain. If this is the case, then you’re already way ahead of the game.

If not, you may want to consider ridding your life of the burden that credit cards bring.

Many cards have strategies set up so that if you make a certain number of late payments, they will raise your interest rate much higher. This can really add up in the long run and you won’t be doing your financial situation any favors. If you’re prone to late payments or have a large balance due on your cards, cut them up!

Without proper self control on credit card spending and payments, you are basically throwing your money away. To ensure that you have better control over your spending, use only cash or debit for all future purchases (and don’t forget to pay at least your minimum payment on your cut-up cards each month!).

4. Increase Savings

There is no doubt that for a comfortable retirement you must accumulate satisfactory savings throughout your working life.

It’s good practice to save up to 15% of your income.

Start with your workplace 401(k), if you have one. If not, a Roth IRA (if you are eligible) or a traditional IRA (if you are not eligible for the Roth) are the next logical steps.

Increase in longevity means you might be able to look forward to 25 to 30 years in retirement, or possibly even significantly more. Investing now in good retirement plans will ensure that you have a guaranteed a stable monthly income when the time comes to stop working. [1]

5. Invest Wisely

Consider investing in funds.

Specifically, you will gain higher returns if you invest in different types of mutual funds such as Debt funds, Equity funds and Hybrid funds with a proper balance, although it absolutely relies on your personal preferences and sense of risk taking.

To get the most of these benefits, make sure you are investing in a variety of assets. Another resource of investing in mutual funds is SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) where you invest some money every month in funds. SIP works by averaging the per unit price of the stock.

Mutual fund investors are aware of the benefits of an SIP (Systematic Investment Plan). For one, it is the most secure way to invest in equity mutual plans so that wealth is created over a long period of time. This plan also helps you to gain a better sense of financial discipline, which will come in handy in all your financial endeavors.

6. Invest in Gold

There isn’t really a better way to invest in gold than to have the physical gold itself in your possession.

You can purchase gold coins and bars from mints as well as from coin dealers and other private sellers.

Another way to invest in gold is through ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds).

These are is similar to mutual funds but they are exclusively investments of gold. ETFs are great because they offer more liquidity; the ETF owns the actual physical gold, stores it, and retains the value of the shares. These shares can then be bought and sold in the stock market, and one big benefit is that the transaction costs of gold ETFs are much lower than the that of physical gold.

With its consistently-increasing demand, investment in gold can be very wise long-term investment to make.

7. Stash Emergency Funds

Whether it’s a cash gift or a work bonus, always try to save any extra money that comes your way rather than making unneeded purchases.

If you get paid every other week, you’ll get an “extra” paycheck (three rather than the usual two) twice a year. Either save those paychecks towards your emergency funds or utilize the money to pay down other obligations, such as loans, credit cards or other debts.

Make it hard to get your cash.

Put your savings in an alternate bank, maybe an online bank that forces you to delay for several business days before transferred money hits your regular bank account.

8. Find Fabulous Mentors

Find a mentor, such as a friend or family member, who has exceptional control over their finances and pay attention to everything they do.

If you do not have any friends or family that are enjoying financial freedom, then find a mentor online! There are numerous blogs and guru websites featuring the advice of many people who have reached financial freedom, and they exist primarily to let you in on how to achieve it for yourself.

There are also plentiful forums available that share tips and tricks on how to best achieve financial freedom. Read as much as you can and start changing your habits for the better.

9. Be Extra Patient

Patience is the key of financial success.

Being patient can be quite tough, especially when you’re struggling with your finances, but having faith is worth it. You’ll continuously be on the right track if you are taking the proper steps above.

So don’t be discouraged, even if you are only saving a few dollars a month; it all adds up. Within just a few years you’ll look back proudly at your accomplishments and be glad that you had the patience to get there.

Financial Freedom for All

Anyone can achieve financial freedom, regardless of their financial circumstance.

Use the tips provided above to get yourself on the track to financial freedom and toss your monetary concerns out the window. If you wish to achieve a life with financial freedom for yourself and your family then you must adopt a disciplined approach towards your finances.

Following the simple secrets above is a great start to making your money work for you, so you can work less and live more!

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference [1] ^ Hartford Gold Group: IRA Retirement Accounts function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It's a Smart One to Make)

13. April 2018 - 14:00

You’re struggling to find this elusive thing called “happiness.” Most days, you feel either overwhelmed, anxious, angry, depressed, or flat. Or, maybe you experience quick shifts of mood.

You can remember times when you were happy, but they seem distant, and your life circumstances are different now.

But what if I told you that you can actually choose happiness? And, that it’s easier than you think?

In this article, I’ll break down the basics of how you can lead a happier life, just by following a few basic principals. These are easy to implement in your own life, which means happiness is just around the corner!

Ready to find out more about how and why happiness is a choice? Let’s dive in further to gain a deeper understanding.

Happiness Isn’t an Idea, It’s an Experience

The idea that happiness is a choice seems to be just that, an idea, and one that doesn’t apply to you. How can you choose to be happy when someone has treated you so badly, when circumstances beyond your control are bombarding you with pain?

Many people feel this way.

Each year, the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network releases the World Happiness Report.

This measures the overall happiness of different countries. The 2018 report finds that residents in Finland rank first place, while the residents in the United States are all the way behind in 18th place.

Despite the fact that Americans’ incomes have more than doubled since 1972, we’re not even in the top 10 of happiest countries.

Understand the Easterlin Paradox

Americans have continuously made more money, yet we’re not reporting an increase in happiness. This disparity between income and happiness is called the Easterlin Paradox.

Chances are you see more money now than you ever have in your life, yet you’re still trapped in the paradox, struggling to understand why you’re unhappy.

What explains the paradox?

The answer to this question can help you understand what happiness is. Solving this dilemma seems complex — it is a paradox, after all. Yet the answer is a lot simpler than you might expect: happiness is a choice.

It’s as Simple as Choosing Happiness

Happiness is a state of being that you can seize, such as when a runner takes in air with her lungs. Each inhalation is essential, and with every inhalation, exhalation must follow.

If happiness is a state of being, then you could say that happiness is simply an experience, or a set of experiences.

Amanda Pinnock is a college student at Arizona State University who experienced this type of happiness without ever expecting it. To earn her degree in global health, she needed to do a study abroad program, but she was worried she was going to be disconnected from her group as a nontraditional student earning her degree online. [1]

To her surprise, the other students in her group were inclusive and eager to connect. Then there were the locals in Fiji, the country she’d chosen for the program. They seemed to truly understand how happiness is a choice. According to Amanda:

“Fijians are probably the happiest and humblest people in the world. They welcomed us with open arms and made sure we were fed and had the accommodations we needed. It wasn’t until I talked further with the group leader and tour guide that I realized they were giving us more than what they have for themselves on a daily basis.”

Plenty of Fijians don’t have running water, but Amanda noted that they felt they lacked for nothing. She says:

“They live off the earth and they all help one another … They may not have had nearly as much money as an average American, but they are wealthy in their lives, and I think Americans can learn a lot from that. It really put into perspective what’s most important: family, loved ones and the environment.”

For the Fijians Amanda encountered, happiness isn’t a concept, it’s the act of supporting each other.

Happiness is the act of finding joy in everyday experiences with other people.

Communities of people who give to each other and share the value of generosity, the value of love—a love which expects nothing in return—are the happiest.

That’s why, according to the World Happiness Report, generosity and social support networks are two key factors that lead to happiness. [2]

Every second you’re alive and conscious, you have choices to make. Amanda Pinnock chose to experience another culture even though she was worried about fitting in. She was happy to share the experience with the other students and the Fijians that welcomed them.

Each day of your conscious existence you can choose to support others, to accept their support, to engage in activities that are good for you.

All of these acts will bring happiness. You can choose to trust others and do things that help them to trust you. You can choose to build up the community around you and be a part of it.

The Art of Sisu Can Change You

In Finland, famine wiped out 9 percent of the population during the 1860s —hardly an event that would engender happiness. The Finns have made a point of recovering by embracing a philosophy called sisu, which is a shared value of grit, determination, and rational action, even when life is painful.

Sisu is also about powering through exercises that are challenging and uncomfortable, such as taking a swim in an ice-cold river, running a marathon, or biking to work in the rain. [3]

According to This Is Finland, “Sisu is extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity … Sisu is embodied by people everywhere who defy the odds and hold on to hope when at first there seems to be none.”

Sisu is simple: seize life, do it with courage, and build your courage by engaging with the world in challenging ways.

Be Proactive in Your Happiness

You can be happy by being proactive. People who choose to recover from addiction choose to take proactive steps toward recovery.

You can think of choosing to be happy as choosing to recover from depression. As it turns out, exercise benefits recovery in a number of ways:

● Exercise imitates the effect of drugs on your brain (or rather, drugs imitate
the effect of exercise) by releasing endorphins.

● Exercise helps you sleep better and increases feelings of well-being.

● Exercise helps you cope with stress, structure your day, and improve your
physical fitness.

This lines up very well with sisu, although sisu asks you to take it to another level and challenge yourself beyond your comfort level.

Even if you don’t take it to that extent, start small and exercise on a regular basis, then build up to greater challenges. Work on making connections with other people based around your exercise routine.

What the Buddhists Know

Buddhism is particularly concerned with cultivating happiness through constant practice.

First, Buddhists acknowledge that existence lends itself to pain and mental dysfunction. This is the wear and tear of the world that comes from desiring and expecting what you don’t have.

Buddhists follow a set of practices towards enlightenment:

Clear the mind of negative thoughts: Recognize negative thoughts, redirect
them positively, and act on positive thoughts.

Practice mindfulness: Without applying judgment, contemplate how your
body feels and pay attention to your breathing; pay attention to your own
thoughts; pay attention to “phenomena” — the world around you.

Meditate and concentrate: Let random thoughts go while you’re sitting and
concentrating on one single thing, such as the sound of water, your breathing,
or a humming sound.

Have compassion: Personal happiness is directly related to the happiness of others. Contemplation of others and their suffering leads you to a place of true compassion, and compassion for others is a simple path towards happiness.

Buddhists choose to live neither in the past or future.

Thoughts of the past can bring brooding and depression, and thoughts of the future can bring anxiety. Contemplation of the present and compassion for others in the present can help alleviate depression and anxiety, freeing your mind to accept happiness.

People choose many creeds, philosophies, and religions in the pursuit of happiness. In any situation, you can choose to concentrate on what makes you happy.

You can choose to accept the most excruciating challenge as an opportunity to be good now and to create happiness.

Make the Smart Choice of Happiness

Happiness is finding joy in everyday experiences.

When you choose to include other people in your happiness, then with it comes community—in both social networks and shared experiences.

Happiness is the smart choice because deep down it’s what your being strives for; it’s what other people want, too.

When we’re choosing happiness together, we’re choosing to care for each other, and the whole world opens up to infinite possibility.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

Reference [1] ^ Arizona State University: Find Yourself by Getting Lost [2] ^ World Happiness Report: World Happiness Report 2018 [3] ^ This is Finland: Sisu Begins Where Perseverance Ends function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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The Remarkable Benefits of Strength Training for Women

13. April 2018 - 13:00

Are you curious about lifting weights but not sure why you should get started?

You’re in the right place!

I’ll be revealing the mind and body benefits of lifting weights and tell you why it will literally transform your life.

Discover the secret of strength training for women, and why you should start today.

8 Truths About Strength Training You’ll Boost Your Social Capital

We all could use more friends! Although, many times our insecurity about our bodies and our appearances can prevent us from presenting our best selves in the world.

This lack of confidence we have about our identity can be enough to stop us from seeking new relationships both offline and online.

Lifting weights can and will positively change how you feel about yourself. You will experience a boost of self-confidence in many areas of your life such as your in career, in your personal relationships, and especially the relationship you have with yourself.

Confident people are linked with higher incomes, more friends, and–if you’re single–with having more desirable characteristics as a potential mate.

Increased self-confidence creates more opportunities to strengthen current relationships and attract additional relationships because you were assertive enough to seek them out.

New friends and contacts lead to richer life experiences and expanded opportunities in all areas of your life.

Weight training helps you put yourself out there more often and gives you the self-confidence to believe that people will value what you have to offer.

You’ll Love the Way You Look

If you’ve ever seen the before and after images on your Instagram or Facebook feed, then you know fitness inspiration pictures are all the rage these days.

The most interesting before and after photos are the ones where women weigh the same in both pictures but look totally different. Not only are they leaner, trimmer, and more toned but their weight hasn’t changed!

How is this possible?

