#42 Develop More Empathy

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#42

Develop More Empathy

Empathy plays a major roles in our ability to be socially competent. It is a key trait found in healthy relationships. None of us can exist on our own. Societies thrive when their citizens embrace the values of helping one another. While it’s true that we are all responsible for our own actions, it can be easy to forget just how much the desire to understand others and to work on their behalf matters also.

Benefits for Those Who Give

When we think of being empathetic and doing compassionate deeds, our emphasis is usually on what the person in need, or who is receiving the assistance, gets. It’s rare to look at what you can gain through working on behalf of someone else. Of course, you get the satisfaction and warm feeling of helping. It’s an increase in feel-good neurochemicals that leads to this. Performing compassionate deeds lowers our levels of stress and improves our health.

Empathy for others influences our social growth and competence, as well. Such actions force you to look beyond yourself and broaden your perspectives. Doing so can lessen your own emotional issues such as depression and anxiety. Reaching out to others in times of need builds social connections and enhances interpersonal skills necessary for healthy relationships.  

What Receivers Gain

Those on the receiving end of your empathetic efforts gain the sense that others care, which can go a long way toward improving overall mental outlook and sense of self. They gain trust in the outside world and feel seen. When others show compassion, it can lead receivers to believe that they are being perceived as worthwhile and of value. They feel more trusting and are often more motivated to work toward self-improvement goals.

We never know how the empathy we express may affect the person who receives it and I’m not sure we can have too much empathy as long as we are establishing healthy boundaries along the way. Empathy, compassion, and perspective work hand in hand to make great relationships better. If you’re seeking more growth you can work to….

Develop more empathy.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#60 Start a Collection

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#60

Start a Collection

Today’s suggestion may seem counter-intuitive or even contradictory to yesterday’s position of ‘Keep It Simple’, yet having a collection of something has been demonstrated to promote happiness for some people and it doesn’t seem to matter ‘what’ is collected.

Motivation

From Coca Cola paraphernalia to cars and beanie babies to rare tins, a collection is generally something that has emotional rather than monetary value to the collector. Perhaps it’s representative of a hobby (cars), a fond memory (beanie babies) or time spent with a loved one (Coca Cola). It may also be something that stimulates our winning reflex – the thrill of the hunt (finding rare tins). Other’s still may be inclined to collect based solely on the social aspect, a shared interest either with a friend or a larger group (Boy Scout or Military items).

Meeting Needs

A collection can meet many of our psychological needs. It can be comforting and relieve anxiety. It can help us feel a sense of belonging. It can induce fond memories. Moreover, it may function as a hobby which, is important from the perspective of broadening our interests and offering distraction from daily stressors. A collection can be a statement of who we are; introducing us to the world in a non-verbal manner.

Dysfunctional

Collecting things with intent and purpose is generally a healthy activity. It becomes unhealthy when either of those elements disappears. When we accumulate things out of a fear of letting go or a fear of not having enough, we may be approaching or experiencing unhealthy behavior. Hoarding is a good example of what people may describe as a collection but without intent or purpose. Also potentially dysfunctional is when we become ‘too’ attached to the ‘things’ that we’ve collected; if/when we identify through the material elements. These are the ‘dark side’ conditions of collecting but are much more often the exception rather than the norm.

In most cases, having a collection of something meaningful is a rational, healthy, and potentially helpful past time. What would you collect if you were to …

Start a Collection

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#77 Switch Hands

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#77

Switch Hands

Want to give your brain a quick boost? Spend a day primarily using your non-dominant hand for a day. Try using it to zip, button, and snap. Soap your body, brush your teeth, and comb your hair with your ‘other’ hand. Keep going. Try buttering toast and reaching into the fridge opposite from how you usually do it.

This activity is considered exercise for your brain. Scientists tell us that if we are using one side of our body more often than not, it hold true also that we are using only one side of our brain more often than not. Something as simple as using a different hand will help you develop the other side of your brain; grow neurons.

Healthy Brain

In the same way we strive for better health in our bodies, it is imperative that we are attentive to keeping our brain healthy. If we change those little things that we do rotely, it forces us to use brain power and think about what we’re doing.

Healthy Body

If you’re right handed, your right bicep is probably stronger. You are likely right footed as well with more developed right leg muscles. Shifting things into your left hand will activate the left side and balance the muscle development in your body.

Marketing

Researchers have suggested that we tend to ‘lead’ based on our dominant hand; meaning that we will lead to the right when we are moving through a store, an amusement park, or generally anywhere we go. Watch what direction people tend to move as they exit an escalator or at the entrance to a concert hall. One of the most helpful tips I read when going to Disney World the first time was to go left as soon as we entered the park because most of us will automatically go right. [More than 70% of the world’s population is right handed.] And, by the way, it worked. Change is good for us all.

You may be surprised to discover the benefits of exercising your brain by making a commitment to …

Switch hands.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#99 Step Back From Negativity

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#99

Step back from Negativity

Are there any ‘Debbie Downers’ in your life? Any Eeyore types? People who find the dark clouds in life and describe them in detail without ever looking at the liner? Have you ever noticed how you feel when you spend time in the company of these people?

Force Field

People often report feeling ‘drained’ after spending time with negative people. It’s not surprising. When we are exposed to negativity for any length of time, it can feel like an attack against our system. Our natural instinct is to defend against the negativity and so we spend subconscious energy blocking it. The longer we have to keep our shield up, the more exhausting it can become.

Negativity

Of course negative things happen and occasionally they are significant, rendering it almost impossible to distract our focus. It’s always important to be realistic and see things for what they are. Yet, the negativity being called out for the purpose of this post is generally finding and commenting on what’s wrong. It’s expecting the worse. It’s assumptive failure no matter the conditions. It’s a downright failure to seek the light.

Unhealthy

As it turns out – constant exposure to negativity is downright unhealthy. Negativity generally produces stress. Stress produces Cortisol. Elevated levels of Cortisol interfere with our immune function. Compromised immune systems are susceptible to disease, bacteria, and viruses. Negativity stunts creativity. Negativity exposure has also been demonstrated to decrease the power / effectiveness of the Hippocampus – the brain area responsible for reasoning and memory.

Limiting

It keeps us from taking risks necessary to invent, discover, and explore. It stifles our self confidence, our self esteem, and our perseverance. It is destructive to relationships. It destroys hope and encouragement. It’s almost impossible to feel happiness when covered in a shroud of negativity.

If you find yourself exposed to negativity that feels / seems unbalanced or overwhelming, set boundaries. Engage the tenets of self-care and create an exit strategy that allows you to …

Step back from negativity.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#103 Learn to Trust

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#103

Learn to Trust

Our ability to trust others may be one of the most primary elements that makes life good. Counting on people, trusting them to be where they say, do what they say, and get things done when they say… that is definitely a component of a good life. It feels reliable, consistent, and dependable. It speaks to our need for some level of security.

Broken trust

And then we find out that not everyone is ‘trustworthy’. It’s disappointing for sure, and we become skeptical of trusting again. Sadly for some, trust isn’t easy to rekindle. It may depend on the situation or circumstances to some degree but even for simple or superficial infractions – trust can be difficult to reestablish.

Most People

I’ve found that most healthy people are indeed – trustworthy. Notice, I said healthy. People who betray us, people who lie, people who steal, people who trick and coerce us -generally, they are unhealthy. Healthy people – most people – don’t do those things. And so if you’ve crossed paths with an unhealthy person who has proved to be untrustworthy… put it into context and realize that they are not like ‘most people’.

Benefits

When we allow ourselves to feel trusting as a general rule with people there are plenty of emotional benefits. Perhaps first and most importantly, we are able to have more meaningful relationships. When we trust people and they demonstrate trustworthiness – our confidence increases. Our stress level is lower when we know that someone has our back and we have peace of mind.

