We are told by society to live large. My generation especially. Self-esteem and self-confidence being taught in schools as two of the most important characteristics to a successful life. But imagine for a moment that our most extraordinary points in life happen when we feel small. When we realize we are outnumbered by the stars, overshadowed by a mountain, or out shined by the sun. Have you ever noticed that some of the best moments in life are when you realize that there is a big wide world out there and your problems are probably insignificant? How liberating that feels!
We are all small, together making up a greater whole. To be human is to be insignificant and imperfect. But irrationally we feel something inside of us is abnormal if/when we are overshadowed, or get rejected, or fail. We have to reach the stars, conquer that mountain, and lasso the sun. But we can't do it all. Outwardly we are supposed to be confident, but inside we feel small. And if no one is admitting to having these flaws, then we are left feeling abnormal and separate from everyone else. It becomes so much worse feeling isolated and alone in your suffering when that is precisely what connects you to everyone else.
What happens when we all have to be above average? When we all have to win and find the spotlight? Narcissism. A current epidemic in our culture. When everyone has to be above average, we begin to put others down in order to feel better about ourselves. We need to feel stronger, more powerful, more attractive, and more intelligent to stay confident. We categorise people and put them in boxes to stay afloat. "At least I'm better off then them..." So at a young age we learn to put each other down to feel good about ourselves and maintain a certain level of self-esteem. Because that's what's important, right?
Maybe what we need is just more compassion. Compassion not only for each other but for ourselves. Self-compassion has been associated with the benefits of self-esteem, without the pitfalls of narcissism. Dr. Kristin Neff argues that what we need is not more self-esteem but instead self-compassion; a way of acknowledging ourselves, exactly as we are, and embracing it. Yes, this means accepting that you are not the best, your way of thinking is not always right, you are not entitled an award for participating, and undermining someone else will not make you look better.
But the most important piece to this acceptance is self-kindness. Quit the judgement. As I said before, to be human is to be imperfect. We all struggle with our flaws and seek validation. That is what connects us all.
Consider how you treat yourself on a bad day: What have you said to yourself that you wouldn't say to someone else, even someone you really didn't like? It is amazing how many of us have inner dialogues that, if said out loud, would make anyone else think "Wow, you're downright mean". Research shows that self-criticism undermines our body's ability to deal with stress. We become the attacker and the attacked. We simply cannot function under these circumstances. But studies have shown that when you catch yourself in the act of self-criticism and instead turn it into compassion, the body begins to release feel good hormones, aiding the brain to return to optimal function.
The inner monologue you have with yourself reflects onto every relationship you have in your life. Dr. Neff promotes treating yourself like you would treat a good friend; seeing them for all their short-comings but still treating them with kindness, encouragement, understanding, patience, and gentleness. And remember that it's OK to be humbled and feel small, because that's what it is to be human.
Yes, diets help to support your figure. But have you ever considered eating to support your brain?
Most of us have heard that we only use 10% of our brains but this is not true. We actually use 100% of our brains. We use 10% of our brain for voluntary control. The remaining 90% directs involuntary control used to breath, control blood circulation, control our hearts, and digest food. Therefore, we use 100% of our brain and every nerve cell counts if we want to maintain our health.
Unfortunately, modern food processing techniques reduce our food of vital nutrients critical for health. Storage and shipping of fruits and vegetables can even sap them of their nutrients. Many commonly used over-the-counter and prescription meds deplete the body of nutrients. Moreover, as the body ages production of antioxidants slows down, leaving us more vulnerable to free radical attack.
Eating a whole food based diet align with taking vitamin, essential fatty acid and antioxidant supplements can fill the nutritional gap and help maintain optimal mental and physical health. Spices can also enhance your brain chemistry, increase metabolism, and improve overall health. They have also been researched in their effects on slowing down the ageing process.
Listed below are common spices and what they can do for you:
Anti-inflammatory: rosemary and basil
Dementia-fighting: cumin and sage
Obesity-fighting: cayenne and cinnamon
Sugar-regulating: coriander and cinnamon
Calming: lemongrass, nutmeg, bay leaves, saffron
Heart Health: garlic, mustard seed, chicory Skin Vitality: basil and thyme
"Human relationships are rich and messy and demanding. We clean them up with technology by texting, emailing, posting... All of the things that let us present the self as we want it to be. We get to edit ourselves, which means we get to delete and retouch the face, the voice, the body, the flesh... The world is full of modern Goldilockses- putting people not too close, not too far, but at just the right distance- taking comfort in being in touch with a lot of people at a distance. But sometimes a lot of people at a distance can feel like none at all... People are lonely. The network is seductive... But if we are always on, we deny ourselves the rewards of solitude. I'm left thinking about intimacy, seeing faces, hearing voices, tying to know someone's heart. This has left me thinking about solitude- the kind that refreshes and restores. Loneliness is failed solitude. To have the pleasure of experiencing solitude you must be able to summon yourself, by yourself. Otherwise you will only know how to be bored and lonely."
These are words from Sherry Turkle in her book, "Alone Together". I find myself moved by Turkle's thought-provoking books Alone Together (2011) & Reclaiming Conversation (2015). It's midnight as I write this, I finished the first research paper I have ever written for graduate school, but I can't shut down my device. I am realizing I have been seduced, too. My own solitude is being challenged by the habit of constantly turning to a screen. More and more I find myself scrolling through the web when I have any downtime, rather than focusing inward. Recently, psychologists have learned a lot more about how creative ideas come from reveries of solitude. When we let our minds wander, without being sucked in to a digital device, we set our brains free. Boredom should, then, be celebrated!
There is a natural innate protective mechanism within all of us that can be consciously tapped in to. Physiologic changes can be tapped in to without a visit to the doctor and a prescription from the pharmacy.
Dr. Benson, M.D. of Harvard University compared Transcendental Meditation, Zen and Yoga, Autogenic Training, Progressive Relaxation, Hypnosis with suggested deep relaxation, and Sentic Cycles. He measured all six of these techniques physiologic changes such as oxygen consumption, respiratory rate, heart rate, alpha waves, blood pressure and muscle tension to term the Relaxation Response.
But you don't have to master Transcendental Meditation or Hypnosis to signal the Relaxation Response. All you need is 1 . a quiet environment, 2. an object to dwell upon, 3. a passive attitude – “let it happen,” and 4. a comfortable position.
In order to trigger the Relaxation Response, follow the steps below:
Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
Close your eyes.
Deeply relax all your muscles
Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word “ONE” silently to yourself. For example, breathe IN---OUT, “ONE”: IN…OUT, “ONE”: etc. Breathe easily and naturally.
Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. Do not stand up for a few minutes.
Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. When distracting thoughts occur, merely return to repeating “ONE.” With practice, the response should come with little effort.
Practice anytime throughout the day (just not within two hours after any meal since the digestive process seems to interfere with the elicitation of the Relaxation Response).
This allows us to turn off harmful effects from stress through changes that decrease heart rate, lower metabolism, decrease rate of breathing, and in this way bring the body back into a healthier balance.
Some people practice deep breathing when they are feeling anxious. However, practice of this technique once or twice daily can help you more easily navigate around challenges that appear in daily life.
I want to share, for anyone who is in pain- be it physical, emotional, spiritual- it is our gift to others to heal ourselves. When we are in pain we can't help but become self-centred and short sighted to the pain of others. In contrast, when we heal ourselves and let go of some of that pain, we begin to care about things that are bigger than our own problems. We become less self-centred and more sensitive to the welfare of others.
This past month I have been suffering from an autoimmune syndrome affecting my joints, resulting in a debilitating arthritis. Having said that, I've always admired people who don't let their limitations prevent them from doing what they love. The ones who give no thought to feeling sorry for themselves. When faced with an obstacle instead of asking "Why is this happening to me?" ask "Why is this happening FOR me?"
Negative noise is everywhere. This noise is whispered into our ears and feeds off the power we give it in our minds. The best antidote- gratitude. So often I hear "I can't do yoga because I'm not flexible." Well, I have come to learn that the less flexible you become, the more you need it. Being strong and making pretty shapes is fun. But the real yoga comes in to play when you can't do those things. Sometimes it takes courage to stop and be still. I'm not just talking about stillness of the body, but stillness of the mind. How often do you sit silently with yourself? Really spend time with yourself? How often have you asked "Why is this happening FOR me? What have I to learn and how can I heal myself?"
Repost from 2011 Blog
“The thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.” The Fun Theory – An Initiative of Volkswagen
If you run into a staircase like this next to an escalator, would you choose the stairs? (see video below) If walking up the stairs is “fun” would you take the stairs over the escalator or the elevator?
The health club industry is always trying to figure out a way to make exercise “fun” in hopes that more people adopt exercise into their lifestyle. It is not a secret that we all want "fun" in things that we do, albeit sometimes what the industry thinks is “fun” is not necessarily what the general population sees as “fun”… and more often than not, if we had the choice we would take “fun” over “not fun”, especially if you have to get to the top anyways (top of the stairs, fitness goals, fuel our body, live life, grow old, etc.).
But can “fun” be serious enough to change behaviors that have become stubborn habits? If not, then what other ways are there to “change people’s behaviour for the better”?
Undoubtedly, the discussion of motivation in behavioral change is a complex one. Nevertheless, while motivating people to make lasting changes in behavior is not as simple as making a staircase into a piano keyboard, this simple experiment shows that “fun” can at least spur people’s curiosity to do something different.
The question of how long the “fun” lasts is another story… and another challenge…
See http://www.thefuntheory.com/ for more videos and ideas on how fun can change behavior for the better.