How Mindfulness Attributed to Human Evolution

According to Darwinism, humans evolved from apes. Even after years of research, there is still no way to pinpoint the exact moment apes evolved into humans. Instead, it is likely that a series of micro-factors like environment, diet, and genetic mutation led to the development of our species. What was it that set us on a trajectory away from apes? Our minds.

Human beings don’t have the largest brains on Earth. In fact, we don’t even have the largest brain-to-body ratio. What makes the human brain so special is its highly evolved prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for problem solving, language, personality expression, and of course, self awareness. This highly developed ability to orient and consider oneself in relation to the past, current, and future world is arguably what makes us the most human. Because we have such well-developed frontal lobes, we have the capacity to be aware of our thoughts.

Many scientists believe that the prefrontal cortex began to evolve due to a gene mutation that gave us weaker jaws. At first, this may sound like a bad thing, but it’s really one of the best things that could have happened to us as a species. As we became more self aware with this bigger brain, humans began to realize that by cooking food, we could get way more nutritional value from the calories we consumed (not to mention it tasted way better!) Since the brain is an energy eating machine, cooking food to more condensed, less fibrous meals allowed us to get way more nutrition than apes. As this fueled our brains to grow, more complex modes of thought evolved.  

Though we didn’t know it all those years ago, thinking introspectively about ourselves was actually allowing our brains to grow even larger. For example, this could have started with simple caveman thinking. “I am strong caveman, and can defend my family. I am stronger with tree branch when defending my family.” To an ancient Egyptian like Cleopatra thinking “I will marry Julius Caesar not because I love him, but because it is the right strategic move to protect Egypt from Rome.[1]” Overtime, we have become better and better at considering ourselves, our position, and how to strategically accomplish our goals. Cleopatra is a great example of the modern human being’s ability to override the emotional parts of our brains with logical thinking.

Science has shown us that by focusing our awareness on different things, our brain physically changes. This is what scientists today call neuroplasticity. Cleopatra, along with countless other people have chosen year after year to move their attention away from the fear/emotional response occurring in the amygdala, and to the frontal lobe. By doing this, we have strengthened the parts of our brains that are more logical and self aware, while shrinking the more primitive areas of the brain.

What’s really cool is that regular mindfulness practice and meditation actually reduces the size of the amygdala (the fear center of the brain), and strengthens the connections within the prefrontal lobe. This trains your brain to think more calmly, clearly, and logically. By strengthening these neural pathways, we are literally changing our genes. Next time you’re meditating, you can feel good about building a better brain for today and tomorrow.

How Managing Others Helps You Become Emotionally Aware

Emotional intelligence is one of the fastest growing job skills, according to the World Economic Forum. This skill has two sides. On one hand, it’s the the capacity to notice, control, and express your own emotions. On the other, it’s the ability to understand and respond appropriately to the emotions of others. The interesting thing is you can actually improve your emotional awareness by managing others.

Understanding Other Perspectives

When you’re managing a team of people, it’s important to understand and explore the perspectives that others bring to the table, even when you don’t agree. A lot of judgement comes from a place of misunderstanding, so instead of rejecting another person’s viewpoint, try putting yourself in their shoes. By challenging yourself to understand someone else's perspective, you are opening your mind to possibilities you may not have previously seen. It can also help you understand where your own beliefs and thoughts emerge from, which is key to self-awareness.

Expressing Genuine Interest

Expressing genuine interest in the lives of your team members has many benefits. You can ask how their weekend was, get to know their family life, or ask how their kids are. You could even get their thoughts on a certain idea or news story. By making a conscious effort to understand what someone else believes, thinks, or feels, you are developing your own capacity to understand emotion.

Part of leading others involves dealing with difficult times. These challenging times are inevitable - they are a part of life. Having to deal with these situations helps you become more emotionally aware. It challenges you to put your ego aside and have the tough conversation that needs to be had. Think about a time when you swept something under the rug instead of confronting the issue. As you become more emotionally aware, you begin to realize the difficult conversation often alleviates a lot of tension and misunderstanding. This in turn helps you to become even more emotionally aware.

Emotional awareness isn’t necessarily a skill people are born with, however, it’s a skill you can learn. A regular mindfulness practice will help you become aware of your emotions and connect with your team.

3 Signs It’s Time To Take A Break From Social Media

Who better to ask about social media breaks than a couple of Instagram influencers? Meet Brendan (@BrendanLowry) and Nicole (@NicoleLoher).

Brendan runs a creative agency based in Philadelphia. He helps brands tell their stories on social media with influencer marketing. Nicole is the Global Digital Editor at Christian Louboutin, Adjunct Professor at New York University, and a triathlete.

Here’s what the two influencers have to say about knowing when it’s time to take a break from social media:

Know When the Negatives Outweigh the Positives

Brendan’s first experience with pausing social media occurred shortly after Trump was elected. With all the negativity being spread online, he thought maybe it would be “best to just turn things off for a little while.” During those few weeks, Brendan says his mood improved dramatically.

“Whether it’s feeling jealous of others’ accomplishments, over-analyzing the content that I’m planning on posting and worrying about what people will think, or building stories around why certain people did or didn’t like my content, it’s happening constantly.” But, he says when he’s in a good place mentally, Brenden is able to put things into perspective and take a break.

When we talked to Nicole, she gave us a tip on how to make the social media experience more positive. “Post with the intention to lift people higher and expect others to do the same.” This way, you can contribute to a healthier social media experience for yourself and for others. Overall, it’s a great way to stay positive on social media.

Seek Deeper Connection

On a trip to Sri Lanka to meet her fiancé’s family, Nicole decided to turn her phone off completely for the first time. She recalls how “incredibly freeing [it felt] to not care what anyone else was doing on the Internet. My fiancé, his family, and I were able to connect on another level.” Now Nicole makes a point to disconnect from social media every weekend.

Recognize When Scrolling Becomes A Habit

Brendan takes matters into his own hands to keep scrolling from becoming a habit. “I don’t have Facebook or Twitter installed on my phone to avoid using it constantly, but I was still logged into the browser and I would find myself mindlessly refreshing/scrolling. These apps are designed to make it super easy to stay logged in and very hard to log out. So I logged out, deleted my browsing, search, and password history, and then deleted and redownloaded chrome.”

Those habits were hard to kick, but he’d put the right barriers in place. “For the first few days, I’d go to the browser and type in Twitter.com or Facebook.com without even remembering I was on a break.” Since he was no longer logged in, it was more difficult to access the platform, which reminded him to stay on a break.

Even social media influencers need to limit their time on social media. Going offline can be a challenge, but it’s one worth taking to feel happier, healthier, and more connected to the people around you. If you’re feeling anything less than inspired by what you see online, unfollow people or simply signout. When social media starts to feel like a negative distraction in life, try taking a break. You might be amazed by how much better you feel, and how much power you have over your social media experience.

30 Minutes Outdoors To Clear Your Mind

Do you ever get brain fog? You know, that fuzzy-headed feeling where it’s hard to remember where you left your keys? When you’re feeling foggy, it can be hard to focus and make logical decisions. The good news is you can clear your mind by spending as little as 30 minutes outdoors. Why do you think it’s called “the great outdoors?” When you go outside, your body and mind undergo a physiological shift that provides a whole host of mind-clearing benefits.

Soak Up Some Sun

Going outside exposes you to the sun. If you were to take a 30 minute walk, or even sit outside in the sun, you may notice your mood improve. There’s a reason you feel so good. It turns out, the sun encourages your brain to release a healthy dose of your body’s natural happy chemical - serotonin. Higher levels of serotonin improves your brain's ability to think clearly. This hormone is also responsible for that relaxed feeling of love you get on a warm and sunny day. Even if it’s a cloudy day, many of the sun's rays still find a way down to your skin. As your body absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet light, it converts those rays into vitamin D. In just 30 minutes, your skin produces enough vitamin D to last you the whole day.

Embrace The Outdoor Experience

When you’re outside, you are seeing, smelling, hearing, and feeling a whole bunch of stimuli that are instinctually relaxing to human beings. Think about it - the human world, the one we built with skyscrapers, computers, subways and buses has only been around for about 0.0001% of the time human beings have inhabited the Earth. In evolutionary terms, that’s not a very long time to adapt to a new environment. The outdoors, on the other hand, has been around since the beginning of time. The experience you have outdoors is the one that’s built into your very DNA. Being outside is also one of those no-strings-attached activities. It’s free, simple, and doesn’t ask anything from you. This leads to a reduction in blood pressure, lowered cortisol levels, and reduced anxiety.

Surround Yourself With Green And Blue

Being outside is such a simple activity, and almost everyone has access to the outdoors in some way. Even if you live in the city center, a small park is usually just a few blocks away. It’s important to enjoy the nature of our planet. You could go somewhere with lots of greenery or a waterfront. Or maybe you prefer to reflect while staring at the clouds and sky. The important lesson here is that you take some time to relax your mind and appreciate the little things life has to offer. Next time you need to clear that brain fog, try using an ancient antidote and spend some time outside.

3 Tips for a Mindful Workspace

Did you know you can optimize your workspace for productivity and wellbeing? Whether it’s your home office, cubicle, or just a space to get things done, there’s something nourishing about a workspace you actually enjoy working in.

We’ve compiled a list of 3 easy (and enjoyable) ways to set up a mindful workspace.

1. Keep It Clean

Did you know the cleanliness of your chair, computer, and desk clean is essential to mindfulness practice? While you work, your mind is exerting energy by focusing on the task at hand. However, when you have a dirty workspace, your mind expands a portion of this finite energy each time you notice any smudges on your screen, crumbs on your desk, or dust on your shelves. By keeping the area clean, it actually reduces distraction.

