Use your Heart Rhythms to Help Reduce Stress

Biofeedback is old hat, at least to the HeartMath folks.

In 1995 the American Journal of Cardiology published a study conducted by HeartMath researchers which identified a distinct pattern in the heart rhythms that is characteristic of positive emotions like appreciation, care, love, and compassion.

Based on their work over the last 16 years, HeartMath recently released two revolutionary lifestyle tools designed to help reduce stress and reset one’s inner balance – emWave® PC Stress Relief System and the handheld emWave Personal Stress Reliever®.

Haven’t tried it, don’t work for them and so don’t know, but it might be worth checking out as another potential tech tool in the battle against stress.

To read more – Biofeedback Reinvented . . .

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It Might be Good to have Mixed Emotions

This excerpt from the University of Washington Business School –

People who experience emotional ambivalence – simultaneously feeling positive and negative emotions – are more creative than those who feel just happy or sad, or lack emotion at all, according to a new study.

“Due to the complexity of many organizations, workplace experiences often elicit mixed emotions from employees, and it’s often assumed that mixed emotions are bad for workers and companies,” said Fong, whose study appears in the October issue of the Academy of Management Journal. “Rather than assuming ambivalence will lead to negative results for the organization, managers should recognize that emotional ambivalence can have positive consequences that can be leveraged for organizational success.”

“Managers who want to increase the creative output of their employees might benefit from following in the footsteps of companies like design firm IDEO or Walt Disney, which pride themselves on maintaining odd working environments. On some level, the bicycles that hang from the ceiling at IDEO and the colorful, casual environment at Disney probably help their employees sharpen their abilities to come up with novel and innovative ideas.” Emotionally ambivalent workers are more creative, innovative

The work environment is mentioned as one applicable venue – what might be others? Team dynamics perhaps – creative tensions fostered within the framework of relationship? What might be the parameters that would keep it from crossing into emotional and mental states that would be self-defeating?

9 Ways to Say “No” with Grace

You’re busy. You have a full agenda and yet you’re part of an organization too. Which means that others are going to ask you to do things and unless you’re comfortable with the social consequences of being the person that everyone knows doesn’t ever help anyone else, you’re going to have to know how to say “no” with a bit of tact and grace.

Here are nine good ways to say no in no particular order. Why not ten? No reason. Continue reading 9 Ways to Say “No” with Grace

Paying Taxes Makes me Feel Good?

Under certain circumstances . . . yes. At least according to a recent study by three University of Oregon researchers. In situations where taxes went to help a charitable cause the same pleasure centers in the brain were activated as when eating chocolate or some other favored pleasure.

“The surprising element for us was that in a situation in which your money is simply given to others – where you do not have a free choice – you still get reward-center activity,” said Ulrich Mayr, a professor of psychology. “I don’t think that most economists would have suspected that. It reinforces the idea that there is true altruism – where it’s all about how well the common good is doing. I’ve heard people claim that they don’t mind paying taxes, if it’s for a good cause – and here we showed that you can actually see this going on inside the brain, and even measure it.”

What might this mean for our old friend Ted? His threat level is down because he’s not afraid of being penalized for failure to pay his taxes. And emotionally he’s feeling pretty good as his reward-centers give him good feelings. As to his thoughts, well the idea of giving to a charity, even involuntarily, resonates with his personal ideas about what it means to do “good.” All three of his systems are pretty congruent and Ted’s at peace with the world for the moment . . . whatever his personal feelings on the how, what or when of it all.

There are of course other factors besides reward that play into altruism. A recent Duke University study suggests that worldview might be more significant than individual action in fostering altruistic behavior. (Activation of Brain Region Predicts Altruism). And there are many other points in the continuing research and discussion.

Interesting implications for coaching situations would seem to revolve around motivation and self-interest. To highly altruistic individuals, appeal to the common good could prove a sufficiently motivating force. To the less altruistic, the University of Oregon study suggests that encouragement in terms of personal reward might be a pragmatic motivational tool.

In any case, it seems that an appeal to altruistic behavior through the “it will make you feel good” rationale may have some actual physiological validity.

Link: http://Paying Taxes, According to the Brain, can bring Satisfaction

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Yawning your Way to Alertness

Psychologists Andrew Gallup and Gordon Gallup of the State University of New York at Albany suggest that yawning boosts blood flow to the brain and enhances alertness by cooling it down. And “catching a yawn” in a group setting may actually serve to collectively enhance group attentiveness as it passes from one person to another. It may well be physiologically true. But the next time you’re coaching along and your coachee begins yawning . . . he may maintain that he’s only trying to be more attentive (rather than finding you boring). Yeah, right – and how’s that for a difference in mental models?

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The Brain, Trust and Free Markets

Paul Zak, Director of Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to study what happens in the brain when people experience feelings of generosity and compassion. The purpose of the research is to explain the mechanisms of the brain at work during normal economic behavior. Zak will be testing the hypothesis that the actual engine driving the free-market economy is good behavior and trust rather than self-interest alone.

He will be building on earlier work in which he determined that an accurate barometer of the economic health of a nation is the level of trust in the country between people, especially strangers. Countries with higher levels of trust do better economically than countries with low levels.

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Ted Sees a Bull on Wall Street

bull-on-wall-street2.jpgThis is a silly story but it makes a point. Suppose Ted sees a bull on Wall Street in New York City’s financial district. What is likely to go through his mind? His first thought is probably not going to be, “Oh, that’s right, we’re in a bull market now,” as he continues down the street. More likely it will be something along the line of “What the . . .?” followed by “Damn, I think he’s looking at me.”

Which will lead Ted to his “fight or flight” self-preservation response, and this being a large bull, will result in flight if he’s smart. Only when he’s safely away will his emotions calm down. And only then will he begin to think rationally about why exactly a bull is loose on Wall Street.

Point? All three of Ted’s s systems have been involved – drives and needs (self-preservation), emotions (fear) and cognitive thought (wonder what that bull is doing here). In this situation they worked together pretty seamlessly – and pretty correctly given the circumstances.

The rub comes when the three are not working well together. When one of the components is out of balance. Or an emotion unsuitable for the occasion dominates. Or a thought process comes to erroneous conclusions based on incorrect interpretation of . . . and the list goes on.

As we move forward from what has been an introductory series of posts for this site I just want to reiterate a couple of goals here.

  1. Sharing techniques for helping us more effectively manage three areas of brain functioning that go to the core of who we are and how we respond to the world around us.
  2. Highlighting evolving news, research and tools that can help us do number one above.
  3. Establishing a forum and community where others can share some of the same.

Out of it perhaps we can come to know ourselves a bit better as well as live and work together a little more effectively with those around us.

Saying I’m Angry makes me Feel Less Angry

Conventional wisdom has held that putting our feelings into words helps us feel better. A recent study at UCLA’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center may indicate part of the reason why. Verbalizing feelings was shown to activate a portion of the prefrontal cortex (right ventrolateral to be precise), bringing about a subsequent reduction in response from the amygdala, the brain’s alarm system.

Similar to applying the brakes to a car, verbalizing our negative feelings may make them feel less intense. The benefit – it gives us a bit more control over the semi-chaos that often characterize our emotional responses. In the words of Ted, thought trumps emotion in this case.

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Driven to Distraction

Maslow’s Well-Known Hierarchy of Needs

The title says it in a nutshell. The third primary division in our brain processes, at least in the model that I use, has to do with drives. When you’re hungry – it’s hard to think about anything else. As is the case with thirst, or sex, or any of the other fundamental drives that determine significant aspects of who we are. Literally, we can be driven to distraction.

It’s a similar situation with less physical drives. Security. Intimacy. Self-fulfillment. And a whole number of others. Opinions differ as to what constitutes a drive. Or even what “drives the drive” if you will. But unmet drives and associated needs have a significant impact on our behavior. And on our worldviews.

Three buckets if we must – thoughts, emotions and drives. Together they define a fair portion (though not all) of who we are. Individually – and collectively. Think of these three buckets as Ted, or everyman. Ted thinks about where he (or she as the case may be) wants to go in life. He has goals. He wants to get along with others. But he keeps doing things that unravel everything he wants. Shooting himself in the foot as the old saying goes. Sometimes wrong thinking does him in. Sometimes it’s his emotions . . . and other times it’s a need. Sound familiar? Yeah, we’ve all been Ted.

Thinking and Feeling

Lumosity and tools like it exercise the brain in the way it thinks. Think faster. Think more holistically. Like fine-tuning a car engine – it just runs more smoothly when it’s tuned. All of these cognition-specific tools help us think better and of course are pretty useful.

However, we both think and feel. Our brain is very specifically wired to express both. To develop only the one aspect is akin to running a car on only one cylinder. And it invites an unbalanced perception of the world. Tools that assist in managing our emotionality form the second great subset of useful tools available to us.

A couple of things to remember about emotion – it responds quickly. Really quickly. We’ve all seen the flash of instantaneous anger that quickly changes hours of careful collaborative thinking in a team setting. The rest of the team must deal just as quickly with their own emotional responses. Lucid thinking flies out the window – though with practice, only briefly.

A second fundamental aspect of emotion is that it can be managed – and there are any number of good techniques for doing so. And because it is emotion that we’re discussing after all, there has been about as much emotional reaction as rational discussion on the matter – which just goes to show how intensely we feel.

Both cognition and emotion play a significant role in the formation and expression of who we are – which means that both have a significant impact on our relationships with others. Both can be managed to give us more rewarding results from our interactions with those around us – and that’s the bottom line.

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