Becoming Wise, the reward for getting older

cropped owl April 2014 166_edited-2This week I thought it would be good to consider the good things that come with getting older. The topic of wisdom is one that we explored as part of my Msc in Applied Positive Psychology.

In modern society there is often a focus on the young and staying youthful as if aging is in some way wrong. What a shame that so many people become anxious about this natural progression.

In more ancient societies age and wisdom were prized and the various phases of our life each had a value. In my studies at university the following points were presented:

  • Wisdom is made up of a rich store of “declarative” knowledge, the knowing of facts about development and the importance of the context.
  • There is a rich repertoire of “procedural” knowledge, the know how to perform certain skills such as complex decision making about interpersonal problems and conflict resolution.
  • Wisdom is the ability to appreciate the many themes and contexts in life such as family, self, community, culture etc and the inter-relations across a life span.
  • It also brings tolerance for differences in values and priorities. The wise person is respectful of the unique set of values an individual holds even if they differ from their own.
  • And with wisdom we are more able to handle ambiguity and uncertainty. We recognise that when problem solving information is often incomplete with regard to the past and the present while uncertain about the future. All of this is taken into account when solving problems.

Perhaps most interesting of all during my studies was the fact that wisdom is not guaranteed as we get older, we need to be open to it. Also there are wise young people too.

Are you allowing yourself to embrace your potential for wisdom?

Are you letting go of superficial judgements encouraged by society?

Are you ready to be wise enough to be happy just as you are?

Being Happy ad IMG_5666_edited-1

 

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Are you appreciating and savouring what really matters?

R&B Running 2006This morning before sitting down to write this blog I took a few moments to sit with my two dogs, Buck and Remus. There were no distractions, just me and these two small living beings. As I stroked their coats I noticed the texture of their fur. I could feel their heart beats and their warmth. Without distraction I was able to fully appreciate their existence and how they contribute to mine.

In our modern life we often dash from one thing to another and when we stop we fill up our experience with chatter such as social media and TV. We often lose the ability to be still and savour.

Savouring and appreciating are two concepts discussed in many books on Positive Psychology. All that is required is that you choose to do so. Take a moment to notice what is important in the moment.

If I were to stop right now it might be to turn and look out the window. The garden is bursting with life, I can hear woodpeckers pecking, the sun is bright and there is a feel of spring in the air. These moments of stopping to notice and savour have a power to bring a sense of contentment, ease and happiness even when we are in the midst of challenge.

What will you savour today? Will it be to truly taste an apple, gaze at a view, stroke a beloved pet, play with a child or plant a seed in the ground? For those of you who find it hard to stop try this.

Savour one deep breath. Sit or stand in a comfortable position. Breathe in and notice how your lungs expand to accommodate the breath. Hold that breath a couple of seconds appreciating the life in your body and then gently release that breath.

What did you notice?

My challenge to you all today is to savour and appreciate at least one thing today even if it is only one breath. Let me know how you get on. rain on May flowers

One small item of news today, on Saturday 7th March we will be holding an NLP practice group. The location will be Crowborough, East Sussex. This is open to all who would like to know more. The topic will be “Savouring and appreciating”. If you would like to join us please contact me direct for details.

 

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What is being happy?

Squirrel The emotion of being happy is something we experience in the moment. Think about it for a moment. Emotion, and I mean all emotions are short lived bio-chemical reactions created by the focus of our thoughts in any moment.

Consider that phone call. If it is amazing, great news we can instantly access happiness maybe even joy! If the news is less good the opposite may be the fact. Our anger is equally a momentary event.

Rather than waiting for some external event to happen choose to be happy right now. Even if things in your life are challenging give yourself permission to take a “happiness holiday”. Find something positive to focus on that will make you smile and allow your body to trigger a happiness reaction.

For example, go outside and hug a tree! People often joke about tree hugging and yet actually it can be a very calming thing to do. Rest your cheek against the bark and feel that roughness, sink into the tree and feel the warmth. Connect to the energy within.

Listen, you might sense the beat of the tree or hear birds singing, the wind rustling the leaves and branches or maybe even your own heartbeat.

Nature is full of things to focus on that will allow happiness to emerge. My favourite right now is watching the acrobatics of the squirrels as they creatively work out how to access the bird feeders!

If you use facebook, focus on the positive videos for a while. If you look on my facebook page GWizNLP you will see lots of cuddly videos alongside the brain ones. There is a great one with baby pandas.  Isle of wight raw 264_edited-2

So instead of saying “I’ll be happy when..” say “I’ll be happy now!”

 

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How well are you looking after yourself and your well-being?

This week I have been reminded of the importance of actively looking after your well-being in order to live a healthy, happy life.Robin in the rain

A number of people I have interacted with recently seem to be on a “treadmill” existence. They are working very hard with very long hours and often have an hour or two of commuting as well. Many of these people are very well paid and yet their quality of life (or so it seems to me) is under threat.

Some of the people I have spoken to have themselves voiced a dis-satisfaction with their lifestyle and work patterns. Others speak as if they are just relating their day. For me this is a reminder that life is all about choices.

I choose to live the way I do. I know I could work harder and probably earn more money. For me the cost would be too high. Joe and I share a map of the world in common which helps a great deal. As a couple we both want the same things.

We do want a comfortable standard of living but not at the expense of our well-being and our ability to enjoy life. When I look at the lives of others as mentioned above I am also mindful that my view is not their view. Perhaps the people who are relating their day to me are happy with their life exactly the way it is. It is not for me to judge.

What point am I making?The Well Place

My point is that you are the only person who can judge if your life is working for you. Are you taking care of your well-being as well as your happiness? Only you know. Have you taken stock lately?

If you realise that your well-being is not where you want it to be what will you do about it?

For those of you experiencing pressures from needing to pay the bills, raise a family and any other things that you need to handle your well-being may feel out of your control.

You still have choice. What is one small step you can take today that will improve your well-being?

Do leave me a comment if you decide to take a step for yourself. Let me know what you plan to do. Sharing it will give it power.

pond

 

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Stay happy by switching your focus

 

Earlier this week I had one of those days. Do you ever get them?

I was trying to do a number of different tasks on my computer that involved uploading pictures and changing web pages. Nothing seemed to go well. Things that should have taken ten minutes were not done after a couple of hours.

I was becoming more and more frustrated and I confess swearing at my computer!

And then I realised it!

IMG_4140_ swan edited-1_edited-1I have a choice, we always have a choice.

We have a choice how we feel, how we respond to things and what we do.

I made a decision. I decided to stop what I was doing and go into the garden and sweep leaves. I’m not sure I can describe to you fully the pleasure I gained from this simple task. The sun was out, the air was crisp and clear. The birds were singing and the dogs were bouncing round me having fun. 180414 259

It was a great reminder that by switching our attention we can free up our minds and hearts. I felt good. The frustration of the morning disappeared.

When I returned to my computer the technical issues still needed solving however I was in a much better place to do something about it.

Now I know that I am very fortunate in that I am self-employed so can make choices about going outside and leaving my office work where it is. You may not have that freedom in your job however switching from one task to another can still be a way of managing your level of happiness at work.

When we stop focusing on a problem and allow ourselves a break to do something more enjoyable we free up our creative processes. When we return to what had been a frustrating task we discover that solutions often manifest. So even if you work for someone else you can switch from one task to another to free up your creativity.

For people going through challenging times switching attention can also be a way to bring you to a better place in your life. Many of you will remember the really simple exercise I have mentioned in previous blogs that involves writing down five positive things.

For those of you not familiar with it the idea is that you write your five positive things down just before you go to bed at night. If life is less than easy you might have to start with things like “got through the day!” As you notice and focus on small things that were positive like a smile, a flower, a hot shower you will be amazed at the changes in your experience. Positive Psychology research on this technique has suggested that most people experience a significant improvement in the well-being and life satisfaction when they do this exerciseIMG_3935_ lily edited-1_edited-1.

Give it a try and see what you notice.

By the way, I’ve solved the uploading of pictures issue!

 

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When old patterns get in the way of happiness

Something interesting happened yesterday. I was engaged in a discussion in a social media forum. I had posed a question about NLP and someone had made a good attempt at answering it.

Here’s what happened next….

I responded having scan read the answer. I intended to be encouraging and at the same time I wanted the person to stretch a little more.

Another trainer then made a comment that I took as a criticism. I made what I thought was a healthy response that avoided creating more problems. The trainer then answered more fully due to my prompting.

I reflected on the thread and here is my thought process.

“I’ve stuffed up! I read the first answer too quickly and responded too quickly. It means my response makes it look like I don’t understand the process”

This is just a sample of my internal dialogue. For those of you familiar with Transactional Analysis you may have already noticed some driver behaviour and some mini-script indicators. My original behaviours were carried out in a Hurry Up way which then opened the door for me to beat myself up from my Be Perfect driver!

Luckily I was able to spot what was happening even though it took me until 2am to become full self-aware again.

So how do you handle old patterns interrupting your happiness?

Here is what I did. At 2am this morning I realised my internal dialogue was preventing me from sleeping and I was running my mini-script. In other words I was not seeing myself as okay because in my perception I had made a mistake.

So I picked up my journal and wrote out my thoughts and feelings using this to get some distance and perspective. I went “meta” to my own process (NLP term) which could be described as observing myself by taking a step back. This allowed me to realise what I was doing. IMG_4054_  perception pigeon edited-1_edited-1

Having done that I went to sleep.

This morning I reviewed the thread. Looking at the other trainer’s comments I can now see they were not really critical at me but pointing out some important distinctions. I have prepared a response now that acknowledges and thanks the other trainer. I have clarified my own points and owned up to my process.

I have not yet posted it as I have decided to run it past my coaching supervisor first who is also a TA expert. By doing this I can make sure I am not adding to or inviting a psychological game.

I chose to share this so that you could see how I manage my own process as I think it can sometimes be useful to know what other people do to manage their happiness.

If you are reading this while in a very challenging place in your life remember it is okay to ask for help if following my process is not enough to break the pattern. There are many amazing coaches and counsellors out there.

I’ve used a lot of jargon in this blog so please let me know if you want more clarification. One of the modules on my Association For Coaching recognised course, Psychological Approaches to Coaching is based on using TA in Coaching or you could read the excellent book by Julie Hay, Working it out at work.

 

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How do you know if you are happy?

I know I started a blog about neuroscience and the brain a few weeks ago and yet I’m not feeling the joy writing it.

Why is that I wondered?

Here is the thing, right now in my life I am feeling really happy. One of the reasons I know is because in my early life I was very unhappy. It is interesting how having a contrast can be useful. So I began to think about why I am happy.

Firstly and for me most importantly, I am in a marriage that nurtures and supports me to an amazing man. Joe and I have been married for over twenty years and if anything it is getting better with every year that passes.   Melody and Joe in Arizona

As many of you know I had an operation before Christmas to remove my gall bladder. Last week I got the all clear from the surgeon. I can get back to exercising and living my life as normal. A great relief and it is wonderful knowing my body is now working properly.

A little note here, the surgeon tells me it had not been working at all for years, it is possible that my physical well-being was compromised for quite some time without me realising. This could be due to lack of contrast. When things change gradually we don’t always notice. I believe this is true with both positive and negative changes.

In terms of not feeling the joy about writing about neuroscience I think it was because I was having to work very hard with the writing. I like to write with a free flow. I realised my knowledge was not yet clear enough to write in the blog about neuroscience.

For this reason I signed up for a course on Medical Neuroscience on http://www.Coursera.org  (I recommend you check this site out). It is possible I am slightly over reaching as it is 15 to 20 hours a week! Having said that I’m loving it!

The reason?

Love of learning is one of my highest values according to the VIA strengths index. This makes sense to me as I am someone who is always taking courses and workshops. I love to learn particularly in a classroom with others.

Luckily there is an introduction to neuroscience starting on the same website in a couple of months so I might switch to that one if this one is too advanced or knowing me do both.

There are lots of other things I could list here that make me happy: my dogs, my home, my location, friends, family and all the wildlife in the garden and forest. R&B Running 2006

I don’t share these with you to brag but merely to raise your awareness. Have you noticed the things in your life giving you joy?

With this in mind I am switching to writing about happiness. I will come back to neuroscience when the writing flows.

Let me know your thoughts on the topic of happiness.

Two items of news to close with today.

I am once again running my popular free two day introduction to NLP. We run this to give people a chance to find out if NLP and our training style is for you.

The dates are 19th to 20th February, location Crowborough, East Sussex. See www.gwiznlp.com for details.

I am also launching my Association for Coaching recognised “Psychological Approaches to Coaching” in March. There are some details on www.gwiztraining.com or contact me direct for a pdf of the course, melody@gwiznlp.com

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Creativity and the brain, how to wake up!

This is my first full blog back since I had my operation before Christmas.

I find it interesting how creativity and the brain are so connected to our general sense of well being. For me it has been a struggle to even think about writing anything. I was feeling a general sense of lethargy and a desire to almost hibernate until I felt well again.

Was it just my health or did the season play a part? Short dark days with long dark nights. From a brain perspective many of you will have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) a condition where some people become depressed during the winter months.

Is that relevant to my experience?

There is some argument about what causes SAD and why using bright lights before sunrise and after sunset can help. The balance between the chemicals melatonin and serotonin have been identified as relevant and recent studies have started to explore the genetic aspect of the occurrence of SAD.

There is a good chance that chemically my body is all over the place as a result of going through surgery. In previous years my energy and creativity have remained high through the winter.

Does having a physical knock open one up to other imbalances on a chemical level?

What I’m curious about right now is how all these factors work together. Add in an additional one for me. I have not been able to exercise since mid October. I usually exercise 5 to 6 times a week (high intensity circuits). Physiological speaking I have noticed many changes including the appearance of hot flashes and night sweats.

There is a lot of research about the positive effect of exercise on our chemical physiology so it makes sense that this too is a factor in my mood.

I do believe the mind body connection is very powerful and that we can use our minds to help us overcome limitations. Believing this can in itself be a placebo that allows me to function well and overcome barriers.

IMG_4139_ double daisy edited-1_edited-1

I sat down to write this blog today with no clear idea what I was going to write about and with each word I have written more connections have fired off in my brain. I can literally feel my creativity waking up!

So here is my New Year tip for anyone who wants it:

“It doesn’t matter what you do, just get started. You will wake up”

Let me know what you think…….

 

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Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year

Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you enjoy this picture by the fabulous Rob Banbury showing the GWiz dogs Buck and Remus with some unexpected guests. Also features Walter from the latest book by Joe Cheal, “Who stole my pie?”

Normal blogging will be resumed in the New Year. May it be a prosperous, healthy and most of all happy year for you.

GWiz2014XmasCardColoursA4

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The Triune Brain, how our brain has evolved so far

Firstly I would like to thank all of the lovely people who sent me such wonderful messages about taking care of myself and getting well soon. It is heart warming to read them. A couple of you asked about using NLP to help with health and I am certainly doing that. For example I was booked to deliver a session called “Running your own Brain” to a senior leadership group of 130 people last week. I used state management to ensure that I could perform however we need to remember that traditional medicine also has a place and it is unwise to try and ignore our body when it gives us messages.

Now for this weeks blog…

From an evolutionary perspective it can be said the brain has developed almost in a series of layers building gradually to where we are today.

It is suggested that the brain consists of three main parts that have been labelled the “triune” brain that can be traced back through our evolutionary history. It is worth noting that this theory is one theory only and is not accepted by all. For the purposes of this blog let us consider the possible metaphor this theory offers.

The three parts are made up of the “reptilian” brain, the “mammalian brain” and the “cognitive” brain.

As the name suggests the reptilian brain is the earliest part and we share it with animals including reptiles. It sits at the top of the spinal cord and regulates everything that runs automatically including breathing, heart rate, organ function and the biochemistry of the body. This part of the brain can persist even after a person is pronounced “brain dead” under some circumstances.

It has been suggested that the mammalian brain developed to manage relationships. One of the consequences of this stage in evolution was that animals began to produce “live” young rather than hatching eggs. As such the young needed to be cared for in order to survive. This part of brain is the “limbic system” which contains the amygdala. The amygdala is divided into two parts, one in each hemisphere and it is the amygdala that can both send and receive emotional signals. The introduction of this feature allows the management of behaviours to occur.

The final part of the brain to develop was the “cognitive” brain or “neocortex”. This is the part of the brain that sits above the limbic system and is responsible for making sense of what is going on both within and out in the world. This is often the distinction that is made about the difference between human beings and other animals. In particular the ability to be self-aware and have an awareness of internal representations of self and others. This may be disputed and if you are interested in this aspect you might want to read some of Jeffery Masson’s books (e.g When Elephants weep).

There is certainly some important developments that we can attribute to the cognitive brain including our ability to use language and our ability to integrate our internal systems and our experiences.

I will explore more about the triune brain later in this series. For now I would suggest that understanding these three “levels” of the brain can help the practitioner understand why a client might be “running” on automatic pilot in an unhelpful way. Engaging the cognitive brain is one way of helping the client to manage such knee jerk reactions.

I’m hoping the above is clear, once I get back to full health I’ll review the blogs I’ve written while less than healthy and reflect on them. I am curious to find out how my thinking is impacted by the loud shouting of both my reptilian and mammalian brains!

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