Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wellbeing and Happiness - a link

The following slideshare came to me from the Facebook link to the Happiness and its Causes conference I attended in Brisbane in June 2011. It's an excellent visual reminder of the things that really matter in life and how to attain them.
Wellbeing and Happiness - an introduction
View more presentations from Action for Happiness

I'm back from China, and have begun to share some photos and impressions over at jumpingaground, link here.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why are people rude?

What does your private communication with your followers or clients say about you?

I’m going to confess to two scenarios where I made an error when referring to someone hosting a blogging challenge. No big deal you might think, but it got me thinking ...

The first: I published a post where I got the gender of someone hosting a blog challenge incorrect.

The second: via email, where I referred to a co-host of a blog challenge incorrectly, using their last name as if it was the first name.

In the first instance, the error was tactfully brought to my attention and fixed promptly.

In the second, the return email inferred that I was not only lazy in not checking the order of the first and last names more carefully and bluntly stated that I was not giving the co-host the attention they deserved.

In the first instance I felt I was seen as a human being with failings that were accepted. It could also have been acknowledgement that ‘people get my first and last names mixed up all the time’, or even, ‘silly woman, didn’t she see the very masculine photo on my blog, it’s obvious I’m not female!’ I felt a bit silly, but it was all fixed with a minimum of fuss.

In the second instance the message was that I’m a sloppy, careless person who shows a lack of respect. I can apologise of course, but at the moment feel that further communication isn’t going to achieve much - I feel that I have been judged and found to be inadequate.

I then began reflecting on the reasons people make ‘mistakes’ that may on first glance appear to be careless and how in all our communication we reflect aspects of ourselves, which can sometimes be misconstrued.

But deeper than that, the response got me thinking about my personal work and how I respond to emails and phone calls. Am I generous in my dealings with clients? Do I give them the attention they deserve?

Of course many of us are time poor. Life gets pretty busy with work, family, friends, blogging and all the complexities of life. Sometimes we aren’t as careful as might be ideal, but if added to that was the pressure to be perfect in our communication, would we get anything done? Do I respect this when I receive an awkwardly worded email?

I'm slightly dyslexic, and don't always notice errors of reversals and misspellings. Am I tolerant of misspellings by others?

How does living with chronic pain affect your communication? If you’re recovering from a medical procedure, and the after effects of an anaesthetic, how does that affect your ability to communicate, and the way others perceive you?

People live with ADD, ADHD; there are connections in the brain and body that make concentration difficult, even alien. Many people who communicate with us are functioning as best they can, some will be suffering the effects of low or fragile self-esteem, having been bullied at home or work. How does this sound in an email or tentative phone call? Do I remember to 'read between the lines'?

How much courage does it take for someone to make the first tentative step to call for an appointment? If it’s taken 6 months, could my response set them back even further, perhaps never to seek help again?

Do I judge before I think? 

And perhaps equally as important, do I allow myself to make mistakes, or do I bully myself for being less than perfect?

It's always interesting to see where thoughts lead - I'm almost grateful for what at first seemed an inconsiderate, rude and condescending email.

Q: What do you think? Has illness or some other life event affected how you communicate? How have others responded to you?

**I'll be away for a few weeks in China, and due to their restrictions will be unable to access Blogger or post replies. I look forward to catching up with you all when I return.

I've shared a couple of photos of Macau over at jumping aground - link here.


Monday, August 1, 2011

A path to Happiness - Meditation

At the recent Happiness and its Causes conference in Brisbane, the former scientist, now Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard (who is often described as the happiest man in the world), spoke about how the mind can be transformed from being agitated and anxious to a state of focused calmness, if we train it systematically. (Wiki bio here) Anxiety will be reduced, loving kindness and compassion will be increased and life is worth living because we find more meaning in it.

The unfocused, agitated mind can be trained in focused attention
We are unable to control the outer world, but we can train our mind by sitting quietly and focused, to decrease stress and improve our sense of well-being and fulfillment.

“It was only in 1998 that neuroscientists discovered that new neurons are continually being generated in the adult brain” the term that is being used is brain plasticity – great news for those of us who had believed that we were on a downhill trajectory after the age of about 25.

But it also means that just because you've been stressed, hypersensitive, or lived with ADD or ADHD all your life, it doesn't mean it has to stay that way for ever - you can start today to create positive change.

Using brain imaging and behavioural tests it’s possible to look at the inner workings of a meditator’s brain, using Western research techniques, to begin to understand the beneficial mental states achieved through meditation.

Photo of Matthieu Ricard by Waisman
Brain Imaging Lab,
University of Wisconsin - Borrowed from here
Put simply, it means that scientists can point to the parts in the brain to show that meditation works to create a happier person.

Genuine happiness results from the deep fulfillment that arises from a healthy mind; it enables us to deal with whatever comes our way. We hear of people who appear to live in paradise, but are miserable - we know that what happens outside us doesn’t necessarily make us happy.  By adopting a few achievable techniques from the 'super meditators' like Matthieu Ricard, we learn to become less vulnerable to the vagaries of negative life events.

Highly regarded doctors, psychologists, scientists and others have been systematically gathering evidence for many years that practicing techniques such as Mindfulness Meditation, can have profound effects on our psychological health, general wellbeing and overall happiness.

Throughout the conference it was emphasized that successful meditation rests on discipline, not wishful thinking. But, most encouragingly, it is completely unnecessary to trade in your day job to become a Buddhist, or indeed any kind of monk. Just a few minutes of sustained voluntary attention each day as you pause from your regular chores is powerfully beneficial. That’s great news for those of us for whom meditation seems awkward and somewhat alien.

Interesting article about Matthieu Ricard and meditation here

Do you bully yourself?

Last month some people dropping by might have thought; “Workplace bullying? Nope, that doesn’t apply to me; all is fine here".

You might have a comfortable home life, nothing out of the ordinary in the line of illness, your relationships are loving and secure, with no particular problems.

You may even have wondered what all the fuss is about regarding bullying. I've heard the comments such as "Suck it up" "Toughen up" "Stop whinging" to name a few.

A few people contacted me and said something very similar. But there was a niggle, a sense of unease and it turns out that although they’re not on the receiving end of serial bullying at work, they’re definitely on the receiving end of their own well crafted and highly personalised bullying. Could this apply to you?

The uncensored cruelty some of us dish out to ourselves – and that we believe – can be as damaging as serial bullying by a co-worker.

Have you ever caught yourself thinking: “Oh I couldn’t do xyz, I’ll never be as good as … so I won’t try.”

“I stuffed up last time, so I’ll give it a miss now”.

“Gee you’re crap at this aren’t you. Why are you wasting your, and everybody else's time?”

“Eeeew, you’re getting a bit big for your boots now aren’t you; better quit before you make a fool of yourself.”

“You don’t really think you can compete with x do you! What a joke! Oh, they’re going to laugh long and loud when they see the drivel you’ve come up with.”

or even: "You know they'll realise you're a fraud really soon; better stop now."

Nyip nyip nyip all day long, it can be utterly exhausting. It's no wonder life can feel utterly draining when you're contending with such negativity.

That critic sitting so brazenly on your shoulder can be a malicious, vicious, undermining sod; sniping, whinging and moaning and with direct access to your ear. Very difficult to escape!

In summary, what we hear, day in, day out in the privacy of our own head can be equally as vicious, malicious, undermining and relentless as what I’ve described regarding workplace bullying.

What to do?
Kurt Vonnegut often wrote about how we should behave towards one another, and believed strongly that we should treat each other with kindness and common courtesy. I’d like to add that ideally, we should treat ourselves in the same manner.

Do you treat yourself with common courtesy? With kindness, compassion and tolerance?

The Dalai Lama in Sydney 2009.
Treating ourselves kindly is a choice, and we can learn to treat ourselves as we would treat others, although it may will take time and effort. As the Dalai Lama said at a lecture I attended - and I'm paraphrasing here - we can take a pill to make ourselves feel better for a short time - this is easy - but we need to make wise choices about how we will live for the effect to be long lasting.

While shaking his head in wonder he described a person taking anti-depressant pills to feel better, yet continuing to abuse the mind and body with unhealthy life choices.

What can we adopt in our lives to begin loosening the grip of the negative sniper on our shoulder and stop bullying ourselves?

In one of last month’s posts I mentioned in passing, a television series that aired here in Australia called "Making Australia Happy". In a future post I’ll look a bit more at the ideas presented, and the ways we can address those snitchy undermining comments.

Until then, “How do you treat yourself?”

Thanks to Roberto at Roberto's Report for describing how to continue posting even when the Spinning Wheel of nothingness strikes!