The Art of Decision Making

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As she got into the car, her entire face lit up. As a mom, I had seen this before and knew that she loved what she saw and how she felt sitting in the car. Her brain, the left side of her brain, that is, had told her to buy the other car. So, we went and drove the other car and well, three other models. If you’re making a decision you might as well be as informed as possible — no arguing that!

It had come down to the Mazda 3 or the Honda Civic. A spread sheet was constructed to carefully balance the money that each would cost, insurance, differences in gas consumption and the ratings of each. Now it was decision time. Money, reviews and reports have a way of making us all feel secure. We are comfortable dealing in defensible facts. The truth is that even if we make the most recommended selection, there is still the possibility of choosing a lemon, having bad luck or simply regretting our choice. Logic does not necessarily guarantee the desired outcome, especially when it is a choice based on enjoyment of a product.

So, when the facts are balanced how do you make the best choice? Stop thinking about it. The art of making a choice occurrs when you cannot make the choice based on facts. You see, the left side of your brain, the part that talks to you all day, commenting on your surroundings, reminding you of appointments, saying things verbally, loves logic. It can compare and contrast, balance and negotiate. But in this situation it was not helpful.

The right side of your brain can be more difficult to pay attention to because it does not speak in words. It speaks in body sensations, “gut feelings” and intuition. The best way to connect with the knowledge that is stored here is to meditate. Never one to sit still and think about nothing for long, I didn’t even bother to suggest meditation to my daughter. So, I tried to help her access this “knowing” of what she actually wanted in other ways. I suggested asking herself first thing in the morning, before she had completely awoken. I tried to get her to pay attention to the reaction her body was having to each choice. In general if you feel loose, relaxed and open your body “agrees” with your decision.

At one point, I flipped a coin. The decision was that the Mazda would be heads. The idea is not to go with the coin, it is to access how you feel in that moment when the decision has been made for you. Are you elated or do you regret the coin toss? These can be subtle reactions or more pronounced but the exercise helps you access what you truly want by letting chance make the decision and allowing you to observe how it makes you feel.

I would love to say that all of my ministrations put her in alignment with her true feelings and she went on to buy the car that I knew she loved. But, the truth is that she picked it because her fella thought it was “ball’n”. What’s a mother to do?

 

My Outrageous Right Brain — Chapter 3

Definitely a Right-Brain Photo :-)
Definitely a Right-Brain Photo 🙂

With the view that I have now, from 2011, I can see that even though there is a corpus callosum, which is essentially a large bundle of nerve fibres that connect the left and right halves of the brain, I very much had a division in the way the two sides of my brain worked.

As early as grade four, when I was nine years old, I had struggled with this division between what my left, analytical, well-trained brain had thought and what my right, outrageous, biological brain had wanted. I tortured a little boy in my fourth grade class and I was unable to stop myself.

Here I was again. As a preteen, [during the dichotomous questions: love or money, beauty or love, parental approval or love] I had always chosen to be in love. In all of the possible dichotomous scenarios I had chosen love over all of the other considerations. There was no question that I was in love with my husband. The first part of our marriage had been rocky, to be sure, but how much of that was my fault?

A battle ensued. I knew that he had chosen to leave instead of to work things out with me. I knew that he had not been there when I needed him to be. I knew that he had lied. I knew that he had not done what he said he would say do.

Had I been impossible to work things out with? Was I too needy? Was he actually lying or did I remember things wrong? He had had a great opportunity come his way so even if he did not do what he said that he would do, could I blame him?

I wanted more children just like my first daughter, who I adored completely. Did I want to start over with someone else? Was there any guarantee that I would be more successful in maintaining a relationship with the next guy? How old would my daughter be before I had other children? Would I have the opportunity to have other children?

To say that I was confused would have been an understatement. I discussed this with a couple of good friends that knew Bob and they were decidedly neutral. It is part of our social system to stay neutral. The argument goes like this, “if you choose sides and she goes against your advice, you lose a friend.” Perhaps. The problem with this reasoning is that it leaves loved ones that are in a true state of confusion, in confusion. The objective outside voice is missing. There is no one that knows the true situation that can expertly give you insights.

