Saturday, April 23, 2016

Daily Inspirational Quote - April 23, 2016

“Only you can fill in what’s missing. It’s not something another person can do for you.”

Have you ever had the feeling that something is “missing” in your life? I’m not talking about someone, but a feeling, a belief, something that resonates with your very spirit or soul. I believe we each seek out what we feel drawn to and that this enriches and enables us to feel comfortable, happy and content with who and where we are in life. Those of us who have achieved this are very fortunate indeed to have realized that nobody but ourselves could “fill in what was missing” and acted accordingly. I hope you have found or find the same.


Living Reverence: There is a Spark in Everything

In a world that has been relentlessly primed to favor the myths of independence and certainty over the truths of interconnection and mystery, the practice of reverence can seem foolish and unfashionable. But no one exists independent of all others. And the vast complex of our knowledge, though impressive, is erected on the shores of an ocean of unknowns. Reverence is a glad acknowledgement of these realities. It does not require you to be religious, or part of an organized faith. If there are any prerequisites for reverence they are only this: the capacity for wonder and love. And an awareness in the heart, of the dignity and worthiness inherent in this earth, this life, this moment. In many ways Maki Kawamura, a mother, global peace leader and former doctor, embodies what it means to live reverently. She shares her story and quietly powerful convictions in this piece.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cast of Broadway’s The Color Purple Sing Electrifying Prince Tribute Onstage (WATCH)

Jennifer Hudson and the cast of the Broadway musical The Color Purple, gathered for their usual curtain call at the end of Thursday’s evening performance–but with a heavy heart this time.

The legendary musician Prince had died at the age of 57, and the actors stepped to the edge of the stage to sing a glorious tribute.

Hudson, a friend of Prince’s, took center stage alongside Cynthia Erivo, and they belted out the words to—what else?— Purple Rain.

Tribute to Pop Icon Prince (1958-2016)

Josh Rottenberg

Prince, one of the bestselling pop artists of all time, died Thursday morning in his home recording studio in Chanhassen, Minn., the Associated Press reported.

The singer had been hospitalized in Illinois last week for what his representative said at the time was the flu, which he had been battling for weeks, leading to the cancellation of two shows on his "Piano and a Microphone" tour. He was released after three hours and returned to his home in Minnesota.

Born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958, the trailblazing performer sold more than 100 million records over the course of his career, fusing rock, pop, funk and R&B and demonstrating an audacious, idiosyncratic sense of style and a willingness to court controversy. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, he won seven Grammy Awards and an Academy Award for best original song score for the 1984 film "Purple Rain."

A highly prolific and restless artist who blended androgynous sexuality with impeccable pop craftsmanship, Prince released more than three dozen albums over his four-decade career. He scored more than 50 top 40 hits around the world since 1979, including such songs as "When Doves Cry," "1999," "Little Red Corvette" and "Raspberry Beret."

Are Boundaries Overrated?

By Diana Divecha 

A new book says it’s time for Americans to make more time for their relationships—and not worry so much about independence.

“Be independent.”
“Learn to manage on your own.”
“Have a strong sense of self.”
These are values strongly held by Americans and promoted by most mental health professionals.
I first got a tickle of an idea that this might not be the only way to live when I married into an Indian family and spent time in Mumbai. Their consideration of the group could border on the absurd, yet when someone made a major life screw-up, they rallied around and held him close. Kindness in Indian culture can veer toward the sacrificial; one time, when my daughters were splayed out with fever, a stranger bicycled 30 kilometers from the airport into town for medicine. And my husband, children, and I could travel anywhere in India staying only at the homes of friends of friends of friends.
Through my trained psychological lens, I sometimes wondered if these close connections were signs of codependence or enmeshment (considered unhealthy in American psychology); and some did have the downside of being intrusive. Yet they offered joy and provided a safety net we could not fall through. And each time we returned home to the United States, we reentered through a fog of isolation and loneliness.
“Boundaries are overrated,” writes Amy Banks in her book, Wired To Connect: The Surprising Link Between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships. Banks is a psychiatrist and director of the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Wellesley Centers for Women.
She draws on the new relational neuroscience (sometimes called affective neuroscience) to show how our brains and physiologies function best when we are embedded in a network of caring relationships. By now, research is pretty unequivocal about the long-term physical and mental health benefits of feeling loved. It’s also clear that isolation and exclusion activate the same neural pathways as physical pain.
Therefore, Banks writes, to reach our full potential, we need to be in “growth-fostering” relationships. Quality, not quantity, is what’s important, she implies. The first third of the book lays out the brain science that supports her thesis, but the more interesting section begins with the relational assessment that helps you take stock of the relationships that take up the most time in your life—either in sheer hours or in the mental space you devote to thinking or worrying about them. The simple 20-question inventory (which can also be found on her website) evaluates your relationships for four neural constructs that underlie healthy connections:
  • Calm: vagal tone
  • Acceptance: dorsal anterior cingulate cortex
  • Resonance: mirroring system
  • Energy: dopamine
These form the apt acronym C.A.R.E. We need all the help we can in remembering these principles, because not many of us are taught explicitly how to cultivate or maintain healthy relationships—and many are limping along or compensating for wounds we incurred in our formative years.
In the final third of her book, Banks is here to help you unpack the obstacles you might have on your path to achieving the four C.A.R.E. dimensions—including judgments, fears, avoidance, feelings of being belittled or silenced, or a lack of reciprocity (giving more than getting). Feed the nervous system the relational experiences it craves, Banks advises, and starve the nervous system of experiences that get in the way. This might mean, for example, finding more supportive relationships to balance out the unhappy one you have to put up with at work; becoming aware of how often you judge your partner (something that separates rather than connects); practicing specific emotional skills in a safe relationship; or finding more zestful and rewarding activities to rewire your dopamine circuitry toward healthy relationship pursuits and away from dysfunctional outlets.
Making more space for, and devoting more conscious attention to, relationships in our lives is an idea whose time has come. Research in developmental science has shown for decades the seeming paradox that strong attachments best prepare children to launch into the outside world, that the presence of a caring adult can mitigate the damaging effects of some forms of trauma in a child’s body, and that strong social networks can offset myriad life challenges, from parenting to illness to poverty.
As a developmental psychologist, I was initially surprised by Banks’ bald and repeated demand to not count children among the important relationships you assess. What she failed to clarify, but should have, is that her system likely refers to adult relationships of equal power; for example, it would be weird, or impossible, for children to “mirror” some adult feelings. Other kinds of relationships—e.g., with children, the elderly, or someone you provide care for—can also be rewarding, just in a different way.
The opening of the book is a strong critique of the American emphasis on boundaries and separateness, which might draw an unschooled reader to the conclusion that Banks is heading in the direction of doing away with boundaries altogether. Instead, it would be helpful for her to state clearly that boundaries are important but that perhaps we should soften them, move the goal line, and become more sophisticated at managing them in order to have more relationships and enjoy them more often.
In the United States, “success” is often defined in terms of wealth, power, and achievement, not in loving relationships. But the research shows that to live a happy life, emotions and relationships are as important as thinking and cognition.

Daily Inspirational Quote - April 22, 2016

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

I think we can all relate to this. We tend to form an opinion or judge people very quickly, occasionally unfavorably, without knowing all the facts or spending time getting to know them. This judgment is then firmly planted in our minds and filed away for future reference. However, if we can just take steps to actually get to know people better before forming an opinion, then we may find ourselves having a totally different perception of them and this, in turn, may change them into somebody you find yourself valuing as a friend, colleague or lover. Snap judgments aren’t a good idea.


The Intelligence in All Kinds of Life

"Why is the world so beautiful?" This is a question Robin Wall Kimmerer pursues as a botanist and also as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She writes, "Science polishes the gift of seeing, indigenous traditions work with gifts of listening and language." An expert in moss - a bryologist - she describes mosses as the 'coral reefs of the forest.' She opens a sense of wonder and humility for the intelligence in all kinds of life we are used to naming and imagining as inanimate. She says, "I can't think of a single scientific study in the last few decades that has demonstrated that plants or animals are dumber than we think. It's always the opposite, right? What we're revealing is the fact that they have a capacity to learn, to have memory, and we're at the edge of a wonderful revolution in really understanding the sentience of other beings."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Four Risk Factors for Burnout—And How to Overcome Them

By Tchiki Davis 
A burnout survivor offers tips for coping with it—or avoiding it in the first place.

Work-life balance is one of the aspects of well-being that I have the hardest time implementing in my own life. As a happiness researcher and consultant, I really do try to practice what I preach. But work-life balance is something I often work at for short bursts before I end up backsliding into workaholism.
I know that I am not the only one with this difficulty; work-life balance is really tough for many people. I think it’s time we start a conversation about balance, precisely because it is so hard for so many of us to find, and it is so integral to enhancing well-being.
Below, based on my experiences, I illuminate four risk factors for poor work-life balance and eventual burnout.

1. Personality

I began to see people struggle a lot more with work-life balance when I entered graduate school, and I’ll tell you why. Universities select grad students who can persevere year after year to complete a PhD—a degree that takes an average of 10 years to complete. So they pick students who, as a group, tend to be ambitious, focused, enthusiastic, and even obsessive about their work. Although many people struggle with setting aside enough time to do work, grad students tend to be the type of people who struggle to set aside enough time not to do work. They may neglect to eat right, exercise, engage in hobbies, or even see their friends and family.
If you “live to work,” forget to schedule time for non-work activities, and see yourself as someone who is highly motivated and persistent, then you may be at risk for burnout.
What to do: If you’re already a hyper-focused, motivated, planner type, then I know you can successfully apply your motivation skills to create better balance. Get out your calendar and schedule time to spend on your health and happiness. Build in systems to prevent backsliding. For example, by scheduling your well-being-promoting activities at a regular time each week, you can build healthy habits.
Scheduling regular “friend time” is also helpful. Recently, my workaholic friends and I have started pre-scheduling weekly fun activities to do together. Now we don’t have to make the effort to schedule fun time each week; it just happens. Because we have agreed to meet each other and we hold each other accountable, we help each other succeed in creating balance. The more you can plan, automate, and increase accountability for your behavior, the easier it will be to improve your work-life balance.

2. Social comparison

As grad school progressed, the social comparisons started kicking in for me and my peers. I heard things like, “Sally has five publications, but I only have two. I need to write more,” or “John finished his qualifying exams in his third year, but I won’t do mine until my fourth year. I need to read more,” or “Mila gave such an amazing research talk. I should be spending more time honing my presenting skills.” And so on.
When top performers are all gathered together and all asked to do similar tasks, only one person can be the top performer. Everyone else, who was considered a rockstar in a different setting, is now average—or worse. This type of environment leads everyone to work harder and harder to regain that sense of mastery, self-esteem, and respect. But when everyone works harder, no one gets any further ahead. Pretty soon work-life balance is long gone and everyone still feels inferior.
If you are surrounded by people who are amazing at what you are supposed to be amazing at, you may be at risk for burnout.
What to do: It is human nature to compare ourselves to “similar others.” This isn’t always a bad thing; it helps us work harder and be better. But if you want more balance, you may benefit from working in an environment where most people are doing work that is very different from yours. For example, let’s say you are a chef and you work with a brilliant team of managers, marketers, and waiters at a restaurant. When these colleagues do well, it probably won’t make you feel like you are not doing well yourself. But when you get selected to go on the popular reality show Top Chef, suddenly you are working with brilliant chefs who are at the same skill level as you and know the same cooking methods. In the face of their success, you might feel like you are not doing so well.
If you feel social comparison is hurting your work-life balance, you may want to work in an environment where everyone has more defined and discrete roles.

