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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The Brain, male or female?

Firstly I must start with an apology, there have been no blogs for the last two weeks! I have been rather unwell. It is interesting to note anecdotally the impact this has on the thinking, clarity and attention span. Clearly the brain is distracted when we experience illness.

Luckily for me what I have has a solution and I will be having an operation in the next couple of weeks that will in all likelihood put me back to full health. What it does do for me is help me understand how challenging life must be for people coping with ongoing illness to function mentally.

Here is my pledge, I will get back on track with writing my blog on the subject of the brain.

For now, you might want to consider some fairly recent discoveries about the difference between the male and female brain. Imaging scans show that there is a significant difference in the neural pathways of men and women. This difference is consistent across the samples explored.

The male brain is full of pathways running from the back of the brain to the front that stay within the hemispheres. Female brains show pathways crossing the hemisheres and running in the opposite direction to males.

My brain is still a bit fuzzy at the moment so I suggest you do a little research to find out more. Recently the BBC Horizon programme “Is your brain male or female?”, if you are in the UK this programme may still be on BBC iPlayer.

I am hoping to get my notes together for a fuller blog for next week. See you then.

 

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A Layperson’s guide to basic brain structure!

Following on from last week I thought it would be useful to start with a basic look at the “geography” of the brain and what is currently thought of as an overview of function.

I include here an image I drew so must first apologise if it is not completely in proportion… Do check out other images!

Brain lobes with label

The view shown here shows the frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal lobes. It also shows the cerebellum (more on this in later blogs).

You probably already know that the brain has two hemispheres, left and right. The lobes are sub-divisions of the lobes and appear in both hemispheres

The primary responsibility of the occipital lobe is vision. Damage to this lobe leads to blindness in part of the visual field.

The parietal lobe deals with body sensations while the temporal lobe contributes to hearing and to complex aspects of vision.

The frontal lobe contains some important structures such as the motor cortex and the prefrontal cortex. For me one of the most interesting aspects of the prefrontal cortex is the understanding researchers such as Patricia Goldman-Rakic and others have presented. According to Goldman-Rakic the prefrontal cortex is responsible for behaviours guided by “internal representations” of the world. Some of this understanding has come from studying animals in ways that personally I feel a little uncomfortable about, however the learning is still valid.

For example a monkey that lacks a prefrontal cortex can learn to respond to simple external stimulus that does not require an internal representation to interpret such as knowing which coloured light will provide food and which to avoid. The same monkey struggles when presented with a task that requires an internal representation as provided by a delayed response task. For example a task that where approaching a green light thirty seconds after it has gone out in order to receive the reward is the correct response. According to Goldman-Rakic an internal representation of the past stimuli is required in order to complete this task. Her research demonstrates that the prefrontal cortex includes a large number of separate circuits representing past stimuli of different types e.g. visual, auditory etc.

For students of NLP this research and it’s connection to the brain can be very useful as a way of explaining the use of representational system in many of the processes and techniques. It provides a concrete foundation to linking brain function to change work. For those of you who are more based in the coaching field this is equally useful.

I will continue with this theme next week.

For those of you who like original references, if anyone knows of a more upto date reference of similar research do let me know:

Goldman-Rakic, P. S. (1987) Development of cortical circuitry and cognitive function, Child Development, 58, 601-622 (4)

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Why should Coaches and NLP Practitioners learn about the brain?

Polly and AmandaBefore launching into detail I thought it would be useful to talk a little more about why it is useful for Coaches and NLP Practitioners to learn about the brain. This week we have students attending NLP Master Practitioner and we will be exploring this issue during the programme. Most people who seek help from a Coach or an NLP Practitioner will be looking to form a relationship based on trust. Often this will come first from personal recommendation where another person has had a good experience with that coach or practitioner. The relationship will gradually develop as the process unfolds and the client experiences positive results. Sometimes recommendation is not enough or doesn’t exist. Under these circumstances a potential client may ask for evidence of credentials and training. This may include qualifications and CVs. They also want to have a sense that the coach/practitioner has a grounding in theory as well as practice. If you are able to explain the link between coaching / NLP Practice and the brain your client may feel re-assured. For clients with a pragmatic approach to life good foundation in theory, evidence and science becomes essential. Before going any further we also need to reality check. Are the links clear? Sadly, not particularly. At this stage many links written about in books and mentioned in seminars are just hypotheses. They are based on some very good logical thinking however in many cases the direct evidence is lacking. We are often working with suppositions that one thing is linked to another. This too is important for the coach and NLP Practitioner to remember and we need to cautious about over claiming anything. Having said all that using the brain and neuro-science as a metaphor can also be very powerful in helping people to make internal shifts and changes. Currently much of the evidence of change is anecdotal. What I find exciting is the desire of many practitioners both in the coaching and NLP fields to start collecting better evidence. As technology improves this evidence will slowly emerge and already there are small steps being taken in that direction. So in a nutshell why is this useful to a Coach or an NLP Practitioner?

  1. It’s interesting!
  2. Helps the client understand how processes may be working.
  3. Helps develop a more professional foundation for our fields.
  4. Can be used as metaphors to help learning and change.

These are just my initial thoughts and I may evolve my thinking as I contemplate this topic. Let me know what you think.

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