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Flipping the switch on stress (DW#680)

Let us talk some more about how our breathing is related to our stress levels.

As you may know, our nervous systems have two parts: the parasympathetic nervous system(PNS) and thesympathetic nervous system(SNS). The parasympathetic system takes care of the "rest and digest" side of things while the sympathetic system takes care of "fight or flight" stuff. In short, we have the relaxation response and the stress response.

We obviously need both and each have an important role to play in our functioning and wellbeing.

Here is the problem though: modern life has thrown us into a near-constant state of arousal and hypervigilance and for most of us, our sympathetic nervous system works overtime, leading to all stress, dysfunction and burnout. In other words, our PNS and SNS become unbalanced, one working overtime and other lying dormant.

How can we learn to balance these two for optimal wellbeing?

The fastest and simplest way is to become intentional about breathing.

Try this now:

Take a...

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Exhale for longer (DW#679)

We have all heard the term: take a deep breath when you are stressed. And so, we do. And wonder why it does not work to calm us down.

It is because we only focus on the inbreath and do not pay attention to the outbreath.

If we are not exhaling properly, not only can we not calm down, we are also not detoxifying fully. Did you know that breathing is responsible for 70% of our body’s detoxification? Compared to this, elimination and sweat only take care of only 30%!

And when we do not detoxify properly, we are not fueling our cells properly. This pattern results in compromised wellbeing on many different levels.

So, go ahead: squeeze your diaphragm. Make sure to get all the air out before your next inbreath. Focus on the exhale and the inhale will almost take care of itself.

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Breathe deeply (DW#678)

The second rule of optimal breathing is to breathe deeply.

When we are stressed, our breath becomes very shallow, reaching only until our chest. When we breathe like this, it is a signal to the body to be on high alert.

Breathing like this fuels the flight or fight mechanism of our nervous system. We body gets more tense and we cannot relax. If we are in a situation of danger this mechanism really helps us by driving the oxygen and energy where it is needed, to our arms and legs: to fight the situation or to run away from danger. It does this by turning the energy away from organs that do not need it in the present situation . . .our brains, the digestive system, the lymphatic system that repairs the body.

Breathings shallow is less than useful (and destructive) when there is no danger or only imagined danger.

This is why it is important to practice breathing deeply.

So, go ahead and use your diaphragm – an important and much underutilized muscle in our body.

Fill up the lower...

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Goal achievement on turbo (DW#622)

There is another, subtler reason why pausing and expressing gratitude in the midst of a project can help us get further along the path of goal achievement.

According to researchers Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats, our brains release dopamine (the feel-good hormone) when we achieve goals. Makes sense that we feel good about our achievements, right?

Now, since dopamine improves attention, memory, and motivation(to get more of the feel good sensation), even achieving a small goal can result in a positive feedback loop that makes you more motivated to work harder going forward. When we pause to give gratitude for the achievement, this good-feeling is magnified: first through achieving the goal and secondly by savouring the win through recalling it with gratitude.

This is why we need to stop and give thanks in the pursuit of a goal. If we acknowledge the small wins and milestones along the way, the winning feeling of achievement is deepened and magnified. And it will continue to propel...

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Worship at night (DW#595)

And during a part of the night, say the night prayer beyond what is incumbent on you; perhaps your Lord will raise you to a praiseworthy position. Quran 17:79

Reflection: These verses from Sura Israa (The Night Journey) are addressed in the first instance to the Holy Prophet (saw) advising him that the best means of closeness to his Beloved Lord is to stay up and worship in the night when the rest of mankind is sleeping comfortably,

It is said that the fastest means of transportation towards Allah is to worship at night. During the day so many things occupy our time and mind. We are distracted and it is challenging to find silence, solitude and peace to communicate with the Divine. It is easier to connect spiritually with Allah during the stillness of night when the demands of work and family are on hold for the moment. It is also easier to be free of the ego-drives of looking good that can sometimes creep into our worship, especially when they draw praise from others.

There is much...

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Implementation intentions for parenting (DW#586)

We have been exploring examples for implementation intentions for different areas of our lives in order to give ourselves the best chance of reaching our goals in these areas. 

Here are some examples of implementation intentions for common obstacles in parenting. 

·     If my child drops something, I will help them clean it up without drama
·     If my child wants to tell me something, I will stop what I am doing and listen
·     If my child makes a mistake, I will take the time to give them feedback 
·     If my child wants to learn a new skill, I will train them
·     If my child asks a difficult question that makes me feel uncomfortable, I will be brave and engage in the conversation
·     If my children are fighting I will not join the chaos
·     If...

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Implementation intentions for your marriage (DW#585)

Have you tried WOOPing your marriage goals? Here are some examples of implementation intentions for your marriage:

· If I come home and my spouse is home, I will go and greet them and engage in a 6-second kiss
· If it is afternoon at work, I will call or text my spouse to check in
· If we are in bed at the end of the day, I will put my phone out of reach
· If we are arguing, I will not engage in toxic talk
· If we are in the middle of conflict, I will breathe and stay engaged and not shut down
. If I am tempted to have a conversation with someone who could be a threat to my marriage, I will end the conversation immediately and speak to my spouse about it
· If my spouse wants to talk about something important, I will make time and bring it up
· If my spouse wants time alone I will not give them a hard time about it
· If my spouse asks me what is wrong I will be brave and tell them

 

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Implementation Intentions to stop procrastinating (DW#584)

· If I get up in the morning, then I immediately drink a glass of water, say my prayers and then start my morning routine.

· If I’m getting on my laptop for the first time in the morning, then I immediately start working on my most important task without checking email or Facebook, or anything else.

· If I feel myself procrastinating, then I immediately mentally contrast, feel motivated, and get started with the necessary task right afterwards.

· If it’s 2pm, then I do deep work without distractions for another 2 hours.

· If I don’t feel like doing what needs to get done, then I do it anyway

· If I am working on something important, then I turn notifications off on my computer and leave my phone in another room

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Implementation Intentions for health (DW#583)

Here are some examples of implantation examples for health and fitness goals


·  If I get up in the morning, then I immediately put on my sneakers and go for a 20 minute run
. If I go for groceries this week, I will buy at least 5 types of vegetables
. If I get home from work, then I immediately cook myself a healthy meal (even if I don’t feel like it).
. If someone offers me an unhealthy snack, then I stay resolute and decline the offer.
.  If I am still struggling after two weeks to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I will look for group or individual support
. If I feel like giving up, then I call an accountability buddy or my coach.
. If it is 9pm then I shut off my devices and start my nighttime winding down routine so I can get a good night’s sleep
 
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Implementation intentions (DW#581)

Last week we introduced the powerful practice of mental contrasting or WOOPing your goals. Have you tried it yet?

Peter Gollwitzer, a psychologist and leading researcher on the science of goal achievement (who happens to be Gabrielle Oettingen’s husband – love it when spouses team up to work at self growth <3 ), came up with the idea of implementation intentions for the Plan part of WOOP.

Once again, the idea is simple but brilliant:

IF x happens, THEN I will do y.

That’s it. This is how we plan and prepare for the obstacles that will definitely come in the way of realizing our goals and dreams.

If x (obstacle) happens or shows up

Then

I will do y (my plan for dealing with the obstacle).

This works because when we mentally rehearse something, we are preparing our minds to think of this as routine and we already have a plan in place to deal with it. And so we are not derailed or blindsided by it.


IF _________________________.

THEN ______________________.

GO!

...

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