4 Habits for a Healthier, Happier Brain

I take calcium for my bones, I work-out to DVD’s in my basement for my heart, I spend way too much on the perfect shampoo and conditioner, and even though I entertain the thought, I don’t allow myself to eat bacon every day.

It’s crazy how much of my daily routine revolves around all of the little things I do to take care of myself and my family, but what’s even more crazy is that it wasn’t until two years ago that I did anything at all to support the health of my brain.

Our brains are the control centres of our bodies. We can’t think, scratch our heads, get into a bad mood, or laugh without our brains giving us the go-ahead. We are nothing without our beautiful brains, and its high time we acknowledged that. So here are four, very simple habits to incorporate into your daily routine for a happier, healthier brain. They take next to nothing to incorporate into your existing routine, and I can attest that you will be feeling more alert and happier ,virtually instantly.

1: DRINK MORE WATER!

I know, you’ve heard it before but there’s a reason people keep telling you to drink more water, and it’s not just because your skin looks a million times better when you do.

As it turns out, your beautiful brain weighs about three pounds, and 85% of those three pounds is water. Your brain is constantly popping with electrical signals produced by over 100 million neurons, and for those neurons to function effectively, and for the waste that all of that activity produces to be flushed out, so that you can think clearly and produce all of the chemicals that you need to feel good all over, you must replenish that water. The fact that 75% of us are chronically dehydrated, means that 75% of us are hindering our mental health, and making our lives harder than they need to be.

Drinking those 8-10 glasses of water each day, increases cognitive function,  increases mental alertness, reduces daytime fatigue, reduces illness, premature aging, and increases your metabolic function.

HAPPINESS TIP: Drink at least two glasses of water before you reach for that morning coffee. Your morning co-commuters will thank you for it.

2: SMILE

For some wonderfully, fantastic reason, the very simple act of curling the sides of your mouth upward, into the shape of a “u”, triggers your brain to activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System to release what is essentially your body’s Rest & Digest juice.

When you smile, and your rest and digest juice starts flowing, your heart rate slows down, your breathing regulates, oxygen starts pumping through your body more effectively, your digestion improves, and your immune system, memory, and higher-level thinking is enhanced. So just smile gosh darnit!

HAPPINESS TIP: don’t feel like smiling? FAKE IT! Force those lips to turn upward, hold it there, and breathe deeply. Within about a minute you’ll find that faux smile will begin to feel genuine, but even if it doesn’t, keep smiling anyway, your mind will still reward you for it.

3: STOP MULTI-TASKING

What? Madness, I know. How would we get through the day without multi-tasking? Take it from somebody who literally had “fantastic multi-tasker” listed in her resume for a decade.

As it turns out, multi-tasking is literally impossible. Hear me out before you get all defensive. I’m not saying that you, personally can’t multi-task, I’m saying that we, as a species, cannot, multi-task.

Let’s say, you’re plugging away at a project at work, you’re super into it, and you hear your the chime, and that little window pops up, alerting you of a new email.

That one little distraction, just hearing and taking a peek at that teensy little alert, directed your brain’s focus away from the project and onto the email. So even though you only looked away for a second, your brain has been strained, and needs 8 to 11 minutes to get back into that same, deep focus you had just a second ago. So even though you’re now back to the project, it’s going to take some time for you to get back into that groove of optimal productivity.

Here’s the rub, the average worker today, spends 11 minutes on any given task before being distracted. Which means that we’re spending most of our time, being distracted as opposed to being optimally productive; straining our minds, taking way too long to get each task completed, while making mistakes we don’t need to be making.

The next time you’re distracted, take a deep breath and ask yourself, do I need to give this distraction my full attention? Is doing so, supporting my current goal?

HAPPINESS TIP: Make it easier on your brain and do one thing at a time. Turn alerts off until you have the time to focus on that call, text or email. When I’m in the car, I have the phone on silent and keep it out of reach so that I’m never tempted to read or respond to a message I can’t legally respond to anyway. It makes every trip so much more enjoyable.

4: BE GRATEFUL

For some reason, simply turning your attention toward those things in your life for which you are grateful, is like an instant dose of happiness and healing for your brain. Multiple studies have revealed that being grateful can make you more resilient to stress, and improve your heart health. In my opinion, being grateful is the single greatest gift you can give to yourself, with the power to inject happiness into any mood.

HAPPINESS TIP: Start your day by directing your attention to two or three specific things for which you are grateful. I have a sticky note on my bathroom mirror to serve as a reminder for those busy mornings. Today I decided to be grateful for #BellLetsTalk day, how much my husband loves his family, and for my daughter’s nose! We both had a blast while I chased her around the house kissing her nose.

Your brain works so hard for you, every second of every single day, never taking any breaks and rarely getting any credit. So be nice to that big, beautiful, brain of yours! You’ll be rewarded for it, with better moods, more energy and improved focus. Start by reaching for that glass of water, go ahead, chug.


 

Stephanie Angelone Harding is the founder of MindSavvy, a stress-busting, health-improving, productivity-enhancing training program for organizations and individuals, that wish to transform their lives…in as little as ONE hour.

Know Your Mind, Transform Your Life.

www.mindsavvy.ca

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AMAZING GRACE

Edgar_Germain_Hilaire_Degas_024

Over the last few weeks, the name Grace has been making an appearance in my life. I’d heard it in a few movies, I noticed it written in purple chalk on a sidewalk, and etched into the back of a washroom stall. Then a friend of mine told me she had decided to name her soon-to-be-born daughter, Grace. When I asked why she had chosen that name, she said it was in honour of her Grandmother, who sadly, passed away recently.

When I think of grace, I just kinda think of the opposite of me. I picture long and lean blonde girls, wearing tutus, pirouetting across glossy wooden floors. I think of Audrey Hepburn and of my own grandmother.

If I think about it, I guess to me, “grace” has always just been, short for graceful.

But then I called to mind the many uses of the word grace I’d heard over the years:

  • “Grace under Fire”
  • “Fall from Grace”
  • “Maria Full of Grace”
  • “Amazing Grace”
  • “God’s Grace”
  • “Good evening, your Grace”
  • “But it’s Steph’s turn to say grace!”

 

Could it be that all of these years, people had been referring to more than just good balance,

enviable posture and something Catholic-ish?

 

So I decided to look it up, and according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, grace is defined as:

  • a way of moving that is smooth and attractive and that is not stiff or awkward
  • a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving
  • unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
  • a virtue coming from God
  • a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
  • approval, favor
  • disposition to, or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
  • a temporary exemption, reprieve
  • a charming or attractive trait or characteristic
  • used as a title of address or reference for a duke, a duchess, or an archbishop
  • a short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks
  • the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful

 

As it turns out my ignorance has yet again robbed me of the ability to more richly and accurately appreciate other’s interpretations of the world. Crap.

A few more days went by. Maybe it was because it had been top of mind, but both the word and name grace/Grace, continued to present itself to me, and when a friend of mine posted a photo of the Temple of Grace erected at this year’s Burning Man Festival, I decided to roll up my sleeves and dig a little deeper.

temple of grace

In doing so I discovered that grace, isn’t something you’re just born with because you’re parents have good genes. Grace is actually a state of being, that resides within each of us. And to be in a state of grace means to be blessed, and untouched by harm.

If this is true, then that must mean that…I’m pretty much always in a state of grace?

I am, after all, truly blessed. I’m healthy, I’m happy, I have a great husband, awesome friends and family, food in the fridge, access to shelter and fresh water. And unless I decide to run into oncoming traffic, or dance in a lighting storm wearing a Tin Man costume, I live in Canada, so I’m also free from any imminent harm.

So why is it that I don’t quite feel like I embody the attributes described by the dictionary?

If I were truly in a state of grace, wouldn’t I glow like Mother Teresa? Or suffer tremendous atrocity and then overcome, only to emanate peace and forgiveness like Nelson Mandela did?

When it comes to grace, Deepak Chopra refers to an image of a tree, a tree that can be found in both Eastern and Western traditions. This tree is so heavy with fruit that it’s branches bow down, which means that anyone walking by need barely make an effort to enjoy its sweet and nutritious offerings.

Tree of Fruit

The longer I stare at this image, and at the trees bursting with peaches this time of year, the more I clue into the fact that just one tree, full of low-hanging fruit is also overflowing with life, appreciation, renewal, vitality, kindness, and generosity.

And then it hits me. THIS is what grace looks like.

As I held this image in my mind over the next few days, I realized that I can choose to see grace in almost everything around me. A two year old, offering another child, (a complete stranger to him) a ride on his new tricycle. A teenager giving up his seat on the subway to a pregnant woman. The giggle of women playing with a stranger’s dog that has been tied up outside an ice cream shop.

Elephant-Umbrella-Cartoon

Maybe that’s the difference between amazing people like Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela…and me.

That I am full of grace but just fail to take the initiative to fully appreciate it, share it and emanate it, consciously, and on a consistent basis.

There is so much energy, love, joy and lightness of spirit in each and every one of us, even on our very worst days. It never leaves us. And when we let just even just a little bit of it out, through a kind gesture, supporting words, patience, simply to bring lightness to somebody else’s experience…we are grace.

 act of kindness

And when we are grace, we see one another as equals. We can see the innocence in everyone around us, each of us doing the best we can, given where we are today. We are glowing. And we are growing.

And for the first time in my life, I am able to really and truly, appreciate the words written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton.

 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

 

Thank you baby Grace, for all you’ve already taught me. I can’t wait to meet you!

 

“Amazing Grace” sung by Leann Rimes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT88jBAoVIM

 


 

Stephanie Angelone Harding is the founder of MindSavvy, a stress-busting, health-improving, productivity-enhancing training program for organizations and individuals, that wish to transform their lives…in as little as ONE hour.

tagline

www.mindsavvy.ca

 

The Essential Pregnancy Smoothie…for Brain and Baby

belly-love

Fueling your body and your brain effectively becomes even more important when you’re supporting the development of a baby. As your baby’s body, organs and brain develop, it’s essential to consider which foods are most beneficial to the process.

With the ever-growing list of things you can’t eat while you’re pregnant, a busy schedule, nausea (for some) and the fact that you’re tired most of the time, it can be even harder to get yourself to not only shop for the right foods, prepare them…and then actually feel like eating all of it.

Mornings can be a tough slog, especially if you had to get up to pee five times, but no matter how groggy you may be, you need to remember that you’ve been fasting overnight, so when you wake up in the morning, your blood sugar is low. If you’re like me, and have a nasty habit of skipping breakfast, break this habit now because your developing baby will not receive the nutrients it needs to grow if you wait until lunch time to fuel up.

Our society makes it easier and easier to opt for that bagel, croissant or pastry to start your day but please do resist the temptation, if not totally then at least until after you’ve provided that precious baby of  yours with the nutrients he or she really need for optimal growth and brain function.

A morning smoothie packed with the right ingredients is a quick and easy way to ensure that you and your baby get what you need for the day, no matter where your day takes you.

This is my go-to smoothie, especially now that I’m pregnant. Not only is it delicious, it’s also filling, energizing, puts me in a great mood, and provides me with peace, knowing that I’ve provided our growing baby with an amazing start to its incredibly productive day.

Smoothie-Ingredients

You will need:

  • 1 Banana
  • 2 Cups Chopped Kale (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 Cup Cubed Pineapple
  • 1 Mango (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon Organic Coconut Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Omega Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Flaxseed
  • 1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds
  • Water/Coconut Water or Milk/Sugar Free Organic Juice (as needed to blend)

 Blender

You can stop reading here and just start blending…or read on to discover why each of these ingredients are essential to you and your growing baby.

BANANA

Bananas get a bad rap these days because they contain a medium glycemic load, which means they have quite a bit of sugar in them, but for only 100 calories they pack over 400mg of potassium. Potassium helps to maintain cell integrity and a healthy heartbeat. A drop in potassium levels can make you feel weak and tired, and can also cause muscle cramps.

Bananas also pack a healthy dose of fibre as well as “good bacteria” in the form of fructoogliosaccharides that keep your gut healthy and your bowels moving.

BONUS: Dr. Dharma Singh Kalso, author of Food is Medicine says “a woman who wants to remain youthful for life, should eat one banana every day.”

KALE

Fresh or frozen (I always have a bag of frozen kale tucked in the freezer)

Not only is kale the highest ranked antioxidizing vegetable out there (second is spinach) but it’s also loaded with calcium, iron, vitamin A and C, bone-building vitamin K, and a ton of fibre.

*Several of the ingredients in this list contain fibre, something we all need but pregnant women need even more of, to prevent constipation and help those shifting digestive tracts moving along.

PINEAPPLE

Pineapples contain bromelain, a rich source of enzymes that has many health benefits including aiding in digestion, speeding wound healing, reducing inflammation and thickening the uterine lining to help egg implantation. 

One cup of fresh cubed pineapple also contains almost 100% of your daily dose of manganese, a mineral you need for healthy skin, cartilage formation, and glucose tolerance.

MANGO

If you don’t have access to ripe mangoes you can omit them from the smoothie, I just try to get them in here not only because they’re absolutely delicious but they also have a lot of potassium, Vitamin A,C, & K, beta-carotene, calcium and 3.5 grams of fibre.

COCONUT OIL!

Not only does coconut oil give you beautiful skin and hair, but according to Dr. Lana Asprey, “Two of the most important times for a woman to consume coconut oil are when she’s pregnant and when she’s lactating, because coconut oil raises the levels of important fatty acids present in the mother’s milk to their highest levels, serving as perfect food for growth and as initial immune protection for her baby.”

Coconut oil is also a great source of energy to help you stay alert throughout the day and boosts fat metabolism to promote weight control. It also kills more than 25 viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms… and tastes amazing with the pineapple!

Omega_Coconut

OMEGA FATS

Omega fats, especially Omega-3’s are nutritionally essential because the body needs them to function yet cannot produce them. Healthy fats are a major component of the human body and it’s very important for a pregnant woman to eat them daily because your baby needs them badly, especially for brain growth. Omega’s also soothe the body by reducing inflammation, improving circulation, optimizing blood pressure and healing scar tissue. These healthy fats also support better hormone function and increase fertility.

