“You will never experience the earth with all its wonders in this time again. Don’t wait for one last look at the ocean, the sky, the stars, or a loved one. Go look now.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Autumn is a time a reflection, giving thanks and taking stock of our life’s harvest. It is a time of marvelous fleeting moments, like the grace of a leaf spiraling down to the ground, a whiff of apples in the air and the flow of migrating birds across the sky. Blink and you may miss them. Hold you head too low down into your job and you’ll certainly miss them, unless your job is to document these moments. So savor the small and share the grand with yourself and your loved ones.
A big heart is a good thing, right? Well sure if it has grown from love, like a certain green colored character that dresses up his dog like a reindeer (Thank you Dr. Seuss), but not it if it is enlarged due to illness. The American Heart Association (AHA) has noted seven habits that contribute to a healthy heart. Practice a couple and you are doing your heart some good, follow all seven now you’re REALLY serving your heart and self well.
Full disclosure moment, this is a personal issue for me. One part of my family has a history of heart problems. Including, my beloved Pops discovering an artery so blocked it created it’s own bypass- THAT is not supposed to happen. Pops had what was described by one of my Southern friends as “a come to Jesus moment.” So I take these recommended habits to heart (I love a pun) and so does Pops now, and the benefits are real and lasting.
7 Happy Healthy Heart Tips
- Get Moving. You have heard this before moderate exercise, 30 minutes a day, helps to reduce the risk of heart disease by promoting lower blood pressure, increasing good cholesterol, and helps to control your weight and blood sugar. So take a walk, Take the stairs, try a Zumba Fitness™ class, break out the Wii fitness™ gear, bike around the park… find something that works for you.
- Manage Your Blood Pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension is the most significant factor for heart disease. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Hypertension can almost always be prevented, which can be done by Maintain a healthy weight, being physically active, following a healthy eating plan, eat foods with less sodium (salt), drink alcohol only in moderation, Take prescribed drugs as directed. For more information on managing your blood pressure go here…
- Control Your Cholesterol Levels. There are two types of cholesterol, “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL). We are talking about keeping your LDL down, too much LDL cholesterol circulating in the your system it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Marry this with some other substances plaque can form, narrowing your arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result, lucky for Pops that did not happen. Here is an AHA article on controlling your cholesterol…
- Eat Better. You are what you eat and yes “healthy” food can taste great. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low or fat free dairy products all pack powerful nutritional punches without socking it to you with calories galore. Aim to increase your intake of these foods while decreasing your intake of highly processed, high-fat, high salt foods- I am looking at your cheese fries. For helpful tips to rid yourself of addiction to unhealthy foods, from Southern Remedy on MPB Think Radio read on…
- Lose Weight. Being overweight and obesity are risk factors for heart disease. One way to measure healthy weight is by your body mass index (BMI). If it is 25 or higher, its time to lose some weight. To find your body mass index visit here. For helpful tips to motivate and energize your weight loss plan, check out the Southern Remedy 10 steps to healthy weight program.
- Reduce Your Blood Sugar. This does not mean you can never eat a slice of lemon icebox pie, but it does mean not eating it too often. Adults with diabetes are more like than those without to have heart disease. If your blood sugar is above 100 mg/dL, you’ll want to follow the advice of your heal care provider. For helpful tips to rid yourself of addiction to unhealthy foods, from Southern Remedy on MPB Think Radio just a click away…
- Stop Smoking. Smoking increases you risk of heart disease, especially if you have other risk factors, or take certain medications. For tips on or help to stopping smoking read on…
The American Heart Association has a handy online tool, “My Life Check” that can help you see how you are doing with these 7 simple habits.
“A man’s first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart.” ~ Joseph Addison
Snap judgments about others actions, and intentions give easy rise to reproaches, yes. But so do our evaluations of what we have or have not done. If we are were as quick to examine what we are holding our hearts and minds, and forgive our own transgressions, real or imagined as well as those of the people around us, what might be different?
Listening is an essential part of communication. Mindful listening is absolutely essential to better communication. I mean the type of listening where you get out of your own way, stop thinking about the next thing you are going to say, or what the words mean and are instead wholly focused on what the other person is saying. You are entirely absorbed in the flow of words, pacing, tone, gestures and the things left unsaid as well. You disappear into the conversation. Some of us listen very well but few of us have truly mastered the art and skill of listening mindfully. It requires practice and patience. You know those time when someone completely “gets” what you are saying and the conversation is elevated to a new place, and something new is gained those are the time when mindful listening has been active.
Our worlds and lives are filled with well-intended, compassionate, bright and hard-working people. But poor listening habits can derail even the most educated, most committed and even most visionary individual among us. Mindful listening can make or break relationships, sponsorships, opportunities and even whole careers. We are made with two ears and one mouth; there must be a reason.
With the emphasis on being persuasive, at work, at home at your volunteer activities, to close the deal, get the grant, prescribe a treatment protocol for your patients… its easy to forget that your best strategy is listening rather than talking; especially when we listening mindfully and emphatically. Empathy is a powerful component in vibrant relationships, professional and otherwise. Empathy is a respectful understanding of an other persons experience or perspective.
We miss much when we are on the only one doing the talking. Like just what is the foundation interested in funding or why your patient may be hesitant to take on the new treatment routine. People love to talk about themselves . . . so let them. “Good listening skills will get you farther than all of your most interesting experiences and stories ever will,” writes Cecelia Cooper on associatedcontent.com.
Here are my top 9 tips for mindful listening:
- Listen for what a person is feeling, not just what they’re saying. Try to enter the speaker’s world for a few minutes. What are the unspoken, needs, desires, frustrations, ambivalence, hopes. Then give voice to what you heard. If you are right wonderful. If not, that’s fine too. It’s your interpretation not a judgment. By giving voice to what you years the conversation can go deeper, further faster.
- Pay full attention. Most interruptions can be controlled, and if they can’t, find a better place to have your conversation. That means put down the cell phone (better yet turn it off), don’t check the email, just listen.
- Affirm and Encourage the speaker with your words (“Ah, yes…” Go on,” Tell me more,” “I understand”) and deeds (facing the person directly, open posture, making appropriate eye contact, and nodding).
- Be Silent and W.A.I.T. (Why AM I Talking?) Our minds work faster than another person can speak. Stay in the moment. Do not let your mind wander, while allowing the person time to find their words to fully tell their story or explain their point of view. While not easy to just be silent (just my husband, I have been known to jump ahead once or twice in conversations) it will help you not to jump to conclusions.
- Be still, or in the immortal words of parents all over the world, ‘Stop Fidgeting!’ Being still will help you focus your attention, slow down your racing mind so you can be mindful and present. Stay in the moment of listening instead of moving on to developing your response.
- Resist the temptation to “hijack” a story and make it yours. The story is not about you one-upmanship competitions rarely lead to anything other than an one-sided win.
- And while we are resisting, avoid imagining a “quick fix.” You are being asked to listen and the point may not be finding an easy answer right away. Brainstorming solutions together might be appropriate later.
- Finally, notice how often you give unsolicited advice. As well-intentioned as we are our unasked for advice so often sounds like criticism. Your counsel may be sought–but wait to be asked or ask if you can offer it.
- Be Sincere. if you are not genuinely and authentically interested in what the speaker is saying, you will not be able to listen mindfully. Don’t fool yourself, the speaker will know too. Instead politely find away to end the conversation and find someone who can listen mindfully, that way you’ll save the relationship at hand.
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”~ Peter Drucker
Do you want to manage your life or do you want to lead your life?
Only one thing registers on the subconscious mind: repetitive application, practice. What you practice is what you manifest. ~Fay Weldon
An other riff on the you are what you eat, your only get what you give, you are what you do, notion. But there is truth in these pithy little statements which we can so easy shrug off. You tend to get better at what you practice. This especially true if you practice in a committed effective way, with an end goal in mind.
“Saying no so I can say yes… that is what I am going to start doing”, said, Gloria. She’s an elementary school teacher who enjoys her work and the kids she teaches but by the end of each day feels crispy around the edges and ill-tempered, exactly the opposite of how she feels at the start of each school day. In her words “Its like I am being nibbled to death by ducklings.”
While reflecting on the death by ducklings last week, she discovered that has difficult saying no. Gloria is always trying to be nice to other people, at the expense of herself. In the classroom this translates in to always stopping what she doing to attend to the hundreds of questions and stories not related to what is going on in the lesson that crop up from her kids. Gloria ends up not getting through some tasks like grading quizzes in as timely a manner is she would like, the kids are not learning how to discern what is appropriate to ask and when and she ends up feeling irritated and on the verge of resentment by the end of the day. On the other hand Gloria has “a very maternal-nurturing streak” and knows that in the classroom is where a number of her kids get time and attention they don’t get else where and wants to help the kids learn to cultivate good thinking and relationship skills. She does not want to end up being resentful, or for the kids to feel unwelcome.
Gloria weighed the competing needs described above and we brainstormed some ideas. In the end she decided that some increased boundaries around the hundreds of questions and stories that crop up from her kids. Setting a said a special time for stories and bringing back a traveling journal (where the kids write their stories and questions and she responds in writing) are two of the things she is going to start doing again. When the duckling come up to ask something she’ll help them weigh the importance and appropriate question/story by asking them, ‘Is this something we need to talk about now or can you spend 5 minutes with me at the start of recesses/lunch?’
Gloria is pretty darn certain than in a few weeks time she’ll be leading a happy line of ducklings across their learning lake with a happy quack.