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6 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away: How To Recognize Them In Yourself and Change Them

In my line of work, I hear from hundreds of people a month, and connect with professionals in a more public, open way than ever before. Through this experience, I’ve seen scores of toxic behaviors that push people away (including me). And I’ve witnessed the damage these behaviors cause – to relationships, professional success, and to the well-being of both the individual behaving negatively, and to everyone around him or her.

Let’s be real – we’ve all acted in toxic, damaging ways at one time or another (none of us are immune to it), but many people are more evolved, balanced, and aware, and it happens only rarely in their lives.

Whether your toxic behavior is a common occurrence, or once in a blue moon, it’s critical for your happiness and success that you are able to recognize when you’re behaving badly, and shift it when it emerges.

The 6 most toxic behaviors I see every day are:

Taking everything personally

In the powerful little book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz talks about the importance of taking nothing personally. I teach this in my coaching programs as well, and there is so much pushback. “Really, Kathy – don’t take anything personally?”

People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything that happens in life is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them. The reality is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you. People’s reactions to you are about their filters, and their perspectives, wounds and experiences. Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, it’s more about them. I’m not saying we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback. I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally when it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of others’ good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own heart, intuition and wisdom as your guide. So yes – don’t take anything personally.

Obsessing about negative thoughts

It’s very hard to be around people who can’t or won’t let go of negativity – when they dwell on and speak incessantly about the terrible things that could happen and have happened, the slights they’ve suffered, and the unfairness of life. These people stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life and the positive lessons from what’s transpiring. Pessimism is one thing – but remaining perpetually locked in negative thoughts is another. Only seeing the negative, and operating from a view that everything is negative and against you, is a skewed way of thinking and living, and you can change that.

Treating yourself like a victim

Another toxic behavior is non-stop complaining that fuels your sense of victimization. Believing you’re a victim, that you have no power to exert and no influence on the direction of your life, is a toxic stance that keeps you stuck and small. Working as a therapist with people who’ve suffered terrible trauma in their lives but found the courage to turn it all around, I know that we have access to far more power, authority, and influence over our lives than we initially believe. When you stop whining, and refuse to see yourself as a hapless victim of fate, chance or discrimination, then you’ll find that you are more powerful than you realized, but only if you choose to accept that reality.

Cruelty – lacking in empathy or putting yourself in others shoes

One of the most toxic and damaging behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others. We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly cruel and destructive to others just because they can. They tear people down online but in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a weapon. Cruelty, backstabbing, and ripping someone to shreds is toxic, and it hurts you as well as your target.

I had a powerful learning experience about this a few years ago. I came into the house one day in a nasty mood, and shared a mean, sniping comment to my husband about the way a neighbor was parenting her child through one of his problem phases. In less than 24 hours, that very same issue the parent was dealing with came home to roost in my house, with my child. It was as if the Universe sent me the message that, “Ah, if you want to be cruel and demeaning about someone, we’ll give you the same experience you’ve judged so negatively, so you can learn some compassion.” And I did.

If you find yourself backstabbing and tearing someone else down, stop in your tracks. Dig deep and find compassion in your heart, and realize that we’re all the same.

Excessive reactivity

An inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you. We all know these people – men and women who explode over the smallest hiccup or problem. Yelling at the bank teller for the long line, screaming at your assistant for the power point error he made, or losing it with your child for spilling milk on the floor. If you find that you’re overly reactive, losing it at every turn, you need some outside assistance to help you gain control over your emotions and understand what’s at the root of your emotionality. There’s more to it that appears on the surface. An outside perspective – and a new kind of support – is critical.

Needing constant validation

Finally, people who constantly strive for validation and self-esteem by obsessing about achieving outward measures of success, are exhausting to be around. Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over, and constantly want to “win” over their colleagues or peers, are toxic and draining.

Overly-attaching to how things have to look and be, and to achieving certain milestones and accomplishments rather than going with life in a more flexible, easy manner, can wear you out and bring everyone else around you down . There is a bigger picture to your life, and it’s not about what you achieve or fail at today. It’s about the journey, the process, that path – what you’re learning and applying, how you’re helping others, and the growing process you allow yourself to engage in.

Stop stressing over the particular outcomes like, “I need that promotion now!” or “My house has to be bigger and more beautiful than my neighbor’s.” Your desperate need to prove your success and build your self-esteem through outer measures of success is (sadly) apparent to everyone but you, and it’s pushing away the very happiness outcomes you’re longing for.

(To build a more rewarding, successful career, visit kathycaprino.com and The Amazing Career Project.)

10 Ways to Bypass the Real. ~ Jeff Brown

Via Jeff Brownon Mar 20, 2014

The Woods

In 1984, psychologist and author John Welwood coined the term “spiritual bypass.”

In Soulshaping, I defined the spiritual bypass “as the tendency to jump to spirit prematurely, usually in an effort to avoid various aspects of earthly reality.” This way of being was very familiar to me, as I have often displayed a tendency to bypass uncomfortable truths by jumping to divinity.

On a pogo-stick to the stars, I enjoyed the opportunity to pseudo-transcend the dualities before inevitably crashing back to earth to deal with my unfinished business.

In Soulshaping, I also acknowledged the need for bypass techniques in a still difficult world:

“In a world of pain, the spiritual bypass is an ongoing temptation. It gives us something to believe in and a vision of what we are missing in our localized reality. Without it, many of us would have to suffer unbearable situations. At the same time, it can be a detour on the path to genuine spirituality. In our efforts to leapfrog to something better, we often avoid something crucial. Spirit becomes the crutch rather than the expression of a natural unfolding.”

Subsequently, Robert Augustus Masters dedicated an entire book to this important topic—”Spiritual Bypassing- When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters.”

As the term grows in popularity, I have noticed that it has taken on a very broad application, not uncommon with terms of art that morph into labels. In an effort to avoid its over-generalized and unattuned usage, I want to make a distinction between different forms of bypassing and shadow jumping, for they surely come in many forms.

The following list arose through observations of my own patterns and is intended as a self-assessment tool, one that can be used to support your own efforts to recognize and transform your methods of self-distraction.Some can be understood as branches of the spiritual bypass tree, while others have a meaningfully different quality.

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, as there are as many ways to avoid reality as there are humans, but I am particularly interested in some of the ways that self-avoidance paths mask as enlightenment in the spiritual community in particular:

1.   The positivity bypass (aka the bliss bypass)—The tendency to feign positivity/bliss in an effort to sidestep or rise above the unhealed shadow. Often associated with the ungrounded “It’s all Good” mantra.

2.  The cerebral bypass—The tendency to seek refuge in the mind, to live in and through thoughts alone, to over-intellectualize the moment. Head-tripping in an effort to detach from the world of feeling. Often manifest as a profound capacity to articulate consciousness models and inquiries with little capacity to hearticulate and embody felt experience.

3.   The witness bypass—The tendency to live in witness-observer consciousness, to stare at our unresolved pain body across the room and imagine ourselves present, to confuse helpful detachment practices with life itself. Meanwhile, our unresolved pain is congealing into weapons that turn inward against the self. Often manifest as a kind of glossy eyed pseudo-equanimity with reduced affect.

4.   The pragmatism bypass—That is, remaining perpetually focused on practical reality in an effort to avoid an experience of unity, the bigger picture. Often manifest in great success in the material world, but a spiritually bankrupt life.

5.   The All-One bypass—That is, remaining perpetually focused on unity consciousness in an effort to avoid our particular issues, challenges and practical needs. Often manifest as an ungrounded inability to meet grounded, basic needs while floating off into the great mystery.

6.   The Non-Duality bypass—The tendency to self-identify as a non-dualist in an effort to transcend the human fray. Non-dual bypassers tend to conveniently remove everything that makes them uncomfortable from their unified framework- personal identifications, the unhealed emotional body, the entire ego, the self, the body- in an effort to transcend their humanness. Of course, there is nothing non-dual about it. Our humanness is the grist for the soul-mill. Without it, we can’t grow toward an authentic, sustainable experience of non-separateness.

7.  The Accountability Bypass– The tendency to use ‘mirror/reflection’ and ‘no judgment’ techniques in an effort to sidestep our own responsibility or the responsibility of others for wrong action. Lodged in the ungrounded notion that there is no wrongdoing, the effect of these practices is to condone and perpetuate unhealthy behaviors and to discourage victims from their rightful and necessary healing process.

8.   The You are not your story Bypass—The tendency to flee painful and confusing elements of our life experiences by disparaging story. Yes, we are often so much more than our stories, but let’ not throw the whole story out with the bath water. We also are our stories. At the heart of our story are the personal identifications, emotional material and unresolved issues that are the grist for the soul mill for our spiritual expansion. Without karmic clay to work through and with, our expansion is stalled.

9.   The Karmic Contract Bypass—The tendency to attribute every single event on the planet to universal or soulular intentionality—that is, “you must have chosen it,” it was destined, it reflects your vibration, “everything happens for a reason”—in an effort to flee the painful, mysterious and misguided nature of many events and experiences. Those who participate in this bypass technique have a tendency to shame and shun their own experience, and to do the same to others where compassion and healing are required.

And my own, as yet unworked through tendency…

10.  The Forgiveness Bypass—The tendency to avoid unresolved emotions and relational experiences by feigning forgiveness. Premature forgiveness. Often manifest in a tendency to shame those who haven’t forgiven, as though forgiving a wrongdoer is more important than healing itself. Real forgiveness requires a genuine working through of the emotions and memories related to our experiences. And, at the end of that process, it is the victim’s choice as to whether they choose to forgive.

Jeff Brown, former criminal lawyer and psychotherapist, Jeff Brown is the author of the best-selling book Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation, and a popular book of spiritual graffiti- Ascending with Both Feet on the Ground. Endorsed by Oprah’s Soul Series radio host Elizabeth Lesser, authors Oriah Mountain Dreamer and Katherine Woodward Thomas, Ascending is a collection of some of Jeff’s most popular spiritual graffiti quotes, soul-bytes and aphorisms frequently shared in social media. He has been interviewed by CNN radio, appeared on Fox News.com, and written popular inspirations for ABC S Good Morning America. He is also the author of the viral blog Apologies to the Divine Feminine (from a warrior in transition) and the producer and key journeyer in the award winning spiritual documentary – Karmageddon- which also stars Ram Dass, Seane Corn, Wah! David Life, Deva Premal and Miten. His newest book- Love It Forward- is now published. Endorsed by best-selling authors Andrew Harvey and Caroline Myss, Love It Forward is another book of Jeff’s most impactful quotes and writings, with a strong emphasis on love and relationship quotes. You can check out his work at Soulshaping.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re revisiting a post we ran originally in 2012in which an Irish grandfather wrote a letter of advice to his five grandkids just months before his untimely passing. Among his shared wisdom: “Be grateful. There is an Irish saying: ‘This is a day in our lives, and it will not come again.’ Live every day with this in mind.”

 

On Sept. 3, 2012, James K. Flanagan of West Long Branch, N.J., died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He wrote this letter to his five grandchildren just months earlier and it is reprinted here with the permission of his daughter Rachel Creighton.

Dear Ryan, Conor, Brendan, Charlie, and Mary Catherine,

My wise and thoughtful daughter Rachel urged me to write down some advice for you, the important things that I have learned about life. I am beginning this on 8 April 2012, the eve of my 72nd birthday.

1.  Each one of you is a wonderful gift of God both to your family and to all the world. Remember it always, especially when the cold winds of doubt and discouragement fall upon your life.

2.  Be not afraid . . . of anyone or of anything when it comes to living your life most fully.  Pursue your hopes and your dreams no matter how difficult or “different” they may seem to others.  Far too many people don’t do what they want or should do because of what they imagine others may think or say.   Remember, if they don’t bring you chicken soup when you’re sick or stand by you when you’re in trouble, they don’t matter.   Avoid those sour-souled pessimists who listen to your dreams then say, “Yeah, but what if . . .”  The heck with “what if. . .” Do it!  The worst thing in life is to look back and say: “I would have; I could have; I should have.”  Take risks, make mistakes.

3.  Everyone in the world is just an ordinary person.  Some people may wear fancy hats or have big titles or (temporarily) have power and want you to think they are above the rest.  Don’t believe them.  They have the same doubts, fears, and hopes; they eat, drink, sleep, and fart like everyone else.  Question authority always but be wise and careful about the way you do it.

4.  Make a Life List of all those things you want to do: travel to places; learn a skill; master a language; meet someone special.  Make it long and do some things from it every year.  Don’t say “I’ll do it tomorrow” (or next month or next year).  That is the surest way to fail to do something.  There is no tomorrow, and there is no “right” time to begin something except now.

5.  Practice the Irish proverb:  Moi an olge agus tiocfaidh sí  “Praise the child and she will flourish.”

6.  Be kind and go out of your way to help people — especially the weak, the fearful, and children. Everyone is carrying a special sorrow, and they need our compassion.

7.  Don’t join the military or any organization that trains you to kill.  War is evil.  All wars are started by old men who force or fool young men to hate and to kill each other.  The old men survive, and, just as they started the war with pen and paper, they end it the same way.  So many good and innocent people die.  If wars are so good and noble, why aren’t those leaders who start wars right up there fighting?

8.  Read books, as many as you can.  They are a wonderful source of delight, wisdom, and inspiration.  They need no batteries or connections, and they can go anywhere.

9.  Be truthful.

10.  Travel:  always but especially when you are young.  Don’t wait until you have “enough” money or until everything is “just right.”  That never happens. Get your passport today.

11.   Pick your job or profession because you love to do it.  Sure, there will be some things hard about it, but a job must be a joy.  Beware of taking a job for money alone — it will cripple your soul.

12.  Don’t yell.  It never works, and it hurts both yourself and others. Every time I have yelled, I have failed.

13.  Always keep promises to children.  Don’t say “we’ll see” when you mean “no.”  Children expect the truth; give it to them with love and kindness.

14.  Never tell anyone you love them when you don’t.

15.  Live in harmony with Nature: go into the outdoors, woods, mountains, sea, desert.  It’s important for your soul.

16.  Visit Ireland.  It’s where the soul of our family was born — especially the West:  Roscommon, Clare, and Kerry.

17.  Hug people you love.  Tell them how much they mean to you now; don’t wait until it’s too late.

18.  Be grateful.  There is an Irish saying: “This is a day in our lives, and it will not come again.”  Live every day with this in mind.

As was written in his obituary, James K. Flanagan “was proudly liberal and fought unyieldingly for the underdog. He was an accomplished author, poet, and seanchai — Irish storyteller; he reveled in recounting the joy of growing up Catholic in Jersey City and his adventures in the Adirondack Mountains and on the Western coast of Ireland. His greatest love was spending time with his family, most of all his five grandchildren” Ryan (11); Conor (10); Brendan (9); Charles (8); and Mary Catherine (5).”

‘Mindfulness’ Meditation Alters Gene Expression, Study Suggests

The Huffington Post  |  By Jacqueline Howard 12/09/2013 7:53 am EST

meditation genes

It’s no secret that mindfulness meditation — a practice that encourages focusing attention on the present moment — can ease emotional stress. And evidence is mounting that mindfulness also may have key benefits for your physical health — from lowering blood pressure to helping curb addiction.

But a new study conducted by researchers working in Wisconsin, Spain, and France shows that mindfulness can even affect your genes. Specifically, the study shows that mindfulness can limit the “expression” of genes associated with inflammation.

“The changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” study co-author Dr. Perla Kaliman, a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona in Spain, said in a written statement. “Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.”

For the study, a group of experienced meditators practiced mindfulness over the course of an eight-hour period. During that same time period, another group of people simply engaged in quiet non-meditative activities.

What did the researchers find? After the sessions, they noticed a so-called “down-regulation,” or a suppression, of inflammatory genes in the meditators compared to the other group. Go figure, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups at the start of the study.

“The product of genes, e.g., the proteins that they manufacture, will vary with the extent to which the gene is turned on or off,” study author Dr. Richard J. Davidson, psychology professor and founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, told The Huffington Post in an email. “We can think of genes possessing a molecular volume control that ranges from low to high that will govern the extent to which the gene produces the protein for which it is designed. The genes that we found to be down-regulated with mindfulness mediation practice are those implicated in inflammation.”

Davidson said in the statement that this new research is the first of its kind to show changes in gene expression within mindfulness meditators.

This study is slated for publication in the February 2014 issue of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Here is another summary of Davidson’s work:

Study reveals gene expression changes with meditation

Dec. 4, 2013  by Jill Sakai

With evidence growing that meditation can have beneficial health effects, scientists have sought to understand how these practices physically affect the body.

A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.

The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation….

Richard J.  Davidson

Study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds 

“Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain where the molecular analyses were conducted.

The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Mindfulness-based trainings have shown beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders in prior clinical studies and are endorsed by the American Heart Association as a preventative intervention. The new results provide a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects.

The results show a down-regulation of genes that have been implicated in inflammation. The affected genes include the pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 as well as several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes, which regulate the activity of other genes epigenetically by removing a type of chemical tag. What’s more, the extent to which some of those genes were downregulated was associated with faster cortisol recovery to a social stress test involving an impromptu speech and tasks requiring mental calculations performed in front of an audience and video camera.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice. In addition, several other DNA-modifying genes showed no differences between groups, suggesting that the mindfulness practice specifically affected certain regulatory pathways.

