National garden Japan
blogging, Mental Health

Communicating by Listening to What Others Say

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

Ernest Hemingway

A study showed that 70% of our waking hours are spent in communication with others, in some form, with almost half of that time taken up in listening. Reading, talking and writing were way down on the list.

So given that we spend so much of our communication in listening to others, do we do it effectively?

In his book, People Skills, Robert Bolton claimed researchers estimated up to 75% of oral communication is either ignored, misunderstood or quickly forgotten. Furthermore, he maintains that the quality of our friendships and the cohesiveness of our family relationships depends largely on our ability to listen.

“That went in one ear and out the other.”

Learning to be an effective listener takes work. It’s not something that we are actively taught to do in our schooling, so how can we listen better?

Reflective Listening and Attending the Conversation

Are we always fully present and attending the conversation? Or thinking of the next thing to say? For instance, do we always follow the speaker in conversations and listen for the deeper meaning behind the words?

In true listening, we reach behind the words, see through them, to find the person who is being revealed.”

Robert Bolton

Paraphrasing the essence or intent behind the words you hear, can assist in conveying that you have understood correctly, (or give the speaker the chance to otherwise clarify what they meant).

Summarizing the content of another person’s words may nurture a deeper level of trust between them. Trust encourages the other person to further open up and may build more satisfying relationships.

Use Questions Wisely

If we notice a change in the body language of others, we might see cues that they are bothered by something. For example, a child comes home from school looking sad and the reaction from others is sometimes, “Come on, cheer up!” An adult who is becoming agitated about a situation is told, “Calm down.”

This is usually the last thing they want to hear!

Instead of dispensing advice, which generally doesn’t work, asking open-ended questions may help folks who are feeling burdened divulge what is troubling them, especially if you give them a non-coercive invitation to talk.

What is the best way to do that?

Firstly describe the other’s body language – “You look as if something is bothering you.” Or: “You look troubled/sad.”

Secondly, invite them to talk:

  • “I’ve got time if you would like to chat.”
  • “Do you feel like talking?”
  • “I am here if you want to talk about it.”

Be wary of leading the conversation by asking more than one question at a time. Most questions can be re-phrased as a statement. It is good to remember that questions should help the other clarify the problem, rather than provide information.

The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second stage is listening.

Hebrew Sage

Silences in Conversations

Don’t be put off by pauses or silences as these momemts may allow the other person time to think of their answer or expand on what they want to say, at their own pace. During a pause in the conversation, you can still be fully present in the conversation by:

  • Using eye contact
  • Observing the other person’s gestures, facial expression during pauses
  • Adopting open encouraging, non verbal body posture and language
  • Keeping distractions such as checking the phone notifications, loud background etc music, TV to a minimum.

Focus on the Feelings and Emotions

Feelings are often triggered by specific events.

boat at the beach

Society’s norms implicitly teach us to suppress our feelings with the undesired result that they might bubble up and overflow. If everyone acted on impulse and expressed feelings spontaneously, society would completely disrupt. So we have a balancing act between blocking our sensitivity to emotions and freely expressing them. Reflecting emotions and feelings back to the speaker is a way of doing that while respecting the speaker’s privacy.

For instance:

I asked my daughter how her date went last night. “Okay.” was her subdued response. She wasn’t ready to talk about it, and was letting me know not to probe further. If I had not noticed her tone of voice, it could have meant it was just an average date. Her tone and body language was the key to deciphering the true meaning behind the words. Letting her know I was available, if she wanted to talk, gave her the chance to raise the subject when she was ready.

In developing empathy and reflecting the emotions of others, we can ask ourselves – if you were having that experience, how would we be feeling? Then we can put together the feeling, or emotion, and the fact with a familiar formula often used by professionals:

“You feel/are ..(insert the emotion or feeling word )….. since/because….(insert the trigger event or content associated with the feeling).

For example:

Bob: “My supervisor keeps asking questions about my personal life. I wish he’d mind his own business.

Marie: “It sounds like you are feeling pretty annoyed because he won’t respect your privacy.”

Something Further to Ponder

Have you used these techniques to improve conversations and support friends or colleagues? If so, how did they respond?

Are there other ways to develop better listening skills?

Communicating by Listening to What Others Say

Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

Meditation

Sometimes the Universe sends you just what you need to hear in an unexpected moment. I hope these words will be as meaningful for you, today, as they were for me.

May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.

May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognise and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.

May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in myself.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.

May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not indifferent.


Source: Thich Nhat Hanh Metta Meditation
Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

Sunday Reflections

Richness has nothing to do with money, but rather a cool mind, free of tension and anxiety..

Unknown

I heard these salient words at my exercise class last week and I thought how true they were. I am sorry I do not have the original source, and this time, Google could not help identify it.

How blessed one is to have a mind naturally free of worries of the future or regrets of the past. I needed to learn these simple lessons over time and many years.

It is worthwhile paying attention to those bad habits that rob you of mental strength.

Keep them in check as Marc and Angel point out:

When you’re sad, you might hunch your shoulders and look at the floor, but doing so keeps you in a depressive state. Put your shoulders back and smile, however, and you’ll feel an instant boost in your mood.

Feeling sorry for yourself, giving up after your first failure, and giving away your power are just a few of the habits that can wreak havoc on your mental weightlifting routine.

Giving up those unhealthy habits will help you work smarter, not harder.

Marc and Angel
Mental Health, Motivational

Minding our Minds through Mindfulness

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” -John Milton

Mindfulness

We hear it all the time. Mindfulness. The advice to practise mindfulness as a way to deal with troublesome thoughts.

Why does Mindfulness help?

It’s impossible to stay strong when you’re rehashing something that happened last week or predicting that horrible things are going to happen tomorrow. Mindfulness is about staying present in the moment. And since the only time you can change your behavior is right now, it’s important to be able to focus on the here-and-now.

http://www.psychology.com

Our minds become more resilent to stress and less prone to anxiety, if we maintain focus on the here and now; meaning the present moment. The future and the past are, after all, not our reality, but only mental constructs over which we have no, or little, influence. Trying to live in two dimensions at once creates stress for ourselves.

The present moment is the only real time concept we can fully experience, with our senses.

Confucious understood this saying,

“Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

Buddha considered the secret of good health was not to mourn the past, or worry about the future, cautioning against anticipation and encouraging the use of each moment wisely and earnestly.

As if each moment was a priceless gift.

Because each moment is a priceless gift that will never return again.

Staying mindful removes the immediate stress for a mind that might continue to worry or dwell on what has gone before.

The present moment is a concept so very difficult to grab hold on to; for it is transient, dynamic and we might rail against letting it go. Even as we ponder its nature, it has passed us by. Gone.

Some of us keep the past, or future, alive in our minds, through repetitive thoughts. Our minds, in idle moments, stray back to past events, or happier times. If those thoughts are negative, and we think them often enough, we can do ourselves real mental damage or initiate a stress reaction in our body.

Strategies for Mindfulness

  • Stay in the moment
  • Look around you and note your environment
  • Observe
  • Notice where your focus lies and your own body’s natural breath
  • Is your breath short, sharp and shallow, or deep and long? Focusing on the breath is a way to stay mindful
  • Be Mindful and Ground yourself with the following exercise

Questions for the Self

Are you able to be mindful, keeping thoughts aligned with the present moment?

Can you break your day down and stay with those moments?

Besides Grounding, what is it that helps you to do this?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

blogging, Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

Gratitude Finding Three Things

It is fairly well recognized that counting your blessings, as opposed to your burdens can have a huge impact on your psychological health.

Studies have demonstrated that showing gratitude for even the most basic things can have reduce depression and increase contentment.

How to Find Gratitude in life?

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough and more.

It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

-Melody Beattie

We cannot travel to, own, earn, win or consume happiness, but we can find it in gratitude in our daily lives, as Albert Clarke said,

“We must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.”

-Albert Clarke

Feeling Thankful

Many writers and philosophers considered thankfulness to be the highest form of thought, almost a spiritual experience. Acting thankful is something that inevitably leads to gratitude.

Buddha took this to an extreme.

Let us be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.

Buddha

Gratitude as a Daily Habit

Marc and Angel suggested making gratitude a daily habit by:

..intentionally identifying three things in your life you are grateful for. It could be as simple as feeling thankful for the clean water that comes out of your faucet or appreciating the cool breeze on a warm day.

List the things you feel grateful for over dinner, or make it a habit to identify what you’re thankful for before you go to bed. Over time, being thankful becomes like second nature, and you’ll experience benefits ranging from improved sleep to greater immunity.

Marc and Angel

Do you make gratitude a daily habit?

For me, feeling and showing gratitude can reset my mind from its daily worries, anxieties and concerns. Concerns that, at times, feel quite overwhelming.

Thinking of the things I am grateful fore, can help ground me, re-focusing my attention on what I do have, on what is around me.

Many aspects of my life are not ideal, are unfair and may never change. And yet, there is still so much I can be grateful for, even in circumstances not so ideal.

Could you identify three things you’re grateful for each and every day?

Where am I
blogging, Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

Thoughts

Photo by jasmin chew on Pexels.com

“How many slams in an old screen door?

Depends how loud you shut it.

How many slices in a bread?

Depends how thin you cut it.

How much good inside a day?

Depends how good you live ’em.

How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”

It’s all about interpretation and perspective isn’t it? Each person’s perspective is shaped by the way they have lived their various life experiences.

The way we see the world is via our own idiosyncratic lens,so it begs the question as to why so many expect others to understand and perhaps agree with them?

Many thanks to Yvette ~ Priorhouse Blog for supplying the inspiration for today’s post.

Mental Health, Motivational

What We Can and Cannot Change

Do you ever think about what you want to happen in a forthcoming situation? Or does worry get in the way and you tend to focus on what you don’t want to happen?

The Ego and Finding Fault

It seems our ego focuses naturally on the negative aspects, due to an outdated evolutionary adaptation and we are then in a postion that makes us hard-pressed to see positives.

Fault finding comes from believing your happiness comes from the world according to your liking.

We then tend to find fault with whatever is going on, to blame others or circumstances, especially where the outcome has been less than, what we consider, satisfactory.

This may have helped us survive in pre-historic times, where man-eating beasts lurked close by, but is hardly relevant to modern life. Now, our egos flood our brains with self-critical thoughts, most of which are not terribly accurate and anxiety quickly follows.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Lee Jampolsky once asked a stressed-out salesman,

“What is the real purpose of a sale?

Replying about his own needs and that he wanted to boost his sale stats, Jampolsky then encouraged the salesman to instead direct his thought focus outwards – ie. so that his real purpose in a transaction or interaction would be that he was genuinely interested in the person he was selling to, in being patient and kind and, to try to ‘see’ the customer’s heart.

To the salesman’s surprise, his sales rose significantly and he was no longer so stressed when he followed that sageful advice. His customers picked up on those non-verbal and verbal signals that he ‘cared.’

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Contemplating Goals

Without the ego naturally defaulting to negative, there is room in our minds for all sorts of alternative thoughts.

Contemplating a more positive goal at the beginning of any situation may help influence the outcome, (even if you are not convinced of its worth, at first).

What Went Wrong?

Don’t waste your precious time on analysing what went wrong with a situation. Ignore those feelings that you have been short-changed in lifeas they tend promulgate the victim concept, which only makes you feel worse.

Think about what your goal is, making it pertinent to your perception and personal actions and see what happens.

We can attract the exact things that we give thought oxygen to or dwell on.

Jampolsky believes that we can direct ourselves to be peaceful inside regardless of what is happening outside.

Do you Agree?

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Australia, Community, Mental Health

I was only just saying….

Sometimes a word or two can spark an outrage or can offer comfort. Other times words might even be prophetic.

Unfortunately, it seems the later is the case. I write about Australia’s Covid-free bubble and cautioned that we shouldn’t become too complacent and forget hygiene measures.

At New Year’s Eve, I noticed people were fast getting a too cocky with life, resuming normal practices like hugging and kissing, even though there were still a few isolated Covid cases in a few states, including ours. All cases were in hotel quarantine and out of public access, until now. Then:

Credit: Facebook meme

New Covid Outbreak in Queensland, Australia

A cleaner in hotel quarantine has come down with the highly infectious UK strain of the virus. The cleaner was catching public transport for a week prior to detection.

The region is now in lockdown from 6pm tonight and masks are mandatory. [You might remember I was prevented from wearing masks, last year in my workplace].

shopping centre with consumers

The announcement came at 8.30 am today, but at 8.20 am people were already out and about panic buying.

Toilet paper supplies, I suspect.

The lockdown is only until Monday morning, but they suspect it could last a week.

Has the public forgotten shops were once closed all weekend? Are we not able to survive more than one day without shopping? Are toilet paper supplies that thin? (Excuse the pun).

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

One Covid case; (no new cases today) and wholesale chaos reigns at the stores. Think of the UK – or other states and countries that have been in lockdown for months.

The hotel staff in the quarantine hotels, are now going to be tested daily. I wonder why this wasn’t previously instituted?

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blogging, Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

A New Year and Dealing with Intense Emotions

Happy New Year 2021 png

Christmas time may be a source of stress or joy. Compounding those yuletide stresses, the Covid pandemic continues to rage, so there was little cause for joy in many parts of the world.

Marlene inspired me to think of the year’s outcomes in terms of ‘gifts,’ some good and of course, some bad. We’d do well to focus on the better aspects for our own well-being. So, what if any, positives can be noted?

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels.com

Lessons from the Pandemic

Whether we like the lessons or not:

  • This awful year has taught us patience and more appreciation for things at home.
  • This dreadful year has been a godsend for parts of the environment and animal world.
  • The pandemic afforded us time to develop or re-discover DIY home projects.
  • This deadly virus has potentially increased family tensions but has given extra time with loved ones. I will take as a blessing option, thanks.
  • Rates of family violence and alcohol consumption rose, yet levels of air pollution diminished due to fewer vehicles on the roads. The night sky was/is full of stars hitherto unseen in cities, as air quality improved.
  • Peak hour traffic congestion eased and commuter accidents lessened.
  • Workplaces were forced to become more flexible, benefitting those caring for someone, at home.
  • Money from saved travel and workplace costs, (uniforms, ancillary items, office durables and rentals), could instead be spent on other items that bring joy.
  • Extroverts suffered from social isolation but many introverts thrived.

..some Australian online [alcohol], retailers have reported 50% to 500% increases in sales compared to the same period in 2019.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7300689/#dar13092-bib-0018
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Negative Impacts of the Pandemic

This pandemic has uncovered a festering mal-contentment at the interplay between politics and society and offered diametrically opposed opportunities and grief.

Unemployment rose sharply and many lost businesses, their livelihood, or their lives. In some places, political decisions and divisiveness led to civil unrest. Financial ruin became rampant. Mental health nosedived.

For each one of us, the impacts may be very individual. With no short term end to Covid in sight, the heightened emotions the pandemic brings, remain uncomfortable and difficult for many folks to manage.

How do we deal with those difficult emotions?

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Dealing with Difficult Emotions

Write Down Your Thoughts

Sometimes it can be cathartic to transfer those strong emotions into written words. Blogging can be great therapy.

female writing

Slow Down and See Each Moment

Ironically, the pandemic has made me feel grateful.

Grateful for things I DO have and it ensured I did slow down and appreciate the individual moments that pass by.

Grateful for our country’s relative safety bubble.

We can be grateful for modern science working hard to solve the virus riddle.

Grateful that I have not been touched by financial ruin, separation or Covid itself.

Grateful that even though my workinglife ended prematurely, I now have time to enjoy retirement activities with the Moth.

Grateful that I have daily incidental conversation with the adult children who came home due to financial reasons.

Grateful that I can let unimportant things slide.

Grateful to have the awareness I am so much more than just my emotions/feelings.

Grateful that emotions and feelings change as the world moves and changes. Everything must change for, just like bad weather, nothing ever lasts.

2021 Mantra

In this New Year of 2021:

If I feel sad, I will sit with that feeling of sadness.

If I feel loss, hurt or rejected, I will accept that feeling, not deny or think that I ‘shouldn’t,’ feel that way.

If I feel frustrated or inadequate, I will sit with that until the feeling passes. I won’t feel tormented that these emotions are wrong or bad, but rather let them ‘slide.’

Let it slide.

Not quite the same ‘sliding,’ as the lyrics of the song suggest, but the personal reminder is contained in that catchy melody; the melody that is today’s earworm.

“Let it Slide.

Happy New Year

Mental Health, Motivational

Free to Change Ourselves

An ever so slight adaptation of a quote from William James.

When things are grim for Christmas in your part of the world, it may help to ponder an old Norwegian saying: “behind those those dark clouds, the sky is always blue”. The old Norwegians did not have an easy life through the long, harsh, unforgiving winter. One group of settlers died out, literally starving to death in Greenland, but even so they balanced their negative thinking with such a positive saying.

In olden times, a negative attitude may not have been conducive to a successful community. They may have had to put emotions on the back burner and concentrate on sourcing or rationing meager food supplies. Life priorities were vastly different and yet, all that time these old people were fostering self-reliance and resilience to adversity.

We can learn much from their attitude if we are open to it.

What do you think? Is action correlated with our level of happiness?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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blogging, History & Traditions, Mental Health, Motivational

Sunday Sayings – Emotionally-Driven Thoughts

We spend a lot of time in our own headspace, either at work or at home relaxing. In lockdown, some of us might be alone with our emotional thoughts, much more than we have ever experienced before.

This level of introspection, or mulling over problems, can get to a person, especially if they are a deep thinker or highly sensitive.

Concentration, Energy and Motivation

The extent to which we are occupied by our emotional-driven thoughts is often the extent to which energy is diverted away from our working memory, our concentration and motivation. We find it hard to concentrate on our work when we have something on our mind. The monkey mind, it is often called.

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Caught Up in Our Emotions

We talk about being caught up in our emotions and it can feel like being trapped inside your own head. At these times, it is hard to re-focus on matters at hand. Our worry or frustration centres switch on and at times, go into, ‘overdrive.’

But those thoughts in our worry centre, are not reality-based thoughts. They are magnified, exagerrated, skewed or biased. We are so much more than those thoughts. Thoughts are not who a person is. Yet we give them power over our moods.

Just like a loud noise that bothers us, trying hard to block it out, will inevitably make the noise appear louder. This is because our focus on the noise has increased. We might even become angry and frustrated.

If we can’t remove the offending noise, we must decrease our focus in order to tolerate the annoying noise, or the many frustrations of our lives. If our attention is diverted away from focusing on the noise or the frustrations, we tend not to notice it and its persistence wanes.

Practising Mindful Strategies to Prevent Worry

Similarly, we can re-focus our attention away from the abyss of introspection, by practising ‘Mindfulness‘ techniques, which are designed to assist us in staying within the present moment. The only time we can act and live is right now, in the present moment. Everything else, the past and the future is only a construct of our minds, so focus on the here-and-now.

The Glennon Doyle and Buddha quotes may have been at odds, but one might assume their objectives were the same.

What do you think of this Sunday’s quotes?

blogging, Mental Health

Kurt Vonnegut

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favourite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theatre, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.”

Kurt Vonnegut

POINT: Lots of things are worth doing because they bring you joy, and for no other reason. Do them, enjoy them, be fulfilled.

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Do creative things that make you happy!

surfers in waves at Coolangatta Australia
Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

Overcoming Sensitivity

Exposure to a stressful or traumatic situation doesn’t determine your mental wellbeing as much as how you interpret the situation. For it is your own idiosyncratic response to the situation that determines your mental state.

The Hyper or Highly Sensitive Person

Almost 20% of people have hypersensitive nervous systems that process things differently to others. They feel and think more deeply, are often intensely compassionate and might become over-stimulated and stressed much more easily, than others. They are more vulnerable to chronic muscle tension and fatigue.

The highly sensitive person might feel solated, misunderstood or different to others. In the past, they may have been labelled, “highly strung.” Now they might be referred to as, ‘weak, emotional, or even broken.’

Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, and Steve Jobs were highly sensitive people who used their work to hide a sensory processing sensitivity.

To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the characteristic of a compassionate human being – one that nurtures a caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your feelings, smiles and tears shine a light in this world. Why you mull over slights that ought to be forgotten. Why subtleties are magnified for you and yet lost on others.

There is zero shame in expressing your authentic feelings.

Marc and Angel

Self-help Strategies to Deal with Sensitivity

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  • Recognize your strengths and acknowledge what you HAVE achieved
  • Seek out kindred spirits.
  • Acknowledge the negative, but aim to focus towards the positive and search for those hidden positives in every situation, no matter how small.
  • Avoid negative environments as they will make you suffer more.
  • Treat yourself and others with compassion.
  • Change your thinking on perceived hidden flaws. Accept yourself and others by reframing your past misconceptions in terms of intuition, conscientiousness and vision.
  • Mindfulness and meditation techniques may help to decrease the intensity of your reactions to the content of your thoughts.
  • Challenge yourself to react to a stressful situation in a different way. Not everything counts.