I recently listened to a podcast that discussed the themes of feeling valued versus feeling recognized. Some research was done in the workplace that took an in-depth look at how leaders pay attention to the people that they are responsible for leading. The study showed that recognizing someone for good work they had done definitely had a positive impact on the person, but that this impact was short-lived. The study indicated that there was a roughly 23% increase in productivity over the short term after a person had been recognized for a job well done but levels of productivity steadily declined over time.
However, leaders who consistently made people genuinely feel valued and appreciated in the workplace had much more of a long term impact on levels of productivity. Some studies had shown a 50% increase in productivity over the long term. Studies of the brain also showed that both the giver and receiver of acts of appreciation had increased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This chemical is what helps to regulate mood and social behavior. There is a direct link between low levels of serotonin and depression and other mood disorders.
Showing others that they matter and that they are valued is not only the job of leaders. When was the last time that you let a colleague, family member, friend or even a stranger, such as the clerk at the store who regularly serves you, know that they are appreciated and valued?
It's amazing that the simple act of showing appreciation for others and letting them know that they are genuinely valued can work wonders. Why is it that we have so much difficulty in doing this? What is it that we fear about expressing to others that they really matter and the reason why you think that they matter? Sitting quietly and reflecting is a great form of mindfulness in action. Try taking 5 minutes to sit in solitude and to reflect on the people that you value in your life both personally and professionally. Try to identify why it is that you value them. Make a conscious effort to let this somebody know that you value them either in a written note or better yet, let them know in person.
This random act of kindness can literally make someone's day. I challenge you to do this at least 3 times in the next week. I promise to do the same. Good luck!
An important theme that our leadership team and our teachers will be striving to put into action from the very start of this school year is the concept of ‘connecting before correcting’. Prior to going into the summer holidays in June, our entire elementary faculty team at Gardens Elementary School, completed two days of training in Positive Discipline. This is a training program that is aimed at helping parents and teachers discover positive solutions and teaching strategies that help to build respect at home and in the classroom.
One of the most important underpinnings of this training is to always ‘connect before correct’ and in doing so we not only strengthen the bonds of trust, we also create much deeper levels of significance and belonging in our schools. Seems like such a no brainer that creating the conditions for human connection to flourish in our classrooms should be a top priority. Why is it then that we sometimes have so much difficulty investing the necessary time and energy into making this happen with more consistency in our schools?
As love, compassion, and altruism are the fundamental basis for peace, there is no greater time than the present moment to devote ourselves to this cause.
What might we need to let go of in order to place belonging and significance at the top of our priority list as we start the school year? How do the conversations that we have need to change in order to ensure all members of staff genuinely understand the importance of creating a greater sense of belonging and significance with their students? What is the role of leadership in helping to prioritize this pursuit?
As mental health issues have been steadily increasing among both young people and adults every single year over the past decade (and projected to rise dramatically each year into the future), it is the dire responsibility of every school to create curriculums that embed social and emotional learning as part of the fabric of who they are and what they do. However, it’s the ‘how’ behind how they get this done that needs to be a part of the ongoing conversations happening in their schools on a daily basis.
As well, it is an important reminder that creating a greater sense of belonging and significance does not only apply to our students. Our teachers must also feel that they matter and that their own levels of mental, social and emotional well-being play an equally significant role in the workplace.
When planning for great teaching and learning, there is no question that student achievement data in literacy, math, and other areas of the curriculum are a critical part of the conversations that need to take place during meetings. However, in what ways are we building time into these meetings to address the social and emotional needs of our teachers? How do we need to better structure our meetings to allow time for teachers to unpack where they are at, what they are struggling with and what they might need in order for them to be at their best both personally and professionally? If our teachers are not in a great place mentally, socially, and/or emotionally, how can they possibly be there to the extent that their students need them to be.
This blog post is an important reminder about the need to create more authentic conversations in our schools about how we all play a critical role in building a greater sense of belonging and significance in order to allow all stakeholders to thrive. Consider how the 6 questions below might help to spark more meaningful discussions about strengthening the bonds of trust and deepening levels of belonging and significance in our schools?
What commitments will your leadership team make to prioritize social, emotional and mental well-being within your school?
How much time will be devoted to having authentic conversations about social, emotional and mental well-being in your school?
How will social, emotional, and mental well-being be unpacked and co-constructed with both teaching faculty and students in your school?
How will leaders and teachers hold each other accountable for ‘connecting before correcting’ in your school?
How are we building psychological safety in a way that allows all voices to genuinely be heard in our schools?
What role will mindfulness play in helping to promote a greater sense of belonging and significance in your school?
You can download a PDF of the visual with the 6 questions for your own use. Thanks for reading and let us know how things go.
Earlier this week, the city of Hiroshima, Japan held the Peace Memorial Ceremony to console the spirits of those killed in the world’s first atomic bomb attack 74 years earlier on August 6th, 1945. It was a beautiful, sunny morning when the American B29 bomber, The Enola Gay, dropped the bomb at exactly 8:15am on that morning which directly resulted in the deaths of approximately 80000 people who were going about their normal lives when this tragedy struck. Another 60000 died from illnesses linked to radiation exposure over the next several years.
Although the anniversary of the attack brings a certain sense of somberness to this city and its people, the day itself is also devoted to sharing the importance of world peace.
Each year, on the evening of August 6th, the city holds the "Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony” which is a beautiful event that anyone is welcome to attend. Thousands of people write personal messages and appeals for peace on colorful lanterns, which are then set afloat down the Motoyasu River, where they pass directly in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome. Praying for lasting peace is the focus of this evening.
Having lived in Hiroshima, Japan for nearly ten years, my wife, Neila Steele and I, were able to attend this ceremony a couple of times between the years of 1997-2007 when we had lived there.
The beautiful city of Hiroshima remains a very special place to us. We developed strong friendships with many of the Japanese people and ex-pats that we had connected with over the years while living there. As well, both of our boys were born in the city that still feels like a second home for us. One of our close Canadian friends, Scott Mckeeman, still lives and works in Hiroshima today. Scott is the godfather of our oldest son Eli.
As I reflect on our time in Hiroshima, I’m always drawn back to the city’s journey of understanding and identifying what peace means to them. The city has taken ownership and autonomy over this journey in a way that has placed peace at the very core of what it represents.
Although Hiroshima’s efforts are devoted to raising international awareness about the importance of nuclear disarmament, it is a deeper sense of peace that they envision not only for the citizens of their own city and country, but also for the people of the world. As you walk the streets of Hiroshima, you can feel the strong undercurrent of peace that prevails.
Despite the fact that the normal person might have very little influence on improving levels of world peace, on a micro-level, every single person does have control over how they choose to interpret and perceive peace within their own lives.
In her best-selling book, Practicing Peace, the author Pema Chodron, asks her readers a very important question to reflect on:
“Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war today?”
Peace can be so easily disrupted in our lives in lots of different ways. Perhaps this disruption of peace is caused by our own internally activated voice that might be trying to create chaos, fear or worry within. At other times, it might be our knee-jerk reaction to daily annoyances and frustrations that result in us reacting aggressively and defensively toward others. Whatever the cause of our disharmony is, we can do something about it.
Some questions we might consider exploring are:
How might we more readily practice peace in our own lives?
How can we strive to be more peaceful and self-compassionate with ourselves?
How might we lower our own levels of defensiveness when interacting with others in more stressful situations?
Peace in our own lives can be greatly impacted by the mindset and attitude we carry with us throughout each day. The practice of mindfulness allows us to be more present with our thoughts in a non-judging way. In bringing more concentrated levels of attention, focus, and self-awareness to our daily lives, we can begin to see certain patterns of behavior and response.
The act of noticing comes from being more present. Simply paying closer attention to how we emotionally respond to our own negative self-talk or how we respond to others in stressful situations is a great starting point. Rather than subconsciously going into autopilot mode, we can consciously choose to bring greater levels of self awareness into our daily lives by more deeply observing our own thoughts, actions, and emotional responses.
Take the next few days to think about what peace with yourself and with others means to you in your own life. Take a moment to find a quiet place to just sit with your own thoughts about peace and how you might be able to bring more of it to your life. With peace comes more happiness and a greater sense of well-being.
If you had to set a more peaceful intention in your own life, what would your message to yourself be. What message would you write to yourself on your own colored lantern to set afloat?
Thanks for reading.
“Conscious thoughts, repeated often enough, become unconscious thinking.”
We’ve all been there before. Moments when we get caught up in troubling thoughts and/or emotions connected with a past experience that didn’t go well for us. Perhaps it was a colleague, family member, or friend who may have annoyed, frustrated, or angered us. Or it might have been something that happened in a meeting or a confrontation we might have had with someone close to us. Whatever the negative event or interaction was that we had experienced, it can be quite easy, as humans, to re-live these moments in our mind which can cause us to re-experience the same negative emotions connected to that particular event or interaction.
