Whose Shoes Are You Wearing?

Most of us are familiar with the sayings, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and “big shoes to fill.” The idea of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes urges us to develop understanding for another person’s perspective, while having big shoes to fill refers to the expectation that we live up to a standard set by another.

Both convey noble messages – about wearing other people’s shoes. But how often do we relate these important concepts to our own lives? Isn’t it also important to understand our own perspectives and to set our own standards?

According to self-determination theory, it is.Self-Determination Theory

Autonomy, the need for self-direction, is considered a basic psychological need. It refers to the need to define and express our interests, preferences, wants, and beliefs, as well as having a sense of choice in the overall direction of our lives. When this need is fulfilled, we become more motivated to develop our potentials than if our goals were set by other people. For this reason, it is important to surround ourselves with people who are understanding and supportive of our need for self-direction.

An environment that encourages self-direction motivates us toward personal development, which opens the gate for exploration. Although others may be able to recognize our outwardly expressed traits and talents, it is difficult for them to truly know our inner (and sometimes hidden) desires and ambitions. Therefore, no one else is in a better position to direct our lives because WE are the ones who know ourselves best. Even when an inner capability is hidden from ourselves, self-directed exploration is more likely to help us to discover it.

As we explore and develop our inborn capabilities, we become skilled in them. As we become more skilled, we increase our sense of competence (also a basic need), which in turn allows us to be more autonomous. In other words, the more autonomous we feel, the more competent we can become – and the more competent we become, the more autonomous we feel.

What does this all mean?

If we apply the theory to our lives directly, it means that we can walk farther in our own shoes than we ever could in the shoes of someone else. Therefore, instead of passively accepting a direction that is handed to us, we should strive to set our own direction. And when others offer opinions and suggestions regarding our lives, we should first consider how they fit in with our own goals.

Also, we should consider this basic fact about shoes: The more you wear them, the more broken-in and comfortable they become. I think it’s worth the effort to invest time in walking a few miles and becoming comfortable in our OWN shoes.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
You’re the one who will
decide where you go.

~Dr. Seuss~

Personal Reflections
  • How self-directed do you feel in your life?
  • Do you believe that lack of self-direction affects your personal growth?
*Image: Ginnerobot

Eating Well: Why It Is Important for Holistic Success

Last updated on 9/4/2020

AppleLightBulb

Most of us have a list of various goals and aspirations. For example:

  • Compete for a job promotion
  • Lose weight
  • Go back to school for a higher degree
  • Start a new business
  • Improve my personal relationships
  • Diminish the stress in my life

However, when it comes to personal transformation, many people find it difficult to establish new habits and remain committed long enough to make them stick. In fact, studies of New Year’s resolutions (the most popular time of year for personal transformation) show that less than 10% of people who make resolutions will stick to them.

Reasons for failure can vary, but the most prominent reason is that people set unrealistic goals. Additionally, many people have unrealistic expectations, often believing they can immediately overcome a habit that they’ve spent years establishing. The combination of unrealistic goals and expectations provides a perfect framework for inevitable failure.

A second reason people find it hard to achieve the changes they desire is because they do not understand themselves as an interconnected system. Wellness models present eight personal dimensions, but we should consider that the boundaries between each dimension overlap.

As you can see on the wellness wheel below, each dimension overlaps the others. When conceptualized as an interconnected, multi-dimensional system, it becomes clear how difficult it is to change one dimension of our lives without affecting or needing support from the other dimensions.

Dimensions of Wellness 2

Nutrition and Performance

Each of the goals listed above requires increased performance (output) in at least one wellness dimension. For example, to lose weight, it will be necessary to increase your physical output (i.e., exercise) to burn more calories. Some goals, such as going back to school to earn a higher degree, require increased intellectual output. Other goals may require combinations of increased output. For example, working harder for a promotion or starting a new business can require increased occupational, intellectual, and physical outputs to support higher levels of productivity and longer work hours. Improving personal relationships may require a combination of social, emotional, intellectual, and possibly physical outputs (e.g., more family outings, increased sexual activity) .

How does this relate to nutrition?

Increased output requires increased input. For a car, extra mileage requires increased fuel in the form of gasoline. For humans, our fuel comes from the food we eat. Therefore, it is important to consider the relationship between nutrition and how your mind and body performs.

Research shows that nutrition affects several important areas of functioning, including:

  • Cognition (Brain Functioning)
  • Immunity
  • Energy Levels
  • Susceptibility to Stress

Again, considering the goals above, can you identify one that would not be affected by brain functioning, immunity, energy levels, or stress? Most people would agree that the answer is no.

From “Good Health” to Optimal Performance

Most people recognize that better nutrition leads to better health. But for many of us, that’s where our thinking stops. This is unfortunate because if we want to commit to change successfully, our thinking needs to go deeper.

Focusing on nutrition as a path to “good health” can be an ineffective method of motivation. Why? Because good health is a sweeping concept that really doesn’t have a concrete meaning. For some people, good health may mean ‘free from illness.’ In that case, it’s plausible for a person to live off of junk food, be without illness and, therefore, consider themselves healthy.

An alternative, and more effective, approach is to focus on optimal functioning instead of good health. Regarding personal transformation and success, thinking about how good nutrition relates to optimal functioning in each dimension of our lives allows us to think more concretely and create personal meaning. Personal meaning is a key motivator for sustained change.

To begin your transformational process, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is my goal?
  • Which personal dimensions will be affected by this goal?
  • How would an inadequate diet affect the dimensions associated with my goal?
  • How would a sound diet help me reach my full potential?
  • How would my life look and feel if I achieved a state of optimal functioning?

Becoming Your Holistic Best

Including nutrition as a part of an overall success strategy is a holistic approach that promotes optimal functioning. Optimal functioning allows us to become the best person we can be, which ultimately helps us to achieve our goals.

References
Marcos, A., Nova, E., & Montero, A. (2003). Changes in the immune system are conditioned by nutrition. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57(S1), S66–S69. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601819

Wärnberg, J., Gomez-Martinez, S., Romeo, J., Díaz, L.-E. & Marcos, A. (2009). Nutrition, inflammation, and cognitive function. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1153, 164–175. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2008.03985.x

*Image: Gunnar Pippel

Wellness Strategy: Reduce Stress with Deep Breathing

Last updated on 9/5/2020

*Image: Aleksandr Davydov

This article is part of the Wellness Strategies Series

Problem: You Feel Stressed
Strategy: Practice Equal Breathing

During times of stress, heart rate is often elevated. Equal Breathing, a technique borrowed from Pranayama Yoga, counters this affect by deliberately slowing your breath and heart rate.

Method

Technique 1: Equal Breathing (also known as Sama Vritti Breathing)

  1. Inhale to a count of 4 seconds.
  2. Exhale to a count of 4 seconds.
  3. Repeat this pattern in succession, gradually increasing the number of seconds to 5, 6, 8, and 10.

Technique 2: Equal Breathing With a Hold (The One Minute Breath)

  1. Inhale to a count of 5 seconds
  2. Hold the breath for a count of 5 seconds
  3. Exhale to a count of 5 seconds
  4. Repeat this pattern in succession, gradually increasing the number of seconds to 8, 10, 12, 15, up to 20. With time and practice, this exercise gradually leads up to the One Minute Breath, a practice where you inhale, hold, and exhale for 20 seconds each, so that one breath takes 60 seconds.

For both techniques, you can maximize the experience by focusing on the sensations of deep breathing. While inhaling, feel the air as it fills your upper chest, mid-chest, and belly. As you exhale, feel the air leave you completely. Keep a steady and even pace as you concentrate on the silent counting of your inhales and exhales.

For technique #2, it is important not to strain beyond your capacity. These techniques are designed to REDUCE stress, not increase it. Therefore, you should progress at an easy pace and practice mindful acceptance of your personal limitations. If a count of 10 appears to be your limit, then it is perfectly fine to stay at 10, and you may take regular breaths in between the inhale-hold-exhale cycles if needed.

Why It Works

Clinical research indicates that breathing exercises can reduce tension and relieve stress by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, the division of the autonomic nervous system that functions to slow the heart rate and decrease resting blood pressure after periods of arousal/stress. In other words, breathing exercises elicit a relaxation response, which decreases the level of autonomic arousal.

Demonstration

Video 1: Johns Hopkins Medicine demonstrates basic deep breathing followed by even breathing.

Video 2: Dana Opalinsky of Bloom Yoga provides a more in-depth demonstration of the technique on the yoga mat. She then explains how she uses it during the day or before sleep:

References:
Jerathemail, R., Edry, J. W., Barnes, V. A., & Jerath, V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical Hypotheses, 67(3), 566-2006. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2006.02.042

Mourya, M., Mahajan, A. S., Singh, N. P., & Jain, A. K. (2009). Effect of slow- and fast-breathing exercises on autonomic functions in patients with essential hypertension. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(7), 711-717. doi: 10.1089=acm.2008.0609

The Upside of Regret

Are you filing away too many regrets?

Regret gets a bad rap. We are often admonished to avoid this emotion at all costs. But like most sweeping statements, casting regret as a pure villain is an oversimplification.

What exactly is regret? Scholars describe it as a cognitively enriched emotion, fueled by a feeling of responsibility for negative outcomes of personal choices. We experience regret when we face negative consequences of our actions. Especially when we are aware that alternate choices may have provided a better outcome.

Does Regret Serve a Purpose?

Research from the areas of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology indicates that the unpleasant feelings we associate with regret may serve two purposes. First, it alerts us to situations that are inconsistent with the interests of well-being, compelling us to make corrections for the sake of future well-being.

Secondly, memory and emotion are intricately connected. This simply means emotion plays an integral role in learning. Research informs us that the more emotional an experience is, the easier it is for our brains to encode it into memory. Correspondingly, the unpleasant emotional experience we refer to as regret may serve the purpose of ensuring we remember and learn from past experiences.

Our brains are designed for the task of making sense of the world, with the overarching goal of protecting us from danger and demise. Therefore, similar to an antivirus program on a computer, our brains are continuously scanning and interpreting so that we can create a sense of order in the form of expectations, which ultimately helps us to avoid potentially harmful situations. Naturally, these expectations are based on what we’ve learned through previous experience.

On the most basic level, experience-based learning occurs through our experiences with cause and effect. Memory helps us to learn that certain decisions and behaviors lead to specific consequences. Regret, therefore, is a mechanism that compels us to stop and deeply consider something that has caused disruption to our well-being, and facilitates encoding it into memory. Simply put, the cognitive component of regret helps us to make connections between cause and effect, and the emotional component (i.e., the unpleasantness) ensures that we never forget the lesson.

Can Regret Be Used as a Tool?

Regret in and of itself is not bad – it’s the way that we handle it that presents a potential problem. When managed properly, regret can be a mechanism for growth: It triggers mental inspection; helps us to understand relationships between behaviors and detrimental consequences; and memory insures that we are able to compare similar situations with past experiences. Overall, it is a process that is designed to help us to develop insight and make better decisions in the future.

The down side of regret, however, occurs when our thinking gets stuck on wishing we could change the past. Although it is healthy to look back on situations to examine our mistakes, when we continue to inspect and reinspect, regret is no longer productive.

When looking at the past, more is not better. Therefore it is important to understand the difference between a glance and a stare. A glance allows us to examine a situation just long enough to see the mistake, extract a lesson, and then quickly move on. However, staring at the past is often counterproductive. When we get stuck in a perpetual state of regret–simply wallowing in the mistake instead of focusing on the lesson–it becomes emotionally detrimental and can ultimately lead to depression.

The key to managing regret is in understanding it is a normal emotion that all humans experience to some degree, and that it actually serves an important purpose. Therefore, it may be more beneficial for us to view regret as a tool – something that triggers us to actually SEARCH for the lessons provided by negative consequences – than as a negative emotion that should be avoided. If we can become adept at finding the lesson, then we can recognize when regret has served its purpose, and instead file away the lesson versus the regret itself.

Regret Helps Us to Thrive

When we experience regret, it is a sign that we wish we could have done something differently. It means we recognize and desire better experiences for ourselves. Without regret, we may not recognize when we could have made better choices, which would make it difficult for us to grow from our experiences.

From an existential standpoint, regret is an important mechanism that ensures that we process the meaning of our experiences. It protects us by guiding us toward less disruptions of well-being, which in turn maximizes our existence.

Therefore, regret is neither positive nor negative; it is simply a human emotion that coerces us toward improved decision-making. It is evidence we possess an inherent desire to thrive, which is an important, unavoidable aspect of human nature.

“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past, But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”
~Steve Maraboli~

Personal Reflections:
  • How often do you feel regretful?
  • How have you managed regretful feelings in the past?
  • Can viewing regret as a tool help you to manage negative consequences differently?

References
Coricellim G., Critchley, H. D., Joffily, M., O’Doherty, J. P., Sirigu, A., & Dolan, R. J. (2005). Regret and its avoidance: a neuroimaging study of choice behavior. Nature Neuroscience, 8, 1255 – 1262. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1514

Haselton, M.G. & Ketelaar, T. (2006). Irrational emotions or emotional wisdom? The evolutionary psychology of emotions and behavior. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.), Hearts and minds: Affective influences on social cognition and behavior (pp. 21-40). New York: Psychology Press.

*Image: feverpitched

Am I Insane? The 5 Chapters of Personal Change

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Well, not really.

This high-mileage quote has been misattributed to several famous people (including Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin), and is completely misused. If you query any good dictionary for the word “insanity,” you will not find this saying as a definition. While doing the same thing over and over expecting different results may be problematic, it’s not insane.

Many of us repeat behaviors out of habit with no true introspection into why we continue to do them. We realize the bad outcomes, but changing the behavior doesn’t immediately come to mind. Instead, we continue ineffective behaviors with a hope that the outcome will eventually change.

Breaking habits and changing our behavior is difficult. If it were simply a matter of expressing a desire to change and then doing it, there would be no need for therapists, and the self-help industry would be nonexistent. Change is a process dependent on many factors. Challenging core beliefs and perceiving the need to change are the primary precursors to change; without this, change will not occur.

Behavioral change is also affected by:

  • Motivational influences (both intrinsic and extrinsic)
  • Ability to see the connection between personal choices and situational outcomes
  • Realistic expectations of the change process (it’s not always easy, immediate, or linear)
  • Sense of self and belief in one’s own ability to change
  • Ability to withstand setbacks

Successful change requires abandoning an undesired behavior and replacing it with a behavior more consistent with the desired outcome. This process often involves examining a long-standing belief, accepting that it is faulty, and then amending or abandoning that belief. This is not a simple process, which is why this type of change takes time. Although we may have the desire to change, we have to consider that an external change requires internal work, which doesn’t always happen quickly.

Abandoning the comfort of a habit (comfort, because habits require very little thinking and effort) also creates a challenge. We often prefer to fall back on familiar behaviors when feeling overwhelmed because it is much easier to do what we’ve always done in the past. This will cause setbacks. However, each time we overcome a setback and reinstate our effort toward change, we reinforce the desired new behavior, and will eventually come to adopt it as the new standard.

We all have individual reasons of why we repeat certain behaviors, which have nothing to do with insanity. But once we’ve chosen to make a permanent change, we have to accept that setbacks are part of the process. The learning curve for behavioral change is not linear. Instead, there are peaks and valleys, which represent progression and setbacks. So, if you’re finding it hard to break old patterns, it’s truly not because you are insane.

A typical pattern of change is illustrated profoundly in the poem below. As you read it, reflect upon your past efforts toward change.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson

Chapter I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost . . . I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in . . . it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

Personal Reflections:
  • Have you faced challenges with making changes in your life?
  • What does your autobiography look like?

*Image: Xaxor.com

The Scientific Reason You Should Start Cultivating Peace of Mind Today

Last updated on 9/4/2020

Peace of Mind

“Set peace of mind as your highest goal,
and organize your life around it.”
~Brian Tracy~

The phrase “peace of mind” means different things to different people. Officially, it refers to a mental state of tranquility that comes from not having worries, guilt, or problems.

Peace of mind (or inner peace) is a concept linked to Stoic and Buddhist philosophies. Both philosophies assert that the sense of peace originates from within the individual. They also suggest we can condition ourselves to be indifferent to external disturbances. This mindset can help us manage our internal worlds, even when chaos surrounds us.

“Tranquility” refers to the mental state of calmness and reflection. It is a restorative state, the direct contrast to a stressed state. Busy, stressful lives require constant mental engagement. According to research, tranquility plays an important role in providing relief from an overtaxed mental space. Therefore, many psychologists consider tranquility to be a psychological need.

Tranquil surroundings have a positive effect on the brain. Neuroimaging studies have shown tranquil environments enhance certain neural connections within the brain; non-tranquil environments tend to disrupt those connections. Therefore, when we make peace of mind a primary goal, we are contributing to our brain health.

Cultivating inner peace starts with creating opportunities to recharge. This can be as simple as taking brief breaks during the day to sit in solitude. Other methods of recharging include various forms of mind-body practice, such as breathing exercises, prayer, meditation, tai chi, and yoga.

The second step for cultivating inner peace is to simplify your lifestyle in the following ways:

  • Simplify your thinking by focusing on the present. Avoid dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
  • Simplify your schedule by only committing to tasks that you can complete comfortably without over-committing yourself.
  • Simplify your physical surroundings by decluttering your living and workspaces.
  • Simplify your interpersonal interactions by minimizing your exposure to negative people and setting healthy boundaries.

Mindfully striving for inner peace means we have made an important commitment to ourselves. When we avoid situations, environments, and relationships that don’t allow us to satisfy the need for tranquility, we are practicing the ultimate act of self-care.

Reference: Hunter, M. D., Eickhoff, S. B., Pheasant, R. J., Douglas, M. J., Watts, G. R., Farrow,  T. F. D., . . . Wooddruff, P. W. R. (2010). The state of tranquility: Subjective perception is shaped by contextual modulation of auditory connectivity. NeuroImage, 53(2), 611-618. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1053811910009110?via%3Dihub

*Image: track5

Wellness Strategy: Begin a Gratitude Practice

Last updated on 9/4/2020

Gratitude Journal

This article is part of the Wellness Strategies Series

Problem: You Feel Pessimistic
Strategy: Start a Gratitude Journal

Establish the practice of gratitude by consciously reminding yourself of the positive experiences in your life. End each week by reflecting upon and visualizing its best parts. Recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary (e.g., waking up in the morning) as well as extraordinary (e.g., winning an award) events. Also reflect upon your personal attributes and the valued people in your life.

Method

  • In your journal (not in your head), record 5 things in your life for which you are most grateful. Be specific and elaborate in detail. For specific writing tips, visit the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
  • Don’t rush through this exercise as if it were just a superficial list. Reflect on the feelings associated with each item and elaborate on its significance.
  • Don’t just go through the motions; make a conscious decision to become happier and more grateful.
  • Studies suggest that journaling three times per week may have a greater impact on our happiness than journaling everyday.
  • Repeat this exercise at least once per week for at least two weeks

Why it Works

Clinical studies have shown practicing gratitude is associated with higher levels of subjective well-being and positive emotions. Compared to control groups, individuals who focus on gratitude demonstrate less negativity, higher levels of optimism and life satisfaction, better sleep quality, stronger immune systems, and greater connectedness to others. These results suggest that a conscious focus on gratitude can provide important emotional and interpersonal benefits.

Journal Ideas

To learn more about gratitude research, view “The Science of Gratitude,” a short video summarizing the many health benefits of practicing gratitude:

References:
Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.2.377

Froh, J. J., Sefick, W. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46(2), 213–233. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2007.03.005

*Image: Karolina Grabowska

How Thoughts and Emotions Affect Everything You Do

Our interactions with the world comprise perceiving, feeling, acting, and thinking, four basic processes that aid our survival and well-being. We rarely perceive these processes as distinct steps because they operate subconsciously in tandem with each other.

Consider, for example, a trip to the bookstore. As you peruse the rows of books, a title finally catches your eye (perceiving).  You are curious and wonder whether it is what you’re looking for (thinking). As you read the table of contents, you really like what it says and desire to read more (feeling). Finally, your experience culminates with the decision to take the book to the register and purchase it (acting).

The example above illustrates a holistic process that operates seamlessly, with no true delineation of when one process ends and the other begins. It is important to note these processes can function in any order. For example, if you hate a particular person (feeling), you are likely to dwell on something negative that they’ve done (thinking), which compels you to avoid them (acting) when you see them (perceiving).

Emotion as a Key Player

The interaction between thoughts, emotions, and behavior is a synergistic process. However, philosophers and scientists across time have asserted that emotion is the key player because it has a strong influence on thoughts and behavior.

Functionalist perspectives of emotions conceptualize emotion as an evolutionary adaptive response that organizes cognitive, experiential, behavioral, and physiological reactions to changes in the environment. In other words, emotions play a key function in our survival.

Prominent theories on emotion indicate that emotion interacts with our mental processing by eliciting changes in cognition, judgment, physiology, and behavior. Current research shows that discrete emotions (i.e., happiness, sadness, anger, and anxiety) change the way we think, feel, and behave, and directly affect our everyday judgments and decisions.

There is a consensus that emotions play a key role in decisions. In fact, researchers have found that people who have specific types of brain damage that impair their ability to experience emotions also have a decreased ability to make good decisions.

Ways to Manage Thoughts and Emotions

Albert Ellis, founder of rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT) and early pioneer of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), recognized that emotions directly affect other processes, and that emotional distress often results from dysfunctional thought processes. Ellis promoted the belief that “emoting rather than thinking is often the main problem of human living today.” As a result, Ellis developed REBT as an action-oriented approach that helps individuals to understand how their dysfunctional internal beliefs can cause dysfunctional feelings, maladaptive behaviors, and unhealthy psychophysiological reactions. This style of therapy helps individuals to shift from “hot” emotional reactions to “cool” reflective thinking, which ultimately results in healthier thoughts that promote goal achievement and emotional well-being.

Mindfulness, defined as focusedMindfulness awareness of the present moment, is a mind-body approach that can help individuals to be less reactive to emotions. Jon Kabat-Zinn, developer of the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, explains that mindfulness techniques are based upon paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally. Focusing attention in this way helps individuals to observe their thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental manner.

The benefits of mindfulness practice include decreased incidents of unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events, and an increased ability to respond more intentionally and wisely. Based on the findings of neuroscience and clinical research, the medical and mental health communities recognize mindfulness as a highly effective skill for stress reduction.

Conclusion

The overall goal of this article was to provide a basic understanding of how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors interact, and the direct bearing they have on emotional well-being. In particular, emotions and thoughts are intricately related and underlie our daily decisions and behavior. Therefore the key to having a more fulfilling and less disturbed life may be to manage our thoughts and emotions.

Personal Reflections:

  • Are you a “hot” reactor, or a “cool” thinker?
  • Can you recall an instance when your emotions prompted you to react in a way that you later regretted?
  • Have you ever tried a mindfulness technique? If so, was it helpful?

References

David, D. (2013). Rational emotive behavior therapy in the context of modern psychological research. Retrieved from http://albertellis.org/rebt-in-the-context-of-modern-psychological-research/

Ellis, A. & Harper, R. A. (1997). A guide to rational living. Chatsworth, CA: Wilshire Book Company

Frijda, N. H., Manstead, A. S. R., & Bem, S. (Eds.) (2000). Emotions and beliefs: How feelings influence thoughts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

Lench, H. C., Flores, S. A., & Bench, S. W. (2011). Discrete emotions predict changes in cognition, judgment, experience, behavior, and physiology: A meta-analysis of experimental emotion elicitations. Psychological Bulletin, 137(5), 834-855. doi: 10.1037/a0024244

*Images: artqu and UNSW

Let Go to Move Forward

When you cling to what feels safe, you probably don’t realize how much you hinder your own mobility. It may provide a sense of comfort, but it also means you’re not moving.

Mobility is a choice. Remind yourself that it is impossible to be both stationary and moving; you eventually have to let go in order to move forward . . . or, not. The choice is always yours.

*Image: Wavebreak Media

Resistance is Futile: Cultivating Resilience by Embracing Change

Last updated on 9/29/2020

Change occurs whether we like it or not. When we observe the natural world, we don’t see a static picture. Instead, we see an ever-evolving world in constant motion. If we don’t allow ourselves to evolve with it, our progress ceases. We become disconnected from the here and now, like artifacts frozen in the past.

Adapting to change is important for psychological health. It is important to acknowledge that change will occur and adapt when it does occur. Resisting change often leads to unhappiness because it is an inevitable part of life. So it is better to embrace change than to resist it.

Building Resilience

“The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.”

—Japanese Proverb

Ancient and modern cultures have regarded bamboo as a symbol of longevity and resilience for good reason. It stays evergreen, even during harsh winter months. And it can sway and bend without breaking in strong winds. Natural strength and flexibility make it the perfect building material for earthquake-resistant structures. Considering its attributes, bamboo imparts a lesson about being flexible. We can bend with the winds of change, like bamboo. Or we can remain rigid like the oak tree, becoming tired or broken as we resist.

Although change is an inevitable part of life, some people experience it as a stressor. If you fall into this category, it may be helpful to view change through the lens of human resilience. Resilience refers to our ability to withstand and bounce back from a stressor. It is considered a psychological protective factor. Higher levels of resilience help us adapt to life-changing situations with fewer signs of distress. Embracing change as a part of life is an important step toward building resilience.

Psychological flexibility is a fundamental aspect of psychological health. It refers to our ability to shift perspective and adapt to changing conditions. People who are psychologically flexible can adapt more easily than those who are rigid. Research shows reappraising and viewing an event in a more positive light can improve the way we respond. Focusing on the positive aspects of change can minimize the stress response and increase levels of resilience.

Discovering Opportunities for Growth

When change occurs, it challenges us not only to adapt but to learn how to thrive under the new conditions. Thriving means we’ve developed a higher level of adaptive functioning than we had before the stressor occurred. It is a sign of stress-related growth. Therefore, when we resist change, we deprive ourselves of opportunities for personal growth.

Embracing the Here and Now

Embracing change keeps us grounded in the here and now. As situations change, we face a changed reality that we must accept. When we refuse to accept change, we are rejecting the inevitable unfolding reality. We are expressing a desire to remain in an idealized past that no longer exists. When we resist what the present moment has to offer, our focus remains on the past.

Change is Natural and Inevitable

“The world is full of movement
bathing us in change.”

—John Millar

The world is constantly moving; nothing stays the same. We can observe natural life cycles, changing seasons, the rising and setting sun, and the changing landscape of the earth’s surface. As part of the natural world, humans are not exempt. We change from moment-to-moment as we progress through the human life cycle and learn from new experiences. Discoveries challenge our existing ideas, leading to shifts in our worldview.

The universe shows us that change is natural and inevitable. Therefore, we must acknowledge and accept change as part of our life plan.

I can’t think of a better way to illustrate the constant motion of our universe than through the art of time-lapse cinematography. As you watch the film “Mountain Light” by Tom Lowe, consider the inevitable nature of change and how our resistance to it is truly futile.

Personal Reflection: How do you react to change? Do you see distress, or opportunity?

To see more award-winning time-lapse photography from Tom Lowe, visit Timescapes.org.


References:
Dolbier, C. L., Jaggars, S. S., & Steinhardt, M. A. (2010). Stress-related growth: Pre-intervention correlates and change following a resilience intervention. Stress and Health, 26(2), 135–147. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.1275

Kashdan, T. B., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical Psychology Review30(7), 865–878. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.001

Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., Bisconti, T. L., & Wallace, K.  A. (2006). Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(4), 730-749. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.91.4.730

*Image: Gerd Altmann