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The Remarkable Benefits of Purpose

Victor Frankel learned a lot about human behavior by observing people under the most inhuman circumstances.

Victor wasn’t just observing the behaviors of others under horrible conditions. He was also living under these oppressive conditions.

Victor and the people he observed were beaten mercilessly, forced to do grueling manual labor, and randomly executed.

Victor’s observations of human behavior occured in concentration camps. There many people declared “undesirables” were subjected to brutal, inhumane treatment on a daily basis.

Victor learned from his “observations” the secret to human survival.

He noted that it wasn’t those with most physical strength who were able to endure and survive this harsh treatment.

The best survivors were people who found purpose in the midst of their suffering.

Those people who lost their purpose died.

This surprising observation, led Victor to the insightful conclusion:

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose … He who has a WHY to live, can bear with almost any HOW.”

Victor Frank documents his  experiences and insights in his groundbreaking book Man’s Search For Meaning.

I encourage you to read or re-read this amazing book. I find it to be an inspiring and insightful account of the centrality of purpose to the human experience.

As I recently reflected on the importance of purpose, I identified three distinctive benefits that come from having a clear purpose in our lives.

This list of the benefits of purpose is not meant to be comprehensive. But it reflects what I believe to be the most valuable gifts we gain from knowing and living our life purpose.

I hope this list inspires you to take invest in discovering and expressing your life purpose.

Here are the three top benefits that we gain from having a clear sense of purpose in our lives.

1. Purpose Produces Clarity and Focus

Discovering your life purpose will give you focus.

It will help you to make decisions in a way that’s easier and less stressful.

This is because purpose helps you to identify what’s important in life. This will help you be less conflicted and experience less anxiety about saying no.

You are free to make decisions about how you spend your time, money, and energy based on whether it aligns with your life purpose.

There are lots of wonderful things that you could be doing with your time or with your money. But they are not all good things for you to do. Having a clear sense of your purpose helps you to distinguish between the two.

When I first started my career as a college professor, I was so excited to finally have position that I’d worked towards for so many years. I wanted to be of service to the students, the community, and my University colleagues.

I was overcommitted and stressed out!

I found myself getting involved with something just because it was a good idea. But, as I got more clear on my purpose I decided that I could not invest in every good idea presented to me.

Before I agreed to take on any new commitments, projects, relationships, I asked myself a critical question:

“Is this in line with my purpose?”

This was how I raised the bar in my life.

Now, it’s much easier for me to say “no” to most requests. This habit makes it possible for me to give a resounding “yes” to the opportunities aligned with my purpose.

purpose helps you say no

I now have the time, resources, and energy to invest in the things that are important to me. I am able to do this without feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

My purpose has given me focus.

2. Purpose Gives You Longer Life

Having a clear advice purpose helps you to live longer and a healthier life.

A study published in the 2014 issue of Psychological Science, documents the life extending effect of purpose.

In this national study, the researchers survey people and asked them to rate their sense of purpose in life from low to high.

Fourteen years later, those participants with a low sense of purpose were much more likely to have died. All other things being equal, having a sense of purpose made all the difference in their life expectancy.

I was surprise to find this relationship holds true in every age group.

It wasn’t just for older people that having a sense of purpose help them to live longer.  It was true for middle aged people and for people in their twenties.

The researchers concluded that having a sense of purpose gives people “protective benefits” to their life. Purpose enhances your physical well-being and has a cumulative effect.

So it’s actually better to develop a sense of purpose as early on as possible. This gives you more time to continue accumulating all the benefits that come with having a strong sense of purpose.

But, it’s never too late to invest time in discovering you purpose.

At whatever moment you get clear your purpose and start living out that purpose, it will extend your life.

3. Purpose Builds Up Your Resilience

Resilience allows you to bounce back from the setbacks that are inevitable in life.

When you’re resilient you, setbacks don’t stop you. Resilient people are able to use those setbacks as stepping stones to their success.

Resilience is the result of having a clear sense of your purpose.

Once you understand why a goal is important to you, you can overcome tremendous obstacles to acheive that goal.

Think about the remarkable survivors that Victor Frankl observed. They did not break even under brutal inhumane treatment. Their purpose gave them to resilience to endure.

live on purposeI often think about Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison. Yet, he was able to walk directly into world leadership upon from his release.

I’ve spent years teaching in prisons and I know that prison is a horrible place for anyone to be. Everyday, in both big and small ways, there are constant assaults on your safety, dignity, and humanity.

But because Nelson Mandela was clear on his purpose, he was able to walk out of prison as a whole man with a vision.

Mandela’s strong sense of purpose enabled him to lead South Africa into a new era of peace and  justice.

That’s the power of purpose.

Discover Your Purpose

When I’m talking with people about the importance of purpose, people often tell me that don’t know their life purpose. And that they don’t know how to discover it.

The best way to start uncovering your life purpose by reflecting on how you already bring value to others. Think about times in your life where you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.

Your purpose is for others. Thinking about the ways you already add value to others can help you better understand your purpose.

Another reflection to get clarity on your life purpose is to consider the activities that place you in your flow.

What are the things you do that give you a feeling of timelessness?

These are activities that you could be doing this two hours, but it feels like just twenty minutes. That’s your flow.  It’s that kind of work where you are so fully engaged in the process that time seems to disappear.

Your flow is an excellent window into your purpose.

As you clarify your life purpose, you want to highlight it and expand it. This means organizing more of your activities and goals living out your purpose.

For those who are ready to live a life of purpose that connects with your passions, join us for a FREE 5-Day Challenge to Creating a Life Filled with Energy and Passion.

This challenge empowers you to create a life of purpose that fills you with energy and passion, drastically reduces your stress, and allows you to accomplish your most important goals.

How would it feel to be filled with confidence, energy, and be extraordinarily productive? 

Whether you are struggling to stay above the growing to-do lists or wanting to get the most out of each day, this 5-Day Productivity Challenge will give you simple and powerful tools to help you tap into your unique talents and energy to create the rich and rewarding life you deserve!

Get from under the pile of unending tasks, connect with your purpose, and reclaim your life. Click here to join our 5-Day Challenge to a life filled with energy and passion!

Having a strong sense of purpose benefits you and others. Commit to discovering and nurturing your purpose today!

Wishing you a life filled with meaning, purpose, and joy!

How Balanced is Your Life Portfolio: 3 Steps to Life Balance

life balance

“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”
― Ellen DeGeneres

Many of us are aware of the importance of creating a balanced financial portfolio, but do we know how to create a balanced life?

Having an out of balance lifestyle leads to poor health, career burnout, chronic stress and depression. In a recent study , researchers found that obese individuals reported significantly lower life balance scores and much more stress. It’s likely that a chronically imbalanced lifestyle leads to obesity and other health concerns. Researchers have documented the emergence of a new personality type that emerges from increased the stress and burnout created by an imbalanced lifestyle. A type D person is distressed and often exhibits certain personality traits including negativity, pessimism, depression, anxiety, and loneliness, and a decreased ability to relax and enjoy leisure time.

You can avoid these negative outcomes and achieve a more balanced life by concentrating on building a balanced life portfolio. A solid financial investment fund is managed carefully to provide a diversity of investment vehicles that provide the greatest return while limiting losses. Balancing investments against each other ensures that when some investments fall others will rise to cover the losses. We can use this portfolio metaphor to help us achieve balance in our lives as well.  Below I identify three ways in which you can use your financial wisdom to help you achieve more balance in your life. 

Diversification is the key to life balance and security.

You can organize your life portfolio into seven different types of investments:

  • physical environment (home)
  • career,
  • relationships
  • spiritual life
  • physical health & self-care
  • personal growth & development (intellectual, emotional, and creative growth)
  • recreation & fun.

Think of the time, attention, and money you have as resources that you can invest in each of these seven areas. Make choices to invest your time and energy in alignment with your values and priorities. Rather than viewing these as individual choices, we can consider them as a part of our life portfolio.

For example, you may place a high priority on your career and make time and energy choices accordingly. But what if something happens that makes pursuing your career no longer possible or desirable? What else are you investing in that will balance that loss so that you are still living a fulfilled and happy life?

Diversification does not need you to place equal investments in each of the seven areas of your life. But it does need you to pay attention to each and investing in your goals for this area of your life. Do you see investments in each area in your calendar and checkbook? How we spend our time and money reflects our values and priorities. If one or more of these seven core life areas do not appear in your monthly schedule and budget, your life is likely out of balance.

Life balance is the reflection of your choices.

You are the one who decides where to invest your resources. The concept of investing your time highlights the centrality of choice. We always have a choice in how we spend our resources, not matter how limited those resources may be.

Too many times we complain about our lives being out of balance as if we are not the ones directing the show. Imbalance is a product of abdicating our power of choice to others. It is also the result of refusing to make choices based on our priorities.

In this brief video , I explain how we give our power to choose away when fail to distinguish “should” from “must”. “Should” focuses on what others want from/for us. Yet, “must” is driven by our life purpose and core values. Identifying our “must list” pulls us forward, creating energy, productivity and joy in our lives.

Thus, we need to gain clarity on our purpose and core values to build a life of balance. If you are not yet clear on these two items, this is the first step to your balanced life. You can sign up for a free life planning toolkit  to help you specify your life purpose. You can also take a free on-line survey  to help you identify your core values. The survey will also show whether your core values are out of balance in your life.

Life balance requires regular assessment.

You must check the performance of your investments at regular intervals. The concept of investment also reminds us to make and test these choices in light of future goals. You are not “spending time” doing an activity, you are “making an investment”. Like financial investments, we can expect that the “return” on the investment increases.

What are your goals for your relationships? What are your willing to invest in those relationships to achieve that goal? How will you know if you have achieved or are on target to achieve your goal? As you can see, life balance requires that we have clear and measurable goals in every area of our life. This is what enables us to assess whether we are on target or need to revise our investment strategy.

Moreover, regular assessment allows us to keep our life portfolio balanced over time. The only constant in life is change. We start new relationships, end previous careers, get new interests, develop different health needs. Each of these life events produce change in other areas of our lives.

Every financial broker will tell you that diversification is not a one-time action. Some investments will outperform others. Thus, the most balanced financial portfolio will become out of balance without readjustment. This is why you need to reallocate your acquired resources to reflect your goals.

Reallocation is needed in our lives as well. The changes we experience in our lives require reassessment and reallocation of our time and money. When we do this based on a concrete assessment of our goals and progress, we make sure that we are continually creating a life of balance.

Put your life in balance.

Balance isn’t just something you do. It is a never-ending, and limitless, act of being. By practicing the tools described in this article, you are inviting this state of being into your life. Once you have mastered the concepts and applied the strategy of choosing to focus on what matters most to you, the opportunities, joy and passion your life will expand to fill the horizons of what you can dream. I challenge you to fully explore the possibilities of this evolution of self.

Think of how you currently or are planning to allot your available investment of time and energy. Which of the seven areas (environment, career, relationships, spiritual life, health, personal growth, recreation) are strongly supported in your investment fund?  Write down your top three goals in each of the seven areas. Have you allotted enough time and energy to meet all three values and priorities consistently? Which areas are “underfunded?

Make a commitment today to reallocate your life portfolio to create more balance. Do not allow your precious resources to be “wasted” or spent based on other people’s values and priorities. Now that you are clear on you priorities in each of your life areas, commit to funding your goals.  You have enough time for everything that matters most; it’s up to you to decide what matters most.

Congratulations! You are well on your way to creating the energy, time and balance you need to live the life of your dreams! If you’d like more support in balancing your life portfolio, feel free to contact me or post your questions and challenges below.

 

Empower Yourself Through Inspired Action

empower yourself with inspired action

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie

Being a person of action is important because it keeps us from being passive participants in life. When we commit to acting upon the world, we help to reshape ourselves and our world through our own efforts. Yet, not all action is equal.It is important to distinguish between fear based action and inspired action. Only inspired action will allow you to create the life your desire.

Fear vs. Inspired Action

These two distinct types of action the produce different results in your life. Fear based action will drain your energy, alienate you from others, and undermine your health. Inspired action will produce the exact opposite effect in your life. It will provide you with more energy, connect you to yourself and others and promote your health and well-being.

So how can you tell which type of action is motivating you? I’ve identified three characteristics to help you distinguish inspired action from fear based action. Pause to ask yourself these questions, before you act. Your answer will reveal to you the true motivation for your behavior. The brief reflection will give you an opportunity to make a choice about the type of action you want in your life.

Characteristics of Inspired Action

  1. Inspired action is purpose driven.

Is this ego-driven or purpose-driven? Are you performing this action because it will make you look good to others or because it is in line with your life purpose? Inspired action is any activity that expresses or advances your life purpose. It is action that you “have to” do because it is an expression of your most authentic self.

This is a question that only you can answer. The same action could be either ego driven or purpose driven. Consider for example, serving food to homeless families in a soup kitchen. That act of generosity could be driven by ego; an attempt to show to others what a good and moral person you are. The same activity could be an expression of your life purpose to eradicate suffering in the world. You are the only person who can answer this question about your behavior. Just remember to be honest and to use this question to reflect on all your actions, even the seemingly “noble” ones.

  1. Inspired action is motivated by love.

Is this motivated by fear or by love? This is a question, that only you can answer. Inspired action is always motivated by love. Dr. Martinez’s research reveals that emotions are bio-cognitive fields that can either be healing or destructive to our physical and emotional health. This means that the emotion motivating your action alters your physical and psychological state. Research on social intelligence helps us understand how these subtle emotional states are communicated to others with whom we interact.

Much like how we “catch colds” from interacting with others who have a particular bacteria or virus, we can “catch” emotions in the same manner. Emotions shape our cognitive understanding of the world and our physical health. Thus, it’s very important that we maintain our own emotional health so we don’t negatively impact others with our dis-ease.

Dr. Martinez argues that fear and love are mutually exclusive bio-cognitive states. Fear always produces damage to the immune system and love always repairs the damage and restores healthy functioning. So, the question of the emotion motivating our action, is not an esoteric one. Rather, the emotion motivating our action shapes our well-being and the well-being of those with whom we interact.

  1. Inspired action benefits self and others.

Will this action only benefit myself or will it benefit others as well? Inspired action is action that benefits ourselves as well as others. We do not need to see the world as mutually exclusive choice between our well-being and the well-being of others. Inspired action allows us to see how we can contribute to our own well-being and happiness by actions that benefit others. Happiness research reveals that activities which focus on doing good for others not only makes us happier, but makes us healthier as well. Researchers at UCLA distinguished between two types of happiness: happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life and happiness focused only on pleasure seeking and self-gratification.  In their report to the National Academy of Sciences, they found that happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life promotes the gene expression of anti-viral and antibody genes. Happiness focused only on self-gratification had the opposite effect, suppressing the health of the immune system.

Self-empowerment and Inspired Action

An important part of empowering yourself is taking the time to pause and reflect on what is important to you. As you become more clear on your life purpose and core values, you are able to evaluate your activities in light of this focus. Inspired action expresses your life purpose, is motivated by love, and places you in the service of others. This type of action strengthens your sense of meaning and feelings of connection in the world. These attributes are empirically proven to improve both your physical health and your happiness.

Inspired action is much like the Tao concept of “effortless action” (non-action). The process of being and flowing from one action to the next effortlessly, rather than imposing conscious action. Based on knowing yourself. It feels like you’re not doing anything except showing up and being who you are.

This is how inspired action puts you in your flow. You are no longer “making” yourself do things, you are simply “being”. That is more than enough. Your authentic presence brings the gifts of love, purpose, and healing to both you and others.

Inspired action is a choice. It is a choice that is always available to you at the moment you decide to act. Give yourself and our world the gift of your inspired action. Create a life that produces happiness and healing through your inspired action. Start today.

Share your moments of inspired action in the comment box below. How have you showed up and shared your authentic self with the world today? I am proud of your courageous commitment to be uniquely you and to share the gift of you with our world. Thank you!

A Better Approach to Time Management

replace time management with energy management

“You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.” ― Tony Morgan

How can effective time management help us support ourselves? Many of us are great supporters of other people. But, we have never thought about what it means to support ourselves. We are great supporters of our family and friends. Great advocates for the social issues we care about. We take pride in the myriad of ways we help  others achieve their goals. So what does it mean to support yourself?

Supporting yourself involves the same activities we engage in to support others. Supporting yourself means developing your capacity to live your best life. It means directing your attention and resources in developing your potential to the fullest. This involves investing the time to needed to identify your life purpose. Then, focusing with laser like precision on expressing that purpose in your life. Effective time management enables you to create a life that supports you.

Problem with Time Management

I have been obsessed with time management ever since I can remember. As a child I loved the book Cheaper By The Dozen. I was enthralled by the father who sought to do everything in the most efficient manner possible. This made sense to me because I knew that time was a limited resource.

Time is the great equalizer, in that we all are given the same 24 hrs in a day. How we spend those 24 hours determines how many days and how fulfilling the future days will be.  I remember my father explaining to me that if our entire lives were compressed into a day, we would only be in school for a few hours. But, those few hours of the day would make the rest of the day more enjoyable. I’d have resources and freedom to pursue my inner desires. That seemed like a fair trade to me and I decided that suffering through a little bit of pain or boredom was a reasonable exchange for my future enjoyment.

I spent much of my time trying to find the most efficient way to manage my obligations. This would enable me to have the most enjoyment of the rest of my life. This approach to time management was limited in its effectiveness. As the tasks I had to do became longer and more complicated, the dreaded tasks still took many hours, weeks, months or years. Worse yet, I was setting myself up to live my life “later”, after I had completed X, Y, or Z tasks.

I know that I am not the only one who struggles with this approach to work and life. Many people are waiting for “the summer”, “the next promotion”, “retirement”, “marriage”, “children”, “an empty-nest”, ect until you feel free to “live your life”.  Stop waiting. Now is the only time you have. Now is the perfect time to support yourself.

Energy Management is Superior to Time Management

Completing the tasks in front of you and enjoying your life need not be mutually exclusive activities. You do not have to wait for “your turn” after you have finished all the tasks on everyone else’s list. You can structure your daily activities, and your life, so that you are productive AND filled with excitement and joy. The secret is learning how to manage your energy.

Many people mistakenly think that enhancing your capacity to be creative and productive is only about managing your time. While time management is important, managing your energy is a more effective means to enhancing your creativity and productivity. Managing your energy requires becoming more aware of your moment by moment energy levels and the life factors that influence them. As you become more aware of what influences your energy level, you can delegate energy draining activities and limit your exposure to energy draining people.

Like time, your energy is a valuable and limited resource. If you do not manage it well, you will find that there is no energy left for you to do the things that you want to do. You don’t have the energy left to write your book, exercise, socialize, ect. Even though these activities are important to you, you can’t find time to do them. At the end of the day, all you have energy for is vegging out on tv and dreaming about your future life. The future is when you believe that you will have the opportunity to live out your desires.

Unlike time, you can actually “create” more energy. By managing your activities well, you can plant seeds that will “grow” your energy levels. You do not have to settle for your current amount of energy. You can expand your energy reservoir by intentionally choosing energy expanding activities. This approach to life will enable you to get more done and feel better about yourself and your life in the process.

Time Management Doesn’t Expand Time, Energy Management Does Expand Your Energy

Below I discuss two actions will substantially expand your energy levels while improving your productivity and creativity.  Implementing these actions, will help you to go to bed happier, having accomplished more in your day, sleep better, and wake up feeling more refreshed and excited about your day. This is how you support yourself. This is giving yourself what you need to live your best life now, not “someday when…”

I encourage you to practice these two actions daily. Make sure to track the changes you observe in yourself and your life as you do.

  1. Identify tangible things that increase your energy level and incorporate them regularly throughout your day.

The definition of energy expanding activities is any thought or action that fills you with energy and joy as you take part. For obvious reasons, what counts as an energy expanding activity varies from person to person.

To identify your energy expanding activities, you can track your energy levels throughout the day. On a hourly basis, asses you energy level on a scale of 1-10. Notice, how the level increases or decreases throughout the day. Write down recent activities that you think might be associated with the changes in your energy level.

Try to identify at least 20 energy expanding activities of various forms. Some you can do with others, some you do alone, some cost money, so are free. You get the point. The goal is to have a variety of energy expanding activities that you can add to your day on a regular basis. You also want to have some that you can add “as needed” to help pull you up after an unexpected energy draining activity. Think of this as your emergency self-care kit.

  1. Distinguish must from should.

Too often we blur the lines between these two types of activities. That is a serious drain on our energy level and a damage to our quality of life. But, when you distinguish the must list from the should list, you can manage your energy more effectively.

“Must list” is important because it helps you achieve what you truly want. It is connected to your life purpose and allows you to fulfill the personal goals you’ve set for yourself. If your goal is to be an Olympic swimmer, you must practice on a regular basis. But if it is your mother’s goal for you to be an Olympic swimmer (or get married, or move closer to home, ect), then the activities associated with this goal does not belong on your “must list.” These activities are examples of “shoulds”.

Shoulds are only important because they help you to conform to what others want you to do. When you find yourself saying “I should do…..” what you are actually communicating is that someone else wants this for you more than you want it for yourself. “I should exercise… study… go out more”. All these activities are things you think others expect from you. That is why doing them feels draining.

The best way to expand your energy and live a productive and creative life is to eliminate everything on your should list.  Once you stop doing the things on your should list, you will have more time and energy for your musts. What?! Am I suggesting that you don’t exercise, study, or get out of your comfort zone? If you can not connect these activities to goals you find personally meaningful, your attempts to do them will be unsuccessful and draining.

Manage Your Energy, Manage Your Life

Respect what creates energy for you and focus on deleting the things that drain your energy. Connect your regular activities to things that give you personal meaning. This produces a magical multiplication of hours in the day.  You will get more accomplished in a day and feel happier doing it.

You do not have to wait for the future to start living the life you desire. Support yourself today. Restructure your activities around your purpose and watch your energy and joy grow!

 

 

How to Palooza Your Birthday: The Secret to Getting Better as You Age

Positive Aging Through a Birthday Palooza

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan

In my book, Your Life As A Celebration,  I discuss how you can transform your life into a celebration of you. You can create a life that affirms your core values and engages in your life purpose. In short, you can create a life that honors your purpose, personality and perspective. This is a life that fills you with energy and joy because it is an authentic reflection of you. Rather than living into someone else’s definition of success, you are able to create your own personalized success vision. This personalized vision of success inspires you to take action.  Your inspired actions transform your life into a true reflection of your innermost desires. Here success is not a destination, it is the process as well. The goal is to have every day be and more complete expression of your talent and purpose.

One way to express and track this transformation is through your birthday celebration. Your birthday becomes an opportunity to celebrate what you love about yourself and life. Your birthday also allows you to track your progress of becoming more authentically yourself.  Here, I describe the process of turning your birthday into a celebration that honors the gift of you.

Your Birthday: The Most Important Holiday of The Year

Everyone who knows me, knows how serious I am about my birthday. I have never gone to school or work on my birthday. My friends say that’s because I have a summer birthday. But I believe that if you only celebrate one holiday a year, it should be the day you were born. It’s a celebration of your life and all that you contribute to the world. That is worth missing a day of work or school.

Unfortunately, too many women avoid celebrating their birthdays. For them birthdays marks their decline in beauty, vitality, and worth. The negative images associated with aging lead many women to attempt to remain 29 years old forever.

Yet as you connect with your life purpose, you will find that you have much to celebrate with each passing year. You are no longer wandering through life or looking backwards to some romanticized glory days of youth. You are  daily living out your life purpose.  You are nurturing your gifts and contributing them to your community. This is definitely worth celebrating. Since you grow within a community of supporters, your celebration should also be communal.

With each passing year, you know your heart better. Now you can incorporate that wisdom into activities that fill your life with purpose, meaning and joy!

Creating Your Birthday Palooza

My birthday celebration takes up an entire month and is affectionately known as Keshapolooza. I encourage you to make your own personal birthdaypalooza. It may be a day, week, month, or even a year for special milestones. Regardless of the length of time, it should be a celebration of your life’s purpose and contribution.

Here are some questions to consider to help you plan your own birthday Palooza:

  1. What activities bring you joy?

Joy is an amazing emotion in that it feeds off itself into expanding circles of joy. Regardless of what they are, joyful activities will shape your bio-cognitive functioning. For a better understanding of how your emotions influence your health, read my article on natural boosters of your immune system. The experience of joy also improves your general sense of well-being. Thus, it changes how you experience other areas of your life.

2. What images symbolize your life’s purpose?

Living a life of purpose is critical for your happiness. Individuals who have a clear sense of meaning and purpose in their life are happier, healthier, and live more productive lives. While most people are clear on the importance of life purpose, they remain confused about how to identify it for themselves.

If you are looking to gain clarity on your life purpose, sign up for my free life planning toolkit. This resource will guide you step by step in identifying your life purpose. You will then use that purpose to craft your personal mission statement and vision statement for your life. These resources serve as guideposts in decision-making about your time, energy, and resources. They also inform the imagery and symbolism of your birthdaypalooza. Because, the symbols of your birthday celebration are powerful affirmations of your life purpose.

3. On the best day you can imagine, what are you doing? Who are you with?

The answer to these questions will give you a concrete lists of people and activities to include in your birthday celebration. You may not be able to do all these activities, or include all these people. But this will serve as your initial brainstorm planning list.

Be as creative as possible in thinking about how to include this list in your celebration. If an activity you dream about doing is climbing Mt. Everest, perhaps you can include indoor rock climbing or a local hick as part of your celebration. Or perhaps you can include images of Mt. Everest in your celebration.

There may be people on your list of ideal birthday celebrants who live far away or are no longer living. Think creatively about how you can connect to that person or your memories of that person across the distance. Remember, this is your celebration. Whatever activities evoke personal connections for you are ones that you want to include. This reminds you that you are not alone and allows you to experience the joys of life with your community. Such social connection is crucial for happiness, health, and longevity.

4. What foods or tastes bring you pleasure?

Food is a sensory pleasure that connects us to feelings of satisfaction and well-being. The strong connection between food and emotions is where the “emotional eating” ritual begins. Except now you are not using food to escape painful feelings. Rather than mindless eating, you intentionally savor the food and all the other sensory aspects of your celebration. This practice of mindfulness intensifies the joy and pleasure of the experience.

5. What music/sounds immediately transport you to a happy place? A peaceful place?

Music has been described as the “universal language” because of it’s ability to communicate directly to our souls. With our without words, music moves us. Music is highly personalized. What moves us may not have the same effect on others.

For your birthday celebration, identify a piece of music that is particularly moving for you. Make sure that this music inspires you and reminds you of your life purpose. This will be your “theme song.” Every great movie (and great hero) needs a theme song and so do you. You should play your theme song frequently throughout the day, throughout your birthday celebration, and throughout the year. Play it when you are feeling happy, depressed, confused, angry, ect. Play it whenever you need reminding of your purpose and inspired into action. You may need different theme songs for different phases of your life. I change my theme songs annually.

6. What have you learned about your heart this year? How would you like to apply or/ expand this insight in your upcoming year?

Remember that your birthday celebration is a way of tracking and celebrating your self-discovery process. Be as specific as possible about what you have learned about yourself and about life in this past year. Each birthday is a sort of graduation celebration. You want to be clear on what you have accomplished thus far. We recognize that life is a journey. Therefor we can look forward with anticipation to the upcoming year(s) and all these wonderful gifts we will discover and experience in the next leg of our journey.

Document Your Growth

Write all your answers to the questions above in your birthdaypalooza journal. These will become the seeds of your creative brainstorming about how best to honor your life journey this year. The form of your birthday palooza will change with each year, but it should always be a “full-sensory” event, including sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and movements that bring you joy and help you to connect with your life’s purpose. The meanings of these objects and activities do not need to be obvious, only significant to you. You may decide to consult books about color therapy or aromatherapy in your selection of specific images and smells, or you may choose to go with what you know at your gut level moves you. This is your personalized holiday and today you can have it your way!.

I’d love to hear about your birthday palooza and join in your celebration. Please feel free to share photos, cards, or notes about your process. You can tweet photos and descriptions of your birthday experiences to me and our community @coachkesha #birthdaypalooza. Your celebration is not selfish or self-centered. It is a public recognition that you are a unique creation and that your life matters. This is true for you and for everyone else who shares this planet with us. Honoring yourself gives others permission to do the same.

Using the Power of Focus to Create a Life You Love

Focus on your dreams

Joy is the celebratory emotion that comes from achieving your goals.

Most women I meet are stressed as they struggle to meet the demands placed on them by modern life. Performing in the workplace, caring for children, partners, elderly parents and outside relationships means that most women have very little time and energy to devote to nurturing their own physical and psychological health. As a result of this stress, many women are in strained relationships. Eventually, the stress interferes with their ability to perform at their peak levels at work.

It’s not that the modern woman doesn’t care about healthy living, quality relationships, or a successful career. Either she doesn’t know how to achieve these life goals or she doesn’t believe that she have the time to do so. Sound familiar?

Because I have witnessed so many women caught up in this cycle, I was motivated to write my forthcoming book: Your Life as a Celebration. I believe that each of us can structure our life as a celebration. A celebration of our unique talents and contributions. A celebration of the people and causes that are important to us. A celebration of our strength, vitality, and wisdom. In every way, your life can be a joyous celebration of you!

The Power of FOCUS

Your Life as a Celebration presents a simple and effective formula to achieve your life goals and creating the life you love. This book introduces the five phases of focus. It explains how this easy-to-use technique can make your success automatic. With a small investment of time, you can put in place this proven strategy and achieve visible progress in just three weeks.

Regardless of whether your initial goal is to lose weight, improve your relationship with your spouse, or get a promotion at work. By applying the strategy in this book, you can take the steps needed to reach your goal.

The 5 phases of FOCUS system uses the three pillars of personal development: thoughts, habits, and planning. I explain the scientific research unpinning each of these principles. I also show how the focus system optimizes this principle. Each pillar plays a critical role in creating permanent life transformation.

As a result of the pillars of personal development, the five phases of focus system will enable you to:

*          develop a road map to chart the steps towards reaching to your goal

*          establish new habits that promote your success

*          create a system of accountability that keeps you motivated and on your path to success

*          identify strategies to overcome obstacles that threaten to block your progress.

As you continue implementing the system, you will achieve more and even bigger life goals. Hence, your immediate success will fill you with confidence that promotes your future success. Before you know it, you will have a lifestyle in which you naturally set, achieve, and exceed your goals. This new lifestyle will fuel you with energy, power, and joy.

Personalized FOCUS

The FOCUS system is uniquely personalized and tailored to you. Your goals are your goals and the path to achieving them should reflect you. There are as many distinctive goals as there are fingerprints and the pathways to accomplishing them are equally varied. The FOCUS system guides you through a series of questions based on scientific research and spiritual principles about personal development. The way that you answer those questions and incorporate these principles into your life are correct for you.

Because we are often taught that there is a “normal” way of being, if we we believe that it is “wrong” to do things differently than those around us. While all people learn the “value” of conformity, women are particularly pressured to confine ourselves into the narrowly-defined boxes of our society. In my coaching practice and in this book, I challenge women to identify and live out their unique and authentic life purpose.

I developed the FOCUS system to help women identify and design a personalized plan for life success.

Terms like “cultivating”, “designing”, and “nurturing” reflect my understanding that your personal development is a creative, organic process directed by you to craft your distinctive vision. Each of the chapters of Your Life as a Celebration covers a different aspect of your life . The book guides you in applying the FOCUS method to your health, career, relationships, and purpose .

In addition to the five phases of focus, Your Life as a Celebration presents a series of powerful practices to supercharge your life transformation. These powerful practices are grounded in empirical research on human behavior. They are also personalized to fit your unique goals, personality, and life circumstances. These powerful practices help you to create a life you love. They celebrate your life’s purpose, highlight your unique talents and gifts, love your body to health and wellness, and strengthen your existing relationships.

FOCUS on Your Dreams

You can create a life that you love! Sign up today for a free, limited advance copy of my book. By using the FOCUS strategy, you can replace the stress and imbalance of your life with joy, peace, and balance. You can develop personalized success rituals that put the process of accomplishing your goals on autopilot.

As a result of using this system, you will achieve more of your core life goals. You will be proud of who you are and the life you’ve created for yourself. This accomplishment will fill you with feelings of pride and joy. You can create your flow: a balanced harmony of value driven activities that provide you with increasing amounts of energy and advance your life purpose.

Get your copy of Your Life as a Celebration and begin creating the life of your dreams today. Harness your potential. Manifest your dreams. Create life filled with meaning, purpose, and joy. Start here. Start today.

Wishing you the best in your personalized success. If there’s any way I can support you in creating the life you dream of, please let me know. You are a vessel for a dream. Shine!

 

 

Saying No: the secret to creating balance in your life and work

Saying No to create life balance

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”-Warren Buffet

People who are successful in life and their careers have mastered the skill of saying no. They don’t say no to everything. Instead, they say no to people, projects, and activities that are in not line with their core values and life purpose. In this article I share how this simple word can help you create balance in your life and work. I also share two easy techniques to help you develop the habit of saying no to everything that is not in line with your core values and purpose.

Early in my career as a college professor, I was overwhelmed with service obligations. I was new on campus and everyone wanted to take advantage of my new energy and areas of expertise. They frequently invited me to participate in their projects, classes, and committees. Additionally, the fact that I was also one of a handful of black faculty on campus meant that I was the first person to come to mind for any request related to diversity.

Service is my way of life. I am always looking for ways that I can add value to others through my unique gifts and talents. I was also eager to get to know and work collaboratively with my new students, colleagues, and administrators. But the expansiveness of my service and teaching obligations made it difficult for me to find time for my research, my family, and my other life priorities.

I quickly learned that I needed to perfect the art of saying no if I was going to be able to thrive in this career and in all the other areas of my life.

Developing the habit of saying no to most request was difficult for me and is challenging for many of the women I work with. Many of us pride ourselves on being helpful to others. We are also very concerned about hurting others feelings or disappointing them. However, once you fully understand the value of saying no, it becomes clear that this is a loving and compassionate act for you and others.

 

How Saying No Creates Life Balance and Success

Saying no creates space for us to do activities we love

By saying no to most request, we protect our time and energy.  This enables us to  say “yes” to things in line with our core values and life purpose.

We all have a finite amount of time and energy. Spending time on a non-priority project provides less time for our high priority projects. Many of us are overwhelmed because we are doing too many activities. When something that we really want to do comes along, we add it to the list because it’s too great to pass up. But adding to a crammed schedule means that we will not have the focus and energy to do our best in this activity. We may not even enjoy it as much because we’re exhausted from all the other activities jammed into the day.

Saying no helps us to avoid disappointing others with less than our best

Often times we don’t want to say no because we don’t want to disappoint the person making the request. Just imagine how disappointed they will be when you don’t complete the job. What about when you don’t do your best work because it’s not high on your internal priorities?

People make requests of us because they value our talents and competencies. They expect us to bring our best game to the requested project. That’s difficult to do when it’s not something that we value. This is what often leads to “forgetting” to do an activity or missing a deadline on a project. It may seem as if we are disorganized or too busy. But in fact, we are unwilling to prioritize that activity given our limited resources. If we communicated this to the person at the time of the request, they could have found someone else who could focus on the activity. But, now they are doubly angry. First, because their activity didn’t go off as envisioned. Second, because they believe that you are the reason that it didn’t.

It is disingenuous to accept a project that is not in line with our purpose and values because we can not do our best work. It’s better to say “no” upfront. We will experience a smaller level of disappointment compared to the disappointment later in the process when we haven’t performed our best.

Saying no helps us not be resentful of others

Resentment occurs when we feel out of control. Saying no helps us to regain control of our life choices. This prevents our growing resentment of others for the choices we make.

Accepting projects based on other people’s values and priorities creates resentment. We act as if they “made” us do something. This resentment is compounded if we think that they are not grateful for our “sacrifice”.

When you do things because they are in line with your purpose and values, you’re not disturbed by the outcome.

If the outcome is different than you expected, or if others don’t appreciate it, you still believe it’s valuable. It’s always nice to have your work valued and appreciated. But when you work on things that you value, it is already valued and appreciated!

Saying no helps us to do our best work

We do our best work when we are focusing on projects and activities in line with our core values and life purpose. This is how we get in the flow. In flow, we are fully engrossed in a activity that we find intrinsically meaningful. As such, we are willing to go the extra mile to achieve optimal results.

Also, we gain energy when we work on activities in line with our purpose. This energy enables us to remain engaged in action. It also provides us with creative insight that isn’t available to people with more peripheral interest.

Have you found that when others tire and shut down, you can sustain your engagement?  Are you able to see possibilities and opportunities more clearly than others? This resilience and problem solving ability comes from your sincere passion and curiosity. It is easy to do your best at things in line with your purpose. Your passion gives you the curiosity, insight, and motivation needed to excel.

Reflecting upon how you feel after an activity is an indicator of its relationship to your purpose and values. If you feel physically tired but emotionally energized, you are likely doing something in line with your purpose. If you feel drained and depleted, you’re probably not working within your purpose.

While the work may not be easy; it is easy to excel at activities in line with your purpose.

You owe it to yourself, and others, to only accept projects that bring out your best. This is where you can make your greatest contribution.

Strategies to Help You Create Life Balance and Success by Saying No

You understand why it’s critical to say no on a regular basis.  Now let’s consider how you are going to build that habit into your life. Having “yes” as our default position has become a habit for many of us. That bad habit is not going to change without intentional intervention.

I’ve listed two proven strategies to help you address your habitual yes. These techniques will shift your default response from “yes ” to “no to anything that is not in line with my purpose and core values”.

  1. Take a “yes” fast.

Fasting means to refrain from food or activities for a specific period of time. The purpose of the fast is break existing habits. It is also intended to promote reflection and introspection.

Taking a yes fast means that you will say “no” to all requests of you for a specific period of time. That period may be a month or a year. I suggest at least a month so that you can say “no” long enough for it to become your new default. It will also give you enough time to observe the consequences of saying no. This will help you become more comfortable with the new habit.

At first saying no may feel very uncomfortable and others may exert even more pressure on you. This is especially true if you’ve developed a habit for saying yes. But, staying the course will allow you to observe that others’ can adjust and the world will go on. Although you may believe (or people may suggest to you) that you are the only one who can do this activity.

Saying no allows you to see that other people really can step up and do the activity. Or if the activity doesn’t occur, perhaps that’s fine as well. Perhaps that was not the best way to meet the need/goal anyway.

This will be a scary experience in the beginning.

Developing a habit of saying no requires both faith and courage.

Faith to believe that you really are meant to do those things in line with your life purpose and core values. Courage to protect the space to do that. Your faith and courage will reward you with increased time and energy. This reclaimed time and energy can be invested developing yourself and your purpose.

If the thought of saying no to absolutely everything is too scary for you, set a narrow parameter. Your parameter should require you to say no to 90% of new requests but allows a small fraction to still get a yes.

After my early years of teaching, I realized I needed to change from my default yes. But, I felt unprepared to go 100% cold turkey no. After discussing this with my trusted friends and mentors, I decided to say no for an entire year to any request that would take more than two hours of my time. The two-hour time limit included the time to prepare and participate in the activity. This was a very difficult thing for me to do. I called my closest friends on a weekly basis with all the reasons why I should make exceptions to my rule. Thankfully, I have great friends who continued to remind me of my commitment and why it was important.

With the help of my support team, I was able to stay the course. By the end of the year, my default was no longer “yes”. I was able to experience the value added to my life of saying no to the many “good, but not purpose-driven” requests made of my time.

  1. Establish a “No Committee”

Another option to help you move from a default of yes is to establish a No Committee. The No Committee takes the stress away from you of deciding whether to say no.

You select close friends and family members that know you, your work, and your life well. You then explain to them your intention of saying no to non-purpose driven activities. Clearly articulate to the No Committee your life purpose and core values. This will become their guide for all their decisions.  Inform them that you commit to abiding by the decisions of the committee.

Because the committee is made up of people who love you (but are not you) they can evaluate the request with emotional distance and clarity. They agree to compare the request to your established priorities and core values. Then make their decision based whether the request is line with your purpose.

The No Committee must have an odd number so that there is never a tie. The committee must agree to respond with a quick turn-around to any request that you pass along to them. I’ve served on a No Committee for years. I have found it a useful and effective way to support my loved ones in achieving more balance in life and work.

Your Balanced Life

Your balanced life can begin today! It requires you to prioritize activities related to your purpose and core values. Say no to everything else! You’ll be amazed at how you can increase your impact on the world and your own happiness. If you’d like other resources to help you better manage your time and balance your energy, check out my YouTube videos on time management and emotion management.

Share you thoughts on effective strategies to create balance in your life. Let’s keep the wisdom flowing! Comment below.

Boundaries Are Crucial to Your Happiness. Learn Why!

Learn how to set healthy emotional boundaries

At last the secret to healthy emotional boundaries is revealed.

“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.”
Shannon L. Alder

When you understand your value and power, you develop boundaries to honor yourself and protect your freedom. Emotional boundaries in relationships aren’t a set of legalistic rules that constrain our freedom. Boundaries are the guardrails that protect our happiness and the security of our relationships.

If you are feeling emotionally exhausted, frustrated, or resentful, chances are you need to strengthen your boundaries. Many people are still unclear about what it means to establish boundaries. They’re also unsure about why boundaries are important and how to do it properly. As you read on you will learn the answers to these questions. You will also gain a quick, easy method for setting healthy emotional boundaries. Protecting your boundaries will increase your level of happiness and satisfaction in your relationships.

What are emotional boundaries?

Emotional boundaries are the psychological acceptance of the uniqueness, dignity, and freedom of each individual. Boundaries are what separate us from another person. We recognize that while we may love and strongly identify with another person, we are not the same. Thus, we do not have to feel or act the same.

Through establishing boundaries, we give ourselves and other people the freedom to be unique. People without emotional boundaries need conformity as a demonstration of love. These people often expect you to take responsibility for their emotional state and “fix” their problems. Neither of these interpretations of reality are true or possible. No two people can be exactly the same no matter how much they love each other. No person can fix the emotional state or manage the life of another. Lack of boundaries create unhealthy expectations and behaviors. These unreasonable expectations drain the life energy out of people and their relationships.

Women are particularly vulnerable to ignoring emotional boundaries. We are socialized to think of our identity as primarily determined by our relationships. There’s nothing wrong with valuing relationships. But, this value can easily morph into unhealthy thinking such as:

 “I’m nothing without this relationship”

“I need to do all that I can to remain in this relationship. Even if it includes sacrificing my freedom, dignity and value.”

A subtler expression of unhealthy boundaries is the thought that:

“My biggest contribution to the world is that accomplishments of my child or partner. “

Such distorted thinking places tremendous pressure on your child or partner. You expect them to live out your dreams of success and accomplishment. It also robs them of the freedom to spend their time and energy discovering and living out their own life dreams.

Accepting responsibility for your emotions and behavior without taking responsibility for the feelings and actions of others is a healthy emotional boundary. Emotional boundaries also mean giving others the freedom to not like your feelings or choices. Boundaries are a core component of emotional intelligence.  As such, they contribute to our health and happiness.

If you can not tolerate other’s disapproval of your feelings or choices or if you can not tolerate others possessing emotions and actions with which you disagree, you are in desperate need of setting emotional boundaries. The decision to not set healthy emotional boundaries damages you and your relationships.

Why do you need boundaries?

People without emotional boundaries have a distorted view of their own power. They either understand themselves as completely powerless or all powerful.

People who understand themselves as powerless, play the victim role in their relationships. They rely on others to manage their life and emotions. This is because they consider themselves incapable of making their own dreams come true.  Victims see the relationship as the source of their security and happiness.  Thus, they seek to maintain the relationship and the other person’s favor at all cost. This promotes people pleasing behavior for the victim.

People pleasing sets unrealistic expectations that the victim will (or should) always agree with the martyr. Because the victim does not feel comfortable saying no, s/he often agrees to actions that are personally undesirable. Yet, the victim often does not follow through, or execute well. This inconsistency makes the victim appear even more helpless. The inconsistency is actually the victim’s ineffectual way of acting on his/her own desires.

These “victims” often associate themselves with “martyrs”. Martyrs have an over-inflated view of their own power. Martyrs take on the responsibility of managing their own life as well as the lives of the victim. They accept responsibility for the other person’s emotions and work diligently to “fix” the other person’s life. The martyr denies the victim the freedom to choose and feel differently. This seems appropriate to the martyr because the victim is “clearly” incapable of managing life. That’s why the victim needs to trust the martyr’s judgment over his/her own. The martyr is left feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of managing two people’s lives. S/he is also frustrated that the victim doesn’t just “go along” with the plan.

Both martyrs and victims eventually feel frustrated and resentful of the other person. This codependency prolongs the unhealthy relationship dynamic. It also promotes physical and psychological dis-ease in both parties.

How do you establish healthy boundaries?

The key to establishing healthy emotional boundaries is to embrace your own power. This is true for setting boundaries in leadership, marriage, parenting, and friendships.

People pleasing is giving away your own power. Playing the role of a martyr is accepting responsibility beyond the constraints of your personal power. As you embrace your personal power, you learn how to say no to things that do not honor you and your life purpose . You also learn the importance of saying  yes to those that do.

There are only two things you need to do to establish healthy boundaries. First create the boundary. Second, give others the freedom not to like them. Many people give up their power out of fear or a misunderstanding of love. But, as you follow the steps below, you reclaim your power by setting healthy boundaries.

  • Get clear on your purpose, vision, and values

Real power comes from focusing on what’s important to you. To exercise control over your life, you must first see yourself as worthy. You need to see your uniqueness as something to be treasured. This perspective helps you to see the value of protecting your difference in the face of social pressures for conformity.

As you get clear on your unique contribution, your motivation for protecting that purpose increases. You recognize that this gift has been invested in you and needs to be advanced by you. Power is acknowledging what you have to offer to the world and behaving in a way that demonstrates your faith in yourself and your gifts. Learn to align your life 100% with what’s important to you.Embrace your ability to act

  • Embrace your ability to act

Real power is a process, not a destination. No one is completely helpless. There is always something that you can do for yourself. When you act in your own best interest, you feel and are powerful.

Power as a destination is understanding power as a finite object. It is something that you have and that can be taken from you. Power as a noun refers to differential amounts of power. Someone may have more or less power than you.

Yet, power as a process describes your capacity to act. Taken from the word Anglo-Norman French word “poeir” and the Latin word “posse”, power means “to be able”. This version of power is something that everyone has and can not be taken away. As you change your understanding of power, you immediately see that you always have the capacity to do something.

Whatever the situation, you can put your gifts into action toward accomplishing your goal. This is your power. As you act in your best interests, you increase your capacity to do so in the future. As long as you are alive, your power is there for you to use.

  • Speak a powerful “yes”

No one else has your gifts or unique combination of experiences. You show your power by embracing your gifts and sharing them with others. You have a role to play in this world that only you with your unique gifts and experiences can play. To downplay your power is to reject your gifts and your purpose in the world. Living out your purpose in the world means that you are willing to show up and embrace your unique contribution. No one else can take your place. If you don’t do it for you, it won’t be done.

The real measure of power is your ability to choose for yourself what’s important to you and ignore the rest. Owning and reclaiming your power means using your power to support your dreams, needs and wants.

Boundaries breathe life into broken relationships.  Reclaim your power and individuality. Acknowledge and respect the power of others. Choosing to establish and maintain your boundaries will increase your happiness and relationship satisfaction.

Comment below your thoughts about boundaries, personal power, and healthy relationships. What shifts occur within you when you see power as the process of living into your gifts rather than a destination?

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3 Simple Ways to Naturally Boost Your Immune System

natural way to boost your immune system

We can improve the functioning of our immune system by cultivating these three emotional states.

We often look for ways to improve their immune systems; protecting ourselves from being bed-ridden during flu season or or catching every bug that travels through our workplace.. Health food stores sell millions of dollars’ worth of supplements of Vitamin C and other vitamins known to improve your immune functioning. Yet, there’s an overlooked way to strengthen your immune system that is research proven to be effective and it’s FREE.

 

Emotions play a critical role in the functioning of our immune system in both positive and negative ways. Emotions has a significant impact on both our production of antibodies and our natural killer blood cells (NK cells) that serve as our first line of immune strength. Antibodies help to identify and attack foreign germs in our bodies. NK cells work to destroy tumor cells, disease tissue, bacteria as well as to help antibodies fight against infections in their early stages. In this article, I identify emotions that are known to impact our body’s production and operation of antibodies and/or NK cells. We can clearly see the dangerous emotions that weaken the immune system as well as 3 emotions we can practice as a daily boost to our immune system, naturally.

