Where Does Your/My Energy Go?

Happy energy of children
Adelkazaika / Pixabay

Once upon a time, in years gone by there was an abundance of energy for me to access. Have you experienced that? As the years went by, I found myself needing more breaks, getting tired more quickly, and even needing more sleep. The four to six hours of sleep no longer was enough. Where did my energy go?

I had been able to work full-time, go to school, run, and exercise daily, and care for my children and home. (I am not and never was a good housekeeper, so that saved me some time). As the years passed, I found this more difficult. By this time, my children had grown and were independent, and I had a husband to help. I refuse(d) to believe this was the ‘aging process,’ give me a break, I don’t feel old. Age, as time is an illusion – right?

I had no idea that stress and stressful events can drain our energy. Good grief – work, school, children, home – those all have stress accompanying them. Of course, though I knew it wasn’t the right thing to cut, I decreased my exercise time. My knees were bad anyway so running was gone from my life. That is when the weight started to pile on – lovely.

I have since learned that our emotions and things that annoy us daily, like our commute to work, cause us stress that we don’t even notice and that stress depletes our energy. I have also learned ways to boost my energy.

There are many things influencing the amount of energy we have available. Think of energy like a battery. Some things charge the battery, and some things drain the battery.

Fight or Flight

Many of us are aware of this term, but we don’t really think much about it. Fight or flight response occurs when there is an “acute threat to survival that is marked by physical changes” (Britannica, 2019). These changes include our nervous and endocrine (hormonal) systems, which we rely on to keep us safe by either running away or staying to fight. There are few events in our day-to-day life that are life-threatening, but our body still responds as though the stressors are life-threatening. We have been a little slow to adapt to this. And these responses drain our energy. We can learn to have some control over our responses and conserve some energy.

White Heart

Even though we are not being chased by a lion there are things that make our heart rate and breathing rate increase, sending more oxygen to our muscles so we can run or fight. The threats we have today tend to be cognitive (thoughts, beliefs, opinions) rather than physical. Most of our fears these days don’t call for either fight or flight. However, our body doesn’t recognize the difference between physical and cognitive threats, and our heart and breathing rates increase. I wonder if that is where the run-away bride comes from – stressed by getting married she needs to run or fight, she isn’t going to fight the man she loves, so she runs. The increased heart and breathing rate are from the activation of our sympathetic nervous system. This heightened sympathetic nervous system activity gives us some of the symptoms of anxiety.

To counter the sympathetic nervous system, we have the parasympathetic nervous system. Think car – sympathetic is gas and parasympathetic is the brake. When our heart is racing and our breathing is rapid, we want to bring these under control, we want to activate the parasympathetic system. We can learn to have some control of these and stop the battery from draining dry, we can learn how to charge the battery. This is an example used by HeartMathTM.

 Breathe Inhale Exhale  - kathleenport / Pixabay
kathleenport / Pixabay

Since learning about HeartMathTM I have been in much better control of my energy drains. I have learned controlled breathing and to plug some energy leaks. First, I needed to be aware of some of the areas that were draining my energy. Some of these are things that occur every day, and we rarely think of them as anything but routine, let alone that they are using up our energy. Some examples for you:

MeetingsEmailsFinances/BudgetsPoor sleep
Technology glitchesDeadlines, time, overloadOther’s mistakesChallenging people/clients
Unexpected changeDecision makingHome/workplace DramaBalancing work/family
TrafficNoiseHealthInefficiencies

Though many of these things are part of our daily life we don’t tend to think of them as anything but routine. Knowing that they are draining energy I also found ways to decrease the drain and charge my energy. I’ll share some ways to decrease energy drain, I wish I had known this years ago.

  1. Breathe: When our sympathetic nervous system is triggered our breathing becomes rapid and shallow and uses up our energy. Taking slow, deep breaths will help you find calm and reduce your energy expenditure. Combining breathing with some positive thoughts, feelings, and memories can also help boost your energy.
  2. Notice and Prep: Being aware of when you find yourself in fight or flight reactions is a good start to counteraction. Knowing that you get ‘up-tight’ at a certain meeting you can prepare for that meeting by breathing, doing some positive self-talk, and adjusting your perception. Remember: you are enough.
  3. Acceptance: Knowing what you can change and what you can’t change is a good start. If you cannot change something/someone you might as well go with the flow. But to do so means awareness and choosing how you will feel – no use worrying, accept that is the way it will be. Even if you still find your heart racing and your breathing rapid and shallow, you can accept this and know that a few slow, deep, abdominal breaths will help you.
  4. Exercise: We don’t know why exercise helps but we might be able to guess. When we are exercising, we are focusing on what we are doing rather than the stressful situation(s) we face. Exercise increases our heart rate our breathing – so what is different? Your state of mind. Also, you are in control. The rapid heart rate and respiratory rate aren’t all that is draining your energy, there are other hormones and chemicals in the body that react to feelings and emotions. While exercising you aren’t thinking about the department budget meeting that you know will be difficult; instead, you are focused on your health and well-being, and this changes what occurs in our bodies.
  5. Cognitive-Behavioural Approaches: When you are in fight or flight mode take a moment to reflect on what you are thinking. Then ask yourself, “Is this the best solution, the best way to be thinking of this? Is there a better solution or action?” By taking the time to consider options you might find you can reduce your energy expenditure by finding a new solution.
  6. Talk to a Professional: You want to make sure that your mental and physical health is good. A professional can help you learn ways to deal with stressful situations, anxiety, panic, or even poor sleep. You do not have to do everything on your own.

In summary, our fight or flight response is important to keep us safe. Sometimes that response is overactive, and we need to find a way to get control. Getting control will help improve your health and energy. Who wouldn’t like that? There are many resources available to help you find a way to better health, less stress, and happiness. We all deserve a beautiful life.

I am available to discuss how you can boost your energy rather than decrease it, and to be in control of your emotional responses. Check my calendar to book an appointment at your convenience https://koalendar.com/u/drelaineleadershipcoach

Dr. Elaine Leadership Coach

Put Yourself in a Better Mood

Photo from my trip to New York’s Central Park. John Lennon’s songs always give me hope and lifts my mood,

Put yourself in a better mood. How? Check out these science-based ways to increase positive emotions, decrease negative emotions, and make yourself feel better.

Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes bad things happen, and we find ourselves in a bad mood. At times we make decisions that get us down. Other times we feel bad for no obvious reason. We know we want to feel better…but how? Psychological research has shown us there are ways we can boost our mood. Check out a few of them:

1. Practice gratitude to boost your mood

​One of the best ways to start feeling better fast is to practice gratitude. You can write a gratitude journal or a gratitude list. This practice can lead to a quick and fast boost of feeling more positive.

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself

How you treat yourself matters. Treat yourself at least as well as you treat others. Learn self-compassion, being hard on yourself can bring you down. Being gentle with yourself can help you feel better about yourself. When we’re not judgmental of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, we treat ourselves better. You can boost self-compassion by writing a self-compassionate letter to yourself. In this letter remind yourself of all your good qualities, and good things you have done, and celebrate by treating yourself kindly.

3. Boost your mood, boost your self-confidence

When we are confident, we are more likely to take action to improve our lives. Being in a better mood can help make that happen. Boost your self-confidence by examining your strengths and positive qualities. Name your strengths and write or record them so you can refer to them during tough times. These don’t have to be big—are you a good cook, good at playing video games, or have a good, creative imagination.

4. Write yourself a ‘feel better soon’ letter

Research suggests we look at our current situation from a time in the future. Doing this can lead to decreased negative emotions and make us feel better (Bruehlman-Senecal & Ayduk, 2015). That can be tough to do, depending on the situation. This suggestion has you think about what you want to do and where you want to be (dream a little, then write those things down).  If you’ve experienced a breakup or other negative situation or event leaving you in a bad mood or unhappy, imagine the future you want (remember you are in control). Then write this letter to yourself, but from the future. This letter is from the view that you have achieved all your dreams and are reflecting on the tough time. In this letter praise yourself for all you have accomplished (from what you want to do, want to be, and for your happiness. Tell yourself to “feel better soon”. You recognize how proud you are of all your future self is doing when this challenging time has passed. You might also want to consider a vision board for long-term dreams and goals or even a quick collage for the immediate future (I like pictures, though I know this isn’t for everyone).

How can that smile not help lift your mood?

5. Notice positive things and watch your mood improve

Numerous studies show that focusing our attention on the positive rather than the negative can improve our well-being (MacLeod, et al., 2002; Wadlinger & Isaacowitz, 2008). For example, if we lose a job, we might say to ourselves: “I am so happy to have my family and friends” or “It was time for me to find something new” or “I deserve better than this”.

6. Positive images can make you smile

Science is great for helping us learn strategies to feel better. But sometimes we just want to look at something funny or cute. (Science suggests positive images do boost our mood.) Sometimes, when we’re feeling down, it can be helpful to let our brain rest, look at cute cat videos or pictures, and just let our mood improve that way.

For quick fixes check out this short article from Psychology Today.

7. Oh, just one more thing to wrap up

If you’re in a bad mood, there are things you can do to feel better. Try these tips. Be gentle with yourself and take your time. Don’t forget to breathe. As a Certified HeartMathTM Trainer and Coach I have programs to guide you to be in control of how you react to your emotions. I can tailor these to meet your needs, we work together. See more information here https://leadnurses.com/programs/

References

  • Bruehlman-Senecal, E., and O. Ayduk. 2015. “This Too Shall Pass: Temporal Distance and the Regulation of Emotional Distress.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 108 (2): 356.
  • MacLeod, C., Rutherford, E., Campbell, L., Ebsworthy, G., & Holker, L. (2002). Selective attention and emotional vulnerability: assessing the causal basis of their association through the experimental manipulation of attentional bias. Journal of abnormal psychology, 111(1), 107.
  • Wadlinger, H. A., & Isaacowitz, D. M. (2008). Looking happy: The experimental manipulation of a positive visual attention bias. Emotion, 8(1), 121.

I Get So Mad. Are Your Emotions Holding You Hostage?

pexels- ronald- 1260644

I get so mad. Are your emotions holding you hostage?

Husband: “Why are you always talking in the middle of a tv show? You know I can’t follow the show when you are talking.”

Wife: “Humph! I was just asking the dog if she wanted out. I wasn’t even talking to you.”

Wife to her friend: “He makes me so mad. Everything must be his way. He can talk to me when I am watching something or on a ZOOM call, but everyone must be perfectly quiet for him.”

How often have you said something like this, or heard someone else say it? “She made me so upset.” “He really hurt my feelings.” We say these things often not even thinking. But was it really the other person who made you mad, upset, or hurt? No. Those feelings come from your response to that emotion. What if you could control your response?

Sure, that sounds ok. But does it really make any difference? And what does it have to do with the way I lead?

You can control how you respond. I will share a bit more about that shortly. And as a leader, you are setting an example. Furthermore, as a leader you want your team to function optimally, and to do that, they also need to be able to be in control of their emotional responses.

Let’s examine more about emotions; where they come from, and why we react the way we do. First, we don’t want to get rid of our emotions. What we want is to be in control of our response. Emotions aren’t good or bad, but they do drive our physiology. Some emotions drain our energy, while others recharge our energy, like your cell phone battery. Some emotions are more intense than others. Regardless of the emotion, they affect our energy, how we perform, how we communicate, and our ability to self-regulate, or be in control.

Without going into a lot of detail I will explain what happens to our bodies when we are experiencing stress. After all, when we are angry, frustrated, or frightened we are experiencing stress. Knowing what is going on physiologically might help you to understand why you want to be in control of your emotional responses.

Within seconds of sensing a threat – real or perceived – fear, anger, or frustration your body is at work releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline to increase your blood pressure and heart rate. This is needed to ensure that you get the required oxygen and blood to where it is needed – the brain, muscles, heart, and lungs. You need this to ensure you are physically strong enough to protect yourself. (Remember, your brain doesn’t know if it is anger or a lion attacking, it merely knows there is stress.) When your heart rate increases you are stressed. There is also less blood going to the skin, digestive system, and kidneys – that is what causes the ‘butterflies’ in your stomach. Noradrenalin also hones your senses making you more alert, causing your facial muscles to become tense, you might clench your teeth, you might get goosebumps, and you are likely to look more aggressive.

Cortisol is also released and converts stored fat into energy to drive your muscles. However, too much cortisol weakens your immune system. Have you ever noticed that after the big project is completed, or the exams are written you get a cold, cold sore, or other infection? I often got ill when I took a vacation – why? – because I had been under stress, knew it was time for a break, but I had waited too long and there was just too much cortisol that had weakened my immune system.

Learning to control our response to emotions will help keep our stress down. It won’t make it go away, but it will help keep it in control and less cortisol will be released.

What are we going to do about this? There are numerous things that we experience daily causing us stress. Some of them we don’t even notice anymore because they happen all the time – your daily drive to work, your rush in the morning to get the kids off to school and you to work, or standing in the grocery store check-out line.

When you react to your stress you are prevented from thinking as clearly as usual, you can’t solve problems as easily, and your production decreases.

Have you ever found yourself saying something along the lines of

“that made me so mad, and when I get mad, I cry, which makes me angrier cause that looks like he had hurt my feelings, rather than I was angry”?

I know I have certainly done that a time or two. I have learned over time to have better control of my emotional responses. Of course, that doesn’t mean I will never do that again. Being in control of my emotional response is the way I expect to respond most of the time.

Have you noticed the use of the words react and respond? They are not the same. In this situation ‘react’ means what happens is spontaneous, without thought. Respond means you have taken a moment – now or at some point in the past, to evaluate how you will behave to the words or activity that stimulated a specific emotion. That time between the action and what you say is where you choose to either react or respond. When you choose to respond, you are in control. When you react, your emotions are in control. Most of us like to be in control of our actions, words, and behaviours.

Learning to respond rather than react isn’t easy. We have probably been reacting all our life. This kind of change takes some work, but with a few simple steps, it can be done.

Gaining Control of Your Emotions

  1. Acknowledge and name your feeling.
  2. Focus your attention on your breathing – the chest area or your upper lip where you can feel the cool air going in and the warm air coming out. Picture your breath flowing in and out of your chest area. Breathe a little slower and deeper than usual. Choose a rhythm that is comfortable for you. Do this for 3 – 5 breaths, or more if you feel you need to.
  3. Identify a positive attitude or regenerative feeling – calm, peace, sitting on a beach enjoying the sun, something you appreciate, petting or playing with your dog, or just relaxing and reading.
  4. Now ask yourself – what would be a more appropriate, effective, or efficient way for you to respond to the feeling you identified. (What would be a better solution than displaying your reaction?)
  5. Notice the very subtle change in how you perceive the situation, your feelings, and your attitude. Make a promise to yourself to sustain this feeling and your attitude in this and similar situations.

You have now taken a few minutes to go through this process and in doing so you have not reacted to the emotion. Will this happen the next time an emotion overcomes you? Good chance it won’t. But, as soon as you realize that you reacted and were not in control, go through these steps. Continue to do this practice until it becomes comfortable, and you can do this before you react. You will find that as you do this with each emotion you will be establishing a new pattern for yourself.

What if you don’t identify a better way to respond? Don’t worry about it, just repeat the process later, or the next day until you identify a better response. The more you practice the easier it will be to have the response come naturally.

You can use this technique at times when you feel frustrated, angry, impatient, worried, or scared. Identify your emotional reactions that could benefit from being controlled with a response.

Check out an earlier blog for some more about stress and emotions and the video that accompanies it:

Emotions – Heart – Stress: Be in Charge of Your Emotions!

Our world is full of potential stressors. We aren’t going to be able to control all of them. But there are many emotions connected with these stressors that can be tamed. You can avoid some stressors – don’t have the news on constantly or even take a few days to not listen to the news, consider a change in your morning routine, or maybe change the time or place you do your grocery shopping (or maybe get someone else to do it occasionally).

Your health includes managing your response to stress. Give me a shout and we can discuss this in more detail and plan what you can do that is specific to your needs.

Let’s talk: drelaine@drelaineleadership.coach

or set up an appointment on my calendar: https://koalendar.com/u/drelaineleadershipcoach

Gratitude, Happiness, and Leadership

As a leader are you demonstrating gratitude and happiness?

Does a leader need to be happy and grateful?

Are you promoting gratitude and happiness in your workplace?

My belief is that everyone would have a much better life if they demonstrated gratitude and made the choice to be happy. This does not mean you need to hide your troubles, not pay attention to what bothers you, to ignore your unhappiness or your illnesses, and struggles; these need to be addressed. As a new friend of mine says “you have to feel it to heal it.” As humans, we have oodles of emotions to which we react or respond. Some emotions lift us up while others bring us down or lead to outbursts. We can learn not to react to emotions but instead to respond in a more efficient and effective way. Of course, this will not happen all the time, but it is what we want as our usual response. We are human, and as such we have a wide variety of emotions some uplifting, but not all of them. Embrace your emotions as you learn to be in control of your responses. Where your thoughts go, your energy will flow. Make sure your energy is used for enjoyment, and for what you are grateful.

Gratitude has been identified as a feeling or emotion that promotes happiness. Gratitude can be hard to find now with a pandemic and a war in Ukraine. Much has happened to leave us feeling beat down, and that the world is against us. However, if we focus on being thankful for the small things like sunshine, life, food to eat, clean water to drink, and no war (yes, that is a big one), we are making a good step in the direction of discovering more things for which to be grateful.

I want to make sure we are all talking about the same thing when we use the word gratitude. According to Harvard Health Publishing’s article, (Positive Psychology: Harnessing the power of happiness, mindfulness, and inner strength – Harvard Health)

“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you receive, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, you acknowledge the goodness in your life.”

You can have gratitude for events or people in your past. Think about the people for whom you are grateful, do they know you appreciate them? Take a few minutes and write a thank you note. Once done, send it to them (electronically or by snail mail), or even better take it to them and read it aloud. Plan to do this once a month. And don’t forget to write a thank-you note to yourself every once in a while.

If gratitude and thinking positive are so important, why do we often have negative thoughts and remember the bad things that have happened? Our evolution primed our brains to focus on danger or anything bad that might be able to harm us or kill us. Our brains were wired for our protection. The dangers of the cave dweller days are not the same today, and our brains do not have to remember quite so many ‘bad’ things. We are now ready to retrain our brains to be aware of and enjoy the ‘good’ things in our lives. Today, if we focus on what will harm or kill us, we aren’t likely to make ourselves safer, but instead, leave us worried, stressed, and unhappy.

Don’t take what you have for granted. Harvard Health Publishing’s article, Positive Psychology (Positive Psychology: Harnessing the power of happiness, mindfulness, and inner strength – Harvard Health) shared this scientific evidence:

Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Mike McCullough of the University of Miami examined the impact of keeping a gratitude journal. All participants in their study were asked to write a few sentences each week, focusing on five things. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily hassles or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on hassles. Numerous other studies have pointed to the beneficial effects—not only for adults, but also for children and adolescents—of regularly making lists of things for which we’re grateful, keeping a gratitude journal, or expressing gratitude to others. Cultivating gratitude in these ways may also help us deal with common forms of psychological distress, such as anxiety or depression.

You deserve appreciation too. I appreciate me for being strong and successfully getting through chemotherapy and feeling so much better, two years later. There are many other things about me for which I can be grateful. If you don’t write yourself a letter, write your gratitude and appreciation in your journal or on post-it notes, and if writing isn’t your thing, take time to contemplate your blessings. We all have much for which to be grateful.

Those in leadership often arrive in that position because it was their turn for promotion. Education and development in leadership are often absent. These leaders are flying by the seat of their pants, learning through trial and error. There is no need for that with all the programs, books, and courses available. Leaders are responsible for determining the culture of their workplace. With that being the case, why not strive for a culture including happiness and gratitude?

I’m more than happy to chat with you and direct you toward a life of happiness.

What is Happiness?

Is Happiness a Choice?

Don’t worry, be happy” – that is how the song goes. The song is very uplifting, and I find myself singing along. At times it is hard to be happy. We tend to worry a lot, and are anxious, sad, or unhappy. Worrying can use up a lot of energy, as does anxiety, and sadness. Worrying usually doesn’t solve anything, it just tires us out and makes us miserable.

Happiness – joyful, excited, content, calm, relaxed, ecstatic, sometimes this results in a warm feeling, causing us to smile. Have you ever walked down the street and smiled at people as you walked past? If you haven’t,  try it and notice the reaction of others. It is a fun exercise to do. An article I recently read suggests smiling at the first ten people you meet today – I love this idea. Just smiling can make you feel better. I’m a Certified HeartMath Trainer and Coach, I practice breathing to help me get into coherence and I have found I can increase my coherence by smiling.

We don’t need to be unhappy. There are things we can do to help make us feel happy. According to Positive Psychology, a Harvard Health Publication, the following things can help make you happy (I’ve added a few of my own):

  1. Feeling good – seeking out pleasurable activities
  2. Being fully engaged – going after goals and activities that are important to you. Do you know what these are? Have you identified your values?
  3. Being of service – helping others, volunteering
  4. Children (to a certain extent)
  5. Gratitude
  6. Vacations and special events, if you live in the city – get out of town for a hike
  7. Being mindful and focusing on one thing only – i.e., no multi-tasking
  8. Enjoying simple things like sunshine, being outdoors – a walk around the neighbourhood or a park, curling up with a loved one, popcorn, and a movie
  9. Not taking on too much, or being a workaholic – spend time with yourself, family, and friends
  10. When is the last time you coloured, painted, or did something that you enjoyed as a kid – hide and seek, tag, a snowball fight, a pillow fight, a board game?
  11. Look through old photos, reminisce, and plan some fun activities for the future.
  12. You can also try meditation or going on a retreat (I have done at-home retreats; they can rejuvenate and be fun).
  13. Get yourself out of a boring routine, turn off the screens, don’t listen to the news for a few days, try new things – cooking classes, dancing, swimming, sports, reading a book
  14. Put on your ‘thinking cap’ and come up with some fun things to try, some boring things to get rid of, be active, be with others. You don’t need to spend money; you only need to think and get active.

Research has also shown that being grateful helps a person be happy. Though not having enough money, being ill, and being in a country at war certainly give you the right to be unhappy. Nonetheless, to get through such times with a bit of hope, and taking the time to think about what you do have, rather than what you don’t have can lead you to a state of gratitude. As nice as it would be if money could buy happiness, it just doesn’t.

Happiness is a Choice

Young people, those in their late teens, report being happy, but people in their eighties report being even happier. Positive Psychology also reports that happiness and enjoyment decline until about 50 years and then steadily increase over the next 25 years.

Where you live can also influence how happy you are. The following are the ten countries identified as the happiest:

  1. Finland,
  2. Norway,
  3. Denmark,
  4. Iceland,
  5. Switzerland,
  6. the Netherlands,
  7. Canada,
  8. New Zealand,
  9. Sweden,
  10. Australia.

The happy countries, according to Positive Psychology, are often those where the culture and economy allow the people to experience pleasure, purpose, and security. I don’t want you to dwell on this, but what is the culture and economy of your country now? The current state of the world has created economic concerns in many nations – this could decrease happiness worldwide. If that is the case, we need to be paying attention to our own state of happiness and take every measure we know to maintain and build our own happiness and that of our family and friends.

We have learned much during the pandemic. We have become very aware of the need for social contact. Social support has been identified as one of the Social Determinants of Health, it is not a new concept. Additionally, social support is also important for happiness. Accessibility to healthcare, another Determinant of Health, and “healthy years of life expectancy” also support happiness.

Marriage can assist in happiness, but that happiness can decline after the birth of the first child and not recover until the child(ren) leave home (these days they are often at home for an exceptionally long time – don’t wait for them to go to be happy). Personal relationships are important to happiness, as are having friends and frequent sex. Though we sometimes take our partners for granted, we don’t have to, and it does nothing for happiness. Plan for time together doing something you both enjoy. Plan for family time and learn to enjoy the children, they can be fun, and family fun is important. That is how great memories are made.

Life has many ups and downs, how you choose to respond to them will make a difference in whether you are happy. Happiness is a choice.

As a leader, you want to instill happiness in the workplace. The benefits are numerable. I can help you focus on achieving the happiness you want in your life, and in the life of your organization, you do not need to do it alone.

Book a ‘get to know you’ call: https://calendly.com/fromtheheartwithdr-elaine

More to come on Happiness, Mindfulness, and Inner Strength in the next few weeks.

08/04/22

The Search for Happiness

Girls Nature Happiness Kids Happy  - Adelkazaika / Pixabay
Adelkazaika / Pixabay

Most of us want to be happy. Many people search for happiness unsuccessfully. Many people don’t need to search, they are happy. Some people are happy, sometimes. Where do you fall?

What is happiness?

Merriam – Webster Dictionary gives the following definition:  

a: a state of well-being and contentmentJOY

ba pleasurable or satisfying experience: I wish you every happiness in life. I had the happiness of seeing you— W. S. Gilbert

Wow! That sounds almost simple. Well-being can vary from person to person, and contentment can be a bit obscure. Nonetheless, most of us know if and when we are happy. Let’s dig a bit deeper into happiness and how we can achieve that beautiful state.

What we might be wanting is a good quality of life. Is this different than happiness? My guess is that it is part of happiness. My quality of life has deteriorated over the last several years. However, it has now improved significantly. It isn’t what it once was and probably won’t get back to what it was 10 years ago. Nevertheless, I continue to be happy, and I am learning to adjust – slowly, but I am getting there. I am also noticing that my health seems to be improving daily and I am also calmer, less likely to get upset, and when I do it doesn’t last very long. Part of that is because of meditation, spiritual practices, and HeartMath. Focusing on my strengths and what I can do, rather than what I can’t make a huge difference. Positive Psychology (A Harvard Medical School Special Report) suggested supplementing traditional mental health treatments with positive psychology, focusing on both a persons’ strengths and weaknesses, as this is beneficial to achieving happiness and improved quality of life.

Dog Pet Animal Cute  - Pexels / Pixabay
Pexels / Pixabay

There is also a belief that Happiness Is a Choice You Make, (I believe there is a book by that name) by choosing to live in the moment, appreciating what you still have, and building on your strengths. I have found this to be true and am seeing more validation of this as the years go by. Autoimmune disorders and a bout with cancer have not dampened my overall happiness. This has not always been easy: I have gotten benefit from increased meditation, paying attention to my spirituality (I’m not religious), developing spiritual practices, increasing my use of HeartMath, and focusing on all for which I am grateful. I am incredibly grateful for my life. I find I have more patience and when I do get upset or pissed off, it just doesn’t last as long.

Because happiness is very subjective, you might determine if it is worthwhile to find a way to track how you are feeling. You might discover identifying your emotions a good method to track your feelings. Identify some words that resonate with you: content, excited, calm, enthusiastic, happy, peaceful, sad, angry, frustrated, down, or any of the multitude of words that can be found. Happiness can often be equated to inner peace. You might find spirituality or religion beneficial to you.

Numerous online tools are available to help you assess your happiness. You can also consider Maslow’s Hierarchy. Maslow’s 5 levels include:

1) basic physiological needs – food, water, clothing, shelter, breathing, sex, homeostasis, excretion.

2) safety needs – police, fire department, medical care, schools, employment.

3) love and belonging – family, friendship, sexual intimacy, interpersonal relationships.

4) esteem – self-confidence, self-esteem, achievement, sense of accomplishment, self-respect, and the respect of others.

5) self-actualization – morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts, personal fulfillment, sense of accomplishment, being the best you can be.

Supposedly if you have all of these you will be happy and fulfilled. What do you think? Is it enough for you to have all of these or do you need something more? If you need something more, can you identify what that is?

Easter Child Baby Spring Children  - gabbrielleite / Pixabay
gabbrielleite / Pixabay

You might find that your happiness is based on emotions. Emotions can lead to a good feeling, or a not-so-good feeling, to down-right miserable. More often than not, it is our reaction to the emotion that is the actual cause of our feeling. How you respond to your emotions can be learned and changed. I have written about this in the past and will soon be doing another blog on emotions including some brain information. This is one of the things with which HeartMath can help.

I am planning a series of blogs related to positive psychology. Look for my next blog Monday, 11 – April. Till then be happy and content with your life, seek out all for which you are grateful.

Learning to Breathe

Yes, We Need to Learn and Practice Breathwork

Breathing Exercises

Street Art Breathe Inhale Exhale  - kathleenport / Pixabay
kathleenport / Pixabay

Why is breathwork important?

Who thought we would need to learn how to breathe? Yet as we go through life we don’t often pay attention to breathing unless we are having difficulty. Think about how often we tell ourselves or others to ‘breathe’. When we are scared or upset someone is apt to tell us to ‘just take a deep breath’, during labour a mom is instructed how to breathe, playing a wind instrument or singing requires breath control, as does swimming and other sports activity. Anyone with lung problems knows the importance of breathing and breathing properly. However, we don’t often think about why our breath is important in various circumstances and how our breath can affect the body and mind.

According to Deepak Chopra’s information, there are numerous benefits related to breathwork:

  • helps relieve physical, mental, and/or emotional tension
  • causes activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which then slows down your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure and thus causing a sense of calm
  • helps reverse the effects of cortisol and adrenalin (released during stress) and relaxes the body
  • deep breathing can help you slow down the monkeys busy in your brain
  • helps you reach a deeper state of mind; calms the mind and helps you focus
  • helps you attain inner peace and awareness

One of the first things I encourage you to do is notice how you are breathing. When you breathe in you should see your belly rising, and then with breath out, your belly will relax. A good deep breath helps increase the amount of oxygen you are getting and gets more oxygen to the brain – more oxygen, better brain activity.

There are many breathing exercises available. I am sharing a few for you to try if you are healthy. If you have any health concerns check with your physician or healthcare provider before launching into any of these exercises.

Warning!!! If you feel lightheaded at any time stop & breathe normally. Though these breathing exercises are generally safe, if you have any health problems check with your physician before giving any of these breathing techniques a try.

Abdominal/Belly/Diaphragmatic Breathing

  1. Sit or lie comfortably.
  2. Place one hand on your chest & the other hand on your belly, just below your rib cage.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose & feel the air move down & your abdomen rises.
  4.  Breathe out through your mouth. Let your belly relax.

Don’t force the breath in or out. Breathe in & out smoothly. Start with doing this 3 times. Eventually, you can work up to 5 – 10 minutes.

You can do this several times a day for short periods.

Box Breathinga powerful, yet simple, relaxation technique to return breathing to its normal rhythm. May help to clear the mind, relax the body, and improve focus.

  1. Sit or lie comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
  3. Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
  4. Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for 4 minutes, or until calm returns.

Sistali – Cooling Breath – builds breath awareness, is said to calm hunger & thirst. As well as cooling the body, it adds moisture to the system.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes, and practice diaphragmatic breathing for several minutes.
  3. Open your mouth & for an “O” with your lips.
  4. Stick out your tongue & curl it into a “U” shape.
  5. Inhale deeply across the tongue, into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.
  6. Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as your abdomen & lower ribs expand.
  7. Draw your tongue back in & close your mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils.

Continue Sistali for 2 – 3 minutes. Then return to diaphragmatic breathing for several minutes & repeat cooling breath for another 2 – 3 minutes. You can gradually work up to 10 minutes.

Bellows Breathingboosts your energy, eliminates morning doldrums, and strengthens your immune system. This is not a relaxation practice – it will invigorate you. Don’t do it at bedtime as it could cause insomnia.

  1. Sit comfortably.
  2. Take a few deep, diaphragmatic breaths through your nostrils.
  3. When ready to begin, exhale by contracting the abdominal muscles quickly & forcefully.
  4. Immediately follow the exhale with a quick diaphragmatic inhale of equal force, letting the abdominal muscles relax.

There is a challenge to this breathing technique. You want to coordinate the action of the diaphragm & abdominal muscles, so the air is moving quickly in & out of the lungs. As the abdominal muscles relax at the end of exhalation, the diaphragm contracts to begin inhalation. After your peak inhalation, the abdominal muscles immediately contract.

This exercise takes practice. I find it to be a good abdominal workout. You will have noise as you breathe in & out through your nostrils. Goal: make inhale & exhale equal.

Heart Focus Breathing – is a useful technique that can be used before, during, or after a stressful situation. Heart-focused breathing is about directing your attention to the heart area & breathing a bit more deeply than normal. You can practice this anywhere. In the beginning, you might want to start by:

  1. Sitting comfortably.
  2. Direct your attention to the heart area & breathe a little more deeply than normal.
  3. As you breathe in imagine you are doing so through your heart.
  4. As you breathe out, imagine you do so through your heart.

(In the beginning, placing your hand over your heart as you breathe can help you direct your focus to your heart.)

Breathe in about 5-6 seconds & breathe out 5-6 seconds, or at a rate that is comfortable for you.

We all need to breathe for life. Breathing can be difficult for some, be grateful if you are able to breathe without thinking about it. Then take some time to learn breathing techniques to help you maintain or improve your health.

Stress vs Burnout: What Is the Difference?

Do you feel disillusioned, helpless, exhausted? You might be on the path to burnout or burned out. What to do?

We have heard of stress and burnout, especially in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, with the current state of the world, I don’t think we will see a decrease in either stress or burnout anytime soon. We also know that many people are experiencing one, the other, or both. What can we learn, how can we help ourselves, and others?

According to the referenced article, burnout causes physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion because of prolonged stress. I think we are seeing these signs of burnout and stress in many people.

I found the following information about Stress and Burnout.

StressBurnout
Characterized by over-engagement.Characterized by disengagement.
Emotions are overreactive.Emotions are blunted.
Produces urgency and hyperactivity.Produces helplessness and hopelessness.
Loss of energy.Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope.
Leads to anxiety disorders.Leads to detachment and depression.
Primary damage is physical.Primary damage is emotional.
May kill you prematurely.May make life seem not worth living.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms in the chart above, please seek help from a physician, psychologist, coach, or whoever is your source of support. If you know of someone experiencing these symptoms, be a friend, and encourage them to seek support.

Do you tell your employer? Tough question. If you choose to let the employer know, don’t go into much detail, at least initially. However, see about taking a vacation, a few days off, sick day(s), and don’t take on extra work. Speak up for yourself. Are others at your place of work feeling the same thing?

If you don’t work for someone else, don’t work outside the home, or are unemployed – the same things apply. What can you let go of? What can you do to lift yourself up – something you haven’t done for quite a while, that will make you feel good. Consider reconnecting with friends and family. Go outside. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition, and activity. Also, look at what you are doing to cope, are you using too much alcohol, drugs, food, tv, gaming, gambling, sleeping a lot, and decide which of these things need to go. They all need to go, but you can start with one or two. Have a reasonable plan that will ensure you succeed.

You want to get yourself feeling better, have hope, feel positive and be healthy. I can’t state this too much – find someone to help. If you don’t know where to look or who can help, contact me – I can guide you to someone or I can help.

We deserve to live a vibrant, fulfilling, beautiful life. Together we can have such a life.

There are physical, emotional, and behavioural signs of burnout, and thus it can affect all areas of your life. Identify how you have changed. Because burnout doesn’t occur overnight, the signs and symptoms might sneak up on you. Consider talking to those around you, help each other do a check on how you are doing. Maybe even set up a group to work together to help each other, to hold each other accountable, and maybe even prevent burnout.

Life is more than surviving, don’t let the troubles of the world take over. There is likely nothing you can do about the state of the world, you can only control yourself. Take charge of you! Be the best at whatever you do.

Let me know how you are doing and if I can be of help.



The Farmer Who Grew Excellent Quality Wheat

I received the following message on FB today. These words are not mine and I don’t know who the originator is. I googled the words and found numerous entries from people who were sharing this message, but I couldn’t find an original. These are great words of wisdom and wouldn’t it be nice to see much more of this in the world today?

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality wheat and every season he won the award for the best grown in his county. One year a reporter from the local newspaper interviewed the farmer and learned that each spring the man shared his seed with his neighbors so that they too could plant it in their fields…“How can you afford to share your best wheat seed with your neighbors when they are entering their crops in the competition with yours?” the reporter asked….“Why that’s very simple,” the farmer explained… “The wind picks up pollen from the developing wheat and carries it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior wheat, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of all the wheat, including mine. If I am to grow good wheat, I must help my neighbors grow good wheat”…The reporter realized how the farmer’s explanation also applied to peoples’ lives in the most fundamental way… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

How to Attract High-Paying Clients: Is This Your Goal?

Everything we do influences everything else. How are you influencing the world?

I receive emails, Facebook notices, LinkedIn information on numerous courses and programs to attract high-paying clients. I have even taken one course. That course was highly valuable. The only problem is that I don’t want to attract only high-paying clients. There is nothing wrong with getting high-paying clients, in fact, if coaching is your full-time job, it is probably a good idea. However, I am retired, I don’t want to work full-time. I also want to make coaching services available to people who cannot afford the thousands of dollars often associated with receiving coaching.

Why would I want to do this when I can potentially make much more money? Several reasons: 1) I want my services to be available to everyone, 2) I value myself but I don’t believe that has to be attached to dollars, 3) Everyone deserves to be their very best and that usually means they need some sort of guidance, 3) I don’t want to have to work that hard, I am retired and full-time work is not for me, and 4) I don’t like making cold calls. I’m a retired RN, both my master’s and doctoral degrees are in leadership (Master of Health in Leadership Studies, and Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership), can you guess where my interests lie? I like to help people.

How do you define wealth and success? I don’t equate success and wealth with money. I am highly successful and wealthy. My success is because I have a beautiful family, a home, I’m retired from a job I loved (nursing), I have returned to school many times and have enjoyed it. My wealth is similar, it is my beautiful family, my dog, my home, jobs I have enjoyed or loved, I am alive, and in remission from cancer, I feel good about myself – most of the time. There is more I could add to these lists, but these are the first ones to come to mind.

I have been fortunate to have had support for all that I do. I haven’t always had that, but I have for most of my life. I have not become successful and wealthy (not monetarily) on my own. I have had a wonderful education, mentors, coaches, family, and friends who have helped me along the way. I am also an avid reader and have read oodles of self-help books over the years. At 71-years I am still learning, and I love sharing what I learn.

Some of the greatest support I am receiving right now is from HeartMath®. I am putting together an online course and HeartMath® people and information has been invaluable. I am a Certified HeartMath® Trainer so I am fortunate to have access to incredible people and information. I also belong to numerous groups which provide me with information and support. My husband is a constant support in all that I do. Numerous friends also help me, especially now as I run programs by them for feedback. I believe everyone deserves access to support, coaching, mentoring, and information, and these things should not be only for the financially wealthy. I also believe that those who work shifts, have more than one job, are unemployed or underemployed, or who have chosen to not work at a paying job also deserve access to these same things.

Am I underselling myself? You can decide that for yourself. If a financially growing company wants to hire me, I will expect to be paid accordingly. If individuals are financially wealthy, they also will be expected to pay accordingly. One thing to remember, my wealth does not rely on dollars. Seeing others become satisfied with their life, learning, being in control of their emotions, improving their health (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual), and living the life of their dreams is incredibly rewarding. If I can be successful, wealthy, and happy without the huge income I can offer my services to everyone, regardless of what they can pay.

I haven’t found an ideal way to advertise my wide variety of pricing, but I believe this is my start. I have some ideas for advertising and will be getting started with putting those on my website soon, some wordsmithing is in order.

How do you define your success and wealth?

If I can be of service get in contact drelaine@drelaineleadership.coach, www.leadnurses.

I am at your service.

Neuroplasticity, Development, Leadership Do They Go Together?

I love this topic. Neuroplasticity is incredibly interesting and holds so much potential for our development. What more will we be able to do? How will neuroplasticity influence our health in areas such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, autoimmune disorders, brain injuries, and mental health? According to Britannica:

… neurogenesis has spurred an interest in stem cell research, which could lead to an enhancement of neurogenesis in adults who suffer from stroke, Alzheimer diseaseParkinson disease, or depression. Research suggests that Alzheimer disease in particular is associated with a marked decline in neurogenesis.

Interesting information I recently found can be accessed through the following link neuroplasticity. This is an easy-to-understand one page of information I hope you will read and learn a bit more. As someone with autoimmune disorders, in remission from cancer, and a long history of depression I am excited to check out all the possibilities.

I have confidence that with my ongoing use of HeartMath and incorporating neuroplastic behaviours into my routine I will see amazing improvements in my health. There remains much to learn about neuroplasticity and according to Positive Psychology there are two main types of neuroplasticity:

  • – Structural neuroplasticity, in which the strength of the connections between neurons (or synapes) changes.
  • – Functional neuroplasticity, which describes the permanent changes in synapes due to learning and development.” (Demarin, Morovic, & Bene, 2014)

Of course, neuroplasticity is not going to cure everything. Britannica goes on the suggest, some neural functions seem to be hard-wired in specific locations of the brain, while other neural networks are able to deviate from their specific functions and reorganize themselves.

The information I have found points to medical uses for neuroplasticity. The information tells us about developing new neural pathways. This suggests an opportunity for our personal and professional development, education, leadership development. The way our brains work allows us to jump to conclusions. This could be connected to the notion that the brain loves patterns. We will go along with those already formed patterns whether they are right or wrong. The things we have learned can result in unconscious bias and judgmental behaviour resulting in low workplace morale. (Reference)

Leaders need to be on the ball, life-long learning is a must for a leader to be truly successful and a true leader. Neuroplasticity can be implemented in ways to promote a positive work culture “where every worker feels valued and respected, helping employees to thrive“. What employer wouldn’t want that? If this can be done in the workplace it seems to follow that the same or similar approach could be used in numerous areas i.e. education, communities, family, and other relationships.

Where else might we be able to incorporate what we are learning about neuroplasticity?

How does neuroplasticity work with the heart-brain connection? How can it be used with HeartMath(R)?

I encourage you to keep seeking information about neuroplasticity and its uses to help us all achieve the beautiful life we deserve.

Let’s work together to make a start at achieving your beautiful life – be what you want to be – do what you want to do.
Follow me on: LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-elaine-leads-nurses/ or FaceBook https://www.facebook.com/fromtheheartwithdrelaine

Synchronicity

Image from Lonerwolf

Has something like this ever happened to you? You have been thinking about your friend, whom you have not seen in years, and they contact you.  


Psychologist Carl Jung introduced synchronicity.


What is it?
“Synchronicity is a phenomenon in which people interpret two separate—and seemingly unrelated—experiences as being meaningfully intertwined, even though there is no evidence that one led to the other or that the two events are linked in any other causal way. Though many people perceive signs or spiritual meaning in synchronistic events, most scientists believe that such events are more likely coincidences that only seem meaningful due to aspects of human thinking such as confirmation bias” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/basics/synchronicity)

We don’t need to seek synchronous events, we merely need to be aware. If the whole idea of synchronicity seems a bit strange there are other ideas that are somewhat similar: “grace, serendipity, extra-sensory perception, miracles, divine providence, and being in The Flow. They occur without conscious effort; but, what if you could attract or anticipate these experiences to benefit yourself or your organization? There are a few things you can do to cultivate more synchronicity in your life. Tom Zender, in Phoenix Business Journal, gives some ways to cultivate more synchronicity. Stay in the present moment, be authentic, and allow your intuition to help guide you:

  • Believe in your idea with a feeling that it will have a positive effect on you and your organization.
  • Give shape to the idea by visualizing a positive result from implementing the idea. See how the idea can actually work.
  • Ponder the idea, share it with others, and get some feedback. Often, input from others will enhance the idea.
  • Spend time to clarify how the new idea can be implemented. Feel what it would be like to have the idea working perfectly.
  • Allow the idea to rest – let go of it.
  • And when the inner “nudge” happens, act upon the idea.

Examples:
You have just received your last check from unemployment when suddenly a job comes along.
You walk into a book store not knowing what to buy, and the book you need falls from a shelf and practically hits you over the head.


You don’t need to have any belief or thought about synchronicities, but I encourage you to pay attention when they occur. Who knows what you might discover? Sometimes getting out of our head and paying attention to what our heart, gut, and events are suggesting can be well worthwhile.


#leadershipdevelopment#coaching#psychology#heartmath


Our Brain and Leadership: Where Does Neuroplasticity Fit?

Leaders need to always be learning. As I continue to delve into information on leadership, neuroplasticity, and synchronicity I am learning unbelievably interesting material. Of course, I will be sharing at least some of what I read with you.

As leaders, we are influencing others all the time and a good leader is cognizant of their attitudes, actions, and words. Leaders also have a large influence on their work environment. With the influence on the work environment leaders also influence the brain development of employees. Self-directed neuroplasticity, according to Bosch (2021), “is the process of the brain adapting to the work we do and how we do it.” As such, leaders want to endeavour to create a positive workplace recognizing peoples’ needs for such things as “autonomy, relatedness, and fairness” (Bosch, 2021). A few steps Bosch (2021) suggests to create a positive work environment include:

  1. Positive feedback in a timely manner
  2. Learning opportunities
  3. Communication – all forms, by everyone
  4. Participation in ideas  
  5. Limited distractions thus allowing people to focus and develop new neural pathways
  6. Necessary breaks encouraging reflection and new thinking – did you know some studies suggest longer hours make people less effective

Knowing that we can continue to develop neural pathways throughout our life we must consider what those pathways will be and how we will develop them. How we use our brain determines what we develop. Just as you train for physical competition, or for a chess game, or a spot on Jeopardy, we exercise and plan. The same must be done to develop the brain. Practice what you want to learn, expose yourself to new ideas, new people, new experiences. Challenge your brain and your memory. Your neurotransmitters need to be kept in balance.

Our brains play a vital role in emotions and memory. Our brain is also involved in our reaction or response to stressors. As I have written about in the past, the heart is also involved. Stress results in both physiological and biological responses with the fight or flight response: increased heart and breathing rate, increased blood sugar, the release of adrenaline and cortisol, our pupils dilate, and we are not able to digest food as easily as blood is redirected to essential areas for survival. When cortisol (the stress hormone) is released this, in turn, releases stored glucose for energy, and over time our immune system is suppressed.

There are ways to adapt our response to stress. I encourage the use of HeartMath and any other techniques that you find work for you. Bosch (2021) identifies the following as ways to help reduce your stress level:

  1. Make your goals realistic
  2. Learn your triggers and how to decrease your response to them, or avoid those triggers
  3. Take time during the day to refresh yourself through calm moments that could include conscious breathing, HeartMath techniques, meditation, go for a walk or other physical activity
  4. Connect with people – friends or family – did you know loneliness increases your vulnerability to stress
  5. Physical activity also reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol, so make it a regular part of your daily routine

We can do a myriad of things to improve our well-being and as leaders demonstrate to others healthy habits. Include healthy habits with additional activities to build a safe, positive, desired workplace.

I can guide you to learn specific techniques and systems that relate to you and your situation, personally or professionally. We all deserve to live a beautiful life.

Reference:

Bosch, H. 2021. Why We Do What We Do. EBSCO Information Services – www.ebscohost.com

Brain Fitness

I recently wrote about Neuroplasticity. I’ve done more reading and am sharing what I have discovered. I found a fitness program for my brain, and it is provided by HeartMath, of which I am a Certified Trainer, Coach, and Mentor.

According to Amen (2013) “The brain is an organ of loving, learning and behavior, and so is the heart”.

As I get older, I notice my brain is not performing as well as it once did, like my body. I also found things I can do to help my brain be in better shape. Having read that cognitive decline starts in our mid-twenties I can understand why my brain might need some work. We can continue to be alert and be developing our brainpower into our 80s and 90s. I have a few good years yet and who knows, maybe I can keep going past that 90 mark.

To understand Neuroplasticity, you need to know the word Neurogenesis: the regeneration and growth of new brain cells. Neurogenesis goes hand in hand with neuroplasticity. One way to stimulate neurogenesis is through activity – physical activity –

“Aerobic activities such as running, cycling, swimming, and even sex, are effective ways of boosting neurogenesis.” (5 Ways to Boost Your Neurogenesis, 2018). Additional ways of encouraging neurogenesis include environment, diet, psychoactive substances, and meditation. More information is needed for a better understanding of how these ways boost neurogenesis. (Caution: Though most of these are harmless, you might want to be careful with psychoactive substances, most are illegal and are still being researched, and have not been approved for medical use. I am not sure about the reliability of the site from which I retrieved this information. I strongly suggest peer-reviewed research for further clarification.)

A current article by Dana Smith, supporting the above-mentioned ways to stimulate neurogenesis was found in MIT Technology Review, Sep/Oct2021, Vol. 124 Issue 5, p30-33.

Through neurogenesis, neuroplasticity is possible. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adjust and refurbish itself. Some of us older folks, the baby boomers, have been learning how to manage our emotions, listen to our hearts, and become able to enhance our creativity, problem-solving, and discernment abilities. We can continue to learn as we age.

We have been hearing the negative effects of COVID-19 on our mental health: And remember if it affects your mental health, it is also affecting your physical health. We need positive emotional states to help us improve and maintain our cognitive functions. To slow down cognitive decline, we want to ensure we have social support – consider volunteering in your community – to fulfill this suggestion, another way is to learn emotional self-regulation (I can help you with that). Keeping a positive outlook benefits our health by improving the processing of information in our brain and nervous system. All three of these suggestions work best if you do them all. You don’t have to start everything at once, take your time and start with what works best for you.

We want to spend more time being in a positive state than in a stressful state. Some examples of the two are:

Positive Outlook: hopeful, appreciative, joy, caring, compassion, excitement, and loving

Stressful Outlook: irritation, frustration, resentment, anger, worry, fear, or apathy

As I became interested in neuroplasticity and reading as much as possible, I had no idea that I already had tools to help me train my brain. I have been using several of the HeartMath tools for numerous years. There are some specifics I want to review, identifying what each tool is promoting in my brain. Being aware of how these activities work for specific areas/functions such as Freeze-Frame for decision making, or Quick-Coherence for resetting after a challenging situation will no doubt guide me in encouraging neurogenesis to develop some areas of my brain that could use a tune-up.

Watch for more from me about our heart, brain, neuroplasticity, and what evolves from this fascinating area of our lives.  

Amen, D. (2013). HeartMath Brain® Fitness Program. HeartMath.

References

How to Train Your Brain

I recently blogged about Neuroplasticity. I’ve done more reading and am sharing some of what I have discovered with you. I found a fitness program for the brain, and it is provided by HeartMath(R), of which I am a Certified Trainer, Coach, and Mentor.

According to Amen (2013)

“The brain is an organ of loving, learning, and behavior, and so is the heart”.

Radiant Life Chiropractic

As I get older, I notice my brain not working as well as it once did, like my body. I’ve also learned that there are things I can do to help my brain be in better shape. Having read that cognitive decline starts in our mid-twenties I can understand why my brain might need some work. We can continue to be alert and develop our brainpower into our 80s and 90s. I have a few good years yet and who knows, maybe I can keep going past that 90 mark.

We can’t talk too much about Neuroplasticity without the word Neurogenesis: the regeneration and growth of new brain cells. It goes hand in hand with neuroplasticity. One way to stimulate neurogenesis is through activity – physical activity –

“Aerobic activities such as running, cycling, swimming, and even sex, are effective ways of boosting neurogenesis.” (5 Ways to Boost Your Neurogenesis, 2018) https://www.neurotrackerx.com/post/5-ways-to-boost-your-neurogenesis. Additional ways of encouraging neurogenesis include environment, diet, *psychoactive substances, and meditation. I will do more reading to get some details on these suggested ways to boost neurogenesis. (*Caution: Though most of these appear harmless, be careful with psychoactive substances, most are *illegal and are still being *researched, and have not been approved for use. I am not sure about the reliability of the site from which I retrieved this information. I strongly suggest peer-reviewed research for further clarification).

A current article by Dana Smith, supporting the above-mentioned ways to stimulate neurogenesis was found in MIT Technology Review, Sep/Oct2021, Vol. 124 Issue 5, p30-33. Through neurogenesis, neuroplasticity is possible. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adjust and refurbish itself. Some of us older folks, the baby boomers, have been learning how to manage our emotions, listen to our hearts, and become able to enhance our creativity, problem-solving, and discernment abilities. We can continue to learn as we age.

We have been hearing the negative effects of COVID-19 on our mental health: And remember if it affects your mental health, it is also affecting your physical health. We need positive emotional states to help us improve and maintain our cognitive functions. To slow down cognitive decline, we want to ensure we want to have social support, also consider volunteering in your community, and learn emotional self-regulation. Keeping a positive outlook is beneficial by improving the processing of information in our brain and nervous system.

We want to spend more time with a positive, outlook than with a stressful outlook. Some examples of the two are:

Positive Outlook: hopeful, appreciative, joy, caring, compassion, excitement, and loving

Stressful Outlook: irritation, frustration, resentment, anger, worry, fear, or apathy

As I became interested in neuroplasticity and reading as much as possible, I had no idea that I already had tools to help me train my brain. I have been using several of the HeartMath tools for many years. There are some specifics I want to review to identify what each tool is promoting in my brain. Being aware of how these activities work for specific areas/functions such as Freeze-Frame(TM) for decision making, or Quick-Coherence(TM) for resetting after a challenging situation will no doubt guide me in encouraging neurogenesis to train some areas of my brain that could use a tune-up.

Watch for more from me on our heart, brain, neuroplasticity and what evolves from this fascinating area of our lives.  

If you want more help training your brain schedule a chat at your convenience: https://calendly.com/fromtheheartwithdr-elaine

References

Amen, D. (2013). HeartMath Brain® Fitness Program. HeartMath.

Neuroplasticity: Train Your Brain

No alt text provided for this image
Photo by Margarida Afonso on Unsplash

Why would someone want to retrain their brain? A few reasons could be to overcome depression or anxiety, learn new physical skills, improve memory, and build your resilience. This is an area in which I have had an interest for many years before I ever heard the word ‘neuroplasticity’.

In the past scientists did not think the brain continued to develop after childhood. Now, it is known that the brain continues to grow and develop through life. How exciting! Knowing that the brain continues to grow and develop: What are you going to do? There is so much to do and to investigate, let your curiosity run wild. There is much to learn and changes to be made.

I am not well-versed in neuroplasticity, but I have several articles to read and plan to investigate what we might be able to do. According to Psychology Today

The importance of neuroplasticity can’t be overstated: It means that it is possible to change dysfunctional patterns of thinking and behaving to develop new mindsets, new memories, new skills, and new abilities.

Psychology Today

This sounds incredibly beneficial to those with mental health concerns; neuroplasticity is a foundation for mental health treatment (reference: Psychology Today) I am also wondering about skills – what kind of skills can be learned? Can someone who has had a stroke recover more than we have thought in the past? I also wonder about developmental concerns – this sounds like another area that would be of great benefit to many. I guess I can’t blame my advancing age on my memory concerns – time for me to find out what I need to do to develop some new neural pathways. After all, we can continue learning throughout our life. The information related to age and memory suggests lifelong stimulation could well be a way to decrease memory loss, dementia, and disorders such as Alzheimer’s and maintain optimal brain health. I think I exercise my brain quite well on a regular basis, but I might need more as I certainly notice my memory is not as good as it once was. On the other hand, maybe I just have a lot of information stored there and I need to clean out some files. Or are our devices that store phone numbers and other information for us eroding our neural circuits to where they are no longer functioning in an optimal manner?

As a Leadership Coach, and HeartMath Trainer, Coach, and Mentor among my specialties – helping people build resilience. Psychology Today had the following information about the brain’s ability “…to change and grow in response to experience enables people to bounce back from setbacks and adversity – to be resilient.”

Severe stress, trauma, or worry can disrupt neuroplasticity. This disruption is characteristic of depression and PTSD. An example given by Psychology Today is that of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who after her shooting was unable to speak, but through therapy had regained her ability to express herself.  This information suggests to me just one more reason why it is important for each of us to learn how to use our brains for optimal wellbeing and to manage our responses to concern and adversity.

How do we stimulate this neural plasticity, so we get the most possible benefit? Physical activity. And you thought I was going to say mental activity. Aerobic exercise helps both the heart and the brain. Aerobic exercise helps the brain stimulate the release of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which sets in motion the growth of new synaptic connections and bolsters the strength of signals transmitted from neuron to neuron. (Reference: Psychology Today)  I think we all know that the human body wasn’t meant to be sedentary, we are built to move.

Are you always happy with the way you respond? Do you say things you don’t mean when you are angry or upset? Are you at a loss for words when someone challenges you? Do certain things trigger you to feelings of sadness, anger, frustration? You can change how you respond. A few simple steps to retraining: 1) Identify the response you want to change – name it. 2) Identify the response you want to develop. 3) Explore what could decrease the undesired responses and boost the desired responses. 4) Practice the new desired response until it becomes natural to you. Let me help you with this process, sometimes we can’t quite grasp how to do these steps, as simple as they seem. You do need to be focused, aware of what you are doing, what you want. Let’s talk more about this and see what we can do: Give me a shout drelaine@drelaineleadership.coach

Hope: Looking Forward to 2022

Another year coming to an end. The passing of time; so quick as you get older, so slow when you are young. We’ve gone through a lot in our lives – good, bad, and so-so. The past couple of years has certainly challenged most of us in a variety of ways. What have we learned from the challenges?

I’ve learned that there is far more dissension than I thought. Masks, vaccines, conspiracy, are only a few of the items that have elicited the numerous disagreements in the world. Nonetheless, hope remains.

Our hopes can range from big to small, from personal to international. For what are you hoping?

I am a Life and Leadership Coach, and a Certified HeartMath® Trainer, Coach, and Mentor, and as such I continue to hope for a world of love, peace, kindness, caring, respect, compassion, and cooperation. I will continue to encourage and guide others to focus on gaining control of their responses as they work toward a life of love, health, and prosperity (not necessarily money).

It is easy to lose hope, or for hope to wain during these times of chaos. That sounds pretty normal – after all, how could we appreciate the benefits of hope if we don’t experience disillusion from time to time. But don’t let that disillusionment become your norm. We can learn to have hope, even when we have been let down (and I’m sure we have all been let down at some time).

I recently received this email message from HeartMath® which prompted me to write about hope.

Having hope is important, but it’s time to start creating forward steps along with it – not just waiting for hope to put solutions on our doorstep. A good first start is to begin expressing more care and compassion and bringing it to the street in our day-to-day interactions, then the rest will unfold….We were born to love, respect and cooperate with each other, and collective humanity is starting to move in that direction, although it may not seem like it at this time. Sara Childre

(https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/FMfcgzGllMDQTCFhstXPfRJlXWdchbSL)

Learn to listen to your heart and heed its guidance. Our hearts are quite brilliant. They send more messages to the brain than the brain sends to them. Something to think about, something to learn about. We have more control over our lives than we know. I suggest we keep delving into that theory and see how we can improve our lives, the lives of our family and friends, and the lives of the world population.

To increase hope for a better future, we can learn to connect with our available heart’s guidance that’s within all of us. This connection born from love and care, can unfold the higher qualities of life we are looking for, and increased joy and fulfillment. Sara Childre

(https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/FMfcgzGllMDQTCFhstXPfRJlXWdchbSL)

Build trust in your heart and the intuitive guidance it can give you. Believing in your heart’s intuition will help you reveal those qualities of life, joy, and accomplishment.       

Several of the HeartMath® Techniques can help you become aware of your heart’s intuition i.e., Quick Coherence Technique ®, Heart Lock-In Technique®, or Freeze Frame Technique®. I can teach you these techniques and many more that will help you be in control of your responses and connect with your heart.

What the World Needs Now from Our Leaders

close up shot of a blue pansy butterfly
Photo by Erik Karits on Pexels.com

I am a supporter of Complexity Leadership. I discovered Complexity Leadership as I worked on my Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership several years ago. When I read about this leadership theory, I was asking myself ‘why haven’t I heard of this before?’ and ‘why has this not been adopted much more widely?’ I  was thrilled to see and read an article by Aaron J. McKim and Catlin M. Goodwin (2021) espousing the qualities of complexity, leadership, and sustainability. Non-linear and dynamic systems are something that I relate to, I am not particularly good at linear. This goes back a long time as I have always asked ‘but what if,’ ‘can we try,’ and ‘how will that influence [e.g., another department, etc.]. I believe that what one person does has an effect on everyone else. Think butterfly effect – a butterfly flaps its wings in one area of the world it can result in  weather change elsewhere. Making even small changes can bring about large consequences.

As we continue through the COVID-19 pandemic, and extreme weather conditions resulting in numerous disasters, and the environmental changes threatening our existence on this earth I have become aware that we – humans – need to do something different. If we keep doing the same things, we will continue to get the same results. (“Austin Talent Acquisition | High Tech Recruiters-HireFactors”) If we continue with the same results, the outcome will not be favourable. Thus, following what McKim and Goodwin (2021) have to say we need complexity theory as the foundation of leadership for sustainability.

Will we embrace leadership for sustainability?

We are not seeing any form of leadership for sustainability from the current leaders making the headlines. Maybe we need to step up and be leaders rather than leave leadership to the elected officials, big corporations, and the very wealthy. Afterall, they don’t seem to be doing a particularly good job. There have been changes occurring over the years that have not been addressed.

What can we do?

According to McKim and Goodwin (2021) “leadership scholarship and practice must change to equip all individuals with the capacity to disrupt systems, collaborate across differences, learn continuously, and build relationships in an effort to collectively advance toward a more ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable future.” (“Complexity theory: The changing role of leadership”) This resonates positively and powerfully with me.

Though this might sound a bit rebellious I adamantly support this notion and believe it is where our hope for the future lies. We will not go back to what we thought was normal prior to COVID-19. Those days are long past. Nonetheless, we do not need to be fearful or mourn their loss. We simply need to open our minds, hearts, and emotions to view the world in a unique way. If you are not curious you need become curious and ask difficult questions. I suggest we start with ourselves; ask yourself the difficult questions; what are my values, what beliefs have I carried all my life that might no longer be true, and where will I be and what will my life look like in the future – five years, ten years, maybe even as far as twenty years. Though we probably can’t fathom what changes will take place in those time frames, it behooves us to at least ask and make changes according to our values and strive for a positive future. If the current path of our world continues the future seems somewhat bleak.

Complexity theory is a profound shift in the way we understand and see the world. The linear thoughts, still very prominent in our world, need to change. Complexity theory suggests a non-linear, dynamic, emergent, and self-organizing system that is unpredictable and uncertain, according to Marion and Uhl-Bien (2001). Already we have complex systems where the interactions of the parts require understanding. An open, curious mind is needed to understand these interactions and encourage innovation, on-going learning, and change to evolve or emerge.

Complexity theory has provided a basis for complex leadership, systems leadership, and adaptive leadership. Moving away from traditional leadership models where hierarchy, prescriptive processes, and managed change are the roles of a few at the top. With complexity leadership we will see leaders clarifying the emergent processes of systems as they self-organize (McKim & Goodwin). Leaders will encourage disruption of existing patterns of behaviour within systems and will stimulate the exchange of information, ideas, and innovation (McKim & Goodwin).

Anyone and everyone can and must identify as a leader and accept the connected responsibilities (McKim & Goodwin). There is no place for anyone to sit back and say, ‘it’s not my job.’ Leadership is everyone’s job. Open your minds, your hearts, and your curiosity to move forward, disrupt, and see what emerges.

I will be continuing to share information about complexity leadership in future blogs and I look forward to your comments and discussion.

References

McKim, A.J. & Goodwin, C.M. (2021). Emergent opportunities in complexity, leadership, and sustainability. Journal of Leadership Studies, Volume 15, Number 3, 2021.

Marion, R. & Uhl-Bien, M. (2001). Leadership in complex organizations. The Leadership Quarterly, 12,389-418.

How Is Your Team Functioning?

I enjoyed and learned a lot from Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. If you are a leader, a manager, a coach, or at any time have people who look to you for advice, coaching, or leadership I recommend you give it a read.

The Five Dysfunctions that Lencioni identifies are: 1) Absence of Trust 2) Fear of Conflict 3)Lack of Commitment 4) Avoidance of Accountability 5)Inattention to Results.

Absence of Trust: If the team members are open and honest with each other trust will exist. Team members need to be able to share what they might have done wrong, what their concerns are, and any weaknesses they might have. There is a need for vulnerability among the team members.

Fear of Conflict: Many people want to avoid conflict. Conflict can be ok as long as it is respectful and not about a person but about a process or a thing. However, to have open discussions the team members need to trust each other. Passionate debate that is open and respectful can be a great advantage for any team.

Lack of Commitment: How committed would you be to put into action something you thought wasn’t right, but hadn’t had an opportunity to express your thoughts and ideas? If team members haven’t had a chance to freely discuss their concerns or resistance to ideas and to offer other suggestions, they are not likely to have the necessary buy-in and won’t be in a hurry to accept what someone else thinks is right when they disagree.

Avoidance of Accountability: If that buy-in is not present there isn’t commitment, and without commitment, there is no reason to call attention to any errors along the way. If there is no commitment a person won’t be eager to share their own errors let alone someone else’s. Errors need to be out in the open to allow everyone the opportunity to ensure they can be overcome. There might be a need to change a process so the same error is not repeated.

Inattention to Details: Who cares about details if you aren’t in favour of what is going on anyway? Individual needs are put ahead of those identified by the team as their priorities and goals. How many organizations actually do this? The well-being of the employees is essential to having a successful organization. The details of any project will only be attended to by workers who feel valued and cared for.

These Five Dysfunctions build on each other and the first one and all the others start with Trust. How can Trust be built? Before even thinking about building trust everyone on the team will want to examine their personality type and the personality types of the other team members. There are a variety of personality evaluations available for this purpose. I know the DiSC method and am a certified partner, so will refer to it from time to time. Once personality types are identified, and all types are important, then the work of finding out how to get along begins.

Having a functional team takes work from everyone. It is a journey to create the functional team, and the journey will need to be repeated with new team members, and at times with a few new roads.

Are You Stressed This Festive Season? What to Do

Our beautiful Sadie enjoying our backyard.

The festive season, whatever that means to you, comes at the same time every year. Yet, for some reason, many of us seem to be caught off guard and aren’t ready. We experience stress as we work at decorating our homes, shopping, and wrapping gifts, baking, and organizing and attending parties – and I have probably missed something from that list. The end of the year is also approaching and for many that means the end of a business year and lots of bookwork and deadlines. For students and teachers, there are final exams and the marking of those exams. Good grief – so much going on.

Will we never learn?

How do you handle the extra work and the stress?

We all experience stress, there are stressors every day. Some of our stressors are small and we don’t notice them – though they do build up. At this time, we might want to identify the stresses of the season and figure out what we can do to really make this a joyous, beautiful festive season.

Another person’s stress might not be the same as yours. I know some people get excited about decorating their homes, baking, shopping, and parties. But, for many, it is an overwhelming amount of work and stress.

Our coping methods also differ. There are a wide variety of methods to deal with stress, but they are not all equal. Some coping methods are also not good for our health.

With the season comes parties which include food and alcohol, and maybe recreational drugs. These tend to not be good for your body if overdone.

Not so good coping mechanisms – Smoking, Alcohol, Drugs (prescription and recreational).

Coping mechanisms that can be good or not so good – depending on how much you do them – Sleep, Watch TV, Hole up in your bedroom, Ignore the stress, and carry on.

Better coping mechanisms can include – Exercise, being with Friends/Family, Read, Meditating, getting a Coach, Praying, get a Massage.

Distinguish helpful from harmful. What really works for you? If you aren’t sure what works, take some time and become aware of when you are stressed and what you do to help you cope.

Great, you have this year under control now. But will it be the same next year – too much to do, too much to eat and drink, too much spending?

Consider taking time, reflecting, and discussing with your loved ones what can be done to make this a fun, joyous, and beautiful time.

Traditions – outdoor fun like tobogganing, building that snow person, cross-country skiing, skating or if you are in a warm climate, swimming, hiking, walks on the beach, water skiing. Maybe the tradition of watching a Christmas movie on Christmas eve or day, or board games. Spiritual practices can help alleviate some of the frantic activity of the season.

What if we were to spread the joyous season out to cover the entire year – what would that look like. Family get-togethers and small gifts more often throughout the year. Getting together with friends more often would be nice (depending on what COVID is doing of course). All the activities we cram into a few days could be spread out over the entire year.

That doesn’t have to leave us without a special celebration. Decide what you want to celebrate, and how. Also, think about your values and align your celebrations with those values to get the greatest benefit. I love the food of the season, but I don’t necessarily have to prepare all of it, and I could enjoy it at other times throughout the year; I love the time with family and friends, but it doesn’t all have to be done in a day or two or even a week. Re-think that special meal and divide the duties. We have learned over the last 2 years that we can visit virtually – not quite the same, but it can be done and might be better for the planet and the pocketbook. You can decide you don’t have to do everything on one day and spread it out for the time(s) that work for you.

For years I worked on Christmas Day. The father of my children and I had divorced. His family celebrated big for Christmas, and we figured it was more fun for the kids to spend time with their dad and his family. And, by my working someone else would be able to spend time with their family.

Do what you can to make this a beautiful and joyous time.

Contact me if you need some help cutting back or reflecting on the past year and deciding to make 2022 a better year.

Enjoy this festive season, no matter how you celebrate.

Has Your Work Increased Over Time?

When you started your job, you probably had a fairly good idea of your job description and what your work would involve. You knew that as you became more competent at the various /tasks you would have more responsibilities added till you were proficient in your role.

You are starting to find this a bit too much for you to manage. You are becoming tired, less enthusiastic about your job, and the stress is starting to get to you. You are asking yourself, “how did I get into this situation”?Have you heard about boiling a frog?

You have become proficient and taken on the additional tasks and projects given to you. You have done well and are proud of yourself. Now the additional jobs and projects are becoming more frequent and many are now expected of you and added to your responsibilities.

Recipe for Boiling a Live Frog

Ingredients

  1. One live frog
  2. One pot large enough to cover the frog with water
  3. Enough water to cover the frog

Fill the pot with water. While waiting for the water to boil, catch your live frog. Once the water is boiling, drop the frog in the water. Boil till done.

Comment:

My frog jumped out of the water; I don’t think your recipe works.

Response:

My goodness, everyone knows you can’t boil the water first. You must put the frog in the pot of room temperature water, then bring the water to a boil.

Why Have I Given You This Information? What Does This Have to do With the Changes to Your Work Responsibilities?

More than once I have ended up in such a situation. One time when I moved on two people were hired to replace me. Has this happened to you? As in the opening description, I took on one more thing, then one more thing, and it continued – after all, how much time can just one more thing take? One little task, no problem.

More tasks are given to you and you are managing them quite well, but you are getting tired. You are no longer sure if this is the job you want. Your family is complaining that you spend too much time working and that you are too tired to do things with them when you get home.

What has happened here? Just like the frog, the heat was slowly turned up, you didn’t even notice until it was too much and you were done – just like the frog.

What can you do about this type of situation?

You might have been in the job for years and you are satisfied. You are working in a field of your choosing. When you first started you were excited to go to work every day. Some of that initial enthusiasm has worn off now as your workload has increased and no longer aligns with your values or the direction of your goals. It is not too late. You can start now to set your boundaries. Of course, it is difficult to backtrack, but it is possible. A carefully thought-out plan is needed, and this plan begins with an open mind, courage, and a clear understanding of your values and goals. What is important to you? What are your priorities? This can be a hefty task and you might want to get a bit of help.

Know your boundaries (ideally from your first day of work, but it is never too late). I suggest you go back to look at your values. Is the job in alignment with your values? As you determine your boundaries are they in alignment with your values and goals?

Guidance at such a time might be valuable. This is where a coach or mentor can come in handy. Give me a shout and let’s figure out what you want to do and how you will go about getting what you want.

drelaine@drelaineleadership.com

Follow Your Heart

I’m sure you have heard this somewhere, at some time. But what does that mean? To me it means living from my heart. That still might not be enough to give you a good understanding. Let me tell you more.

Our mind/brain tends to rule us like a dictator. When we follow the brain, we are ruled by what we have learned and what has been handed down over the years; this influences our understanding, actions, reactions, and decisions. When you think of actions and reactions think about emotions. So often we react to our emotions only to later regret our actions. We don’t need to do that; we can learn to reprogram our brains and respond rather than react. By reprogramming our brain, we can then respond in a way that aligns with our values, in a way that we choose, in a way that will lead us to be the person we want to be. By constantly following your brain there is a good chance that you are doing what you have always done. We know where that will lead – to the same results you have always gotten.

For example: Stress often causes people to react (respond) by habit to challenging situations with anger, resentment, frustration, hurt feeling. We know these behaviours are destructive, to both you and the receiver.      

https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/the-math-of-heartmath/heart-based-living/

The term Heart-based living can mean something as simple as including your hearts’ intuition, your mind, and your values as you make decisions/choices. Your heart has wisdom in its/your feelings you want to learn to discern this wisdom and find the guidance to make that process easier (HeartMath is one source of guidance).

What would it look like to follow your heart? What would others see?

Love, compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness, cooperation – these are a few of the qualities you might see in yourself when you begin to follow your heart, and you can look for these qualities in others.

You do not need to follow any specific religion to follow your heart. Following your heart is an intelligent way of living that can help reduce stress, separation, and greed which are the drivers of our major problems (think world, and then focus on your community, then yourself).

The information in this blog is from https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/the-math-of-heartmath/heart-based-living/

And Now for Something Different in Leadership: Complexity Leadership

close up shot of a blue pansy butterfly
Photo by Erik Karits on Pexels.com


What the heck is Complexity Leadership?

As an agreed-upon definition is difficult to find I think it best to provide examples: the human body, family, planet, ecosystems, beehive, and organisms.

Complexity Leadership (CL) is based on collaboration rather than on the familiar top-down hierarchy. Can you imagine being in collaboration with your boss?

Another thing to remember is that everything you do has an effect on everything else.

I think creating a workplace environment in which there is no fear of punishment when reporting errors and/or accidents. The idea of reporting such things would ideally lead to investigation to get to the cause and from there make any necessary changes.

I first started looking into this type of leadership as an ideal system for nurses and healthcare environments. One of my interests in that area was to examine errors that might be caused by nurses being overworked and tired – something to consider now, during the pandemic. A CL model would get input from the nurses and others working and collaborating with them on how this might be remedied, or at least decreased. After all, errors made in the hospital could have fatal results. Maybe the entire healthcare system could be examined using a CL model.

What about your work environment? How could CL be used?

First of all, Complexity Theory, on which Complexity Leadership (CL) is based, is not complicated. Complexity Theory is the examination of complex adaptive systems.

The characteristics of Complexity Theory include:

Emergence – the whole is larger than the parts; the interaction of parts leads to a complex system

Non-linear

Dynamic

Self-organize

Small changes can lead to a large outcome (think butterfly effect)

Interconnectivity

Constant change and innovation

What would this look like where you work?

What would this look like in healthcare?

What would it look like if the leaders had used this at COP26?

Love Makes the World Go Around

porapak-apichodilok

Is it love or money that makes the world go around? Or might it be something else? I shared my thoughts on money making the world go around, now my thoughts on love making the world go around.

Check out Dion Jackson’s song ‘Love Makes the World Go Around’. I like to believe it is love that makes the world go around, if it isn’t it should be. Yes, we can be hurt by love. I’ve been there a time or two. But I am better for having loved and been hurt than to not have loved.

Love is a great feeling, regardless of what kind of love it might be, whether we are giving love or receiving love. The love of your parents or children, of your partner, or a friend. As I searched to find out what others had to say about love I found eight types of love. 1) Passionate love (Eros), 2) Deep friendship (Philia), 3) Self-love (Philautia), 4) Enduring love (Pragma), 5) Universal love/ selfless love (Agape), 6) Familial love (Storge), 7) Playful love (Ludus), 8) Obsessive love (Mania).  Other than obsessive love, all love is positive.

What if love were the foundation of all relationships? What would that look like? In a romantic relationship, if we always treat the other person with love, and also love ourselves, it seems we would be able to work through just about anything. Though partners might decide they no longer want to be together, for whatever reason, that break can be much better for everyone if done with love. Friends can do the same thing. What about our jobs? If you don’t love your job, would it be a good idea to change jobs? Even if you do love your job, if you are not treated with love you might want to consider leaving.

Could our world leaders really go to war if they considered the love of others? Maybe different solutions could be found if war or embargos were not an option.

As COP26 enters its second week, can you imagine how different it might be if everyone loved our earth and all the people and animals it holds? A very different outcome could be a real possibility if we came at the challenges from a place of love.

All You Need is Love according to the Beatles. And some health experts agree we need love. There are 10 ways in which love improves your health 1) fewer doctor visits, 2) less depression and substance abuse, 3) lower blood pressure, 4) less anxiety, 5) natural pain control, 6) better stress management, 7) fewer colds, 8) faster healing, 9) longer life, 10) a happier life. I don’t think we can get those things from money. *

I am going to continue to love; how about you?

*This information comes from a reputable medical site as shown by the display of this image       

Money Makes the World Go Around: Is That What Makes Your World Go Around?

Money Makes the World Go Around, by Liza Minnelli. I remember hearing this song in the movie Cabaret. I enjoyed this song. I don’t remember if I believed it at the time. I now think that money making the world go around is what many people believe and value. Do you believe that? Is money one of your values?

Photo: porapak-apichodilok

I watched Greta Thunberg today, for a few minutes. Her comments were interesting, and I think her intentions are good. She commented on money taking priority over decreasing our negative practices leading to climate change. That caught my attention. I have often thought the same thing. I didn’t hear any suggestions from her, but we need to find practical ways to help our environment.

A bit later I got thinking ‘we are f—ed’. My husband asked why – my response was, ‘because we – humans – seem to put money ahead of everything’.

How much money do you really need? I need money for food, shelter, clothing, water, electricity, gas, sewer, transportation, health care, and education. I also want enough money to look after my dog. I might be missing something, but if I am maybe it is because I don’t need it.

I don’t need to be able to eat out, I don’t need such a big house. I have more clothing than I need. I could easily cut back on these things. I don’t need a tv, definitely not three. I don’t need to go on expensive vacations. I don’t need fancy clothing. What do you need? What do you want? What is important to you?

I want to have a healthy life. I want to be able to spend time with family and friends. I want to be able to help others. Gardening, making my own clothes, cooking, and baking more are all things I enjoy. I love the smell of my clothes when I bring them in from the clothesline. I want to be able to hang my clothes outside and not have them come in smelling of smoke from the forest and grass fires.

How many of our products are polluting the environment? Remember, it isn’t just the ‘weather and climate’ as in coal and methane gas, that are being affected by our activities. Our earth, the soil to grow food, and water are being polluted. Soil nutrients are being depleted. Yet it seems like every day I see something new on the tv (that I don’t need) being advertised and, it seems to me, many of these items are definitely going to pollute the environment in many ways; from the manufacturing process, to the use, and the disposal of these products.

Growing up, and not having a lot of money, I was taught to turn the lights out when leaving a room, electricity was expensive. We had a water meter so no running toilets, or leaky faucets, no running the water while brushing our teeth, and no long showers (we didn’t even have a shower). We don’t think about how much water and electricity cost, let alone what they are costing our environment. At what temperature do you keep your home? Do you have air conditioning, and at what temperature is it set? I remember hearing ‘don’t leave the door open, I’m not paying to heat the outdoors’. If you are cold, you can always put on an extra sweater, or wrap up in a blanket.

Do we have to go back to all the old ways? Not necessarily. I think we must look at those old ways and determine if some of them aren’t better than what we have now, whether it be for money or for the environment.

Money makes the world go around. Or is it love that makes the world go round? Watch for part 2 – Love Makes the World Go Around.

Emotions – Heart – Stress: Be in Charge of Your Emotions!

Tengyart

Stress and negative emotions have been shown to increase the severity of disease and worsen the prognosis. Positive emotions and the ability to self-regulate emotions, on the other hand, have been shown to prolong health and decrease the risk of premature death (Science of the Heart).

What is stress? A state of emotional unease describes stress. You will likely describe yourself as ‘stressed’ when you are experiencing feelings of frustration, anxiety, irritation, lack of control, and hopelessness.   

Ongoing stress can impair your ability to enjoy your life to the fullest and decrease your energy. Emotions activate physiological changes that include the stress response.

We cannot eliminate our emotions. We all have them, and they can make life enjoyable. Our emotions determine what is important to us, what we care about, and what motivates us. Our emotions connect us to others, allow us to be proud of our accomplishments, to be happy doing things we enjoy, and to demonstrate care and kindness. We don’t want to get rid of our emotions. But we also don’t want our emotions to be in control, especially when they are the cause of stress.

Emotions are closely related to resilience. There’s that word again. The HeartMath definition of Resilience is as follows:

The capacity to prepare for, recover from, and adapt in the face of stress, adversity, trauma, or challenge.

Emotions are involved in physiologic changes associated with energy regulation. I’m sure you have at times experienced extreme tiredness after an argument or dealing with disruptive individuals or groups; that is a result of our emotions triggering the stress response. This seems to indicate that to have the best of health we need to be resilient and be in control of our emotional responses.