3. Local culture

It wasn’t until I finished my Master’s degree and started my PhD at a top-tier school that my local culture became an additional risk factor for me. At top-tier schools, everyone expects you to be a star. For the sake of argument, let’s say that they define a star as being yellow and having five points. This means that a star is not blue, it is not circular, and it is not polka-dotted. Of course, every human being is different and has different strengths and weaknesses. So very few of us fit any definition of what it means to be a star.
What happens when people feel they are not what they could or “should be”? They overwork themselves to become what they should be, sometimes developing issues with sleep, health, and career prospects, or even depression or anxiety. If you are in a culture that expects everyone to be stars, you may be at risk for burnout.
What to do: One thing you can do is build a growth mindset, the belief that people can grow, change, and improve. It means that people are not born stars; they become stars. Be careful, though: A growth mindset alone might just become one more reason to work harder.
So ensure that you also practice self-acceptance and self-compassion. Remember, no one should make you feel bad about who you are. Maybe you are an octagon (and not a star). If so, try to view yourself positively and celebrate your distinct shape.

4. Broader culture

UC Berkeley—where I did my PhD—sits right next to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, an area that is often considered a technology mecca. Some of the world’s best-known tech companies, including Facebook and Google, operate here. Thousands of small startups operate here, too. If you are sitting at a coffee shop, you are almost guaranteed to overhear someone who is starting, working at, or discussing a startup.
It is an inspiring and invigorating culture, but it also prides itself on extra-hard work. You may have heard stories about startup founders forgoing sleep, food, and socializing to build their companies. Indeed, startup culture reinforces the idea that success requires working incredibly long hours.
If your culture expects you to work all the time, you may be at risk for burnout.
What to do: Try to establish boundaries. You decide: What is an acceptable number of hours for you to work? What life experiences would you regret missing? What are your work-life-balance deal-breakers? Once you establish what is acceptable for you, you must be assertive in advocating for your own needs. Because no one else will.

What happens if you do burnout?

In my case, the risk factors added up and got the best of me. While still pursuing my PhD at Berkeley, I founded my own company, Lifenik, Inc. In between teaching and doing research and dissertation writing, I was fundraising and pitching my company. I also took classes in business and technology, picked up a minor in Management of Technology Innovation, and taught myself how to code in R. When my startup started failing (just like 75 percent of the other startups), I worked harder, I pivoted to focus on well-being consulting, and I took on odd jobs to build skills. At this point, balance was not even something I was prioritizing at all.
I started getting migraines, insomnia, and numbness in my hands and back (these turned out to be symptoms of anxiety, by the way). I stopped valuing and prioritizing the people in my life, even neglecting to spend time with my husband and my friends. My work stopped giving me a sense of purpose. I felt aimless, and I started wondering why I didn’t feel my life had meaning.
Then the unthinkable happened. Little by little, the quality of my work started to decline. I would schedule meetings at the wrong times, write reports that were missing lots of words, and be unable to answer the simplest of questions. “What was happening to me?!” I asked myself, “If I can’t work, then what else do I have?!”
It was crazy to realize that I had so neglected the non-work parts of my life that I didn’t even think they existed anymore. It was only then that I realized something was really wrong.

It turns out, I was well into the worst phases of burnout. Because burnout builds slowly, you can miss it entirely. Your health, relationships, and well-being start to falter, but you may not know why. Eventually, your body simply shuts down to prevent you from working. In my case, my brain and body just weren’t functioning well anymore. In a more frightening case of burnout, Arianna Huffington collapsed and woke up in a pool of her own blood.
Burnout is serious. And balance is important. Don’t let yourself get to this point.

How to recover from burnout

The truth is, many of you may already be experiencing burnout. It’s up to you to reverse it. Just as it took time to develop burnout, it will take time to recover. Returning to a regular 40-hour workweek is usually not enough to make up for years of overworking yourself. You may need to take long chunks of time off, work part-time for a while, and learn how to better cope with stress.
It is a long road back to a healthy, balanced life. The earlier you start getting clear on what really matters to you, the better. You can take surveys to see if your well-being is suffering and try toreprioritize the things that really make you happy in life. Moving forward, it will be essential to accept yourself, and learn how to be more assertive so that you don’t just end up burning yourself out all over again. These are just some of the ways that you can create balance and start living a happier, more fulfilling life.

Daily Inspirational Quote - April 21, 2016

“You don’t stop dancing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop dancing.”

I love this! I know that, with my creaky and achy joints, I’m not as supple or as pain free as I was when I was a lot younger but, what am I going to do, never dance again when I hear music I want to boogie to? I don’t think so! If that day ever comes, and it never will if I can help it, then I will feel a great sense of loss and know I have indeed got old. Until then, much to the amusement of those unfortunate enough to witness me boogieing, I will continue to let the music “take me!”


House Calls for the Homeless

In 1992, Dr. Jim Withers camouflaged himself as a homeless man to make medical visits to people living on the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was shocked to find out how ill people were. In 24 years, Withers' "street medicine" has reached over 10,000 people, and his comprehensive program, Operation Safety Net, provides mobile medical vans, drop-in centers and helps advocate for insurance and housing for the homeless. Withers' philosophy is simple: treat people the way we want to be treated.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How Mindfulness Can Help Us Forgive Betrayal

By Kirra Dickinson

According to a new study, mindful people are more likely to overcome the emotional turmoil and pain of infidelity.

Is it possible to forgive infidelity and to overcome the emotional pain of betrayal?

It is, suggests a new study published in the journal Mindfulness—if you can feel some compassion for yourself.
The study—the first to examine the relationship between mindfulness and forgiveness of infidelity—surveyed 94 adults who had been cheated on by a partner. They reported on their levels of forgiveness, which involves feeling in control of their emotions, having a balanced view of the relationship (rather than vilifying their partner as wholly evil), and being ready to let go of anger and put the affair behind them. They also reported on their levels of unforgiveness—a separate measure that involves withdrawing from their partner, experiencing emotional upheaval, and desiring revenge.
By this definition, forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, to reduce our suffering; it doesn’t mean we condone the affair or even reconcile with the offender. In fact, over half of the participants in the study were no longer in a relationship with the cheating partner.
Ultimately, the study’s findings suggest that people who are more mindful tend to be more forgiving and less unforgiving—for certain aspects of mindfulness. In this study, mindfulness was broken down into five separate abilities:
  • Observing your experience: your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions.
  • Being able to describe that experience.
  • Acting with awareness—deliberately and thoughtfully, rather than on autopilot.
  • Being nonjudgmental of your experience.
  • Being nonreactive to your experience, able to withhold immediate reactions (like lashing out).
Partners who had a greater ability to act with awareness—to be deliberate and thoughtful—were less likely to be stuck in a state of resentment. It was also important to withhold immediate reactions and to be nonjudgmental of yourself. In these ways, mindful victims of infidelity seemed to avoid getting consumed by negative emotions.
These results held even when controlling for factors that are known to influence forgiveness, including how severe the betrayal was, whether the partner was remorseful, and whether the victim was prone to empathy or anger. 

So if mindfulness goes along with forgiveness, what might be the mechanism behind this link?

According to the researchers, self-compassion may play a significant role. Mindfulness is one of the three aspects of self-compassion, which involves being kind to ourselves and feeling connected to others in the face of painful experiences. Those who practice self-compassion may ruminate less, experience less resentment, and exhibit higher emotional resilience. Although this study didn’t measure self-compassion, it’s possible that self-compassion was the path away from unforgiveness for these participants.
“Individuals higher in [self-compassion skills] may be willing to accept the turmoil and discomfort they are feeling without overidentification with these states and feel compassion for themselves going through this experience,” the researchers explain.
So how might we cultivate mindfulness when faced with infidelity? Here are several tips to keep in mind when attempting to forgive:
  • Allow yourself to feel any negative emotions that come up. Instead of fighting them, simply observe and sit with them. Understand that your negative emotions are not primarily coming from the event itself, but from the hurt feelings, thoughts, and physical upset that you are experiencing now.
  • Alleviate your physical symptoms by practicing stress management to soothe your body’s fight-or-flight response. Consider taking a deep breath, or taking a walk.
  • Make the decision to forgive, not only toward your partner, but importantly for yourself (if you feel this is relevant).
  • View the situation from a different perspective and, slowly and in time, practice compassion towards your partner. Keep in mind that they could have been acting out from a similar place of pain and suffering. See him or her as vulnerable and human.
(These tips are adapted from two longer forgiveness practice, Nine Steps to Forgiveness and Eight Essentials When Forgiving.)
Ultimately, this study unearths some of the complexities surrounding how we view and manage our negative emotions. If mindfulness truly can help us cope with the great emotional pain of infidelity, it must be a powerful skill, indeed.

Daily Inspirational Quote - April 20, 2016

“If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.”

No, this doesn’t mean, taking off overcoats or heavy shoes etc! This is all about letting go of all the restrictions or self-doubts we tend to take on board in life and freeing ourselves. We tend to add “weights” to ourselves in the form of low self-belief, self-esteem or self-confidence. Perhaps even allowing other people to burden us with their unhelpful perceptions of us. Now, how are we going to spread our wings and “fly” with all that weighing us down? We’re not, are we so, like the sand bags in the basket of our hot air balloon, hoist them over the side and watch them disappear, hopefully missing the people below! Now our spirits have the freedom to find and bring us what we wish for most.


Prison Gardens: Food for Body and Soul

"Prison vegetable gardens, where inmates plant and harvest fresh produce to feed the larger prison population, are on the rise in correctional facilities from New York to Oregon. In addition to being a cost-effective food source, the gardens are seen as a way to save money on healthcare for prisoners struggling with diabetes, hypertension, and other ailments. But the gardening itself provides opportunities for personal growth, as inmates learn how to plant, raise, and harvest crops."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

7 Ways To Boost Your Metabolism

by Anthony Rivas

People who want to lose weight often focus on boosting their metabolism. After all, a faster metabolism will burn more calories, even when you’re sitting. But it turns out there are a number of ways to gain a faster metabolism; some of them can even help you lose weight in their own right. Because metabolism generally slows after you turn 40 years old, try implementing these practices to put those effects on hold.

Build muscles
Strength training builds muscle both during your workout and after. It also takes more calories to grow and maintain muscle than fat, which will help you boost your metabolism by up to 15 percent . Engage in strength training at least two days a week, making sure to take a day off in between to allow your muscles time to rest and recover. 

Do Intense cardio
Cardio exercises like running and aerobics won’t build muscle, and upon finishing you’ll likely stop burning the calories too. Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves putting full effort into an exercise for a shorter time period. According to Men’s Fitness , these types of exercises will have your body burning calories for as many as 36 hours after you finish.

Eat often
Eating often sounds contrary to what you would do if you want to lose weight, but it can actually rev up your metabolism if it’s the right food. Going too long between meals depletes blood sugar levels , which can make you feel sluggish and slow down your metabolism. Choosing healthy snacks between meals can help keep your blood sugar levels steady and your metabolism in check. Instead of sweets and other high-sugar treats, choose foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains — and don’t eat too much.

Put some spice in your life
On average, studies have shown that spicy foods can increase your metabolic rate by about 8 percent. And while these effects are most likely temporary, there is still a benefit, since the effects will provide extra energy while they last. This step is easy enough to implement — simply add cayenne, jalapenos, or any other hot pepper to your recipes.

Optimize hormone balance
There are several hormones that play an important role in maintaining your metabolism. And deficiencies in these hormones can cause conditions such as hypothyroidism, which can contribute to weight gain. Other hormones, such as the human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone, are responsible for providing the body with energy and building muscle . When you’re deficient in these hormones, you often feel tired and lack energy. In these situations, hormone optimization therapy can be effective in raising metabolic rate back to normal, and helping you lose weight.

Eat protein
It takes longer to break down and digest protein than other foods because they’re made up of amino acids, which consist of peptide bonds . Breaking these down requires more energy from the body, so about 20 to 30 percent of calories go toward digestion compared to 5 to 15 percent when we eat fat or carbs. This helps us burn calories and boost our metabolism.

Many of the excess calories that we get from protein also go into building muscle rather than being turned into fat, and increased muscle mass will boost your metabolism. You can find protein in many meats, as well as beans, eggs, cheese, and nuts.

Enjoy a cup of coffee
Studies have shown that people who drink coffee see an increase in their metabolism for some time afterward. While you don’t want to overdo it — too much caffeine isn’t good either — drinking a cup or two of coffee each day can help you feel more energetic and improve your metabolic rate for a few hours. With that energy, you can then go and exercise , further upping your metabolism.