“If only I would’ve given them a piece of my mind and told them what I really thought.”
“I should’ve stood up for myself and reminded them that they’re the ones that keep screwing up not me.”
“If only I wouldn’t have been so nervous when speaking in front of the group, I would’ve been able to communicate my message so much more confidently.”
“The next time he/she says that to me again, I’m going let them have it straight back.”
“Why does that person always think that I’m incapable of doing things for myself”
Re-living the past can be commonplace for many people as they can be quite harsh on themselves and find themselves re-experiencing negative emotions and feelings with regularity.
Dr. Joe Dispenza, a neuroscientist and best-selling author, states in his book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself that there is such a strong connection between our bodies and our brains and that the mere thought of negative events or experiences from the past can trigger neurotransmitters and neuropeptides in our brains to send messages to our bodies. This immediately causes specific hormones to be released that spark the negative emotions we find ourselves consumed by or even trapped by. These negative emotions can range from very mild to quite harsh and even damaging if repeated on a consistent basis in our lives.
Of course, it is human nature to experience negative emotions. However, through greater self-awareness, we can become more cognizant of habitual thinking and feeling loops in our lives that do not serve us well and hold us back from being a better version of ourselves.
The thinking and feeling loop is very real and presents itself to us multiple times a day. Below the surface, there are some very strong and intense chemical reactions taking place that are directly responsible for producing the thoughts and feelings that we experience on a daily basis. When these thinking and feeling loops are rooted in positive emotions, we can experience intense feelings or joy and contentment. However, when we continually allow ourselves to re-live negative moments from the past, it can cause a downward spiraling of emotions and feelings that push us into a very negative state of being.
Mindfulness is a great way to be present and to draw attention to the habitual thought patterns that we find ourselves potentially repeating with regularity in our lives. In an effort to better understand these repetitive thinking and feeling loops, we can put ourselves in a much better position to deal with negative emotions and feelings in more proactive ways by putting mindfulness into action.
A strategy that Andy Puddicome, the co-founder of the mindfulness app called Headspace, promotes through some of the meditations he teaches is a labelling strategy. This strategy is aimed at drawing awareness to the negative thinking and feeling loops that we experience that may be troubling to us.
The purpose of the labelling strategy is to disrupt this type of thinking by ensuring that we do not let these thoughts and feelings determine our identity and become who we are.
Puddicome asks his listeners, as they sit in a meditative state, to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go. Many people, as they meditate, try to cut off these feelings and work endlessly to ignore them or push them away. It can be a constant battle in our minds as we try to deflect or cut off these negative emotions and feelings.
Instead, we are meant to just sit with them and notice them, but rather than saying, “I’m angry” or “I’m frustrated” or “I’m worthless”, we simply flip these statement to being a label.
We can do so by saying things such as, “Oh, that’s anger” or “That’s frustration” or “That’s doubt”. In creating these labels, it depersonalizes these negative emotions and feelings. We notice these emotions and feelings, we label them, and let them pass. These thoughts and feelings do not define us or our identity.
Rather than cutting off these negative thinking and feeling loops, we can raise are own levels of self-awareness in order to disrupt them. When we do this over time, we can lessen the neurological impact that they have on us thus decreasing the intensity of these emotions.
Once we practice raising our levels of self-awareness through the labelling strategy described above, we put ourselves in a position to be immediately catch ourselves when we are re-creating or re-living negative thoughts and emotions that we have experienced in the past. We begin to understand that we do not want these past emotions dictating our future. We place little value on these emotions and develop the ability to reframe and restructure how we want to feel, think, and act in order to experience more fulfillment and joy in our lives.
As you reflect on your past week, what negative thinking and feeling loops might you be experiencing? What kinds of feelings and emotions are being generated as a result of these negative loops? How are these negative loops impacting your state of being or mood?
I encourage you to sit in total silence for 10 minutes and put on a timer.
As you sit in silence, notice and observe any negative thoughts or feelings.
Let these thoughts and feelings simply float around within your mental space without judgement.
Do not try to fight them off, cut them off, or deflect them.
Simply attach a label to them and what they represent instead of diving into the reasons for these thoughts and feelings. (Ahh, that’s anger or that’s frustration)
Breath and repeat as many times as needed in that ten minutes.
If you get distracted return to the breath and let your thoughts come and go.
It takes a lot of practice, but you can get better and better at it. Once you are done the ten minutes, if you want to take it to the next level, journal about the experience. It always helps to put it down on paper.
Hope you try this out. Thanks for reading.
"Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!...
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond."
I sought counsel in a good friend this week letting him know that I’ve had some difficulties over the past few months. Not feeling myself so much, struggling with my own personal and professional purpose, lacking motivation and inspiration, and generally feeling quite down, I knew the time had come for me to take action.
I’ve been working hard to reframe the story that I have created for myself the past few months because it hasn’t served me well.
My friend opened up about some of his experiences with feeling the same way at times and that a constant go to that he holds close to his heart is a story about Buddha. He learned the story from Tara Brach and her inspiring book called Radical Acceptance. In the story, Buddha is constantly trying to be attacked by the Demon God Mara. Mara always sets out to hurt Buddha and makes regular appearances in his life by trying to cast fear, doubt, insecurity, hurt, hopelessness, shame and guilt toward Buddha.
This story is really a metaphor for the troubling emotions and fear that lives in each human heart. Rather than ignoring these negative emotions, Buddha chose to deal with them by inviting the Demon God Mara to join him for a cup of tea whenever the Demon God decided to make an appearance in Buddha’s life.
Buddha would make Mara an honorary guest and offer a cushion so that the Demon God could sit comfortably as they had tea. Buddha would sit with the negative emotions that Mara was trying to project on to him, but do so in a non-judging and undisturbed way.
By accepting these experiences with a warmth of compassion, Buddha chose not to try to fearfully drive Mara away. This made it much easier for Buddha to deal with these troubling emotions and fear in positive ways and understand that it is deeply part of the human psyche to experience fear and other negative emotions.
In our own lives, what’s most important to think about is how we deal with these emotions. In accepting these emotions and fear, we can actually create a more empowering personal narrative for ourselves that helps to better serve us now and in the future.
While meditating, we can invite our own form of Mara to tea with us. We can sit with these troubling emotions and fear that we experience in a non-judging way rather than ignore these emotions or try to drive them away.
Speaking to my friend this week helped to remind myself that it’s OK to experience darker moments and that when I do, there is definitely something that I can be done about it.
I’ve chosen to invite Mara to tea with me this week through the meditations I am doing. In choosing to look at self-doubt, fear, uncertainty, and frustration differently, it has quickly helped me to get back on track with my work and to feel a greater sense of fulfillment and kindness toward myself. The act of self-compassion can be one of the greatest things that we can gift to ourselves.
What troubling emotions might you be experiencing this week? What fears might unknowingly be present in your life that may be impacting the personal narrative you have been creating for yourself? How might you better sit with these troubling emotions and fear in a way that empowers you to be a better version of yourself?
Hope this blog post helps to give you some ideas to mindfully put into practice in your own life. Thanks for reading.
What does it mean to truly flourish in our lives? What roles do resilience, optimism, and gratitude play in helping us to genuinely thrive both personally and professionally?
These are some of the life questions that Positive Psychology seeks to better understand through the scientific exploration of human potential.
Dr. Martin Seligman is credited as being the father of the Positive Psychology movement and has put decades of research into helping the world better understand the factors that lead to greater happiness and fulfillment in life.
His best-selling books Authentic Happiness, Flourish, Learned Optimism, Character Strengths and Virtues, as well as many other books he has written, share the research that he and his team have done related to the science of happiness and how people can produce more positive emotions in their lives through the use of specific techniques and strategies that have been proven to be effective.
One of the strategies that my wife, Neila Steele, and myself came across a couple of years ago caught our attention and it’s something that we’ve tried to put into practice In our own lives. As well, we’ve tried to practice it with our two boys and with the students that we have taught. Although the strategy seems quite simple, it can be difficult to apply in our own lives with consistency. However, it requires consistency, on a daily basis, over a succession of weeks to begin to take root and actually lead to changes in the neurochemistry of our brains. It has been proven to produce more positive emotions with regularity in the lives of the people who have practiced it.
Dr. Martin Seligman has conducted hundreds of experiments using this strategy with many different types of people, many of whom suffer from severe depression. As well, he has replicated the study with people that have not been impacted by depression who live ‘normal' lives.
In almost all cases, the strategy proved to be effective in alleviating the debilitating effects of depression. It also led to a more positive mindset with the others who had participated in the study that didn’t suffer from depression and led relatively normal lives. Amazing how the simple act of gratitude can change the brain and lead to more positivity in our lives!
Researchers of Good
The strategy is called ‘Researchers of Good’ or ‘Scanning for the Good’ and requires people, over a 7-day period, to genuinely reflect on their life at the end of each day identifying 3 good things that happened to them. A noun must also be used to describe what each good thing represents and is placed in parenthesis beside the written statement describing the good thing that happened.
Even on our bad days, Seligman says it is critical to still complete this activity. When we actually scan for the good in our lives, we can always find a minimum of three things that happened on that day. Recognizing these good things promotes a greater sense of gratitude and positive emotion. However, we need to practice this strategy with consistency, on a daily basis, for it to have an impact of our overall level of happiness.
For example, a person might come up with the following list of three good things and accompany each good thing with a label that describes what the good thing represents:
My friend shared their lunch with me today (Generosity)
A stranger took the time to hold the door open for me in the store today (Kindness)
I stuck to my fitness and nutrition plan today (Commitment)
The good things identified do not have to be breathtakingly awesome or out of this world to be recognized as something worthy of being labelled as ‘good’. It can be the ordinary, often overlooked good things that happen in our lives that often go unnoticed that can easily be added to our list of three good things that happened to us on any particular day.
The point is that we can reprogram our brains to actively search for the good in our lives when we practice doing so. Rather than identifying all the things that we believe are going wrong or not working well, we tap into a plethora of positive emotions that can actually change the neurochemistry of our brains. This can often result in a greater sense of well-being, happiness and fulfillment. But we must have a genuine appreciation and deep sense of gratitude for these good things, not just pay superficial attention to them.
The ‘Researchers of Good’ strategy is a very mindful act that requires us to be present with our thoughts and reflections. It requires some quiet time to genuinely reflect on our day and to invest the time necessary to identify and give gratitude for the good things that have happened to us. As humans we can automatically default to what’s not working in our lives or all the things going wrong, but this strategy gets us to flip the paradigm on its head and celebrate the good in our life with more consistency.
Try it out at home, at the office, with your colleagues and other family members for at least 7 straight days. The most important thing is taking the time to actually write it down in a journal or on sticky notes. It’s the act of writing it down that completes the strategy as we are investing time to reflect and to write down the good things we experience. If you do well at it for 7 days, try it out for 14 days or even a month. The more you do it, the better you will get at it.
We devoted a chalkboard wall to it on our own house and had students try it out by writing their lists of good each day on the windows of the classroom using non-permanent markers.
Hope you try out the ‘Researcher of Good’ strategy in your own life! Thanks for reading.
According to a study done by Asurion, a global tech company, the typical American checks their phone on average once every 12 minutes. The study revealed that of the 2,000 people surveyed, one in 10 actually check their phones on average once every four minutes which is quite an alarming statistic. The New York Times published an article in 2017 that summarized the results of this study to illustrate the point that we are an addicted society when it comes to dependency on our devices. Although this study was done in the United States, I am sure the statistics would be similar in other developed nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom or other European countries.
Setting an intention to put aside our devices or resist the urge to habitually pull them out of our pockets, handbags, or backpacks can be a challenging task for all of us, but an interesting one to try out, especially when trying to improve on our ability to be more ‘present’ in our every day life. Being more present and observant of our surroundings and being more present when engaged in discussions with others is a very mindful act that requires us to focus our energy and pay attention with a specific purpose. Again, not an easy thing to do for anyone!
When trying to genuinely practice being present, a very mindful act indeed, our devices can often times get in the way of being able to do this. Being aware of this can help us to make a conscious effort to set intentions to be more present in our every day life. You just never know what you will notice and observe around you when you strive to be more present.
A few weeks ago, my wife, Neila Steele, set an intention to practice mindfulness throughout the day. As part of this intention, she also chose to keep her device in her handbag during her morning and afternoon breaks, as well as during her hour off at lunch.
She was attending a 2-day workshop that we being held for teachers and administrators at the school that we work at. During her lunch break, she went to the very busy cafeteria at the university where the training was being held. As she waited in a long line up to order her sandwich, she found herself getting a wee bit impatient. However, in holding true to the intention that she set for herself at the start of the day, she was aware that she did not want to mindlessly pull out her phone to check it.
It was one of those moments when habit can kick in and it can be so easy to grab our device to help ease the boredom, frustration, or to help pass the time. As she waited in line she began to become more aware of her breath and reminded herself to be present, to observe her surroundings and take in all of the sounds and sights of the lunch time rush.
It was right at about this moment when she noticed that she was now second in line to be served. It was also about the same time when she tuned into the harsh words that the customer ahead of her was slinging at the sandwich maker behind the counter. Apparently, the man in front of her had ordered a sandwich that was supposed to have beef in it. As the man checked his sandwich, there was no beef in it and had clearly agitated him.
He aggressively asked the sandwich maker, ‘Where’s the beef in my sandwich?”. The sandwich maker obviously didn’t speak English very well and didn’t understand what the man was asking. This angered the man even more and he then barked out, “The beef! The Beef! Where’s the fucking beef?”.
It was at this point that Neila stepped in and calmly tried to diffuse the situation by saying, ‘Hey, hey, no need to speak to the man behind the counter this way. It’s clear that he doesn’t understand you. It’s OK to be angry, but not OK to take it out on the sandwich maker who clearly doesn’t speak English well.”
Neila then noticed how stressed the customer looked. She could instantly tell that this perhaps wasn’t about the sandwich at all and that something else was going on. She calmly asked him if everything was OK. He admitted to her that he was very stressed and had received news that his student visa might not be renewed which meant he would have to leave the country the next day.
Neila acknowledged how stressful this situation must be and again asked if he was OK. She also asked what he needed to resolve the sandwich issue. In that moment, he clearly calmed down, thanked her, and said that he didn’t need anything. He then grabbed his beef-less sandwich and quietly left. Neila did not see him again.
When she got home, she told me about what had happened at lunch and how setting the intention at the start of the day to not mindlessly grab her phone allowed her to be fully present with her surroundings in the lunch time line up and to ultimately be able to calmly diffuse the very stressful situation that took place between the customer and the sandwich maker.
Practicing mindfulness while in line helped her to be able to do this. Not mindlessly checking her device allowed her to be able to this. Setting the specific intention to not touch her phone allowed her to do this.
Who knows what we will notice or observe around us when we stay in the present moment. Who knows what sounds and sights we will take in? Who knows who we might be able to connect with or to help when we stay off our devices and strive to be more present in ordinary or mundane settings in our daily lives.
How many times a day might you mindlessly or unnecessarily grab your device? Do you do this more in social situations or when you are in line ups? The next time you are in a social situation or a long line up, try leaving your device in your pocket or handbag? Are you able to do this?
Want to hear the latest episode of our '4 X Mindfulness' podcast? In this episode Neila shares the lunch time line up story and what it taught her. You can access the link to the podcast below. Hope you check it out:
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I dropped my son, Eli, off at a weeklong, residential golf program yesterday afternoon in Musselburgh, Scotland. It is the first time for him to experience a summer camp and the first time for him to be away from the family during summer vacation. He was obviously very excited about the opportunity to meet other kids his age from around the world and to be able to play golf all week in such a beautiful country.
However, as we were getting ready to drop him off, he admitted to me that he was feeling nervous and afraid. I commended him for being so open with me about it and, in that moment, decided to try out a mindfulness technique that allows us to flip our anxiety or nervousness into wonderings.
So, I asked Eli to flip his anxiety into statements that begin with 'I wonder.........'.
Eli immediately came up with a number of 'I wonder' statements and this allowed him to reframe the anxiety and nervousness into a normal part of the process of moving into a new experience that is unknown to us. The 'I wonder' statements that Eli came up with were:
I wonder how many other kids there will be at camp.
I wonder if they are going to be nice.
I wonder what my golf coaches will be like.
I wonder who I will become friends with.
I wonder how much free time I will have.
I wonder what it will be like playing new golf courses.
Eli and I were able to have a genuine conversation about the fact that many people experience anxiety and nervousness heading into new situations and new environments and that it is very normal to experience these emotions. In reframing his anxiety and nervousness, I felt that it put him into a much more open and accepting state that ultimately allowed him to better embrace the unknown environment he was about to head into. It is a very mindful act of internal self-awareness to be able to flip our anxiety and nervousness into 'I wonder' statements and it requires curiosity and openness.
It allows us to have honest conversations with ourselves and to give ourselves a break when feelings of anxiety and nervousness pop up in our lives as we head into situations unknown. I'm glad Eli and I could experience this moment together yesterday before we dropped him off.
