Thursday, August 29, 2013

One Moment Meditation

"Beautiful Hearts" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I saw this intriguing little video of Martin Boronson's on YouTube in which he walks us through a one minute meditation and rather than suggesting we learn to sit for longer and longer periods of time, he suggests that we learn to meditate in a moment, that our lives are full of moments which could be well spent in practice.  This would also fit the current neuroimaging research of contemplative neuroscientists who say that the important thing is to keep returning to your mindful awareness rather than worry about achieving perfect meditation sessions.  Apparently just the continual returning to mindfulness is very good for the brain (Here's one abstract, but there's tons of research available, just head over to PubMed and type in mindfulness in the search bar.)

I decided after watching the video, that I wanted to know more about Martin Boronson's work, so I looked up his website, his book, his blog, an online workshop and nice articles on Oprah's website (This one is particularly nice because it has 30 days worth of mindful wisdom.)  Oh, and he's got a facebook page with freebies and wonderful quotes!  Lots of material to play with.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Oxytocin boosts (hooray!)

"Everything is Connected" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper,

There's a hormone called oxytocin, which Dr. Paul Zak calls The Moral Molecule.  (His Ted Talk is here.)  He's a professor of economic psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University and one of the world's foremost experts on oxytocin.  His research includes positive social relationships, health, and the production of oxytocin and he's got some pretty easy prescriptions to help us train our brains to release more oxytocin. (My elephant likes this idea a LOT)

Sex and cuddling, of course, are top oxytocin producers but if you want some additional boosters, here are that Dr. Zak highly recommends. (Gleaned from Prevention and Midlifexpress)

* Hug 8 times a day

* Call your mom 

* Get a dog (or two, twice the oxytocin, twice the party)

* Modify your handshake:  One hand over the other. Making eye contact also makes the connection more powerful.

* Get a massage

* Watch a tearjerker (this one seems to have the biggest boost in clinical settings)

* Sing

* Go dancing

* Go to weddings

* Have a big, thrilling adventure (bungee jumping, roller coaster riding, or out to see a scary flick) 

* Go for long walks

* Treat people decently

* Treat your friend to a meal or a coffee break

* Be trustworthy

* Increase eye contact

* Use the word LOVE (as in I love you, and I do!)

* Check friends and family's Facebook pages

* Watch or listen to a stand-up comic





Monday, August 19, 2013

Motivate the Elephant

"Be Kind" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper,
I'm reading Switch by Chip and Dan Heath (the book is great and here's a nice article that summarizes it) and they talk a lot about "the elephant" in a very helpful way.  They combined some interesting research in their chapter on motivating the elephant and created some usable ideas.

The first study they talk about is Crum and Langer's research on exercise and hotel maids.  A group of maids were told that their work was extremely beneficial exercise. They received a document describing the benefits of exercise, and they were also told what specific tasks used which muscle groups and burned what amount of calories.  The control group got only the document about the benefits of exercise.  The women in the first group started to loose some weight.  They became quite enthusiastic about their work.

Chip and Dan paired this research with research done on promotional loyalty cards which documented a phenomenon called "endowed progress effect", which provided people with artificial advancement toward a goal. These people exhibit greater persistence toward reaching the goal, than ones without the artificial advancement. Nice, eh?  (You can read about it here.)

So how it applies to elephant training is this:  Say you want your elephant to start a particular new activity.  Give it an "endowed progress" experience, like the maids who succeeded in losing weight when they discovered they were already exercising.  This motivated their elephants to exercise just that little bit more. They found themselves, in four short weeks, having lost a substantial and sustainable amount of weight which further motivated their elephants.  Elephants need reassurance, motivation and lots of endowed progress!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Breathing, glucose, and the brain

Collage by Lani and textures from FlyPaper
David DiSalvo has a great "how to" article on breathing and the parasympathetic nervous system in Forbes. Lots of research and links there for you but the best is the simple directions about how to use your breathing to help your brain relax.  Find it here.

Another article of his, worth taking a look at, is on how the brain uses glucose to strengthen will-power.  Research shows a little gargling with lemonade will do the trick if you feel yourself flagging.  Seriously.  (Of course your dentist will tell you to brush your teeth right away.)  You can find that one here.

Why meditation and mindfulness help us feel happy

Morning Pages Collage by Lani and textures from FlyPaper
"Many philosophical and contemplative traditions teach that “living in the moment” increases happiness. However, the default mode of humans appears to be that of mind-wandering, which correlates with unhappiness, and with activation in a network of brain areas associated with self-referential processing."

From: Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity  by Judson A. Brewera, Patrick D. Worhunskya, Jeremy R. Grayb, Yi-Yuan Tangc, Jochen Weberd, and Hedy Kobera
More here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to "get out of our own way" - Dr. Brewer on Flow

Morning Pages Collage by Lani and textures from FlyPaper

OH boy, oh boy, oh  boy!!!  Check out this Ted Talk:

This is a fantastic talk. Dr. Judson Brewer also has an iphone app to help smokers become non-smokers.

Additionally here are some articles by Brewer:

Self-Control Is a Non-Renewable Resource 

How to Change a Habit for Good: Pay Attention

How to Get Out of Your Own Way (and the Brain Science Behind It)

True Confessions

Collage by Lani
True confessions time.  I've been ignoring my elephant training a little bit.  I get the elephant into my morning pages and get that up on my FaceBook page and then it's almost forgotten for the rest of the day.  Not a good idea.  (If you want to train the elephant, you need to pay it some attention.)  To fix the issue, to start paying more attention to the elephant, I'll be posting elephant training related blog posts here. 

The thing is I've been ignoring my regular blog as well as well as the elephant.  So to revitalize my personal elephant training, to revitalize my personal blog, and to have just a bit more fun, I'll be posting my morning pages on my blog, with the incorporated elephant, and I'll be posting interesting articles and teachers of mindfulness and elephant training.  Hope that sounds good to everyone!

Curious about Elephant Training?  The answer is here at my Lulu store front: