Cognitive Neuroscience: (Part 2) Breathe

Undoubtedly we all face multiple demands each day, such as a heavy workload, experiencing stressful events in the world, caregiving for a family member, or concerns about making ends meet. When we are in a state of stress or overwhelm, our bodies release chemicals like cortisol. The hypothalamus responds to stress or perceived stressful situations by setting off nerve and hormonal signals sending messages to the adrenal glands that release a cascade of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Being in a state of stress regularly can result in cortisol toxicity, and it places a lot of wear and tear on the body. This increases the risk of numerous health problems like, digestive disorders, headaches, heart disease, weight gain, sleep problems, memory and concentration impairment and depression.

Slowing one’s breathing down and breathing more deeply begins a process of changing your body’s physiology.  Breathing more deeply and slowly and adding a renewing emotion like gratitude or love will bring about very positive change within your heart, your autonomic nervous system and your brain. You can reach a state that neurocardiologists call “coherence.”  Coherence is when your heart, autonomic nervous system and your brain are in sync and a state of balance. When in coherence, chemicals like DHEA are released that help you feel good, enhance health,  and give you energy.

Tip #2 in this series: HeartMath® Institute’s Quick Coherence® Technique

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Try this technique anytime you are experiencing stress, before attending meetings, and beginning and ending your day. The Quick Coherence® technique is practical and can easily be used during a busy day. At first you may wish to do the technique with your eyes closed. As you get familiar with using it, try the Quick Coherence® technique daily with your eyes open; you’ll likely use the technique more often.

© Blog Copyright 2016, Mary Claire O’Neal

Quick Coherence®is a registered trademark of Doc Childre

Mary Claire O’Neal is a HeartMath® Certified Trainer and Coach, communication and leadership consultant, and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.

For more information:  maryclaireoneal.com

 

 

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Cognitive neuroscience: (Part 1) Awareness is everything

Double exposure of businessman
Being the change you wish to see in the world.

This is the beginning of a series of articles designed to be read quickly during your busy day with at least one practical tip for you to try. I always remind my clients that there is no one way to do anything. You might find that this article series sparks off some ideas of your own to be more aware of how you are focusing your thoughts, emotions and energy. If you would like to share them with others, please do in the comment section below this article.

Awareness of our thoughts is at least 95% of making a change in what and where we are focusing our energy. Functioning in “automatic pilot” is one of the largest obstacles in the way of creating positive experiences like success, fulfillment and balance on a daily basis. It’s easy to lose passion for something that has become a rut because we are no longer bringing our awareness and, therefore, creativity to it. In each moment is the opportunity to make it magnificent.

Slowing down just enough to listen to that still, small voice within will help connect with the inner compass of one’s unique talents and values (instead of taking them for granted). Brilliance, happiness and balance can follow when making aware choices in the moment of what thoughts we choose to entertain and navigate us through life.

Tip#1: Instead of starting the day with the news or getting online, try planning first thing into your morning 20 to 30 minutes of time to get your day focused in a positive frame of mind.  I found that getting up 30 minutes earlier was what I needed to have that quiet time to meditate, write down gratitudes and review my “to do” list, prioritizing items for work, home/family, and service in the world (volunteer work for my favorite non-profit or in the community, for example). Doing this first–even before exercising and breakfast really gets the day off to a positive, clear, energetic start. I feel ready and prepared for my day.

© Copyright 2016, Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a certified coach, communication/leadership consultant, Heartmath® Certified Trainer and Coach and is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.

How Healthy is Your Emotional Culture?

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When we think of culture within organizations, we think of the cognitive culture–intellectual values, goals, and frameworks. But there is another type of culture within organizations and businesses which is just as critical–the emotional culture.

While the cognitive culture is generally expressed through words, the emotional culture is usually expressed non-verbally–facial expressions, body language and vocal tonality. How healthy is the culture within your organization or business? Are people stressed, tired or easily irritated?

Generally when there are problems within an organization, it involves the emotional culture because that is where the dysfunction will show up. It’s a symptom. I help leaders and managers in organizational cultures address those symptoms constructively by looking at the underlying causes with positive, realistic solutions.

Here is an article from the Harvard Business Review about how important emotional cultures are:

https://hbr.org/2016/01/manage-your-emotional-culture

 

©Copyright, 2016 Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication and leadership coach, consultant, Heartmath® Certified Trainer, and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.  For more information:  maryclaireoneal.com  and lifeworkresilience.com

 

Mindfulness Training Brings Results

Peace of Mind

Mindfulness training to reduce stress has been around for a long time, and is now, at work, considered to be a highly effective, results-based practice that is becoming mainstream. Aetna, Intel and Keurig Green Mountain have all started to incorporate mindfulness as a leadership practice and have seen benefits to both the company and the individual employees in improvements in employee health, productivity and job satisfaction.

