Mindfulness in the Age of Distraction

Mindfulness in the Age of Distraction

Many books and articles have been written on mindfulness but it’s difficult to remain mindful in the age of technology with the constant interruption of notification sound effects, vibrations, and ringtones. Our minds are wired for these distractions; they love, love, love the hit. It’s a bit like fireworks going off in our brain; when our cell phones sound, our brains light up with dopamine, the happiness chemical. But just like the sound of slot machines can have a habit-forming quality so can the hits we get from our cell phone sounds, to the detriment of our ability to enjoy the present moment and the people in our company. Time Magazine’s recent article, You Asked: Am I Addicted to My Phone, looks at the potential impact of smartphones on our health and relationships.

So what would it be like to be really present today with a family member or friend whom you really love? To fully give your attention to that person without checking your phone (not even once)? The long-term benefits of spending some time each day fully tuning in to the present moment without phone distractions may just surprise you.

Gratitude and our health

Gratitude and our health

We have one day of the year dedicated to giving thanks. What would it look like if we practiced gratitude for even the smallest things 365 days? A recent study by Paul Mills of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine looked at the effects of gratitude on physical health and emotional well being.  “It turned out the more grateful people were, the healthier they were. ‘They had less depressed mood, slept better and had more energy,’ says Mills.” For more details, check out the NPR story Gratitude Is Good For The Soul And Helps The Heart, Too.

 

Creating change in 2015

Creating change in 2015

It’s the New Year and we’ve all been asked about our New Year’s resolutions. Whether you’ve made a resolution or not, the new year can be a good time to pause and reflect on the changes you want to create in your life. Happier, healthier relationships? Greater career/work satisfaction? Getting more physically active? Creating more balance in an often stress-filled modern world? Here are some things to remember as you step into change.

1) Change begins with you. Waiting for other people or circumstances to change is putting your life on hold.

2) Long lasting change happens slowly. Breaking down a big goal into smaller steps generally leads to longer lasting change than trying to do it all at once. For example if your goal is to exercise more this year, start off slowly. Better to take one workout class a week than plan to be at the gym for an hour 5 days a week.  Change takes getting used to and often abrupt changes aren’t sustainable.

3) Change your environment, change your behavior. Research shows that our habits (good and bad) are often associated with a cue. When we change our environment or daily routine we have a better chance of breaking a bad habit.

Go out there and make a small change each day!

Reducing Stress

Reducing Stress

Surfer on a WaveStudies show that taking quick relaxation breaks throughout the day can increase productivity and reduce stress. How about taking 20 seconds to relax right now?  Click on the photo (left) for a 20 second video escape to the ocean.

Interested in more ways to build in stress relievers throughout the day? Author and CEO Tony Schwartz explores the physiology of stress and tips to reduce stress and manage energy in a recent New York Times article: “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive”

Living with Gratitude

Living with Gratitude

Everyday thoughts swirl around in our head. Most of these thoughts are oriented towards the future – what is going to happen if… Sometimes we catch ourselves ruminating about the past. If only I had… Living in the present, in the moment is difficult. Yet, finding a place of stillness can quiet the fears for the future and the regrets of the past, giving us more peace of mind. It requires practice because in modern life it’s difficult to find moments of stillness.

Living with gratitude is not negating everyday stress and problems. Rather it is about finding beauty in our everyday world and taking a moment to give thanks. It’s about shifting the focus away from our problems and stressors for a moment and focusing on something that inspires or strengthens us. In the act of doing so we begin to reach beyond fear or regret. Making this a daily practice has shown to affect brain chemistry as contemporary neuropsychologists such as Dr. Rick Hansen and Dr. Daniel Siegel have written about.

What are you grateful for in this moment?

Modern Families: Housework & Stress

Modern Families: Housework & Stress

How does the division of household work (like cooking, cleaning and laundry) affect a relationship? According to a University of Southern California study published in the Journal of Family Psychology (2011), for dual wage earners with at least one child, the spouse who does most of the housework at the end of the day experiences higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Normally cortisol is highest in the morning when we need to get going and lowest at night; chronic spikes of cortisol can negatively affect weight, cognitive functioning and immunity.  Says Darby Saxby lead author of the study, “The quality of relationships makes a big difference in a person’s health. Dividing up your housework fairly with your partner may be as important as eating your vegetables.” For further reading:

Time spent in housework and leisure: Links with parents’ physiological recovery from work (journal article abstract)

Study Examines Stress Levels for Couples

Irreconcilable differences at the end of the day: Men, women and housework