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Just…BREATHE

Just…BREATHE


    One of the things I like about my job is that I can do things like watch iTunesU…and claim it’s work.

    While doing that recently I came across a lecture by Dr Margaret Chesney of the UCSF Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine. It’s a long (nearly 90 minutes long) lecture ,but the contents are great if you’re trying to find tools for coping and dealing the crud life throws at you. So I’ve put together a summary in this piece.

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    (If you want the subtlties you’ll just have to listen through for yourself.)

    There’s a lot in common with the work of people like Professor Martin Seligman’s work on confidence and happiness (and so on), but there’s a new twist to it too — which is covered a lot more in the video than in this summary.

    In short…it’s based on the acronym BREATHE.

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    B

    Be in the moment. Simple. Make a point of noticing what’s going on around you, right here, right now. Try some conscious breathing exercises to help increase your awareness. (You can have a look at almost any writing about ‘mindfulness‘ to help you here, too.) The important thing is to become aware of the here-and-now.

    R

    Realistic goals – set ’em. Don’t set yourself targets that you can’t possibly achieve. That way you’re making things worse for yourself because you’re setting yourself up for a continuous stream of failure. By all means stretch yourself but don’t over-stretch yourself. Stretch shouldn’t become ‘strain’.

    E

    Everyday events – notice them. Dr Chesney has a lovely moment of pointing out to people that they really hate not being able to breathe easily when they’ve got a cold… and they hate it… and they notice it… but how many people notice it when they’ve not got a cold and can breathe easily? Things like ‘gratitude logs’ help here.

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    Or just stop, right now, and do nothing for a few minutes except jot down the good things around you that you should be grateful for.. and that you are grateful for, now you’ve taken the time to think of them! Let’s start with the fact that you’ve got eyes that work enough to read this (or something to read it for you!) and electricity to work your computer to display it…. you get the idea!

    A

    Acts of kindness – do ’em! Creating positive moments for other people makes you feel better and makes you feel better about yourself. Quite apart from that, it makes their day better too!  Making the world a better place one act of kindness at a time? Cool!

    T

    Turn around the negatives. This one’s a challenge. It’s about reframing stuff and finding the ‘silver lining’ to your cloud. Sure it’s not easy and some things just don’t have a silver lining that you can find at the time  but a lot of stuff does. Most things in fact. Almost everything.

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    No one is saying it’s easy or that bad stuff isn’t bad stuff – just that trying to use the bad stuff and mitigate it with a sliver of good is better than just being a victim.

    H

    Honour your strengths – be true to yourself. Be true to your values. Be true to what you’re good at – and admit that you’re good at things. Make a point of listing them. Don’t pretend you don’t have any – false modesty isn’t anything to be proud of… and people see through it easily enough anyway recognising it as a form of arrogance. So what’s wrong with just accepting to yourself that you’re good at something – and then acting on it!!?

    E

    End each day with gratitude – check what has happened that day. Go over it and find the good in it. For those things that weren’t so good, decide what you can do about them. What can you learn; what can you do differently? If there’s nothing (really?!!?) let go. Sleep well, knowing that you’ve got a plan and you’re not wallowing in the bad…. :)

    I hope I’ve done Dr Chesney justice. If you want the full thing, here you go!

    (Photo credit: Breathe via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Do you like making mistakes?

    I certainly don’t.

    Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

    Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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    Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

    Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

    • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
    • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
    • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
    • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

    We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

    If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

    Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

    Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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    When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

    Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

    We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

    It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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    Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

    Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

    Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

    1. Point us to something we did not know.
    2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
    3. Deepen our knowledge.
    4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
    5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
    6. Inform us more about our values.
    7. Teach us more about others.
    8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
    9. Show us when someone else has changed.
    10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
    11. Remind us of our humanity.
    12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
    13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
    14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
    15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
    16. Invite us to better choices.
    17. Can teach us how to experiment.
    18. Can reveal a new insight.
    19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
    20. Can serve as a warning.
    21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
    22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
    23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
    24. Remind us how we are like others.
    25. Make us more humble.
    26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
    27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
    28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
    29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
    30. Expose our true feelings.
    31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
    32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
    33. Point us in a more creative direction.
    34. Show us when we are not listening.
    35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
    36. Can create distance with someone else.
    37. Slow us down when we need to.
    38. Can hasten change.
    39. Reveal our blind spots.
    40. Are the invisible made visible.

    Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

    The secret to handling mistakes is to:

    • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
    • Have an experimental mindset.
    • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

    When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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    When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

    It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

    When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

    Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

    Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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    Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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