Having fun -just for the sake of it.

Having fun -just for the sake of it.

By Erin Magner.

Think back to your elementary school playground. If it was anything like mine, it was a case study in how to have fun in a pure and free way, completely devoid of any self-conscious thoughts. On the blacktop of my alma mater, a group of gym-class heroes played kickball with World Cup-level intensity. In front of the school, the popular girls jumped rope and practiced their older sisters’ cheerleading routines until their voices were raspy. Yet another adventurous clique would flip and leap from the monkey bars, while across the street, the less athletically inclined kids (AKA me) would lose themselves in some elaborate game of make believe. The through line here is that we were all having joyful, thrilling fun. As I’ve grown up though, the very concept of fun has fallen victim to adulteration, a word whose very definition implies the act of corrupting something to make it impure. Basically, I’m confused about fun: how to do it, what it should feel like, and whether or not it’s even possible for adults.

On the whole, it’s safe to say that when we talk about adult revelry, the mood is usually a bit more… well, serious than it is when watching kids at play. Society has conditioned us to believe that adulthood means “acting your age” and adopting a calmer, more contained demeanor in order to fit in—even when you’re enjoying yourself. It’s hard for many people to break free of that construct (without the aid of a happy hour drink, that is), which is partly why, for me, sitting on my balcony with a good book and a coffee is peak “fun,” even though it probably wouldn’t look that way to many others.

While my reading oasis is restorative and happiness-boosting for me, is it exhilaratingly joyful, the way recess was during playground days? Definitely not. And for many of my peers in their thirties, those moments of really letting loose are few and far between, and when they do come about, it’s tough to stay present in the moment. And, according to mental-health pros, this widespread fun confusion came to be for a number or reasons—none of which are our fault, per se.

All work, no play makes you a millennial adult

Many millennials were raised to value hard work and success over fun and frolic, says therapist Marly Steinman, MFT. “If your parents were Boomers, there was this concept of working hard, having goals, and achieving things,” she says. “There’s a feeling that you have to burn the candle at both ends and work in a way that’s never-ending.” That adds up, because how can you not skew serious when you’re working wild hours to pay off your student loan debt and afford your overpriced rental apartment?

That feeling of always having to strive for something more can prevent a person from letting their guard down fully, which is critical for having fun. “Let’s say you are out with a group of friends, having dinner and catching up,” says therapist Alison Stone, LCSW. “If a large part of your mind is distracted—by the upcoming meeting you have, unreturned emails, a stressful project you’re behind on—it is difficult to be fully present in your current experience.”

When taken to extremes, the physical symptoms of stress and burnout make it even harder to kick back and have fun, says Steinman. If someone is drowning in deadlines and social obligations, their endocrine system dials up the production of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and it takes time for the body to come back into balance. This is why, even when a person goes on vacation, it sometimes takes a few days before they’re able to truly relax.

Instagram vs. reality, or the paradox of fun

Work obligations aside, there’s another reason the nature of fun changes with age: the fact that many people feel pressure not just to have fun, but to also curate and document it for the world to see. “Before social media came into the picture, the only people who witnessed our free time was ourselves,” Steinman says. “Now, the perception of fun has become more important—it’s about what’s going to look desirable in a post. [When you’re at a big concert,] how many times have you seen more people taking videos of the concert than enjoying the concert?”

“The perception of fun has become more important—it’s about what’s going to look desirable in a post.” —therapist Marly Steinman, MFT

This has led many of us to start equating fun with big-ticket experiences that require money and access—and there’s a subtle misperception that one needs to go big in order to counteract all the stress in their lives. “I think it has started to feel like ‘getting away’ and attending specific events are our rewards for working so hard,” says Stone. “It’s important to have things to look forward to, but it’s also important not to feel that spending money or traveling are the only ways we can unwind and let loose.”

It’s possible to relearn how to have fun

So how does an overworked, Instagram-loving gal get out of her head and just live, already? According to both Steinman and Stone, the first step is to ditch your phone when you’re trying to have fun. That means no checking texts while your date’s in the restroom, no snapping pics of your dinner, and no scrolling through Instagram to see who’s having a more photogenic Saturday night than you. “All of this takes away from what we are supposed to be doing in the moment, which is enjoying others’ company, making new memories, listening to our friends or partners, laughing, joking, observing, people watching, and experiencing small moments of authentic joy and happiness,” says Stone.

If you want to have fun, you should also prioritize the activities that truly bring you joy, and obviously not just what you think is going to look good to other people, says Steinman. She also recommends taking time to decompress with meditation, a workout, or a walk in the fresh air before you embark on any sort of play time. These things will help you release any lingering tension and clear your mind of the day’s stressors so you can be fully present for fun.

Finally, although it may sound counterintuitive, Steinman and Stone both say that deliberately scheduling out downtime can actually make it easier for some personality types to loosen up. “Many people find scheduling to be anxiety-reducing,” Stone says. “You can have fun, and be present and uninhibited as a planner—not everyone is spontaneous.”

Ultimately, having childhood-level fun really just requires you to tap into your childhood self—pre-career and pre-social media. “Think of kids—they’re silly, they have no inhibitions, and they’re not worried about what they look like,” says Steinman. If that’s the case, my upcoming weekend is going to involve lots of friendship-bracelet-making and choreographing dance routines to Paula Abdul songs—how about you?

Give Thanks!

Give Thanks!

Whether we celebrate with family, friends, neighbors, or the solitude of our own company, we embrace the sacred treasure called by each of our names.
More than any other day, we give thanks for the potential born into each of us to sense, contemplate, communicate, embrace, shape, move, experience, and so much more that we share in common with humans around the world.
We give thanks for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
For the harvest, connection and belonging, love, laughter, the dreams we cherish … for each who watch over us, protect us, empower and inspire our potential …
Happy Thanksgiving!
Celebrating the In-Between Times.

Celebrating the In-Between Times.

While celebrations are intended to honor life’s more momentous occasions, much of real life tends to happen during the in-between times. While moving from one moment in time to the next is seldom considered a significant occurrence, it is during those in-between times that we are most in tune with life’s most profound, albeit simple joys. Between birth and death, triumph and sorrow, beginnings and endings, we enjoy innumerable experiences that often happen unnoticed. These times are just as worthy of celebration. 

The in-between times are seldom about landmark moments. How you choose to celebrate them or which moments you choose to celebrate is up to you. You may want to celebrate the simple facts that you are alive and that every day is a chance to spend time with the people you care about or do the work that you love. Then again, when you look at the good that exists in your life, many reasons for celebrating the in-between times may become clear: a cup of your favorite tea, a beautiful sunrise, a good book, and the smell of fresh air can be reasons for celebration. 

Celebrating the in-between times can be as easy as paying special attention to them when they do happen, rather than taking them for granted. It’s your focus of attention that can turn an in-between time into a celebration. You can also pay homage to the in-between times by slowing down and allowing yourself time to look around and allow your heart and mind to take in all of your life’s wonders. Far too often, we can let those simple moments of awe pass us by. The in-between times are when life happens to us between the pauses that we take to honor our milestones occasions. Without the in-between times, there would be no big moments to celebrate.

BY MADISYN TAYLOR

What NOT to take.

What NOT to take.

There’s a great line in hiking circles: “Backpacking is the art of knowing what NOT to take.”

When you go out camping in the wilderness, you have to carry everything with you on your back. And with a physical ceiling of only thirty or forty pounds at most, that adds up quickly, especially if you’re going out for more than a couple of days.

And if you’re going desert camping, where you have to carry your water as well (you need about a gallon- 8 lbs- per person per day, or 56 lbs per week). So natch, you have to be very selective with what you put in your backpack. 

This means focusing on essentials: good food, good solid footwear, good shelter and sleeping bags, something reliable to start a fire with… Basically, good gear and grub, in general.

This is what you’d call “principles”. You may not be prepared for every contingency, and you probably won’t know what they are in advance anyway, but with good gear and proper food, at least you’ll be in a better position to respond when the time comes.

Ditto with parenting. You may not be able to prepare your children for every bad thing that happens to them, but if you impart them with good *principles*- politeness, fitness, work ethic, discipline, sociability, honesty etc, they’ll be better navigate the minefield that is life.

And in times of great change, the same rules apply. Yes, automation is coming. Yes, the changes to the working world are going to be massive. But the question isn’t really about what companies should you invest in, or what jobs exactly will be eliminated… …But what principles should we cultivate?

This fellow says it well: “To Prepare for Automation, Stay Curious and Don’t Stop Learning”.

Exactly.
7 Questions to change your Daily Meetings.

7 Questions to change your Daily Meetings.

By Florian Lefebvre

Holding a daily meeting early in the morning is often considered one of the first steps of “becoming Agile.” You get your team together, and everyone says what they’ve done the day before, what they plan on doing today, and mention any issue they might have faced.

The problem is that, more often than not, when you get to it the magic just isn’t there. You find yourself with a group of people standing up together and talking aimlessly. You might even start being mad at them for not having things happen the way you see them in your head.

Here are simple questions to ask yourself to help you improve your daily meeting.

Why do you have a daily meeting?

When you set up this practice in your company, you might know precisely what you’re expecting to get out of it. Or you might have heard that it is a great practice, that it will help make your company more Agile.

You might want to try to use this daily meeting as a way for everyone on a team to synchronize, make sure the project is on track, and have an opportunity to help each other.

Now, whatever your reason is, you need to have one. If you can’t find one good reason for taking people’s time every day, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to simply put an end to it.

Is it a ritual?

The best way to anchor a daily practice in everyone’s mind is to make sure everything happens in the same setting every time. You want to make it a habit for people to be there daily.

Do you have the right space for holding your meeting? You need a place where you can fit your whole group. If the location you choose, may it be behind a desk or in a dedicated room, can’t hold your entire group at the same time, then you might have to rethink your choice.

Have the meeting happen every day at the same time. Your daily meeting should be a ritual, which means starting right on time, but also being timeboxed. It should never last longer than the maximum amount of time allocated to it. A maximum of fifteen minutes usually prevents from becoming a full-on meeting.

Do you have visual aids?

Talking as a group about what is going on with the project is great. But it might be hard to keep every task’s current status in mind. What is being worked on? Is this feature completed? Have we fixed this production issue?

One way to help get everyone on the same page is to have a visual aid. It might be a wall with post-it notes holding everyone’s tasks, or a Trello board on a screen. Maybe it’s your internal ticketing system or even a list on a whiteboard.

Whatever you choose to use, adding a visual component to your meeting can help make the various discussions more concrete in people’s minds.

What are people working for?

People will feel more invested in their daily meeting, and the project in general, if they feel they have a reason to. Yes, they are paid, that’s why they’re there and why they do the work.

But being invested is more than that. It’s about finding meaning in your work, knowing that you give a part of yourself for something. People must have a goal that they can get behind.

If your team members really are trying to accomplish something, they will use the daily meeting as a tool to reach that goal.

Do they work together?

It might seem like a weird question, but if you put people together and have them talk about what they’re working on, they better be sharing work at some point.

It’s not enough that they are in the same team or company. If they work on different projects that have nothing in common, then they aren’t really working together.

If you’re in this situation, you have one of two choices. Either you have people work together more, or you split your meeting in two or more meetings.The Power of TeamworkThe benefits of being an actual team for you and your companymedium.com

Do people know what is expected of them?

Going back to the first point, where you have this perfect vision of a meeting in your head. Have you shared that vision with your team members?

For people to participate and do well in their roles, they need to understand the role. What are they supposed to share? When are they suppose to intervene during other people’s speeches? What liberties do they have? What are the do’s and don’ts of the meeting?

Make sure the rules are clear for everyone so that people can be at their best.

Have you asked others for their opinions?

You have a vision for what this daily ritual should be like. Whether it happens how you want it to or not, remember that you are working with human beings.

People participate in this meeting every day. That makes it their meeting too. How do they like it? What issues can they see? What would they change to make it better? Having people share ownership of the meeting by being allowed to make it better will definitely make them more invested. It will matter to them on a whole different level.

Feel free to experiment

Rome wasn’t built in one day. The right recipe for your daily meeting won’t be found in one day either. You have to allow yourself and your team to experiment. Make sure you’re honest about how things go, what works, and what doesn’t. Only through regular improvement will you find what works for you and your team.

Your Changing Brain.

Your Changing Brain.

Neuroscience has proven that our brains are constantly changing in response to incoming stimuli from birth to death. In every moment of your life, everything of which you are aware – sounds, sights, thoughts, feelings – and even that of which you are not aware  – unconscious mental and physical processes – are based in and can be directly mapped to neural activity in your brain. What you do, experience, think, hope and imagine physically changes your brain through what is called neuroplasticity. The neurological explanation of neuroplasticity gets involved, but the basic concept is simple: every minute of every day you are shaping your brain. While it’s true that the brain is much more plastic in the early years and capacity declines with age, neuroplastic change happens all throughout your life. Harnessing neuroplasticity as an adult does require extra effort and specific circumstances, but it can be done.

Neuroplasticity Can Help and Hurt You

Neuroplasticity follows what’s known as the “Hebbian rule.” Neurons that fire together wire together, meaning the connections between neurons get more easily activated and new neurons grow when they are repeatedly stimulated in a coordinated pattern. The reverse is also true. Neurons that don’t, won’t.

You’ve got a “use it or lose it” brain. Information rarely accessed and behaviors seldom practiced cause neural pathways to weaken until connections may be completely lost in a process called “synaptic pruning.

Neuroplasticity can hurt or help your brain and your mental health. It’s just as easy to degrade your brain’s function as it is to improve it, intentionally or unintentionally. Dr. Michael Merzenich, one of the original UCSF scientists confirming neuroplasticity and author of  Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life calls backward neuroplastic change “negative learning” and writes:

It is almost just as easy to drive changes that can impair one’s memory or slow down one’s mental or physical control as it is to improve one’s memory or speed up the brain’s actions.”

Neuroplastic change occurs in response to stimuli processed in the brain which can originate either internally, with mindfulness, meditation, visualization or externally, with behaviors and experiences.You can harness neuroplasticity at any age to improve your brain, mental health, and life.

Neurosculpting

At fifteen, Lisa Wimberger, who had been a healthy, active teenager woke up confused and scared on the bathroom floor after her first blackout. These blackouts continued undiagnosed until her thirties when she just happened to have one during a doctor’s appointment for a routine exam.

It was determined that she had a condition where her vagus nerve, responsible for regulating breathing and heart rate in the brain stem, would randomly trigger the freeze response. When this happened, Lisa’s heart rate dropped to the point it stopped beating, then her brain, deprived of oxygen and blood, would shut down.

When conventional medicine offered no answers or help for her episodes, Lisa harnessed the power of neuroplasticity through a regimen of meditation and life practices to heal herself. Her episodes of seizures and flatlining disappeared. She calls the practice she developed and teaches others “neurosculpting.”

In her book, “Neurosculpting,” Lisa explains the practice like this:

Neurosculpting is a mental training process that quiets our fight or flight center and activates our prefrontal cortex, which is the mind’s seat of compassion and empathy. It also engages left- and right-brain stimulation and incorporates somatic awareness for a whole-brain and whole-body approach to meditation and rewiring. It’s a lifestyle of day-to-day exercises, nutritional tenets, and meditations designed to allow dialogue between compartmentalized and silenced parts of ourselves.  It involves learning about a brain supportive diet, exercising, and identifying and enhancing opportunities for neuroplasticity throughout your day…” 

The 5 Steps

The Neurosculpting® practice involves five steps:

  • Step One: Down-regulates hyperactive stress activity and an engagement with the parasympathetic response.
  • Step Two: Enhances focused attention to support with emotional regulation.
  • Step Three: Increases the activity between our analytical self and our intuitive feeling self.
  • Step Four: Links somatosensory, bodily sensation-based, engagement to perceptual shifts in patterns.
  • Step Five: Enables the user to easily identify and replicate the process in day-to-day activities

A Typical Neuro-aware Day 

Morning Regimen

  1. Brush your teeth with your nondominant hand and think about one of your favorite mantras.
  2. Do a five-minute gratitude meditation in the shower that looks something like this:
    1. Breathe deeply with attention for a few rounds, noticing the way the lungs effortlessly fill and empty.
    2. Think of the concept of gratitude. I imagine what it looks like to be in gratitude, I spell it in my mind, and I remember a time in which I was filled with that sentiment.
    3. Assign a color, texture, or vibration to the concept of gratitude and imagine it located and vibrating in the center of your palms.
    4. Wash each part of your body while imagining the color of gratitude pouring out of your palms and filling up each body part.
  3. Eat a balanced breakfast on a plate at the table after saying a brief statement of gratitude for the food.

Afternoon Regimen

  1. Shake for a few minutes in the afternoon to help normalize excess stress from the morning.
  2. Brush your hair with your nondominant hand.
  3. Eat a balanced lunch on a plate at the table.
  4. Look or walk in an outside environment for at least five minutes.

Evening Regimen

  1. Exercise in a way you enjoy, such as taking a brisk walk or a fitness class you love. (You might prefer to do this in the morning.)
  2. Engage in a nondominant hand gesture or activity while choosing a mantra to think about.
  3. Eat a balanced dinner on a plate at a table a least a few hours before bedtime. Minimize carbohydrates in order to support a full and deep night’s sleep.
  4. Shake for a few minutes in the evening to help normalize excess stress from the afternoon.
  5. Shut off electronics or television an hour before bedtime.
  6. Do a ten-minute evening meditation that goes something like this:
    1. Breathe deeply with attention for a few rounds, noticing the way the lungs effortlessly fill and empty.Think of your daily stressors. That might be conversations you’ve had, people you interacted with, or emotions that came up and seem unresolved.Assign a color, texture, or even a vibration to each of these.Imagine where you might be holding these colors or textures in your own body.Create a receptacle in your mind’s eye in front of you and imagine your body releasing these colors into it.When you’re done notice if you perceive you’ve made more space in your body.Imagine a concept that works well for you, like restfulness, ease, grace, joy, or any other idea. You might remember a time when you felt this, or maybe you focus on the concept and its definition, maybe you even spell it out in your mind’s eye.Assign a color, texture, or vibration to this concept and imagine your body filling up with this as you prepare for sleep.

Neuroplasticity has implications for every aspect of human nature and culture including medicine, psychiatry, psychology, relationships, education, and more. Where it stands to have the most potential is for the individual in their own life. Because you can learn to consciously control your thinking, reactions, and behavior, and some of the experiences you have, you can oversee your own “self-directed neuroplasticity” and invite change and healing into your life.

Starting New!

Starting New!

By Madisyn Taylor

We can choose to start over in this very moment, there’s
no need to wait for a new year, month, or week.

There are times in our lives that lend themselves to starting something new. The beginning of a new year, finishing school, leaving a job, or changing homes–these all are times that turn our minds to fresh starts. Their advantage is that they bring with them the energy of that event, creating a tide of change around them that we can ride to our next shoreline.

But we can choose to start anew anytime. In any moment we can decide that a bad day or a relationship that’s gotten off on the wrong foot can be started again. It is a mental shift that allows us to clean the slate and approach anything with fresh eyes, and we can make that choice at any time.

Starting new is most powerful when we focus our attention to what we are choosing to create. Giving all of our attention to the unwanted aspects of our lives allows what we resist to persist. We need to remember to leave enough room in the process of new beginnings to be kind to ourselves, because it takes time to become accustomed to anything new, no matter how much we like it.

There is no need to get down on ourselves if we don’t reach our new goals instantly. Instead, we acknowledge the forward motion and choose to reset and start again, knowing that with each choice we learn, grow, and move forward.

Making the choice to start anew has its own energy–it’s a promise made to you. The forward momentum creates a sort of vacuum behind it, pulling toward you all you need to help you continue moving in your chosen direction.

Once the journey has begun, it may take unexpected turns, but it never really ends. Like cycles in nature, there are periods of obvious growth and periods of dormancy that signal a time of waiting for the right moment to burst forth.

Each time we choose to start anew we dedicate ourselves to becoming the best we are able to be.