Monthly Archives: August 2012

Increasing Focus: Calming the Craziness

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AUGUST 6, 2012

As I was driving home through the city today I was distracted by all of the commotion outside of my car.  Tractor trailers were banging and clanging quickly past me. On the sidewalk, construction workers were shouting to one another, finishing up the day’s work. Loud noises, such as radios and car horns, were invading my quiet space. My thoughts were scattered and I was having a hard time concentrating on one thing at a time. My mind was racing from topic to topic. Then I realized; it all reminded me of a busy day on a nursing unit!

I know we have all had experiences like these: getting interrupted while calculating medication dosages, being called to the telephone while in the middle of patient teaching, or hearing a bed alarm and rushing away from talking to a family member about how their loved one is doing. This is the nature of our position as a nurse. We need to be in a million different places all at one time. We care for many people at the same time. We have so much to get done each day and so much responsibility on our shoulders. It can be a distracting role with its multiple facets and tasks.

Is anyone else cringing at the thought of “chaos” and “exhaustion” too?!?

One way to decrease distraction during your day-to-day routine is by using positive affirmations. Stating positive declarations can create greater focus, increased concentration and a sense of balance. Taking time out each day to sit quietly, breathe, and state these things either to yourself or aloud can have a deep impact on your happiness, peace of mind, and health.

When you take a minute to consciously quiet the mind, you create a mental space that is free from disruption. With practice, you can call upon this “space” of mind at any point during a busy shift.

Here is what you do. Make time each day, either in the morning or the evening, to quietly state each affirmation. Reflect on what it means to you. You can also begin to add affirmations of your own as you become comfortable with the process. Take a slow and deep breath in and out through your nose between each of the affirmations. Become aware how you feel and start to notice any shifts in energy, mood, or stress levels. Also, observe how you relate to others; your patients, your family, your friends, or your colleagues. Here are some statements I use that can help you get started:

  • I am exactly where I need to be as my journey in life reveals itself to me.
  • I honor my mind, body, and soul and treat each aspect of my being with respect.
  • I am a confident, knowledgeable, and successful role model as I inspire others to be the same.
  • I know great joy and peace and therefore have wonderful energy.
  • My speech is a form of love.
  • I am limitless in my capacity for joy, healing, and happiness.
  • I will achieve perfect balance and be successful in all that I take on.

Realizing that you are worth it and taking the time to sit quietly with your own positive thoughts will greatly affect your life on many levels. You will create a way to cope with distraction during your busy days. You will generate a calmer presence through slowing down and breathing. Knowing that you are a wholesome force of good that deserves peace and joy in your life will create a space of being able to receive for yourself. You deserve great happiness, peace, and love in your life.  Make room for yourself!

 

~Elizabeth “Coach” Scala is a Holistic Health Nurse, Integrative Wellness Coach, & Reiki Master who Guides Nurses that are Ready for a Total Wellness Transition on a Mind-Body-Emotion-Spirit Level. Find her and more information at www.livingsublimewellness.com.

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The Power of Negative Thinking

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By OLIVER BURKEMAN

LAST month, in San Jose, Calif., 21 people were treated for burns after walking barefoot over hot coals as part of an event called Unleash the Power Within, starring the motivational speaker Tony Robbins. If you’re anything like me, a cynical retort might suggest itself: What, exactly, did they expect would happen? In fact, there’s a simple secret to “firewalking”: coal is a poor conductor of heat to surrounding surfaces, including human flesh, so with quick, light steps, you’ll usually be fine.

Yuko Shimizu

But Mr. Robbins and his acolytes have little time for physics. To them, it’s all a matter of mind-set: cultivate the belief that success is guaranteed, and anything is possible. One singed but undeterred participant told The San Jose Mercury News: “I wasn’t at my peak state.” What if all this positivity is part of the problem? What if we’re trying too hard to think positive and might do better to reconsider our relationship to “negative” emotions and situations?

Consider the technique of positive visualization, a staple not only of Robbins-style seminars but also of corporate team-building retreats and business best sellers. According to research by the psychologist Gabriele Oettingen and her colleagues, visualizing a successful outcome, under certain conditions, can make people less likely to achieve it. She rendered her experimental participants dehydrated, then asked some of them to picture a refreshing glass of water. The water-visualizers experienced a marked decline in energy levels, compared with those participants who engaged in negative or neutral fantasies. Imagining their goal seemed to deprive the water-visualizers of their get-up-and-go, as if they’d already achieved their objective.

Or take affirmations, those cheery slogans intended to lift the user’s mood by repeating them: “I am a lovable person!” “My life is filled with joy!” Psychologists at the University of Waterloo concluded that such statements make people with low self-esteem feel worse — not least because telling yourself you’re lovable is liable to provoke the grouchy internal counterargument that, really, you’re not.

Even goal setting, the ubiquitous motivational technique of managers everywhere, isn’t an undisputed boon. Fixating too vigorously on goals can distort an organization’s overall mission in a desperate effort to meet some overly narrow target, and research by several business-school professors suggests that employees consumed with goals are likelier to cut ethical corners.

Though much of this research is new, the essential insight isn’t. Ancient philosophers and spiritual teachers understood the need to balance the positive with the negative, optimism with pessimism, a striving for success and security with an openness to failure and uncertainty. The Stoics recommended “the premeditation of evils,” or deliberately visualizing the worst-case scenario. This tends to reduce anxiety about the future: when you soberly picture how badly things could go in reality, you usually conclude that you could cope. Besides, they noted, imagining that you might lose the relationships and possessions you currently enjoy increases your gratitude for having them now. Positive thinking, by contrast, always leans into the future, ignoring present pleasures.

Buddhist meditation, too, is arguably all about learning to resist the urge to think positively — to let emotions and sensations arise and pass, regardless of their content. It might even have helped those agonized firewalkers. Very brief training in meditation, according to a 2009 article in The Journal of Pain, brought significant reductions in pain — not by ignoring unpleasant sensations, or refusing to feel them, but by turning nonjudgmentally toward them.

From this perspective, the relentless cheer of positive thinking begins to seem less like an expression of joy and more like a stressful effort to stamp out any trace of negativity. Mr. Robbins’s trademark smile starts to resemble a rictus. A positive thinker can never relax, lest an awareness of sadness or failure creep in. And telling yourself that everything must work out is poor preparation for those times when they don’t. You can try, if you insist, to follow the famous self-help advice to eliminate the word “failure” from your vocabulary — but then you’ll just have an inadequate vocabulary when failure strikes.

The social critic Barbara Ehrenreich has persuasively argued that the all-positive approach, with its rejection of the possibility of failure, helped bring on our present financial crises. The psychological evidence, backed by ancient wisdom, certainly suggests that it is not the recipe for success that it purports to be.

Mr. Robbins reportedly encourages firewalkers to think of the hot coals as “cool moss.” Here’s a better idea: think of them as hot coals. And as a San Jose fire captain, himself a wise philosopher, told The Mercury News: “We discourage people from walking over hot coals.”

Oliver Burkeman is the author of the forthcoming book “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.”

Consumer Disobedience: Save a Bundle and Stick It to the Man

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I live a minimalist and frugal lifestyle for many reasons: for example, I love the freedom, the flexibility, and the financial benefits of not owning a lot of stuff.

But I must admit, it’s also a chance to indulge my inner-rebel. I’ve been a straight-A student, model employee, and overall law-abiding citizen; yet when it comes to consumerism, I can’t resist my desire to stick it to the man.

When I see ads for luxury cars, designer handbags, trendy clothing, and electronic gadgets, I become more determined not to buy them. When I see promotions for loans, mortgages, and credit cards, I become more convinced to stay out of debt.

When politicians implore me to go shopping to “improve the economy,” I’m inspired to swap, borrow, and make do with what I have. When I hear that more stuff means more happiness, I become that much more passionate about living with less.

In short: the more I’m told to consume, the more enthusiastic I become not to.

And you know what? My rebellion has paid off in spades. I have a bigger bank account, a more spacious and serene home, and a better ecological footprint than if I’d accumulated a pile of unnecessary material goods.

If we thought the government had too much control over our lives, we might turn to civil disobedience as a means of protest. But what if it’s banks, corporations, and other profiteering interests that are stifling our freedom? What if we feel shackled to the work-and-spend treadmill, slaving away at jobs we don’t like to make minimum payments on things we don’t need?

Then it’s time to push back against the commercial entities that infiltrate our lives. But we don’t have to go on marches or block the doors to megastores — we can simply engage in some personal acts of consumer disobedience.

Here’s a few of my favorites:
1. Pay with cash. Don’t give credit card companies another penny in finance charges — they grow richer at your expense. Save up for stuff instead of charging it; by the time you have the money, you may no longer even want it.
2. Say no to logos. If a company wants you to be a walking advertisement, they should be paying you.
3. Be brand disloyal. Check out generic alternatives to name-brand goods; the products are often nearly identical.
4. Ignore trends. They’re just a clever ruse to get you to part with your hard-earned money. Don’t buy stuff that’ll be obsolete, outdated, or out-of-style in the blink of an eye.
5. Be a borrower. Whether it’s a book, a ladder, or a dress to wear to a special event, explore borrowing options before you buy. Check out the library, tool shares, car shares, toy shares, and other programs in your area.
6. Swap. Trading your old stuff with others is a great way to save space and money. If you can’t make a swap among friends and family, go online: sites like Swap.com and Paperbackswap.com help you trade books, CDs, DVDs, video games, clothing, accessories, toys, and more.
7. Go on a spending fast. For a specific time period — like a week, a month, or even a year — don’t buy anything but necessities. Find creative ways to meet your needs, and make do with the things you already have.
8. Have a gift-free holiday. Instead of exchanging store-bought goods, celebrate the holiday with gifts of service (like babysitting, tax help, or a massage), gifts of charity, or by simply spending time with loved ones.
9. Tune out the ads. The easiest way to stick it to the ad man is to stop listening to him. Cancel magazine subscriptions, turn off commercials (or ditch the TV altogether), and install an ad blocker in your browser.
10. Go car-free. If you can walk, bike, or take public transit where you need to go, consider going car-free. Then you can avoid the expense of gas, maintenance, parking, and insurance as well as a car payment.
11. Right-size your space. Live in the smallest space you need, not the largest you can afford. Not only will you save money on your rent or mortgage, you’ll have less incentive to buy stuff to fill it up.
12. Fix your stuff. Try to repair items before replacing them with something new. Darn your socks, mend your clothes, and take your lawnmower to the repair shop instead of running out for a replacement.
13. DIY. Grow your own veggies, make your own furniture, sew your own clothes, bake your own bread. Use your particular skills and talents to avoid buying mass-produced stuff.
14. Want less. Advertisers, marketers, and corporations will do everything in their power to make you want more. But to be richer, happier, and freer, all you need to do is want less.

If you’re tired of the clutter in your home, the finance charges on your credit card, the commercialization of your holidays, or the pressure to keep up with the Joneses, you don’t have to accept the status quo. Channel your inner rebel, and fight back. And don’t be surprised if your fatter wallet, and newfound financial confidence, add a little extra swagger to your step.