5 Steps to Mindfulness. Boost Your Gray Matter in Just 5 Minutes.

Mindfulness is critical to boost your gray matter and provide clarity of thought.  Dr. Fred Luskin at Stanford University says we have over 60,000 thoughts a day and that a whooping 90% of them are repetitive.  Kind of like an 8 track tape (if you are under 50, go ask your parents) playing over and over and over and over.  You get the picture.  It’s a well worn canyon in our brain of the same old same old.  It’s amazing that any innovation ever happens.  Mindfulness is the key to unlocking those 6,000 thoughts that will bring about clarity and insight. 5 steps to mindfulness

The amazing thing is that in a little as 5 or 10 minutes a day, you can bring about mindfulness; as noted by Lydia Dishman for Fast Company, Ready. Set. Pause.  Unplugging from technology is part of the key.  To sit in a chair in a quiet room and close your eyes for 5 minutes can change your thinking and recharge your prefrontal cortex.  I think that most people associate meditation with sitting uncomfortably cross-legged on the floor with incense burning like Buddha;  or hiking Nepal to some Monastery high in the mist filled mountains.  The journey doesn’t have to be that difficult and it certainly doesn’t require a plane ticket.  You can change your mindset without leaving the ground.

 1.  5 minutes.  All you need to do is find the space and 5 minutes.  As with all things, there is even an app for that.  “Headspace” is free for the first 10 days and has tutorials with excellent visuals to comprehend the actual “space” between thoughts.  There are many others including “Mindfulness“, “Buddify” and “Smiling Mind” just to name a few.  For less than $3 you could be getting some space in your head in just 5 to 10 minutes.

 2. Sitting is Optional.   Some of the apps are even tailored to be used during walks or exercising, so you may not necessarily need to find a quiet space.  I have actually used an app to meditate on an airplane or in the passenger seat of a car.  Maybe you drop your kids at day care and listen on the way to work.  Park your car a half mile from your desk and get your head space on the walk in.  No excuses.

3. Let Go.  You’ll need to let go.  When I’ve suggested to my husband that he meditate, he says that he has “too many thoughts”.  We all do.  And meditating doesn’t necessarily stop them.  It’s giving up control that frees the mind.  I’ve read many analogies like a ticker tape of passing thoughts through your head, or rain drops of thoughts falling down, or thought boats passing down a river.  Let go of control and let the thoughts pass on through.  Let go of the illusion of silence in your head.

 4. Practice.  Practice makes perfect.  Actually, you aren’t looking for perfection.  Schedule your meditation and show up and do it.  The first few times (ok, maybe the first 100 times) I “tried” meditation, I’d end up coming up with “to do” lists or ruminating about the previous day.  It’s OK.  Unplugging for 5 or 10 minutes is helping grow your gray matter.  You will find more head space and your thinking will improve.  Just practice.

 5. Benefits. There are countless benefits of being mindful.  You will be less stressed and your cortisol levels will go down.  You will have improved cognitive function which means you will produce better work.  It will help your brain ward off mental illness.  It helps even when you are not meditating because the effects are long term.  It helps you sleep better and keeps you healthy.  Research at Harvard and Northeastern University find that you will be more compassionate if you regularly meditate.  It’s like taking a daily vitamin, the long term benefits are worth it.

It requires a little faith that taking 5 minutes a day will help your thinking in the long term.  The way I see it, what is the down side?  Can you afford not to?

The Eeyore Effect. Don’t Mess with My Chi.

There are those who will wish you good morning. If it is a good morning, which I doubt” -Eeyore.

Sometimes I feel like the world is awash with Eeyores.  You know, the glass half empty people.  The punch list for the year long project has 100 items on it and all but one is checked off. We focus on the one incomplete item and gnash our teeth. Really?  Only one box left to check off and we are failures?  Quit messing with my chi. Eeyores Gloomy Place

What in the world do we do with these folks?  How do we dig out from the negative muck they produce on a daily basis?  Let’s pull up our boot straps or sandal straps (does anyone have boot straps any more?) and figure out how to bring some positivity into the work place and your life. Let’s figure out how to maintain some sunshine for the rest of us.

Here are some tips:

1. Losada Ratio.  Dr. Marcial Losada created and studied this ratio of positive to negative messages within relationships and organizations.  What he found was that organizations that have 2.9 or more positive messages over negative messages thrive.  Those that fall below fail.  In a marriage, it’s got to be 5.0 or better (thanks for emptying the garbage, Honey).  So if you want your business or relationship to thrive, stick a sock in it and start pumping some sunshine.

2. Gratitude.  Many author’s including Martin Seligman in the book “Flourish” recommend a gratitude journal or as he says “What went well”.  I do this.  Everyday before I go to sleep, I write three things that went well.  I have to believe that it improves my dreams because right before I put my head on the pillow, I’m thinking about all that went right.  It’s not like it’s gotta be “I climbed Mt. Everest”.  It could be “I got dressed” or “I made it to work on time”.  Focus on the positive.

3. Scenarios.  Reframe the scenario.  We all tend to focus on the negative.  If we make a change, the project will be delayed.  If it rains, the grass can’t be mowed.  Our limbic system makes us focus on the negative.  In “Flourish”, Martin Seligman suggests looking at the worst case scenario, but then looking at the best case scenario, and then looking at the most likely scenario.  The project might be late but it will serve twice the amount of customers.  The grass will grow… and the flowers as well.  When your coworker starts catastrophizing the outcome, ask about the best and most likely scenario.

4. Outcomes.  Ask your friend about what his best outcome would be.  Focus on The What that he’s interested in.  So Joe, “what would you like to see happen with this project?”  “What can you control in this situation?” “What would make you feel like you accomplished something?”  As David Rock espouses, focus on solutions (and stay clear of the problems). Keep it outcome based.

5. Hood.  If you are living in the 100 Aker Wood, stay clear of Eeyore’s Gloomy Place (rather boggy and sad).  Watch what neighborhood you hang out in.  If it’s obvious that your household or your organization is on the low end of the Losada Ratio, pitch in and turn it around or move on.  In the long run, if you sitting around all the gloom and bogginess, eventually the organization won’t be there or the relationships that brought the house together won’t be either.  And if you seek out a new “hood”, make sure you are taking the temperature (or feeling the vibe) of a potential new “hood”.  If you see any donkeys, move on.

If it turns out the Eeroye is a really important irreplaceable person in your life, say your child or your parent;  it might be time for a frank discussion.  Explain the impact it’s having on your life or your “chi”.  Sometimes they just don’t realize how they are being perceived and their impact on those around them.

How do you deal with the Eeroyes in your life?