This suggestion is “learn to trust” because it’s a necessary component regardless of how many times people in our environment have been untrustworthy. It’s about allowing each person that you cross path with to establish trustworthiness on their own – not based on other people. Essentially, no matter what has happened in the past…

Learn to trust.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#111 Run or Walk a 5K

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#111

Run or Walk a 5K

The weekend before Thanksgiving is approaching and it’s typically a popular weekend for ‘Turkey Trots’ and other big, sponsored runs. Why not make the effort to participate?

Perspective

To put this into perspective – most walkers will complete a 5K in about 45 minutes. It’s only about 6000 steps for the average stride (a piece of cake – or pie – for all of you who seek that 10K step goal) and you’ll burn 300 calories. Running of course, will be faster and burn more calories.

Benefits

While walking a 5K once and only once will feel like an accomplishment to those who participate, making it a regular practice has tons of benefits for you body and mind.

Walking improves your mood.

Walking improves your body strength.

Walking improves your cardiovascular strength.

Walking improves your balance and coordination.

Motivation

Maybe the best thing about these ‘organized’ walk/runs like a 5K is that they motivate us to do it with others – to be ‘a part’ of something. We tend to do these kinds of things more frequently if we have moral support in the form of crowds. It’s easier to participate with someone than if we have to make the decision to get up and out on our own.

So, gather some friends and jumpstart your holidays with something that is good for you…

Run or walk a 5K.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#125 Eat Healthier

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#125

Eat Healthier

This sounds like a New Year’s resolution at first glance and yet it may be the cornerstone to actually living a happier, healthier, and more productive life. The concept is only new to you if you’ve been living in a cave for the last couple of decades. Indeed, over that time, the Surgeon General and most of our health care practitioners, have touted the benefits of making healthier food choices while the average size of children and adults continues to escalate.

In our fast paced, modern world – the most basic element of survival has become more and more difficult to monitor. We are inundated with food choices almost everywhere we go. Even at my children’s orthodontist office – right next to the coffee pot (a valued added service) there are cookies, cake, or doughnuts ready to be gobbled up by waiting parents, siblings, and hungry kids ready for their after school snack.

Instead of picking an apple off the tree on a walk home from school, our children ride the bus around a corner and into a subdivision, get dropped off at the driveway and grab a processed rice krispy treat or a bag of Doritos before plopping on the sofa to play video games. Sadly, that morphs into a quick dinner with a ‘hurry up and eat’ before someone has to be somewhere more evenings a week than not. It’s the ‘way of the world’ these days and we are all guilty at some point of wanting and making meals to be quick and easy regardless of how healthy they are.

It is beginning to change with healthier options on menus everywhere yet our size continues to grow. In part, because even though we have options – we don’t choose them enough of the time for it to make an impact. Consequently, grocery stores still sell the processed stuff; restaurants still offer the 2000 calorie burger & fries, and deep fried Snicker bars are sold by the thousands at every fair/carnival around the country – because we keep buying them!!

In the interest of honesty I must disclose that I too, cave to the pressure – the smells – and the flavors that tempt and tease me. I can definitely commit to making more consistent healthier choices. In talking with clients who are challenged here as well, the common similarity is that we lack will power. It’s challenging to walk into a mall where Cinnabon has just finished baking a tray of toaster sized rolls. The air is pungent with the smell of cinnamon and yeast. A glance in that direction identifies the source and one can hardly ignore that they are frosted with a decadent amount of cream cheese sugary goodness – so much so that if you’ve ever tasted it – and love it – your mouth instantly begins craving another fix.  ONE classic bun touts 880 calories and the equivalent of 15 spoonfuls of sugar. Would you sit down and shovel 15 teaspoons of sugar into you mouth on purpose??

Instead of succumbing to the temptation of my olfactory inclinations, I make an effort to command control and convince myself that carrot sticks are sweet too. I then seek an eating establishment that offers ‘fresh’ non-processed options and each time I sit down to eat or stroll through the grocery store I make another concerted effort to…

Eat healthier.

(P.S. – Breaking an addiction to sugar is perhaps the most important part of eating healthier – it makes everything else taste better!)

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#150 Fast for a Day

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#150

Fast for a Day

You may have done this recently for some kind of a medical test and decided that fasting was ‘for the birds’ as you denied yourself coffee or food because the doctor ‘said so’.

Personal Control

What if you fasted for a day because YOU wanted to… because you were demonstrating control over your body for the purpose of telling your cells ‘who’s boss’! Or, perhaps you’ve heard of “intermittent fasting” where you only eat food during an 8 hour time period and no more – giving your body a full 16 hours every day to process what you’ve put in it.

Perfect Design

Fasting has been a tradition, a happenstance of the environment, a spiritual practice, and a medicinal effort for perhaps as long as man has been walking the earth. At the very least, our bodies are designed to fast overnight as we sleep and they know what to do when they are deprived. In fact, many illnesses were called “Kings disease” because it was only those who were well fed that came down with particular ailments – attributed to gluttonous living.

Start Over

While there are significant debates among medical professionals about the types of illness that benefit from fasting, one tenet is common; fasting offers the body an opportunity to ‘reset’ (akin to ‘wiping the hard drive’). This may be especially helpful when beginning a healthier eating phase or starting a weight loss program – a kind of ‘jump start’ for your body by cleansing the system of accumulated toxins.

Fasting – consuming water only – for a day allows the body an opportunity to enter the stage of autophagy which basically means that the body naturally works to repair damage that has accumulated. The postulation is that without food to digest, the body organically spends its energy cleaning house. Intermittent fasting (one day a week, for example) has been demonstrated to be very helpful for some medical conditions.

Be Smart

Some people fast for longer durations. These intense fasting sessions should be done under medical supervision as the experience is very similar to detoxing from hard core drugs according to people who have suddenly eliminated sugars and refined carbs from their diets. When the body is denied these ‘drugs’ and the reserves it has to use run dry – there is a withdrawal experience.

Before you grab the bull by the horn and dive into a fasting experience, pick a day when you will be distracted by things or people you love (to detract your attention away from hunger), do a trial run by…

Fasting for a day.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#354 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

My goal is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#354

Cry it out

On the long running television show Grey’s Anatomy, the lead character Merideth has been known to “dance it out” with friends when full of intense emotion. That’s great strategy but it’s mostly great for fictional television.

Sometimes, in real life, we just have to let the tears fall. We were born knowing how to emote. Babies laugh and cry when they have something to express and somewhere along the line we are told to suck it up, dry up the tears, and pull up the boot straps. We are taught to repress something natural and innate. I am not suggesting that we have a meltdown in the middle of a supermarket but taking the time to cry if we are sad, deeply disappointed, or full of other emotion in an appropriate environment can be a game changer.

Crying has its benefits. In fact, it is postulated that crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system which stimulates a relaxation effect. Crying may solicit attention from others, rallying our support system and generating a sense of belonging. Our bodies naturally release oxytocin and endorphins in emotional tears; chemicals found to relieve physical pain. Those same chemicals are known to promote better moods so the simple act of crying may indeed, lighten our mood.

Most of us who have had ‘a good cry’ with solid sobs would probably attest that even though it was exhausting, we felt better afterward. The energy (emotion is energy) that we feel when we are tempted to cry is best released. If we don’t ‘cry it out’… the energy remains in our system and may be redirected via anger, passive aggression, or a related negative expression. Perhaps worse, is the theory that proposes unexpressed emotions contribute to other major health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and even cancers.

It takes courage and strength to move against the cultural norm; to develop a productive coping mechanism; and to face down feelings. Allowing yourself to cry is an act of bravery. And keep in mind that tears don’t have to be public to be productive so the next time you fill with emotion and get the urge to release it, remember to…

Cry it out.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.