GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others’ stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing “secret weapons” that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony, or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to look at the GPS Guide below, visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.
For centuries, numerous cultures have released floating lanterns into the sky in celebration of hopes, wishes and significant events. This beautiful tradition illuminates the night, proving to everyone that light can always be found during dark times. Adopting a positive attitude during times of distress can have a meaningful impact on our health, and poignant photos from these time-honored festivals inspire that notion. Click through the slideshow below of these stunning floating lanterns and you too can capture an enlightening moment of optimism — wherever you are.
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My gut said that there had to be more to life than the rat race of what I was doing (IT consulting). But I just wasn’t sure what it was or who I could turn to for wisdom outside of “the Matrix.”
I decided to embark on a journey to find out. I quit my job, minimized my expenses, went to Hawaii and got very serious (in a wild sort of way) about discovering what made me tick. I found out there are a lot of people like me — young, energetic, intense, purpose-driven, but frustrated with the status quo and a little freaked out about our prospects for the future. I decided to dedicate my life to seeking out the wisdom we need to create extraordinary lives with a deep sense of purpose in a world of immense uncertainty.
Early on, I stumbled across this quote from Dan Millman :
I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live — that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.
That about summed up where I was and what I was discovering. I couldn’t just wait for happiness and satisfaction to find me; I was going to have to make my own. So I’ve been doing that and coaching others on how to do the same ever since.
One of the coolest things I found early on is that studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness. Here are a dozen things that any of us — at any age or stage of life — can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives .
Express gratitude. — When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything. It makes sense. We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.
Cultivate optimism. — Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times .
Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. — Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If we’re somehow “better” than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority. Our ego inflates — KABOOM — our inner Kanye West comes out! If we’re “worse” than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made. What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
Practice acts of kindness. — Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.) Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness. How extraordinary is that? A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin. Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.
Nurture social relationships. — The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely? WHOA! There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with. We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
Develop strategies for coping. — How you respond to the “craptastic” moments is what shapes your character. Sometimes crap happens — it’s inevitable. Forrest Gump knows the deal. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan. It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
Learn to forgive. — Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being. You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion. When you “hate” someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are toxic for your well-being. You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.
Increase flow experiences. — Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.
Savor life’s joys. — Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.
Commit to your goals. — Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing. Counter-intuitively, having no option — where you can’t change your mind — subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.
Practice spirituality. — When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”
Take care of your body. — Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected . Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.
So there you have it. No new flashy car or leather jacket needed — just simple, scientifically-grounded wisdom for long-term happiness. These are all things you can start implementing today — with or without a career change — so I hope you pick one thing and commit to rocking it.
In my upcoming blogs, I’ll share more wisdom on all these topics and more. In the meantime, you can come see how my own wisdom-seeking efforts (and those of some other really cool purpose-driven peeps) are proceeding at Sensophy.com.
Millman, D. Way of the Peaceful Warrier. H.J.KRAMER, 1984. Print.
Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Print.
Tiger, Lionel. Optimism: The Biology of Hope. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979. Print.
Loehr, James E, and Tony Schwartz. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. New York: Free Press, 2003. Print.
A middle school teacher complains her recent crop of students haven’t been able to understand the textbooks nearly as well as those in previous years.
Technology — tablets, texts, Facebook, tweets, you name it — has changed childhood. And that has huge implications for how our kids’ brains develop the ability to pay attention and learn.
Kids learn best when they can maintain sustained attention, whether to what a teacher is saying, their textbook or their homework. The root of learning is keen focus; distractions kill comprehension. But the new normal for young people continually interrupts their focus with distractions.
This is particularly alarming in light of very strong research results showing that a child’s ability to resist the temptation of distraction and stay focused predicts how she will fare financially and health-wise in adulthood. Some call it “self-contro,” others “grit” or “delay of gratification.” It boils down to the tenacity to keep your eyes on your goal (or schoolwork) and resist impulse and distraction.
Neuroscientists tell us this crucial mental ability hinges on the growth of a neural strip in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, just behind the forehead, which connects to circuitry that helps manage both attention and unruly emotions. This circuitry grows with the rest of the brain from birth throughout childhood and the teen years.
The more a youngster can practice keeping her focus and resist distraction, the stronger and more richly connected this neural real estate becomes. By the same token, the more distracted, the less so.
This mental ability is like a muscle: it needs proper exercise to grow strong. One way to help kids is to give them regular sessions of focusing time, the mental equivalent of workouts in the gym.
I’ve seen this done in schools, with second-graders becoming calm and concentrated with a daily session of watching their breath, the basic training in bringing a wandering mind back to a single focus. And parents who help kids do this at home will be doing them — and their prefrontal cortex — a favor.
Learn some guided exercises to help young people sharpen their attention skills with my CDs Focus for Kids: Enhancing Concentration, Caring and Calm and Focus for Teens: Enhancing Concentration, Caring and Calm.
Office life doesn’t always encourage authenticity. Some studies suggest this may be a good thing — or at least not a bad one.
More From U.S. News:
A 2012 study conducted by the University of Houston and the University of Greenwich found that “being yourself” at work didn’t benefit life satisfaction or overall well-being. In other words, being able to say what you’re really feeling at work — and being honest and open about your values and priorities — won’t necessarily make you happier.
However, other research suggests the opposite. Another 2012 study co-authored by Rice University, the University of Houston and George Mason University revealed that professionals who hide who they are at work experience lower job satisfaction. In a statement, Michelle Hebl, a psychology professor at Rice, said: “The workplace is becoming a much more diverse place, but there are still some individuals who have difficulty embracing what makes them different, especially while on the job.”
The latter study’s findings have serious implications not just for the affected workers themselves, but for employers as well. Why? Because the research also showed that when people hide their true identity at work — be it in relation to race, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion — it can lead to higher turnover.
Yet “being yourself” can go beyond the affirmation of equality for historically underrepresented people or groups. In fact, Deloitte, which continues to move the needle in traditional diversity and inclusion initiatives, is building upon those efforts by expanding into a new area of diversity — diversity of thought. The company’s “Diversity’s New Frontier” study suggests that demographic transformation of the U.S. labor market, which will make ethnic diversity a permanent fixture of the future workplace, provides the opportunity to reexamine diversity policies and ask what workplace diversity really should mean in the 21st century.
The study maintains that while diversity programs will still need to focus on promoting participation of women and ethnic minorities at executive levels in organizations, now organizations have a new opportunity to harness a more nuanced kind of diversity. This form of diversity “acknowledges and appreciates the potential promise of each person’s unique perspective and different way of thinking.”
The idea behind diversity of thought is that we each have unique ways of thinking and solving problems, yet most organizations don’t take this into account. Instead of matching people with teams and jobs that best suit their own way of processing information, “groupthink” is encouraged to maintain the status quo.
Deloitte’s study suggests that organizations should instead foster a work environment “where all feel comfortable sharing their views and their authentic selves.” They can do so by hiring differently by selecting a “cognitively diverse” organization, managing differently to encourage “task-focused conflict” rather than consensus, and promoting differently to foster a culture of inclusion and innovation.
“Driving strength through diversity and cultivating an environment where all people can thrive isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do,” says Kelvin Womack, managing principal of diversity at Deloitte. “Companies are seeking a more engaged workforce. By acknowledging and appreciating each person’s unique perspective and different way of thinking, employees may be more empowered to contribute.”
Study authors Anesa “Nes” Diaz-Uda, Carmen Medina and Beth Schill say that they believe that the wider pool of ideas and experiences a person can draw from, the more ideas will be generated in discussions and working sessions. “More ideas lead to a culture of greater creativity and innovation in services and products as well as more informed discussions around risk management,” says Diaz-Uda, senior consultant in Deloitte’s federal strategy and operations practice.
Diaz-Uda adds that this extension doesn’t detract from current diversity and inclusion efforts, but instead focuses the conversation on realizing the full potential of people. “It’s about recognizing that we’re all the cumulative investment of our communities – the experiences we’ve had as well as the hard wiring behind how we actually think,” she says.
This research has wide implications for all kinds of differences. Though the study’s authors steered away from using terms like “introvert” and “extrovert” that pigeonhole people into groups, workplaces that value both of these styles equally and matched jobs to personality types could indeed help maximize the collective potential of their workforce. That’s good for both people and business.
Robin Madell has spent two decades as a writer, journalist and communications consultant on business, leadership, career and diversity issues. She has interviewed more than 200 thought leaders around the globe, and has won 20 awards for editorial excellence. Robin serves as a speechwriter and ghostwriter for CEOs and top executives, with a specialized focus on women in business. She is author of Surviving Your Thirties: Americans Talk About Life After 30 and co-author of The Strong Principles: Career Success.