Counselors or therapists are always trying to discern the truth from one side of the story and simply cannot give any objective insights that are not simply reflecting back what the patient has told them.

The proof is in the pudding, or so they say. After what could be considered another marriage proposal, or a proposal for being reunited, Bob leaned in and kissed me. There has to be a way to put a long pause in the narrative here to let the reality of this set in. He kissed me. We were sitting at the kitchen table having this discussion and I immediately got up and tried to walk away. He came up behind me, brushed my hair away from the back of my neck and began to kiss my ear and my neck softly from behind.

I literally was having trouble moving away from him and maintaining my balance. My protective left-brain was purely focused on moving away, but my right brain was flooded with all of those nasty chemicals that sustain the human race.

When raising my daughters I take the time to explain to them that despite all of the poverty, disease, war and conflict in the world there are six billion people on the planet—so far. Actually, during the writing of this story, it has been announced that there are now seven billion people on the planet! The reason for this is that we are designed to get pregnant. I tell them this as a warning so that they will know how to protect themselves. I tell them this so that they will know that they need to protect themselves. Part of this speech always includes the fact that it is just when you are convincing yourself that it will be OK this one time, you should be aware that when your resolve is the lowest it is because you are the most fertile.

The next thing that I remember was literally crawling across the dining room floor. I felt that if I could just get to the washroom, and shut the door, I could regroup, think about what was happening, and make an informed decision. This is what he was good at. This was the heart of the confusion. How could someone that could completely make me melt into a mindless mess be someone that was bad for me? The battle between what I should do and what I wanted to do was being won, once again, by my outrageous right brain.

Keep Reading: Begin With a Move

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available
The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

 

Respecting Body Signals

IMG_0231Like Pavlov’s Dog I immediately began to drool when I received the notice for the annual HK5K in my inbox yesterday. Immediately I began to plan my training schedule and start to think about how much work I would need to do and when I would have to make a commitment to doing the work. Then, I had to revisit my promise to myself. I have made an agreement with myself to love myself and treat myself properly. In coneiya, it becomes clear that we cannot punish ourselves, put ourselves down or disrespect ourselves if we are “one”.

Last year was a disaster. I was pumped up to do the run and my daughters had agreed to do it with me and then the world conspired to make sure that I wasn’t ready. I had a two-week bout of unexplainable diarrhea that came and went and left me feeling drained and tired. I never found out what caused it, but I was definitely under the weather. Add in company from out of town, unexpected knee and foot pain and it was a disaster waiting to happen — but I had already said that I would do the run and I was allowing myself to be pulled along by the commitment that I had already made to my daughters.

This year, it will be different. Isn’t that the final war cry of the about to be defeated? I decided that instead of looking externally for a workout schedule, like I did last year, I would develop my own. In my mind, and based on some of the training plans that I used decades ago as a competitive swimmer, I would aim for a 10% increase in distance. This is very easy to calculate when you are on a treadmill because you can actually watch the distance tick off and then stop when you complete the right distance.

So I calculated increments increasing by 10% and put out a schedule of running every other day, except of course, where I already had plans in place. I fleshed out my schedule to four runs a week by adding in smaller runs, where necessary, the day after or before another run. These smaller runs would be one half the length of the previous run so they should be easier.

The schedule was complete and it gave me a full two weeks before the race to determine if I would be capable of running the full 5K before I had to commit to the race. There would be no need, this year, to tell anyone that I was training, until, of course, I was certain that I could do the run. If I never got to the level of running then no one would be the wiser and I would have established a pattern of exercising on the treadmill that would continue – theoretically – into the fall when I have to close the pool and I begin my desperate search for a new form of regular exercise.

So day one, I napped. Now, I know that that seems ridiculous, but I am trying to treat myself like I care about myself. This is in stark contrast to societies messages of “no pain no gain” and the like. I do not think that it is simply your force of will that gets things done. Coneiya teaches us that it is when your mind and your body agree and respect each other that the most lasting progress is made.

Anyone that has ever dieted and lost weight, short term, can attest to the fact that the iron will of your brain sooner or later fails. There is simply no way that most of us can use the army sergeant part of our personalities long term. Self-flagellation, self-criticism and unrealistic expectations ultimately lead to self-hatred, insecurity a sense of failure and loss of hope.

That is not where I wanted my new running schedule to take me. Last year, buoyed on by peer pressure and the belief that I could just put mind over matter, I ran the 5K with my daughters to end up ultimately hurting myself and then doing very little physical activity for several months afterwards. This is not a good thing.

So I napped, felt refreshed and then strapped on my running shoes. I have a sweet set up in my bedroom. The treadmill is off to the side and I can see the television from where I run so I put on Netflix. Did you know that all of the seasons of Star Trek the Next Generation are now on Netflix? True story. If anyone can support me through my run it is Jean Luc Picard. But I digress…

The plan was to run one kilometre. I have run much more than that in the not so distant past so I was not worried. I did the required three-minute warm up and turned up the speed to represent a slow run. This is always a point of contention with me, myself and I. At what speed are you running? If you are doing a slow jog at the speed of a walk, is that considered a run? I chose a speed that was moderate to low based on my personal experience and began.

Nothing went well. The first thing that I noticed is that one kilometre was not only out of reach, but was not even a consideration on the first day. I determined that I could go half a kilometre and then maybe a break and then run the remaining bit in as many pieces as it took. My logical mind was busy doing calculations. I could stay on my “schedule” if I just did the kilometre in pieces. I know from experience that I improve quickly once I am making an effort, so it is just a matter of doing the work.

Wasn’t gonna happen. Not only did I not make it to half a kilometre, it was difficult to make it twenty percent of the way. I struggled to get up to the even number, which is a testament to how foolish I can be. It is just as easy to remember any number, but I insisted with myself that I get to the even number. It took all that I had.

Then I walked. I was still convinced that I could walk until the blood flow regenerated my body and my breathing decreased somewhat and then I could do perhaps another twenty percent. If I did a total of five of those I would’ve run my kilometer even if I had to walk in between. My brain just does not stop doing these calculations.

Wasn’t gonna happen. Well, after a short walk I tried to run again, at a slower speed, (is it actually running? – can’t say) and I only made one tenth of a kilometre. So now what to do, what to do? I walked again. I was exhausted and I was aware that my legs were too weak to push myself too much further. That is the mistake I made last year. Despite knowing that my legs were getting wobbly I continued and hurt my knee — my good knee. I lived to regret that and I was not willing (or capable for that matter) of continuing the exercise.

So, I made a deal with myself. I would finish the kilometre. Yes folks, I managed the kilometre. One kilometre with a combination of sixty percent walking and fourty percent running was all that I completed. The good bits are that I did not hurt myself. Even this morning, the dreaded day after, I am a little stiff but not in pain. I respected myself and I am proud of that. Being a highly competitive person it is difficult to admit to this failure, so publically in my blog, but I’m trying to be honest. I’m sure I’m not the only one that can’t run a kilometre after not running for over ten months.

My new perspective on this is that I’ll continue. If I respect my body signals and do not hurt myself, I will continue to run on the treadmill. Isn’t that better than giving up or having to stop because of injury? Having running as a regular practice is a good thing even if I never run in a 5K for the rest of my life and I haven’t told anyone yet. I’m confident that my daughters don’t read my blog.

So wish me luck! My second day of training I am aiming for 1.1K. I hope that I can run more than 40% of it!

 

Unconscious Decisions

IMG_1683Going deeper and deeper into knowing and understanding myself is important to me. Who was it that said, “An unexamined life is not worth living?” To me, it is more than that. Discovering oneself can be the greatest and scariest adventure that a person can go on.

I often coach people that have put up barriers to their own happiness. One of the reasons that coaching is so valuable is that it is easier for someone on the outside to see that the barriers are self-imposed. We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, what is important to us and how we should act in the world. But, the truth is, these are just stories. When I observe one existing in the psyche of a client, we haul it out, brush it off and shine some light on it. Once exposed, the power of the story diminishes and sometimes belief in the story completely dissolves.

Now it seems a bit hypocritical to not examine my own beliefs in the same way so I continually try to see these stories and rid myself of them. But, here is the problem, it is much more difficult to see them in yourself. You go through your day making large decisions and small decisions both consciously and unconsciously and it is not always easy to see that you are basing these choices on subconscious beliefs that you might not even be aware of.

One of the ways that these stories can be unearthed is by journaling. But if you are a veteran journaler like I am even this starts to lose its effectiveness somewhat. Recently, I started to examine each of my behaviours individually and tried to determine why I did what I did. So, I threw a small notebook into my bag and I started to write down things like, I bought some groceries and then I tried to write down why.

The first thing that I had to guard against was the apathetic, “because I needed groceries”. That is the story. That is the left-brain, the logical, planning, learning, socially acceptable part of your brain, telling me a story about why I went for groceries.

The more in depth analysis looked at the fact that I had enough food in the house that I could go for days without actually shopping, so “needing” groceries was just a story. So, why did I decide today, not in a few days, not later today, but right now, to buy groceries?

Another story popped up. “I was near the store and it was the most convenient time to buy them.” Closer examination blows this one out of the water as well. If I didn’t actually “need” them as discussed above, then the fact that it was convenient does not get to the heart of the matter.

So, why did I go in? What was my actual motivation? Then, slowly, the truth starts to surface. I wanted a particular item. “OK, why did you want the item?” This is when it gets interesting.

As it turns out, I was looking for a particular feeling, a way to bring pleasure into my life and the particular item was not in the house, so I told myself that I “needed groceries and this was the most convenient time to get them.” When in fact, I wanted to look forward to eating something just because I knew that I would enjoy it, so I went in.

These are very different things. We all eat for enjoyment, but this was a prophylactic shopping. I was not planning a specific meal; I was taking steps so that I would be able to find pleasure in eating. Now, I am not critical of this, but lets face it, there must be another layer to this.

Deep, below the surface of this story line about needing and convenience was a larger truth. I had recognized that I would be alone, with nothing to do in the near future and instead of calling a friend, thinking of an activity or taking another action to make sure that I could enjoy myself at the later time. I went grocery shopping for something that I knew I would like to eat.

So the underlying belief here was that if I have time when I’m alone and have nothing planned to do, the best thing for me to do is eat something delicious. Well, let me see here, that one is worth taking out and shining some light on. Don’t you think?

This type of journaling is going to be added to my repertoire. I need to unearth these habits and see where they originate. It might be scary and leave me open to finding out things that I don’t like about myself, but it is an adventure worth pursuing.

981

The Chemistry of Connection

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00679/duckrescue404_679621c.jpg
http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00679

We have all laughed at videos of little ducklings following inappropriate things around. Ducks and geese both imprint on the first moving object, that is larger than they are, that they see upon hatching. Imprinting is designed to ensure survival since the hatchling must rely on its mother for both food and protection.

Oxytocin is responsible for this behaviour. It might be alarming for you to know that oxytocin plays a similar role in bonding in humans. While siginificantly fewer people follow someone around all of the time, bonding is just as important in human social interactions and survival of the species as it is to the duckling.

Oxytocin, which is released in response to many social activities, is one of a cocktail of chemicals that are released when people interact with one another. Opioids, norepinephrine, vasopression and likely more, all seem to play a role.

Opioids that are released during relationships may be responsible for how awful we feel during a break up. We become addicted to them, in the same way that we become addicted to taking drugs, and consequently feel the same withdrawal and the associated pain when the relationship ends.

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is instrumental in the formation of social attachments and the reduction of fear, especially fear resulting from social interactions. Simply being with other people can create a certain amount of bonding, even if it is just a gathering. This mild effect may be totally offset by how much you dislike the people, however.

The more intimate the interaction, the more oxytocin is produced and it is produced in large quantities during childbirth, breastfeeding and coitus. It is not difficult to see how bonding can be very valuable during these activities ensuring a pair is created. This is in the best interest of the survival of our species since babies with loving parents are the most likely to thrive.

There are however, people that are not as affected by oxytocin and their personalities are associated with callous-unemotional traits. So, in a relationship with say, a narcissist, you get a hit of oxytocin and further bond and they do not have the same hormonal response. This immediately tips the power into their favour. They are not as bonded as you are.

Ironically, even in a bad relationship, the oxytocin that is produced, makes you feel “safer” even if you are not actually safer. In addition to that, oxytocin is responsible for the feeling that “our group is better than their group” and supports the practise of excluding others. This double wammy makes it very difficult for a person to be rational when they have pair bonded with an unfavourable person. Simply put, they feel safer with this person and they feel separate from other groups of people.

Threatening situations, even those created by your partner, may encourage the return to a secure base and the strengthening of social bonds, which are, provided by your partner. So, a vicious cycle ensues. You feel threatened and then you form a tighter bond with the person threatening you. We have all seen someone that chooses to stay with someone that is not good to them. It is nice to know that it is not just a lack of judgement.

There are two take away messages here. First, you should make sure that you really like someone before you become intimate with them because the hormones that you produce during intimate contact can make sober thought difficult. The second is that if we find ourselves in these terrible relationships, perhaps with a narcissist for instance, we should be gentle with ourselves. Our biology, in these cases, is working against our greater good, not unlike the duckling imprinting on a predator.

My Newest Book, The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

My Brain in the Pool

IMGP0470Breath, stroke, breath, stroke, the rhythmic splash of the water and the bubbles when I exhale become the focus of my mind. I love swimming. It is relaxing for me and a good example of not sitting in the lotus position to meditate. I completely “fall” into the rush of the water, the curl at the turn and my brain shuts off.

I still have thoughts, don’t get me wrong, but swimming is one of those types of activities that you don’t have to pay attention to your thoughts. You can observe your thoughts and then just feel the waves buoying you around. This can be the same in running, walking and hiking assuming that you are not in a place that requires vigilance. Or, you could sit still or lie down and let your mind relax.

We all need to take some time to turn our brains off. It gives them a break. Observe your thoughts for a while. See what you are thinking without making it important. If the thought came into your mind this time, it will return, no need to focus on it.

As little as ten minutes a day is all it takes to begin to receive the benefits of meditation. Better sleep, better concentration, better health… the list goes on and on. Why not turn your brain off today, if just for a little while?

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10 Ways to Improve Your Life TODAY, in under an hour

IMG_3383In order to truly enjoy your life you need to make yourself a priority. You are the only one that will always be there and it is up to you to make sure that you treat yourself well. Regardless of how much work you have, the people that rely on you or how many other things are competing for your time, if you are not enjoying yourself, what is the point? There is no future where you can say, there, I’m done; now I can enjoy myself. This is it. Enjoy today.

1. Recognize that you don’t know anything (1 minute)

A lot of conflict in our lives stems from our convictions. Wars have been fought over differences in belief systems. All malicious gossip stems from the certainty that we know what is right and that someone else is not following the rules. It is not possible to actually know anything for sure. Even facts have often turned out to not be true, or is the world flat? Everything that we think we know is based on our past experiences and our perception. New experiences can change our perception and therefore can change what we “know”, so why are we so sure of ourselves?

Why this is valuable

Once we recognize that we don’t know what others are thinking, why they did specific actions or what is truly, unequivocally true, we no longer believe the stories we are telling ourselves about what is going on. This frees us from judgment and the need to fight to support our points of view. This one change in perspective can transform how you feel about your relationships, your life, your opportunities and your history. It has the ability to free up all kinds of energy for creativity and inspiration and to let you enjoy yourself instead of defending your position.

2. Go outside (2 minutes)

A quick, free gift that we can give ourselves is to simply go outside. This can be done by taking an extra two minutes during the time that you would normally walk between your vehicle and the building you are headed for. Experience being outside, for just a moment, pay attention to the natural surroundings, the sky, the breeze, the temperature…

Why this is valuable

We are all part of nature. We were designed to feel the sunshine, experience the breeze, enjoy the natural scenery or at the very least, scenery different from the interiors that we are used to looking at. This is a reminder that we are part of a larger whole and that we are connected to nature. This can help you relax, feel grounded and like you are part of something timeless.