 

Emotions that Destroy the Immune System

Anger

Anger raises our blood pressure, increases our heart beat, gives us headaches and compromises our cognitive function. But did you know that anger can also make it easier for you to get the flu? In a study published by the Journal of Advancement in Medicine, researchers asked people to recall either an angry situation or a loving situation. The participants who recalled an angry situation experienced significantly lower immune antibodies. Moreover, the decrease in antibodies cause by anger lasted for six hours. Anger suppresses the immune functioning long beyond the situation that made us angry has passed.

 

Loneliness

Social isolation and the feelings of loneliness that it produces also works to weaken the functioning of our immune systems. A research study found that infant monkeys caged alone and separate from their mothers generate fewer antibodies in response to viruses. The act of physical and social separate suppresses the power of the immune system, making us vulnerable to a host of minor and major diseases.

 

Fear/Anxiety

Anxiety also known as stress is a primary driver of many health problems, often operating by weakening the immune system. While a short dose of fear can produce a healthy, enhanced physical performance, sustained states of fear for one’s safety a security dramatically reduce the health of the immune system. In fact, the negative impact of social fear is even greater than the impact of physical deprivation on our immune system.

 

In a study reviewed by the Harvard School of Medicine, mice were put into a cage with a highly aggressive mouse two hours a day for six days and repeatedly threatened (but not injured) were twice as likely to die as other mice that were kept in tiny cages without food and water for long periods. The social stressor of fear is a even more powerful impact on immune functioning that the stressor of physical deprivation.

 

Emotions that Naturally Boost Your Immune System

Emotions are produced by thoughts, but they are not isolated in your mind. Your emotional state triggers a cascade of physical reactions in your body. Every time you operate from feelings of anger, loneliness, and fear you are pouring waves of toxicity through your body, damaging your immune system and compromising your overall health. The good news is that the impact of our emotional state on the functioning of body goes in both the positive and negative direction.

 

We have the power to choose our emotional state. Much of our emotional state is a product not of what happens to us, but rather how we think about what happens to us. In a previous article, I review how we can replace the negative thinking that produces unhealthy responses with more positive thoughts that promote our physical and psychological well-being.  As we practice creating positive, healthy emotional states for ourselves, we remove and repair the damage created by anxiety, loneliness, and fear. We can literally make ourselves healthier by intentionally cultivating the following emotional states in our daily lives.

 

Humor

Humor can be a great way to combat the damage created by created by anger and other negative emotions. Humor dramatically improves not only our psychological sense of well-being but our immune system as well. Humor curbs stress hormones and boost our NK cell production.

 

Injecting humor into our lives significantly improves the functioning of our immune system hours after the humorous event and days leading up to a humorous event.  In a research study where men were told three days in advance that they were going to watch a funny video, they experienced a significantly lower drop in stress hormones (as compared to those men who were not anticipating the funny video). Moreover, 12 hours after watching a funny video, the research participants still had higher biological indicators of immunity than those who did not watch the video. Laughter is truly (long-acting) medicine.

 

You can significantly improve your immune system functioning and your overall physical health by injecting more humor into your day. Allow yourself “indulgences” of humor, like a funny 5min youtube clip or a funny movie. Too often when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, we remove these activities out of our lives because we “don’t have time” for such frivolous play. But there is nothing frivolous about humor. It is an essential part of a healthy life and will provide you with immediate and long-term benefits to your productivity and physical health. So go ahead and tell a funny joke. Improve your and someone else’s immune system today.

 

Connection

Humans are social creatures and have an inherent need for connection to maintain health and overall well-being. This positive impact of connection includes three dimensions: connection to self, connection to others, and connection to nature. While these three dimensions of connection are distinctive they are interrelated and connection in one area enhances and expands the capacity for connection in the others. Promoting our connectedness strengthens the functioning of our immune system.

 

Research shows a positive correlation between social connectedness and immune functioning. Individuals who have a network of social support produce more disease fighting NK cells than those who don’t. Scholars conclude that increasing social support might provide a “high natural immunity” to disease and infection.  So take the time to connect with your family and friends and visit loved ones who are sick. These emotional bonds strengthen both your and their immune systems.

 

A number of other research studies have shown connecting with nature also enhances your immune functioning. A study that compared men taking 2 hour walks in parks or forest to men walking for the same amount of time in the city found that that visiting parks and forests raised the production of NK cells by 50%.  Another study focused on women found the same effect and noted that the increase in NK cells lasted a week for those women who walked in nature.  Practicing sensory walks in nature is a great way to boost our immune system and become more aware of our connections to the larger world.

 

Happiness

Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and a member of the UCLA Cousins Center, and his colleagues have spent years studying the impact of happiness and other emotions on gene expression and physical health. They distinguish between two types of happiness: happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life and happiness focused only on pleasure seeking and self-gratification.  In their report to the National Academy of Sciences, they found that happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life promotes the gene expression of antiviral and antibody genes. Happiness focused only on self-gratification had the opposite effect, suppressing the health of the immune system.

 

Happy people are healthier and live longer. Yet this relationship between happiness and positive health only exists for those individuals who cultivate happiness from a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life. These are people who are clear on their unique contribution to this world and have developed a life that reflects their personal truth.

 

Thankfully, we all can cultivate this kind of happiness. I’ve provided some free resources on my website (www.yourlifeinfocuscoach.com) to help you in cultivating a life of happiness that reflects and affirms your core values and life purpose. If you’d like more clarity on discovering your life purpose, sign up to receive my free Life Goals Planning Toolkit.

 

Wishing you a life filled with joy, connection, purpose, and health!

References:

Berk LS, Felten DL, Tan SA, Bittman BB, Westengard J, 2001. “Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress of humor-associated mirthful laughter.” Alternative Therapeutic Health Medicine 7(2).

Christie W. & C. Moore. 2005. “The impact of humor on patients with cancer.” Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing 9:211.

LiQ MK, Kobayashi M., Inagaki H., Katsumata M., Hirata Y., Shimizu T., Li YJ, Wakayama Y., Kawada T., Ohira T., Takayama N., Kagawa T., Mijazaki Y. 2008. “A forest bathing trip increase human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins in female subjects.” Journal of Biological Regulation Homeost Agents 22(1):44-55.

LiQ MK, Nakadai A., Inagaki H., Katsumata M., Shimiza T., Hirata Y., Hirata K., Miyazaki Y., Kagawa T., Koyama Y., Ohira T., Takayama N., Krensky AM, Kawada T. 2007. “Forest bathing enhances natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins.” International Journal of Pharmacology. 20(2):3-8.

Miyazaki T., Ishikawa T, Hirofumi I, Miki A, Wenner M, Fukunishi I, Kawamura N. 2003. “Relationship between perceived social support and immune function.” Stress and Health. 19(1):3-7.

Rein G., Atkinson M, and McCraty R. 1995. “The physiological effects of compassion and anger” Journal of Advancement in Medicine. 8(2).

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