Krill Oil is also a fantastic way to get your Omega-3’s if you’re being mindful of your salmon intake, I just don’t always recommend it for smoothies because it can leave a fishy aftertaste.

GROUND FLAXSEED

Flaxseed provides 800 times more cancer-fighting lignans than other foods, which protect against breast and prostate cancer. Also a rich source of alpha linoleic acid and omega-3, providing fibre and 3 grams of protein.

Buy them whole and grind them yourself…a coffee grinder is perfect for this.

Whole-Flax Ground-Flax

CHIA SEEDS

chia

Chia seeds are a great source of healthy omega-3 fats and fiber. They also contain Tryptophan, an amino acid that helps regulate appetite, sleep and improves mood. Chia seeds also make a great source of protein and don’t have any cholesterol. They also contain Manganese as well as Phosphorus that help you maintain healthy bones and teeth while supporting cell and tissue growth & repair.

I threw in a few strawberries because they’re in season right now and I just can’t get enough! Feel free to add fresh peaches, blueberries, cantaloupe, yogurt…and anything else you have on hand that makes you smile! The keys are the fibre, protein, vitamins and essential fats from the coconut oil and omega-3’s.

Smoothie-final

I hope you love this smoothie as much as I do…your brain, your tummy and your baby will thank you for it!

 


 

Stephanie Angelone Harding is the founder of MindSavvy, a stress-busting, health-improving, productivity-enhancing training program for organizations and individuals, that wish to transform their lives…in as little as ONE hour.

tagline

www.mindsavvy.ca

 

9 Reasons To Eat Walnuts…Everyday

“If you choose to eat only one nut, choose walnuts”- Dr. Lana Asprey

Brain-Food

There is a concept in herbalism called the “Doctrine of Signatures”, dating from about 50 A.D. that suggests that nature marked it’s creations with a sign, a sign that serves as an indicator, to any observer, what purpose this item could in fact serve.
Given that the walnut looks very much like the human brain, “This just might be a case of modern science supporting centuries-old wisdom, because walnuts, like fish, are truly brain food.” Dr. Jonny Bowden

Walnut-brain

Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science who has spent years studying the effects of food on the brain found that fatty acids found in walnuts are essential for normal brain function and provide many benefits, including improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia.

Omega-3
Omega fats are nutritionally essential because our brain and bodies need them to function, the downside is that our bodies don’t produce them on our own, so ingesting Omega 3’s is pretty much our only option.
Walnuts are one of the richest plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, and according to Dr. Lana Asprey, walnuts are the unqualified kings of Omega-3 fatty acid content, but also warns us not to cook with them “because cooking will oxidize their oils and create free radicals”

Fernando Gomez-Pinilla of UCLA also found that “Omega-3 fatty acids support synaptic plasticity and seem to positively affect the expression of several molecules related to learning and memory”.

“Dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has been associated with increased risk of several mental disorders, including attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,”

His findings point to compelling population studies linking the consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids and low rates of depression…so if you’re feeling down, reach for some walnuts!

 

Cancer-Fighter
Walnuts just might help reduce not only the risk of prostate cancer, but breast cancer as well. In one study, mice that ate the human equivalent of 2.4 ounces of whole walnuts for 18 weeks had significantly smaller and slower-growing prostate tumors compared to the control group that consumed the same amount of fat but from other sources.
According to another study on mice, the human equivalent of just two handfuls of walnuts a day cut breast cancer risk in half, and slowed tumor growth by 50 percent.

Heart-Health
Walnuts contain the amino acid l-arginine, which offers multiple benefits to people with heart disease, or those who have increased risk for heart disease due to multiple cardiac risk factors.
Walnuts also contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an anti-inflammatory and may prevent the formation of pathological blood clots. Research conducted at the university of Maryland shows that people who eat a diet high in ALA are less likely to have a fatal heart attack and have a nearly 50 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death.

Antioxidants
Antioxidants are crucial to your health, and according to World’s Healthiest Foods, walnuts contain several unique and powerful antioxidants like quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, and the flavonol morin which are available in only a few commonly eaten foods.
Walnuts contain antioxidants that are so powerful at free-radical scavenging that Japanese researchers called them “remarkable”.

 

weight-control
Some nutritionists, like Dr. Joan Sabate suggest that eating a few walnuts, say 2 or 3, before meals can decrease levels of hunger, helping you to eat less, while also ingesting many essential nutrients. Just don’t add walnuts to an already high-calorie diet and expect the pounds to drop off.

 

male-fertility
One of the lesser-known benefits of walnuts is their impact on male fertility. According to a study led by Wendie A. Robbins PhD, men who consume a Western-style diet, and added just over a half cup of walnuts each day, significantly improved sperm quality, including vitality, motility, and morphology.

