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Gratitude Pays Off

April 11, 2021 by  
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I’ve written several posts on the powerful benefits of gratitude and what good things it can do for your life. In these days of the pandemic, I would guess most of us look back and see all the things we took for granted that we have not had or been able to do this past year. I sure have!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize how very, very important being social is to us humans until it was almost totally taken away from us all. But now, as we slowly pull out of this COVID thing with so many people getting vaccines (and yes, I got mine), we can really appreciate and be more grateful for all we have.

Recently, I read about scientific studies that found that we gain dozens of significant benefits from having gratitude in our lives. For instance, having gratitude…

  • Fosters very positive feelings.
  • Gives you a sense of wellbeing.
  • Eases our anxiety and depression.
  • Promotes physical health.
  • Improves our relationships.
  • Helps us sleep better.
  • Improves our psychological health and gives us more mental strength.
  • Helps us relax.
  • Makes you friendlier.
  • Helps your marriage.
  • Deepens friendships.
  • Increases your productivity.
  • Helps you make friends.
  • Can benefit your career.

There are many more benefits to having a high degree of gratitude in your life, but for me, this list is a darn good start and a great reminder for me to be more and more grateful.

We should be really super grateful for living in this great country of America. Most of us have a fairly high standard of living. Having traveled and visited 94 countries and having seen the poverty and poor people of China, South Africa, and many other places, I am very grateful for what I have and where I live.

Also, I think of all of my good friends and family, how grateful they are for us. They are close most of the time and are there for us when we need them. I think, of all my great friends and kids and grandkids and am so grateful for all of them, especially my great wife Kimberly. She is the best and I am so lucky and grateful to have her. Even my ex-wife Lois seems to be grateful for me and I certainly am grateful to her for being so accepting of me and my new family.

I encourage you all to take time to make a list of those things, people, and situations that you are grateful for. Taking even just 5 minutes to start your own “Gratitude Journal” could have some fantastic benefits. I’ve done that, and it quite surprised me to see how long the list became. Yes, go do it. You’ll be glad you did.

And yes, I’m also very grateful to you, my readers. Thank you so much for reading and for your support.

When the Brain Let’s Go

February 7, 2021 by  
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I continue to read and reread David Hawkins great book called Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender. I’m even more into it now, especially with all the evidence he gives on the huge power of the brain and how it can do so much to aid the body, including its power to cure diseases. It’s all done by giving the brain the right signals. And, of course, if you give it the wrong signals, it can cause lots of problems.

The brain, if used right, really does have the power to eliminate disease. It’s all about your thoughts and feelings. Dr. Hawkins tells of how his brain eliminated and stopped more than a dozen different physical problems that he had. He did it by using what he calls the “letting go” technique. “Once the mind knows the way to alleviate its inner pressure, like Pandora’s box, it begins to let all the garbage up, and up it came in profusion!”

Hawkins healed himself from more than a dozen physical and medical problems by using his brain. He did this with migraine headaches, gastritis, hyperacidity, and intermittent pylorospasm. He also cured what he calls “middle age syndrome”. He describes this as, “Coldness in hands and feet, loss of energy and libido, and depression.” He adds that, “The mounting pressure of suppressed emotion in all areas of life obviously contributed to the multiplicity of illnesses.”

To get the brain working on healing the body, one of the first things Hawkins says you should do is “stop giving a physical disorder a name; do not label it.” Instead, ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” For some reason this does make a difference and for the good.

I love David’s summary of this thing called “letting go”. He does so by describing the process he went through: “Now, like it or not, it had to be acknowledged that everyone is a thinking/feeling organism. It would not work to keep denying reality. Before long, it was okay to have feelings. With the letting go technique, the only way out was to acknowledge and relinquish the feelings. This became easier as the physical condition started to improve … Within days of using the technique, the physical condition at the lower end of the gastrointestinal tract promptly healed itself and, in fact, the surgery was cancelled.”

Then he wraps it up, saying, “How wonderful to be free and to experience the power of mind! It was obvious … that we are only subject to those things that we hold in mind. It is not necessary to be a slave or victim in the world.”

Get Past the Depression

January 10, 2021 by  
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The news this week, and through much of this past year, has been terribly sad and is sometimes almost too hard to process. There is been a lot of news about depression and how much more of it there is right now. It’s understandable. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject with thoughts from past posts. Because although depression may be hard to avoid in times like these, it can be minimized and only fleeting if you are vigilant.

First of all, we need to deal with our disappointment and the restrictions this pandemic has put on our lives. Our advanced technologies have led us to habitually expect that we can access our wishes immediately. Super-fast internet, instant downloads, and multi-functional cell phones give us the ability to have some level of access to whatever or whomever we want whenever we want. But life, in general, doesn’t work that way. As a result, we are experiencing tremendous frustration and impatience with a world that is not changing quickly and fulfilling our needs and wishes immediately. This can ultimately lead to depression or anger.

In my book How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, I touch upon some of the depressive episodes I have been through and some of the ways I have dealt with them. I also think Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The Power of Now, has hit upon the true source and the most effective ideas to combat depression as well as other mood disorders.

The first few ideas on his list are some of the most important, at least in my experience. They deal with becoming a watcher of one’s thoughts and redirecting the mind when we start to buy into the idea of being a depressed person:

  • Learn to recognize how your mind labels thoughts and sits in judgment so you know what ideas lie at the source of your pain.
  • Accept whatever the present moment contains as if you had chosen it.
  • The pain or depression wants you to unconsciously identify with it, allowing it to survive in your mind. If you are not a careful watcher of your thoughts then you may come to believe that you are a depressed person and then this becomes your identity.

Letting your mind create this depression identity will make it very difficult to get past the dark feelings and the pain because you will then believe this is who you are. But if you start with these first few ideas of Tolle’s, recognizing how your mind is working and seeing the present moment as something under your control, you can avoid the mindset that makes you think of yourself as a depressed person.

These ideas are true for any issues of mood. I choose to talk about them in terms of depression because that has been a difficult battle of mine. However, if you are dealing with anger, guilt, low self-esteem, fear, etc. watching your thoughts and taking control can help you with all types of painful moods and attitudes.

So, if you are depressed, don’t just live with it. Find its source, accept that it exists, and then aim to let it go. Give yourself goals and make plans you can look forward to. Eat healthy and whole foods as refined and sugary foods have been shown to feed depression. Get out and move and boost that serotonin and dopamine in your brain.

You may also want to turn off the TV, stop reading those dramatic headlines, and unsubscribe from all those pessimistic reports. Instead, read up on all the great success stories you can find on-line and in responsible and inspiring periodicals. You can, literally, change your mood by changing your view of the world as well as your mindset.

 

Something New, Near or Far

December 27, 2020 by  
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The human mind is an incredible machine. Our brain can remember tons of facts, experiences, feelings, and more. I find it so very interesting and exciting that, after struggling to remember some situation, name, or fact and giving up, later that day or even the next day, like magic, while I’m not even trying, the answer will suddenly pop into my head. I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced the same phenomena.

Yes, our brains are amazing but they do need to be fed. There is this super great thing we can do for our brains when we are feeling down in the dumps. It’s a simple little thing called “novelty”. Our brains crave novelty! Being exposed to something new and totally different than we’ve ever seen or experienced before does amazing things for our brains.

Today I was very bored and a bit down (Thanks COVID for picking on me and, well, pretty much everybody!) That bad ole virus has kicked our social life in the face and it wiped out the wife’s and my travel plans this year. Nearly every year we fly to Paris and from there go on to visit new countries, seeing so many new sights and faces. We are missing the novelty that we get when we travel to new places and meet new and different people.

With my brain being a bit down, I have certainly had the urge to see something novel lately and a few days ago, I knew that I was going to need that very, very soon. So, I did a very simple thing that didn’t take an airplane or a lot of time. We just jumped in my car and started driving.

I drove to places, neighborhoods, and business districts that I had never seen and it worked! Yes, we found novelty in places nearby. Seeing pretty much anything that is new to your eyes and brain can lift your feelings and attitude. It was only a one-hour drive but, wow, it was a great lift for my brain and mood and it was such a simple thing to do.

In today’s COVID world, and especially around Christmas and New Year times, we need to push ourselves to seek out and find those new sights, sounds, people, and experiences that stimulate our brains. Yes, it may take some thinking and planning but that’s not hard to do.

So, I am going to challenge myself, my family, friends, and, yes, you the reader to look for and find things to see, do, and experience, especially now as we start a new year. Let’s all go do it and make 2021 and great new and exciting year!

The Neglected Key to a Long Life

October 25, 2020 by  
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I started to re-read the book entitled I’ve Decided to Live 120 YEARS: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Transformation written by Ilchi Lee. I’ve written about this book in a previous blog post but I didn’t mention an incredible statistic I learned about in these pages.

It turns out, you can do this very simple thing that, on average, can lengthen your life by 7.5 years. That conclusion was reached based on data from 143 studies with a total of 300,000 participants. In that previous post, I mostly talked about how a long and healthy life is primarily about eating nutritious foods and staying physically active but there’s a bit more you can do.

So, during my second read of the book, what really jumped out at me was something that I’ve not been doing much of since I retired. I’m kind of surprised that I’ve ignored this critical part of living a long life and I have suffered because of it.

What is it that I’ve ignored that could have possibly lengthened my life by 7.5 years? It’s this thing called a social life! Having and keeping a good strong and active social life does things to the brain including sending signals to various body parts that keep it healthy and helps you live longer.

When I retired, I let my social life slide down big time! I stopped going to the office and so I stopped seeing my coworkers, clients, partners and business associates. I also moved into a big house on the mountain side with no neighbors, so that made it even worse. And this COVID-19 has certainly not helped in the least. In addition, there’s no kids here at home anymore. It’s just me and the wife in our big, empty nest.

Lee says in his book, “The isolation of the elderly doesn’t only cause loneliness, it has been shown to have a negative impact on physical and mental health, increasing conditions like chronic disease, high blood pressure, depression, cognitive decline, and dementia”. In addition, he notes, “Having people around us with whom we can communicate on a heart-to-heart level may also reduce the effects of stress.”

We all want to be happy but things can quickly change when we suddenly retire–Lee goes on to say “People, especially as they get older, are experiencing deeper and more frequent forms of unhappiness in many spheres of life: chronic illnesses, alienation or disruption of personal relationships, weakening of economic power. Suddenly facing their social roles greatly reduced during retirement, people are likely to find their self-esteem withering away.”

Most of that has hit me hard so I’m here to tell you that, whether you are retired yet or not, it’s a good time to start making a list of plans and actions that you are going to take on when that day arrives and be sure an active social life is on there. Personally, I’m bound and determined to catch up and do just that!

In Lee’s book he also talks about another thing that can lengthen and make your life more pleasant and happy and it’s something that I’ve talked a lot about over the years – having a good strong purpose and hopes and dreams. I will talk more about those issues in my next week’s post.

Retirement – The Best or the Worst

October 11, 2020 by  
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I’m sure you, like most people would agree that the majority of us humans look forward to the day we get to retire. You know … no alarm clock to wake us up, no worrying about pleasing our boss, and so many other things we won’t have to do. You imagine life will be so great, that you will be able to relax, do anything you want to do, have tons of fun, and be able to travel anywhere in the world (that you can afford) on a whim.

Well, you know what? Some of that may be true. But when you find yourself without a schedule or purpose, that can get very depressing. You might even go a little crazy. And nowadays we have COVID-19 on top of that so it can be even worse. In fact, most of us are getting a preview of retirement now that our routines have been so dramatically changed.

You might find yourself asking, “Just what am I going to do today?”

The smart one’s among us begin to make lots of plans long before they hit that retirement wall. When I was preparing to retire, I made a few plans, but I didn’t create enough to-do lists or new routines.

So, what did I do when I was feeling down because of my lack of a schedule? I turned to books written about retirement. In Ernie J. Zelinski’s great book The Joy of Not Working, he makes lots of great suggestions such as, “One of the chief sources of happiness is having a special purpose or a personal mission in life … Finding and pursuing your true calling can make life a totally new experience.”

He then gives some examples of personal missions:

1. Make the world a better place to live by reducing pollution.

2. Raise money to help care for others in need.

3. Help children develop a special talent or skill, such as playing piano.

4. Write entertaining children’s book that help young boys and girls discover the wonders of the world.

5. Give foreign travelers the best possible tour of the Rocky Mountains.

6. Create a committed relationship and keep it exciting and energizing.

The author goes on to say, “Although a true calling should be closely tied to your values and interests, it can also be determined by your strengths and weaknesses. Your personal mission will intimately connect you to who you are and to the world around you. Taking the time to answer the following questions may help reveal a personal mission that you would like to pursue.”

I must say that his questions really helped me:

1. What are all your passions?

2. What are your strengths?

3. Who are your heroes?

4. What do you want to discover or learn?

Answering those great questions can put you on the right track. It has for me. So, if you are not retired yet, start making specific plans. And if you are retired and struggling, answer those questions above to help you discover your great purpose and direction for this new chapter in your life.

 

Finding Direction in Your Retirement

February 2, 2020 by  
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I was reviewing a few of my past blogs and came across one from 9 years ago about retirement that hit me hard inasmuch as I’m feeling the same now as I did way back then. In the post, I started out by saying, “It’s so easy to get overly relaxed when you are in Hawaii as I have been the last few weeks …”,  and now, as I write this, I’ve been in Hawaii for 5 weeks and I feel the same way. I go on to say that my relaxing days do allow me to reach some major mental breakthroughs and I really think through the ideas that come to me but at the same time, I can feel so lost. That’s true today as it was then.

It got me thinking about how common this feeling can be for people in the mid and later years of their life. You’ve worked so hard for years, looking forward to retirement and then, once you get there, you start having these days where you simply have no direction. You start to realize that the carefree retirement life isn’t quite what you expected.

I am sure you have seen people around you that seem lost in retirement. When you retire or semi-retire every day can feel like Sunday. For most people in America, Sunday is a lazy day, the day when you don’t have any specific plans, a day to unwind and not answer to the clock or to any business or work demands. But when you do this every day, it actually can get very depressing.

As it turns out, Sunday morning has been found to be the most depressing time of the week for most people. Seems very odd that this can be true, but the reason is pretty simple. It’s because we don’t usually have any particular goals, plans, routine, or structure for that day of the week. Okay, maybe you go to church for a little while but otherwise, it is unlike the days in your work week or even the often busy, errand running and playing day that Saturdays often become. When a person retires, the constant structure of their life is gone so, without goals, routines, and deadlines, most people begin to feel lost.

Even if you are not close to retirement age, it is very smart and, in the long run, rewarding to start making plans and developing goals for retirement now. Retirement is not a bad thing. I can certainly attest to its advantages. But even in retirement you should set goals, establish a routine, and make plans with a timetable.

It’s just that during retirement, you don’t have an employer to please or to tell you what is expected from you, and you probably no longer have a family that you have to provide for, so you are left to make up your own schedule and decide what you want to accomplish. The key is to make up your own challenges, structure, and hopes that make you want to get up, excited and purposeful, every morning.

To put it simply, the real key is to not stop having dreams when you get older and/or retire. There is no reason to stop making plans and there are huge benefits for making plans for the remaining years of your life. There is also another big bonus for having plans in those later years–studies have shown that you are likely to live longer and with much better health. That should be reason enough to have plans and set goals through your entire life!

Turning Bad Habits Around

October 6, 2019 by  
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Last week I wrote about the great power of setting big goals and how they stimulate and motivate the brain and the body to go after your big dreams. In his great book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about how important it is to set big goals and little steps for those goals so as to help you form habits that greatly increase your chances of success. Our habits are so critically important to what we do with our lives and how we end up. Yes, there are lots of good habits and lots of bad habits. The good news is that those bad habits that drag us down and might destroy our lives can be changed, even though it does take work and special plans.

One of the keys to breaking bad habits is what he refers to as the “small win”. As he says, “Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes. A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishment of the victories themselves.”

“Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage,” one Cornell professor wrote in 1984. “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win. Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging time advantages into pattern that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”

Hmm. I’d call that the formation of a habit, and that is a very good thing. Okay, but how then do we change a bad habit?

Charles Duhigg gives very good and well tested advice to change a habit. For example, keep an index card or journal and make note of the impulses. If, after a few days, you see a lot of notes, take time to come up with an alternative habit or routine to use every time you feel those negative impulses.

The author has told patients that if, for example, they eat too much and their eating impulse wins most of the time, they should substitute a new desired habit like taking a 3- or 5-minute walk or spending a few minutes on the internet. He talks about one patient that had a life-long habit of biting her fingernails. They came up with a new habit which was to have her simply sit on her hands till the urge left. More than three dozen of his students who were smokers overcame that habit by choosing a new routine or habit every time they had the urge to smoke, like chewing a piece of Nicorette, or doing a quick series of push-ups, or simply taking a few minutes to stretch and relax.

He goes on to say, “It seems ridiculously simple, but once you’re aware of how your habit works, once you recognize the cues and rewards, you’re halfway to changing it … Today, habit reversal therapy is used to treat verbal and physical tics, depression, smoking, gambling problems, anxiety, bedwetting, procrastination, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and other behavioral problems.”

So, come up with a new habit to replace an old and unwanted habit – it really works!

 

Retirement Can Create a Better World

February 1, 2019 by  
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I want to write a bit more about last week’s theme of retirement – how it can be good, bad or sometimes very ugly. Even if you are many years away from retirement, you can make your retirement much better and have an easier transition if you are aware of some of the pitfalls that many people stumble into when they retire. I want to share a few secrets to making your retirement transition quite comfortable and pleasant.

Part of the reason I want to share these points is that, for me, retirement came close to driving me seriously crazy. It made me feel worthless and caused me to have big mood swings. Last week I wrote about some of the great and promising ideas from Patrice Jenkin’s book, What Will I Do All Day. She points out that many people go into retirement without realizing how critically important it is for them to still have routine and structure in their lives. Most people’s work lives automatically give them those two critical things. Plus, their work usually results in a lot of measurable production which lifts the human mind and spirit and gives us great personal satisfaction. The huge problem comes when a person retires and most, if not all, of those satisfying items quickly disappear. One other thing that also goes away or is often greatly diminished is one’s social life!

So, what is an excellent antidote to the retirement blues and the great letdown? In one word it’s WORK. But it has to be much more than just busy work. It has to be meaningful and productive.  Ideally, it’s doing something that you love and something that helps other people. It should be something that helps make the world a better place because, although you don’t really need to make a dime out of doing that work, it needs to be purposeful.

For me, the answer was going for the great feelings I get from donating my time and money to charity work. What is especially appealing to me is helping kids. Even doing a little thing like reading to them or telling simple, fun stories on a regular basis is fulfilling and purposeful. Even more fulfilling for me is teaching, because of my background and my passion.

I’ve done a little of this already, but I’ve just begun this particular new mission in life. The time I spend with the kids involves simple things but it is now part of my routine and structure and is a huge mood lifter for both me and the kids. A similar mission could do the same for you no matter what charity you choose. In a small but growing way, we can make the world a better place all while staying fulfilled and purposeful in our retirement.

The Freedom of Structure

January 25, 2019 by  
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I’m reading a great book that my son gave to me, titled What Will I DO All Day, by Patrice Jenkins PHD.  It’s all about retirement and how it can be either a really good thing or something that drives you crazy. And it can all start long before you retire. It may even start from the moment you just begin thinking about what the heck you are going to do when you retire.

Most people think, “Oh, it’s going to be great when I retire. I’ll have all that time to do all those things that I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time to do.” But when people actually retire, many of us can become very frustrated because, all of a sudden, we don’t have a routine or the structure that a regular job gave us. Now we must set a routine and a structure of our own and that takes some thinking and some work.

So much of what this author talks about that needs to be done also applies to all of us in our daily living long before we even think about retirement, such as setting goals, writing them down, and writing daily “to do” lists. We all know, or should by now, that when we write down a list of things to do the night before, the likelihood of us following through and actually adding action to that list and doing it, increases big time. I’m sure you have seen that happen in your own life.

Patrice has a chapter called “Structure is Freedom”. When we are working full time, structure doesn’t seem like freedom. She tells the story of this one guy by the name of Jim. Jim said, “You have to know what you’re getting up to each day.” Here is what she wrote about Jim and what Jim’s thoughts were:

“When Jim first retired he was looking forward to having his days free to do anything he wanted to do. But, after a few months of this, he told me that he, ‘found it to be more work not to work. My energy level was lower than when I used to work 10 hours a day. The truth is I was puttering around the house most of the day.’

“It was at this point that Jim acknowledged that having more structure in his days would improve life in retirement. He started scheduling appointments, making commitments, and setting deadlines. He decided to set his alarm for 7 a.m. and start each day with exercise. He made a rule to turn the television off by 9 a.m. so that he could start doing something more productive. Jim also volunteered for a couple of organizations which required weekly commitments of his time and talents. He told me these changes gave his life a more focused direction. ‘Now I know what I’m getting up to each morning,’ he said. ‘I really needed the structure to give me the freedom to enjoy retirement.’”

What Jim learned is something we should all focus on and be sure we do it whether we are retired, close to retirement, or many years away from that status. Yes, our full-time jobs give us structure and a routine, but our lives can be, and will be, so much more fulfilled and productive if we set up our own routines and structure totally independent of our jobs. Now that I’m semi-retired I am going to work much harder on my own routines and structure too.

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