Living Mindfully

Good morning!

I just wanted to share the opportunity I was given to be a guest on the Decatur Public Library Podcast. I had the opportunity to define mindfulness, speak at length about the benefits, guide a brief STOP method practice and offer advice about starting your individualized mindfulness practice.

The definition of mindfulness I have devised is, the practice of holding space to offer loving, kind aware as to your present reality.

Recording this was SO fun!! I hope you enjoy and find it to be informative.

 

 

Living Mindfully – Long Overdue Podcast

Constantly Connected: Is our internet reliance stealing our humanity?

Social media is a driver for my side gig, my blog, and a crutch for relationships that may thrive in a more vibrant way if I did not rely on apps on my phone for the upkeep of those relationships. That is a difficult reality to face, especially when I promote the value of human connection regularly. Rather than scrap-booking or printing photos, I rely on moments or “on this day” features. Rather than texting my friend to ask how her kiddo’s party was, I will just watch her timeline for photos and make a meaningful comment. I check my events tab rather than writing down birthdays in my calendar.  Perhaps social media is the equivalent of cliff notes for human interaction, it brushes the surface and hits the high points but lacks the emotion, connection, and depth for which we are all yearning.

If you talk to me long enough, I might hop up on a soap box about screen time, social media, and how they rob our children of their capacity for human interactions and engaging in meaningful ways. Recently I have been digging into the concept of human connection and our need for tangible, face to face, and meaningful relationships and interactions. In conversations with clients, I have explored the reality of loneliness, the damage of the comparison trap, and how social media can drive home our irrational need for perfectionism. We can easily find ourselves trapped in a battle to save face and match our real lives with our profile. How much do we lose in this fight? I fear that we are losing our capacity for connection, but also ourselves.

In the online article “Why We Are Wired to Connect,” Matthew Lieberman discusses how crucial social connection is to our ability to thrive as healthy humans:

Across many studies of mammals, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed.  When this happens in childhood it can lead to long-term health and educational problems.  We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.

We are herd animals. The pattern of behavior associated with screen time and social media obsession leads to isolation and loneliness. If you take a few moments to read my post on Finding Your Tribe, you will learn the impact of meaningful human connection on our brains. Positive and meaningful, face-to-face engagement with loved ones promotes the release of oxytocin in our brains and promotes emotional regulation.  Loneliness and isolation promotes cortisol and leads to our body’s suffering from the ill effects of long term stress. Medium.com has a great article on this topic, this excerpt from The Science of Human Connection and Wellness in a Digitally Connected World says:

Today, modern communication and technology has forever changed the landscape of our human interaction, and as such, we often decline without this type of meaningful personal contact. Today’s highly individualistic, digitally remote, and material driven culture is now challenging all of this, as we turn to science to unlock the mysteries of human connection and wellness in a digitally connected world.

Read that again. We decline when we neglect our need for human connection. Human connection and wellness are closely intertwined. We thrive in community. We rely on human connection. We are starved for physical contact. However, I think we are fooling ourselves into believing that the accessibility of engagement through social media can replace human connection. According to a study conducted in 2002, it was found that online interaction does not replace face to face human connection. In fact, online interaction increases loneliness.

Y’all…Myspace was still a thing in 2002. We have fallen deeper in our reliance on internet based interactions since 2002. While this day in age is progressive, I am not convinced that the current level of remote accessibility should be viewed as merely progress. I have no doubt that the climbing rate of depression and suicide is impacted by our reliance on social media and subsequent neglect of human connection.

As I mentioned from the start of this post…I rely on social media and the internet for my side business, for promoting my blog, and for networking in general. I believe that when utilized in a healthy manner, digital connection and having the world at our fingertips can be beneficial. Access to information and broadened audiences is great! However, as Aristotle says, “the man of virtue is the man of balance.” Virtue can be dangerous when exhibited in extremes. I believe this concept…the art of balance…needs to be applied to our use of social media and digital connection.  The risk lies in the moments when our identity, self-esteem, and worthiness come from our online persona. If our children’s communication is reliant on a keyboard and their faculties are lost in the face of in-person conversation, there is a problem. We need to check in with ourselves (& our families) and practice the pursuit of balance and focus on fostering human connection in today’s widely isolated culture.

One of my favorite words is Ubuntu, a South African term that has no English equivalent.  In essence, Ubuntu means we are all connected. We are all in this together. My freedom is wrapped up in your freedom.  My happiness is wrapped up in your happiness. While we have more readily available information about the struggles that people face on a daily basis and are arguably more aware of pain, hunger, war, genocide, and other evils of this world than we were 20 years ago…we also have the firewall of distance to protect us from emotional involvement. We are removed and desensitized.

We can do better. We are capable of promoting increased humanity in our lives. The Facebook Experiment was a study conducted in Denmark that revealed that people who took a break from social media demonstrated improved well-being and increased positive emotions. This does not have to be permanent, but perhaps avoiding your phone or social media for the first and last hour of your day. Engage with your family. Plan a dinner date with your friend rather than browsing their page for updates. Hold eye contact with the people you talk to. Avoid filling moments of discomfort with mindless scrolling. Mindlessness, disconnection, isolation, comparison, and negative coping skills can all be fostered through unhealthy habits surrounding social media engagement and reliance on digital connection. Engage with living, breathing humans…it will benefit you and those around you!

Take a few moments and watch this video (link below,) this precious child on NBC DFW’s “Tell Me Something Good” segment was encouraged to greet, hold eye contact, and shake the hand of each child entering the school on this particular morning! We need more of this simple, but so meaningful, human connection.  https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/TMSG-Kindergarten-Class-Shake-Hands-Smile-Every-Morning_Dallas-Fort-Worth-483569731.html

 

The Influence of Attitude

Have you ever stopped to acknowledge the energy you bring into a room? When you think about the meetings you attend, your group of friends, the people you work with, or your family can you identify the “influencers?” Who sets the tone for interaction? What attitudes and behaviors impact the ability to effectively communicate and sustain enthusiasm for whatever interaction you might be in the midst of? I am sure these questions have you thinking of the people who either inspire or snuff out excitement. Do you have someone in your life that can immediately impact your state of mind or opinion? Perhaps you are an influencer. What I find so interesting is that the power of influence can create positive and sustaining impacts or it can drag now productivity and contentment. How do you begin to assess your capacity for influence and create opportunity to be more inspiring, guiding, and swaying in your approach to relationships and teamwork?

Dictionary.com defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.” Synonyms for influence include – inspiration, guidance, effect, sway.  There is no question that our attitudes, thoughts, decisions, behaviors, etc. create a ripple effect. I use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) often when engaging with clients who struggle with negativity, poor self-image, lack of meaning in relationships, and for many other scenarios. Simply put, CBT helps people recognize the impact of their thoughts on their feelings, their feelings on their behavior, and their behaviors on their thoughts.  We discuss methods of Thought Stopping and breaking the cycle of destructive thought processes.  In my experience, adding the concepts of mindfulness into this conversation is helpful.

A mindful person is increasingly aware of their destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they are occurring. A distracted and disengaged person can get stuck in a cycle of negativity before they realize it. Mindfulness not only helps to increase awareness of where we are physically and emotionally from moment to moment, it strengthens your brain’s ability to create emotional control over situations. Your brain is better equipped to redirect your negative or destructive thoughts if you are engaged in the practice of mindfulness. The Betari Box method describes the manner in which – your attitude has the potential to impact your entire team, family, department, organization, etc.  We can affect or be affected by the people that surround us. My attitude impacts my behavior which impacts your attitude and then, in turn, your behavior which can either drive home my anxiety, negativity, or resentment OR it can redirect my thoughts. The beauty in both CBT and The Betari Box lies in the ability to end cycles and create a rebirth of positive, rational, and productive thoughts, feelings, and actions. Drawing in your awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to others increases your chances of redirecting these destructive cycles.

When we focus on our ability to impact and influence others, there are a number of things to consider. I believe that checking our intentions is always vital to the success of influence. Authenticity and good intentions carry us quite the distance in the art of building meaningful connections. Once we have established that we have good intentions as we move forward in effort to create change or influence people…we need to build rapport. In the Psychology Today article, “The Art of Influence,” the author states that “Divining someone else’s motivations requires empathy.” Understanding the motivations and desires  of the people we are connecting with (or even better sharing those motivations) creates connection and common ground. To accurately assess what drives someone, you often have to develop an understanding of where they have been and what they might be in pain from, in fear of, or grieving. Empathy provides affirmation and, again, connection.

In another article I came across while I was digging into the idea of influence, The Subtle Art of Influence, the author states “To elevate the relationship to that level [of influence], focus on three activities: listening, offering help, and building trust. Try to see things from their point of view, and look for common ground and opportunities to share each other’s expertise.”   The common thread in all of these articles and pieces of advice is connection. Human connection.  Relationship building. We stand to have a greater influence when we work on building genuine and meaningful relationships with people.  Sure we can temporarily motivate, “light a fire,” intimidate, or belittle people without connection but to create opportunity to inspire or have an effect on their character or development…a connection is necessary.

While I was writing this post, I had my Madeleine Peyroux station on Pandora playing. The Julie London song, Sway, began to play. At first, I giggled at the coincidence. But then I paused to listen to the words.

Like the lazy ocean hugs the shore
Hold me close, sway me more
Like a flower bending in the breeze
Bend with me, sway with ease
When we dance, you have a way with me
Stay with me, sway with me
Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you

It is natural to be influenced by and to influence others. Just like the flowers in the wind or the tides impact on the beach…we, as humans, naturally have an impact on each other.  The connections we build can change our worldview, impact our resiliency, harness our focus, or adjust our willingness to trust. I am sure you can recollect moments where you felt so connected to someone (romantically or otherwise) that time slipped away and background noise diminished. Connection is powerful. We can influence one another’s decisions and experiences. Imagine just changing the way someone feels about themselves in a given moment and how that feeling can stick with them and impact their self-image.

“Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds.”  David Deida

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I believe that we have the capacity to not only decide HOW influential we can be, but we can choose to make this influence positive and uplifting. Acknowledging the responsibility that comes with influence challenges us to keep our attitudes, judgements, words, and behaviors in check.  I know that my responses to situations and people have been greatly impacted by my ability to experience these situations and people AS THEY HAPPEN. Being present and aware transforms my reactions and my ability to control my emotions.  HelpGuide.org has a great article on the Benefits of Mindfulness: Practices for Improving Emotional and Physical Well-Being that says:

By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.

I encourage you to continue to work a mindfulness practice into your daily life. Deepening connections and building emotional resiliency are both vital to our ability to influence and decide how we are going to BE INFLUENCED. Decide to shine and inspire today.

Peace, love, and laughter,

Megan