 

Diabetes
A 2009 study conducted by the School of Health Sciences at the University of Wollongong in Australia found the beneficial dietary fat in walnuts improved metabolic parameters in people with type 2 diabetes. They found that overweight adults with type 2 diabetes who ate one-quarter cup of walnuts daily had significant reductions in fasting insulin levels compared to those who did not, and the benefit was achieved in the first three months.

 

Mineral
Walnuts like most nuts, are nutrient rich, especially in minerals. They offer protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and about half of our daily need of manganese, an important trace mineral essential to you for growth, reproduction, wound healing, peak brain function, and the proper metabolism of sugars, insulin, and cholesterol.

eat-the-skin

According to World’s Healthiest Foods, 90% of the phenols found in walnuts (the healthy parts that get absorbed into your bloodstream to do wonderful things) are found in their skin. Resist the urge to peel!

how-many

Ideally, a 1 ounce serving which equates to about 7 Whole Walnuts or 14 Halves.

warning-walnut
If you struggle with herpes, you may want to avoid or limit walnuts, as high levels of arginine can deplete the amino acid lysine,

which can trigger herpes recurrences.

For more information on the many, incredible benefits of walnuts, visit World’s Healthiest Foods

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99


Stephanie Angelone Harding is the founder of MindSavvy, a stress-busting, health-improving, productivity-enhancing training program for organizations and individuals, that wish to transform their lives…in as little as ONE hour.

tagline

www.mindsavvy.ca

I KNOW I DEFINITELY SUFFER FROM IT…SO WHAT IS STRESS EXACTLY?

We all throw the word around a LOT.

Ugh that interview was so stressful!

That guy always stresses me out.

I have such a stressful job.

This traffic is so stressful!

CarStress

Over 80% of Canadians, between the ages of 25 and 44 report levels of EXCESSIVE STRESS. That’s over 9.5 million Canadians![i]

So if we’re all so stressed, and we all know we experience excessive levels of it…what is stress exacty?

Most of us believe that stress is a physical thing, like a long line at the bank, an annoying mother-in-law, a year-end-review, or demanding boss.

BossStress

 

When in fact, stress is actually just a mental response.

Our very own internal, mental, response to an external stimuli.

A mental response that in turn triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol, that begin to pump throughout our bodies, and generate very real physical sensations.

Cortisol

When this mental reaction, followed by the release of stress hormones occurs repeatedly, like in morning traffic, then a half our later at the expletive, expletive photocopier, then again in the budget meeting, then when your mechanic calls and says all four tires need to be replaced…too much of that stress hormone is released and begins to create very real damage within your body.

 

Damage in the form of:

  • weakening immune system & new allergies
  • diabetes and high blood sugar
  • anxiety & depression
  • premature aging – by 9 to 17 years
  • poor concentration & memory
  • weight gain, obesity & low energy
  • poor sleep & insomnia
  • high blood pressure, cholesterol & heart disease
  • low libido, infertility & miscarriage
  • IBS & heartburn
  • Impatience, frustration & angry outbursts
  • impulsive and irrational decision making
  • arthritis & inflammation
  • Alzheimer’s & dementia
  • And many more terrible, and increasingly prevalent conditions.

Just this simple fact, knowing that stress is a mental reaction, and not some physical beast we just can’t seem to avoid in this day and age, is an incredibly empowering piece of information.

It’s empowering because it’s YOU who is in control of your mind.

You aren’t in control over very much of what goes on in this life.

You can’t control the traffic. You can’t control what your boss has to say. You can’t control your colleague’s immune system. And you definitely can’t control that expletive, expletive photocopier.

ComputerCrashStress

 

What you can control however, is your reaction to ALL OF IT.

Brain-Transform

It’s easy to get caught up in a “stressful” moment, and allow that moment to determine the mood of your entire day.

But you can bypass all of it because your mind and your body give you hints, hints that an all-out mood crusher is on the way, and like our good friend G.I. Joe used to say…

knowing-is-half-the-battle-

You know the hints I’m talking about. That clenching in your tummy, the shallow breathing, the tightening in your jaw, the tension in your shoulders, your heart beginning to pump that much faster and that clammy sweat building under your arms.

Those are all early onslaught hints. Hints that give you notice, as well as time, to take control and turn that reaction right around.

So the next time something “stressful” tries to sabotage your body and crush your mood, notice the signs and then take a few deep, slow breaths. Inhale deeply and slowly to the count of five. Hold your breath there for five seconds, and then exhale slowly also to the count of five. Repeat this a few times and visualize the tension in your muscles evaporating right off of you with every exhale. Smile. Smile to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (a system that counteracts the effects of cortisol in your body) and smile because you caught those mood saboteurs in the act! You’re on to those creepsters and you know who the boss really is, right here and now.

Nobody is in control of that mood of yours except for you!

You’re in charge here. Nobody else. So act like it. Take the reins. Breathe deeply, and choose happy.

That expletive, expletive photocopier’s got nothing on you!

 

[i] Sun Life Financial, 2012, Canadian Health Index


 

Stephanie Angelone Harding is the founder of MindSavvy, a stress-busting, health-improving, productivity-enhancing training program for organizations and individuals, that wish to transform their lives…in as little as ONE hour.

tagline

www.mindsavvy.ca

One Nasty Habit to Break Right Now

Nail-biting, night-snacking, finger-cracking, hair-twirling…let’s face it, we all have a few bad habits.

Some of them we’ve been doing since we were kids, and some we just picked up somewhere along the way, most probably during a period of stress or discomfort.

The thing about those habits is that they’re visible, on display for all to witness.

Today however we’re going to shine a spotlight on a nasty habit that we’re all guilty of. The thing about this particular habit is that most of us never even notice when we or others are doing it.

So why shine a light on it? Why even bother giving it up, if no one even notices we’re doing it?

Well, for no other reason than by kicking this one habit to the curb, you have the power to instantly increase your level of happiness, enhance your communication skills and improve your relationships.

It′s time for the big reveal! The habit we′re all guilty of and need to eliminate is!

″Thinking about what we’re going to say…before the other person has finished speaking.″

 blog-interrupting edited

 

We all do it. Not on purpose of course, but we do it.

 

We start out by leaning in, making eye contact and giving encouraging nods. Maybe they’re opening up about something stressful that happened to them at the office this week, when suddenly, we′re transported to the stressful moment we had! Just this morning! We can see it, we can hear it, and we′re even starting to feel kinda like we did when it happened, it′s even kinda like but maybe even worse than what this person is going through and now we just can’t wait to tell this stressed person all about it! Who′d appreciate it more than them?

Sometimes we just go ahead and interrupt. Other times we bite our tongues and wait until they’re done talking…but we’re antsy, barely paying attention to them, just waiting for an opening in the conversation to share with them our own completely relevant, and totally on-topic, awesome story. Or maybe it′s your co-worker rambling on and on about their cousin′s wedding, or your own six year old telling you about recess while you′re deciding whether to stick with the highway or get off and take the side streets.

If you’re not quite ready to take responsibility for this nasty habit, you can totally blame it on your wandering mind.

mindwanderingmaninshoppingmall

Harvard researchers have revealed that on average our minds our wandering about 47% of the time. That means that for almost half of our waking lives we’re not even paying attention to what we’re doing while we’re doing it!

But what this really means, is that we’re not being present. We′re not paying attention to the right here and right now. When our minds are wandering and we′re thinking about other things, our thoughts are jumping around somewhere between our memories of the past and our visions of the future.

We do it when we’re brushing our teeth while thinking about tomorrow’s meeting. We do it when we’re showering and thinking about what to wear, we do it when we’re lying in bed and replaying the days’ most stressful events in our minds, and we do it while we’re obsessing over moments in the past we’ll never be able to go back in time and change.

This same Harvard study also reveals that the more our mind is wandering, the less happy we are.

The title of the study is in fact: “A Wandering Mind is An Unhappy Mind” http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~dtg/KILLINGSWORTH%20&%20GILBERT%20(2010).pdf

 wandering-mind

As it turns out our happiness has very little to do with WHAT we’re doing, but rather how focused we are on what we’re doing…while we’re doing it.

The other night while I was washing dishes I found myself staring out the kitchen window at my husband enjoying a beer with our neighbour in the setting sun, but instead of thinking ″oh how nice, what a great way to enjoy the weather after a long day in the office,″ I began ruminating about all the chores I do around the house, and all the things I still have to do and how he never helps me with anything, and my body temperature was rising, then I was scowling and my jaw was tight…and then, thank God, I stopped myself.

I took a few deep breaths and directed my full attention to the feel of the water on my hands, the rainbow of colours swirling in the bubbles of the dish soap, the texture of the plate and the feel of the sponge in my hand. I turned all my attention toward what I was doing, while I was doing it and my muscles immediately relaxed, my jaw relaxed, a soft smile appeared on my face and my mood turned from sour and frustrated, to one that was relaxed and at peace. When I was done, I opened the fridge, grabbed a beer of my own, stepped out into the setting sun, smiled and joined the conversation.

We could all benefit immensely from paying attention to what we’re doing while we’re doing it, and conversations are a great place to begin the practice.

When others are speaking, be mindful not to use that time to think of what to say next, but instead give yourself over to listening completely, and fully. It might be tough at first but you′ll soon find the practice to be very relaxing, even if you don′t agree with what the other person is saying.

are-you-truely-listening-featured

You’ll also notice that the practice of genuine listening will immediately enrich the quality of your conversations and your relationships, while also enabling you to strengthen key areas of your mind that not only make you feel happier but also reduce stress levels, improve health and cognitive function.

