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Tue, 25 Apr 2017
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Productivity 'hacks' - How to stay focused amidst chaos

Constantly finding yourself with a million and one things to do? If so, you probably know all too well that when we're drowning in tasks and responsibilities, staying focused and getting things done can seemingly feel impossible.

Having experienced these overwhelming situations myself, over the years, I have tried out countless tips in hopes that they would help me to not only survive - but to thrive - even during the most hectic and chaotic kind of days.

Here, I'm sharing with you some of these simple productivity 'hacks' that I have personally found to be most effective. Give them a try! I hope that they'll be as useful for you as they are for me.

Comment: Understanding the inner workings of your brain can improve your productivity and quality of life


Brain

Brain integration - What EMDR, running, and drumming have in common

Nope, this isn't a strange riddle where someone is found in the desert in a scuba suit. The answer to the question posed above is actually pretty simple: brain integration.

What is that? Excellent question; I am glad you asked. As you may know, we have two hemispheres of the brain. Neuroscience is a relatively young field, and we are continuing to learn more about the complexity of the brain and its function with time and as research evolves. We do know that there are different roles played by different sides and areas of the brain, and that integrating neural networks appears to be helpful in resolving traumatic memories.

The success of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in treating trauma and mental health challenges teaches us that alternating right- and left-brain stimulation, via visual, auditory, or tactile experience, helps facilitate emotional processing. Through the simple act of holding something that buzzes between your right and left hand, or listening to something shifting from your right to left ear, a memory that was once charged with emotion can become less distressing. During the process, it is common for relevant associations to arise, for memories of thoughts and body sensations to arise. With support, this process can facilitate lasting and integrated healing.

Brain

Demystifying meditation and tapping into the subconscious


Photo courtesy of luciajoy.com
If your meditation practice continuously feels like a herculean effort, and you can't stop thinking, analyzing, and wondering if you're doing it right, you're doing the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish. That's why I want to demystify the meditation process.

The purpose of meditation is to slow down your brain waves and get beyond the thinking, analytical mind. What I want you to understand is that you already know how to do this, because you do it every day.

If you can begin your practice with the understanding that all you're doing is relaxing your body (just like when you're falling asleep) while keeping your mind conscious and awake—and if you can continuously move deeper into this state of relaxation while focusing on nothing (or not thinking)—you've just opened the doorway between the conscious and subconscious mind.

Comment: For more on Joe Dispenza's work and how he uses meditation as a tool for transformation, you can read Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One




Family

People often use the word 'you' rather than 'I' to cope with negative experiences

© Jakub Jirsák / Fotolia
"You win some, you lose some." Using the word "you" suggests it could happen to anyone.
Researchers say it may seem contradictory that a means of generalizing to people at large is used when reflecting on one's most personal and idiosyncratic experiences. To cope with negative experiences or to share an insight, people often use the word "you" rather than "I." "You" is an overlooked word that people use to express norms and rules, new University of Michigan research found.

Researchers conducted nine experiments with 2,489 people to understand why people curiously use "you" not only to refer to specific others, but also to reflect on their own experiences. "It's something we all do as a way to explain how things work and to find meaning in our lives," said Ariana Orvell, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology and the study's lead author.

"When people use "you" to make meaning from negative experiences, it allows them to 'normalize' the experience and reflect on it from a distance," said Orvell. For example, "you win some, you lose some" would indicate that a person has failed in a situation, but by using the word 'you,' they are able to communicate that this could happen to anyone.

Butterfly

8 Powerful Habits of Highly Influential People

© Getty images
Influential people have a profound impact on everyone they encounter. Yet, they achieve this only because they exert so much influence inside, on themselves.

We see only their outside.

We see them innovate, speak their mind, and propel themselves forward toward bigger and better things.

And, yet, we're missing the best part.

The confidence and wherewithal that make their influence possible are earned. It's a labor of love that influential people pursue behind the scenes, every single day.

And while what people are influenced by changes with the season, the unique habits of influential people remain constant. Their focused pursuit of excellence is driven by eight habits that you can emulate and absorb until your influence expands:

Black Cat 2

Compassion for animals improves personal well-being

Compassion is the humane side of suffering, which inspires the most beautiful acts of humanity. In man's world, animals often bear the worst of our dark side, suffering under the stresses of cruelty and ruthlessness, however, being compassionate towards animals may actually be good for your health and well-being, perhaps even prolonging your life.

For so many of us, compassion appears to be an innate, instinctual part of the human experience, something so many of us do automatically, and decades of clinical psychological research into the problem of human suffering shows how our most evolved nature is to respond compassionately. A host of university studies share the conclusion that compassion is part of our higher nature, looking at the biological basis for compassion.
"Dacher Keltner summarized the emerging findings from this new science of human goodness, proposing that compassion is "an evolved part of human nature, rooted in our brain and biology."" [Source]
Human well-being is multi-dimensional and the corollaries between how we behave and how that behavior in turn affects our overall wellness are more understood now than ever before. When we act from our higher nature, it benefits our health, which may explain the tendency for so many people to live altruistic lives in helping others and protecting animals.

Attention

Children understand far more of what goes on in the minds of others than long believed

© Shutterstock
Until a few decades ago, scholars believed that young children know very little, if anything, about what others are thinking. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, who is credited with founding the scientific study of children's thinking, was convinced that preschool children cannot consider what goes on in the minds of others.

The interviews and experiments he conducted with kids in the middle of the 20th century suggested that they were trapped in their subjective viewpoints, incapable of imagining what others think, feel or believe. To him, young children seemed oblivious to the fact that different people might hold distinct viewpoints or perspectives on the world, or even that their own perspectives shift over time.

Much of the subsequent research on early childhood thinking was highly influenced by Piaget's ideas. Scholars sought to refine his theory and empirically confirm his views. But it became increasingly clear that Piaget was missing something. He seemed to have gravely underestimated the intellectual powers of very young kids - before they can make themselves understood by speech or even intentional action. Researchers began to devise ever more ingenious ways of figuring out what goes on in the minds of babies, and the resulting picture of their abilities is becoming more and more nuanced.

Consequently, the old view of children's egocentric nature and intellectual weaknesses has increasingly fallen out of favor and become replaced by a more generous position that sees a budding sense not only of the physical world but also of other minds, even in the "youngest young."

Comment: When do children develop a sense of self-awareness?


Brain

Meditation keeps your brain young

Human knowledge is constantly evolving and changing, yet most of us believe scientific theories to be fact rather than working understandings of a topic. But they are theories, and our understanding of 'what is' continues to change. These are always difficult times, because long-held beliefs enforced by scientific dogma are, for many people, difficult to adjust or relinquish. Anger and disbelief are common reactions, no matter how thoroughly an old theory is disproven. Just think back to when we discovered the Earth was round, not flat, or that Earth was not the center of the universe — the Catholic Church went so far as to persecute and even put to death scientists and 'free-thinkers' who opposed them.

Fast forward to today and, fortunately, much has changed. Although several industries that we rely upon are plagued by corruption, fraud, and disinformation, some would argue that it's not as bad as it used to be, as evinced by the scientific study of concepts once deemed to be spiritual 'nonsense' by the community, like meditation, or non-material science.

Over the past few years alone, a wealth of scientific data has outlined the many benefits meditation can have on our biology, furthering strengthening the scientific validity of the mind-body connection.

Comment: For a fantastic meditation program try Éiriú Eolas.


Music

Stop worrying about talent -- everyone can sing

© Jessica M. Kuhn / U.S. Army, CC BY
A Hungarian film titled "Sing" recently won the Oscar for best short film. "Sing" tells the story of young Zsófi, who joins a renowned children's choir at her elementary school where "everyone is welcome."

Soon after joining, Zsófi is told by her teacher Erika not to sing, but only mouth the words. On the face of it, she accepts her teacher's request stoically. But later in the movie, her anguish and pain become obvious, when she reluctantly tells her best friend what happened.

The movie goes on to reveal that Zsófi isn't the only choir member who has been given these hurtful instructions. The choir teacher's defense is, "If everybody sings we can't be the best."

I have been a professor of music education for the past 28 years, and I wish I could say that the story of a music teacher asking a student not to sing is unusual. Unfortunately, I have heard the story many times.

In fact, research shows that many adults who think of themselves as "unmusical" were told as children that they couldn't or shouldn't sing by teachers and family members.

Comment: More on the benefits of singing:


Binoculars

90% of people don't want to know about a negative future

© David Grey/ Rutgers
Given the choice most people would not want to know their future, even if these events could make them happy, a new study has found. Researchers say that people would rather avoid the suffering that knowing the future could cause. Most people wish to avoid regretting their decision to know, and want to preserve the enjoyment of suspense in their lives, the research found.

The team also found that those who prefer not to know the future are more risk averse and are more likely to buy life and legal insurance than people who want to know the future. They claim that those who choose to be ignorant anticipate regret and so are more pessimistic.

The length of time until an event would occur played a role in participants' responses. Deliberate ignorance was more likely the nearer the event was. For example, older adults were less likely than younger adults to want to know when they or their partner would die, and the cause of death.