According to the World Health Organization, stress costs American businesses an estimated $300 billion annually, and the costs to the U.S. healthcare system might be even higher, particularly with heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Training such as the Resilience Advantage™, Heartmath’s mindfulness principles and breathing techniques (can be done anywhere, even on-the-go) bring great results in the decrease of stress, health issues, and negative emotional states like frustration, and anger. An increase in health, as well as improved sleep, positivity, situational awareness, problem-solving, creativity and performance has been found in study after study. Here is data from a study six weeks after employees took the HeartMath® training, The Resilience Advantage™:

52% reduction in exhaustion and tiredness
60% reduction in anger and annoyance
60% reduction in depression
43% reduction in heartburn and indigestion
44% reduction in headaches and body aches
33% reduction in inadequate sleep

The principals and self-regulation techniques are based on over 20 years of scientific research in the field of neurocardiology. Among a few of the organizations that have invested in this resilience training with excellent results: US Navy; Fortune 500 companies worldwide; Stanford Graduate School of Business; hospital systems; and the US Army.

For more information about Heartmath’s the Resilience Advantage training:

Mary Claire O’Neal, Heartmath® Certified Trainer and Coach

US (+1) 859-272-2515

Website: http://www.lifeworkresilience.com

Article © Copyright 2015, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photo: Getty Images

Eight Secrets for Being a Powerful Listener

 

iStock_000054823362_Large Listening

Hmmm. Shop or listen? The National Day of Listening is the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, a day many join the shopping madness on “Black Friday.” It seems a very appropriate day to, as an alternative to focusing on buying more stuff, focus on being with others and listening, really listening, to them. The National Day of Listening was launched by the national oral history project StoryCorps in 2008, now heard on public radio stations nationwide. From the StoryCorps website: “We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters.”

Every day should be a day for listening.

Being a communication consultant for over 15 years, I know that listening (I have to work at this, too) is probably one of the most challenging parts of good communication. Good communication is an important element in building resilience and balance in life and creating positive and meaningful relationships of all kinds.

Not everyone is a good listener. In fact, really good listeners are, unfortunately, rare. But those who are good listeners are appreciated, respected and loved by those who know them.

The brain works by association, and it is very easy for your thoughts to make connections to either your own experiences that relate to what is being said or something that has an associative connection in some way with what is being said. But the problem with that is it takes our thoughts out of the moment with that person and brings the focus in our minds to ourselves instead of the other person. So, good listening is not a passive activity but rather a very active one–one in which intent and focus (to keep bringing ourselves back into the moment with that person) are required. A few of the things needed for good listening are: awareness, focus, compassion, generosity, patience, and mindfulness.

Here are some important tips and reminders for being a powerful listener:

  1. Stay in the moment with that person and what they are saying. If your mind wanders for a moment, bring your focus back to that person, breathe slower through the area of your heart with the intent to really hear the other person.
  2. Listen compassionately. Suspend judgement, and listen with your heart. Look for what you may have in common instead where you may not agree. The more judgmental one is, the shorter the conversation may end up being, and will leave an impression of separation instead of unity with the one who was sharing with you.
  3. Try to be aware of talking less and listening more. Avoid turning the conversation around to make it about you. If you find yourself using “I” and “me” a lot, try using them much less and make the conversation about the person you are listening to.
  4. It can help to enrich a conversation by using the answer to a question you may ask the other person as a basis for the next question. When what you are saying is connected to what you are hearing, it will assure the one who is talking with you that you’re really listening and encourage more sharing.
  5. Please try to avoid relating their experiences to yours, “I’ve experienced that, too!” While this can be an attempt to relate to the other person and show understanding (and have good intentions behind it), it can turn the conversation around to be focused on you. If you find you have done that, turn the conversation back to the other person as the focus.
  6. Use non-verbal communication that shows the other you are hearing them. Doing things like , nodding “yes,” eye contact, or leaning toward them across a table let the person know that you are listening and with them.​​​
  7. Try not to offer solutions or help, at least not right away. Wait to be asked for your opinion. If you aren’t asked, don’t offer it or ask them first if they want your perspective before giving it. Many times people just want to be heard. They don’t need someone to rescue them or solve their problem.
  8. Be encouraging and patient. Please don’t interrupt.

Give the gift of your undivided attention to others, they will appreciate your gift from the heart!

© Copyright 2015, Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a Heartmath® Certified Trainer and Coach, communication and leadership consultant, and Author of the Award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.

For more information: http://lifeworkresilence.com

Mastery of Oneself

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery – not over nature – but of ourselves.” –Rachel Carson, environmentalist

What is mastery over ourselves? What would that look like?

Ultimately our intent, thoughts, words, actions and responses are the only things that we can control and master. These all involve choice and our own freewill. It’s the awareness that every moment involves a choice—whether it be on the automatic, unconscious level or with awareness and mastery.

