Posts Tagged ‘advice’

Short, focused, one minute meditations can be the linchpin of your progress to control mental distractions.
I am finding that for the first time I have a reliable, working weapon against distractions leading my behaviour. It’s all about establishing mental distance from internal dialogue.
Method – throughout the day, whenever I feel that an unhealthy thought or distraction enters my focus I stop what I am doing, close my eyes and concentrate on my heart rate. Remaining totally still I can feel my heart beats in my chest so I count out 60 heart beats. It could be 60 seconds but for me it’s 60 beats of my heart. As I see the offending distraction enter my field of focus, I simply realise what it is, separate myself from the thought, then go back to counting heart beats.
When this becomes routine, it becomes the only way to gain control over insistent negative thoughts.
Remember, purposeful rituals beat bad habits.
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Bet that got your attention!

The two-step process is simple. Difficult but simple.

Firstly, your child will remember ‘how’ you lived long after you are gone.

Secondly, your conversations about the world, current events, and how you feel about the latest news will dim with time. However, your quotes will get traction and stickability. (more…)

I sit here with my daughter.

 

What a year 2018 has been.

First my Mum entered hospital.

Then she died with us staring at her.

Feels like one minute I was thinking of calling her.

The next I was struggling to write her eulogy, then standing to deliver it.

Next, the diagnosis of Dad’s terminal cancer was added to his grief.

Probably 6 months to go and no coming back.

He lasted 8 so I wrote his eulogy.

Words didn’t do him justice.

 

Now my brain throws memories at me.

4 years old and faking sleep so that he would carry me.

52 years later I’m pulling his nappy up and carrying him to bed.

Then sitting down to watch him struggle to breathe.

My beloved Father with only days to live.

He was dying of a broken heart.

 

Now I question life.

More than ever before.

I grab happiness as it arises.

Try to make a difference.

Hoping to leave a mark.

Advice for the young.

 

Sometimes words just don’t do it justice.

Supporting my Dad

So I sit here with my daughter.

 

Walking with my Dad tonight I found myself having to answer the most important question anyone ever asks.

“Why should I live?”

Dad is 80. He recently lost the love of his life – my Mum – after being with her for 62 years. Two weeks later he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a year to live. Plus he has an advancing form of Alzheimers. A triple whammy if you like.

Next Tuesday he is moving out of our family home to a one bedroom existence in an aged care facility.

So, knowing all this, on our walk tonight he shared that there really is nothing else to look forward to other than dying. But he did say that he wanted to help some old people by pushing them around in their wheelchairs.

My comment was something that has given my life purpose recently.

It is …to be of service to another.

To be helpful.

To give and to see the effect of your effort on the face of another.

It’s a pity that this only enters our brain after a trauma and we are forced to re look at our life purpose. Or to find a purpose if our life direction has vanished.

But is this just my opinion? There seems to be some research into happiness that we are all aware of and it has been happening right under our noses for many years. We are reminded of it regularly in the news and it becomes the topic of our conversations for a period of time, then we slide back to our normal day to day life.

The evidence that I mention is the suicide rate of movie and rock stars comparative to those involved in community work or altruism.

Think about it. Recently we have seen high profile suicides – Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain and Avicii to name a few famous ones. It seems to hit the young and old, the male and female. The ones we think that would have it all to live for.

We are wrong. Accumulation of fame and wealth is not all it’s cracked up to be.

A life of meaning seems to be the way. It provides us with a blanket of emotional security that ensures that we are safe in the knowledge that we matter. That we are worthwhile. That tomorrow we will be of value to another.

And that is a reason that I used on Dad. He agreed and we walked home with a new plan starting Tuesday.

Good on you Dad.

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Either I’m happy or I’m not.

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Well it’s not that easy. There aren’t two destinations on this treadmill. And either end of the spectrum isn’t desirable or possible.

I mean, if you wanted to be 100% happy – REALLY happy – and couldn’t be calm until you got there, you would be a mess.

Firstly, 100% happiness is a myth. The people you think are happy – film stars, the guy who dates the pretty girl you look at, the best sportsperson in your area of interest – these people wake up some mornings and don’t want to get out of bed. I’ve asked them. It’s a universal truth. 100% happiness, 24 hours a day, is a myth.

So what is real? What is acceptable? What should you shoot for?

Here are some markers to hit on your journey:

  • Do you have a job? This gives you a reason to get up in the morning. Even if you don’t like your job, you are involved in something (hopefully) bigger than you.
  • Do you have friends? I know people who are depressed probably don’t attract vital, lively friends but there is a way you can work on this. Join a club, be a person who is like the friends you want, do a course, the list goes on.
  • Do you have a drug or alcohol problem? If so, get off it straight away. Hard advice for those that are addicts and easy for those that aren’t but the point is that substance addiction is a slippery slope that leads to depression and suicide and neither of those is fun.
  • Are you in an intimate relationship? Happily married people are less stressed and live longer. Enough said.
  • Do you exercise? I don’t mean the gym. Although that is fine, I mean somehow you have to let off steam and give your body a reason to go to sleep at night.
  • Do you sleep 8 hours a night and do you wake up early? Fatigue is a huge marker for depression along with a routine which means getting up early at the same time every day.
  • Do you make your bed? Now it’s getting weird I hear you say. Yes, this is one of those small things that tells your brain that you have got your act together. Plus it’s easy and it’s at the start of the day.  At least if it is the worst day ever, you will go home to a bed that’s been made.
  • Do you read? Do you educate yourself? Reading and education mean it’s impossible to get dumber as you get older. This means you will understand yourself more easily and probably find out about other highly successful people that you admire who also struggled. You might even realise that someone else was more unhappy than you and ended up smiling.
  • Do you have an area of your life that has meaning? If not, you can start by looking at the most depressing thing in another person’s life and start working to alleviate their suffering. You will be amazed at the rewards you receive by serving the needs of another.

Finally, if you start doing these, you will find that meaning in life is a form of happiness and in the end, happiness – any percentage of it – isn’t that important if you have a higher purpose.

Oh, one more thing that I borrowed from AA. It’s the last step in their 12 step process. It’s to help another person on their road. But get going yourself first.

Start with the easiest one.

Then make a routine of it.

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This exact question was asked as I finished a speech recently on depression and anxiety.
I had told the audience about how widespread depression is. That every day, six Australians take their own lives.
The Lucky Country question disturbed me as I didn’t really have an answer. I mean, if your life is threatened you will fight tooth and nail to survive. So, when our standard of living is so high and our safety assured, why do we feel empty?

The answer lies in a fascinating scientific study conducted in 1999 by Simons and Chabris. They found that when we focus on a given task we selectively delete other factors even when they are right in front of our face. To watch this, called the gorilla experiment, click here: https://youtu.be/vJG698U2Mvo

But here comes the crunch. When we are focused on the things that make us comfortable, it is often at the expense of the things that will provide us with the most reward.
Our mission, or purpose in life, is invisible when we are comfortable.

Our job now is not to make ourselves uncomfortable to achieve something.
It is to clarify what matters most.

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Some notes to reflect on:

I cried most nights for about a year.
There were times that I had to wait 5 or 6 days for a counselling appointment and struggled in the meantime.
Trying to work whilst dealing with the trauma of a broken marriage was incredibly hard.
Some nights after I finished work I would say goodbye to the staff, lock the outside door then go into my office and crawl under the desk and lie in the foetal position
I tried to self medicate but it didn’t work.

BUT:

My mum gave me the advice “one day at a time“ and that was exactly how I got through it.
I conducted myself in a way that made me proud in later years.
When my kids grew up they realised I was traumatised by the situation and now respect me for the way I handled myself. I have become a role model for my son.
I make much better decisions now.
My life and current level of happiness is much better than it was prior to the trauma.

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Plunge on my friend.

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My 6 World Vision kids keep me grounded.
They make me realise I am useful.
Each letter I open shows me I am valuable.
Each picture reminds me I make a difference.
I also advertise the difference I am making by telling my clients that they are making a difference every time they pay me.
Here is the last letter:
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This is Amily Sun. She is one of six World Vision kids that we have in our martial arts school.
Firstly, please tell your kids that your family helps pay for her education and some medical supplies. Just by mentioning this and showing the photo, it will plant a seed that ensures everyone helps everyone else. It also reminds kids how lucky they are to live in the best corner of the best state of the best country in the world.
Now, I post this for a few reasons.
Mainly, I believe in altruism and want to show the young members of MRMA that that is what our duty is. I chose World Vision because we can put a face to our contribution. It hits home for us.
I could have chosen an organisation where more of the money goes direct to the person that needs it. (82% of World Vision fees go direct to the person in need.)
But everyone knows World Vision and the reporting process. Photos that are sent and personal notes mean there is a connection made. Your money doesn’t just seem to disappear into a black hole every month.
My second reason is a personal one.
I read a book about The Killing Fields. The author is the same age as me. When he was 15, Cambodia was embroiled in a war where huge numbers of people were slaughtered. The author’s teenage years were spent witnessing bloodshed that is the stuff of nightmares.
As I read the book, I realised that at the same time, I was in Years 10, 11 and 12.
At that age, my main focus was on doing the minimum amount of schoolwork, surfing, and the opposite sex. This realisation and subsequent embarrassment moved me to do something for those less fortunate. Maybe 40 years too late but I was unconsciously incompetent at the time.
I have told this story many times to the kids in the martial arts school in the hope that, by example, they will realise that it is their civic duty to do what they can.
I implore you to show your child the picture and explain how we are helping her.
Sean Allen
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So, that’s it.
Simple acts repeated add up.
Read that again. It works in all areas of life. Positive or negative.
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“Learning is to a man as the leaves and branches are to a tree, and it should be said that he simply should not be without it.” So said Takeda Shingen, one of Japan’s best known generals who lived in the 1500’s. At age 52 he was hit by a bullet and died, but not before his legacy of knowledge had been recorded for all those who wished to see what a life of warfare had taught.

So it seems that a warrior can steel himself for battle not only by hard physical training but also by improving his academic abilities. If this logic holds, we can therefore create a life that rewards us more by following the same path. We can create happiness more easily than by just ‘trying harder’ – as our well meaning friends and relatives urge. If we research and see how others have dealt with difficulty, we find the same thing. Not only does it transport us to a higher level, we actually feel less alone. We realise that others who have come before us have also struggled (sometimes more than we have.) Our pain becomes more palatable purely through comparison with the trauma of others.

The question now becomes where do we look for guidance?

If the Samurai looked to the victors of the past, so should we. We should look to those who have left a record of actions that created a fulfilling life. Surely someone else has met with similar difficulty and has triumphed through a series of actions that will allow us to experience similar results.

The Samurai knew that attention to detail on a daily basis would lead to victory in a range of activities. They would not miss their regular training as they knew that hardening their resolve in battle came through defeating common human weaknesses. They knew that each time they didn’t attend to trivial household duties left them with the knowledge that they had chipped away at their level of discipline.

‘A nine storey tower begins with the foundation’ is a saying accredited to the ancient Samurai. In this same way, our foundation of attention to seemingly little things is the foundation upon which we build a character strong enough to withstand anxiety, panic, despondency and depression.

Quite often this can be as simple as rising earlier than normal and getting organised. It can then be improved upon by a short period of reading every day. Reading for a small period of time every day will bring about more emotional intelligence than 10 hours of last minute research when confronted with psychological pain.

At that point, it is often too late.

Rising early

We all do it. 

You probably did it as you read the title.

Choosing thoughts needs to be quick.

You definitely did it as you looked at the picture.

Our critical mind judges in an instant.

We play ‘devil’s advocate’ and call it ‘reality’.
This process was originally designed to save your life in the form of an adrenaline surge when we were flooded with fear after hearing a lion’s roar. It demanded our attention and jolted us out of our daily chores.

Makes sense so far.

Later, we detected situations where danger was likely and the same thoughts entered our conscious mind. Then adrenalin. Just like Pavlov’s dog, we found ourselves sweating as we entered the scene of our last encounter. But it helped us to survive. Being smarter than the average bear, the signs and signals of danger made a permanent imprint on our minds and we gained control over most situations.

This permanent imprint now follows us and creates it’s own havoc today. With few situations that threaten to cull our population, the thought process continues. It means we remember the negative more than the positive.

We need to un-learn this, but not completely as it still has value.

So where to now?

We need perspective. And a story to illustrate the process that is necessary.

The Monk And The River

Two monks were walking on a narrow trail near the base of the Tian Shan Mountains, in Northern China. They had both taken a vow of celibacy and silence. Mile after mile they consciously walked without talking. After a while they came to a shallow river. At the bank of the river was a beautiful young girl who was looking for a crossing. As the monks approached, the first monk picked her up, carried her across the river, put her down and continued walking. The other monk was exasperated and after sometime could hold back no more. He exclaimed, “How could you do that? How could you pick up that beautiful young girl?”

The other monk replied, “My friend, I put her down on the bank of the river. Why are you still carrying her?

It’s Not That Hard.

So like the monk, we need to drop mental baggage when we decide it is not necessary. Deciding on the validity of a thought can happen in a split second. Without energy. The trick is to smile as you do it.

Smile? Yes, smile. Well maybe not on the outside but on the inside.

You see, we may not have the ability to stop a thought from entering our head, but we sure can decide on whether or not it is useful.

Here is an example:

Imagine waking up from a nightmare. As we realise we were asleep, our logic says, “It was just a dream’. We instantly relax and smile. The same process can help us weed out negative thoughts.

“Ah, it’s just anger.”

“Ah, it’s just jealousy.”

“Ah, it’s just regret.”

Labelling thoughts puts them in a box and allows us to move to something that will help us enjoy life. To enjoy the moment.

Your next thought will come whether you like it or not.

It just did then.

“Wake up. It’s just dream.”