Think about an upcoming event or situation that you will face in your life that may be causing you anxiety or stress. How might you reframe this experience by creating your own 'I wonder' statements to better prepare you mentally for the experience itself? As Ralph Waldo Emerson states in the quote above, "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better". Experimenting with different mindfulness techniques to help us better understand ourselves not only leads to deeper learning, but also allows us to find methods and strategies that help to provide us with a greater sense of well-being, so experiment away as much as possible as you continue on your own paths of self-learning.
Thanks for reading.
“Don’t choose anything that will jeopardize your soul.”
Finding a bit of inspiration each day can work magic by helping to stimulate and release neurochemicals in our brains responsible for helping us to feel good. We can literally change the states of our brain and there’s no better time to do this than first thing in the morning.
Whether it be listening to our favorite song or watching a quick video on YouTube, the act of inspiring ourselves can work wonders for us as we begin our day.
Even if we find ourselves listening to the same three favorite songs each morning or repeatedly watching an inspiring YouTube video over a succession of days, what is most important to remember is that we are making an active effort to gear ourselves up and feel inspired before stepping out of our house to face the day. It’s much better to proactively go out into the world each day ready to perform our best than to be miserable, complacent, bored or feeling a sense of dread.
The science is clear on this. When we can increase the level of our feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters in our brain, we are more confident, happier, and more willing to engage in the world proactively rather than reactively.
Here’s one of my favorite videos to listen to. Wise words from actor Matthew McConaughey that emphasize the need to take ownership and control of our lives and to choose goodness over anything else that may jeopardize our chances of being happy. This video is about living a purposeful and authentic life.
This is just one of thousands of videos that can be found on YouTube. It doesn’t matter what the video is, as long as it plants the seeds of inspiration within.
All it takes is just 5 minutes a day to kick start our brain into a different gear and in doing so tap into a greater sense of well-being.
Follow Andy Vasily on Twitter at @andyvasily
Wherever You Go, There You Are is the title of one of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s books. The book is about meditation and mindfulness. The title sounds quite apparent. Of course wherever you go, there you are, however the reality is that we are so often lost in the constant trance of thoughts in our heads that we can no longer enjoy what is right in front of us.
The other evening, I went for a lovely walk with my husband. Usually, walking for me is the act of moving with purpose rather quickly from point A to arrive at point B. However, this walk was more intended to help us connect after a long week.
The walk was pleasant for a while, but I found myself getting irritated. Now, whenever I am walking with my husband, he often tells me to slow down, only he doesn’t say slow down he says, “You’re speeding up again.” (which can be quite irritating to me).
I found myself annoyed at having to alter my speed. After a few minutes of dwelling in irritation, I started to simply take a few spacious breaths and drop into the body more.
I noticed my feet touching the ground, along with the sound of each step and feeling the temperature of the breeze on my exposed skin. I began to move with more natural awareness. I began to think about why was I rushing? I didn’t have to hurry anywhere in that moment. We weren't under any time constraints, so why was I pushing so hard and fast to get to my destination. After all, our evening walk together was genuinely about connecting and talking after a long week.
When I began to ease into the stroll at a more leisurely pace, I was also able to zoom in on, being more of an attentive listener to my husband. I suddenly stopped trying so hard to get somewhere and to recognize this mindful moment of being present with where I was. It made me think back to one of Jon Kabit Zinn's book titles Wherever You Go, There You Are. This book title is such a great phrase to repeat to yourself as a reminder to not only arrive in the current moment but to try to stay in it over and over again.
After few more blocks, the pace felt good, I allowed the tension in my shoulders to drop and I even noticed my mind relaxed into the ease of just walking and enjoying my partner's company.
My husband stretched out to hold my hand as we walked. I softened some more and noticed again what was most important at this moment. This moment was allowing me to connect with a loved one and be here in my body and mind in this ever-present moment.
In reflecting on this moment, I can look back and understand that I had underlying stress and anxiety lurking below the surface which was manifesting itself during our walk. It wasn’t the actual pace of the walk that was my actual cause of irritation. However, when the feeling of irritation arose, I was able to put specific mindfulness practice into place that allowed me to better understand myself in that moment and to fall into the state of being more present and connected during the walk. And with this came a sense of gratitude and appreciation for not letting this wonderful moment be lost.
Even on difficult days, mindfulness can help us to find that sense of peace and calm if we are willing to put it into practice.
Follow Neila on Twitter at: @neilasteele
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily