“Deviation from nature is deviation from happiness.” Samuel Johnson
Who doesn’t want to be happy?
We all could use more happiness in our lives, so I’ve compiled some of the scientific research on what makes us happy.
In the video below, I share insights from studies in the fields of positive psychology, medicine, and behavioral economics on the important role that nature plays in our happiness.
From these studies we learn that:
Watch to discover how you can use nature to boost your happiness and improve your health. For more easy ways to increase your happiness, download our daily happiness half-dozen. This is a pdf of 6 activities you can do in a few minutes each day that are scientifically proven to increase happiness.
How would you describe your connection with nature? Email me your thoughts on how you . interact with nature to boost your happiness.
Each New Year’s eve, we create a list of resolutions and promises to ourselves. Some people promise themselves to eat healthy and eat less fat. Some focus on spending quality time with their family. Others plan to pursue their passion. To finally fulfill the desires burning inside them.
But most times, we find ourselves unable to stick to the routine or timetable we had planned out for the new year. The lives we lead are already quite tough and hectic. No matter how hard we try, we are often find ourselves unable to stay committed to our new routine.
This is why 92% of all New Years Resolutions fail.
But that does not mean that you should give up on setting goals.
Goals are an important part of our success. Goals move us forward into better versions of ourselves. Goals motivate us to do the hard things in life. Goals allow us to focus our attention and energy in ways that can make the most impact.
Our goals are the secret longings of our hearts. They lead us into becoming more fully the people we are meant to be.
So here’s what you can do to be successful in your goal setting efforts. Here are three ways you can avoid the most common goal setting mistakes:
The key is not to immediately commit yourself to a whole new routine. The habits that we have adopted have taken years to develop. These habits are not changed in a matter of a week or a month for that matter.
If your goal is to lose 10lbs and you commit yourself to exercising daily for at least half an hour, going for a walk in the evening and eat less at every meal, you will quickly become overwhelmed and frustrated. You may start doing all three activities at the beginning of the year. But you might tire of one activity or become inconsistent. This inconsistent routine will not create your desired weight loss. Thus you can lose your motivation real fast because you are working hard but not seeing results.
The secret is in taking it slow. Develop a positive momentum and go easy on yourself can ensure that you stick to your routine in the long run.
Pick just one of those activities to help you with your weight loss goal. Do that activity consistently and track your progress. Then after 1-2 weeks of consistently performing your first healthy habit, add in another. This gradual process will build healthy habits, keep you motivated, and produce permanent results.
Your hectic work routine might become an obstacle to achieving your goal. You might be working late on the weekend and have to skip the evening walk. Or you might be eating out all week with friends which will ruin the ”eat less” plan. It can be hard to say no to friends or pending work.
Yet, you can plan for your success by practicing flexible thinking. Perhaps you want to adjust your walk time on the weekends. Or maybe you include one splurge meal in your weekly eating plan.
Expect there to be obstacles to your goal. Keep your eyes on your goal, but remain flexible in your approach. This enables you to stay focused on your goal and achieve results regardless of the ups and downs of your day or week.
To transform your new year’s resolution into reality, you need to measure your success. How will you know when you have achieved your goal? What significant milestones will there be along the way? How will you celebrate each milestone and goal achieved?
For each goal, there are lots of potential pays you could measure your success. For you fitness goal, you could measure: lbs lost, inches lost, BMI, %body fat, speed, muscle endurance, cardiovascular endurance. You pick the form of measurement that fits best with your goal. Just make sure that it’s easy to watch and commit to tracking it daily.
Also commit to celebrating all the small wins you will achieve on your way to your completed goal. After every small feat you achieve, give yourself a planned reward. Make sure that the reward is in line with your goal. The reward is a way of thanking yourself for doing the hard work to achieve your goal. Expressing gratitude for the results will keep you motivated and effective.
People who are the highest achievers have figured out how to effectively set and achieve goals in ALL areas of their lives.
I believe in you. I know you have what it takes.
But, if you’re not careful you could easily fall into the many traps that prevent most people from reaching their goal.
High achievers are able to avoid the common traps that keep most people stuck and frustrated. High achievers effectively design a life that reflects their own personalized vision of success.
Discover the “success secrets” that distinguish high achievers from most people. My webinar “Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever!” will reveal three specific success secrets to fuel your goal setting efforts. Registration for the webinar is free, but space is limited. Reserve your seat today!
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” -Maria Robinson
A year from now you can be living out the dreams you have carried with you all these years.
Here’s to you and your success in creating your new beginning…. Cheers!
In this episode, fitness coach Mel Prickett (www.excelwithmel.com) and I discuss how to avoid the traps and myths that undermine our success in achieving our fitness goals. We discuss why fitness is critical to the reaching our optimal level of success in life.
Read on to discover:
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
Fitness helps you look and feel great; yet the benefits go beyond your physical body. Focusing on your fitness goals will help you feel more confident, energetic, and can help you accomplish your other personal and professional goals.You have enough time for everything important in your life; decide what's important. Click To Tweet
Women of Wisdom is a podcast that brings you insights from amazing women about how you can live a healthier, happier, and more rewarding life. If you have suggestions for future topics or would like to be featured on an upcoming episode, please email me [email protected].
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Love is the most powerful healing emotion. It has been described as a bio cognitive healing field that improves our health and well-being. Love is not just a feeling; it is a way of thinking about ourselves and others. Practicing the act of loving will increase our happiness, confidence, relationships, and health. This article describes how love improves our lives phsyically and emotionally. More importantly, it presents a tool to live a life of love; regardless of the problematic circumstances and people in our lives.
George Solomon’s research reveals that thoughts and emotions influence our immune system. Negative emotions narrow our focus to being more self-centered (i.e. “what’s bothering me”). While positive emotions expand our focus to a more inclusive and warm “we.” The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) reveals that positive emotions allow us to better remain focused in the face of set-backs and frustrations of life. These positive emotions also produce a direct impact on the functioning of our immune system.
Research on forgiveness shows that it decreases the physical damage that stress does to our body. We are much less likely to experience the physical wear and tear on our bodies in repose to life stressors when we cultivate positive emotions like love. Forgiveness is extending love to ourselves and others.
Dr. Mario Martinez, a leading PNI researcher, is so convinced of by the evidence of emotions impact on our health, he states our immune system operates according to a “moral code that favors love over fear and compassion over hatred.”
Self-compassion is a critical component of love. We can not give to others, what we do not already posses. So self-compassion becomes a core requirement for healthy relationships. But self-compassion is also required to help us reach our optimal health and our optimal levels of success in life.
Self-compassion produces positive mental health outcomes. A study published in the journal Body Image showed that people with higher levels of self-compassion are less likely to be depressed. They have lower rates of eating disorders and are less likely to experience body shame . Another study of college students showed that self-compassion served as a protective layer against academic burn-out. Under normal conditions that would produce burn-out, those students with higher levels of self-compassion didn’t experience the burn-out. Research also shows that self-compassion leads us to more healthy behaviors (e.g. healthy eating, regular exercise, good sleep habits, and stress management) which supports our long-term physical well-being.
Loving ourselves creates positive mental and physical health. Too often we try to improve our physical health or productivity by “shaming” ourselves into good behavior. We imagine that being a hard task master on ourselves will force us to get our act together and perform our best. Yet, research shows the exact opposite. We feel and perform our best when we practice loving ourselves on a daily basis.
It is easy to love people who are kind to us, but how do we love those who are not? How do we show love to the driver who cuts of off, the rude cashier, or family member who has just made a hurtful comment to us? We’ve already discussed how important love is to our health and well-being. As well as how critical love is in reshaping our relationships. So we can not allow our quality of life to be diminished by the action of others. We must learn to love at all times, especially when it’s difficult.
In their book Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels introduce us to powerful tools of visualization that help us to create a successful life. Often we think of ourselves as helpless and subject to our current feelings or circumstances. In the book Tools, we learn how we can actively create the (inner and outer) reality we seek.
These tools are built on a combined 60-years of psychoanalytic practice with hundreds of patients. The authors remind us that theses tools are not just cognitive exercises. The exercises position us to access the power of the spirit realm to strengthen and shape our daily life.
Personally, I’ve practiced the tools since reading the book and have found it very effective in restructuring my reality. I’d like to share with you the second tool (Active Love) to help you increase your capacity to live a life of love. Stutz and Michels describe the tool of active love as having three important components: concentration, transmission, and penetration. In the section below, I walk you through the three steps of the visualization of active love.
Get into a relaxed position, either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply. Breathe so that your belly rises and falls with each breathe. Listen to your heart beating and the flow of your breath. Now visualize your heart soaking up all of the love that is around you. Your heart draws love to it like a magnet. As your heart attracts love it is growing larger and larger. Watch your heart grow in size and power with the fullness of love.
Now visualize your heart directing the full strength of its love outward like a laser beam. Your heart is pulsing a laser beam of love. The love flows in a steady and powerful stream from your heart.
Next visualize the person to whom you want to direct that love. It could be the cashier person who was rude to you, the family member who made the hurtful comment, or even the driver that cut you off on the road. Even if you have not seen the person’s face, make up a face for that person. Visualize them standing directly in front of you, facing you. If the object of your anger is an abstract idea (e.g. poverty, a nation, religion), visualize that entity as a person.
Visualize the pulsating beam of love emanating from your heart going directly to the heart of that person. Watch it pierce through their outer layers and penetrate to the deepest parts of them. Feel the point of contact and connection with that person. Feel you giving them a transfusion of love. This love comes from you, but does not start with you. This is the love you have freely received and you are sharing with this person.
Watch the laser beam of love fill their hearts. Watch it circulate throughout their entire body. Visualize it flowing from their heart to their head. Watch it flow into their arms, legs, fingers and toes. Every part of their body is washed in this flow of love. Now watch the flow of love completely envelop them in a bubble as they float off into distant space.
Open your eyes and notice how you feel. You have just given that person, and yourself, the gift of love. You have played an active role in promoting physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in our world. Love is the gift that keeps on giving. When you give away love, you wind up with more than when you began. Practicing the tool of active love increases the healing power of love that you experience.
Although this exercise only takes a few minutes, it produces substantial changes in us and in our world. Some of these changes happen immediately and some occur over a longer period of time. It is important for you to know that what you have done matters. Practicing active love is an important way of changing your life and changing your world.
Stutz & Michels encourage readers to be critical skeptics. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the power of the tool, it only matters that you use it. As you use the tool, you will see the changes produced in your own life. Ultimately, this is all the proof you need.
I urge you to commit to using the tool of active love this week. Use it whenever you find yourself feeling angry or frustrated. Practice active love whenever you experience feelings of anger, find yourself ruminating on past injustices, or are preparing to interact with difficult people. Whenever you want to promote healing and connection with another person use the active love tool.
Every day will present you with many opportunities to practice the tool of active love. Record your observations and reflections on this experiment in a journal each day. At the end of the week, you will have a written record of some of the immediate impact of the tool of love on your life.
Share below your reflections on practicing love on a daily basis and the difference you see it making. I’d personally like to thank you for supporting yourself and adding more light to this world. Thank you!
You’ve been selected to have dinner with a very special person. This person is worthy of tremendous honor and respect. She is amazingly talented and an important contributor to our world. She is beautiful, both inside and out. How do you feel about this dinner? How will you behave? What will you say?
What if I told you that you will eat with this person every night? What if I told you that you have already eaten with her every night because that person is you?
Are you surprised? This is not a silly trick, it is absolutely true. You are an amazingly talented and beautiful person, worthy of great honor. Yet, many people ignore, disbelieve, or misunderstand this truth.
My goal is to remind you of the importance of honoring yourself. Honoring yourself is not arrogance and does not make you an egomaniac. Honoring yourself is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. Moreover, honoring yourself is critical for your physical and mental health.
First, honoring yourself means recognizing your worth and committing to meeting your own needs. There is a feedback loop between you and others. As you recognize that you are worthy of great care, you can be fully present in taking care of others and yourself. As you do, you are demonstrating a model of self-care for those you love as well.
Caring for yourself is not selfish and it is not mutually exclusive with caring for others. Rather, self-love is an integral aspect of loving others. They are two sides of the same coin. The entire moral code of Christianity is summarized in the Great Commandment to “Love the Lord with all your heart soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” I suggest that this moral commandment reflects a commitment to self-love and honor.
If you do not love yourself, what kind of love can you show for your neighbor? If you only love yourself, what kind of neighbor will you be? Self love that extends to others. Most importantly, healthy relationships, healthy communities, healthy societies are based on balanced expression of love.
Therefor, honor is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. People who honor themselves are healthier mentally and physically. They are more likely to be compassionate towards others. They are more socially responsible. In general, people who honor themselves are happier, healthier people.
In contrast to honor, shame reflects an understanding of the self as unworthy. Shame reflects a lack of honor, compassion, and respect for the self. Shame is different from guilt. Guilt suggest negative feelings about problematic behavior. Shame suggests negative feelings about oneself. Thus, shame is more globalized and not limited to specific behaviors.
Because guilt affirms your core value system, it is consistent with honoring yourself. It encourages you to make amends to repair the damage caused by violating your values. Guilt leads to positive behavioral outcomes and is considered a pro-social behavior. But, shame often leads to more destructive behavior directed against oneself and others. Prof. June P. Tangney, a leading expert in the study of shame and a professor of psychology at George Mason University, explains:
“Guilt is a useful emotion, It pushes people to repair the harm they did….But feelings of shame about oneself seem to motivate people more to want to hide, escape, deny or a lot of times to blame other people.”
In her research study published in the Journal Psychological Science, Dr. Tangney found that prisons who felt guilty were less likely to break the law again. Their guilt led them to refrain from future illegal behavior. This outcome was not seen in individuals returning from prison who did not show the evidence of guilt.
In another study of children, adolescents and adults, Dr. Tangney found a clear difference in the outcomes of guilt as compared to shame. Guilt led to constructive behaviors and shame led to destructive behaviors. Shame lead to anger, aggression (direct and indirect), self-hostility, and negative long-term consequences.
Although shame is clearly linked to a host of negative mental health outcomes, the damage does not stop there. Shame also damages our physical health. Subjects asked to write for 15 minutes on a shameful experience, showed physical inflammation. The researchers concluded that shame increased the inflammatory response of their immune system.
We know that shame is damaging to our physical and mental health. Yet, shame also damages our relationships with others and our relationship to ourselves. Shame is a manifestation of devaluing and disrespect for the self. Learning to honor the self is an antidote for shame. Honoring yourself promotes healing, vitality, and happiness.
Dr. Mario Martinez reminds us that positive emotional states improve our physical and mental health. The emotional states that have the greatest impact on our well-being are love, commitment, and loyalty. Dr. Martinez refers to these emotional states as “healing fields”. He teaches individuals how to cultivate these healing fields and promote optimum health.
Honor is an important healing field because it communicates love and respect for the self. Because our immune system operates according to a moral code, honor enhances the functioning of our immune system. Expressions of fear-based bio-emotional states produce visible damage in our physical bodies. Expressions of love-based bio-emotional states promote visible healing and regeneration in our bodies.
This relationship between honor, self-love, and physical healing is documented in the medical research by Dr. George F. Solomon. Dr. Solomon revealed that women who expressed righteous anger toward their abuser were less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, regardless of the presence of a genetic marker. The anger these women expressed was a logical and appropriate response to the violation of someone they loved and valued (themselves). Those women who were not able to connect with this righteous anger were more likely to develop a chronic illness. Thus, there seems to be a connection between protecting yourself emotionally and physically. In both cases the protection comes from a sense of self-love and value. This is an example of the healing field of honor.
When we honor ourselves, we love and protect ourselves on every level. On the cellular level, we promote healthy immune functioning to take care of our cells. When we honor ourselves, we care for our bodies with healthy nutrition and exercise. When we honor ourselves, we choose only to be in relationships with people who treat us with love and respect. Dr. Martinez reminds us that:
“We never abuse what we mindfully love.”
Practicing small and large acts of honoring yourself is a way of mindfully loving yourself. It communicates to you and others that you are to be loved and respected. It triggers the holistic healing fields that promote your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.
Here are simple, yet powerful ways, that you can practice showing honor to yourself. Remember, honor is a healing field. As you take part in the activities below, you promote your health and well-being on every level. You can honor yourself by:
When you honor yourself, you commit to meeting your needs rather than waiting on others or the circumstances of life to do so. Relying on others to meet your needs leads to feelings of disappointment and depletion. It also often creates conflicts in your relationship with others. The other person may feel inadequate or resentful that they are unable to meet your needs.
Yet, relying on yourself to meet your needs leads to feeling energized and confident. It also gives other people permission to do the same. When people see you loving yourself it inspires them to do the same. Charity begins at home. Give yourself the love and care you give to others. You are worthy of love and admiration.
Think about where you are currently feeling emotional dissatisfaction. List three emotional needs that are currently unmet. What would you need to feel satisfied? For each emotional need you identify, think of one way that you can give yourself the gift of meeting that need.
Honor rituals are important reminders to yourself that you are worthy of honor. You can create a series of habits that you do on a daily basis. The goal of these actions is to remind yourself that your are someone of tremendous value and worthy of great respect and honor.
For me, the rituals I create around the celebration of my birthday are important ways in which I honor myself. In next week’s blog post, I’ll describe in more detail how you can turn your birthday into a celebration honoring your life.
Yet, there are also simple daily actions you can take to honor yourself. For example, the Sanskrit greeting “Namaste” translates to “The light in me salutes the light in you.” What a wonderful daily reminder that you are worthy of honor. It also reminds you that every person you meet throughout the day is worthy of honor as well. What a double blessing!
I’d love to hear about your large and small honor rituals. Please share below how you remind yourself of your tremendous worth. Let our community know how you practice giving yourself the love and respect you deserve.
You do not have to wait for others to love, care for, and honor you. You can do that for yourself. Commit to honoring yourself by meeting your core emotional needs today.
Beach time is quickly approaching and many women are buying diet pills, body wraps, and any other product promising to give us the perfect body. Although Americans spend more than $60 billion annually trying to lose weight, 71% of American adults are obese or overweight. A 2007 report by British researchers found that women in the UK spend about 31 years of there life on a diet. This is not a continuous healthy eating plan, but rather a yo-yo diet with most women giving up in less than six weeks. The reason why our “health obsessions” lead us to even greater levels of poor health is because they are based on loathing our bodies. The secret to getting your perfect body immediately and permanently is learning to love the body you have.
Body loathing includes words and actions that insult, harm, and degrade your body. It involves criticizing your body or parts of your body, damaging your body by depriving it of sufficient healthy and nourishing food, and publically insulting your body. In fact, much of our female-female conversation involves the body loathing ritual of trading criticisms about our bodies. All of these body loathing activities harm our physical and emotional well-being and make it difficult for our bodies to be healthy and functional.
While you might consider criticizing your body as motivation to improve, it actually has the opposite effect. Science teaches us that human behavior is improved by a positive encouraging environment, not a negative one. In a 2005 study published in the American Psychologist, researchers documented the critical element in promoting human flourishing. Flourishing is living at the optimal level of functioning and performance. It is associated with perceptions of goodness, creativity, growth, and resilience. It is estimated that less than 20% of Americans are flourishing and this lack of flourishing is linked to a host of physical, emotional, and economic problems.
So what best predicts whether an individual or an organization will flourish? The ratio of positive to negative thoughts. Those with a ratio of at least 2.9, approximately three positive thoughts for every one negative thought, were much more likely to experience flourishing: peak human performance.
As an educator, I know the great importance that my attitude and approach can make in student performance. If my students perceive me as caring about them and their well-being, they are able to take in my instruction and feedback and use it to improve their knowledge and skill. However, if they perceive me as a harsh task master who cares more about my instruction than them, they will resist learning anything from me. This principle underlies all human behavior and performance.
Recall the individuals in your life who have been great teachers and/or coaches. Who were the people that were able to inspire you to work your hardest and get the most improvement in your performance? What did they think of you? How did they treat you? Most likely these were individuals who had high standards for you and communicated a high regard for you. They valued and respected you and your ability. They knew you were talented and worked diligently to cultivate that talent. And in this context you flourished.
Now compare that experience to the external and internal messages you take in daily about your body. Do these messages affirm the inherent value and beauty of your body? Do they celebrate your body’s function and performance? Do they nurture and cultivate your body in a loving, supportive environment? If you’re like most of us, the answer is no. It’s no wonder that our bodies respond like rebellious children, refusing our explicit instructions to be well and perform.
When you separate yourself from your body, evaluating it as a set of components, you are objectifying yourself. You are treating your body as an “object” separate from you- the beautiful soul that inhabits your body. It is a mistake to believe that you can demean your body and love yourself. It does not work because there is a permanent connection between our bodies and our souls.
Belittling our bodies diminishes how we feel about ourselves. When we demean our bodies and say explicitly or implicitly that our bodies are not good enough, we are saying to ourselves that we are not good enough. We are not good enough to be loved and respected by others or ourselves. That’s why we believe it’s appropriate to demean and brutalize our bodies with forced deprivation, injurious workouts, or feeding it unhealthy food.
Both the so called “healthy” behaviors and the unhealthy ones come from a place of body loathing and our bodies respond with resistance. Resistance may be in the form of a plateau where your body refuses to release any more weight in spite of your best efforts. Resistance may be in the form of returning to your pre-diet weight with a few extra pounds for support against the task master of self-deprivation. Resistance may be in form of weakened performance and diseases as your body withdraws from the hostile climate you’ve created.
All of these forms of resistance are natural and appropriate responses to assaults on the dignity and worth of the self. Resistance is the natural response to oppression, even when we are the ones creating the oppressive environment.
The way to end this resistance and reconnect with our bodies is to create a body loving environment. A body loving environment will remind us that our bodies are not objects to be controlled, but rather visible extensions of our unique selves. Body loving environments affirm our inherent value and dignity. They operate from the assumption that we are already “good enough” and create an environment to remind us of this truth and encourage us to do our best.
Perfect comes from the Latin word perfierce, per- meaning “completely” and farcere meaning “do”. Thus saying something is perfect suggests that it is whole, complete, and lacking nothing. You have successfully developed into a full grown woman with all of the curves, lines, rights, and privileges that status entails. You are whole and complete. You are perfect!
Claim your perfect female body today! All it takes is recognition that you already have it.
You are already good enough.
You are already beautiful.
You already perfect.
You do not need to get her eyes, butt, breast, skin in order to be beautiful. Nor do you need to lose, gain, shrink, or enlarge any part of your body to be deserving.This moment, at this size, is your perfect female body. Click & Tweet! As you come to understand and accept this truth, you will be able to love and nurture your body (and yourself) in a way that brings out your personal best. You will care for it as you do a newborn infant. Providing it with all the nourishing foods and experiences it needs to grow and flourish. Celebrating its changes and development. Affirming its inherent value and worth.
Loving your body means feeding it nourishing foods out of your care for its well-being. It means being gentle will your body, giving it the rest it needs and deserves. Loving your body involves moving your body, celebrating it’s growing strength and improved functionality. Loving your body also includes protecting it from harmful toxins and emotions that damage its functioning. Finally, loving your body includes speaking loving words of praise, gratitude, and affirmation regularly about your body. As you love your body, it will love you back. Click & Tweet!
As you do these actions, you and your body will develop a beautiful relationship built on love, respect, and cooperation. In this body loving climate, your body will transform to its optimal performance. You and your body will flourish.
Just as a loving teacher brings out the best in her students, your loving care will bring out your personal physical best. You will look and feel great! Most importantly, these changes will be permanent and built on healthy, respectful actions.
A group of over 1,800 women shared their body loving affirmations on a hypnobirthing blog post. I’ve posted a few of my favorites here to get you started on celebrating and cultivating your perfect female body. I suggest that you practice these affirmations standing in a full view mirror so that you can experience the full impact of learning to “see” yourself differently and learning to love what you see.
Congratulations on claiming your perfect body! As you celebrate your body, you give other women the permission to do so as well. So please share your insights and your commitment to creating the perfect female body.
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.
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.
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.
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 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. Click & Tweet!
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.
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. Click & Tweet!
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.
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. Click & Tweet! 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!
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).
A sensory walk optimizes one of the best forms of exercise: walking. Walking lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, strengthens bones and muscles, and improves sleep. Walking in nature has even more positive physical and emotional health benefits.
Research comparing walking in nature versus walking in urban areas showed that individuals who walked in nature experienced lower levels of stress, increased attention span, as well as improved creativity and problem solving. An easy way to optimize the physiological and psychological health benefits associated with walking is to take sensory walks.
Sensory walks are a mindfulness practice that enables you to have a whole body experience with nature while walking. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of University of Massachusetts Medical Center’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Sensory walks are an easy way to integrate mindfulness into your daily health and wellness routine.
Sensory walks, like many other mindfulness practices, encourage you to use all five of your senses to connect with the natural world. It can be helpful at some points in the walk to stand still and close your eyes. Ending your reliance on sight can heighten your awareness of the other senses. Whether you are walking or standing still, the goal is to notice as much as possible the beauty of the world surrounding you.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that can guide your focus as you practice your sensory walk.
Sound is a powerful sense that activates our emotions, promotes visual imaginations, and strengthens our memory recall. As you engage in your sensory walk, pay attention to the distinctive types of sounds that you hear.
Can you hear your footsteps? Are there birds chirping? Can you hear running water? It’s important to take the time to really notice the sounds of your external environment rather than drowning them out with your internal dialogue.
No, I don’t mean identifying your emotional state. I mean paying attention to the largest organ in your body: your skin. Skin is a primary vehicle through which we experience the world, both sensations of pleasure and pain. Our skin has the most nerve endings that provide us with a fine tuned gradient measure of our environment. We can even sense very subtle changes in the environment with our skin and respond quickly with goose-bumps or having the hair on our necks stand up.
As you engage in your sensory walk, pay attention to your skin and the sensations it communicates to you. Depending on the weather, there may not be a lot of your skin exposed to the outside elements. However, even when covered with clothing and shoes your skin is still communicating important sensory information about your environment.
Can you feel the sun on your skin? What does the ground feel like under your feet? Is it firm, mushy, rocky? What does the temperature feel like on your skin? Again, stopping to closely your eyes briefly will help you better tune into all this lovely information your body is experiencing.
Smell is often thought of as one of our most potent senses. It is closely connected to our memory and can quickly recreate feelings associated with a past experience. We are usually aware of smells at the extreme of the spectrum, either very pleasant or very offensive. But as we practice mindfulness we can become aware of all the varieties of smell around us.
Practice using your sense of smell to create a “map” of your sensory walk. What smells are associated with the various areas of your map? What smells can you identify? Can you distinguish the distinctive smells among the various flowers? What about the trees?
It’s useful to stop and get up close the the objects you are smelling. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Yes, I do want you to stop and smell the roses…and the daffodils….and the pine trees. Allow yourself to fully savor the sensations of the smells of nature.
Our taste sensations are closely connected to our sense of smell. As you allow yourself to experience more fully the smells associated with nature, you may notice an activation of your taste buds. You may even begin to salivate. Great! Enjoy these tastes of nature.
Those of you who are more knowledgeable about the various edible flowers, nuts, and berries that grow freely in nature may want to partake in enjoying these delicious gifts during your sensory walk. My children and I love the smell and taste of wild growing honeysuckle and often snack on these sweet treats. Nature provides us with so many gifts and fully experiencing and enjoying these gifts is one way to say thank you.
This is known as our proprioceptive sense and is often overlooked in our discussions of our sensory experiences. However, proprioception is responsible for our perceptions of our body position, motion, and balance.
Without proprioception we wouldn’t experience the excitement of our stomachs dropping when we ride on a roller coaster or the relaxation we feel when sitting in a swing or a rocking chair. Proprioception allows us to know where our body is positioned in space even when our eyes are closed. Our proprioceptive sense also helps us to be more alert when on an unstable or elevated surface.
As you practice your sensory walk, vary the surfaces you walk on and notice the changes in your body. Do you feel different walking on a gravel path than walking across a fallen tree? How does it feel when you cross a stream using the river rocks as your bridge? Vary the pace of your walk (fast then slow) and notice the differences in your body.
Sight can be a very pleasurable part of our experience of nature. Just looking at a beautiful nature scene can bring feelings of peace and relaxation. As you engage in your sensory walk, imagine that you are a cinematographer trying to capture footage for National Geographic.
Take the time to see what is likely a familiar environment for you with fresh new eyes. What are the “postcard moments” of your walk? What images bring you feelings of warmth, pleasure, relaxation, excitement, or awe?
As you notice these sights, stop and focus on them to intensify your experience of the moment. For at least 20 seconds, pause and focus on the image, breathing deeply and enjoying the feelings that are evoked by this sight within you.
Remember, what you focus on becomes magnified. As you focus on the pleasure of nature and wonderful feelings you are having at this moment, your joy and gratitude will be magnified. Moreover, these feelings will stay with you and can be brought back to mind long after you are physically removed from this experience.
As you complete your sensory walk, reserve time at the end to sit quietly and capture the beauty of these moments. You may want to bring a sketchbook or a journal to record your reflections. Regardless of your artistic skill level, draw at least three items that you noticed on your sensory walk.
Although the drawing activity is visual, you do not want to rely only on the sights of your sensory walk. How might you be able to visually represent the smells or physical sensations that you experienced on the walk? What about the tastes and movement sensations?
After you’ve captured at least three sensory memories of this walk, write 1-2 sentences of gratitude for what you have just experienced.
As you focus on the sensations and emotions produced from the sensory walk, your awareness of the gifts of nature will abound. These gifts of nature are free and always available to you whenever you need them. Even when you can not physically return to the site of this walk, you can review your journal reflections and activate a full sensory recall of the memories of this experience.
As we celebrate the beginning of spring and Earth Day, I encourage you to add a 10-15min sensory walk into your routine. You will find that this practice greatly reduces your level of stress, expands your sense of joy and connection to a larger world, as well as increases your energy and feelings of well-being.
Today, give yourself a gift of vitality and joy! Take a sensory walk.
What are the benefits you received from your sensory walk? Leave a comment below or you can email me directly at [email protected]. If you have pictures from your walk, please share so we can expand the joy!
Many of us have worked hard to lose weight only to find that that scales aren’t turning in the right direction. We are eating a clean diet, exercising three times a week, but we are still not losing weight. If this is true for you, it may be that an unknown culprit is conspiring against you in your plan for healthy weight loss: stress.
An effective stress management system can be the missing ingredient preventing you from obtaining the strong, good looking, and healthy body you are seeking. Continuing to neglect this vital area of weight loss can be a costly mistake. While we know chronic stress is not good for us, many of us have no idea what it does to our bodies and how it undermines our health. Here I’ve listed some of the biological pathways through which stress promotes weight gain.
Stress activates our body’s fight or flight response. It produces hormonal changes signaling to our muscles the need for quick energy. The muscles get this energy by increasing insulin production to move sugar from the blood to our muscles. This physiological response makes us more alert and alive in a stressful situation. We are stronger, quicker, and can think faster. All of these responses to stress are helpful in keeping us alive in dangerous situations. However, if our body does not actually use this surge of energy to react, we store this unused energy as fat. In situations of chronic stress or worry, our body produces the same increases in sugar and insulin that creates new layers of fat. Much of the fat tissue that is produced from chronic stress is “visceral fat” that builds up deep in our bellies. This can be seen in the “pot belly” we gain as we age. Visceral fat in the belly is the most life threatening fat and the hardest to get rid of.
We have all experienced the food cravings that occur when we are feeling stressed out. For me it’s starchy and fatty foods like mac & cheese and fried chicken. This connection is so strong and immediate that we often find ourselves eating before we are even aware of it. When we become aware, we are already eating a bag of chips or in the refrigerator nibbling on left overs. We know that this pattern of mindless eating undermines our health goals and we often blame ourselves for not having enough willpower. Yet, science shows that there is a biological basis to this pattern of mindless emotional eating. Researchers suggest that we might actually have a “flight, flee, or chow down” response to stress, meaning that the activity of eating physiologically relieves the stress in the same way as the reactions to flee or fight. Jason Perry Block, MD, an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard, “This happens, in part, because the body releases chemicals in response to food that might have a direct calming effect.” Thus emotional eating is a learned habit that is connected to biological triggers and rewards.
Chronic stress produces the couch potato syndrome. In the APA study “Stress in America”, 42% of Americans reported watching television more than two hours a day to relieve stress. Unfortunately, this strategy of stress management actually increase weight gain and other health complications that arise from a sedentary lifestyle.
In their pioneering research, Profs. Annette deKloet and Eric Krause discovered a “fat to brain feedback network”. This study suggests that the density of fat tissue influences the way the brain controls stress, regulates energy and other metabolic activities. It’s not just that stress encourages your body to produce more fat, but that the fat changes the way your brain regulates your metabolism Click & Tweet! . While in the short term this is adaptive, the fat to brain feedback network under situations of chronic stress is dangerous.
The good news is that we can reverse the pattern of weight gain directly implementing a stress management system Click & Tweet! . An effective stress management system will not only reduce your current levels of stress, but will promote healthy weight loss, increase your energy, boost your immune system, and heighten your joy. You will look and feel better and get more enjoyment out of the people and activities in your life. I’ve listed five activities you can do to begin implementing an effective stress management system. These activities will quickly reduce your level of stress and promote healthy weight loss.
Exercise is a great stress reliever because it actually uses the increases in insulin and sugar created by stress in more productive ways. It also promotes the release of endorphins which make us feel good, think “runner’s high”. However, exercising for stress relief should be moderate and not too rigorous. High intensity exercises actually raises cortisol levels, contributing to over eating and increase and fat production. Think a brisk 20 minute walk.
Sleep reduces feelings of stress, promotes healthy weight loss, and increases well-being. Most Americans are sleep deprived. We should strive for 6-8hrs of sleep each night. If worry or anxiety is keeping you from getting a good night of rest, some of the activities below can help.
Meditation is a powerful relaxation strategy that has been proven to lower stress, improve health, and increase our sense of well being. The wonderful thing about meditation is that you can do it anywhere and you can reap the benefits of meditation with a small investment of time (10-20mins/day). Other relaxation techniques (deep breathing, listening to music, walking in nature, taking a bubble bath) can also be used on a daily basis to reduce stress and promote weight loss. What is most important is that you integrate these behaviors into your daily life.
We eat every day, but do we eat mindfully? Mindful eating is a slow sensory experience of food. It encourages us to notice the color, smell, taste, and texture of our food and to eat slow enough to enjoy the experience. Mindful eating is the direct opposite of fast food or tv dinners. A research study of binge eaters showed that participating in mindful eating program produced fewer binges and lower rates of depression. Mindful eating can lower our stress, improve our mood, and prevent our over eating Click & Tweet! .
While the above techniques may help us manage the levels of stress in our lives, we need to engage in structured self-exploration to identify the causes of stress in our lives and actively address them. Living under chronic stress compromises our health, career, relationships and sense of well-being. It is up to us to commit to identifying and eradicating the sources of our stressful lifestyle. Processes of self-exploration that are research-proven to be effective in increasing emotional and physical well-being are: journaling, counseling, and working with a life coach. Choose the method that works best for you, but by all means commit to your personal development. Through your process of self-exploration, you can uncover ways of thinking that are increasing stress and weight gain, as well as develop a plan of action to move you closer to your goals of health, peace, and joy.
You can not change your genetic makeup, but you can create a strong, lean, healthy body. Implementing these five components of a stress management system will permanently transform your body and your life Click & Tweet! . Most people acknowledge valuable information that could help them achieve their goal, but never act on it. You could be different.
I’d love to hear about the improvements you are seeing in your body and in your life as you implement your stress management system. Leave a comment below or email me.
Serena Williams has won over 20 Grand Slam singles, multiple Olympic gold medals, and a series of double titles with her sister Venus. Serena is one of only six women to complete a career Grand Slam: holding all four of the major tennis tournament titles simultaneously. To what does she attribute her success and longevity? You may be surprised to learn that visualization, not physical skill, strength, or endurance, is the key to her success. According to Serena Williams:
“Mental fitness is much more important to my game. To be at this level, everyone has great physical tools. What separates winners is the mental game.”
Serena Williams uses visualization to rise to the top of her industry and stay there. Tapping into the power of visualization can help you achieve extraordinary success in your life and career as well. Click & Tweet!
As the above video clip illustrates, Serena’s father taught her and her sister the technique of visualization in order to “prepare us for greatness.” Regardless of whether your chosen activity is athletic performance, public speaking, or creative production, visualization can distinguish you among the top performers in your field. While learning the basic nuts and bolts of your industry is critical to creating a successful career, learning the technique of visualization is critical to creating an extraordinary career. Here I explain how visualization can contribute to your success as well as provide you with simple guidelines to effectively use this powerful technique in your life.
Visualization is defined as “a technique involving focusing on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal”. This technique can be applied to virtually any goal that involves human performance. Visualization is valuable because it improves your physiological performance, enhances your motivation, and increases your confidence. Click & Tweet! Taken together these alterations in your mind and body take your performance from great to extraordinary.
Visualization strengthens existing neurological pathways as well as creates new ones. Through visualization we “rewire” our physical bodies. In 2007, the North American Journal of Psychology published a study reporting that athletes accomplished almost comparable gains in strength through mental exercises (visualizations) as those who actually did the exercises on weight machines. If visualization is this powerful alone, imagine how it can improve your performance when combined with physical practice.
In addition to enhancing your physiology, visualization improves your psychology as well. Through visualization, you come to see yourself, literally and figuratively, as a peak performer. The psychological research on the self-fulfilling prophecy documents that people perform at levels consistent with their expectations of themselves. Visualization raises your self-perception and thus your performance as well.
Now that you know the power of visualization, here are some practical guidelines to help you effectively use this technique in preparing yourself for greatness.
The more senses you engage in your visualization, the more powerful the physical and psychological changes produced within you. Rather than simply “seeing” yourself performing the desired activity, ask yourself questions about what you hear, taste, smell, and feel as well. As I visualize myself giving a dynamic and wildly successful speech, I can hear the cadence and rhythm of my voice changing throughout the talk. I also hear the sounds of the audience laughing and clapping at the appropriate times in the speech. I feel the warmth of the spotlight on my skin and the stability of the podium under my arms as I lean in closer to connect with my audience. I can even smell the scent of my perfume lingering in the air as I walk to different parts of the stage.
Life is a full-sensory experience and so is a powerful visualization. The more we engage all of our senses in each visualization, the more we respond physically and psychologically as if this mental image is “real”.
Part of the effect of engaging multiple senses in our visualization is that it moves us from watching the action to experiencing it. Effective visualization requires that we experience these events from the first person perspective as the “hero” of the show. Visualization requires that we are active creators of the outcome, not passive viewers. As I visualize myself making an awesome jump shot, I see the ball through my perspective as the shooter not the wide angle lens of the audience. Visualization is a powerful technique because it blurs the line between our imagination and reality. The more vividly we see from our perspective as the doer, the more concretely we understand ourselves as one who is capable of creating this desired outcome.
Everything requires practice, even visualization. The more you incorporate this activity into your daily preparation, the more easily and vividly you will be able to visualize yourself performing at your peak level. The more vivid the visualization, the better your performance. Click & Tweet!
I encourage you to develop your mental fitness through visualization. Visualization is a skill that can be used in every area of your life because it can easily be generalized from one set of behaviors to another. Visualization works as successfully in enhancing your physical fitness as it does your work productivity Click & Tweet! . Please share below ways in which you have (or intend to) use visualization to enhance your performance. Unlock your greatness!