However, it is important to note that the study was not designed to distinguish any effects of long-term meditation training from those of a single day of practice. Instead, the key result is that meditators experienced genetic changes following mindfulness practice that were not seen in the non-meditating group after other quiet activities — an outcome providing proof of principle that mindfulness practice can lead to epigenetic alterations of the genome.

Previous studies in rodents and in people have shown dynamic epigenetic responses to physical stimuli such as stress, diet, or exercise within just a few hours.

“Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression,” Davidson says.

“The regulation of HDACs and inflammatory pathways may represent some of the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic potential of mindfulness-based interventions,” Kaliman says. “Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.”

Study funding came from National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (grant number P01-AT004952) and grants from the Fetzer Institute, the John Templeton Foundation, and an anonymous donor to Davidson. The study was conducted at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the UW-Madison Waisman Center.

Here is the capsule of the research report:

Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators


Summary

Background

A growing body of research shows that mindfulness meditation can alter neural, behavioral and biochemical processes. However, the mechanisms responsible for such clinically relevant effects remain elusive.

Methods

Here we explored the impact of a day of intensive practice of mindfulness meditation in experienced subjects (n = 19) on the expression of circadian, chromatin modulatory and inflammatory genes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). In parallel, we analyzed a control group of subjects with no meditation experience who engaged in leisure activities in the same environment (n = 21). PBMC from all participants were obtained before (t1) and after (t2) the intervention (t2 − t1 = 8 h) and gene expression was analyzed using custom pathway focused quantitative-real time PCR assays. Both groups were also presented with the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST).

Results

Core clock gene expression at baseline (t1) was similar between groups and their rhythmicity was not influenced in meditators by the intensive day of practice. Similarly, we found that all the epigenetic regulatory enzymes and inflammatory genes analyzed exhibited similar basal expression levels in the two groups. In contrast, after the brief intervention we detected reduced expression of histone deacetylase genes (HDAC 2, 3 and 9), alterations in global modification of histones (H4ac; H3K4me3) and decreased expression of pro-inflammatory genes (RIPK2 and COX2) in meditators compared with controls. We found that the expression of RIPK2 and HDAC2 genes was associated with a faster cortisol recovery to the TSST in both groups.

Conclusions

The regulation of HDACs and inflammatory pathways may represent some of the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic potential of mindfulness-based interventions. Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.

Keywords

  • Mindfulness;
  • Meditation;
  • Epigenetics;
  • Inflammation;
  • HDAC;
  • Stress
Corresponding author: Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas de Barcelona IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS, c/Rosselló 161, 6th Floor, 08036 Barcelona, Spain. Tel.: +34 93 3638338.
Corresponding author at: Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1500 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53705-2280, USA. Tel.: +1 608 265 8189.

 

MORE FROM HuffPost SOURCES REGARDING MINDFULNESS AND RELAXATION BENEFITS:

It Makes Your Brain Plastic

Quite literally, sustained meditation leads to something called neuroplasticity, which is defined as the brain’s ability to change, structurally and functionally, on the basis of environmental input.  For much of the last century, scientists believed that the brain essentially stopped changing after adulthood.

It Increases Gray Matter 

A 2005 study on American men and women who meditated a mere 40 minutes a day showed that their brains were aging at a slower rate.    What this meant is they had thicker cortical walls thannon-meditators. Cortical thickness is also associated with decision making, attention and memory.

It Can Be Better Than Sleeping

In a 2006 study, college students were asked to either sleep, meditate or watch TV. They were then tested on their alertness by being asked to hit a button every time a light flashed on a screen. The meditators did better than the nappers and TV watchers – by a whole 10 percent.

It’s Better Than Blood Pressure Medication

In 2008, Dr. Randy Zusman, a doctor at the Massachusetts General Hospital, asked patients suffering from high blood pressure to try a meditation-based relaxation program for three months. These were patients whose blood pressure had not been controlled with medication.  After meditating regularly for three months, 40 of the 60 patients showed significant drops in blood pressure levels and were able to reduce some of their medication. The reason? Relaxation results in the formation of nitric oxide which opens up your blood vessels.

It Can Protect Your Telomeres

Telomeres — the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes — are the new frontier of anti-aging science.

Longer telomeres mean that you’re also likely to live longer.  Research done by the University of California, Davis’ Shamatha Project has shown that meditators have significantly higher telomerase activity that non-meditators. Telomerase is the enzyme that helps build telomeres, and greater telomerase activity can possibly translate into stronger and longer telomeres .

It Can Slow The Progression Of HIV

A 2008 study on HIV positive patients found that, after an eight-week meditation course, patients who’d meditated showed no decline in lymphocyte content compared with non-meditators who showed significant reduction in lymphocytes.  Lymphocytes or white blood cells are the “brain” of the body’s immune system, and are particularly important for HIV positive people.

Its Pain Relieving Properties Beat Morphine

Earlier this year, a study conducted by Wake Forest Baptist University found that meditation could reduce pain intensity by 40 percent and pain unpleasantness by 57 percent.  Morphine and other pain-relieving drugs typically show a pain reduction of 25 percent.   Meditation works by reducing activity in the somatosensory cortex and increasing activity in other areas of the brain.  This study also had a small sample size, making it harder to draw definite conclusions.

Relaxing Lowers Your Risk Of Catching A Cold

Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has been at the forefront of stress research since the 1990s. Early on, he showed that chronic stress lasting more than a month but less than six months doubled a person’s risk of catching a cold.  His more recent research has tried to figure out why, and results seem to point to inflammation.

Relaxing Boosts Your Memory

A March study found that, at least in mice, chronic stress impaired the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in abstract thought, cognitive analysis and detecting the appropriate behavior for a given situation. Previous research in mice also showed that shorter bursts of stress impaired the centers of the brain involved in memory and learning, and left the mice struggling to remember how to find their way through a maze.

Relaxing Lowers Your Stroke Risk

A 2007 University of Cambridge study found that people who coped the best with stressful life events had a 24 percent lower risk of stroke. It may be partly due to the fact that people who handle stress well often are healthy in other ways, like exercising regularly and not smoking.   A 2011 study examined the specific effects of work-related stress, and found that among middle- and upper-class men, psychological stress caused about 10 percent of strokes.

Relaxing Keeps You Safe From Depression

Studies have shown that chronic stress can kill brain cells, and even prevent the creation of new ones, in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in a healthy response to stress, according to Time.com. In 2011, a study in mice illustrated these findings and began to explain one possible way antidepressants work. The mice exposed to a stressful situation didn’t want to eat, gave up during a swimming task much faster and exhibited “pleasurelessness” — similar to human depression symptoms like loss of appetite, sadness and hopelessness.

In humans, the prolonged presence of stress hormone cortisol can reduce levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are linked to depression.  Stress is also likely to exacerbate mood problems in people with a history of depression or bipolar disorder, and could trigger relapse.

Relaxing Helps You Make Better Decisions

It’s no surprise that when you’re under stress, you might not always be thinking so clearly. But a 2012 study found that stress seems to actually change how we weigh risks and rewards, and can cloud our judgment when we are faced with important decisions.

Counterintuitively, stressed-out people actually tend to focus on the positive, and may ignore the cons of the decision they’re about to make, one of the study’s authors, Mara Mather Ph.D., a professor of gerontology and psychology at the University of Southern California, said in a statement.  That may also help explain why alcoholics crave a drink more when they’re under pressure. “The compulsion to get that reward comes stronger and they’re less able to resist it,” Mather said.

Relaxing Keeps You Slim

We love a good comfort food every once in a while, but reaching for foods high in fat and sugar too often can pack on the pounds, and stress makes it harder to resist. Cortisol increases appetite, and may even specifically encourage junk food cravings.

Relaxing Eases Acne

It’s a vicious cycle: You’re stressed about that presentation at work, so you break out, and then you’re stressed about the breakout! Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but stress seems to up the amount of oil produced by the skin, clogging pores and causing acne, according to WebMD.

Flare-ups of other skin problems, like psoriasis, have also been linked to stress, and can be equally stressful themselves. But relaxing really helps: A 1998 study found that psoriasis plaques cleared up more quickly in people who regularly meditated.

Relaxing Will Keep You In The Mood

One of the big reasons that women lose that lovin’ feeling is stress, but men aren’t immune either. In fact, Kinsey Institute researchers found that stress zaps the libido of around 30 percent of men (although another 21 percent said it actuallyincreased their sex drive.). “Men are more likely to see sex as a stress reliever, whereas for many busy women, their husband’s desire is just another demand on their time and energy,” Alice Domar, Ph.D., director of the Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health at Boston IVF told Ladies Home Journal.

 

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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January 2022
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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory