1. How to find purpose in your life

    August 30, 2014

    How to find purpose in your life

    We all want to find meaning in our lives and live the life to its fullest. But the question remains: how do you find meaning and purpose in your life in the first place? What happens if you just don’t know or get lost along the way? Finding meaning and purpose in life is not as easy. It takes will power to look inside, face your own demons and faults and accept yourself as you are: a perfect-imperfect human being.

    Finding your own way

    In one of the previous posts we focused on your character strengths and talents. Have you already discovered what they are? What do people compliment you most for? Think about the activities and actions you perform that feel the most satisfying to you. My advice: start making a list and paying attention if nothing comes immediately to mind. You can also complete Dr. Martin Seligman’s online questionnaire (VIA Survey of Character Strengths) about personal strengths and talents and find out a little bit more how that can work in your favor.

    Frankly speaking, I had sort of an identity crisis when the time came to choose a major in college. First I decided to go to environmental engineering just to find out after a semester that despite my great love for nature and conservation, I hated it there. All of a sudden, all my certainties and the path I had outlined for myself made no sense! How could I get out of that crisis? After a few weeks of self-reflection and a little of sulking for quitting college (you probably have heard this a lot but I had never quit anything in my life before), I started remembering what it was I most enjoyed doing in life and what people praised me the most for. I’ve always heard people around me saying “It’s so nice to talk to you. After talking to you I feel so relieved.” Besides, I really liked being a volunteer and to do community intervention and teaching. I love reading, so first I thought about becoming an English teacher to inspire others but finally (and with a little help from close friends and family) I decided on psychology. This is how I became a clinical psychologist. This was 15 years ago. I absolutely love my job and my patients and clearly found meaning in my profession.

    Yet, your job doesn’t define you. The job is just my example. Many people find meaning in other areas of their lives: family life and raising kids, community work, preserving nature, political and social causes, etc.

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  2. What Causes People to Develop Anxiety – According to Frankl

    May 22, 2014

    What Causes People to Develop Anxiety – According to Frankl

    Frankl’s concepts are based on finding a meaning or purpose in life.  He has stated that all life circumstances have meaning, even the ones that are hard or make us miserable.  He goes on to state that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”.  What does this all mean?  In basic terms, it means we may not have the power to control the circumstances into which we are thrust, but we do have the power to control the way in which we think about those circumstances.

    Frankl used his views to look at and discuss treatment options for several mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and neurosis.  He also used his views to help terminally ill patients.  His thoughts regarding mental illness were if we could simply recognize the purpose of our circumstances, we could (possibly) master our mental health issues.  Let’s explore this further.

     

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  3. An Author’s Experiences Give Her Life Greater Meaning

    April 24, 2014

    An Author’s Experiences Give Her Life Greater Meaning

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    As a children’s writer, Emily Lockhart can relate to the thinking of children. When interviewed by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, she shared memories of her own childhood, of a time when she did not feel pushed to take life seriously. Later, like so many of the youth that pass-through the age of adolescence, Lockhart experienced an awareness of increased freedoms. For a time, she relished those new-found freedoms. Then, as she grew older, she began to take view life more seriously.

    Lockhart’s altered pattern of thinking copied that of many younger adults. It provoked thoughts that focused on the meaning of life. Her mind had become attuned to such thoughts by the age of 17, when she realized that people did not see her as someone who was capable of challenging their own thoughts and actions. Consequently, she felt decidedly underrated and wanted to add some meaningfulness to her existence.

    At that point, Lockhart began to lose interest in those things that had been providing her with intermittent periods of joy. Such actions included the application of make-up, while staring into a mirror, the refusal to abide by specific codes of conduct and the willingness to give-in to less-than-virtuous behavior. Lockhart realized that by choosing to pursue such actions, she allowed adults to view her as someone who is a tad silly, maybe even close to incompetent. Hence, she wanted to fill her life with greater substance/more meaning.

    At that point, the acquisition of added substance became her goal, one that she went-after while in college and graduate school. Eventually, she did get people to give serious consideration to what she had to say. Moreover, as that change took-place, she found that she was treated with a greater amount of respect. Still, she did not appreciate the degree to which she had to deal with on-going competition from others in academia, in order to retain the level of respect that she then enjoyed.

    Lockhart’s observations pushed re-think the wisdom of copying the pattern that had been adopted by her associates. She decided to have-a-try at the craft of writing for children. She even managed to get some of her writing published. However, it was not long before she discovered that within academia, a writer of children’s literature did not enjoy an appreciable amount of status.

    She found that within the highest echelons of academia, people tend to be serious on an almost continual basis. Their attention seldom turns to subjects that do not fall-in-line with the stated ideals of the most respected members of academia. Yet Lockhart did not view that approach to life as one that she could use, in order to make her existence more meaningful. That was why she chose to follow her own path, as opposed to the one that had been presented to her those with whom she had been interacting.

    She chose to retain what she viewed as the most meaningful aspect of her life, and she did that by seeking to excel in a discipline that gave her great pleasure. That was the craft that required development of writing skills, particularly the skills of a children’s author. Contrary to any advice she may have received from others, Lockhart’s choice did not deprive her life of meaning. She has authored books that young people read and loved.

    As a loved children’s writer, Lockhart did not allow herself to compose material that sounded a bit like a sermon. Still, she realized that she could get young minds thinking. Hence, she managed to write books that helped younger readers to begin to think more seriously about their own pathway into the future.

    Lockhart does not recommend that every child follow the pathway that she has chosen. Still, she realizes that, at some point, every child becomes a teenager and then a mature and thinking adult. She hopes to get younger readers thinking seriously about how each of them can go-about living a more meaningful life.

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/floringorgan/4694122800

     

     

     

     


  4. Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    April 9, 2014

    Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    If you are searching for the meaning in your life, it can help to study the sunlight reflected in a mirror. Of course, a mirror does not really produce the sun’s rays; it simply reflects them. In the same way, a virtuous and goodly person has the ability to reflect the spiritual qualities that he or she has developed by relating to and sharing with others. In fact, those who strive to achieve that particular goal have managed to discover the meaning in life.

    Obviously, the human body does not possess a reflective surface. Still, that does not mean that those who search for the meaning in life would be foolish to consider the fact that mirrors prove most useful when they have been polished properly. In fact, those who are willing to view the heart as a mirror can best understand how to ensure their ability to create a clear reflection of their spiritual qualities.

    Polishing removes the dust from a mirror’s surface. It allows the reflected light to shine-threw more clearly. Sometimes the spiritual qualities of the human heart remain unrevealed, because those same qualities have been covered-up by the results of an effort that has failed to focus on life’s true meaning.

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  5. How NOT to Fear Death

    April 4, 2014

    How NOT to Fear Death

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

     

    Bought the farm. Kicked the bucket. Pushing up daises. Six feet under. Worm food. Lets face it. Death is a scary thing. We wouldn’t have coined these euphemisms otherwise. They allow us to talk about it without naming death outright. But why IS death so scary? What is it about the BIG sleep that makes us so afraid?

    Our ceasing to exist. We love life so much that we can’t imagine that it will end-even though we have been told it WILL end at some point. So how can we combat this fear and learn to live with the unavoidable? Simple: Just ask the son of Erik or, as we know him, Erik Erikson.

    Erik Erikson was a German-born American developmental psychologist. While he may not have earned a Ph.D. he certainly professed an interesting idea of human development. Unlike Freud who claimed our psyches were formed at the ripe age of five, Erikson believed we spend our whole lives developing. His theory of psychosocial development is made up of eight stages and by digging through them we can find an essential key to accepting death. So what are they?

     

    Stage 1: Hope: Trust vs. Mistrust. (Ages 0-2)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I trust the world?

    In this stage we learn whether or not we can trust the world by how regularly we are cared for. If our parents tend to us habitually and do everything they can to satisfy our basic needs we not only learn to trust our surroundings, but we also to trust the world at large and develop hope.

    On the flip side: If our parents fail to fulfill our basic needs we take that as a sign that the world at large CAN’T be trusted.

     

    Stage 2: Will: Autonomy Vs. Shame and Doubt. (Ages 2-4)

     

    Central Crisis: Is it OK to be me?

