#25 Compete in Something

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.

#25

Compete in Something

Do you play cards? Tennis? Chess? Do you run marathons or are you part of a sports team? If you do/are… you are most likely engaging in competition which, as it turns out – is good for you. If not, think of something you can do that will offer you an opportunity to compete, to win because the dopamine rush that happens when we win – may be important to our happiness.

Chemical Reactions

It seems as if we are biologically designed to be rewarded for “coming out on top”… for winning. In fact, low serotonin levels are the result of denying ourselves the opportunity to win. If you find that you avoid competition or don’t try to succeed when given the chance, it may promote depressed feelings. Winning is one of the ways that we validate our power or knowledge.

When we win at something, our bodies produce a surge of testosterone – temporarily providing a rush of ‘strength’ in both men and women. In addition, dopamine – the happy chemical – courses through the area of our brain that is responsible for pleasure and positive emotions.

Is it no wonder that winning is the goal?

Winning isn’t Everything

Competition isn’t just about winning however. There are great benefits to being a part of a team when it comes to those competitions that require cooperation and coordination. Learning to share energy in an effort to accomplish a task is an important life skill.

Competitions tax our body and/or our minds. Whether we’re competing in a triathlon or playing Euchre, we are using some kind of energy in the pursuit of playing. Our brains are constantly at work in an effort to figure out how to maximize our performance. It also promotes creativity as we vie to ‘get out front’ and win.

Against Yourself

Some people have negative reactions to social competitions and some, broken perspectives from poor experiences in the past. In these cases, I recommend competition against one’s self. Beat your best at anything; strive to do it faster, or earlier, or bigger. Anything that you can do to promote the sense of “I did it!” will induce similar chemical responses in your body.

Competition is good for you so the next time you have a chance to play a game of anything or to personally challenge yourself… just do it. You’ll be giving yourself an opportunity for some great chemical rushes should you win. After all, the only way to win… is to…

Compete in something.

TTAH

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#37 Sing Karaoke

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.

#37

Sing Karaoke

After recommending that we try Stand Up Comedy as a way to improve your well-being, I’d be remiss to ignore the idea of singing publicly as another way to foster fun, laughter, friendship, and joy in your life. And, while I am quite sure that I may be the spectacle of fun were I to stand up and attempt to sing a popular song… it would make for great memories.

Evidence

Several years ago a Japanese research team published a study indicating that those people who participated in the practice of getting together with friends and singing, were less stressed, had better cardiovascular health and less susceptible to heart disease. I mean, clearly those are benefits of reduced stress all around so essentially, they’re saying Karaoke reduces stress – no matter if you can carry a tune.

Talent

The point of Karaoke isn’t necessarily showcasing vocal talent – although it does certainly serve that purpose. We are generally entertained when someone is able to carry a tune and has even a little depth in their vocal range. But even if you can barely make it through Happy Birthday, gathering a group of friends and joining in on a collective rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’ is great fun.

Physical Benefits

Maybe one of the best physical benefits of singing is that it forces us to control our breath and breathe deeply. It works our memory which, is exercise for our brain. It strengthens throat and palate muscles which, may improve snoring and apnea. It supports good posture by forcing you to stand more upright, allowing for better breath control. And, it may be one of the most natural antidepressants. People who sang regularly in church were found to have higher dopamine levels than those who did not.

Social Connection

Karaoke is an ongoing opportunity to gather with friends whether it is in a public forum or someone’s living room. It gives you rhyme and reason to connect. If you are a ‘regular’ on open mic night, you may develop a following; fostering confidence and esteem with like minded people.

There doesn’t really seem to be a downside to this recommendation except for the fear you may have revolving around judgment, rejection, ridicule, or failure… all derogatory and ultimately unhelpful; totally worth staring down. A great way to face your fears while having a great time inside a supportive environment is to…

Sing karaoke.

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

#40 Reevaluate Culture

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.

#40

Reevaluate Culture

What do you think about when you hear the word “culture”? I imagine that most of us think of ethnicity or the list of ‘isms’ that are currently politically correct (sex, age, gender, sexuality, etc.) and of course, those are in and of themselves… cultures. But the term culture can be expanded much more broadly and I am of the belief that if we re-evaluate our thoughts about ‘culture’, it will help us to understand people better; creating more opportunity for developing empathy and offering compassion.

Sub-cultures

Remember the television show Wife Swap?? It was a program where the wives of two households traded places for a week. To make it good (and dramatic) television, the households were often dramatically different in sub-cultures (a suburban Atlanta business woman exchanged places with a Vermont stay-at-home mom who practices Wicca, for example). Each of the families are exposed to the different ‘cultures’ of the wife and they attempt to learn something from one another. It occasionally goes well.

Diversity & Sensitivity Training

I’ve never officially taken or performed sensitivity training but I’ve had diversity training both in graduate school and in professional development coursework. I can’t help but wonder why they aren’t a part of our traditional curriculum at this point. And for those programs that do include diversity training, is there discussion about the granular aspect of diversity? An individual who grows up with socioeconomic privilege, in a one parent home, or with well developed emotional skills is diverse from the person who has significant exposure to the opposite positions.

Why is this important?

For a lot of the couples who sit in my office because of distressed relationships, it is frequently rooted in these diverse elements that were subconsciously at play. What was the ‘conflict resolution culture’ in your childhood home? It will matter when you attempt to resolve conflict in your adult relationships? What was the ‘division of labor culture’ in your childhood home? Again, it will matter in your adult relationship. Why is your coworker passive aggressive about your Jimmy Choo shoes? Did they grow up in a poverty stricken community? Do they have strong ‘cultural’ bias about frugality?

We tend to make assumptions about people who share our physical traits and adopt a belief that they are culturally the same. Likewise, we tend to believe that people who look different … are different, and at the end of the day our assumptions prevent us from asking really important questions.

Ask Questions

By reevaluating our idea of culture, nothing about the person sitting next to you can be assumed. It forces us to ask questions and see the individual nuances about him or her that compose their individuality. Your friend may have Asian features physically but was adopted into an African American home with a Jewish spiritual tradition. If you don’t ask questions to understand the impacts of all those sub-cultural experiences, you’re apt to totally misread who they are.

Our world – and the people in it – isn’t broken into nice clean sections. If you really want to know someone and understand how to communicate with them successfully, you’ll have to start by…

Reevaluating culture.

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

#177 Dance

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.

#177

Dance

If you were ever a Grey’s Anatomy fan, you’ll remember that Meredith Grey liked to ‘dance it out’. It was her way of being emotionally expressive. The truth is, dance is fantastic for emotions – it’s great for your body – and it may help you live longer. Indeed, There was a woman on this year’s America’s Got Talent that took Ballroom dance classes when she was in her sixties and today, after more than 10 years of honing skill… at the age of 71, she is dancing on national television with the grace of a swan.

Benefits

When we dance, we burn calories. We release endorphins. We stretch muscles. We build strength. We build aerobic capacity. Our balance, agility, flexibility, and coordination are improved. Our social interactions can be enhanced and our overall sense of well-being is likely to be elevated.

Something for Everyone

Dance can take so many different avenues that there’s an option for just about everyone. You can disco in the comfort of your living room; take ballroom dancing lessons, spend Saturday afternoon Country line dancing at a local venue. You can enroll in ballet, tap, or modern dance classes at a local studio or community college. Dance by yourself, with someone you know, or with a complete stranger. There really aren’t limits except those that you apply to yourself.

Motivation

Think about your motivation to dance… what is your goal? Fitness? Flexibility? Social connection? Would you prefer a partner? Private Lessons? Potential for competition? Do you want a work out or simple fun? Are you seeking to develop strength, coordination, or flexibility? The answer may dictate the style of dance you may enjoy and the intensity you dive in with.

At the very least, allow yourself to take the opportunities when they arise, to move to music that you enjoy. Whether it’s a series of hip wiggles or spins around the kitchen… when you hear tunes that motivate you to ‘get your groove on’ – let the spirit move you and…

Dance.

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

#229 Chat with a random Stranger

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.

#229

Chat with a Random Stranger

Disconnect

We live in a world that while connected via radio waves and fiber optic cables, is often disconnected from an interpersonal perspective. We walk around with cell phones and headphones, attending to email, social media, and news headlines rather than the space in which we stand. Most of us can find ourselves standing next to a stranger at some point during the day with barely a glance to recognize their presence there; the ghostly whisper of our mothers “don’t talk to strangers” mantra reverberating ever so slightly through our memory.

Connect

If we take time to bring ourselves into the present moment while we run our errands, grab our lunch, or wait for transportation, we can simultaneously take time to appreciate the people in our periphery. Why not go one step further and connect with one of the other human beings close by? A simple comment of “that color looks great on you” or “I love your haircut” may be just the thing that person needs to counterbalance a negative from earlier in the day. The few seconds you take to actually connect to someone benefits you too.

Thrive

Social connection is linked to happiness, personal thriving, and longevity. It seems that even the simple act of acknowledging that we are not isolated – even if we don’t know or aren’t friends with people – can improve our state of mind. If we look up and acknowledge others in our environment for even a brief interaction, our brains interpret connectivity. The truth is, we aren’t isolated anywhere but in our minds. At any given point, most of us can walk out our door, down the sidewalk and connect with a human being in some kind of way – IF we choose.

Lessons from Childhood

The premise is simple and mostly likely etched in your memory somewhere because children do this naturally. (Another example of something innate that we ‘unlearn’.) Children – completely unknown to one another – will engage on a playground within minutes of being there. In no time at all, they are introducing themselves and cooperating to extend their enjoyment.

Make a pledge to yourself to disarm those adult hesitations, break away from your distractions, and be present the next time you find yourself in a line, a group, or a crowd and make the effort to …

Talk to a random stranger.

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

Photo by Simon Shim on Unsplash