Quick tip: Keeping a box of eco-friendly disinfecting wipes at your desk makes it easy to keep your workspace clean.

2. Declutter Your Space

A decluttered space equals a decluttered mind. Go through your items to recycle any receipts, papers, empty pens, or dried out highlighters. If you come across things you no longer use, donate or throw them away. Once you’re left with only the necessities, organize those items according to their purpose. Opening a drawer and finding exactly what you were looking for will save you time, energy, and frustration. You can experience this joy by taking the time to get organized.

3. Decorate Your Space

A visually pleasing desk can make work more enjoyable. This is a great opportunity to express yourself. Choose objects and pictures that make you happy, but keep it simple. Too much visual clutter can actually make it more difficult to focus. If you are working on your own business or working towards a goal, you can set up visual cues. A photo or momento that represents your intention or goal is a great reminder to stay focused.

A workspace is there for you to actualize your intentions and goals, which is a very positive thing! By keeping your work environment clean and organized, you are building a space where you can feel safe and comfortable. When the mind and body are calm, you can perform with ease.

 

How to Prevent Burnout By Taking Time To Recharge

Burnout happens as a result of an overworked mind. Like a body or even a machine, keeping your mind running all the time eventually leads to exhaustion. You tend to reach this point of exhaustion even quicker you’re working at a high intensity. Is it possible to get things done while still giving yourself time to recharge? To reduce stress and increase the sustainability of your performance, it’s helpful to remember the creativity cycle.

What Is The Creativity Cycle?

When working out to build muscle, it’s important to train with rest and recovery phases. When your computer or phone isn’t working right, the first thing to do it try rebooting it, right? Well, the same goes for your mind. The creativity cycle depicts the duality of the action and recovery phases of work. Action typically occurs in the office, while recovery takes place during your leisure time.

The “Action” Phase

The “action” phase is a time of energetic production in the office. This is when all the creative ideas that have been written, sketched, noted, and daydreamed are being put into action. Depending on your industry, this might involve writing up a proposal, creating a mockup on PhotoShop, planning thoughtful items for a meeting, or the collaboration in the meeting itself. During this time, things get done. There is obvious and measurable output where you have the chance to bring your full self into the situation with focus. This comes with a caveat. Staying locked in the “action” phase means heading towards burnout.

The “Recovery” Phase

The “recovery” phase is for, you guessed it - rest. Rest is often understated in a society that rewards high-quantity work. However, giving yourself a break from work is essential to burnout-free, long-lasting productivity. What needs to be done during the “action” phase of the creativity cycle is quite straightforward. In the “recovery” phase it can be a bit harder to pinpoint what to do. Focus on unwinding in your downtime with activities like:

  • Taking a hot bath

  • Going for a walk

  • Hiking

  • Reading

  • Painting

  • Watching your favorite show

  • Spending time with friends and family.

During this recovery period, your working mind gets stronger. When you get back into the “action” phase, you are re-energized and ready to think critically while creating.

Action and recovery are a constant give and take. Too much recovery and nothing will get done, too much action and the stress will lead to burnout. Sustainability comes from a balance between the two phases where you feel healthy and happy to work. That’s why it’s so important to give your mind a break from work when you step out of the office. Give yourself time to focus on recharging with activities you enjoy.

Make Your Team Feel Appreciated With 3 Tiny Gestures

Using your skills and experience to help guide a group towards a common goal is what every mindful boss wants. Rallying meetings, organizing task lists, and keeping your team on track are all parts of being a great leader.

Did you know that making your team feel appreciated is just as important?

When working on a project, everyone on the team brings their own unique skill set to the table. Here are 3 tiny, yet fun gestures you can do to make each team member feel appreciated:

Grab Some Coffee

Ah, the nectar of the gods. A coffee machine or shop can be found at almost every workplace, and we all know how good that first sip feels. What’s even better than getting a coffee? When someone else grabs one for you. If you’re heading down to get a cup for yourself, try thinking about someone who might be tired, has been working really hard, or is a well-known coffee fanatic. Getting a team member a coffee can really make their day, and is a humble act that makes them feel cared for.

Talk About More Than Just Work

When it’s lunchtime, break time or there’s some down time, try striking up a conversation with someone you work with. If you’ve been with that team for a while, chances are you know the interests of a few people. If not, taking the time chat about non-work related interests can really humanize the work environment. Maybe they have an Avengers frame at their desk, or a picture of their fluffy dog. Maybe there is a great podcast that just came out, or a recent news story you could ask their opinion on. Whatever it may be, a quick chat between work periods helps people feel appreciated and interesting.

Send Them A Birthday Card

So many people underplay their birthdays. They come to work, don’t say a thing, and work just as if it were any other day. Giving someone a card on their birthday is a small gesture that really means a lot. If you’re better at writing your thoughts than saying them aloud, a card is also a great chance to write down a note of appreciation. A lot of workplaces keep birthdays on file, so you can always check there for the right date.