3. Take the time to “feel” your body (3 minutes)

Start at your toes and work your way up your calves, thighs, up and up, you get the picture. No judgment, just observation. Is there any tightness, pain, vibration, heat, cold, irritation, lightness etc.?

Why this is valuable

Our bodies are great sources of information. Some call it intuition or a “gut feeling”, but the truth is that they are collecting and sorting data at lightening speed and we need to pay attention to it. By learning what your body sensations are, you will develop an understanding of how you feel day to day. When a change occurs, you will notice it more readily and this helps you “hear” what your body is trying to tell you. Being in touch with your body helps you become whole. It allows you to respond to its needs rather than forcing it to behave how you want. This will increase your contentment and your experience of joy.

4. Dream of something that you would like in your life (3 minutes)

What would you like in your life? How would you like your life to look? What would you like to be doing right now? Allow yourself to indulge in pretending that you already have what you just thought of. Be grateful for all of the things in your life that you already have. Indulge in fantasy for three minutes.

Why this is valuable 

All accomplishments require some kind of vision. Before a building can be built, someone had to dream of the building and put that vision down on paper (or into a computer program) so that others would know what to build. Your life is like that. If you want something, believe that you can have it. Picture it. At the very least, it will make you feel good, positive and hopeful for three minutes.

5. Think of something that you would like to do and plan to do it (5 minutes)

This is a more concrete example of what I said above. You know you want to visit a city, see an exhibition, go for a hike, a canoe or a drive or any of a million activities that you already know you want to do. Take five minutes now and plan to do it. Set a date, invite those people you would like to share it with and put it in your calendar.

Why this is valuable

There is nothing more concrete that you can do to bring happiness into your life than doing things that you enjoy. It will not get done if you do not schedule it in (sad but true, often) so do that now. Five minutes, do the work to make a plan and schedule it.

6. Do something that you actually enjoy (5 minutes)

This is even MORE concrete than the examples above. Indulge yourself for five minutes. Look at photos you like, go outside again, watch a video, sing in your car or your shower or where you work (if possible :-)), dance, apply a moisturizer to your face, give someone a hug, tell a joke, do your nails, take some photos, do a puzzle etc., You know what you like to do.

Why this is valuable

It is easy to forget that many of life’s simplest pleasures are right at hand all of the time. When we stop to think about it and indulge, we enjoy ourselves here and now.

7. Do a random favour for a stranger (5 minutes)

An under-appreciated way to bring immediate joy into your life is to commit a random act of kindness. Some popular examples are: “pay if forward”, where-in you pay for the person behind you in line at the drive-through; helping someone to their car when they have several packages; and of course the simple act of holding a door for someone. Be creative.

Why this is valuable

If you do one small gesture for someone today it will make you feel better immediately and it may put them in a better mood as well. This also has the potential to create a ripple effect.

8. Express any emotion that you have for five minutes (10 minutes)

I probably don’t have to tell you that bursting into tears at work, yelling at someone you don’t know or becoming incapacitated by grief or loneliness is simply not acceptable in our society, or more to the point, not acceptable in public. Truth is, we still have to feel these emotions and express them (however loud and uncomfortable that may be).

Why this is valuable

Unexpressed emotions stay in your body and are lurking there waiting for your guard to be down. Just when it is most inappropriate, they are expressed. If they are not expressed they fester. This can manifest as illness, addiction, inappropriate behaviours and depression. The energy required to not express or feel emotions is much greater than the energy required to release them. Letting yourself feel whatever it is you are feeling, for five minutes a day, (no judgment allowed) will increase clarity and inspiration. It is important to realize that you don’t have to know why you feel the way that you do. Just allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling. Ten minutes are allotted because you will need some recovery time before you can resume your ‘normal’ life.

9. Walk for 10 minutes (10 minutes)

Your body will respond immediately to this gentle movement. I am not talking about high level exercise, the need for special foot wear or even tracking distance. This is a chance to just move your body in a natural way.

Why this is valuable

We were designed to have some movement and this small contribution will enhance your mood, your immune system and your outlook. Add in good scenery (even if it is the latest styles) or good company (if you can interest a friend) and you double the bang for your ten minutes.

10. Take fifteen minutes to do nothing (15 minutes)

This one is last because it is the largest time commitment and quite frankly is the most beneficial of all of the above. Sit, stand, lie down or do any repetitive activity that does not require too much attention (it’s not very beneficial if you get hit by a car) and just pay attention to your thoughts, your body and the environment (even if you are indoors). Come to appreciate the fact that your mind continues speaking to you regardless of whether or not you need to remind yourself of anything. Pay attention to this moment only. Do not plan for the future or worry about the past. Do not get engaged in the thoughts that appear in your mind, just try to observe the words. Be here now.

Why this is valuable

Doing nothing, sometimes called meditation, sometimes called mindfulness, has been shown to benefit every aspect of your life. It decreases stress (and all stress related bad habits), improves mood (which makes you more productive and more likely to have friends around), increases your immunity (which means less time wasted being ill or not feeling well) and helps you understand the importance of the first 9 Ways to improve your life. It gives your brain a break and allows you to stop thinking obsessively about things. Think of it as rebooting your brain. Rebooting your brain for joy…

Our Thoughts Create Our Perception of the World

Releasing Emotions

The Most Important Moment is Now

Recommended Reading

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The Joy Diet 

How to focus on the things that can bring joy into your life today.

 

 

 

www.wendypowell.ca

The Chemistry of Connection

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00679/duckrescue404_679621c.jpg
http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00679

We have all laughed at videos of little ducklings following inappropriate things around. Ducks and geese both imprint on the first moving object, that is larger than they are, that they see upon hatching. Imprinting is designed to ensure survival since the hatchling must rely on its mother for both food and protection.

Oxytocin is responsible for this behaviour. It might be alarming for you to know that oxytocin plays a similar role in bonding in humans. While siginificantly fewer people follow someone around all of the time, bonding is just as important in human social interactions and survival of the species as it is to the duckling.

Oxytocin, which is released in response to many social activities, is one of a cocktail of chemicals that are released when people interact with one another. Opioids, norepinephrine, vasopression and likely more, all seem to play a role.

Opioids that are released during relationships may be responsible for how awful we feel during a break up. We become addicted to them, in the same way that we become addicted to taking drugs, and consequently feel the same withdrawal and the associated pain when the relationship ends.

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is instrumental in the formation of social attachments and the reduction of fear, especially fear resulting from social interactions. Simply being with other people can create a certain amount of bonding, even if it is just a gathering. This mild effect may be totally offset by how much you dislike the people, however.

The more intimate the interaction, the more oxytocin is produced and it is produced in large quantities during childbirth, breastfeeding and coitus. It is not difficult to see how bonding can be very valuable during these activities ensuring a pair is created. This is in the best interest of the survival of our species since babies with loving parents are the most likely to thrive.

There are however, people that are not as affected by oxytocin and their personalities are associated with callous-unemotional traits. So, in a relationship with say, a narcissist, you get a hit of oxytocin and further bond and they do not have the same hormonal response. This immediately tips the power into their favour. They are not as bonded as you are.

Ironically, even in a bad relationship, the oxytocin that is produced, makes you feel “safer” even if you are not actually safer. In addition to that, oxytocin is responsible for the feeling that “our group is better than their group” and supports the practise of excluding others. This double wammy makes it very difficult for a person to be rational when they have pair bonded with an unfavourable person. Simply put, they feel safer with this person and they feel separate from other groups of people.

Threatening situations, even those created by your partner, may encourage the return to a secure base and the strengthening of social bonds, which are, provided by your partner. So, a vicious cycle ensues. You feel threatened and then you form a tighter bond with the person threatening you. We have all seen someone that chooses to stay with someone that is not good to them. It is nice to know that it is not just a lack of judgement.

There are two take away messages here. First, you should make sure that you really like someone before you become intimate with them because the hormones that you produce during intimate contact can make sober thought difficult. The second is that if we find ourselves in these terrible relationships, perhaps with a narcissist for instance, we should be gentle with ourselves. Our biology, in these cases, is working against our greater good, not unlike the duckling imprinting on a predator.

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

The Art of Decision Making

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As she got into the car, her entire face lit up. As a mom, I had seen this before and knew that she loved what she saw and how she felt sitting in the car. Her brain, the left side of her brain, that is, had told her to buy the other car. So, we went and drove the other car and well, three other models. If you’re making a decision you might as well be as informed as possible — no arguing that!

It had come down to the Mazda 3 or the Honda Civic. A spread sheet was constructed to carefully balance the money that each would cost, insurance, differences in gas consumption and the ratings of each. Now it was decision time. Money, reviews and reports have a way of making us all feel secure. We are comfortable dealing in defensible facts. The truth is that even if we make the most recommended selection, there is still the possibility of choosing a lemon, having bad luck or simply regretting our choice. Logic does not necessarily guarantee the desired outcome, especially when it is a choice based on enjoyment of a product.

So, when the facts are balanced how do you make the best choice? Stop thinking about it. The art of making a choice occurrs when you cannot make the choice based on facts. You see, the left side of your brain, the part that talks to you all day, commenting on your surroundings, reminding you of appointments, saying things verbally, loves logic. It can compare and contrast, balance and negotiate. But in this situation it was not helpful.

The right side of your brain can be more difficult to pay attention to because it does not speak in words. It speaks in body sensations, “gut feelings” and intuition. The best way to connect with the knowledge that is stored here is to meditate. Never one to sit still and think about nothing for long, I didn’t even bother to suggest meditation to my daughter. So, I tried to help her access this “knowing” of what she actually wanted in other ways. I suggested asking herself first thing in the morning, before she had completely awoken. I tried to get her to pay attention to the reaction her body was having to each choice. In general if you feel loose, relaxed and open your body “agrees” with your decision.

At one point, I flipped a coin. The decision was that the Mazda would be heads. The idea is not to go with the coin, it is to access how you feel in that moment when the decision has been made for you. Are you elated or do you regret the coin toss? These can be subtle reactions or more pronounced but the exercise helps you access what you truly want by letting chance make the decision and allowing you to observe how it makes you feel.

I would love to say that all of my ministrations put her in alignment with her true feelings and she went on to buy the car that I knew she loved. But, the truth is that she picked it because her fella thought it was “ball’n”. What’s a mother to do?

 

Earworms

IMG_1777Thanks to my daughter’s insistence on listening to a radio station that played older music, which she prefers, I had the song, “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” stuck in my mind. Sentimentality aside, it is not a very interesting song to have repeating itself over and over again, all day, for three days.

This phenomenon is now affectionately being called an Earworm. It has several other names and has been appearing in the scientific literature for over a hundred years. Interestingly, these earworms are not unlike other repetitive thoughts that can get stuck in your mind.

One of the most severe forms of having a repetitive though is obsessive-compulsive disorder, but shy of that, many people have repeating thoughts. It has been recognized that when brain cells begin to fire together, they like to continue to fire together. They form a thought rut that is easy to stay in. So, if you are telling yourself that you are not worthy, or not loved, or your fingers are too long, these thoughts will continue to circle around in your brain until you believe them.

I was never in any danger of believing that I was travellin’ and livin’ off the land, but if you repeat anything to yourself, it is difficult to recognize that it is simply misfiring brain cells, not something that you actually know to be true.

If you listen to another song, you can dislodge an Earworm. This will, surprisingly, work for your negative thought patterns as well. If you constantly berate yourself, or put yourself down, you can pay attention to this pattern and repeat a more positive thought. With practise, these positive thoughts will push out the negative ones. An exercise that is worth doing because suddenly, your fingers won’t seem so long — for instance.

What earworms have you had lately? What sort of things are you telling yourself?