Remember, the moment you start thinking about what to say next, is the very same moment you stop listening and begin chipping away at your own happiness and quality of your life.

You can also listen here to one of our daily ″Being MindSavvy″ meditation practices to help you learn to work with those nagging voices in your mind, the one′s that somehow always manage to pull your attention away from being present.

To make the most of this free meditation practice, simply find yourself seated in a comfortable position where you won′t be interrupted for the next few minutes. Take a deep full breath, and then click on the SoundCloud link!

We hope you enjoyed this post, the practice and this beautiful day!

 

 stop-interrupting


 

Stephanie Angelone Harding is the founder of MindSavvy, a stress-busting, health-improving, productivity-enhancing training program for organizations and individuals, that wish to transform their lives…in as little as ONE hour.

Know Your Mind, Transform Your Life.

www.mindsavvy.ca

 

 

 

I ‘Used’ To Have a Gambling Problem: The Grip of Addictive Behaviours

30casino01 I love to say that I “used” to have a gambling problem. I haven’t placed a bet with a bookie in the Caymans in 7 years, and haven’t put a dime on the ponies or played underground poker in 6!

I still play a $20 ProLine ticket for NFL weekends, submit a bracket for March Madness, make a wee investment in the Masters pool and am excitedly gearing up for the World Cup.

When you’re only dropping $20 or so, you’re still involved, engaged, cheering and booing…but you’re not sweating, cancelling plans, or suffering whiplash from the maniacal effort of craning your neck toward any screen that will update you on the scores, nor riding the waves of panic, dread and joy that course through a gambler’s body.

Gaaaawd I loved that feeling. The rush, the tension, and surprisingly, the peace that came along with being able to shut everything else out for a few hours and peg all of my immediate hopes and dreams on the very capable yet unpredictable shoulders of one athlete or another.

I’d lie about it. I’d hide it. I’d flat out deny it.

Sometimes I’d wonder where my love of gambling came from. Was it watching my dad play poker all night with his buddies in our living room? Was it because my grandpa would tell my mom we were going to the library, when we’d really be going to bet on the ponies?

I could blame it on that. Sure. But neither of them were obsessive about their behaviour, it was just a once in a while fun thing to do, that I loved to be a part of.

It may have been when I was fifteen, making $4.90 an hour waitressing at a local chain, that also did a lot of delivery orders. I hated that job. I wore high-waisted, tapered polyester pants, a button up shirt, a neck tie and a hair net. I made crappy tips, was perpetually covered in gravy, and had to pay out-of-pocket every time the local high school kids decided to dine and dash on me.

There was a tattoo clad chef who had scars on his arm from where his girlfriend stabbed him multiple times with a fork, eight Asian waiters who barely spoke to me, a few cool kids that only worked on the busy days, my super intimidating and very large Jamaican boss, the mascot guy who spent half his shift cleaning off the eggs people threw at him and a dispatch guy who sat in the back of the kitchen on a milk crate by the bags of potatoes. I remember dispatch guy being well-built, with olive skin, and slicked back, wavy hair who with that one dirty, cracked plastic, tangled-cord phone, orchestrated the moves of over 18 drivers while simultaneously listening to 2 radios, watching 1 mini tv, and reading at least 5 newspapers…or what looked to me like newspapers at the time.

One afternoon when things were slow, I went to the back of the restaurant to help cut French fries. I couldn’t help but notice that dispatch guy looked slightly disheveled, exhausted and frustrated.

About 20 minutes went by when we called me over to him and asked me to look at one of his newspapers. I looked down and saw what looked to be like team names with a lot of numbers next to each of them. He asked me to go down the list and pick 7 teams I had a good feeling about. So I did. Then went back to work and thought nothing of it.

I remember it being a gorgeous sunny day when I came in the next morning and was loathing the prospect of spending yet another day marrying ketchup while my friends lounged by the pool. I was doing just that when dispatch guy called me over to him. He smiled at me and handed me a creased plain white envelope.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Your cut” he replied, eyes back on the mini television. “You made some good calls yesterday. Really good calls”

I reached into the envelope and pulled out seven, one hundred-dollar bills, and a new-found interest in NFL Football.

Over the next 15 years or so I discovered that you could place bets on pretty much anything.

 pope-bets

I know its obsessive behaviour, and a sickness, and a behaviour that the next morning I’d regard as immature and impulsive.

So one day, I gave it up.

Not because I had hit rock bottom or had goomba collectors after me.

I just gave it up.

And through the steady practice of meditation, delayed gratification, and purposely participating in more productive activities, I’m finally happy and at peace with my $20 bets, and can tell people without my nose growing, that I used to have a gambling problem.

It’s all in the past.

That is until I hear this one word.

Just one.

A word that manages to find its way into more conversations than you’d think.