    This stage teaches us self-sufficiency. We also start to explore our interests and who we are as a person. If our parents let us complete tasks we can handle (such as using the toilet or pouring our own milk) we learn how to be autonomous and to how to express ourselves.

    On the flip side: If our parents expect too much from us or ridicule every attempt to complete tasks we can do on our own, we feel shame and doubt. Facing our own problems without help also becomes much harder.

     

    Stage 3: Purpose: Initiative Vs. Guilt. (Ages 4-5)

     

    Central Crisis: Is it OK to do, move, and act?

    In this crucial stage we move beyond simply acting to acting with a purpose. We take on leadership roles and prepare to meet goals set by others or ourselves. Guilt is a new emotion and can sometimes be felt when there is no logical reason. We also take risks, develop judgment, and basically try to gain more independence. Parents help us in this stage by showing how to set realistic goals for the things want to do.

    On the flip side: If we don’t complete an action on time OR if what we want to do interferes with other plans we can become frustrated and act out. If parents and teachers fail to encourage us to set goals OR belittle the interests we have we tend to feel guilty about them.

     

    Stage 4: Competence: Industry vs. Inferiority (Ages 5-12)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I make it in the wide world?

    We become more aware of whom we are and how time works. We try to do what is right. But most essentially, we build on the interests we started to develop in the earlier stages. If parents find activities that match our interests we become happy and more independent.

    On the flip side: If parents don’t nurture our interests we lose motivation to complete activities and can become both couch and mouse potatoes.

     

    Stage 5:Fidelity: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Ages, 13-19)

     

    Central Crisis: Who am I? What can I be?

    As with every stage you are forced through a crisis, this crisis being identity. To fully transition from childhood to adulthood you have to find an identity that fits you authentically. You did (or do) this by trying on different roles (such as being a jock, drama geek, or partner) to see which suited you best. Sometimes you may experience “Roles Confusion.” This happens when you don’t know exactly where you fit and will often try on extreme roles to find one that does. You also often ponder how you will act in the real adult world.

    On the flip side: One of the mixed blessings of this stage is that you will finally get in touch with how you feel about your life and possible career choices. But those might not match up with how your parents and society feel and could cause you to stop trying to find “yourself.”

     

    Stage 6: Love: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Ages, 20-24, or 20-39)

    Central Crisis: Can I love someone else?

    As we start to solidify who we are as a person we open ourselves up to long-term relationships. This means we are capable of making the necessary sacrifices to nourish close friendships and marriages.

    On the flip side: We may be so fearful of rejection that we’ll close ourselves off to people and relationships.

     

    Stage 7: Care: Generativity vs. Stagnation (Ages, 25-64, or 40-64)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I make my life count?

     

    Now we get to the T-bone of what holds together this steak called Prime Life.  By now we have learned to trust the world, to trust ourselves, who we are, and how to love. You have no doubt picked a career and have a family to call your own. So how do you make your life count? According to Erikson you must give yourself back to the world that made you to feel successful and happy.

    On the flip side: If you cannot contribute to society you will feel stagnate and unfulfilled. This feeling leads right into the last and final stage.

     

     Stage 8:Wisdom: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Ages 65-death)

     

    Central Crisis: Was it OK to have been me?

     

    As we grow older we tend to look back on our lives. Did we do all that we wanted? Did we lead a successful life? If you have you’ll feel happy and ready to accept death because you know that you’ve contributed to something that will live longer then yourself.

    On the flip side: If you haven’t live how you wanted, or, if things got in the way of you getting what you wanted out of life you can feel depressed, hopeless, and fearful of death. With your bucket list knocked over and your life left unfinished the thought of not excising can seem scary. So how do you fix this? By doing exactly what Erikson suggests in stage seven. By contributing to something that will live longer then us we lessen our fears of death because we know that a part of us lives almost immortally.

    But what’s even more beautiful about this is that your contribution does not have to be a large one. It could be as small as volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter, getting involved with your kids or grand kids, or sharing your amazing life story. Everyone has the key to quenching the fear of death and we at Dream Positive know that with a little work, you can find yours.

     

    And remember,

    Dream Well! Dream Positive!

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29468339@N02/3419565232

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  6. Millennial Generation Wants Make the World a Better Place

    April 2, 2014

    Millennial Generation Wants Make the World a Better Place

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    According to a recent poll, one with some very interesting results, a large group of young men and women could be viewed as members of a party on a quest. The poll’s results, which were posted on the website for the Barna Group, indicated that up to 87% of the young people that had been surveyed wanted to have a meaningful life. In other words, each of them hoped to discover how to give true meaning to their lives.

    Most people would agree that a meaningful life is one that manages to better the world in some way. Yet that does not really explain what approach ought to be pursued by someone who wants to give-back to others, in order to improve the world in some fashion. What aspects of a lifestyle allow it to qualify as one that others would view as noteworthy and meaningful?

    Would a readiness to become a continuous source of commentary on how to behave demonstrate the type of qualities that one could expect to find in a noteworthy individual? Well, more than 50 years ago, children were encouraged to believe that such was the case. Those children had heard their parents say a phrase such as this: Do as I say, not as I do.

    Now, however, people have learned to be wary of those individuals who behave in ways that contrast sharply with the recommendations made in their comments. In other words, it is best to avoid those who have chosen to utter words that differ markedly from their deeds. The utterance (or the writing and publishing) of such words does not really add great meaning to any life.

    The deeds that do add meaning to a life are those that could be termed pure or goodly. A pure deed is one that has been done with the idea of providing the recipient with an added benefit. It has not been seen as a means for gaining greater recognition, or for collecting some quick cash.

    A goodly deed is one that would be viewed as virtuous. It might be an act of kindness. It could be a true demonstration of courage. It could be the type of behavior that encourages others to act in the correct manner. That was what Gandhi would do, when he would fast until a situation had improved to his satisfaction.

    Gandhi’s conduct, although unusual was certainly commendable. Young people who display commendable conduct have reason to feel that they have provided their lives with an added bit of meaning. They have behaved in a way that has highlighted their desired to make the world a better place.

    Of course, it is not always easy to follow a path such as the one taken by Gandhi. Indeed, those who try to go down such a path must expect to encounter some roadblocks. Those are the tests that help to make a life all the more meaningful.

    A meaningless life could be compared to a barren field. It might look perfectly smooth, but it cannot be used to produce any crops. It cannot be a place where trees bear fruit or where a sown field can yield a harvest. It has not been dug into or plowed; it has not been tested.

    When a young person on a quest for greater meaning faces a test, that same person shapes his or her spirit in the same way that a bit of barren ground could be dug-into and shaped. That testing allows the tested person to have a stronger spirit. That stronger spirit exists inside of an individual who has the ability to succeed, after choosing to launch a quest for a meaningful life.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/71264537@N03/6443166521


  7. Personal development by Volunteering: Getting more than what you Give

    March 18, 2014

    Personal development through Volunteering

    It’s common among regular volunteers to hear them say that: “When volunteering, the volunteer often receives more than what he/she gives of their time.” What is it about volunteering on a regular basis that makes this activity so meaningful and fulfilling? How can spending your time “working for free” (as some might put it) make anyone happy?

    Living your life in an altruistic way will make you happier. Don’t believe me? Believe the Science. Studies have shown that nuns have happiness levels higher than any other group! Why is that? What makes devoting one’s life to others such a fulfilling one? It gives you a sense of belonging, purpose in life and increases your sense of community. But most of all, it helps you realize you’re not alone in the world and small random acts of kindness do change the reality around you.

    According to Viktor Frankl’s theory of Logotherapy, the search for meaning and purpose in life is one of Man’s greatest dilemmas but also it is achieving the knowledge of what’s the meaning of your life and taking responsibility for it, that will “set you free” for any psychological restraints you might have.
     

    Sense of community, purpose and belonging

     
    By no means does this article intend to make you join a religious organization in order to make you happier and satisfied about your life! I brought up the studies about nuns as just an example. But what these multiple studies really demonstrate is that living inside the bubble surrounding your life (job, home) will leave you with a sense of emptiness and disconnection from everyone else. Since birth, all we human beings seek is to belong, to connect with other human beings at a deeper level. It’s not the amount of time shared with someone that will give a sense of fulfillment, it is the quality of the time shared with someone, and the depth of human relationships.

    Sharing your time with others will provide you with a deep sense of belonging to a community, where the word solidarity will still mean something. Soli-what? Yes, giving just for the sake of doing it without expecting anything in return except for some gratitude! Again you don’t believe me? Try this simple exercise in your life: have an spontaneous act of kindness to anyone – a smile, a comforting word, hold the elevator for someone – and see what happens. You might just make someone’s day.
     

    Should I do some volunteering work to feel happier?

     
    That’s up to you. Like any other activity, if it doesn’t satisfy you, don’t do it. Volunteering can only be a rewarding experience when done with genuineness. It has to come from the heart to work. And don’t think that volunteering will magically heal all your problems, you have to feel good about yourself in order to help others. Again take responsibility and don’t expect others to be happy for you.
     

    A few tips for the volunteer wannabe:

     

    1. Start with small activities. Why don’t you try getting engaged in a small volunteer work in your community or even job? There are many one-day volunteering activities that you can try out.
    2. Areas of interest. What are your areas of interest and what kind of people do you see yourself working with? Do you love children, the elderly? Are you keen on sports or worried about the environment or love animals? Answer this question first, then start looking for volunteer projects near you.
    3. Willingness to commit. You cannot volunteer to anything if you’re not committed to it. Volunteering is not like a job but it requires responsibility. After all, there are people depending on you.
    4. Feeling satisfied about it. If volunteering does not fill your heart with joy or take too much of your time, it’s not a rewarding experience. On the other hand, if you feel like it makes you a better person and you feel like you’re making a difference in the world, then you’re on the right track. Keep doing it!

     
     
    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25000888@N08/2536175241


  8. Persona – How We Present Our “Self” To The World

    March 15, 2014

    Persona – How We Present Our “Self” To The World

    Carl Jung, a psychologist and advocate of positive psychology, often made reference to the concept of “persona” – the social face a person presented to the outside world.  He went on to describe the persona as a type of “mask” with a dual purpose – to make a definite impression on others and to conceal the person’s true nature.  So, just how does the concept of “persona” affect the interactions with have with others?  First, let’s talk about identification.

     

    Identification, according to Jung, generally occurs when we align ourselves with a particular persona or role.  For example, we take on the role of mother, father, doctor, lawyer, friend, sister, etc.  There are an infinite number of roles any one person can “play”, but any one person is likely to only identify with a set number of roles.  Jung believed that adherence to a particular role could actually be psychologically limiting.  These limitations usually occur based on society’s perception of how the said role is supposed to be filled.  A doctor is supposed to fulfill a certain “role” in society; many people struggle to identify with the doctor outside of his or her healing role.  A mother is supposed to be a caretaker, a father is supposed to be a provider – when we confine ourselves to these “boxes”, so to speak, we limit ourselves in a variety of different ways.

     

    Let’s talk about those “boxes” for a minute.  “Boxes” are generally societal-based constructions designed to help us (and others) define the roles a person plays.  It gives meaning, direction and rules to those “personas” we adopt.  However, many times, those rules can be limiting or even in direct contrast to the life philosophy we believe it.  Here is where problems can arise – how do we adopt a certain persona and play by the rules without offending others in society?  Walking that fine line can be a complex task for many individuals.

     

    What should a person do if he finds his life philosophy in contrast to his “persona”?  First, examine your life persona and determine what exactly is in contrast; write it down and make a list, if necessary.  Rank those elements in order of importance and establish whether or not adjustments can be made either way.  If minor adjustments to either your life philosophy or your persona can be made and will result in higher life satisfaction, your problem is solved.  If major adjustments need to be made to either, you have a bigger dilemma on your hands.  You will need to decide if making a major adjustment to your life philosophy or persona is something you want or even can do.  For example, some “personas” have very rigid “rules” attached to them; it may be impossible to change that without adopting a completely new persona.  Only you can truly decide if a new life direction is the right choice for you.

     

    One thing to think about, and one important concept in Jung’s theory of the persona is balance.  In order for life to be fulfilling, there must be a balance between the inner desires of a person and his or her outer reflection.  This does not mean the inner desires should always be expressed no matter what; rather, a person needs to, at times, proceed with caution and express those desires in a socially acceptable way.  For example, many people feel anger on a daily basis – anger is a natural emotion, felt by everyone.  However, the expression of anger is not always socially acceptable – depending on the environment or the means of expression.  Finding that delicate balance between feeling and expression helps ensure an equalized lifestyle.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rufino_uribe/377643866

     


  9. Facing my Anxiety and Making Difficult Decisions

    February 20, 2014

    Facing my Anxiety and Making Difficult Decision

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

     

    3AM. My husband was sleeping soundly beside me while I lay awake. I wanted to sleep more than anything but couldn’t seem to do it. It was like I had drank twelve cups of coffee when I haven’t had a drop of regular in years. My hands shook as I puttered around my iPhone listlessly, hating that I’d be spending the next day at work with keyed up nerves. Why was this happening to me? What was going in my life that was making sleep nothing but a dream?

    If this sounds a little too familiar you might be one of the millions of anxiety sufferers losing sleep today. Like pain, sleeplessness and numerous other anxiety symptoms are often a sign that something is up. Unlike pain, however, the “up” doesn’t always have to be physical. It could be almost anything. But some psychologists believe that prolonged anxiety and depression are caused by a subconscious dissatisfaction of life. Weather you know it or not, something is not working out like you had hoped. So, how can you fix this?

    First, Take a deep breath. Deep breathing can lessen the feelings of panic and help make this process easier.

    Second, you have to look into yourself and ask a lot of important questions. Is this what I expected my job to be like? Am I really happy with my spouse or partner? Is there a sad anniversary coming up that I’m forgetting? This may take a long time, or no time, but it is always important to do.

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  10. Yogaspire: A Practice of Positive Psychology and Yoga

    July 12, 2013

    yogaspire

    by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar and Megan McDonough

     

    Yoga and positive psychology are not usually used in the same sentence. Positive psychology is, after all, a science—and a recent one at that. It uses research and data to come to conclusions about what makes people flourish. Yoga is a practice that is thousands of years old and although some would call it a science, it is not defined as such in western academia. Like positive psychology, the practice is meant to elevate. What would it look like to combine the body-centered approach of yoga postures with the science-based approach of positive psychology?

     

    Defining Yoga

     

    The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join” or “to yoke.” Basically, the practice is an integration of all aspects of self.

    A great definition of yoga came from Amrit Desai, a yogi who said, “The practice is when what you think, say, and feel are aligned.” Interestingly enough, this is similar to how Gandhi described happiness when he said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

    This connection of aligned thinking and action is very important, and we’ll come back to it in a bit.

    As for yoga, many equate it with the physical practice. The word conjures images of extremely flexible people in amazing postures. However, classical yoga describes an eight-fold path that spells out guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life. One of those eight paths is “Asana”, the Sanskrit word for physical postures. These postures are designed for physical well-being and are used for developing concentration, attention, and awareness in preparation for meditation.

     

    The Effects of Yoga

     

    You can see in magazines today the popular image of the very flexible yoga practitioner. Yet, the physical flexibility is nothing compared to the mental flexibility that yoga builds. There are two aspects of yoga that cannot be captured in a fancy photo: being mindful of experiencing the posture, and expanding your awareness beyond what first captures your attention.

    In the physical practice of yoga, one focuses attention on the very real and tangible body (Where are my arms and legs in this posture? Am I holding unnecessary tension in my neck? What is that strange sensation in my shoulder?) Then the practitioner expands awareness into even finer layers, perhaps being aware of the breath, of attitudes and thoughts, emotions arising, the interplay between the ground and the feet, or the relationship to the teacher or other students. In this way, the practitioner connects body and mind, consciously paying attention.

    We can expand this directed attention to focus on our psychological state in addition to our physical state. At Wholebeing Institute, we call this practice Yogaspire.

     

    Yogaspire

     

    Let’s come back to the idea of aligning thought and action. Research in psychology points to a reciprocal relationship between attitudes and behaviors, and it seems clear that attitudes affect behaviors. We usually seek the company of those we find engaging and avoid those who fail to excite us. If I like self-help books and find cooking tedious, I am more likely to gravitate towards one section of the bookstore rather than another. A deep love of golf is likely to take me to a driving range, whereas fear of rough physical contact is likely to drive me away from the football field.

    The relationship between attitudes and behaviors goes beyond our likes and dislikes, influencing the course of action we choose. Psychological research and observations point to a reciprocal relationship between attitudes and behaviors: not only do our thoughts affect our actions, what we do also affects how we think.

    Attitude (in the mind) and behavior (through the body) creates a self-reinforcing loop. Yogaspire makes the link between the two more explicit by being mindful of what one is doing (physical postures) while consciously cultivating a desired state of mind (psychological state).

    For example, in the mountain pose in yoga, we can be aware of our physical body standing strong and tall, feeling our heart lifting up, and we can extend that sensation to include our psychological state by mentally repeating “I am grounded and strong.”

    How you sit, stand, walk, and use your physical body has an impact on your psychological state. Does your physical position right now give you some clues to your psychological state? What happens when you change your posture, purposely picking a position that for you epitomizes the desired state?

     

    Research

     

    What does research say about how a yoga pose like mountain affects our psychology? According to Amy Cuddy, a researcher at Harvard University, even a quick two-minute pose has a direct impact on you—both in terms of hormonal changes (attitudes in the mind) and on the subsequent behavior (actions through the body).

    In this study,* participants’ mouths were swabbed at the start of the protocol to test saliva for the hormone testosterone, which is associated with power and confidence, and cortisol, the stress hormone. After the swab, they were asked to strike either a low-power pose or a high-power pose for two minutes. As you may have guessed, the low-power posers took up less space by crossing arms and legs protectively and curling the spine. High-power posers, in contrast, took up lots of space. Think of Wonder Woman with her legs wide and hands on her hips, or the big executive with feet on the desk and fingers intertwined behind the head.

    At the end of two minutes, the saliva was tested again and participants were asked if they wanted to make a bet with the $2 they were given. They could keep it (a safe bet), or gamble with a roll of the dice (riskier, but with a good 50/50 chance to double their money).

    After only two minutes, the high-power poses caused an increase in testosterone compared with low-power poses, which caused a decrease. High-power poses also caused a decrease in cortisol compared with low-power poses, which caused an increase.

    In other words, taking up lots of space with your body increases the power hormone and decreases the stress hormone. It changes—at least for the duration of this experiment—your physiology. These changes affect decisions, actions, and behaviors. High-power posers were more likely than low-power posers to focus on rewards—86.36 percent took the gambling risk while only 60 percent of the low-power posers took the risk.

    Finally, high-power posers reported feeling significantly more “powerful” and “in charge” than low-power posers did. As the researchers state, “Thus, a simple two-minute power-pose manipulation was enough to significantly alter the physiological, mental, and feeling states of our participants. The implications of these results for everyday life are substantial.”

     

    For more information on yoga and positive psychology, including a free 7-day Yogaspire course, visit www.yogaspire.com

     

    *Carney, D.R., Cuddy, A.J.C. & Yap, A.J. “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance.” Psychological Science 21.10 (2010): 1363-368.

     

    About the Authors:

    Dr. Tal Ben Shahar Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, CLO of Wholebeing Institute, is an author and lecturer. He taught the largest course at Harvard on “Positive Psychology” and the third largest on “The Psychology of Leadership”—with a total of over 1,400 students. Author of Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, he consults and lectures around the world to corporate executives, the general public, and at-risk populations on topics that include happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal-setting, mindfulness, and leadership.

     

     

    Megan McDonough Megan McDonough, CEO of Wholebeing Institute, is the award-winning author of Infinity in a Box: Using Yoga to Live with Ease and A Minute for Me: Learning to Savor Sixty Seconds. Mastery of “how to get from point A to point B” is Megan’s trademark, whether it’s leading the entry of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health into online learning, speed-launching a first-of-its-kind worldwide virtual conference, or teaching thousands of people to live with ease and clarity based on their own internal compass.

     

     

     

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