Gratitude and Giving Thanks…..it’s good for your mental health.

May 24, 2015

  

Part of our human nature is a tendency to dwell on the negative and injustices in our lives. It is known by psychologists as our ‘negativity bias’. 

Left unchecked this bias can become a serious impediment to our overall happiness. In his wonderful book, Buddha’s Brain, Dr Rick Hanson Ph.D uses the analogy that our brains are like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Negative experiences get quickly stored in our memory. 

So what do we do about this ? 
Well, without getting too technical, two very simple solutions are to 

1.Make  a point to savour when something positive happens to you ( to archive it in your long term memory and hopefully override some of those negative memories ) 

2. To just remember to be more thankful about things in your everyday life. 

Sounds too simple ? 
Well it is, and it is working. A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being. Studies have shown people keeping gratitude journals sleep better and longer, have increased self esteem and have more empathy and sensitivity towards others. 

How you can help? 

Develop an attitude of gratitude ! 

It really doesn’t take much. It doesn’t have to be a gratitude journal as such, it can be just a reminder that goes off in your phone once a day where you stop and think of a couple of things you are grateful for. 

It is  kind of nice to write them down though, to have to look back over at times, especially when you are quite down and out. I have both a notebook on my phone and one by my bed and I just jot down 3 things in either. Sometimes I wait till the end of the day, but I have also found it helps if I am out and about and getting frustrated with petty occurances, if I take a minute to note a few things I have to be thankful for my whole outlook changes. 

If you want the stats behind al this “thankfulness” stuff check out the Berkeley Greater Good thnx4.org project 

Help the people of Nepal 

April 29, 2015

A friend of mine, Jen Peedom, who the incredible documentary director of Miracle on Everest, has this important message re the devastaing earthquake in Nepal.

 I  met Yangjee Sherpa last year when making our Sherpa Film. Her father was killed on Everest when she was 15 years old. She dropped out of school to support her mother put her remaining siblings through school. She now cares for her 94 year-old blind grandmother. Her house was her only asset. It has now been destroyed and they are living in a tent. I reckon she’s had enough bad luck for many lifetimes. We are raising money to help re-build her house. We’d appreciate any help.  

  

How to help now: 

Go to : http://www.gofundme.com/szmcrs

For other ways to help victims of the Nepal earthquake go 

http://www.abc.net.au/appeals/

 

Get some headspace 

April 20, 2015

  

The benefits of meditation ( known to Eastern practitioners for thousands of years are at long last being scientifically proven by Harvard scientists. 

So I have tried to make myself commit to meditation on and off over the past 5  or so years, from weekly group sessions to attempting  daily practice at home. 

I have read wonderful books about the benefits of meditation like Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain and Hardwiring Happiness to John Kabbat- Zin’s Where ever you go there you are. 

 I completed a three day Compassion Cultivating Training (CCT) course  by Stanford’s Centre for Altruism and Compassion Research that involved a lot of mediation. 

I attended the wonderful Brahma Kumari’s retreat  in the Blue mountains just west of Sydney. 

I attended weekly group sessions with the talented and amazing Tikki of Just Being True  

But I was always fell off the wagon somewhere along the way. 

Until now. 

Next Tuesday marks a special day in our home – my husbands 50th birthday. It also marks for me a three month ( almost ) daily ritual of completing a ten minute mediation. 

Now 3 months may not sound like that long, but I feel it is long enough that I have broken through an important barrier. That barrier I feel was crossing the threshold from something I just do on an ad hoc basis to a habit – a behavior that is now on autopilot. A habit I don’t want to miss. 

So what made the difference? Well I am sure timing and circumstance had something to do with it; where I am at with my life ( 3 young children and hoping I can still find time to do my part to help the world), but I also have to admit that the latest ‘craze’ in meditation has been working for me.

Headspace  is an app that provides downloadable meditation and mindfulness sessions. 

Yes, they do give you a free trial and then get you to subscribe – but I am ok with that. It’s not as though I haven’t paid $ for all the books and courses I have been on over the years ( Brahma Kumari’s only take donations). 

 

How to help now:  Check out Headspace. You can trial it for free for 10 days. If it’s not for you there are plenty of other free apps / sites / youtube videos/ podcasts  that an take you through guided mediation. 

Recommend it to a friend. 

Don’t give yourself a hard time. It’s not meant to be easy. But it is worth it. 

https://www.ted.com/talks/andy_puddicombe_all_it_takes_is_10_mindful_minutes

Imagination enables empathy

April 16, 2015

  

I have three young children, all with wonderful imaginations. I love to watch them lose themselves in a world they appear to be creating on the go. Whilst at 9, 4 and 16 months their imaginations run fantastically wild, the empathy switch isn’t always so readily turned on and I find myself parroting the phrases ” treat others the way you would like to be treated ”  and “imagine if you were … ” (ie put yourself in their shoes) countless times. 

I sometimes wonder if we need to be reminding ourselves as adults to ensure our empathy switch is on. 

JK Rowling advised a graduating Harvard class ; 

“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared. ” 

Jeremy Rifkin ( talk below) explains that to empathise is to civilise. We have to rethink the human narrative and begin thinking as an extended family. If our core empathic natures are repressed,  be it by parenting, education, government ( or lack there of) society will be overcome by vices such as aggression, narcissism and materialism. 

How to help now ? 

Think imagination is just for innovators and children ? Think again 

Henry David Thoreau asked  “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

….When was the last time you put yourself in someone else’s position and imagined what it must be like to be in their situation ?  

ReadRoman Krznaric’s new book Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It. He is a faculty member of The School of Life in London and founder of the world’s first digital Empathy Library. 

Watch

Brene Brown  On Empathy

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

Jeremy Rifkin The Empathetic Civilisation

https://www.ted.com/talks/jeremy_rifkin_on_the_empathic_civilization


“we are part of a higher evolution, a greater cosmos, we are indeed guided by a much larger landscape of wisdom, information, and experience.” ~ dr. j.j. hurtak from the book “overself awakening”.

August 25, 2012

I saw this wonderful picture on Giselle’s blog today that reminded me of something Paul Gilding acknowledged in his 2011 book, The Great Disruption. He spoke of being a passionate young human rights activist who, one day returning from an anti apartheid protest, drove past a much larger protest against whaling by Greenpeace and others. “the conversation in the car was one of moral outrage that so many people cared about whales more than they cared about people.Who cares about whales when people are dying?”p 18

Gilding goes on to reflect that he failed to see the argument about the interconnectedness of life and the arrogance of humanity. “I saw people as superior and more important beings, from which whales were a separate and unrelated distraction; I failed to see that protecting ocean life was about protecting the complex system that supported us. I didn’t yet understand that the whales where the watchers”.

Gilding’s book prompted Tom Freidman to write in the NYT: “Ignore Gilding at your peril”. Gilding travels the world alerting people – in business, community groups, government and even the military – to the global economic and ecological crisis now unfolding around us, as the world economy reaches and passes the limits to growth.

 

How to help now? Check out Paul’s website and book and encourage your tribe to do the same – http://paulgilding.com/the-great-disruption and for a close up look at our wonderful friends from the ocean, check them breaching off Sydney Harbour in this video



santa monica secret garden

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Help by embracing living and dying

August 23, 2012

A dear friend of mine attended the funeral of a family member on her birthday this week. Another dear friend is preparing to bury her father in two days.

In our western society we are taught to celebrate one day a year, the day of our birth. Despite the term ‘Life Celebration’ now often being substituted for funeral we are a long way from comfortably discussing, accepting and even embracing death.  Yet nothing is surer in life than the two following facts.

We are all going to die.

We don’t know how or when we will die.

Death can blindside us on some sunny Tuesday, and knock the breath from us like an Ali blow. Conversely, it can be a lengthy, drawn out ordeal where many worry they will be stripped of all dignity. My dear friends both experienced the former last week – unexpected…  the shock always seems to compound the grief.

What we need is a society, a community that is better educated on, and equipped to, not just ‘deal with’ death, but to support and encourage those around them that it is, in fact, a natural part of life. This won’t take away the hurt. Nothing takes away the hurt. But maybe it will just help soften the blow.

Two authors that I have learned about Life and Death from are Sogyal Rinpoche (Tibetan Monk and author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) and Kahlil Gibran ( poet, artist and author of The Prophet)

How to help now? Hopefully, if you haven’t heard of or read either of the authors I mentioned, you can take the time to learn a little from them by reading their books or reading about them online. Then just spend some more time in your day thinking about life and death, and don’t be afraid to discuss it with those around you. Start to be the change we need to see in recognising, facing and sharing the inevitability of our immortality.

In the words of Kahlil Gibran  “And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance”

Help by supporting education and great teachers

August 2, 2012

 

I watched a disturbing documentary the other night called “Waiting for Superman” about the state of public education in the US. It was appalling, saddening and just plain disheartening ( especially when it starts to delve into the issues of tenure for teachers – it is the hardest profession to fire a bad egg and also the issue of the two largest teachers unions being biggest supporters of the political parties … )

In Australia , The Gonski Review of school funding says we urgently need to invest more in education and our public schools. The Gonski Review was the most comprehensive investigation of the way schools are funded in Australia in almost 40 years. It was commissioned by the Federal Government and conducted by an expert panel headed by senior businessman David Gonski. The final report was released in February 2012.Gonski found Australia is investing far too little in education and, in particular, in public schools.

 

Nelson Mandela said ” Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Superman’s not coming folks…it’s up to us to act for all kids out there who deserve the best we can give them.

 

How to help now:  Help convince the politicians to commit extra funding and make Gonski law in 2012 by registering your support at  igiveagonski.com.au/

 

Help others by helping yourself first

May 21, 2012

So I had been feeling guilty for not making the time to contribute to my blog for quite a while, but guilt really is a pointless emotion. My mother also reminded me I am with raising two children, working and studying at uni part time I should probably give myself a little less of a hard time. We all do it though, don’t we? Take on too much, get stressed, get caught up in the world of “I should…”. A dear friend of mine told me to replace every “I should’ in life with “I could if I want to ….”. I Like that and need to remember it more. I also need to remind myself of the quote by our wonderful Governor General, Quentin Bryce, who says;

“Women can have it all, just not all at once”.

My wonderful mother sent me these ten commandments for reducing stress (that she found somewhere on the amazing world wide web). I have stuck them to my fridge (adding the last one myself). To be the best we can to help others, we need to start by ensuring our tank is not running on empty and we are helping ourselves first. 

Thou shalt NOT be perfect, nor even try to be.

Thou shalt NOT try to be all things to all people.

Thou shalt leave things undone that ought to be done.

Thou shalt NOT spread thyself too thin.

Thou shalt learn to say ‘No’.

Thou shalt schedule time for thyself, and thy supportive network.

Thou shalt switch off and do nothing regularly.

Thou shalt be boring, untidy, inelegant and unattractive at times.

Thou shalt NOT even feel guilty!

Especially, thou shalt NOT be thine own worst enemy, but be thy best friend.

Thou shalt listen to loud music and dance, daily ! 

 

 

February 17, 2012

 

 

Help by raising compassionate kids

February 9, 2012

Following on from the last post about the Dali Lama, when asked what was the biggest challenge of our time, he replied “That we are raising a generation of passive bystanders”. An incredible book that looks at how to exactly the opposite of this, is “The World Needs Your Kids – How to Raise Children that care and contribute “.  It is a wonderful book that encourages children to become global citizens. Drawing on life lessons and success stories , the authors (brothers) Marc and Craig Kielburger demonstrate how small actions make a difference in the life of a child and ultimately change the world – with some very touching personal stories about the great influence their own parents had over  them , in particular through their kind actions rather than words

How to help now:  Buy the book and read about the wonderful ways you can help encourage empathy , compassion and above all gratitude  in your children, or listen to the interview and see what a child raised in this way can turn out like !