Category Archives: Awareness

Welcome Wonder

During the holidays, we enjoy tales of wonder, whether about oil that miraculously lasted eight nights or the story of of angels, virgin birth and a guiding star. Even the secular celebrations in December leave kids wide-eyed with tales of flying reindeer.

Children are easily swept up in wonderment during the holidays, but adults are often tasked with the chores of creating this magical experience, which can lead to feeling harried rather than awestruck. As a gift to yourself, remember to welcome wonder into your holiday season. Continue reading

Discover Your Joyful Surroundings

Step out of the chatter of your mind and orient to the joy that surrounds you.

The human brain has a unique capacity to put things into perspective. We can look back, learn from our mistakes, anticipate problems and solve them using imagination. However, these abilities also feed the anxious mind, resuffering past struggles and presuffering feared futures. In the words of Dr. Martin Seligman, father of the Positive Psychology movement, “We aren’t built to live in the moment.”

Still, we have a sensory body that enables us to return to the present moment and connect with joy. In her TED Talk “Where Joy Hides and How to Find It,” designer Ingrid Fetell Lee points out visual delights all around us – we just need to watch for them. Continue reading

Increase Calm and Self-Control with this 5-minute Daily Practice

Where can you carve-out five minutes? How about before you get out of bed after your alarm goes off? Or maybe you can claim five minutes after your morning coffee, at work while sitting at your desk, or in the car before you drive to the grocery store. Really, you can do this practice almost anywhere.

In fact, you’re already doing one part of this practice all day long – breathing. The only added step is to pay close attention. Breathing usually happens outside of conscious awareness, but focusing on your breath is one of the most powerful strategies for managing stress and increasing self-control. It can even help with treating anxiety and depression.

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The Paradox of Aging: the Happiness U-Curve

When imagining aging, most middle-aged people look ahead with trepidation. But take heart: the best is likely yet to come!

Satisfaction surveys have found that happiness increases after middle age, and this pattern shows up around the globe. Referred to as the Happiness U-Curve, the data show that on average, life satisfaction drops during midlife and begins its recovery around age 50, reaching its peak at the end of life.

 

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Gratitude as an Antidote to Craving

The season of indulgence has begun. If you received trick-or-treaters at your home, then you may still have leftover candy tempting you. Thanksgiving offers a delicious feast, served up with a side order of gratitude, followed by the biggest shopping day of the year.

The holiday season is presented as “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many, it is overwhelming, lonely, and draining. 

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Coping with Change

As the saying goes, change is the only constant. Given this truth, why is change so stressful?

The brain has a function similar to a motion stabilizer on a video camera. With this feature, the videographer can be jostled and bumped while filming without creating footage that leaves the viewer feeling queasy. Like a Steadicam, the brain orients towards stability, giving you a sense of calm while glossing over the moment-to-moment changes happening all around you. But when a big change hits, you feel jarred and destabilized. Continue reading

Practice Self-Compassion

Imagine that a dear friend calls you in distress. How would you respond? What would you say? What would your tone of voice sound like? Now, consider how you talk to yourself when you are distraught, or when you’ve made a mistake. Do you treat yourself with the same kindness and warmth you would offer to a friend? Is it easier to be understanding and kind toward someone else than to yourself?

If you tend to approach yourself with criticism and harshness, consider how you can be a better friend to yourself. When you support a friend, you likely see your friend more holistically. You see your friend’s struggles and strengths. You see his/her mistakes in a broader context. You can be merciful toward your friend. How might you bring this Friend Mindset to your own self-observation? Continue reading

How To Apologize

It is impossible to be in relationship without hurting each other from time to time. When we cause harm, repairing the connection requires a heartfelt apology. The Spanish phrase, “lo siento,” can be translated “I’m sorry” or “I feel it.” Genuine apology is difficult, because usually we don’t want to feel it.

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Overcoming Setbacks

By now, most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions. Did you try to start a new habit this year? Have you stuck with it? If so, you probably have some good strategies for overcoming setbacks.

Your brain and body are designed to interfere with your attempts to develop new habits. Most of what you do any given day happens via autopilot. This is effective for accomplishing your usual routines, but it derails attempts to establish new behaviors.

Imagine that your daily thoughts and actions are like a long freight train traveling down a track. The momentum keeps the train moving at a steady clip. Developing a new habit is like inserting a new train car somewhere into the line-up while the train is moving!

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