Author Archives: breathenews
In this blog I explore why it’s so important to slow down and examine our emotions, and those of people around us.
Making decisions based on gut instinct
Research over the last 20 years increasingly suggests we perceive our decision making processes to be dominated by logic, when in fact the way we tend to problem solve and reach conclusions is firstly out of instinct, and then through engaging our analytical side to justify our decisions. Malcolm Gladwell turned this topic into a whole book called ‘Blink’
The problem with this decision making process, is that our gut instinct is primed by our ancestral reptilian brain, our upbringing, current stress levels and how we are primed at every moment by environmental factors. Once we have made a decision based on gut instinct and backed it up with thought it’s very difficult for us to change our attitudes – they become entrenched. In order to win friends and influence people it’s vital to appeal to their emotional side to have half a chance of getting them to see your point of view. It’s even better if you can train yourself to be dispassionate about your view point and strive to see things from theirs – in this way, through dialogue, we often find there is a view of the world that lies between us which is a more perfect representation of truth.
How reasoning can be tricked
As small children, we explore the world through our likes and dislikes. In Yoga and Buddhism these early likes and dislikes are described as seeds, or samskaras. According to these traditions, samskaras are embedded experiences that we are born with from past lives. Western psychology agrees that we are born with tendencies or personality types – for example a tendency to be open or closed, agreeable or not etc. We are not born blank slates. As we develop these seeds ripen according to the environment that we grow up in. They are watered with love or hatred, kindness or cruelty.
In the eastern traditions, there are infinite seeds of possibility but we have tendencies to develop in one way or another. In addition to these seeds children adopt the traditions and morals of their parents and peers. We have a tendency to quickly assimilate information from our surroundings about the way society accepts is the “right” way to proceed in life. These samskaras and later learned social behaviours are often buried deeply within our subconscious. At a basic primal level they direct many (if not all) of our behaviours. We bury this stuff deep because in order to function in a fast moving, information packed world, we simply don’t have time to reflect on every decision that we are faced with. Automatic processing is a vital part of being human. We have to rely on gut instincts, but sometimes these gut instincts lead us in a direction that if we stopped and thought for a while, make little sense.
The psychologist Jonathan Haidt uses the analogy of the rider and the elephant to explore this idea. Simplistically (although it is obviously way more complex than this), the elephant is the intuitive/emotional response part of our reasoning processes and the rider the analytical part.
The following fascinating bits of research demonstrate how easily how instinct can be influenced :
- What the elephant eats and drinks changes the way we think and act – In 2011 participants in a study were asked a series of moral dilemma type questions – for example, should cousins be allowed to marry? What are good time limits for abortions? etc. Prior to being asked the questions, half the group were given a bitter tasting drink and half, a sweet tasting drink – you guessed it! The bitter drink tasters responded to the questions in a more moralistic manner. The elephant was primed to react in a certain way through drink – bitter, don’t like, shouldn’t, don’t do that (Eskine, Kacinic, Prinz 2011) and the others, responded in a more thoughtful and analytic way.
- What the elephant touches, changes the way we think and act – In one study participants who were asked to wash their hands prior to the study gave answers which were more moralistic. - I’m clean, you should be too, behave in a morally upstanding way. (Chenbo Zhong at uni of Toronto 2010) .
- What the elephant smells changes the way we think and act - In another study participants who were exposed to fart smells also gave answers which indicated “higher” or more conservative moral standards – that’s disgusting, I’m experiencing disgust, I’m expecting to be disgusted, that moral dilemma scenario disgusts me, this is my reaction……….
- What the elephant sees changes the way we think and act - In trials, juries are more likely to acquit attractive people and judges give leaner sentences – you look cute, I like you, I’m expecting good things from you, there must be a reason you did what you did. In US elections to the Senate and House of Representatives, those judged most competent according to their pictures won their elections in two thirds of cases – You look dependable, I trust you to do the right thing, You have my vote…. In his research Todorov, found that these gut decisions about looks and competency are made in about 1/10th of a second
- What the elephant hears changes the way we think and act - Priming words set expectations that can confuse us! For example, if you link of a series of words in pairs such as sunshine, prolife, happiness, cancer, love, slug etc certain pairings lead us to confusion. For example we read sunshine and then read slug and feel disgust. It takes us a while to compute this conflicting information. It also depends on our deeply held political views. For example, conservatives view ‘prolife’ as a positive term, liberals, a negative infringement of the right of the mother. Link these words for a conservative and they quickly decide whether they like or dislike the pairing. For a liberal the pairing leads to a different type of thinking ie. ‘I like sunshine but I don’t like the word prolife’ – the rider of the elephant becomes engaged because of confusion ! (Morries et al 2003)
In a complex world, where we often have to make difficult decisions, we should try to get the elephant and the rider considering issues together. In the early part of my career at KPMG, we were often instructed to be logical and analytical. An “emotional” response to a situation was frowned upon. There is nothing more irritating than been told to stop being emotional! But in reality, most of us, most of the time, are making little (and big) decisions based purely on gut feel – simple like/dislike triggers – These are the samskaras which have been watered with love or hate throughout our lives.
Dale Carnegie, in his book “How to win friends and influence people” was totally aware that people tend to make decisions based on these primal like/dislike urges. The elephant makes up his mind and then the rider comes up with the logic to back up that gut feel. Once we have made up a story to back up our gut feel it’s really hard to change our point of view. His advice when trying to influence someone was to “begin in a friendly way, smile, be a good listener, never directly contradict” . He was aware that you need to talk to the elephant, to understand where they are coming from. In this way, with an open heart you may also be in a position to appreciate that the truth lies through dialogue and that is probably somewhere between your points of view.
Friendly dialogue primes the elephant – he’s nice and friendly, I’m expecting to hear nice things, I’m relaxed and open to share ideas.
For those of you thinking that it would be a good idea to somehow train the mind to just be analytical – for the rider to take control and analyse each situation, Antonio Damasio’s research gives the strongest business case for emotional intelligence coaching there is. He studied people with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex . People damaged in this area are unable to feel emotions such as joy from beautiful images or horror when shown pictures of gruesome murders. Without feeling, these people were paralysed by indecision. Each of the thousands of choices they had to make every day had to be analytically reviewed. These people made terrible life choices.
Research in this area suggests that although we make very quick gut decisions. These decisions can be reversed if we alternate view points from other people. However we need to absorb and reflect on these alternatives. Participants in a study who were provided with arguments against their decision were more likely to change their minds about a topic if they were given a couple of minutes to consider alternatives – so occasionally we need to sit down and reappraise what our default view of the world is.
Emotional intelligence and yoga
This is what emotional intelligence coaching and yoga does. The practices help you slow the world down and observe your habitual patterns. Yoga also helps you maintain a calm balanced view of the world – Its hard to listen to what your gut is telling you if you are so stressed that your flight or fight mechanism is making every part of your body ache and grumble.
In the next blog I’m going to explore how yoga helps you re-appraise your habitual responses to situations. In the meantime, at work consider your interactions with colleagues and how in order to persuade and influence, you need to have a chat with the elephant in the room.
Emotional intelligence development – engaging the rider and the elephant
To take the MSCEIT emotional intelligence test and take part in our 30 day programme to develop your emotional intelligence email me back and I will send you login and payment details. The programme includes two online psychometric tests (a month a part) , two private and confidential feedback sessions, two group sessions and a 30 day programme to develop skills. 250 (UK pounds) or approximately 370 (Australian dollars) per person
This clip is about soldiers returning from Afghanistan and seeing their dogs for the first time is amazing! Watch this video
I’ve just spent a really happy month in Townsville, North Queensland. Apart from having lovely weather and an abundance of beautiful scenery it is also home to Australia’s army. A chance posting by a friend on Facebook showing the happiness of one dog as his owner returns from service in Afghanistan and a coffee with my mate Kenny got me thinking about how to help returning soldiers. No matter what you think of the rights and wrongs of the Afghan and Iraq campaigns , the returning personnel and their families are heroes. The clip shows just how much love there is for many of our returning heroes.
While there is great sadness for the wrecked lives and wasted years of the Iraqi and Afghan people, there will also be many Americans, Brits, Canadians and Australians who return to empty shattered lives.
During our coffee conversation I thought about all the amputees coming home and also all those who are whole-bodied but might still have had the trauma of seeing roadside bombs rip their mates apart. Such shocks to the sensations slash straight to the core of humanity. To be covered in your best friend’s blood, sweat and shit is such a heightened life experience that it may seem impossible for them to experience the world in a “normal” happy balanced way in the future.
At the same time as the shock, there’s also the loss they feel as they return home and their friends stay on the front line – the sense of guilt at not having to endure the pain any more, the loss of camaraderie, the loss of structure and certainty, the loss of meaning and the loss of hope
Being part of something
Soldiers since Alexander’s time have practiced marching precisely in formation. William McNeil noted as far back as 1941 that something magical happens when you ask people to march together. In studies, people who behave in a synchronised manner with their team members bond closely. Many also report that they feel a part of something bigger. They lose the sense of “I”. The right holistic side of the brain is engaged when we practice in formation. We become more willing to share and sacrifice and feel meaning and contentment.
Mirror neurons fire when we observe those around us behave. For example when I pour a cup of tea and you watch me a part of your brain engages which mimics the action of pouring a cup of tea. So in neural imaging we can observe that area of your brain linked to the physical aspects of raising the tea pot and aiming the tea into a cup being engaged even though you are not actually pouring any tea – you’re just looking at me doing it! When our physical bodies begin to move in unison our brains become more attuned – we start to think, act and feel in similar ways. This can result in bloodthirsty mobs or transcendental uplift. The mood of a crowd is volatile and contagious.
When we become attuned and crowd like we act as a bee hive. We strive for the common good rather than out of self interest. Returning soldiers may loose this sense of being part of something bigger. People are often more able to deal with hardship and suffering when they feel a part of something. When they are alone they may feel a loss of the feeling of oneness – all they may have to focus on are their aches and pains and memories. Any rehabilitation program should therefore address this loss of connection to something bigger.
There are other ways to reduce the sense of separateness from the world. To feel small and insignificant can bring comfort – knowledge that we have a small but important role to play in how the universe plays out. Research suggests that some of the other ways that universal connection can be enhanced are as follows:
- being in jaw dropping scenery – awe impresses on us our smallness and comparative insignificance. It helps us raise our gaze from our own internal mutterings. It re-bases us and helps us focus on what’s truly important in life
- group exercise – there’s something magical that happens in a yoga class when the mats are aligned and people perform the same yoga posture at the same time – it feels like magical synchronicity
- meditation – when you practice focusing on the breath you disassociate from thought and appreciate that thoughts come and go. You begin to observe a deeper expansive connection
- hallucinogenic drugs – Aztecs used the mushroom Teonanacatl for thousands of years as part of their spiritual practices as have many other indigenous communities. People with depression are now being treated with hallucinogenic drugs in trials
- supporting teams – being in a crowd – chanting – singing
All these things make us behave like a bee in a hive and make us connect to that which is outside of our thoughts (and problems).
The importance of touch
In addition to the sense of loss from leaving a group returning soldiers are often also plagued by their memories. One amazing feature of human touch is the connection that is has with a vital neurotransmitter, oxytocin. Studies show elevated levels of oxytocin during and after humans touch each other (and animals). Research in this area also reveals heightened levels of interpersonal trust for people with elevated oxytocin levels. In addition Anthony Lane’s study in 2012 suggested people with elevated oxytocin levels are more likely than a control group taking a placebo to share their emotions with other people. This could be really important in getting returning soldiers to start to open up about painful experiences. In addition, oxytocin has been described as the amnesia drug (Heinrichs et al 2004). Studies indicate it has a role to play in “wiping away” memories. That doesn’t necessarily mean we forget when we touch but elevated oxytocin levels may enable us to see the past with a more optimistic perspective – we can start afresh.
Helping the returning heroes
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs in the US , 11% to 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are suffering from PTSD. Roughly 2,413,000 young Americans have served in the Iraq or Afghanistan war, so far. Between 250,000 and half a million of them may be struggling with PTSD and major depression. Add to this the Brits, Australians and other nationalities and you have a big problem for the young people returning, their families and communities
Looking above its clear that these young heroes need to feel part of something again, to have opportunities to express themselves in their own time and to feel the warmth of human touch.
I started with dogs and that’s where I’ll end. In the US Operation freedom paws is a charity to enable returning vets to work with and train dogs.
About five years ago I trained to administer a psychometric test called MSCEIT. This aims to measure a person’s emotional intelligence level. It does this by using an online questionnaire which takes about 30 minutes. The psychologists behind the test spent many years investigating what makes up and defines emotional intelligence. They suggest that it’s the degree to which a person remains open to information provided by emotions (both yours and the people around you) and your ability to incorporate this successfully into your decision making process. Making good decisions which are well communicated, and in tune with those around you, is at the heart of emotional intelligence.
The designers of the test divided an assessment of a persons emotional intelligence into four areas:
Recognising emotions – the ability to observe the physical manifestation of emotions in yourself, others and in your general environment – for example you are shown faces and asked to say which emotion the person is probably experiencing
Using emotions – the ability to match an appropriate emotion to a thought task – for example when the task at hand is creative, perhaps the emotion should be fun and upbeat . Where analysis and concentration is required, perhaps more focused, vigilant emotions are required
Understanding – the ability to see cause and effect relationships as emotions come to the surface – you are able to understand why someone is feeling in a particular way and how the situation may develop based on past and current information
Managing emotions – the ability to use the information that has been observed and incorporate it into successful decision making – this is the ability to blend analytical information with what your emotions and those around you are telling you. In the short term this may be the ability to handle stress – perhaps by counting to 4 or going for a run. In the longer term it means understanding what the emotions in yourself and others mean, changing behaviours in yourself, and facilitating change in those around you.
The test results are back in a few days and give your overall assessment score compared to the average population. It also divides the test results into layers so that you also receive test results on each of the four areas. It is this pattern of results which is of most interest. For example one can imagine a situation where someone is great at recognising emotions in other peoples faces but have no idea how to use, understand or manage this information. Or another situation where a person is great at recognising, using, understanding and managing emotions, but very poor at managing their own emotions to create positive work and lifestyle changes. The permutations are endless!
The good news about emotional intelligence is that unlike a personality type (for example how agreeable you are, or how open) which is difficult to budge, emotional intelligence levels can be increased with training. For example, teachers get better at being able to recognise emotions as they spend their careers observing children (often through the backs of their heads!). We all have these abilities, but to develop them it takes effort and focus. I have given feedback for this test many times and have found it very useful in my own life. You obtain feedback from a coach and are then given a program for developing these skills.
“If there is one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other persons point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own”
Developing your emotional intelligence – I need volunteers!
All you need to do is:
- take the test once initially, and then again in a months time
- after the first test I will give you private and confidential feedback on your results
- I will then get all the participants together to discuss a program for improving your ability to recognise, use, understand and manage emotions
- Over the next 30 days I will ask you to put the training into practice once a day, and to record your experience. This means deliberately using a model of recognising emotions, using appropriate ones, understanding where they came from and managing emotions. There will be just one task or challenge per day
- If you wish I’ll also get you into a buddy system so that each week you can have a telephone chat with your partner or meet up to discuss how each situation developed and what you have learnt
- during the 30 days you’ll be given online tools to help you recognise emotions – for example there are lots of emotional recognition tools out there
- After 30 days you will take the test again, receive confidential feedback and we’ll get together as a group to share experiences
I will also take the test and do the 30 day challenge with a friend. And hopefully we will all be more emotionally intelligent!
The cost for two psychometric tests plus two group workshops and two one to one feedback sessions is £250. If you can persuade work to pay for it that would be wonderful! If you have friends or colleagues who may be interested in improving their emotional intelligence levels in 30 days please forward this email.
To register interest just email me back and I’ll send back payment methods and organise start times.
Next week I’ll set out the business case for why developing emotional intelligence is a good idea. You might think this is a strange order for things – surely its a good idea to set out the argument for something before trying to sell a test measurement and program for change. Not in this case. Its a no brainer for two reasons. Firstly most people have a gut instinct that getting along with people and understanding what they are about is a key component of success at work, in life and for health reasons. Secondly, most of us like to know how we compare to others. The thing about emotional intelligence or any “skill” is that we are notoriously bad at judging our abilities. For example on average most people who drive a car rate themselves as being above average at driving – obviously this can’t be true. And so it is with emotional intelligence skills. If we have poor skills in at recognising, using, understanding and managing emotions we don’t tend to recognise the fact.
Hope you found this useful
Most of the wellbeing courses that I’ve taken in the last 15 years have been in India, Australia and Canada. We chose to set up shop in London because that was where the demand was. It’s also an exciting, fun and financially rewarding place to live. It attracts seekers, people who are looking for the most fun and the most meaning. Its a place for the young. It tests you. The historian Peter Ackroyd describes London as an energetic vortex that sucks people in and either they ascend or they are pulled down into the gutter.
Economically, people are drawn to cities because of an amazing relationship between wealth and population. Geoffrey West notes that for every doubling of a cities population average wealth per person increases by 15%. No wonder people have been drawn to cities for centuries. In 1800 only 4% of the US population lived in cities, now its 80%. Every week 1 million people around the world move to a city. This amazing 1:1.15 growth relationship also applies to other statistics, including crime. As we move to cities we become wealthier but the wealth grows with a widening normal distribution ie. the poorer are poorer and the richer, wealthier. The rest of us in the middle are therefore exposed to this wealth chasm. We fear the effect of the vortex – that we will end in the gutter. We aspire to use the force of the vortex to help us climb the materialistic ladder. Its all there, in our face, rich and poor, light and shade. For more details check out thisTed talks clip:
Numerous studies in Positive Psychology have compared how satisfied people say they are with their lives, with how much money they earn. The results of hundreds of studies around the world conclude that how much you earn has little to do with how satisfied you are with things. BUT…..lots of other studies have also indicated that we have a tendency to look upwards. We are aspirational. We covet what our neighbour has. We are jealous. We take this to an extreme so that in the workplace people who are offered salaries which put them near the top of their departments pay scale would rather this, than be offered a higher salary which puts them near the bottom of the departments pay scale.
So we are not profit maximisers, we just need to be alpha male, top dog, chief chimp. We value ourselves through money even when the reality is that if we are able to cover the basics like a nice house, car, education, holidays plus a little bit of F**k you money we don’t really care how much we earn.
Now back to cities. People arrive and they aspire to the rich fruits. People in cities work harder and compare themselves to others much more than our country cousins. A recent bit of research by Andreas Meyer Lindenburg in Mannheim demonstrated potential mental vulnerability in city dwellers. They compared city folk to town people and country people. They found that when people were asked to complete brain teasers in a test situation, city people were more conscious of their performance and more susceptible to criticism. They did this by occasionally interrupting the study and cajoling participants to get a move on and also giving them feedback that they were under performing compared to their peers. They measured brain activity in areas like the amygdala (one of the areas of the brain associated with emotional judgment and fight or flight). They found that city dwellers were much more sensitive to criticism.
In a follow up study the team found that an area called the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC) was much more activated in people who had spent many years living in a city. Studies indicate that the pACC has a positive impact of inhibiting the worst excesses of fight/flight (muscle tightness, breathing problems, inability to focus, short term memory loss). This over activation may prevent this natural inhibiting feature.
Why people living in cities are more susceptible to stress could include many factors such as social comparison set out above, as well as noise, lack of sunlight, constant visual distraction, lack of green space and increasing social isolation.
Another feature of city living is the rise of single person households. Add to this the reduction in team sports and rise of internet relationships at the expense of face to face contact and you build a picture of vulnerable, isolated people striving to avoid the traps of the vortex and aspire to the riches. The obvious conclusion to this is ever growing cities with ever increasing exposure to mental instability. This may be borne out by the relationship between schizophrenia and city living (Stanley Zammit, Cardiff University).
The good news is that a wide circle of friends has a powerful positive effect on the amyygdala/pACC relationship. During moments of bonding and touch hormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin are produced, which counteract the negative effects of fight/flight (or rather improve brain functioning such that we are able to deal with regular day to day stresses and strains in a balanced, relaxed way). Another way to manage fight/flight is by taking lots of exercise and learning techniques to concentrate the mind (such as breathing exercises, mantra and meditation)
I suppose this blog is just a long advert for the business case behind Breathe London. We are an integrated wellbeing business with a range of physical (touch ) and talking therapies which try to address many of the issues raised in this article.
Here are some quick tips to counteract the effects of city living:
- take a break, go to the countryside and turn off your twitter, facebook, phone
- cherish your friends and actually do something different with them
- be spontaneous – a friend of mine organises his life months in advance – when you do this you constantly package the future up
- enjoy the amazing things that London (or your big city) has to offer
Breathe is expanding! Lesley is opening a new Breathe London in South Kensington in April and I’m in Australia setting up here www.breathe-australia.com
Hope you found this useful
A year ago I began a series of newsletters/blogs about the wellbeing courses that have inspired me. I wrote quite a few articles about the benefits that I received from studying Positive Psychology and Emotional Intelligence courses
In this newsletter I take a look at Yoga. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to this because of all the courses I’ve taken over the last 15 years it’s the thing that’s been the most beneficial to my physical and mental wellbeing.
One of the reasons that I’ve left it so long is the sheer complexity of Yoga. I teach about 15 hours every week and often find myself trying to encapsulate its usefulness. Each time I try, different words come out. The narrowest possible view is that it makes you more flexible. This is true but of equal importance is the increased physical strength, the improved balance and ease of movement.
However the physiological benefits derived from practicing the Asanas (physical postures) are just one part of the practice of Yoga. Yoga is a complete wellbeing system. The physical and psychological tools it provides you with enable a diligent practitioner to move towards mastery of the body, thoughts and emotions. In Yoga there is no delineation between the body and the mind. The body is trained to benefit the mind. The mind is trained to benefit the body.
Whether or not you attend Yoga classes in gyms or in Yoga centres we can begin to introduce a Yoga practice into our lives. It is not a religion and does not require a special place to practice. It is based on 4,000 years of human observation of the complex relationship between the body and the mind.
If you are interested in improving your wellbeing but have little interest in attending Yoga classes then this newsletter provides three simple techniques for bringing the practice of Yoga into everything you do:
1. Be aware of your physical essence – For example, if you are exercising a particular part of your body focus on that body part. In past newsletters I’ve set out research which indicates that when you focus attention on the muscle group you are exercising, the muscle develops more strongly than when your attention is scattered – energy flows where your attention goes. As another example, notice how when you are commuting or driving, your energy levels improve and thoughts become brighter when you sit up straight and focus on your posture.
2. Be aware of your breath – Observe your breathing in a dispassionate way (ie. not directing the breath to make it fast or slow). When you do this the act of observation has the effect of focusing the attention and engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. If you focus on your breathing, your attention is diverted away from anxiety stimulating thoughts. Thoughts have a consequential physiological impact. We find it difficult to multi-task and by focusing on our breath we learn to sharpen our attention and enable a feeling of centered calm to reside. By feeling calm and centered inside we are less likely to pay attention to our own internal thoughts and prejudices and more likely to observe the fine detail of the world around us.
In Yoga breath is Prana or energy. In addition to breath there are other forms of subtle energy. If we allow ourselves to observe the present moment we can tap into a limitless supply of universal energy. In my last sentence I’m not repeating what I’ve read in a book about Yoga. It’s what I’ve observed in my own practice. The more you practice, the more you observe the complex relationship between thought, energy and matter. Yoga is a about practice and personal observation of cause and effect.
3. Observe your thoughts and emotions – As you move through the world, continue to observe your thoughts and emotions as they flow through your mind. Become the observer of yourself. In Buddhism there is no delineation between thoughts and emotions. They are bundled together. One does not precede the other. They emerge blended. Through the practices of Yoga you charge your energy levels by allowing a universal energy to flow through you. You feel light, connected and balanced. As you feel connected you feel less isolated and more confident in the world around you and your place within it. Once you cease to observe your thoughts they can wander and become scattered. This scatters the energy you have built up. Even worse than this is that in an absent-minded way your thoughts may drift to a situation that causes you anxiety. Immediately the energy that you have built up seeps away – energy flows where attention goes.
When you focus on your physical presence, your breathing and subtle energy as well as remaining aware of your thoughts, you charge your body with positive energy. In yoga you focus first on your own wellbeing. From this position of confidence and strength you can then choose to help others.
Hope you found this useful
New things at the Breathe Centre
Sara is practicing Chiropractic care 6 days a week at the centre now
Lindsey is now practicing Holistic Massage on Fridays 12 to 5pm and all day Sunday
Zoe does sports massage on Fridays 5 to 7pm
Pawel is focussing on Craniosacral, Mysofascial release and Reflexology on Tuesdays 5 to 9pm
We are in the process of branding up everything we do under the Breathe London banner. So we are producing new flyers for each are of our business…massage, acupuncture, yoga etc
On each flyer I’m looking for a non cheesy quote so for on the massage one we have
A mind free from all disturbances is Yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny. Upanishads
A man should look for what is, and not for what should be. Albert Einstein
“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”
― Anonymous, The Bhagavad Gita
“The happiness which comes from long practice, which leads to the end of suffering, which at first is like poison, but at last like nectar – this kind of happiness arises from the serenity of one’s own mind.”
― Ved Vyasa, The Bhagavad Gita
A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.
Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.
There is more to life than increasing its speed.
New Saturday clinic
What makes people feel abundant?
Research from the fields of behavioural economics and positive psychology informs us that feeling good has little or no relationship to our earnings or how many material possessions we have. Providing we live in a stable political environment, have access to education and basic healthcare, earning more does not lead to an equivalent incremental increase in how happy we say we are.
Positive Psychology research appears to support some Buddhist teachings – that happiness is a state of mind which can be developed through training rather than through the acquisition of additional material resources. The pursuit and attainment of wealth may lead to the development of an internal state of happiness but the research suggests it is not the wealth itself that creates happiness, but the journey that is made to attain wealth (ie the friends you meet in your career, the places you visit and enjoy, the sense of self worth developed through the achievement of goals.
Life coaching gurus often recommend one of the most important priorities in life is to develop an internal mindset of abundance and wellbeing. This feeling of abundance somehow attracts more abundance in the form of material wealth, friendships and opportunities. This kind of moves us into the sphere of quantum physics and the law of attraction – somehow we manifest our physical reality through our intention. No matter how many quantum physics books I read I’m not sure whether I will truly understand what Schrodinger and his cat were all about, but
I do know that in the social sciences the observer affects the observed and the outcome of the experiment. I also know that when I observe a part of my body it changes. For example if I imagine doing bicep curls my biceps grow more than if I was, for example, playing chess (Shackell, Standing study, Bishop’s University) A few months back my blogs were about how our perception of “reality” is influenced by mood, eg. happier people see a greater variety and ranges of colour. But can it be that my thoughts create and influence all I see?
How does feeling abundant attract abundance? Ignoring the quantum physics possibilities for a moment I thought of three evidence-based ways in which abundance (or the opposite) might spread.
The spread of emotions – maybe we smell them
Researchers at the University of Utrecht have uncovered a mechanism by which emotions may spread and this may impact our feelings of abundance. It appears that different emotions have different chemical compositions which we can perceive in each other at a very subtle level and are transferable. The smell of perspiration released by men while feeling afraid or repulsed was enough to trigger the same emotional reaction in women, an experiment showed. When exposed to bottled sweat given off by men as they watched clips from the film “The Shining”, women began showing physical signs of being afraid such as a fearful facial expression, darting eye movements and heavier sniffing. In contrast, the smell of perspiration from men who had been watching MTV’s Jackass – which features stomach-churning stunts – caused a disgusted facial expression and other signs of the emotion including a reduction in eye movement and sniffing.
These findings suggest certain emotions can be contagious and can be detected via chemical signals, even though the women were not aware of it at the time, researchers said. This system might have evolved as an unconscious form of communication, where fear could be spread between people to warn them of imminent danger, and disgust could be shared to highlight the risks of toxic foods or chemicals. Dr Gün Semin of Utrecht University, who led the study, says “these findings are important because they contradict the common assumption that human communication occurs exclusively through language and visual cues. Importantly, the women were not aware of these effects and there was no relationship between the effects observed and how pleasant or intense the women judged the stimuli to be.”
Further studies could help establish whether other emotions like happiness or anger, which are less directly related to survival, are equally contagious.
If we pick up the message “this person is giving off abundance vibes”, we may be more willing to trust that person. We may expect they are more likely to give us something rather than try and attain something from us, and are more likely to welcome these people because they are unlikely to detract from our own abundance.
Spread of emotions through facial signals
In their 2003 study Ebling & Levenson suggest people have a simplistic subconscious system of attract versus repulse and these prime directives are expressed in signals on our faces.
As far back as 1986, Mullen’s study of the influential effects of news broadcasters’ expressions on presidential elections, concluded that micro-facial expressions have a significant impact on peoples attract/repulse mechanism. A newscaster’s clear positive favouritism towards one candidate was shown to influence voting patterns. The study noted this was in spite of the tendency of the news channel in question to run negative stories about the candidate. The positive micro expressions seemed to be more influential than the negative words expressed. In 1980 Wells & Petty illustrated how facial impression and movement of the head (nodding agreement) can be influenced by “senders” of energy and this in turn influences decision making and mood. Positive and negative emotions are as much an outside-in as an inside-out mechanism.
When one group of individuals are asked to remember a stressful event they produce identifiable, common facial patterns. When a second group is asked to mimic some of these expressions, without being asked to consider a stressful event, both groups suffer similar physiological effects. This implies that the face not only mimics inner thoughts and feelings but also drives these processes. The face may be both a display cabinet for emotions and also act as a creator of authentic emotions.
Our abundance or lack of it can be on display for all to see.
Choosing the right goals
When you feel abundant you are more likely to feel calm, centred and relaxed. In this state you may be less likely to follow the crowd. You have the confidence to choose the goals and activities which are meaningful to you. Being motivated by fear and a sense of internal poverty may make us work hard but seeking abundance through external gratification often fails to satisfy the inner hollowness.
If you can smell an inner mental state on other people, and see it written on their faces and these states are able to transfer between people, its sort of understandable why on meditation retreats people are asked to avoid contact with each other. We’re trained to develop a positive, abundant internal mental state which we can then, hopefully transmit to the world around us.
A great book aimed at creating an abundant mindset is Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom. Its a wonderful fusion of neuroscience and Buddhist practices. It explores how you go about training your mind to feel kind, compassionate and abundant.
Our Mind/Body business
This weeks blog talks about the wellbeing business we are trying to create in central London
Community – We operate out of a community centre run by a non government, not for profit organization, Jubilee Hall Trust. The rental income we pay directly supports the young, elderly and vulnerable in our SE1 community;
Quality, commitment and passion – Some of the best therapists in London operate from our centre. We charge them a minimum amount for use of our rooms so that you know that most of the money you pay for care goes to your therapist
Positive intention – Breathe is a Positive Psychology based organization. To find out what this means read our blogs and newsletters by following us on Twitter @Breathelondon and on Facebook Breathe London
Creating an integrated Mind/Body business - We believe that our physical wellbeing goes hand in hand with our mental wellbeing. Our physical therapies focus on developing fitness, posture and strength. As we positively influence our physical body we develop our mental wellbeing.
Our talking therapies introduce tools enabling our clients to be more optimistic, embrace change and play to their strengths. As we develop mental stamina and balance we positively influence our physical bodies.
The time we are given
A few days ago a good friend, Emily Collins, shared a message on Facebook which suggested that on average once you are into your 30s you have something like 1,800 weekends left to live (I did the math and thought it should be a bit more). Some people posted that they felt that it was grim news but I felt that it was an uplifting a message about making the most of the time we have. If you don’t believe me listen to Gandalf:
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that we are given”
Research suggests that we find the concept of finite life so difficult to comprehend that we use every power that our ego possesses to suppress this truth and base many of our life decisions (both economic and psychological) on the false premise of continuity.
For me the 1,800 weekends left idea is a validation of my decision 9 years ago to leave the world of corporate finance to do a job I love. I wanted my Monday to Friday and holidays to be at least as joyful as the weekends.
Meaning and joy
Thinking of life as a finite thing makes you approach each day as a special gift. Of course we may already have just a few weekends left or maybe none.
If we look at our daily activities we can ask a simple question, “Does this activity bring me either joy or bring me a deeper meaning and understanding of who I am and what my place is in the world?” Of course there inevitably follows a far more complex question. “If the activity that I am doing brings me little or no joy now but I know that it enables me to have joy in the future, to what extent do I defer joy if life is uncertain and finite?”
The benefit of deferring joy is that it builds tenacity and willpower. In studies, little kids who are able to sit in a room on their own and deny themselves the pleasure of eating a sweet now, compared to waiting for two in 10 minutes, are on average happier in later life, achieve more academically and are more successful in their careers.
The only problem with deferring joy is that it can become a habit. Some people do it until they retire, counting the days away. And in all those long years of denial they forget how to be playful and childlike. They lose their creativity, their spark and their energy.
So perhaps we can look at what we do each day with more awareness and remind ourselves:
- Life is precious and short
- Am I clear that if I am deferring joy today it is because I am working towards something which has a deep meaning and I value (what I truly value – not what my peers, family or society values)
Obviously with 1,800 weekends or so people are tempted to pursue hedonism – to fulfil themselves through consumption (food, sex, cars, houses etc). The problem with these joys is that they tend to be fleeting and habit forming. Because they entice the senses so much they invite repetition and can squeeze out other forms of joy that the world has to offer. Again the key is to raise awareness and ask:
“Am I repeating this joy out of habit?”
“What future joys can be experienced by choosing a more difficult path or trying something new?”
“Does this joy bring me closer to my loved ones, help me understand myself better and connect with new people?”
And finally I’d like to explore the greatest joy – connecting to friends and understanding yourself. Research in Positive Psychology suggests that the greatest building block of wellbeing is the closeness and depth of your relationships. Friendships are not measured by the number of Facebook friends that you have, but through having a handful of friends that know your highest highs and lowest lows, who love you even when you act and look like a car crash, and fill you with warmth and love when you succeed in life.
When you meet such people cherish and love them dearly. Thanks for the inspiration Emily.
Hope you found this useful
Lots of love Andy