I have two words for you: lifting weights. It’s unfortunate that the #1 go-to method for women who want to lose weight is to do cardio in excess, especially when the scale has stopped moving and they have stopped seeing results.

Cardio and a proper diet will definitely help you to lose weight, but without a lifting routine you will lose muscle mass at the same time. This is why when most people stray off of stricter diets the weight just comes straight back.

Your baseline metabolism is determined by the amount of muscle you have.

When you have less muscle, due to repeated dieting and cardio, then your body cannot handle the extra calories consumed when you get off the diet. This results in fat storage and weight gain and a serious bust to your self esteem.

If you added strength training into your routine, you wouldn’t encounter the same problem because you’ve increased your overall metabolism through building muscle while simultaneously lowering your bodyfat. Not only will you have more muscle than when you first started, but you’ll notice when looking in the mirror that you also have more tone, shape, and firmness overall.

Strength training is the reason why women look leaner after their transformations but still weigh the same. A leaner, stronger body is the end result of lifting weights regularly.

You Can Focus on Becoming More

When it comes to being healthy we’re obsessed with the number on the scale and it dictates how we feel the rest of the day.

We become very conscious about our eating and picky about what we eat. We start classifying our foods as ‘bad’ versus ‘good’ which starts an unhealthy relationship with food. On top of this, the media conditions us that we must look a certain way and meet specific cultural body standards.

With weight training we ignore the scale.

Instead we focus on how much we can lift today, the number on the weights (rather than the scale) and set our sights on lifting more than we did last week.

Unknowingly we start becoming role models for women at the gym and other women in our lives by focusing on what really matters in our fitness journey: our health and our strength, not the number on the scale.

You’ll Experience Self-Love!

Lifting weights will positively change your identity of who you are in many ways.

When you didn’t see the scale change as fast as you would you like, you may have embraced the idea that you have a slow metabolism.

Perhaps you are the person who had every legitimate excuse under the sun on why you didn’t exercise today–with lack of time being the primary excuse. You felt that other people who are in shape just have more willpower than you do and possibly just blessed with good genetics.

But when you start lifting weights, how you describe who you are will start to shift.

You become the person who says “I am someone who takes care of myself and I make sure to get my workouts in.” The idea that you should exercise everyday becomes I must exercise everyday.

You start identifying and implementing healthier habits such as eating more vegetables, getting 8 hours of sleep, and monitoring your stress levels.

You start walking down the street with a more confident posture. You feel more in control and carry yourself with more competence in every situation.

Ultimately, strength training will cause you to start holding yourself to higher standards. It will raise the bar in all areas of your life so that you become a better version of yourself.

You’ll Challenge Your Self-Imposed Limitations

One of the most gratifying outcomes from lifting weights is seeing how strong and capable you are. You may have not have tested yourself, or even thought it was possible to lift that much weight, but you are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for.

When you are strength training the challenge is between you and yourself.

How much effort did you bring to the gym floor last week, and how much are going to bring to the floor today?

Progress becomes very clear with strength training. It’s either a “yes” or a “no” on whether you lifted more this week than you did last week and whether you brought 100% of your effort.

You become surprised and pleased by how much you can lift when it’s something you really want.

We all need to get out of our way and break the self-imposed limitations we have for ourselves. You will become stronger and feel more empowered when you lift.

You’ll Build a Stronger You 

Weight training builds stronger muscles and bones.

As females, we have a hormone called estrogen, which plays an important role in helping you maintain your bone density.

Starting at age 35 our bone mass starts decreasing, which leads to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis; this can go undetected until a bone fracture happens.

After menopause, bone loss starts to accelerate increasing the risk of weakened and brittle bones. During the first five to ten years of menopause women can lose up to 25 to 30% of bone density. [1]

If you’re in your early 20s to 30s, then regular weight lifting means you can help maintain your bone density after menopause.

It’s much easier to maintain your current bone density than it is to build it once you’ve stopped producing estrogen, but it’s never too late to start.

Activities that include weight-bearing exercises are important for both bone health maintenance and improvement.

Although it is important to remain active throughout your life resistance training has a greater positive effect on bone density than other types of exercise. [2].

Having strong, dense bones to get you through your golden years is important for long-term health.

Stronger bones lowers your chance of having fractures, which means that you will be able to stay out of the nursing home or assisted living centers for as long as possible when you’re retired.

You’ll Grow Old Gracefully

Not only does weight lifting build stronger bones, but it helps you to grow old gracefully and live on your terms for as long as possible.

Growing old is an inevitable part of life, but we can choose whether we allow life to take its toll on us, or whether we will grow stronger physically and mentally each year.

Interested in anti-aging?

Of course you are. Strength training is one of the many ways to achieve this.

This type of exercise can transforms you into a younger looking person. It will preserve and build muscles that help your posture so you remain upright, dominate life’s tasks, and make everyday easier for yourself.

The harder you work inside the gym, the easier your life will be outside of it.

Having healthy muscles gives you the ability to get up and down the stairs with ease. You are able to pick things up without hurting your back, and get up easily if you fall. If you need to pack up and move houses it’s not a problem because you have the strength and ability to do it.

Well-known palliative care nurse and author Bronnie Ware wrote several books analyzing the top regrets of dying patients. She concluded that “health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

Lifting weights will give you the strength and ability to take care of yourself for decades to come.

When you have this freedom of health, you instantly have a better quality of life.

You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

This is by far the best benefit of strength training.

Eating is one of the many pleasures of life and judging by the waistline of Americans, most will agree. The average person unknowingly gains about 3-5 pounds every year with majority of that weight gain happening around the holidays.

As we get older, we have the tendency to become more sedentary. This is why weight gain accelerates in our middle age even though our diets haven’t changed much. Inactivity compounded by age-related muscle loss causes us to naturally put on weight.

The good news is that all of this is completely preventable.

What if you can eat more, but still stay slim?

With strength training, you can. In fact, lifting weights helps you to maintain your current lean muscle mass and build more as well.

Not only will you look better in your clothes but you’ll speed up your metabolism.This means that you will have leeway in your diet to eat a little bit more without any consequences to your waistline.

Start Lifting Today for a Better You Tomorrow

Are you pumped to start lifting weights but you’re not sure where or how to get started?

There are lots of different options out there to help you get started, but when you’re looking for a plan keep in mind three things:

1. Find a plan that works for you now, not one that would work in your ideal situation or your ideal week.

If you only have 2 days a week you can dedicate consistently to workout, then find a plan that is a 2 day strength training program and start with that. You’ll only get frustrated if you cannot follow a plan exactly as you won’t get the results you’re looking for.

2. Schedule your workouts in your calendar and respect it.

Results come from consistency not from a perfect plan. If you don’t make time to strength train, it won’t happen and you won’t see any changes.

3. Focus on your form.

This is to ensure that you engage and activate the right muscles and also stay safe and injury free.

Lifting weights is about building the mind body connection. If you don’t feel your muscles working, then it’s not working. There are many YouTube videos and websites that will help you get your form right or hire an experienced trainer, the investment is well worth it.

Are you convinced yet that lifting weights can benefit your body in more ways than one? Get started today and reap the many rewards of strength training!

Featured photo credit: 123RF via 123rf.com

Reference [1] ^ Medicine Net: Osteoporosis is an Important Public Health Issue [2] ^ NCBI: Progressive Resistance Training on Bone Density function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

13. April 2018 - 11:00

Immunity truly does encapsulate the entire physiology of a person.

When you target your immunity by eating a variety of immune boosting foods, then you really can improve your entire body, both physically and mentally.

The immune system of a human being involves all aspects of one’s physiology and one’s daily experience. Eating certain foods can boost your health in a variety of ways. Below I outline several foods that will get you back on track if you’re feeling under the weather.

Be sure to stock up on these foods if you’re in need of a boost.

Immunity Boosting Superfoods

In order to even broach the topic of foods good for one’s immune system, it’s important to consider all aspects of the human body and experience.

What I mean by the human experience is one’s day to day mood, energy levels, and many other factors that signify how one engages with themselves and the world around them.

Before indulging in these foods below, I suggest striving for consistency with diet, activity levels, rest, and incorporating the practice of meditation or spending time in nature as part of your daily routine as well.

If you’re ready to feel better, not just when you’re under the weather but all the time incorporate these foods in your diet regularly.

1. Water is a Wise Choice

Yes I know I’m starting things seemingly simple, but one of my most popular YouTube videos discusses the importance of water!

When I ask people how much water they drink a day, the majority of time the answer begins with ‘not enough’.

So if you know you don’t drink enough water, why continue this pattern of behavior?

Now if you’re one that does hit that 5+ and more (pending activity levels) 8oz glasses a day – good for you! Water is life, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

2. Eggs: The Most Complete Protein

Widely regarded as the universally most complete nutritional protein source, eggs are packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids and 9 essential amino acids.

Egg whites are rich in Vitamins D/E/K, B2, B5, B6, B12, and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.

Meanwhile, egg yolks pack the calories and fats along with cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin.

It’s important to note that the average medium egg contains 76 calories, 7.5g protein, 5.1g fat, 1.4g sat fat – so consider this while integrating this near perfect super food in your next dish!

3. Raw Spinach Supports Immunity

This leafy green is a personal favorite of mine due to its versatility and great taste!

Spinach is loaded with vitamin C which helps fight cold, flu, and reinforce the immune system.

It’s also quite high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, which supports our immune system in fighting infection and viruses.

When enjoying this plentiful plant, do so raw. Its nutrients are best absorbed when the vegetable is raw; consider adding spinach as a fresh salad, rather than to a cooked dish, to reap the most immune system rewards.

4. Turmerics Benefit on T-Cells

Gaining popularity for its delicious taste, this powerful spice is also gaining notoriety for its anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin (which also creates the vibrant orange-yellow color).

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology notes that curcumin activates the production of T-cells, which are of the primary cells fighting on behalf of your systems immunity. [1]

5. Garlic is Really Good for You

This popular food not only tastes great but packs quite a punch.

Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which boasts a variety of medicinal properties. Garlic is also not very calorie dense; 1 ounce yields about 42 calories with 1.8g protein and 9g carbs.

Garlic also boasts Vitamin C, B6, Fiber, and Manganese.

The properties mentioned above helps maintain healthy bones, prevent diabetes and epileptic seizures, regulate thyroid, combat osteoporosis, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, improve cognitive function, and regulate glucose metabolism!

So, forget about garlic breath–eat this food in abundance!

6. Wild Salmon is Wonderful

A personal favorite of mine, wild Alaskan salmon is one of those super foods that covers all your nutrient bases!

Salmon can be cooked a variety of delicious ways, and yields some of the highest immune system boosting benefits.

Salmon contains fish oil Omega-3’s, which protect against developing heart disease and heart attack. Oils contained within such fish are quite unique in that they have Omega-3 fatty acids that are not present in any other food.

Also consider that wild salmon contains (per 4oz) 128% Vitamin D, 95% Vitamin B12, 94% tryptophan, 62% selenium, 53% protein, 53% omega 3’s, 45% Vitamin B3, 37% phosphorus, 32% Vitamin B6, 19% choline, 14% potassium, and 8%(157) calories.

This is one of those super foods that you could stand to have in your diet several times per week. Beyond the incredible taste, its nutritional benefits make it well worth seeking out.

7. Essential Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Many home cooks consider this an essential ingredient in preparing dinner. But it’s also quite good for you!

Extra virgin olive oil is widely regarded as being a healthy addition to any kitchen, with modest amounts of Vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.

Per 100g of olive oil you can expect 14% saturated fat, 73% Monounsaturated fat, 10% Omega-6, 1% Omega-3, 72%, and 75% Vitamin K.

It also boasts an impressive antioxidant profile. This includes the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

8. Natural Greek Yogurt Has Many Benefits

When I talk about natural Greek yogurt, I mean the type that is not flavored in any way. Those added sugars won’t help boost immunity.

Many people have convoluted the immunity and health benefits of natural yogurt with the all too popular sugary treats that flood grocery stores. But it’s the plain stuff that’s the best to include in your diet.

Natural Greek yogurt not only goes great with many dishes, but it contains vast amounts of protein which will leave you feeling satisfied.

The reason why I’ve specified ‘Greek yogurt’ is because one cup of plain, low-fat conventional yogurt typically has 5 to 10 grams of protein, where Greek yogurt averages about 13 to 20 grams of protein.

Greek yogurt also contains essential probiotics (live microorganisms). These are bacteria microbes that help improve digestive function, the immune system, and overall gut health.

Add natural Greek yogurt to your diet, whether as a breakfast food, a substitute for sour cream, or as an addition to a healthy smoothie.

9. Ginseng Tea: Chock Full of Ginsenosides

Ginseng tea’s primary health benefits are due to the naturally occurring chemicals called ginsenosides present in the root.

One of ginseng’s most widely understood benefits include it’s rich anti-cancer properties. [2]

Studies also indicate that people who drink ginseng tea have a lower risk of developing cancer.

Ginseng tea can also help relieve menstrual cramps, lower blood pressure, and improve brain function; and it has also been shown to help with sexual (erectile) dysfunction in men.

10. Green Tea Fights Aging

Just as powerful as ginseng tea, this extremely popular tea is rich in polyphenols that have effects like reducing inflammation and aiding in the fight against cancer.

Green tea is in fact 30% polyphenols, including large amounts of a catechin called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that aid in the prevention of cell damage and provide several other benefits.

EGCG, and substances like it can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, helping protect cells and molecules from damage.

Free radicals such as these are commonly known to play a role in aging and all sorts of other diseases.

This wonderful also tea contains small quantities of minerals that are important for overall health, so it may be worth picking up some green tea when visiting your next local tea shop.

11. Dark Chocolate: The Delicious Superfood

Don’t get too excited with this one – everything in moderation, of course!

And I’m not just referring to any chocolate — I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate and cacoa nibs, which are both immune system boosting super foods.

We’ve already covered free radicals in this article, and dark chocolate is one of those wonderful super foods that helps fight against such free radicals.

It does this with its high antioxidant profile which is believed to neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their damage.

Dark chocolate’s antioxidants include vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – helpful plant compounds. Much like other immune boosting foods on this list dark chocolate will also help balance cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve heart health, and cognitive function.

You now have a healthy excuse to eat some dark chocolate; but, go for the lowest sugar and highest cocoa content varieties you can find to reap the most rewards.

12. Frozen Blueberries for All!

Personally I love adding frozen blueberries to smoothies; however, sometimes I’ll pop over to the freezer just to grab a small handful as a treat!

Frozen blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which come from compounds called anthocyanins; these give blueberries their purple hue.

One really neat fact about the ice crystals that form when the berries are frozen is that they disrupt the structure of the plant tissue and make anthocyanins even more available – how cool is that? Talk about hacking blueberries!

Even if not frozen, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits. They have been known to boost memory, cardiovascular system, and eyesight. The fruit also encourages a process called authophagy, or ‘cell clean-up’.

Berries in general (raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries) are extremely high on the ORAC scale. This means they contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals.

Frozen blueberries in particular may aid in defending colds and flu, as they are high in pterostilbene.

Next time you visit your local grocery store, consider how ideal blueberries are for your immune system and general health.

13. Raw Honey: A Natural Antioxidant

Saving the sweetest for last!

Pure natural raw honey follows the rest of this super food list with its antioxidant profile, however it also contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties.

Raw honey contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds, and certain types contain just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.

Raw honey can help the body kill-off unwanted bacteria and fungus as it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a strong antiseptic. Raw honey also contains phytonutrients, commonly found in plants, which provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Aside from these wonderful benefits, raw honey can also aid with digestive issues, however this typically varies person to person.

Indulge in Better Health

But also, don’t forget to rest! When considering one’s overall health, it’s important to not only incorporate these immune boosting foods, but also to ensure adequate sleep, and take efforts to reduce stress.

Eating these immunity boosting foods will enable you to take back control of your health and prevent illness… all while satisfying your cravings!

Reference [1] ^ Journal of Immunology: Curcumin [2] ^ NCBI: Ginseng for Fatigue function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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The Top Fad Diets That Are Actually Worth the Hype

12. April 2018 - 14:00

You have probably seen enough fad diets to last a lifetime. Many have become popular overnight and left just as quickly.

Some fad diets, though, have actually passed the test of time and are making some headway in the nutritional world.

Outlined below are four fad diets that are actually beneficial for your health and wellness. Read on to find out why you should consider adopting one (or more) of these healthy eating styles today.

Fad Diets You Won’t Want to Ignore

An important concept you should keep in mind is to disregard the term “diet” as it is typically used. The word diet implies the idea of restriction and removal. Instead, think of the word diet in this context as a healthy eating lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at some of these healthy eating lifestyles that have been categorized, by no fault of their own, as fad diets.

1. The Paleo Diet

The paleo diet, or ancestral eating, is simply eating the way your paleolithic ancestors would have up to 10,000 years ago, or when the agriculture age began.

The advantage now is you don’t have to do this in a loin cloth, unless you want to… The focus of this diet is proteins, vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds and some healthy fats.

In the paleo diet, there aren’t any grains, starchy carbohydrates, sugars, or dairy.

How Your Health Can Change With Paleo

The paleo diet is a good way to keep your blood sugar under control. It can also have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes, and can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

With this healthy eating lifestyle, people have also achieved good weight loss results and boast improved energy levels. [1]

It’s not just what’s in the paleo diet that’s important, it’s what’s NOT in it. There aren’t any processed and manufactured foods, junk foods, artificial ingredients or chemical additives.

Paleo is a way of eating that gets you more in tune with your body and, therefore, can provide a lot of benefits.

2. Whole30

The Whole30 diet is relatively new and owes its popularity to social media and the #Whole30 Instagram hashtag that allowed people to share and broadcast their success with the diet.

With Whole30 you are taking 30 days and focusing on nutritious whole foods such as meats, nuts and seeds, seafood, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.

During the month you are eliminating:

  • sugar
  • alcohol
  • legumes
  • grains
  • dairy
  • soy

Whole30 is similar to paleo, but it goes a bit further eliminating sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

At the end of the 30 days, you strategically reintroduce those eliminated foods back into your diet to discover any possibility of health consequences from them or even potential food allergies.

Finding Out How Food Impacts You

Most people eat the same things so often and may not realize that certain foods are causing health consequences, as they’ve become accustomed to feeling lethargic and run down.

With Whole30 you get the chance to see how these foods may have a negative impact on your body. You’ll also reset your taste buds, which may have become desensitized from processed and artificial “foods” and excess salt.

This diet will help you regain your love of food… in a healthy way!

3. The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has been at the top of the list as a very effective diet for some time now.

For people in countries like Italy or Greece, this has simply been a normal way of life–along with higher activity levels, sunlight exposure, proximity to water, and lower stress.

With the Mediterranean diet, the focus is on heart-healthy foods. It looks like this:

  • Fruits & vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes & nuts
  • Replacing butter with olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Moderate amounts of red wine

Help Your Heart & Overall Health With A Mediterranean Diet

Information from the Mayo Clinic shows that this diet reduces heart disease and lowers your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Studies involving 1.5 million people demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, along with overall mortality. [2]

With all these benefits, this is definitely a “fad diet” that’s worth the hype.

4. The Alkaline Diet

The alkaline diet is about changing the foods you eat so that you put your body into an alkaline state and out of an acidic state. When your body is too far on the acidic side it can result in a condition called acidosis. This can lead to issues in your body such as upset stomach, breathing difficulties, headaches, weakness and, fatigue. In extreme cases, it can result in shock, coma, or death.

The goal is to get your body in a more alkaline state, which results in overall better health. The focus is on including alkaline boosting foods such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, and legumes. You’re also wanting to reduce acidic foods such as low quality beef and poultry, dairy, eggs, grains, and alcohol.

Pros & Cons With The Alkaline Diet

The benefits that come from this way of eating is that reduction in inferior quality foods, processed items and alcohol. You may feel improved energy levels, mental clarity and even better joint health.

People also report weight loss but again this may come from the reduction in calories from junk and processed foods but this is not a bad thing at all.

One con with this diet is that the pH value of the food you eat might not have an impact on blood pH, as your body is able to balance this pretty well on a day-to-day basis.

Follow These Fads for Better Health and Wellness

There can be a danger in categorizing things as a fad diet because fads come and go. People are always looking for the next big thing or a quick fix.

The four examples above buck that status quo. These diets, though mainstream, actually can give you benefits and aren’t going to go away anytime soon because they work.

What makes these diets special is that they boast real whole foods and the eliminate processed and manufactured junk.

The Big Takeaway:

Whatever way you choose to eat, the focus needs to be on whole unprocessed foods. Look for the cleanest, local and most natural things you can find for the benefit of your overall health and wellness. Your body and mind will thank you.

Featured photo credit: Dan Gold via unsplash.com

Reference [1] ^ NCBI: The Beneficial Effects of the Paleolithic Diet [2] ^ Mayo Clinic: Mediterranean Diet: A Heart Healthy Eating Plan function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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The Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian (No They Aren't the Same)

12. April 2018 - 13:00

I’ve recently been on a date with a girl. When I told her that I don’t eat animal products, she asked me curiously: “So are you vegetarian or a vegan?”

“Wait what, do you know the difference?” – I replied. She answered with: “I think so, vegans completely avoid animal products while vegetarians sometimes eat eggs and dairy.” The definition was basic, yet spot-on. Needless to say, I was impressed.

Most people don’t know what veganism is nor the difference between vegan and vegetarian. In this article you will learn the difference between vegan and vegetarian so you are educated and can decide which one of those two are most suited for you.

What is veganism

Veganism is defined as:

“the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.”

To put it simply: Vegans neither consume or buy anything that comes from an animal.

While most vegans act this way because of ethical reasons, the reasons don’t matter – the actions do. Behind veganism there’s often a cult.

At its heart [of veganism] is the healing power of compassion, the highest expression of love of which man is capable. For it is a giving without hope of a getting. And yet, because he would free himself from many of the demands made by his own lower nature, the benefit to man himself would be incalculable.
– Vegetarian World Forum

Donald Watson coined the term vegan in 1944 (almost hundred years after the word vegetarian was founded) . He first meant vegan to be known as ‘non-dairy vegetarian’, until the Vegan Scoiety (yes, there’s such a thing!) defined it as:[1]

“the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”.

Interest in veganism exploded in the 2010s.

What is vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is defined as:

“the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat, and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter. “

To put it simply: Vegetarians don’t consume or buy anything that is directly correlated to animal slaughter. Namely: No meat and often also no byproducts of animal slaughter, for example: gelatin, which is obtained from boiling skin, tendons or ligaments of cows or pigs.[2]

The word vegetarian was first used in 1839 and was refered to a “vegetable diet”. It’s commonly known to be a compound of vegetable and the suffix -arian.

The earliest findings of vegetarians date back to 7th century BCE.[3] It is said that the Greek teacher Pythagoras has advocated a vegetarian diet.[4]

The difference between vegan and vegetarian

Vegetarianism is the generic term of veganism. To put it blunt: Veganism is the more hardcore version of vegetarianism.

When I started this journey of minimizing animal products, I first followed a vegetarian diets for a couple of months. To get used to it and build up the necessary knowledge for following a vegan diet. In fact most vegans started out as being vegetarians and then minimized their consumption of animal products until they’re getting on the vegan level.

One may become a vegetarian for a variety of reasons – humanitarian, health, or mere preference for such a diet; The principle is a smatter of personal feeling, and varies accordingly. Veganism, however, is a principle – that man has no right to exploit the creatures for his own ends – and no variation occurs.
– Vegetarian World Forum

Veganism completely minimizes the exploitation of animals, while vegetarianism only minimizes direct slaughter. To reduce the pain caused on animals the most, one follows a vegan diet.

One might not directly kill an animal by buying an egg of a chicken for example, but the nature of the competitive animal industry makes it necessary to eliminate male chicks immediately once their born. Over 3 million male chicks get killed like this (Warning: Graphic) every year.

This also stems resentment between the veganism and the vegetarianism community, as vegans feel vegetarians are closing their eyes off to obvious suffering. I recently read a sticker on a vegan restaurant that said: “Vegetarian isn’t enough!”

This is the reason I’m an advocate of veganism, as it always was an all-or-nothing case for me.

Watch this video about all the reasons on why you should go vegan:

How to become a vegetarian (without overwhelming yourself)

The best way you can start becoming a vegetarian is by getting knowledge. Reading this article is a great first step: How to Become a Vegetarian (It’s not that Hard as You Thought!)

After that you should start slowly. The goal is to minimize all the meat in your diet.

But instead of eliminating all meat from your diet, eliminate one animal at a time.

For instance: start with beef. Don’t eat it for 30 days. Then eliminate pork in addition to beef. Continue to eliminate a category of meat every 30 days.

Eventually you’ll elimate all meat and seafood, but because of the gradual approach, it won’t feel unmanageable.

The key here is to keep it sustainable.

A word of caution: You may experience resistance and questions about becoming a vegetarian, especially from close friends and family that don’t want to change. Be kind when answering questions and don’t preach the benefits of vegetarianism.

Lead by example – then let them follow.

How to become a vegan (a step-by-step guide)

I’ve eaten meat my entire life. Maybe I even ate too much. I’ve followed the typical bodybuilding diet, rice and chicken with nearly every meal. This someties resulted in over 1 kilogram of meat a day.

Since more than 3 years I’m following a vegan diet and I have never looked back. While the original steps to go from meat eating to vegetarian are the same as to become a vegan, the vegan just goes a tad bit further.

I’ve written down 8 steps to become a vegan here:

How to Go Vegan (Step-By-Step Guide from a Fitness Coach)

I especially recommend you reading step 7 and step 8, as it’s the main difference between veganism and vegetarian.

Conclusion

To put it simply, veganism is the more hardcore version of vegetarianism.

Vegans aim to put the exploitation of all animals to an absolute minimum, while vegetarianism mainly reduces direct violence on the animals (e.g. slaughter).

This is also the reason why veganism has a now cult-like status, as veganism is more about a compassionate lifestyle than a eating behaviour.

Featured photo credit: QualityGains.com via qualitygains.com

Reference [1] ^ The Vegetarian World Forum: Veganism Defined [2] ^ Wikimedia: What is Vegetarianism: Benefit Or Harm On Health [3] ^ Source: Olivelle, transl. from the original Sanskrit by Patrick (1998). Upaniṣads (Reissued ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0192835765. [4] ^ Borlik, Todd A. (2011) Ecocriticism and Early Modern English Literature: Green Pastures. New York City, New York and London, England: Routledge. pp. 189–192. ISBN 978-0-203-81924-1. function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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Meditation Can Change Your Life: The Power of Mindfulness

12. April 2018 - 11:00

Many of us know that meditation can be beneficial, but did you know that it is actually one of the most convenient ways to make a drastic improvement to your mental health and physical wellness? Practicing mindful meditation is good for more than just peace of mind. It can actually change your life.

Mindful meditation has the potential to radically transform our everyday experiences.

A lot of people would like to make changes to their lives, both big and small. Sometimes, this seems like an impossible feat. With meditation, though, it is very possible.

Imagine making wiser decisions and feeling a deeper sense of peace and happiness. If this were possible, what would it mean for you, your health, your lifestyle, and your relationships?

In this guide you’ll discover a straight forward way to understand mindfulness and meditation, know what practicing these techniques can do for you, and find out who benefits most from adopting mindfulness and meditation practices.

Tap Into the Power of Your Mind to Change Your Life

If you want to understand your mind, sit down and observe it. –Joseph Goldstein

Many times, the idea of mindfulness evokes mystery and thoughts of saffron robed Tibetan monks chanting ‘Om’ — ideas that western culture step lightly around.

Jon Kabat-Zinn was the first to cleanse mindfulness of its Buddhist roots and use it as a tool to help manage stress in a University of Massachusetts Medical School Clinic [1]. Here, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an 8-week program teaching outpatients how to change their relationship with pain after medicine had done all it could, was born.

Because of the program’s success, hospitals around the world have integrated similar programs. Now sanctioned by the medical profession as a tool to ease suffering, we’re experiencing the trickle-down effect as mindfulness enters main stream.

Mindfulness’ Deeper Impact

While mindfulness is best known as a way to manage stress and pain, it has a deeper impact for anyone aiming to rediscover a lost sense of what it means to know one’s self in a fast-moving world.

Jack Kornfield, mindfulness and meditation teacher and author describes it like this:

“Mindfulness is not a philosophy or a religion. It’s not a destination. Rather, it’s a spirit with which you can travel through life.”

Why Is Mindfulness Such A Big Deal?

“Mindfulness is often spoken of as the heart of Buddhist meditation. It’s not about Buddhism, but about paying attention. That’s what all meditation is, no matter what tradition or particular technique is used.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

If mindfulness is about paying attention, what’s the big deal?

The original term ‘mindfulness’ comes from the Pali word ‘sati’, which means memory [2] but is more correctly described as ‘lucid awareness’. It’s an embodied state that doesn’t let day-to-day experiences or moments drift away unnoticed.

When ‘not noticing’ your mind takes on a life of its own, wandering through old memories, recalling old feelings and ruminating endlessly on ‘what I would have said to … if I had the chance again’. We think without thinking, kidding ourselves we’re focused on what we’re doing.

You may be familiar with this state. I certainly am.

While reading a book, I can find myself halfway through a chapter, having to start again because my eyes mechanically ‘read’ the text, while my mind drifted elsewhere. Or petting the cat absentmindedly while planning the next job only to get a solid nudge from a wet nose to pay more attention to her. Or writing this article between cooking, phone calls and checking in on an unwell relative. I laughed at the irony of writing an article on mindfulness while pushing mindlessly ahead with the multiple to-do lists I was juggling.

Overcome Challenges of Modern-Day Living With Mindfulness

The problem of modern-day living touches us all. With deadlines and time as premium resources, it’s easy to think we can do it all, until our body sends ‘slow down‘ signals. This is where mindfulness can really make an impact. If your body is telling you to slow down, then it may be wise to listen to it.

6 Steps to Train Your Brain

Modern-day living has trained our bodies and minds to be separate entities. It has trained us to ignore body-felt sensations and mindlessly dwell somewhere between the past and future, dismissive of the present moment. It’s as if ‘now’ is something to rush through while getting somewhere else. Mindfulness practice aims to help us pay attention, to reunite body and mind through noticing senses, feeling and experiencing moments more fully. It’s about switching off auto-pilot and sitting upright in the driver’s seat again. It’s about quieting the endless chatter that occupies our minds every moment of every day.

With a simple sequence, the mindfulness process flows like this:

  1. When paying attention be consciously aware of what’s happening around you.
  2. Using all your senses, not just your preferred sense (usually sight or hearing), note what each sense is perceiving.
  3. Be enchanted about the experience, not distracted or dismissive.
  4. Refrain from judging the experience as positive, negative or neutral; instead raise your awareness and conscious presence to any feelings arising in the body.
  5. Notice whether you’re wanting to avoid any emotion arising because it hurts, or clinging to the outcome as if there’s a dearth of resources to go round.
  6. Consider your response with wisdom, accepting ‘what is’ with a sense of gratitude.

Holding Back the Endless Torrent of ‘White Noise’ in Your Mind

Most mindfulness practices begin with paying attention to your breathing, without aiming to change it, instead simply noticing it. It’s a gentle beginning, yet challenging to maintain. Noticing your breath as it moves in, through your body and out again is the beginning of sensory awareness. As you begin, you may notice very little from a sensory level; you may even feel nothing. Alternatively, you may experience emotions you’ve not allowed yourself to feel previously.

Noticing what you’re noticing is the first step.

You may also notice how easily your mind gets distracted by an endless torrent of white noise. Again, it’s about noticing what you’re noticing without judgement. Simply notice the thoughts and let them go.

If thoughts return, notice that you’re noticing them, and let them go again. Be gentle with yourself. Being curious about what you’re noticing while returning to your breath is a strong beginning.

You can be mindful where you are right now. Noticing. Paying attention. Being aware of your body’s senses – tight shoulders, pressure of your sitting bones on a chair, clothing touching skin, any scents or smells, the quality of the light, soft sounds barely audible. This is an informal way of being mindful as you go about your day.

Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, is a formal way of setting aside a specific time to focus. It’s about setting an intention and a focus for a set period of time.

Meditation offers the space to move away from the automaticity of thoughts that are often negative and self-defeating. It’s a space to release the process of worry, doubt, fear and anger.

Meditation offers tools to relax those automatic thoughts. It helps break the illusion of ‘self’ – our ego and sense of identity to which we cling, unaware of a higher level of consciousness available to us if we let go, release attachment and allow a sense of possibility enter.

The meditation practice may involve music, prayerful thought or loving kindness to build greater empathy. You may find a guided meditation useful to support you as your mind strengthens its ability to focus without distracting thoughts entering.

What’s The Evidence Mindfulness Works?

Mindfulness and meditation are forms of mental training that involve exercising the mind to hold a space, a thought or an idea spatially. When practiced regularly over time, researchers see significant changes to different parts of a person’s brain structure via brain scans (functional magnetic resonance imaging – fMRI scans).

For example, a mindfulness-based training program aimed at reducing stress will include training to assist focus, organization and planning (thickening areas associated with tasks governed by the brain’s prefrontal cortex). Training to help with emotional regulation (strengthening the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system) and memory (thickening the hippocampus) also assist.

Regular mindfulness-based exercise can be as beneficial as stretching physical muscles for greater flexibility, lifting weights to tone arms, and walking briskly to improve heart health.

The main difference is that you can’t see the benefits of mindfulness (unless you have a pre- and post-mindfulness training fMRI scan), but you can experience the difference.

Who Benefits Most From Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation?

While mindful meditation can enhance most people’s lives, three broad-based groups may gain specific benefits.

1. You’re Experiencing Major Stress and Physical Pain

If you’re looking to change your life because of health problems, then mindfulness and meditation may assist. [3]

Many health-related problems originally stem from stress and anxiety.

Initially showing up as unexplained aches and pain, persistent headaches, muscle tension, decreased interest in sex, stomach upsets, debilitating tiredness or insomnia, many struggle to believe that ‘simple stress ’ can be the culprit. [4]

If stress is left to fester, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes can result.

Chronic stress places your amygdala (the part of your limbic system designed to react to danger) on red alert. Your body is literally fighting a crisis: chronic stress, amplifying physical symptoms until the stress is relieved.

The key here is in changing your relationship with what’s causing the problem. Instead of rejecting the problem or denying its existence, mindfulness and meditation offer ways to ease or minimise the sensations associated with pain and stress.

2. You Crave Greater Personal Freedom, Happiness and Fulfillment

Mindfulness and meditation help us understand what contributes to suffering and contentment. When we see this, we can make wiser choices. And as we make wiser choices we become happier. And as we become happier, we make wiser choices, and so it becomes a spiral achieving greater fulfillment and ease. –Joseph Goldstein

Observing the character of your mind at work helps begin a mindful transformation to live with greater wisdom through making better decisions, which in turn brings greater happiness.

Each of us have skillful and unskillful thoughts. Meditation helps us see, without the need for someone telling us, the thoughts that are wise and helpful and the thoughts that are not.

Noticing feelings of greed, anger or jealousy – the afflict-ive emotions, helps us see how much better we’d be if we let go of them. If we can recognize mindfully the thought patterns and emotions that allow us to feel happier, like generosity, kindness and compassion, we will experience for ourselves the nature of what we want more of.

Practicing meditation aims to help you create a transformation in your life. Instead of being ‘lost’ in thought and acting-out old patterns of behavior, by observing what’s happening in your mind you can make a conscious choice to skillfully think and wisely act.

3. You Need to Release Anxiety and Unhelpful Emotions

Interrupting thought patterns which induce a range of uncomfortable feelings is a skill mindfulness meditation teaches. Rather than numbing the feelings with food, alcohol, drugs, sex or a range of avoidance strategies, you’ll learn how to change your relationship with emotional pain.

Knowing how to be mindfully aware lets you experience emotions as transitory. Anger fades. Sadness lifts. Love ebbs and flows.

These shifts naturally occur. Knowing this transitory nature exists helps release attachment to a way of being that may seem as if it defines you.

Mindfulness Meditation for True Happiness

Mindfulness and meditation practice are thousands of years old. Originally part of Buddhist culture, these practices are settling well into western culture through programs that have gained positive results from respected practitioners and professionals.

Research will continue measuring results. Brain scans offer physical proof. Yet the only proof that matters is in changes experienced by individuals.

Experiencing a greater sense of peace, feeling happier and freer, being more relaxed or managing pain are positive affects of practicing mindfulness.

The benefits of being mindful and practicing meditation offer ways to become more aware of yourself, others and the natural environment.

It’s a global change on a personal level achieved through the demystifying of a complex language now made readily available. When you manage your emotions and responses, this grass root change reaches beyond personal benefit. You will be affecting others to live and love with purpose and intention.

Start today practicing mindfulness, and make your world (and the world of others) a happier, more peaceful place

Featured photo credit: Photo by Kevin Laminto on Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference [1] ^ Umass Medical School: Jon Kabat-Zinn [2] ^ Taylor and Francis: What Does Mindfulness Really Mean? [3] ^ Good Therapy: Mindfulness Based Interventions [4] ^ Mayo Clinic: Stress Symptoms–Effects on Body and Behavior function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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Change Your Habits at Home and Increase Your Job Satisfaction

11. April 2018 - 14:00

Have you ever wondered why you feel sluggish and lazy at work?

Sure, it could be that you just don’t want to be at work that day, but maybe it’s more than just lack of motivation. It could be due to your habits at home. Bad personal habits can wreak havoc on your body, mind and even your productivity at the office. This could lead to being looked over for a promotion, not receiving a raise, or gaining a negative reputation at work.

But, what if you could make a few small changes in your habits and see massive gains in your job satisfaction?

That’s right, it’s possible to change your life at work, starting today! In this article, we will break down a few simple steps you can implement to make your life easier at the office.

The True Impact of Bad Habits

Habits that you change at home can have a dramatically positive impact on your work performance. Your life is based primarily on habits. By identifying and tweaking a few habits you have the potential to change your life.

If you’re like most people you have some good habits and some bad habits. The problem is that most people don’t realize how some of these bad habits can affect more than one area of your life.

You might have even tried to change some of your bad habits at the beginning of the year, or when you started a new job, only to quit after a few weeks. Sound familiar?

If so, don’t worry you’re not alone. Most people try to quit habits without the knowing the right process to achieve lasting change. You’ll need to learn this process to make lasting change. Keep reading to learn what habits can change your life both at home and in the office.

How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything

As Derek Sivers said, “How you do anything is how you do everything. Your “character” or “nature” just refers to how you handle all the day-to-day things in life, no matter how small.”  How does this relate to your home habits and work output? Simply put, it’s hard to practice bad habits half the day and then go to work ready to crush the job. You need to have consistency in how you approach your habits at both home and work.

Think of two co-workers you know right now: one who is super productive and always getting promotions, the other seems to always get passed up and isn’t known for being a workhorse. When you think of the productive co-worker what do you notice about their habits? What are they doing to separate themselves from everyone else? Is it something inborn or do they have a better work ethic? It may be as simple as the productive person has better daily habits.

Almost always success comes down to what you do every single day. Success doesn’t appear from something you do once a month or once a year. Successful people at work and in life aren’t special, they just practice better habits to get better results. At work, they are probably picking up the phone more, sending emails, planning the day, and following up with clients.

Luckily you can adopt all of these habits easily and start the process of changing your life for the better.

Bad Habits Are More Than Annoying, They Can Be Detrimental

Most people know what their bad habits are, but they don’t have the discipline or desire to make a change to stop them. Instead, they will refrain from eating out or begin an exercise routine for a day or two, and then quickly fall of the wagon. This is the same thing that often happens with New Year’s Resolutions. But you can get rid of your bad habits! To eliminate bad habits, though, you first have to identify them.

This isn’t a comprehensive list but these are some of the most common bad habits that people wish they could break:

  • Sleeping in and hitting the snooze button
  • Watching too much television
  • Eating out too often
  • Skipping the gym

Do any of these habits sound familiar? If so, don’t beat yourself up. No one is perfect, and you can change these habits by learning to replace them with a positive habit.

Break These Pesky Habits and Reap Rewards at Work

It’s easy to identify your habits, but quitting them is quite another story for most people. The problem lies in the fact  that most people try to quit bad habits cold turkey. You might quit a habit for a few days only to fall back out of the new habit and and revert back to your old ways. Therefore, instead of quitting, you should replace your bad habits with a good habit.

Studies have shown that habits take between 21-35 days to make a habit become unconscious. Our life is ruled by our habits and you might not even realize it. Think about this morning, did you consciously remember putting on your shoes? Which one did you put on first?

Don’t worry if you don’t know. Putting on your shoes has now became a habit and isn’t something you need to consciously think about.

To replace a bad habit, you have to first become conscious of what you are trying to change and then replace your habit with a good habit consistently.

Stop Sleeping In

How often do you hit the snooze button and actually feel more groggy when you wake up than before? It’s not just you, it’s how your brain and sleep cycles operate.

Your brain sleeps in 60-90 minute windows. When you wake up to turn off the alarm, then you signal to your brain that you are ready to start the day. But once you hit the snooze button, fall back asleep, and wake up 20 minutes later, you are actually waking yourself up in the middle of a sleep cycle–thus you feel groggier than before.

The snooze button is all too common for most people.

However, if you simply get up earlier you will have more time to exercise, read, spend time with your significant other, and not be rushed to work.

You will also feel more refreshed than if you hit the snooze button. To replace the habit of hitting the snooze button you need to rework your sleep environment.

First off, don’t sleep with your phone or alarm next to your bed.

Set it somewhere where you physically have to get up to turn off the alarm. Once you are up it’ll be much harder to go back to sleep. The next step is to have a plan for your morning. You need a reason to get up instead of sleeping in until the last minute; this could be reading a book, exercising or taking your dog for a long walk. By physically getting up and having a plan for the day you will be able to kick the habit of hitting the snooze button.

If you sleep in and hit the snooze you are starting the day reactively instead of proactively. By ignoring your alarm you are more likely to be groggy, stressed, and rushed when you get to work. This could lead to poor performance dealing with a client or fellow coworker first thing in the morning.

Once you commit to the habit of waking up early, you will start the day refreshed and energized for work. The most effective team members tend to be the ones who start their day on their terms.

TV is Rotting Your Brain

Studies have shown that the average American is watching five hours of TV per day.

Over the course of a year that is 77 days spent watching TV! Yet, the average person only reads one book per year. The average CEO reads 60 books per year. Of course, it’s no coincidence the CEO also earns much more money per year.

To replace your bad habit of mindlessly watching TV, choose to read a book instead. This is easier said than done if you love mindlessly zoning out to your favorite shows. The first step is actually having books in the house. Shop on Amazon or buy a few books on your tablet to be prepared. Then, place the tablet or book next to your remote. Instead of watching TV pick up the book or tablet.

You don’t have to stop watching TV entirely, just commit to reading 30-60 minutes before you watch TV. This will get you in the habit of learning something new and replacing your old habit of reaching for the remote. If you don’t love reading books, experiment with other methods of learning such as Youtube videos, podcasts or online courses. Find something stimulating for your mind that isn’t another series on Netflix.

By swapping reading for constant binge-watching Netflix it’s likely that you will be more creative at the office. A book relating to your industry or leadership might take your career to new heights. Investing in yourself by reading, attending networking events, or reaching out to mentors could help you elevate individual or team performance.

Eating Out is Bad for More than Your Wasteline

Another bad habit that can wreak havoc in all areas of your life is eating out too much. Drive-throughs and value meals make it far too easy to eat out on a consistent basis. But these types of meals can make you gain weight and won’t provide you with necessary nutrients to make your brain function effectively.

So, while you are packing on the pounds with take out, you are also zapping your cognitive abilities.

One of the main reasons you probably eat out is because you don’t want to cook after a long day of work. That makes total sense. But, if you plan in advance you can have meals ready to go as soon as you walk in the door.

Start preparing meals by cooking in bulk on Saturday or Sunday. Plan ahead for the week and freeze food or save leftovers so you aren’t tempted by the drive-through. Each morning when you open your fridge you will remind yourself that you already have food ready when you get home.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that people who eat healthier foods tend to have more energy, clarity, and focus throughout the day. By swapping fast food for healthy prepped meals you will save money and be more energized in the late afternoons. When everyone else is crashing after a heavy lunch, you’ll be going strong until the end of the day.

Never Skip Leg Day

The last bad habit you’ll want to break is skipping the gym. Exercise is linked to an increase in physical health, less stress, more restful sleep, and like proper nutrition, better cognitive functioning.

Luckily this bad habit can also be replaced fairly easily. The best way to stop skipping the gym is to go to the gym first thing in the morning. If you exercise as soon as you wake up, then you will start the day energized and refreshed.

The key to getting up and exercising early is to lay out your clothes, shoes, water bottle, and snacks before going to bed. This way you practically fall into your gym gear when you roll out of bed. Like your meals, know what type of exercise you are doing before you go and how long you have.

Studies have shown that daily exercise can dramatically lower stress levels and release endorphins to better your mood. By putting your health first, your mood and productivity will almost always match. Plus, by doing it first thing in the morning you will never skip exercise if you need to stay later at the office.

Rekindle the Love for Your Job

As you can see changing these 4 habits at home can have a huge impact on your performance at work. Now that you have seen the benefits of these habits, start to identify where you need to begin. If you’re currently guilty of all 4 bad habits don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Decide which habit you think is dragging down your performance the most. Then, make it a personal goal to replace that one bad habit tomorrow. Not Monday or the following month. Tomorrow.

The sooner you start your new habits, the quicker you will start to see results. To give yourself the best chance of replacing your bad habits make sure you commit for at least 21 days straight. After three weeks this habit might feel easier and you’ll most likely not have to even think about doing it. Eventually, it will just become part of your daily routine.

If you start your new habit and miss a day, or quit entirely, don’t let it stop you. Forgive yourself and learn why you didn’t make it happen. Was it due to time, lack of belief, or just an accident? Whatever the case, identify it and move on.

Which of these 4 bad habits are you guilty of? Are any of them affecting your performance at work? If so, now is the time to make positive changes!

Featured photo credit: Lindsay Henwood via Unspash via unsplash.com

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How to Be More Self Assured and Get More Done During the Week

11. April 2018 - 13:00

Time is a great leveller isn’t it? We all have the same 24 hours in a day.

But why is it that some people can be so much more productive and achieve so much more in a typical day, whilst others struggle to achieve anything apart from a feeling of being time crunched and overwhelmed?

Everyone I know and work with wants to make the best use of their time. They want to learn how to be more self assured, happier, and work less–all while growing in their career.

How effectively we use our time–and how we actually work in our business–can make a huge difference to the amount of success we achieve in our workday. It can also make us more focused and more confident.

Do you want to have more thinking and creative time? Do you want to spend more time working on your business rather than working at or in your business? In this article, we’ll show you how.

Get More Done by Gaining Confidence

What if you had a strategy for making the best use of your time that brings you more joy and allows you to focus on the biggest activities and opportunities in your business? You may find the following outline below to be helpful:

1. Create an Exciting Vision

If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you get there?

You want to be more productive. You want to spend more time getting the right stuff done. Then you need to create a compelling and exciting vision of your future.

What does this future look like? How will you feel when you get there? If in this future, you aren’t a lot better off than you are in your current situation, then why bother to change anything?

Creating a new vision, especially one that is a lot bigger than where you are right now, has a way of igniting your passion. It may be something that feels hard to achieve, but every step you take towards that bigger vision will certainly build your confidence.

Commitment to this vision, and accomplishing continual daily progress depends on your ability to look at any situation you’re faced with or currently in, and see something bigger ahead.

Also, when you know where you’re headed, you will instinctively start to see all the new opportunities and connections that will get you there.

Make a vision map to get you started on the path to better productivity. This doesn’t have to be fully actualized, but you should know at least what direction you are heading.

2. Build a Strategic Plan

Once you have your future vision mapped out, the next step is to build a strategic plan to get you there.

Your future vision may be for 3 years or 5 years, or you may choose a longer time frame. Any timeframe over 3 years may feel like a long way away.

You may wonder how you are ever going to feel confident and motivated on this bigger future years from now when you feel as though you have so much to accomplish today.

The first step is to decide on some specific goals for the next 12 months. Don’t list too many or you may begin to feel overwhelmed.

The magic number for me and my clients is to create and stick to five annual goals.

These are big goals that will create massive change in your business and life and bridge your current situation to your bigger future; accomplishing these goals one by one, little by little, will help to increase your confidence on a daily basis.

3. Get on Goal Planning

Get yourself a piece of blank paper and a pen and divide the paper into 4 columns: Column A, Column B, and Column C and Column D.

Ask yourself the question: What is great in my business and life right now? Write these things down in Column A. This might be a couple of things, five things, ten things, whatever feels right to you.

Then ask yourself: What things are happening right now that I don’t want in my future? Write these things down in Column B.

This is your opportunity to take a step back and look at the things that are simply not working. You may list people that are bringing you down or projects that you don’t want to work on any more. Maybe you’ll include a service offering that’s going nowhere. It could be the people you’re working with, or it could be your pricing.

Now let’s look at your personal strengths. Write down everything that you’re great at in Column C.

These could be things that you’re doing right now and having success with. It could also be things you know you’re awesome at but you’re not spending enough time on.

Finally let’s move to Column D.

This column is for your biggest opportunities. Could your marketing be better? Is there a new service/product you could offer your ideal customers? Is there a new innovation you could bring to market? Just take some time out and really think and list these things in Column D.

Once you’ve analyzed everything you’ve written down, take some time to really think about what goals you want to set for your business and life in the next 12 months.

4. Set Outcomes to Build Confidence

You now have your goals and you’ll feel confident and raring to go. They are written down and you’re committed to achieving them. You feel confident and motivated.

But how do you ensure that you stay on the correct course to achieve these goals?

Managing and juggling day to day projects can get in the way. Dealing with problems can get in the way. Staying on top of orders, managing cash flow and handling day to day stuff can move your ship off course.

You want to be productive and achieve your goals, but you also need to ensure the day to day runs smoothly.

One way to ensure this happens is to set 90 Day Outcome Goals; within those Outcome Goals some specific process goals that need to be undertaken.

Let’s say you want to get 10 more speaking jobs in the next 90 days and you know that you typically ‘convert’ 50% of opportunities.

Therefore, your process goal needs to be to have 20 conversations in the next 90 Days to deliver the 10 new pieces of work. You will then work out who you can have those conversations with.

It’s smart to overshoot so you will more easily hit your target. This is a clear productive plan to work through because with every ‘win’ your confidence will grow.

5. Completely Commit to Your Success

If you are not truly committed to achieving your goals, then chances are that you won’t reach them.

Motivation can only take you so far. It is the intentional commitment and emotional investment in your future success that will move you forward.

Think back to any time that you really committed to achieving something. There must have been a reason you actually achieved what you set out to achieve. What motivated you?

Were you fully invested? Why did it matter? Did you have to be really courageous to achieve it?

How did it feel when you achieved it? What difference did it make?

If your motivation begins to drop when you’re working towards less important goals or those get in the way.

Think back to a time when you were really committed. When you are committed to something, then you are–in a way–forced into action. Your mind-set is focused and your body follows; you want to get it done.

And, when you do get it done, your confidence goes through the roof. You feel a level of certainty in achieving the goal you set out to accomplish.

6. Focus on Your Strengths

To build up the confidence needed to achieve our biggest goals we need to focus on our strengths.

What are you best at? What are your unique skills? You want to spend as much time as you can working in the areas that you’re great at.

Multiply your strengths. These areas are where you add the biggest value.They often bring you the biggest amount of joy and you feel more and more confident when you are using your unique skills.

If you think there is a specific capability to need to learn or be better at spend more focused time in that area. To get to this point can often take a lot of courage.

Having coached many entrepreneurs, I find there is often a period of fear, worry and uncertainty when they take a step back and identity and focus on the things they do best.

Many of us want to do it all. We want to be good at everything. We want to offer a lot of services.

But, in reality, there are some very specific things we are great at; nobody is good at everything!

Spending more time adding value in the areas where you excel can create breakthrough results and boost confidence.

7. Embrace The Present

Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about the future or worrying about the past that we forget the present moment.

Are you spending most of your day reacting to things, or have you taken the time to think about what your perfect day looks like?

We all have the opportunity to create rather than react–to decide what we do with our day. All of our future success can be created in the present moment if we just take a step back and take action.

Sometimes, doing it now is more important than doing it perfectly. Who do you want to have a conversation with? What new project do you want to work on?

There are hidden opportunities in every moment. We need to make sure we don’t miss them.

Take that step towards your ideal future today. Start making a difference in people’s lives today. Embrace the present and start where you are and let the idea of perfection fly out the window.

8. Calm The Whirlwind

The day to day life in business and life can be hard.

Your mind may be full to bursting with all of the things you feel you have to do. The phrase “I don’t have time” has almost become an instant reaction by so many people when new opportunities are presented.

There is a whirlwind happening inside our minds.

Appointments, notifications, tasks, phone calls, errands, cash flow, staffing issues, networking, marketing all can clutter up our timeline.The sheer volume of things we feel we should do creates procrastination, stopping us from pursuing the projects and people that matter.

Many of us feel we have to do everything within our business.

Rather than simplifying things and doing less, we do more. We work longer, which creates a lack of energy and focus. Because of this we lose clarity on our biggest opportunities. If you feel this way, take some well-deserved time out.

Look at where you’re spending your time. How much of your time is being spent moving your ideas forward?

In the next 90 Days if you could delegate or outsource more day to day tasks and spend more time focusing on where you add the biggest value, what difference would it make?

Calm the whirlwind by slowing down and doing less.

Focus on areas that you add the biggest amount of value. By doing this, your energy levels will increase, your confidence will grow and you will have more success.

9. Take More Time Off

This may seem counterintuitive but taking more time off to recharge and refocus can pay huge dividends.

If you are constantly fighting fires and caught up in the myriad of different activities that you have to do each day, then how can you move your business forward?

You may be being pulled in difference directions without any focused time on your biggest projects. If that’s the case then it’s almost impossible to gain any real momentum in moving your business forward and hitting your goals.

You may feel exhausted, unmotivated and overwhelmed with everything on your plate. If you feel this way you know it’s difficult to find any real thinking or creative time if you are just doing.

The best way to get off that treadmill is to take more creative time out of the business.

Could you realistically take one day off per month to work on your business? If you could, what would you do with this time?

Just Imagine no distractions, only focused time on the strategic development and growth of your business.

Every day off per month could have a different focus: New product innovation; Thinking about your biggest clients; Improving operations.

Add to this a quarterly review to check in with your goals progress and this could have a dramatic effect on where you spend your valuable time.

I find that when people take time off every month, they can often achieve far more in that single day than they may in a week of actively doing. They also come back more creative and more focused.

10. Celebrate Wins

Sometimes you just want to get through the day, right?

You have so much to do. There are so many things on your task list that you just complete what you can and then start another day. But what would happen if at the end of each day you took some time out to look at what you’ve accomplished?

Celebrating success keeps you motivated and builds your confidence. It is not just another day. It is a day that included things that should be celebrated.

If you’re struggling to feel motivated, try celebrating a couple of wins each day.

Then do the same thing for seven days. As you continue celebrating those small wins, it will become a habit. You may then want to push yourself further and focus on achieving bigger wins.

Celebrating success combined with the gratitude you have for achieving those wins will boost your confidence and inspire you for the next day.

11. Give Yourself More Space

When was the last time you gave yourself time to think?

Within the hustle and bustle of everyday it can be difficult to give yourself a little bit of space and time to just think.

Imagine giving yourself just an hour a day to just let your mind wander or think about a specific thing.

If you think about it, we can all free up an hour a day for something without really losing any efficiency or really impacting on our business.

In fact, that hour could be transformational for your business and life.

A new idea for a product could form or an idea for adding value to your existing clients could materialize. Perhaps you could do a check in to your ideal future and your goals. You could decide that you want to take your business in a new direction.

Try this: Just sit alone for an hour with a notebook and have it be your creative thinking time. See what happens.

Confidence is Key to Productivity

Ultimately, confidence is built up when you are clear of your direction.

This, coupled with having clear goals and working in your unique skill-set, gives you the biggest opportunity to be more productive and get more of the right things done.

The old mantra that “less is more” is right on the money. By giving yourself more time to work on your goals, you will inevitably increase your confidence; at this point, your ideal future can be anything you want it to be.

Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

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How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life

10. April 2018 - 14:00

Many world champion athletes, business people, and spiritual teachers all cite self-reflection as an essential key to success. This is also true for ‘everyday people’ who are fulfilled and happy with their lives.

So why is self-reflection so important? I’m going to tell you why self-reflection matters to you and how you can do it to lead a more successful and fulfilling life.

What is self-reflection

Self-Refection is defined as “meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives.” It’s about taking a step back and reflecting on your life, behavior and beliefs.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing triathlete Craig (Crowie) Alexander speak at a conference in Sydney, Australia. Craig is a five-time Ironman World Champion and all around inspiring human being. One of the things he emphasized was the amount of time he took for self-reflection and the impact that had on his confidence and performance.

After each race, he and his team would reflect to understand what went well and what could be improved for next time. They picked apart every tiny detail, from the shape of his helmet, to when he took a salt tablet, to his emotional state throughout the race.

In practice he did the same. The time he took to stop and reflect on all the details of his performances shaved seconds off his racing time, which was often the difference between winning – or not.

Now you might be thinking, of course he did! That’s his job. But, what if after every race he just kept moving? What if he never stopped to think about what he could do differently? Seems crazy, right?

Yet that’s what many of us do with the very thing that’s most important – our lives.

What happen when you don’t reflect

We keep moving. We push through. We don’t stop to reflect. We stay in jobs that are (literally) killing us. Relationships that zap our energy. Circumstances that leave us stressed, unhappy, frustrated and tired.

We keep running on the treadmill of life thinking we don’t have time to waste. So we keep moving in order to keep up. But too often, we just crash and burn. That’s because the only way to keep up with the pace of life is to STOP. To hop off the treadmill. To reflect on what’s working and what’s not. To identify what to keep and what needs to change.

You may have heard the saying:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again but expecting different results.”

Yet that is what so many of us do – continue on through life doing the same things and wondering why we aren’t getting a different outcome.

When a project or something doesn’t go well at work, what do you do? You take a moment to step back and see what went wrong and what you could do differently next time. The same should be true with life, yet we don’t often take time to reflect. Why not?

I’ve heard many reasons over the years. Maybe you feel you don’t have time and there is just too much else on your plate. Or maybe you don’t have the energy. You’re tired and feel like it’s just one more thing to do. Perhaps you don’t realize the significant and how it can positively transform your life. Or maybe you just feel like it’s too hard. Many of my clients feel they don’t know where to start or what to consider.

This is often why people hire a coach or consultant. To provide time and space they aren’t giving themselves. To ask the right questions and give space for the answers.

The good news is, you don’t need to hire anyone to reap the enormous benefits of self-reflection. All it requires is awareness, commitment and dedicating time.

The importance of self-reflection

Many people find doing self-reflection difficult or troublesome. They don’t understand why they need it, and they don’t see the benefits doing self-reflection. Why is self-reflection important for you? Here I will reveal the benefits of self-reflection:

Improves self-awareness

It’s essential to understand yourself at a deeper level. Self-awareness and a little soul searching is critical to success in all areas of life.

Taking time for self-reflection leads to greater self-awareness which in turn leads to self-improvement. In addition, having a strong sense of self improves your confidence and level of self-esteem.

Provides perspective

Self-reflection allows you to understand and see things from a different point of view. When you take a step back from a situation, you gain a new understanding. You can see the whole picture, not just the piece of the puzzle.

Ever hear the saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees”? This is an expression that highlights someone who is so involved in the details of a situation that they can’t see the whole picture.

This is the benefit of self-reflection. You can zoom out and see the whole forest.

Allows you to respond, not react

Ever say or do something in the moment that you wish you could take back? When you react, you’re not thinking about the potential ramifications of your actions. However, when you take time to reflect on a situation, you can respond more thoughtfully and change your behavior for next time.

Early in my career, a boss made a recommendation about this very thing. He advised me to wait 24 hours before addressing something I was upset about. This forced time of self-reflection allowed me to take stock of my feelings and emotions. I was then better able to approach the situation or issue with a level head and greater perspective.

Facilitates a deeper level of learning

Many studies share the common conclusion that self-reflection facilitates a deeper level of learning and understanding. It’s a critical part of the education process. I’ve found this to be true in my own work as a facilitator and trainer.

When people are given time to reflect, digest and integrate, they are better able to make abstract connections, as well as retain and recall information. In fact, whenever I’m facilitating a group training and I introduce a new concept, I provide time for self-reflection. Even 5 minutes to integrate and think about what you’ve learned can make a critical difference.

Think about this for yourself. If, after you read this article, you move right on to the next thing, how much do you think you will remember?

However, if you read this article and take five minutes afterward to think about your learnings, how much more will you retain?

Improves confidence

When you reflect, you gain a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not. This in turn, allows you to make better decisions and change your actions.

Each time you improve, it helps build your confidence with increased knowledge and perspective.

Challenges your assumptions

What you believe to be true is not always the truth. One of the best ways to tackle a limiting belief is to step back and debate the validity of that belief.

Self-reflection allows you to challenge beliefs and assumptions that are getting in your way.

How to do self-reflection (a step-by-step guide)

Ok, so you understand the benefits and you’re ready to do get started? Here’s how:

The process of self-reflection

This is a simple guide to the process of self-reflection:

  • STOP: Take a step back from life or a particular situation.
  • LOOK: Identify and get perspective on what you notice and see.
  • LISTEN: Listen to your inner guide, the innate wisdom that bubbles up when you give it time and space to emerge.
  • ACT: Identify the steps you need to take moving forward to adjust, change or improve.
What to reflect on

There are two important components for self-reflection.

1. The first is to reflect on YOU.

This includes who you are and what you want for your life. This is the self-awareness piece we talked about earlier.

Many ancient philosophers from Aristotle to Socrates and Pythagoras touted the benefits of “knowing thyself”.

Here are some questions to ‘ponder’ when you reflect on YOU:

  • What are my core values? What are the beliefs, guiding principles or ideas that are deeply important to me? What are my priorities?
  • What are my unique gifts, skills, strengths or talents?
  • What are the weaknesses or blind spots I need to watch out for?
  • Who do I want to be?
  • What energy do I want to bring to everything I do?
  • What is the impact or difference I want to make? How do I want to serve, contribute or add value?
  • What are my passions? What do I love? What gets me engaged, motivated and excited?
  • Are there any beliefs that I have that are limiting me?
  • What do I want for my life? (after all, if you don’t know what you want, how do you expect to get there?)
  • When am I at my best?
2. The second is to reflect on the areas of your life that are important to you.

This might include your relationships, home and family, career, health and well-being, finances, goals, spirituality and person growth, and fun and recreation.

A great tool that many coaches and those in the personal development space have used for years is called the “The Wheel of Life”. While the original wheel of life dates back to Buddhism, the modern wheel of life was created by Paul Meyer, a pioneer in the life coaching and self-improvement industry.

The purpose of the wheel is to look at areas of your life which are important to you. In each area, you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10. This gives you an idea of where you are in – or out of balance – and what areas you need to pay more attention to. It gives you perspective on the whole of your life.

If you google ‘wheel of life’ you’ll get hundreds of different options to choose from. But here I recommend you the following examples. I prefer to use ones that have YOU or a space for YOU in the middle. I’ve also included a blank template where you can fill in the areas of your life which are most important to you right now.

Questions to ask yourself in self-reflection

Here are some questions to ask yourself in the self-reflection process:

  • How do I feel overall about this area of my life? On a scale of 1-10, how would I rate my levels of satisfaction and success?
  • What’s working? What’s not working?
  • What do I want more of – or less of?
  • What are my accomplishments/wins/successes? (People often default to what’s wrong or hasn’t worked – it’s just as important to focus on what’s going right!)
  • What do I want? What are my hopes or goals?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • How would I improve this area of my life? What actions can I take?
When to self-reflect

The more you can make self-reflection a habit and part of your routine, the greater the impact will be. Below are some ideas to get you started. Identify which ones will work for you. Then grab your calendar or phone and schedule a reminder to make it happen!

  • New years – There’s a reason New Years resolutions became a tradition. It’s a great time to reflect on the year that has passed and identify what you want (your intentions, goals, desires) in the year ahead.
  • Milestones – I have a friend that uses her birthday every year as a time for self-reflection. You can also choose an anniversary, the Spring equinox, a religious holiday or any date that has significance or importance to you.
  • Monthly or weekly – Maybe you’d like to schedule time at the beginning of the month, or choose a day of the week, like Sunday to reflect on the week before.
  • Daily – A daily practice of self-reflection is probably one of the best ways to create a habit. I have many clients that like to get up early and reflect on the day before and the day ahead. Some prefer to journal in the evening before bed.
  • After an ‘event’ – Just had a terrible work meeting? A bad interaction with your kids or spouse? Take a minute to step back and reflect on what happened. Doing this now will help you understand what happened and prevent future incidents similar to this one.
  • When you’re off track – Whenever you feel like you’re off track, unhappy, stressed or demotivated, it’s time to take a step back, reflect and regroup.
Bonus self-reflection tips

Here are some extra tips for you to do self-reflection:

  • Grab a Journal – If you don’t have one, head to the store and find one you love. Writing has been proven to facilitate new levels of understanding and significantly reduce levels of stress. Moreover, when you see something, you are able to process it in a different way. And once it’s tangible, you then have a greater ability to tackle it, or let it go.
  • Schedule Time – Schedule uninterrupted time where you have space, feel quiet and can focus., whether that be 5 minutes a day or half a day once a quarter. If you think it’s just going to happen, it’s not. You have to do something to make it happen.
  • Accountability – Join a group, get a coach, find a buddy, tell your spouse – find someone to do this with. I was talking with a client of mine last week and she said the most valuable part of hiring me was the fact that she had someone she had to report back to weekly. It forced her to do the work that she wouldn’t have done otherwise on her own.
  • Be a fly on the wall – When you’re reflecting on something, especially relationships, it’s helpful to take the stance of a neutral observer. When you step back from a situation and view things as if you were a fly on the wall, it’s incredibly insightful. Try this with something in your life you’re having a hard time resolving. Take a step back and view the situation as if you were a fly on the wall, or as if you were watching the entire scene on a movie screen. Notice what you see, hear and feel about what you ‘observe’. It will give you a perspective that you hadn’t seen before!
  • Meditate – There are hundreds of studies that show the benefits of meditation. Something powerful happens when you don’t ‘think’ about something. Things bubble up. You have incredible, innate wisdom inside of you and meditation allows it to break through. Again, it’s just a matter of giving time and space to tap into it. Here is a simple guide to meditation: 5-Minute Guide to Meditation Anywhere at Anytime
Make self-reflection part of your life

If self-reflection isn’t a regular part of your life right now, this is your wake-up call. It’s time for you to take a step back. Time to hop off the treadmill of life. Time to reflect.

Whichever step you take next is perfect. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do this. It’s only what works for you.

If I’ve learned anything from working with thousands of clients over the years, different things work for different people. There’s no one size fits all approach to self-reflection, just like there’s no one size fits all approach to life.

So, how are you going to get started?

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Gain Confidence in Your Career (9 Tips to Land Your Dream Job)

10. April 2018 - 12:00

A career setback–which can negatively impact our self-confidence–can happen at any moment of our life. Imagine the impact of the experience of being demoted, overlooked for a promotion or feeling as if you are the last person on the team to receive recognition.

Despite hard work, there are times when it seems impossible to get ahead; this can certainly have an impact on efforts to be more confident or motivated in your career.

Can you relate? You are not alone.

A Gallup Survey reveals, “85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work.”[1]

Yet, unhappiness in your career no longer needs to be your reality.

In this article, we hold the golden truth to help you learn how to gain confidence land the dream job that you deserve. Read on to find out how to change your life forever.

True Secrets to Career Happiness 1. Do Some Soul Searching

What is the point of soul searching? It is a process of self awareness.

Now is the best time to look deep within yourself to discover what will make you truly happy in your career. For example: there are many people that have pursued a career simply to make their parents happy. Society often tells us certain careers, like being a doctor, are most rewarding because they offer high earning potential.

True happiness can present itself in many ways. The key is to find the career that will make you happiest. Here are a few ideas to help you start soul searching:

  • A road trip with colleagues
  • A one-week vacation
  • Beginning a career journal
  • Meditation

Approaching a career without a plan can turn towards the opposite direction of what you originally intended.

Giving yourself an opportunity to clear your head of negative thoughts is a great way to get started.

Here are several helpful things to consider on your soul search:

Personality: Most of us do not realize that certain jobs are designed for people with certain personalities.

For example, an introvert can succeed as a human resources manager, writer or in information technology (IT) professional. An extrovert may be happy in a sales role, working directly with customers or working in public relations in front of the camera.

Happiness: You might need to switch careers in the pursuit of happiness. Think about the environment and job responsibilities that will match how you interact with people.

Performance: Its time to be honest with yourself. How well are you performing? Do you keep making the same mistakes? The only way to grow is to review mistakes and commit to stop repeating them in the future.

Progress: Pursuing a goal and letting it go because of a disappointment is common. Think about the personal groups you joined last year you stopped attending.

It is better to be honest with yourself that the ambition to continue pursuing a goal has discontinued and it is time to resume where you left off.

Soul searching can be a liberating experience.

Instead of searching for answers outside of yourself, search within yourself to help guide you in taking your first step towards your dream job.

2. Ask Your Manager for the Truth

There is a difference between the job we want and the reality of the job we can get.

Your manager is the right person to ask for real advice on whether you are fit for a new position. The advice from a family member or friend is tempting, but it can potentially prolong the time it may take for you to succeed.

A direct manager spends most of the day working with you and can offer specific examples of strengths and weaknesses.

Here is a list of questions to ask a manager for the truth:

  • How can I improve as an employee?
  • What career advice can you offer?
  • What are my chances of promotion?
  • Do I meet or exceed expectations?
  • How do I rank on the team?
  • What was my best piece of work?

The truth hurts, but it can set you free from setting low standards in a career. Document the conversation with a list of actions steps on what to do next.

In today’s workforce, most managers do not have time to sit one-on-one with employees to develop their skills unless it is impacting work performance.

Be proactive and request a quarterly meeting with the manager to track your progress.

Tracking progress can be a confidence booster. It will help keep you on track of your goals making you feel as if you have full control of your destiny.

3. Create Personal Branding Tools

Personal branding tools amplify your skills and talents. These could be:

  • An up-to-date LinkedIn profile with a mix of weekly social engagement with your connections.
  • An eye-catching resume template with a colorscheme that matches your personality.
  • Business cards customized to your industry that you are proud to share at networking events.
  • A reference letter about your skills from a professional with experience working directly with you. (Create an effective reference letter by giving the writer the job description you are targeting so they can highlight your most relevant skills).[2]
  • A 30-60-90 plan that will engage a recruiter (what you can offer an organization in the first 90 days of employment).

You can use these personal branding tools to increase your chances of being hired for a new job.

A few of these tools can be used when connecting with people online that are interested in learning about you for an upcoming opportunity.

4. Jot Down Your Achievements

A list of achievements tucked away in your wallet or purse can make you feel better about where you are in life.

When I experience a disappointment, I read my list to boost my self-worth. Other people will not always be available (or willing) to remind you of your greatness. So do it yourself!

A list of achievements can include the following:

  • Awards received
  • Buying a new house
  • Completing a salsa class
  • Moving for a new job

It is a confidence-building ritual that can be used whether you are at the pinnacle of a career or are just starting your journey.

5. Help Out New Employees

One of the best ways to become a confident person is to create positive change in the lives of other people.

If you participate in a mentorship program or help guide the career of a new employee, once that person succeeds it will make you feel better about yourself. They will think highly of you because of the influence you have had on their journey.

Here are a few ways to help newbies on the job:

• Introduce new hires to experienced employees

• Invite new employees out for lunch to teach them about the company

• Offer to help a new hire when you notice they are struggling

• Sit near a new hire to be a direct contact for help

How does this improve confidence? If your advice can help new employees increase work productivity, your manager will recognize the hard work.

This could  turn into a positive conversation with your manager that leads to a promotion or a raise.

6. Stand Out From the Competition

The conventional way of applying for a job online will not set you apart from hundreds of people in your field that want the same job.

Have you heard of the hidden job market? According to Fortune, “job market in which the commonly quoted statistic tells us 70-80% jobs are not even published.”

The secret to getting ahead is tapping into your talent to find creative ways to stand out.

Listed below are a few tips to help you succeed:

  • Start blogging if you are a subject matter expert.
  • Start a group on LinkedIn to connect with people in your field.
  • Invite a few colleagues to start a committee outside of work and become the president of the group.
  • Write an e-book on an ongoing topic in your industry offering a compelling solution to a problem. Remember to share it with colleagues.

At times you need to do things other people are not willing to do.

Imagine implementing a new idea at work that helps the company achieve a high level of success. You will feel good about this success no matter where you are in your career.

7. Get Inspired

The most successful people in history experienced challenges in their career. Read the biography of a person that you admire who has had major career success. It just may change your thoughts about your own situation.

Not only can it teach you about their mindset and decisions they made, it will also give you the confidence to continue on the path to pursue your dream job.

8. Seek Out a Career Coach

Let’s face it. We can’t achieve a high level of success without guidance.

Most of us expect our family and friends to have all the answers. Yet, they are not career coaches and can only provide the advice they would do if they were in your shoes which is limited.

A career coach will have an in-depth conversation about the full scope of your career aspirations. Most are well connected to key decision makers at organizations and can provide advice that a friend simply can’t offer.

Benefits to working with a career coach are:

  • They work with people like you every day
  • They offer unfiltered, honest feedback on your progress
  • Provides direction when you are confused
  • Holds you accountable for your goals
  • You’ll get an unbiased opinion from a qualified professional

You don’t have to go on your career journey alone. Interview several career coaches to ensure you find a great fit to guide you.

9. Trust the Journey

We live in a society that expects results overnight.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “life is a journey, not a destination.” It is about enjoying the process whether you succeed or fail.

Once we accept that our journey can be met with unexpected results, experiencing a setback becomes part of the process.

Here are a few ways to successfully trust the journey:

  • Don’t have high expectations
  • Remember there is room for improvement
  • Pursue one goal at a time to avoid disappointment
  • Re-write your list of goals when you experience failure

Think of life as a stock market chart: wins and losses are inevitable. By trusting your decisions, when you are faced with failure you’ll rest assured that it is a normal part of life to overcome.

Capture Your Career Confidence

The key to succeeding in life is stepping outside your comfort zone.

It can be terrifying to reach out to a manager for honest feedback or soul search to find answers. A daily success ritual of reading a list of your achievements and trusting that journey is a step closer to fulfilling your dreams.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash via images.unsplash.com

Reference [1] ^ Gallup: Dismal Employee Engagement Is a Sign of Global Mismanagement [2] ^ Up To Work: Reference Letter function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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How to Avoid Micromanagement with Swam Intelligence (Step-By-Step Guide )

9. April 2018 - 15:00

Have you ever wondered how a flock of birds interact so brilliantly? Or how ants and termites build fascinating colonies?

More importantly, have you ever wondered how your organization could mimic a flock of birds or an ant colony to create a thriving organization without having to micro-manage every little detail?

What is Swarm Intelligence?

First introduced by Gerardo Beni and Jing Wang in 1989, swarm intelligence is the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems, for which social insects are one of the best examples.

Swarm intelligence is an attempt to design algorithms or distributed problem-solving devices intended to mimic the collective behavior of social insect colonies.[1]

Essentially, swarm intelligence improves our collective behaviors (our outputs).

Derek and Laura Cabrera, systems theorists and professors at Cornell University compare this to a game of chess in Flock Not Clock,

“The game of chess has simple enough rules for a child to master, yet there are 318 billion possible ways to play the first four moves. The behaviors (or outputs) of systems – be they a flock of starlings or biodiversity writ large, chess matches or organizations – are emergent properties of simple rules at the local level. By identifying, understanding, and applying these simple rules, we can make the outputs better.”

Let’s look at an example of how these simple rules work for an ant colony:

Simple rules outlined by the Cabrera’s allow social insects (such as ants) to become a superorganism. These simple rules are as follows:[2]

  1. Look for food. Ants randomly forage for food.
  2. If you find food, shoot pheromones. A few find food and communicate by leaving a pheromone trail increasing probability of collective action on food piles.
  3. Never cross a pheromone trail. Self-organizing behavior around simple rules produces collective intelligence.
How to identify simple rules that work

The Cabrera’s have defined four simple and deeply connected rules that apply in all types of organizations: Vision (V), Mission (M), Capacity (C), Learning (L).

  1. Vision (V): Your desired future state or goal (what do you see?). For example, ask the following: What do you see today? What should you see tomorrow?
  2. Mission (M): Repeatable actions that bring out the vision (what do you do?).
  3. Capacity (C): Systems that provide readiness to execute the mission (how do we align capacity?). Here you build capacity to do the mission.
  4. Learning (L): Continuous improvement of systems of capacity based on feedback from the external environment (love of learning). For example, the Cabrera’s explain that a big part of learning is making people aware of the lens through which they perceive reality.
Why Swarm Intelligence matters to your team

Dr. Louis Rosenberg (founder of Unanimous AI) informs us that we (as individuals) are smart, yet as a group we are even smarter – we are able to amplify our intelligence.

“A brain is a system of neurons so deeply interconnected that an intelligence forms. A swarm is a system of brains so deeply interconnected that a super-intelligence forms. Simply put, a swarm is a brain of brains and it can be smarter than any individual member.” – Dr. Louis Rosenberg

In Human Swarming and the future of Collective Intelligence, Rosenberg discusses the potential of human swarming. He writes,[3]

If we consider the leap in intelligence between an individual ant and a full ant colony working as one, can we expect the same level of amplification as we go from single individual humans to an elevated ‘hyper-mind’ that emerges from real-time human swarming?

So, can humans swarm?

Yes.

How can humans swarm?

According to Rosenberg, technology is the key. Humans can swarm only if we develop technologies that fill in missing pieces of evolution that hasn’t yet been provided.[4]

Rosenberg developed a platform allowing swarms of online users to make decisions and answer questions together by moving a graphical puck. The puck is generated by a central server and modeled as a real-world physical system.

Watch the following video to see how this platform works:

How I Swarm the classroom (a case study)

I have recently examined some of the innovative ways educators try to improve the learning environment. One such way is through “flipping the classroom.” This is a teaching pedagogy which reverses old classroom teaching through a form of blended learning using modern technology and practical application.[5]

While a flipped classroom is an excellent approach to education, I feel as though we need to take it a step further and allow the classroom to “flip itself” and emerge on its own. Our classroom should be a complex adaptive system (CAS) with no set leader. It should use simple rules to guide it.

I am currently using the following simple rules for an online course I teach at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Hays, Kansas: [6]

Rule #1. Students interact locally with each other in a decentralized environment.

I use a free decision-making software called Loomio that allows my students to move past the typically discussion board thread. My students use Loomio as a launching point for the creation of systems diagrams/maps.

I also use Loomio to build a complex adaptive syllabus by proposing or collaborating on decision tools within Loomio.

Rule #2. Students analyze and synthesize concepts and share mental models, increasing the collective knowledge of the group.

Using the Cabrera’s DSRP Theory -Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives, my students are able to break apart concepts and put them back together using two powerful platforms (also developed by the Cabrera’s!).

First, my class uses Thinkquiry to help them develop and ask questions that penetrate deeper into a concept. They use these guiding questions to start breaking apart and rebuilding a concept.

Second, my students then use Plectica to break apart and rebuild concepts. My students build concept maps using Plectica (free – I use it daily!) by visually organizing parts that can be combined and connected to each other to form a more complete picture.

Rule #3. Students react and adapt to changes without asking for permission by forming systems with immediate Action-Feedback-Change (AFC) Loops.

The most optimal way to improve is to intuitively act, recognize that we are constantly receiving feedback from reality when our mental models crash into reality, and change by forming new mental models.

Thus, I developed the continuous Action-Feedback-Change (AFC) Loop designed to help me understand how we improve and adapt (as individuals and as a group).

How to use Swarm Intelligence to make your team strive (Step-by-step guide)

So, how can you use this information? How can you apply it as an individual or a group?

It’s actually quite simple.

1. Identify your goal

Are you trying to improve the collective intelligence of a group? Or are you trying to improve yourself?

Think back to my discussion on how I use swarm intelligence in my classroom.

2. Document reality

What does the current state of your group looks like?

Ask key questions such as:

  • How does your team or organization collaborate?
  • What systems does your team or organization use to collaborate?
  • Do you find that you have to micromanage your team or organization? If so, why?
  • What do you see today?
  • What would you like to see tomorrow?

Ask yourself the following questions if you seek to improve yourself:

  • Are you overwhelmed? If so, list the reasons why?
  • How do you organize your tasks?
  • What systems do you use to organize your tasks?
  • What are the most important things in your life?
  • What do you see today?
  • What would you like to see tomorrow?
3. Use simple rules to collaborate and automate

Identify 3-4 simple rules to collaborate and automate as a group or individual.

For example, use free collaboration tools such as Slack as a way to improve the collective intelligence of a group (allowing it to emerge). Slack (Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge) is a cloud-based collaboration tool that you can use to allow your group to improve without the need to micromanage them.

Slack is offered as a free and paid tool (I recommend sticking with the free version for most groups). Here’s what it offers:

  • Persistent chat rooms (channels) organized by topic.
  • Private groups and direct messaging.
  • All content within Slack is searchable (including files, conversations, and people).
  • Integrates third-party services and supports community-built integrations.
  • Major integrations services include the following: Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, GitHub, Twitter, Google Calendar, Google+ Hangouts, IFTTT, RSS, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, and more.

Let’s now look at an example of simple rules to use within Slack.

  • Rule #1: Your group interacts locally with each other in a decentralized environment. Slack is your launching point for discussion and collaboration.
    Action – Download Slack over the web and/or smartphone application.
  • Rule #2: Your group analyze and synthesize concepts and solve problems together increasing the collective knowledge of the group. Your group can easily create, upload, and share ideas/documents within Slack. Additionally, using apps within Slack (such as Trello) your group can track a project or concept from start to finish without ever leaving Slack.
    Action – Create a workspace and channels within Slack. Then add members of your group (very easy process).
  • Rule #3: Your group reacts and adapts to changes without asking for permission (or without the need for micromanagement) by collaborating with one another (think back to my discussion on the AFC Loop from earlier).
    Action – Find “the pass” within your group (discussed below). This is the optimal location where you can examine the collaboration of the group.

Watch the following video for more information about Slack:

Step 4. Use simple rules to collaborate and automate

If you seek to improve yourself, let’s look at an example using IFTTT.

IFTTT (If This Then That) is a free web-based and app service that creates chains of simple conditional statements called applets.

An applet is something that is triggered by a change within a service (such as: Instagram, Gmail, or Facebook).

IFTTT is a way for you (as an individual) to automate simple tasks in your life so you can focus on the more important things.

IFTTT is also a way to automate or create what is called a “Recipe” to link services through a Trigger and an Action. You can automate just about anything using IFTTT.

Let’s look at 10 examples of some of the best IFTTT Recipes:[7]

  1. Sync your Facebook and Twitter profiles.
  2. Send live updates from Twitter to a Slack Channel.
  3. Add scheduled events to Google Calendar.
  4. Automatically schedule daily or weekly recurring Trello Cards.
  5. Submit/automate expense reminder and/or spreadsheets.
  6. Track your work hours in Google Calendar.
  7. Receive e-mail digest of the week’s most popular business articles from the New York Times.
  8. Automatically e-mail yourself 10 Things to Know This Morning (just an example).
  9. Send weather updates to yourself at specific times of the day.
  10. Send notifications to yourself regarding the ideal travel times and routes.

So, what are some simple rules you can use?

Here we will apply Warren Buffet’s 5/25 Rule:

  • Rule #1: Identify your most important or top 25 goals in your life.
  • Rule #2: Circle the top 5 goals. These are your most important (big picture) goals for which you cannot automate. They must be your primary focus.
  • Rule #3: Use IFTTT to automate the remaining 20 goals.
  • Rule #4: Forget about anything else. Focus on your top 5 goals, automate the remaining 20 using IFTTT, then forget about anything else.

Watch the following video for more information about IFTTT:

Summing it up

Finally, let’s conclude with one of my favorite learning/feedback examples discussed in Flock Not Clock – The best chef (the executive chef or CEO) doesn’t do any of the cooking:

“Seems like a paradox, right? If she’s not cooking, what is she doing? She’s standing at the pass, expediting, prioritizing, and communicating orders as they come in; exercising quality control by ensuring that the fish isn’t overcooked, the side dish is ample, and the final plating of the dish is aesthetically pleasing. She monitors the plates as they are being bussed and returned – are they clean or barely touched? Are they returned with a complaint?

Finally, the executive chef’s most important job is to ensure the sous, meat, sides, and pastry chefs learn. She knows that the safety of her stars rest not on her own ability to cook, but on her team’s ability to meet her exacting standards. When leaders focus on learning, they communicate that it’s an organizational priority and build and incentive a culture of learning.”

So, how can you create a thriving organization using swarm intelligence?

Simply follow the Cabrera’s advice and figure out what “the pass” looks like in your organization and lead from it.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference [1] ^ Eric Bonabeau, Marco Dorigo, and Guy Therauluz: Swarm Intelligence From Natural to Artificial Systems: Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences of Complexity [2] ^ Derek an Laura Cabrera: Flock Not Clock [3] ^ Singularity: Human Swarming and the future of Collective Intelligence [4] ^ Louis Rosenberg: Human Swarming and the future of Collective Intelligence [5] ^ Balaji Alagurajan: Flipping the Classroom in ELT Context: International Journal of Scientific Research and Review [6] ^ Schwandt: Swarming the Classroom [7] ^ Harry Guinness: 15 Best IFTTT Recipes for Productive Business Automation function footnote_expand_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").show(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("-"); } function footnote_collapse_reference_container() { jQuery("#footnote_references_container").hide(); jQuery("#footnote_reference_container_collapse_button").text("+"); } function footnote_expand_collapse_reference_container() { if (jQuery("#footnote_references_container").is(":hidden")) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); } else { footnote_collapse_reference_container(); } } function footnote_moveToAnchor(p_str_TargetID) { footnote_expand_reference_container(); var l_obj_Target = jQuery("#" + p_str_TargetID); if(l_obj_Target.length) { jQuery('html, body').animate({ scrollTop: l_obj_Target.offset().top - window.innerHeight/2 }, 1000); } }

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