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8 Life Lessons For This Moment

8 Life Lessons For This Moment

Change is an interesting concept. When we view a change as good, we welcome it, even strive to achieve it – but when we view it as bad, we turn around, run away, and do our very best to resist it.

We live in a world that bombards us with change: ‘Change this so you can do this’ or ‘Change this so this will not happen.’ ‘Change this to be happy’ or ‘Change this so you will not be sad.’ It is hard.

These mini life lessons are not major changes to make, they are simple things to be aware of for those of us seeking more connection to right NOW.

1. Give more hugs

This should be an easy one right? But then why isn’t it? We all know that moment. We run into an old friend, but then we wonder how good of friends we really were, but we only have five seconds to decide if we should hug them. It can be awkward.

Well let’s take the awkward out of it. Just be the person who goes in for the hug. We can hug the people we see everyday (okay, maybe not our bosses) and hug the people we haven’t seen in years. Be the hugger.

Take time to hug yourself. Literally. Wrap your arms around yourself and show yourself some love.

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Human beings need five hugs a day- at least! So go out and get started!

2. Don’t label, just love

This is a hard one. Go ahead and reflect on the last time a label has really served anyone, including ourselves. Labels put people in boxes. Nobody wants to live in a box, but, unfortunately, we label others and ourselves all the time.

As a yoga teacher, I find myself often thinking “okay, what would a ‘yogi’ or a ‘spiritual person’ do in this situation?” I am trapping myself inside a box of labels. I ask myself how I should handle the situation based on the label I have given myself rather than my truest self which is rooted in love.

The question to ask is: “What would love do?”

The truth is we are all a lot of things that we think we can describe with words, but we are all also a lot of things that words cannot do justice. Lets promise ourselves to be aware of how we use our words and the boxes we put ourselves and others into with our labels.

3. Surrender

Sometimes I feel sad and I don’t know why. Then I feel sad, because I feel sad. Then I feel anxious because I do not know what I will stop feeling sad. So in the process of all this I have created multiple emotions for myself to deal with rather than just one.

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Here is the promise: promise our hearts that when they feel joy- we will welcome it, but when they feel sorrow- we will also welcome that too. The battle between what our mind wants and what our heart feels is a tough one, but it is also a very important one.

Let’s surrender to our hearts. Give ourselves permission to feel what we do not want to feel. Sometimes we have to sink down a little, in order to rise up even higher. There is suffering in life, and that is okay.

4. Enjoy the space in between

Life is not about waiting for the next relationship after a break up, or a new job after the last one did not work out. Just like yoga is not simply about the postures, but more importantly the space in between the postures.

Rather than waiting for something in the future, enjoy where we are right now.

5. Listen to our bodies

Our bodies are always talking to us, we just have to learn how to listen.

My junior year of college I began to suffer from anxiety. I would wake up Sunday morning, after three nights of binge drinking, and feel like I could not breath. Getting out of bed was not an option, but staying in bed I would spiral down into a hole of self pity. I felt trapped.

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The way I was living my life was clearly unsustainable. My body was begging me to please stop pouring poison into it. It took me about three years to learn to listen.

As I have listened I have become in tune to other things. How does my body feel after spending time with certain people- drained or renewed?

I have not become an expert listener, but the more I listen, the more I find I am happy with the choices I make.

Listening to our bodies does not mean we have to make sacrifices. It just means we are becoming more in tune to our needs and our truest self.

Our bodies are always ease dropping on our minds, and therefore they hold a lot more answers than we may expect.

6. Be our best selves

This one seems pretty simple; try your hardest, be kind, be authentic.

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Not so fast- this one comes with a bit of a challenge: being our best selves means accepting that our best selves may look different everyday.

Sometimes my best self wants to eat a salad for dinner, and other times I really just want a couple slices of pizza. Sometimes my best self makes it to 6 am yoga class, and sometimes I hit the snooze button for half an hour instead. As human beings we show up differently everyday- and that is beautiful.

We make decisions we are proud of and we make decisions that make us want to hide in a corner. Ask yourself- did I do my best? That is really all that matters.

7. Put yourself in time out

As children, being sent to sit in a quiet room for five minutes alone was a punishment.

Now, to many adults, it probably sounds like heaven.

So next time we need a little break (and if we are listening to our bodies, they will tell us)- just put yourself in time out. Go sit in your car for five minutes (No phone!), and breathe. Go hide in the bathroom for five minutes- do what you have to do! Take a time out.

8. Trust

Trust is the magic. Trust is what allows us to enjoy the space in between. Trust is all about the little things in life. Trust.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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