 

 Vegas

At the very sounds of this 2 syllable, 5 letter word, my heart will thump more quickly and more loudly. My skin will tingle, my jaw will tighten, my palms will sweat and I can hear, as if I were right there, the steady chimes of the casino, the feel of the felt on a 3-Card Poker table, the gentle clicks of chips against chips, the taste of a double vodka soda and the sweet caress of that first drag of a cigarette.

All in the 5 seconds that follow the utterance of the word “Vegas”.

Oh how I love Vegas.

Living up here in Canada, with more and more friends with young families, avoiding Vegas is getting easier. So I really don’t stress it very often.

But a few days ago I received an email, from a very good friend inviting me up to a place called CasinoRama for a show. I’d love to tell you which show but to be honest I stopped reading after Casino.

CasinoRama is nothing like Vegas. It’s an entertainment complex in the middle of nowhere that largely caters to the elderly, where performers you thought had long ago retired, make their comeback.

But they have 3-Card tables, Roulette, Craps, Slot Machines and vodka.

I recognized the addictive, compulsive reactions coursing through my veins and wrote back immediately, thanking the lovely ladies for the invite while explaining that I would not be able to join them on their excursion. I sat a little taller, smiled and got back to work.

About 3 minutes after I hit “send”, my husband sent me a text informing me that he was going out with the boys…on that very same night.

And the wheels began to turn.

I could go. It’s been years. I’ve worked really hard at being aware of my impulses, addictive behaviours and working through them, coating them with rationalization, delayed gratification and sound logic. I can do this. I’ll set a budget. Leave my credit cards and players card at home and see a show. I can do this. I deserve a girls night.

When the day finally arrived, I woke up immediately craving a cigarette, in a way I hadn’t in months. So I meditated and felt better. I set my intentions for the day and dove into my work. And then around noon, the cravings for a cigarette returned, only now they were accompanied by a longing for an icy cold vodka soda with a splash of RedBull. Droooooool.

So I meditated again, and went for a run, showered, and withdrew the pre-determined amount of cash. I felt good. Confident. Got dressed, and got into the car. And so did my credit cards.

Hey, emergencies happen.

Sitting in the car for the 2 hour drive with women that had absolutely no interest in gambling, or drinking for that matter, proved to be a compelling distraction. By the time we got there, I too was only thinking about where to grab dinner.

And then we walked in. It was raining so I could smell the smoke lingering on the jackets of the people pushing past me. Cocktail waitresses with drink laden trays, fluttering to the soundtrack of the sweet chimes of the casino. I froze. I could feel the adrenaline and noradrenaline pumping through my veins and spraying an excited and devious smile across my face.

When a strong grip wrapped around my arm and I was pulled into the opposite direction. The ladies pushed right through that crowd, past all of those felt covered tables, right past the bars, and bee-lined it straight to the restaurant. There was a line up. A long one. Terrific. As we stood there, I listened to stories about their kids’ dance recitals…until my mind began to calculate how long it would take me to run to a table and play a few hands and make it back here before anyone had the chance to order. More than enough time!

As I was about to set my plan into motion, I hesitated, acknowledged my train of thought and called to mind a quote that I turn to quite often.

 temporary-emotion

 I brought myself back to the present moment, took a few deep breaths, and turned myself over to tutus and tiaras. But within moments, began eyeing the nearest shop to sell cigarettes. I would just have one! Again I snapped myself back to reality, and began to focus on my long-term goals, for health, a family…our table’s ready!  Thank the Heavens! I took a deep breath/sigh of relief, thanked the universe for the support, and headed into the restaurant.

As the night progressed, the cravings reduced in frequency, and then finally in intensity, as I mindfully began to associate new memories and behaviours with the casino. I’d never even been in this area of the complex before. And when it was time to finally do some gambling…I sat down at a 3-card table, took a deep breath, and placed $120 on the table. (I NEVER sit down with anything less than $400!).

When I got myself up to $200…I left. I tipped the dealer. Wished the other players good luck, and went back into the theatre, early, for act two of a less than engaging performance.

There was a definite strategy, and sense of safety in avoiding gambling scenarios for these past few years. And I’m glad I did it. But I’m also glad that when the most desirable set of circumstances ushered me back through their gilded doors, that I did seize the opportunity to face my old habits. Sometimes the stories in our heads can get so big and so detailed, that when we face reality, (with a clear head and a game plan), we realize scenarios aren’t nearly as powerful as the voices in our heads.

Did I have a great time gambling? Hells no!

Did I have the time of my life? Not even close!

Did I walk away with my head held high and a swagger in my step?

You bet I did.

And for that I am truly grateful.

I may not quite be ready for Vegas yet. But I’m one giant leap closer.

I hear they have shows there too.

 


Stephanie Angelone Harding is the founder of MindSavvy, a stress-busting, health-improving, productivity-enhancing training program for organizations and individuals, that wish to transform their lives…in as little as ONE hour.

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