We can build our physical resilience by increasing our physical capacity. This can be done by walking farther, walking faster, increasing your weights or repetitions, swimming farther or faster. How can we build our emotional resilience and capacity? We can learn to develop new responses to stressful situations that will help us retain energy and adapt to what is occurring. The ability to adjust and self-regulate is a skill that can be learned and will help you in building relationships, remaining calm and composed in tense situations, and maintaining your integrity. You will also be able to make clearer decisions. It is when you are stressed, frustrated, or angry that errors are made, and poor decisions occur.

It has been shown that our efforts to self-regulate emotions can produce broad improvements in increasing or strengthening self-regulatory capacity, similar to the process of strengthening a muscle, making us less vulnerable to depletion of our internal reserves.

Keeping this information in mind it would seem that the ability to self-regulate our behaviours, attitudes, and emotions could go a long way to improving our health and our life. According to The Science of the Heart, there is a growing body of scientific evidence linking “mental and emotional attitudes, physiological health and long-term well-being.”

I’m all for building my resilience and have been working on it for several years. Despite many challenges along the way I firmly believe that my resilience has improved. I am in much better control of my emotional responses. Am I in control all the time? Of course not, I am human and far from perfect, but the overall effect has been good for me. Building resilience isn’t difficult, but it does require ongoing effort. In minutes a day, you can build your resilience.

I received this video today and am sharing it with you – it suggests a great way to start and end your day, and to use any time in-between and can be done quickly.

Achieve More Inner Stillness


Our Heart: Pump, Emotions, Stress, Energy

Our Heart: Pump, Emotions, Stress, Energy

Just like our brain, we all have a heart. We know our heart acts like a pump to circulate blood throughout our body. We know that we can have heart attacks and other cardiac diseases.

Something many do not know is that the heart and brain communicate and that the heart communicates with the brain more than the brain communicates with the heart.

When you are feeling stressed, your heart is involved along with your brain. Our emotions influence our hearts and brains. The heart is an electrical system. This shouldn’t surprise you because the ECG (electrocardiograph) that traces our heart rhythm is tracing the electrical rhythm of our heart. The functioning of the brain can also be examined using an EEG (electroencephalograph), which measures the electrical functioning of the brain. Muscles are also measured electrically. We are made up of electrical energy.

Enough about the electricity for now. Next, a bit of information about how our heart and brain work together when we are experiencing stress.

What is stress and how do you know if you are experiencing stress? Definition of stress:

In a medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure). Stress can initiate the ‘fight or flight’ response, a complex reaction of neurological and endocrinologic systems.

Definition of stress:

Stress affects many areas of our body. Remember too, that all areas of the body are connected. We cannot separate our mind and mental health from our body and physical health. Our emotions affect our brain, mind, and mental health which in turn affect our body. Stress can lead to physical illness and physical illness can lead to stress. A bit of a vicious circle.

Researchers have discovered that our emotions are a result of our hearts and brains working together. Neurocardiology (a specialty of how the brain and heart interact) research has determined that the heart is a sensory organ. The heart can learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions that do not involve the cerebral cortex. (2003. McCraty, R. energetic-heart.pdf  Institute of HeartMath.)

Our emotions drain our energy. Think about it, when you have had a disagreement with someone, you will often feel tired and make poor decisions. Afterward, we are apt to say to ourselves (maybe even to others) ‘what was I thinking?

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
— Hans Selye

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health

The HeartMath™ System (programs, techniques) includes methods of mental and emotional self-regulation and energy management techniques that lead to a restructure of neural (nervous system) circuits. The techniques assist in the alignment of our mental, emotional, and physical systems. All the techniques affect several areas of the brain: amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and thalamus and improve the synchronization of the heart-brain, hormonal balance, the autonomic nervous system, and vagal pathways. Breathing is a vital component of the HeartMath™ systems. But HeartMath™ is much more than breathing. Remember, our heart and head are communicating with each other.

One of the goals of drelaineleadership.coach and HeartMath skills is to guide you to increased internal awareness. Everyone deserves to have a beautiful life that includes self-awareness and limited stress. You can be in control of your emotional responses.

Stress often leads to us adopting poor coping behaviours that can increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. Some poor coping behaviours include smoking, alcohol, drugs, overeating, absence of physical activity, unhealthy diet. Being overweight, and not taking your prescribed medications as per your doctor’s instructions are also symptoms of stress.

Stress can show up in your body as a headache, back strain, painfully tight shoulder muscles, and stomach pain. Other things that stress can do to you include zapping your energy, create sleep problems, and adding to crankiness, forgetfulness, and not being as in control of yourself as you would like. A chain reaction begins:

Stress > release of adrenalin and cortisol > increased heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure

You are prepared to fight or flee even though there is no physical danger, no lions, or tigers, or bears.

There is a large body of information and research about stress and ways to manage our emotions. I will continue to share information about stress, emotions, the heart-brain connection and how to take control of your emotional reactions in future blogs. But just a little bit at a time.

Our Brains: Fight, Flight, Freeze, Feel

Brains – we all have one. They do a lot for us. We also have a heart, and it too does a lot for us. The two of them even communicate. Did you know that the heart sends more messages to the brain than the brain does to the heart?

We can examine both. We tend to think of the brain as the ruler of our decisions. Sometimes we make a decision such as ‘I am going to get healthy by improving my diet and including more activity in my daily routine’. Then after a couple of days or a week, we might slip. Forming new habits is difficult. Why?

During the cave person period, a part of our brain was developed. Our needs were a little different then than they are now. During that time the focus of the brain was to avoid pain, seek pleasure, take the path of least resistance, and live for today. Pain was predominantly associated with life-threatening events or death; a good thing to avoid. Survival took a lot of energy. Being strong and alert were important and needed alertness, energy, and stamina. Energy comes from food – fats, sugars. Not being alert and aware of the present moment could be disastrous – maybe deadly. These responses are still firmly planted in our brains.

This same part of the brain is responsible for thoughts, emotions, memory, learning, and appetite; this area functions automatically; you can’t turn it on or off (you don’t need to tell your brain to make you breathe, and to make your heartbeat). The healthy habits we need today are the opposite of the cave man’s automatic survival habits. No wonder it is hard to successfully implement healthy diets, calorie-burning, and muscle-building activities. We just weren’t born that way. We experience pain when we exercise, we need to avoid cake and ice cream, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and plan for the future – what we do now can influence our health in years to come. All these things are the opposite of what comes naturally to our remaining caveperson brain. We need to change the way the brain functions. And we have the ability to do that.

The part of our brain known as the frontal lobe is responsible for executive functioning; decision making, planning, starting and stopping behaviours or habits, and delaying gratification. Willpower and self-control! Both of these also come from that same area. Like the physical part of our body, the frontal lobe (part of our brain), does run out of energy. Do you notice that your bad habits often take over later in the day or evening? That is because the energy in that part of the brain is drained, and we revert to our cave person habits of eating lots and taking it easy in an attempt to boost our energy.

We can train our brain. As with any training regular work is needed. To overcome our cave person brain is no different and requires learning and ongoing practice. But it is entirely possible.

I am thrilled to know that there is a reason why it is hard to change the habits of eating and often painful (physically and mentally) activities to be and feel healthy. I am also aware that these changes aren’t going to happen instantaneously, it is going to take time and effort. But knowing that the result (delayed gratification) will be a happy healthy me, I am willing to take the necessary steps. I am also aware that at times I might revert to my cave person brain, and the old habits might take over, but that doesn’t mean failure. It means I just need to get back to making healthy decisions, knowing that I will once again feel and be healthy.

I haven’t written anything on feelings and emotions; after all, I did mention feelings in the title. This is where we need to consider the heart. I’ll address more on feelings and emotions in my next blog.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Who needs emotional intelligence (EI or EQ)? My answer is everyone. In fact, I think it is something that should be taught throughout school. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a stand-alone course, though it certainly could be. EI could definitely be included in courses for communication, psychology, sociology, and definitely be a part of nursing and medical curricula. How can anyone effectively work with people and not have stellar EI.

Daniel Goleman’s theory of EQ is as follows:

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.”

Goleman also states that “Great leadership works through the emotions.”

(Goleman, Boyatzyis, & McKee. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. 2013 )

What is the process for learning about EI? As with many things, it starts with self; Self-awareness and Self-management followed by Social Awareness and Relationship management.

I found a test online that can help you discover your EI and begin your journey. This test only gives you an idea of where you are, and it is not the full test. I encourage you to check this one or another one out.

Note that the first item of EI is Self-awareness. This is straight -forward, if you aren’t aware of your emotions, you won’t be able to change how you respond in various situations. Once you are self-aware you are in a position to self-manage, I also refer to this as self-leadership. Self-awareness is the foundation of all of the rest. Becoming self-aware also helps you to develop Social Awareness. Having paid attention to yourself, your emotions, and your reactions in various situations, you will be more likely to be able to notice how others react or respond to a variety of emotional events. Empathy comes into play in this area: being aware of what others are experiencing. This doesn’t mean you want to respond to someone going through a traumatic event with “I know how you feel”. That isn’t empathy. Empathy is understanding where that person is coming from. You understand the pain, grief, and sadness being experienced. Developing these three areas naturally leads to Relationship management. Our lives are filled with relationships.

Why does this make a difference to anyone, or in this case, to leaders? I want my boss, coach, guide, or anyone in a leadership role to have these qualities; to be Emotionally Intelligent.

A leader with a high EQ would be likely to be much better at inspiring and leading teams. Hopefully, an EI leader will guide and assist in the development of the other leaders in the organization. There can be more than one leader. We all have different skills and abilities in which we can lead. A socially aware leader will know when to call on others.

You do not have to be a leader to become more EI, it is worthwhile for everyone. Synchronicity occurred today: I am once again taking part in a research study and one of the lessons today was about the brain – our caveman brain and our frontal cortex. These are the areas involved in our reactions. Too much to go into here. But watch for my next blog on our caveman brain and our frontal cortex.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Whew! It Isn’t COVID What I’ve Learned

I’ve had a sore throat, runny nose, head and body aches, and have felt crappy for almost a week now. I canceled two medical appointments because I didn’t want to spread anything. I got tested for COVID – negative. A big sigh of relief.I thought about this and gave myself a bit of a kick for not listening to my intuition. I let my guard down and eased up on COVID precautions: I didn’t wear my mask if everyone had both their jabs. I went out a bit and saw a few people, I thought I was safe.

I haven’t had a cold in two years. Before COVID I was getting chemo. I completed chemo in February 2020, the beginning of COVID. During chemo, I was isolating a lot because my immune system was knocked out. So, the restrictions were merely a continuation for me, a bit more stringent as I hadn’t worn a mask, I just hadn’t gone out.

I concluded, the restrictions for COVID had aided in my not getting my usual frequent colds. I have believed in and practiced good hand hygiene for many years – that is what comes from working for years in an ICU.

I have a couple of autoimmune disorders that make it a bit more difficult to fight off infections and I’m considered a senior citizen (no one cares that I don’t feel like I’m old). Though I remain in remission from my cancer I still choose to be careful to not catch whatever is going around.

As we all wait for the restrictions to be over, so we don’t need to worry about getting sick, I am thinking of backtracking. I intend to go back to wearing my mask when in groups, if I can’t maintain a distance of approximately 2-meters when shopping (though I don’t like shopping and rarely do it). If I am sick, I will stay home, without visitors. I will continue to cover my mouth when I cough or sneeze – remember the phrase – sneeze in your sleeve.

I hope the days of going to work when you have “just a cold” are gone. If an employer expects someone to work when they have a cold and the employee doesn’t dare to go against that, I hope the employer is supplying masks for everyone and supplying hand sanitizer. Remember to wash your hands.

I hope the cleaning practices that have been learned will be continued. Maybe we can have a winter with less flu – oh yes, get a flu shot. The world in which we live is a dirty place. But we do know how to clean, make soap and water a priority.