A team that feels appreciated does good work and is so much happier while doing so. Even the smallest gesture can have a huge impact on workplace morale and productivity - plus you’ll feel great too.

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Why Peak Performance Requires a Strong Mind Body Connection

There are two types of exercise critical to reaching your peak performance in life: mental and physical. Physical exercise is organized, premeditated, focused physical movement that is intended to achieve a set of fitness goals. Common physical exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and yoga. With repetition, you get better over time.

Mental exercise is a bit more complicated. Your brain is active 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The brain is a super-powered processing machines constantly analyzing your external environment, while commanding your bodily functions. Your brain also regulates emotions, stores memories, and processes information both consciously and subconsciously. Just like physical activity, there is a distinction between brain activity and mental exercise.

Mental exercises are challenging. They require more cognitive power and eat up more energy. They are also the activities that make you smarter. Some examples include learning a new instrument, studying for a test, strategizing a new business model, and even reading for long periods of time.

Mutually Exclusive or Complementary?

What you may have noticed is that these examples of physical and mental exercise are not mutually exclusive. To play piano, you need to think about which notes to play and move your fingers and feet accordingly. To swim a proper breaststroke, you have to apply a learned technique to move efficiently and get better.

It is important to understand the difference between mental and physical exercise to understand an even more powerful type of exercise - the mind body connection.

The Mind Body Connection

Going as far back as ancient Greece, people believed that the mind and body were deeply intertwined. Medicine and sports were predicated on the idea that our bodies and minds depend on each other for peak performance. This notion was almost lost at the beginning of the seventeenth century, but has come back to popularity. Scientists in modern times have found again and again that the body and mind are a synchronized unit. For example, what separates Olympic athletes from recreational athletes is not their superior bodies; it’s actually their ability to make decisions on the fly, and command their muscles accordingly. Vice versa.

Here’s another example. Think back to the last time you were very hungry and trying to work. Not easy right? A body that’s properly fed, hydrated, and has stable glucose levels feeds a sharper, more focused, and calmer mind.

Though we do not yet fully understand the connectivity between the mind and body, it is a growing topic in a variety of fields from meditation to physiology to fitness. Peak performers, doctors and scientists all want to know how this relationship works. One thing is for sure. If you want to reach your peak performance in life, it’s critical to find a happy balance between mental and physical exercise.


 

How to Stay Centered in Stressful Situations

Stress management is a lifelong practice. Whether it’s exercising, eating healthy, or learning to meditate, dealing with stress through a healthy lifestyle works wonders. What about those acute stressful moments though? It could be a fight with a spouse, a difficult conversation at work, backing up into another car, or any number of any “in-the-moment” stressful situations. Along with everyday stress management practices, here is a simple 3 step process you can use next time stress comes on suddenly.

Step 1: Take A Breath

You’ll hear this tip often when it comes to stress management advice, and that’s because it’s a good one. Breathing increases oxygen to the brain, while simultaneously reducing cortisol and raising serotonin levels. The simple act of breathing nourishes your mind, which helps put your brain into a chemically clearer state. Taking even a few deep breaths also gives your mind a moment to catch up with what is happening in your external environment. Acutely stressful situations can come on fast, so allow yourself to process what’s happening.

Step 2: Notice Your Body

When we get stressed, a few things tend to happen with our bodies as we enter into a “fight or flight” mode. At this time, you might find your heart racing, or your palms sweating. You might even feel a little shaky. That is because your body is producing adrenaline, which is normal and worth noticing.

As you feel your body, keep breathing deeply as you try to bring yourself back to a calmer state. Remind yourself with each breath that you are safe, strong, and capable. This is especially useful if you are in a verbal confrontation. Often times, stressful conversations move into hyperspeed, and both people involved don’t get a chance to take a step back. The few seconds you take to breathe and calm your body down also gives the other person a moment to consider the situation.


Step 3: Respond

By providing your body with relief, you have the opportunity to let that quieter, wiser voice in your head become audible again. During stressful situations, the primal fight or flight voice tends to yell from a place of fear, drowning out sense and reason. What is actually happening is that the amygdala (the ancient, fear-center of your brain) is taking over for the prefrontal cortex (the more developed, rational part of your brain). Although that part of your brain is trying to warn you to survive, it is not wise enough to know that you are safe. You are safe, and you are wise.

As your brains chemistry shifts back to normal, chances are you’ll hear a clear and calm response to the situation come up in your head. You’ll know when you hear it because it too will have a calming effect. Something like “I love my wife, and we will work through this, let me tell her that,” or “Okay, I need to write down this car’s license plate.” Start with that first rational action and go from there.

By responding in accordance to that wiser part of yourself, your body will continue to calm down. Try practicing this simple three step process next time unexepected stress pops up in your life.

Stay Balanced Between Your Emotional Highs and Lows

In today’s culture there is a certain expectation for happiness. Why shouldn’t there be? It’s what we should all strive for, right? We see smiling faces in advertisements, successful people on social media, happy TV shows, and movie stars. The media is full of seemingly perfect lives. So much so, that we can begin to question ourselves when we are feeling anything less than perfectly happy. The reality is life is filled with ups and downs, and everyone experiences them. In order to fully understand and appreciate the positives in life, they must be contrasted with negative experiences.

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Imagine a black and white photograph of a mountain range. The sky is dotted with rows of puffy white clouds, the mountains are jagged, dark, and mighty, the grass is soft and glittery in the light, and the lake shines bright. Now imagine turning down the contrast on this image. As the lights merge with the darks, the sharpness and definition is lost. Lower the contrast even more, and you end up with a grey and boring picture. Even if you were to then turn up the brightness, the image would still look flat.

The same goes for life. The diversity created by the darks and lights of life is what make it interesting. Negative experiences give context for good ones, while making life richer and more interesting.

Emotional low points are difficult, but developing a mindful awareness of that discomfort will lead to much greater emotional highs. To get through difficult times, try taking a step back. Rather than fighting the feelings or trying to numb them, try accepting them as they are. Anger, sadness, and stress are just emotions. These will come and go just like the weather. Sit with the feeling and try to understand where its coming from.

Negative emotions exist to notify us when something needs to be fixed. By accepting them, you putting yourself in a wiser place where calm, rational action can begin. The next step is to cultivate the courage to address those problems.

When you take action in response to negativity rather than dwelling in it, you are taking control of your life. Seeing the dark allows you to work towards joy, love, gratitude, and abundance with clarity and direction. So next time you’re not feeling at your best, try to remember that it’s temporary. Be kind to yourself and listen to your needs in those low times, so that when happiness returns, you can embrace it in equal or greater measure.

What Comes First - The Coffee or Meditation?

For many of us, the morning can be an optimal time to meditate. It can also be great for a comforting cup of joe. Either way, coffee and meditation are two habits that can shape a balanced morning routine.

Is there a balance between morning coffee and meditation?

Feeling Out A New Morning Routine

There’s no one right answer when it comes to finding an optimal morning routine. For some, coffee aids in creating a clear mind, but for others it’s just too much when trying to meditate. Here’s how you can find out what works best for you:

Start by drinking a cup of coffee first thing. Then settle down to meditate. As you move through your practice, pay attention to how you’re feeling. Do you feel alert and focused? Or jittery and restless? If you are feeling alert and focused, then coffee before meditation is for you. A calm, clear, and focused mind is the goal.

If your heart starts to race, your toes keep wiggling, or you even start sweating - you may need to rethink coffee. If you experience this sort of restlessness while meditating, you may be sensitive to caffeine. You might just be drinking too much coffee. In this case, a smaller cup could be the solution. Try again the next day and if it still doesn’t feel right, try meditating before drinking coffee. Whether it’s coffee, meditation or both, having a positive morning routine is great way to set the tone for your day.

Will I Fall Asleep If I Meditate Before Coffee?

In the morning, everyone gets a natural boost of “wake-up” hormones. As your body prepares to wake up the mind, it slowly releases cortisol. This process gives you a boost of energy and appetite. These hormones are enough to get some people through a morning meditation session without any caffeine. While for others, a cup of coffee goes a long way to helping you concentrate.

Meditation is all about listening. As you practice, listen to your body. The meditative experience varies from person to person - as does caffeine tolerance. After you drink a coffee, settle into meditation and you’ll soon find what works best for you. The power is to find a balanced morning routine to start your day with clarity and focus.

The Sensible To-Do List: Where Productivity Meets Compassion

When managing a busy life, the common solution is a to-do list. While writing your thoughts on paper helps make your to-do list actionable, the key is to be kind to yourself as you write.

You Are More Important Than Your Task List

When it comes to productivity, there is one thing you can keep in mind: you have the power to manage your life. We’ve compiled some ways to tackle your to-do list with self-love. This process will make you more productive and happier in the process. Sustainable productivity starts with compassion, and here’s how you can do it everyday:

1. Prioritize Your Tasks

After you’ve listed out all the tasks, center yourself by closing your eyes and taking a three deep breaths. Then write the due dates beside each task. During this process, try to be as calm and rational as possible. Remind yourself: Choosing realistic deadlines means you’ll produce better work that you’re proud of.  Once the deadlines are set, chose the top 3 tasks that need to be done and rank them in order. Now tackle them one at a time, starting with the most important.

2. Accept The Work

The one often overlooked yet essential part of productivity is remembering why you want to complete these tasks in the first place. Ask yourself:

  • What do these items mean to me?
  • Why do I care so much about them?

  • How do they fit into the bigger picture?

If any item on the list doesn’t answer these questions - cross the task off.

3. Dive In

If all of the overwhelming thoughts and feelings won’t let up, just start. You’ll feel more productive after working just 20 minutes! Don’t worry about perfection or speed. Instead, be present with what you are working on and focus on the task fully.

Once you get the first task done, it provides momentum for the next one. Celebrate the small wins to give yourself confidence that you can do it.

4. Take Time To Relax

It may sound crazy, but taking time to relax is critical for sustainable productivity. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress Free Productivity, sums it up perfectly. He says, “your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.” A clear mind is most effective at making good decisions.

5. Thank Yourself

Sometimes we remember to thank everyone except ourselves. It takes bravery, courage, and persistence to do the work now that supports your future self. Take the time to acknowledge and internalize that effort. Say to yourself: I am doing a great job! Don’t let your mind tell you otherwise.

How to Build Mental Toughness for Everyday Life

Despite what people may think, being mentally tough isn’t about hiding your emotions. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Often, those with the greatest mental toughness are also the most open people you will ever meet. They have the courage remain honest about their thoughts and feelings in a variety of situations.

Why isn’t everyone open about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking? Simple - being open means being vulnerable. It’s natural to protect ourselves from being vulnerable to judgement and criticism. No one wants to feel uncomfortable, but accepting discomfort is actually very good for your peace of mind.

Practice Being Vulnerable

Believe it or not, one of the best places to practice being vulnerable is in the workplace. If you’re having communication issues at work, try out this thought experiment:

You’re talking through a problem with a coworker, and you can tell they’re holding something back. Perhaps they’re shrugging or saying “maybe” a lot. Now imagine they said exactly what they’re thinking. In that moment, they have made themselves vulnerable to rejection. Would you shut them down immediately? Probably not. The immediate human reaction to vulnerability isn’t rejection, it’s compassion.

Why is Mental Toughness So Important?

Many companies are intentionally designing their workspaces to support vulnerability. When people are free to express their thoughts and feelings without judgement, it opens a whole new world of possibilities. Working in this type of environment makes communication so much easier. This is critical for idea development and creativity. By allowing ourselves to work through more complex opinions, feelings, and ideas, we strengthen our ability to problem solve.

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a great place to start. When you have freedom to be vulnerable, you allow ideas to flourish, foster better, more open communication, and build long-lasting mental toughness.

How to Bring Your Full Self to Work (While Keeping it Professional 😊)

Imagine it’s Monday morning. The weekend was full of friends, fun, and excitement that has left you feeling healthy and refreshed. Wouldn’t you like to carry this energy with you into the work week?

On a personal level, there are many benefits of bringing your full self to work.  Finding balance between your home and work-life personas and integrating both sides can boost satisfaction all around - for you, your family and your coworkers.

Here are some benefits when you do this in a balanced way:

  1. Deeper Bonds and Connections: As you open up to others, they will do the same to you. It’s these interactions that help you connect with people on a personal level - not just a professional level.
     

  2. New Perspectives: By embracing your full self, you are free to share your perspective without fear of judgment. At the same time, you will discover new perspectives as you listen to your peers.

  3. Meaningful Appreciation: When you really know someone, you appreciate them for more than just their work output. This is reciprocal - it goes for you too. People will begin to fully appreciate your unique traits, as you appreciate their special traits.

 Photo via  Healthyfoodlove

Photo via Healthyfoodlove

The idea of bringing your full self to work may be intimidating at first – but remember it’s healthy to do so. As you open to others, you may be surprised by the connections you form. Give yourself the freedom to open up. You’ll discover a deeper passion and more energy to drive you through the work week.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few ways to bring your full self to work while keeping it professional:

  1. Spark up a conversation with a coworker about their weekend. Ask what was most fulfilling and share your experience.  

  2. Decorate your workspace with photos and objects unique to you. You’re a unique person - bring that out.

  3. Be vulnerable with a colleague and share something personal. It’s amazing how people respond when we’re being authentic.

Bringing your full self to work means embracing all the characteristics that make you who you are. Your strengths, weaknesses, family, partner, interests, and hobbies. All of these are a part of who you are. So why leave them at the office door? Being you improves your personal peace of mind, while inspiring others to do the same.

How Going Offline Makes You More Productive

How do you feel about being connected to your devices around the clock? Does it keep you in the loop and help you get more done? Or is it the opposite and your attention is being pulled in a thousand different directions?

Our devices, while very useful, can sometimes distract us from our desired path. By spending time offline, you can enjoy more clarity, peace of mind, and higher peak performance to thrive in life.

Here’s why going offline makes you more productive:

A Better Night’s Rest

You’re lying in bed, about to go to sleep, and then “beep, beep”... your phone goes off. Sound familiar? Whether it’s a social media notification, a text, or some other reminder, we often check it out. Even though we’re settled in bed, looking at the alert gets our minds racing again. On top of this, studies say the blue light from phone screens interferes with your body’s sleep cycles. All of this combines for a poor night’s rest, and affects tomorrow’s mood, energy level, and productivity.  

Focus On What’s Important

Constant connection to our devices makes it all too easy to be distracted - especially when the next notification appears. It takes great self-control and even greater willpower to avoid checking our phone every-time it beeps. After all, it’s our very nature to give attention to something that’s calling for us.

The challenge with ignoring notifications and technology is that it takes focus and energy. Whether you turn your ringer to silent or turn off your devices altogether - more power to you!

Be Present and Focus

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By spending more time offline, you can access focus and clarity of mind. For instance, you’ll be present to the people you spend time with. They will appreciate your focus and you’ll be able to appreciate their presence. This can help strengthen your relationships immensely.

 

An Inspired You

Most importantly, going offline lets your mind rest. Sometimes social media, emails, and notifications can make your mind work harder than it needs to. By taking a break from all that extra information, your mind is free to focus on what really matters to you.

Taking a break from your devices can be very refreshing. Whether it’s for a week or just one day, you might be surprised by your how clear you feel.

3 Tips to Travel Mindfully This Summer

There is so much joy to experience in travel. When you take a step back from your busy, fast-paced life, you can learn a lot – especially about yourself.

Are you thinking of skipping town? Here are 3 tips to travel mindfully this summer:

1. Happier and Healthier Intentions

Before you set off on your trip, ask yourself a few questions about why you want to travel:

 Photo by Rathish Gandhi

Photo by Rathish Gandhi

  • Are you looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to reclaim your sense of passion?
  • Are you seeking new adventures to inspire untapped creativity in your day-to-day routine
  • What’s really speaking to you in this moment?

The goal is to remind yourself why you’re traveling in the first place. This way, you can access a happier and healthier self on your summer excursion.

These intentions will keep you centered while navigating the trip’s many experiences. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the attractions a destination has to offer. If a tourist attraction sounds enticing, then go for it. Otherwise, you may want to take a step back and see if it truly will fits into your happier and healthier intentions.

2. Let Yourself Wander

One of the most freeing aspects of travel is seeing where life takes you. Let go of any prior expectations and just let yourself wander.

Some people enjoy a thoroughly planned trip with an itinerary. There is no shame in an itinerary. It can be a powerful tool to help free the mind and be present. But don’t be afraid to give in to wanderlust - letting yourself roam is a very liberating experience.

You may consider the many attractions, or you might not. The idea of racing towards the next tourist craze because someone says it is a "must see,” is just that -- an idea. The truth is, those options will always be there, and will always be easy to find. The real adventure starts when you choose your own path. So free yourself from the routine and restraint that everyday life demands.

3. Disconnect from Distractions

Your Summer trip is the time to find balance between the many people, places and things in your personal life. Your friends, family, and colleagues want you to be happy, and giving yourself the free space and time is a great place to start.

Let's start with your phone, one of the most connected devices in our lives. Introduce another daily trip practice, create a morning or evening habit of checking your phone for five minutes to respond to messages. Remember, friends and family want you to have a great time. It can even be helpful to set communication and connectivity expectations.

Quick tech tips: Limit phone notifications by activating the device’s “do not disturb” function, set up email away messages, and lastly, log out of your social media applications.


People often ask, “where did you go on your vacation?” The more thoughtful question is, “why did you go on vacation?”  Next time you’re planning a trip, try asking why you want to go before asking where you want to go. How am I going to come back from my trip feeling happier, and healthier? That is how you set yourself up for a truly nourishing Summer trip.

6 Companies Using Meditation for a Productive and Happier Workplace

How does your company empower a more productive and happier workplace? Many thriving companies are using meditation to empower a community of happy and healthy employees.

Research suggests that meditation has many in-office health benefits - both mental and physical. Meditation has the power to reduce blood pressure, while easing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It reduces stress, improves listening skills, decision-making skills, and even boosts employee engagement.

Companies Embracing Meditation

Here are 6 NYC companies that are using meditation for a more productive and happier workplace:

1. Nike

  Photo credit:  o+a

Photo credit: o+a

When it comes to meditation, employees at Nike are encouraged to “just do it”. The company is very familiar with the fast pace of modern life. To help employees stay clear, focused, and calm in the workplace, in-office meditation and yoga classes are provided for free. In Nike’s New York office, you will find rooms dedicated to napping, praying, and of course, meditating.
 

2. Google

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Google is known for its social conscious efforts and pioneering the in-office meditation movement. The company has offered meditation courses to its teams since early 2007. These “Search Inside Yourself” sessions still continue to evolve over time. Today, Google offers seven different types of meditation classes to choose from. This includes attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and building mindful mental habits.
 

3. CBRE

 Photo credit:  Perkins + Will

Photo credit: Perkins + Will

CBRE believes that wellness in the workplace is more than a trend, it’s an evolution. All of their offices are being redesigned to be more natural and liveable. The layout includes stretching and relaxation areas, fresh vegetable juice stations, and access to personalized wellness coaching. According to their 2016 report, Wellness In the Workplace, “the idea is to give people an environment where they want to be every day, can focus and where they can be productive.”

4. Sony

 Photo credit: Eric Laignel

Photo credit: Eric Laignel

Sony first implemented it’s wellness program in 1992. Since then, the program has continued to help employees as well as their domestic partners live healthier, more active lives. By offering free health assessments, Sony is able to provide personalized help in and out of office. At their New York facility, you’ll find an onsite fitness center, a health-focused cafeteria, and weekly farmers market.

5. Hospital for Special Surgery NYC

 Photo credit:  Hospital News

Photo credit: Hospital News

 The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York has the firm belief that healing patients quickly and thoroughly is the most productive thing they can do. With that in mind, the hospital has integrated meditation and mindfulness in patient healing programs that staff can join too. When people can be aware of their pain with a certain amount of detachment, it removes fear. This allows faster healing and more personal power. 

6. Facebook

The work environment at Facebook is designed to encourage calmness and creativity. Through weekly in-house meditation sessions and “No Meeting Wednesdays”, the company aims to boost employee morale. Facebook recognizes that happier employees are healthier, more collaborative, and produce better ideas.

Many of the world’s top companies are using to meditation to inspire a happy and healthy workplace. Wishing yours would do the same? Bring the idea to your employer - a healthy company starts with healthy employees.

3 Steps to Overcome Stressful Times

Have you ever met someone who thrives when the going gets tough? Wondering how they manage to stay calm and centered when life is challenging? The good news is most people aren’t born level-headed and calm under crisis. It takes practice to keep your head constantly clear. Here is a simple 3 step process you can use to stay centered during stressful times:

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1. Set Your Intention.

Rather than getting overwhelmed when things get stressful, imagine your ideal outcome. What is your intended result for this situation? By setting an intention you are directing the situation towards your preferred outcome.  Whatever your intention may be, keep the phrasing the same and as simple as possible.

 

 

2. Act According To Your Intention.

Once you have your intention, it’s much easier to take clear and logical next steps. This will help you remain calm as you overcome the current problem. Take a moment to visualize your ideal solution and how overcoming this problem now fits into the big picture.

While working through stressful times, keep your desired outcome in mind. Imagine as if it were real, and one day it will be. Life's challenges are a great opportunity to learn and grow. Responding to obstacles in accordance with your original intention ensures that you’re headed in the right direction.

3. Build The Habit.

Repeat your intention to yourself often. The more you come back to your intention, the more ingrained it can become. Keep practicing. Eventually, your subconscious mind will default to this process when times get tough. With persistence, staying centered in stressful situations will become easy.

No matter how stressful the situation, these 3 steps will help keep you centered. Having a clear desired outcome helps you focus on the path to your best life.

 

This is Your Brain on Meditation. Any Questions?

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The human brain is an incredible thing. It has tons of memory capacity, can multitask with the best of ‘em, and has the power to transform the way people see the world.

Smartphones are great and all, but technology ain’t got nothin’ on your brain!

However, just because your head is packed with a well-oiled cerebral machine, doesn’t mean it won’t need a little jumpstart every now and then. That’s where meditation comes in. During and after meditation you probably notice a difference in how you feel. But do you know what’s happening in your head to make you feel that strong and clear?

Allow us (and science) to explain.

Reduced stress and anxiety.

Researchers affiliated with Harvard University found that people who meditated for just eight weeks were able to quiet the amygdala, the part of the brain that triggers fear. A study led by the smart cookies at Harvard also found that meditation led to decreased gray matter density in the amygdala, and that participants reported reductions in stress. Proof that meditation will help you stay sane next time your mother-in-law shows up for an unannounced visit.

Increased concentration and focus.

In a recent study, Harvard researchers found that meditation can literally change your brain, including the part associated with attention. A study team at Texas Tech University also found that after just 11 hours of meditation, participants had structural changes in the part of the brain tied to focus. See, shutting off your brain for a little bit actually makes it run better. If only you could go back and use that line with your 6th grade teacher!

Increased compassion and empathy.

More Harvard researchers again, this time they found that MRI scans of meditators showed a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and empathy. Further to that point, some brainiacs in Sweden discovered that meditation is accompanied by activation in brain areas involved with empathy as well as with happy and pleasant feelings. So, meditation thus far makes you calmer, more efficient, and happier. Meditators: 3. Everyone else: 0.

Improved performance and productivity.

Switchin’ it up here with a UCLA study that found meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the right hippocampus, which accounts for a meditator’s ability to cultivate positive emotions and retain emotional stability. Get this: Brain scans of meditators show a shift in activation and gray matter density from the areas of the brain associated with negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction to the areas associated with positive emotions like happiness and contentment.

Well, according to this research from some of the top medical schools around the world, meditation makes people less stressed, more focused, happy, and productive. Can your phone do that for you?