Listen to the Audio version narrated by Suzie Doscher - 4.30 mins
You choose what you will wear and eat, what films you see, who you socialize with. You make choices all day long in your professional and personal life. In the same way, you also have the choice of which thoughts to focus on. The nice, happy thoughts, of course, are not a problem for they give energy, put a smile on your face, and are inspiring as well as motivating.
Everybody has negative thoughts. They are the ones that are easy to obsess over and rob you of energy, leaving you feeling drained. Believe it or not, how long you allow negative thoughts to influence your mood, day, or even life is up to you. Every thought you have either weakens you or strengthens you.
It is important to realize that thoughts are not reality. Assumptions are good examples of this. Just because you assume something does not make it true.
When you are struggling to stop obsessing about something, remind yourself that you have a choice to move on to a thought that might make you feel better in that moment. It is best to acknowledge negative thoughts when they come up and then choose not to stay with them by distracting yourself.
No one can eliminate all bad thoughts, but you can make the conscious decision to be in charge of your thinking. Filter through what is real and what needs your focus. Your mind is yours to control. You cannot control the first thought, but you can control the second. Choose to consciously override thoughts that weaken you. This will allow you to feel you have some personal power.
Some suggestions to explore:
Someone makes a choice you simply do not understand. The consequences may or may not touch your life, involve you, affect you. One way or another you cannot see what they are basing their decision on. This is the part that makes accepting their choice so difficult. I am going to break this down into two parts.
Part One: Understanding
Take the view that:
Part Two: Acceptance
A few years back I worked with a client, let’s call him Eric, the COO of a medium sized established company. I was inspired to write this article as it often tends to be our thinking / mindset / perspective that can trip us up, as was the case with him.
Everybody has set ways of thinking about things. This is true for your private life as well as in your working environment. Where your perspective comes from and what it is based on comes usually from past experiences. By past, I mean it can come from way back, or even recent bad experiences with the last boss or partner or life in general.
What matters now, in the present moment, is the awareness that these experiences exist, might be driving your behaviour and give you your perspective on things.
This can form beliefs, biases, judgements and any, negative thoughts. If you are ready to start changing the results you are getting then these tips can help you challenge your thoughts.
After all Einstein says: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”
If listening is easier check out the audio version narrated by the author (Suzie Doscher).
In my own life one of the important realizations was that balance is possible and it was mine if I wanted it. What followed was a fair amount of self-reflection, openness, and honesty with myself. Setting aside time to explore my definition of balance, by questioning what was missing and what I was already doing successfully, was time well spent. Since then, I have a good grasp on the various elements of day-to-day life. For me personally knowing my heart and mind are working together is what keeps me balanced. The sense of calm, of being grounded and clearheaded, motivates me to keep my life in balance.
Choosing to create balance will reflect in these six areas of your life:
Most of us spend a large part of the day working. Making sure the remaining hours offer some form of nurturing and reenergizing is vital. There is a difference for single people versus married, with or without children, whether you travel, live internationally and interculturally. Choose the area most in need of attention and nurturing.
That sounds a good thing but what is an everyday pleasure?
In this study the researchers investigated the relationship between simple pleasures and brain activity. Specifically drinking coffee, listening to music, and smelling perfume.
Coffee and music for me - not so sure about the perfume though
Participants could choose what they wanted according to their preferences - that’s important - it needs to be a personalised pleasure…of course. I’m with you on coffee and music also - but then again remember my article on the positive impacts of aroma exposure during sleep a few days ago?
How did they measure this?
Well, this is actually very innovative but we also need to be careful of marketing hype here as this was sponsored by MINDWATCH. They have developed algorithms over the years that can measure brain states based on skin conductance. That is your skin responds very quickly to your current state and this can me measured using a sensor. This is much less invasive than measuring brain wave activity. In this experiment they used skin conductance bands and a device to measure some brain activity also.
And so what was the outcome?
Participants conducted memory tests shortly after being exposed to these stimulants and their performance increase and this could be measured in the brain - an increase in beta band brain waves (associated with concentration and cognitive performance) - and skin conductance results. Music seems to be the most potent followed by coffee and then the perfume.
Don’t we know this already?
Actually yes. We know music can positively stimulate brain activity and is also considered a performance enhancing tool by World Athletics (and as such is not allowed directly before competition!). Similarly, there is a lot of research on coffee and its positive benefits. But participants in this could choose their preferred option.
Also of interest is that there were three types of music to choose from and unsurprisingly the energetic was more effective than the relaxing one - but, and here is the surprise, they included an AI generated piece of music and this was the most effective!
And what now?
Well, this shows that those small pleasures can positively impact brain performance - this is why they are a small pleasure - a little bit of what you fancy does you good as they say - and this is not all in the mind. Your brain and cognitive performance will thank you.
And what about all three simultaneously?
That’s what I’m doing as I write this - feels good enough to me!
by ANDY HAYMAKER
Photo credit: Pexels
Hamid Fekri Azgomi, Luciano R. F. Branco, Md. Rafiul Amin, Saman Khazaei, Rose T. Faghih.
Regulation of brain cognitive states through auditory, gustatory, and olfactory stimulation with wearable monitoring.
Scientific Reports, 2023; 13 (1)
Most of us will know that feeling - our attention can drop off during the day and our efficient mornings can then blend into less efficient afternoons. And Friday afternoon? Well, you can write that off!
This feeling, or assumption, is now backed up by some science, and pretty solid science at that in a novel piece of research.
The research was conducted by a team around Drs. Taehyun Roh and Nishat Tasnim Hasan of the Texas A&M University. Much previous work has used self report studies or wearable technology for short periods of time - these can be invasive and in the case of self reporting very subjective.
In this study the researchers tracked a large group of workers (789) at an energy company in Texas over two full years making this an impressive real world dataset. What they found is that computer use and output increased to Wednesday and then dropped off until Friday.
What’s more, usage dropped off in the afternoon and also typos increased - a sign of fatigue and wavering attention. This was particularly bad on Friday afternoons - probably no surprise there - fatigue setting in not to mention the psychological impact of the looming weekend.
The authors argue that this also supports shorter working weeks and other forms of work such as hybrid work or working from home as this can counter fatigue and increase productivity.
After looking at the data it seem like it would make sense to just cancel Friday! Alas but then Thursday may become the new Friday. But seriously, evidence is strong for the effectiveness of the 4-day work week. One solid study published early in the year for Cambridge University showed increased wellbeing while preserving productivity.
Sounds good to me!
by ANDY HAYMAKER
Photo credit: Pexels
Taehyun Roh, Chukwuemeka Esomonu, Joseph Hendricks, Anisha Aggarwal, Nishat Tasnim Hasan, Mark Benden.
Examining workweek variations in computer usage patterns: An application of ergonomic monitoring software.
PLOS ONE, 2023; 18 (7): e0287976
More research showing that a little can do a lot
In the quest for fitness and health there has been a focus on exercise as a key factor - we all know that. And recommendations are normally about increasing heart rates over long periods of time or possible also shorter more intensive sessions. These have also been shown to improve cognitive function - making your brain more effective.
However, the route to greater health may be easier - or more specifically of enhanced brain function. The effects of light activity in the focus on more intensive and extensive exercise has been largely underestimated - and is considered by some to be a key factor in public health. Our engagement in light activity has over the decades decreased significantly - see my previous article here.
Become a free or paid subscriber.
In this research just out Ryuta Kuwamizu and colleagues of the University of Tsukuba in Japan conducted a simple but effective experiment. In this participants did 10 mins of easy exercise - in this case light pedalling while seated. During this they measured pupil dilation because this is also related to brain function specifically executive function. Executive function refers to harder cognitive tasks such as decision making, short-term, memory, calculation, and analysis - basically what many consider the heavy lifting of the brain in our daily lives.
Yes, and indeed just this short light exercise intervention increased delation of the pupil and this was directly related to improved executive functions which was determined though scanning the frontal part of the brain where our executive functions reside with a technique called near infrared spectroscopy.
This therefore points to, as I have mentioned in other places, the significant benefits of short bouts of light exercise on improved brain function - something of particular interest to businesses no doubt. I have long since promoted the idea of regular short walking breaks - this shows again why. For a review of the benefits of walking see this article here).
Not that it has to be at work - a walk or light exercise will improve your brain function - and that is good for all of us, all the time.
by ANDY HAYMAKER
Photo credit: Pexels
Ryuta Kuwamizu, Yudai Yamazaki, Naoki Aoike, Taichi Hiraga, Toshiaki Hata, Michael A. Yassa, Hideaki Soya.
Pupil dynamics during very light exercise predict benefits to prefrontal cognition
NeuroImage, Volume 277, 2023.
A lack of self-confidence can negatively affect one or all areas of you life. Life Coach Rebekah Fensome provides 8 surefire ways to boost your self-esteem.
I am so proud of my client Sophie.
She came to me six months ago with self-confidence issues. She felt intimated by certain people at work as she believed they were better than her and when she was placed in social situation where she had to talk to new people she felt they did not really want to be stuck talking to her.
I truly believe that no one want to talk to me, she told me. I am boring and do not know what to say most of the time. My mind goes blank when I meet new people and I get really embarrassed trying to make small talk at work. As for dating – I have not done that for 2 years!
After a couple of sessions with Sophie, it became clear that she had lost sight of who she was, what her values were and what made her unique and special. She had also got into the unhelpful habit of putting herself down in front of people and been in her current job for two years without a promotion. She also strongly believed that men did not find her attractive and regarded her as a friend and nothing else.
Eight tips to better self-esteem
Here are some of the discoveries we made and techniques we developed together:
In the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of a “control freak” is “a person who feels an obsessive need to exercise control over themselves and others and to take command of any situation.” The Merriam Webster dictionary says that a control freak is “a person whose behaviour indicates a powerful need to control people or circumstances in everyday matters.”
This personality trait could stem from a chaotic childhood, alcoholic parents, abusive behaviour, or early abandonment. Such experiences can make it hard for people to trust or relinquish control to others. The fear of falling apart pushes them to control what they can. As their emotions are all over the place, they feel loss of control. For this reason control freaks will micromanage whatever they can with the belief that this makes them strong. People who feel out of control tend to become controllers.
I imagine each and every one of us is a control freak, or takes on the behaviour of such, at some point or another. The fear of failure is what makes it so important to control everything when you do not trust anybody else to do a good job.
One difficult aspect of being around a control freak is accepting that they do not understand how their behaviour and choice of words affect the people around them. Another difficult aspect is not to take it personally. This behaviour comes from deep inside and the person is actually quite unaware of being a control freak.
Listen to the INTRODUCTION to the self-help book:
Raise your self-awareness with this: