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

The First Moments of the Day

hands forming a heart shape

Every morning is a chance to begin anew. Each day brings new opportunities and experiences. What we do in the first moments of each day can set the tone for what we perceive, experience and accomplish throughout that day.

The suggestions that follow may sound simplistic (or even Pollyannish to some), but the longer I live, the more I realize that the most profound things are pretty simple. It’s the consistent living of these simple things that can be a challenge, but SO worth it! Evidence-based scientific research in the field of neurocardiology shows these suggestions below help build resilience, reduce stress, improve decision-making and self-regulation, and lead to more perceptual balance.*

Here are some ways to start the day that can be helpful:

Before even getting out of bed (or right after getting out of bed), set the tone for your day. I would recommend first doing the HeartMath Quick Coherence® Technique with authentic appreciation and gratitude for the new day. It can effectively get you started in a positive, balanced perspective and facilitates brain function before getting up and becoming active. The Quick Coherence® technique is very simple and only takes a few minutes. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Focus your attention in the area of your heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual.
Suggestion: Inhale five seconds, exhale five seconds (or whatever rhythm is comfortable).

Step 2: Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or gratitude for someone or something in your life.
Suggestion: Try to re-experience the feeling you have for someone you love, a pet, a special place, an accomplishment, etc. or focus on a feeling of calm and ease.

Five to ten minutes doing this technique first thing in the morning (and throughout the day) can help replace draining, stressful emotions like frustration, irritation, anxiety, worry, and anger with more renewing states of mind like appreciation and inner ease, creating more balanced heart rhythms and facilitating mental clarity and perceptual balance.

Consciously anchor your intent for the day. An example could be:

“My intent is to function in balance and focus on the positive throughout my day. I intend to be aware or mindful in the moment, be productive, express appreciation and be of service.”

Suggestion: To empower your intent, it helps to murmur it aloud so you can hear it.

Go outside, if you can, and for a few moments breathe in deeply a few times and greet the day, the plants and sunshine.

Try these suggestions or come up with your own morning ritual that works for you to set the tone for a positive, fulfilling day.

 

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

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Quick Coherence is a registered trademark of Doc Childre.

*Article in Harvard Business Review: Pull the Plug on Stress: https://hbr.org/2003/07/pull-the-plug-on-stress