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Photo credit: Getty Images

The awareness of those choices in the moments that make up our lives involves a discipline of mind. Sound like a lot of work? It is—at first. But that discipline of mind becomes easier and easier, and it is SO worth it! How is it worth it? A simple example is when you make a conscious choice to change a thought. Maybe it’s a thought that really doesn’t serve any purpose other than making you feel down or defeated. By changing that one thought that has been floating around in your mind all day to one that is more uplifting, you can change the course of your day. You can also change the world around you by changing that one thought. Have you ever been around someone who stays negative about almost everything or doesn’t want to see a hopeful solution? It has an effect on those who are around them. The same is true for those who are hopeful, empowered and are taking action that is consistent with hope and empowerment. The hopeful draw people to them in a good way like a magnet.

Another example of that mastery is when you look at and consider the effects a choice you make will have on others before you make it. Does insisting that it be your way make you blind to the needs of others? I can think of an instance or two in my life where I, out of fear, had inadvertently done this. If you think about it, perhaps you can remember an example of this in your own life–an instance where you were coming from a place of fear–fear of change or fear that another way would not bring the desired results. How many times have we seen the effects of choices made by others when consideration was not made first about the impact those choices would have?  Perhaps you directly felt those effects, perhaps not, but the effects were apparent.

Seeking mastery over others is not leadership; it is an abuse of power.

Seeking mastery of oneself is living a conscious life and is genuine leadership.

Masters are everywhere, in all walks of life. A master can be the person who sees her/his life as a service. It’s a janitor I know who always has a cheerful greeting and is truly joyful in doing what some people would consider a menial task. It’s the person in the parking garage booth, who recently when I asked “how are you?” answered with, “I’m blessed! I have a job where all day long I can greet people and wish them a good evening. What could be better than that?” I’m humbled by that kind of mastery.

Mastery is not perfection. Masters make mistakes, and they do encounter difficulties. Mastery can be working in a process of knowing there’s always more to know. Mastery can be about getting back up again after a fall or mistake, claiming it, apologizing for it (if it affected others), learning from it, dusting oneself off, and moving forward again.

© Copyright 2014 Mary Claire O’Neal, All rights reserved.

Mary Claire O’Neal is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World, and is a communication consultant and coach.

www.maryclaireoneal.com

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Overcoming Over-thinking

Have you ever thought about something TOO much?166262764_8

Have you ever not been able to sleep because thoughts keep running through your head?

While thinking through things is really helpful and important (some people could even do more of that!), sometimes we can detour our lives and get off track by thinking or analyzing too much. This over-thinking can turn into a negative direction and create a state of doubt, stress, anxiety or worry (or even cognitively convince oneself of a hypothetical situation that doesn’t even exist).  Have you ever encountered a difficulty with someone, thinking that their intent was negative and found out later that you were very wrong about that?  You discovered later that they did not have a negative intention at all?

From the perspective of Quantum Physics, simply put, thoughts are things. Thoughts have an effect on us, the world, and matter. When we allow ourselves to go down a path of negatively over-thinking something, we are having more of an effect, many times, than we realize.

Our minds work through association (association with past experiences) or perceptual connections, so given free rein, the mind can divert us from being in the moment with what is really needed. We are so much more than our thoughts. We are deeper than thought. We all have a core of strength, wisdom, joy, and, yes, love that is much truer than thought. And ideally, thought can be influenced by and arise out of that inner core of what we really are.

In many traditions throughout the ages, the area of the heart is associated with this part of us that is more than our minds, more than thought, even more than matter (or the physical aspects of life).  For thousands of years, it has been associated with the seat of the soul, with universal love, with wisdom.

Here is an activity to try:89796678_8

  • Sit quietly and focus on your breath (just pay attention to breathing in and exhaling).
  • Quiet yourself and focus on the area of your heart.
  • Visualize a beautiful white light with sparkles of gold in that area.
  • Allow the light to expand into your whole body (including your head), filling your cells with that light, like a honeycomb lighting up.
  • Let yourself feel the love coming from your heart or soul, that inner core of wisdom.
  • Send this light of love from your heart to bathe the difficulty or person with that light. Send positive thoughts for that situation or person.

You may find that this easy and simple activity not only helps bring you back to a more balanced place, it also helps with your perspective in a situation.  You might even find that things improve and the truer aspects “come to light.”  This is also a good activity (in addition to other obvious ways) when observing a situation or area of the world that needs help—pouring into that country or situation the love from your heart.

When you see yourself in a place of over-thinking, it helps to bring yourself back to the heart, to infuse the problem with love.  To some people using the word “love” sounds fluffy, and to that I say that love is a powerful force in this world–more powerful than fear, hate, and separation.  It is what we truly are. It is the hope for the world. What would this world look like if more and more people brought themselves to a place of love instead of fear?

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World .

© Copyright 2013, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photos: Getty Images

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