Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Healthy Food Bargain

Photo by Ryan Tanaka with permission
There are times when the daily good is as simple as a good bargain on fresh vegetables -- making nutrition healthy for everyone, as captured in this recent photo by photographer Ryan Tanaka while visiting Marukai Market in West Los Angeles.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

10 Positive Steps to a Better Work Environment

From a website, Let's Grow Leaders, these 10 ideas are ways to bring positivity into the work environment.
  1. Make a list of what you like most about your job. Share it with others. Ask them what they like most about their jobs.
  2. Ask people why they work. In a negative environment, the answer may seem obvious—“For the paycheck, stupid”—but take it a step further. Do they work to support their sick mom? To pay back student loans? To save for their children’s education? Because they enjoy helping customers? Reconnecting to the purpose of work can help make the smaller annoyances less frustrating.
  3. Call out negativity. When you see negative thinking or actions, talk to the person privately to call it out, particularly if other leaders are involved. When negative attitudes and talk are all around, it’s tempting to ignore it. Raise the bar and change the conversation.
  4. Rise above the drama. Refuse to get sucked into the rumors and gossip. Respond to your team’s concerns with transparency and candor. Be the one who people know they can trust for a straight answer.
  5. Find kindred spirits. Not everyone is negative, although it can feel that way at times. Look around and find other folks trying to change the scene for the better. There is strength in numbers. Look outside your organization as well.
  6. Create an “envelope of excellence” or cultural oasis. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to fix the overall culture. Start with your own team and do what you can to make it feel better to come to work.
  7. Find reasons to celebrate. With all the negativity, it’s easy to overlook the good. Go out of your way to recognize and celebrate small wins. Substitute weak phrases like “No problem” with more enthusiastic words like “I’d be happy to.”
  8. See barriers as a challenge. Encourage your team to embrace the problems they see as opportunities and challenges to learn and grow. Recap learning along the way to help them feel a sense of positive momentum even during the most challenging times.
  9. Laugh more. I had one colleague who would respond to the company’s most ridiculous political nonsense by reminding the team, “It’s all comedy.” Step back and recognize how ridiculous some behavior is. You’ll create a healthy distance from which to respond more appropriately.
  10. Hold deeper developmental conversations. In periods of uncertainty, people yearn for a sense of control and connection. Take your developmental conversations to the next level. Ask your team and your peers about their hopes and dreams, what motivates them, and what scares them. Show up as a real human being caring about other real human beings.

Don’t let the naysayers win. Be the positive spark that ignites possibilities in others.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

5 Ways to Boost Compassion Today

  1. Community connection. Recognize all of the levels of community, but start at home. Your own family is your closest circle of community. Start talking to those closest to you, of all ages, with a practice of sharing ideas and beliefs in an open-minded, opinion-based manner. Look for similarities, and practice agreeing to disagree. Then take this practice out into other levels—into neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, and states. Expand this idea of community both nationally and globally.
  2. Communication. Practice respectful, “I statement” language and learn how to agree to disagree. No one likes to be judged for what they believe or to feel attacked. Owning your opinion while communicating allows for dialogue and debate instead of argument and conflict.
  3. Honesty and Accountability. Be honest with yourself and others about what you feel you could have done better up until this point. Then, in the areas you have fallen short, take action. Even making a point to pick an issue and thoughtfully, respectfully communicate your opinions to your elected officials via phone, letter, or email just once a week is a proactive, positive action.
  4. Passion. Take inventory of what inspires you and act upon it. Make a list of everything you can think of that inspires positive feelings within you or that you feel passionate about. Pick a few of those things and research needs or initiatives in that area.
  5. Commitment. We will never be united and find any sense of peace if we do not make a commitment to stay engaged and active in the democratic process.

Let’s all take a moment today and offer one small step toward a better tomorrow. Let’s offer one small step to ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.

Adapted from author: Cyndy Dalton

Friday, February 17, 2017

Local Cops Benefit Robbed Girl Scout

By Source, Fair use,

After a Girl Scout selling cookies was robbed at gunpoint, California cops reached into their own pockets to make things right. Harshita Phardwaj, 12, and her mom were running a cookie stand outside a Union City supermarket when a man threatened them with a gun and stole all their cash. Local police are still looking for the culprit, but decided to help Phardwaj’s fundraising drive by buying all of her remaining cartons of Samoas, Thin Mints, and other Girl Scout Cookies — donating $1,000 in total. “We did what we could to make it loving, compassionate, and healing,” says Officer Lisa Gratez.

From The Week

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Free Meditation Technique Online Event

C. Coimbra photo

(Click the above link for more information)

We know that a daily meditation practice brings wonderful benefits in terms of lowered stress, increased resiliency, enhanced wellbeing, better sleep and more...

These qualities are especially needed in times of increased tension — in your life and in the world around you.

Neurological research explains why meditation is spreading from yoga studios and meditation centers into businesses and even schools. Meditation improves our mental abilities, balances our emotions, and even helps us perform at a higher level at work.

Developing a consistent daily meditation practice is one of the most generous gifts you can give your body, mind and soul.

But are all meditation practices equal?

In this special call with Richard Miller, one of the world’s most respected teachers of meditation, you’ll get a fresh perspective on the basics as well as insights into more advanced practices — and pick up valuable tips for fine-tuning your meditation based on the latest brain science and the instructions of ancient seers.

Richard’s work is primarily sourced in yogic traditions, which distinguishes it from western mindfulness practices sourced in Buddhist lineages. Yogic meditation is particularly effective for accessing higher octaves of your being, and the joy and wellbeing that great yogis say is your birthright.

These methods build a deep inner ground of peace you can call on as a resource in the midst of difficult circumstances. They also reset your nervous system, which helps you reduce stress, increase your wellbeing, and experience the benefits of a baseline of true peace and inner joy.

Richard has been at the forefront of work on meditation for over 45 years. He’s consulted on over 25 research studies on the efficacy of the iRest Meditation program he developed for healing trauma, chronic pain, anxiety, and sleep issues, and for enhancing resilience and wellbeing. Yoga Journal named him one of the top 25 teachers of Yoga and Meditation in the West.

During this powerful hour with Richard, you’ll discover:

  • Unique aspects of yogic meditation that can help you navigate uncertain times
  • The latest neuroscience research on meditation — what works and why
  • How to establish a practice grounded in resilience, wholeness and joy (yes, joy!)
  • Why advanced meditation techniques are foundational for your wellbeing
  • How to extend your meditation beyond a sitting practice — and why short practices done consistently can outweigh longer practices
  • How to harvest the best from advanced meditation practices from Mahayana, Dzogchen and Zen without having to learn highly complex protocols

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

5 Ways Nature Makes You a Better Person

The following 5 ways that being in nature is good for us is an edited version of the essay, How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier and More Creative 

1. Being in nature decreases stress

It’s clear that hiking—and any physical activity—can reduce stress and anxiety. But, there’s something about being in nature that may augment those impacts.

In one recent experiment conducted in Japan, participants were assigned to walk either in a forest or in an urban center (taking walks of equal length and difficulty) while having their heart rate variability, heart rate, and blood pressure measured. The participants also filled out questionnaires about their moods, stress levels, and other psychological measures.

Results showed that those who walked in forests had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress), and reported better moods and less anxiety, than those who walked in urban settings. The researchers concluded that there’s something about being in nature that had a beneficial effect on stress reduction, above and beyond what exercise alone might have produced.

2. Nature makes you happier and less brooding

... Gregory Bratman, of Stanford University, has found evidence that nature may impact our mood in other ways, too.

In one 2015 study, he and his colleagues randomly assigned 60 participants to a 50-minute walk in either a natural setting (oak woodlands) or an urban setting (along a four-lane road). Before and after the walk, the participants were assessed on their emotional state and on cognitive measures, such as how well they could perform tasks requiring short-term memory. Results showed that those who walked in nature experienced less anxiety, rumination (focused attention on negative aspects of oneself), and negative affect, as well as more positive emotions, in comparison to the urban walkers. They also improved their performance on the memory tasks.

3. Nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity

Today, we live with ubiquitous technology designed to constantly pull for our attention. But many scientists believe our brains were not made for this kind of information bombardment, and that it can lead to mental fatigue, overwhelm, and burnout, requiring “attention restoration” to get back to a normal, healthy state.

Strayer is one of those researchers. He believes that being in nature restores depleted attention circuits, which can then help us be more open to creativity and problem-solving.

4. Nature may help you to be kind and generous

... In a series of experiments published in 2014, Juyoung Lee, GGSC director Dacher Keltner, and other researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, studied the potential impact of nature on the willingness to be generous, trusting, and helpful toward others, while considering what factors might influence that relationship.

...As part of their study, the researchers exposed participants to more or less subjectively beautiful nature scenes (whose beauty levels were rated independently) and then observed how participants behaved playing two economics games—the Dictator Game and the Trust Game—that measure generosity and trust, respectively. After being exposed to the more beautiful nature scenes, participants acted more generously and more trusting in the games than those who saw less beautiful scenes, and the effects appeared to be due to corresponding increases in positive emotion.

5. Nature makes you “feel more alive”

With all of these benefits to being out in nature, it’s probably no surprise that something about nature makes us feel more alive and vital. Being outdoors gives us energy, makes us happier, helps us to relieve the everyday stresses of our overscheduled lives, opens the door to creativity, and helps us to be kind to others.

Still, the research does suggest there’s something about nature that keeps us psychologically healthy, and that’s good to know…especially since nature is a resource that’s free and that many of us can access by just walking outside our door. Results like these should encourage us as a society to consider more carefully how we preserve our wilderness spaces and our urban parks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

5 Steps to Self-Love

The following is a reduced version of a post from the Chopra Center:

It’s time to silence the inner critic. Here are five simple ways to infuse some self-love into your life:

1. Try a Self-Compassion Meditation
According to leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, Ph.D., self-compassion has three key components: mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness. She created the brief Self-Compassion Break meditation, which accesses all three parts of self-compassion. Here’s a modified version you can try:

Begin by finding a comfortable position that allows you to be relaxed, yet alert. Close your eyes and take a few deep and cleansing breaths.

Identify what is troubling you without bringing harsh judgment or ridicule into the equation. Bring up your unmet goal with non-judgmental curiosity and without self-criticism.

Next, remember that you are not alone. Find comfort in knowing that many others have been unable to stick to their intentions.

Finally, offer yourself kind words. What would you say to your friend who has fallen off track? What words comfort you? It may help to give yourself a squeeze or to place your hands on your heart during this part of the meditation. Soothing touch promotes the release of oxytocin, even when it is your own touch.

Close by taking a few more breaths, paying attention to any positive feelings you may notice.

Open your eyes, and congratulate yourself for taking time to tend to yourself.

2. Create Affirmations
Research indicates that you need a ratio of roughly three positive emotions to every negative emotion in order to be happy and flourish. In order to create more positive emotions, repeat affirmations that generate joy. Write down a few affirmations that resonate with you, and repeat them each day. Some examples include:

“I am enough”
“I am full of peace and love”
“I am leading a purposeful life”

3. Make a Date with Yourself
Think about the last time you did something you truly enjoyed. Do you love dancing? Drop in on a local dance class. Or maybe a cooking class would light your inner fire.

Author Christine Carter, Ph.D. stresses the importance of downtime in her book, The Sweet Spot. She reminds you that happy people are successful people, and that you are your best, most creative, and most connected self when you create space for play.

4. Flip Your Inner Voice
Take a moment and pay attention to your inner voice. Chances are, you are your harshest critic. What would happen if you spoke to your friends with that same tone of voice? You would most likely be friendless.

See if you can begin to catch yourself when your inner critic speaks up. Instead, try to offer the same words of encouragement and kindness you would offer your friends or loved ones. This one simple mindset shift can profoundly change your life.

Need a reminder to be kind to yourself? Try incorporating one or more of these practices:

  • Write a message of encouragement on your bathroom mirror.
  • Leave an inspirational quote on your dashboard.
  • Wear a self-compassion wristband that reminds you to be your own friend.
  • Keep a self-kindness journal by your bed.  

5. Reframe Your Intentions
According to Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., author of The Willpower Instinct, you will have an easier time attaining goals if your intention aligns with your values.

For example, if you’d like to lose 20 pounds this year, saying that you want to be skinny may not motivate you to stick to your guns. Take time to truly contemplate, “Why do I want to lose weight?” Your answer may be that you want to live a long life. Then ask, “Why do I want to live a long life?” Perhaps you want to witness your grandchildren’s lives. As your motivation shifts to align with your values, you are better positioned to stay connected with your intention.

Perhaps by incorporating these practices of self-love, you’ll be able to make this your best year yet. If not, well … be easy on yourself.