Tag Archives: wellbeing

Want to Lead a Happier Life? Talk to Your Genes

happy

By Deepak Chopra, MD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

Genetics may be on the verge of solving a very complex question in a revolutionary but quite simple way. The question is, What does it take to be happy? The question never goes away. It hangs over our heads every day. The possible answers are many, but they follow two general trends whose results, frankly, have been disappointing. One trend is psychological, holding that happiness is an emotional state. The other trend is philosophical, holding that happiness is a mental state. When someone is unhappy, psychologists aim to improve their mood, largely by addressing anxiety, depression, and various psychological wounds from the past. A philosopher, on the other hand, would examine the underlying idea of happiness itself and why it is or isn’t feasible. In the end, happiness is all about health and wellbeing.

Yet after thousands of years of deep thinking and a hundred years of psychotherapy, the condition that the vast majority of people find themselves in is marked by total confusion. We muddle through on a wobbly combination of wishful thinking, hope, bouts of high and low spirits, denial, family ties, love, distraction, and the constant pursuit of external pleasures, as if happiness can be cobbled together more or less randomly.

For all of our muddling, the key to happiness could be as simple as biology. To a biologist, the wellbeing of an organism consists of healthy cells functioning without falling into dysfunction. Dysfunction is a dry-sounding term, but once the life of the cell starts to go awry, it’s only a matter of time before the whole body is affected, resulting in pain, discomfort, illness, and a general decline from wellbeing. The brain operates through cells like any other organ, and neuroscience now has abundant evidence that psychological states like anxiety and depression have physical correlates in brain cells.  Continue reading

Sowing Seeds of Gratitude to Cultivate Wellbeing

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Paul J. Mills, Tiffany Barsotti, Meredith A. Pung, Kathleen L. Wilson, Laura Redwine, and Deepak Chopra

Gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing. While there are many definitions of gratitude, at its foundation, gratitude is a healing, life-affirming, and uplifting human experience that shifts us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives. Gratitude provides us with a more intimate connection to ourselves and the world around us. In the feeling of gratitude, the spiritual is experienced.

For those who are ill, feelings of gratitude and awe may facilitate perceptions and cognitions that go beyond the focus of their illness, and include positive aspects of one’s personal and interpersonal reality in the face of disease. Such beneficial associations with gratitude have accelerated scientific interest in and research on gratitude and wellbeing. The number of publications on gratitude appearing in the biomedical literature in 5-year increments since 1960-1965 shows almost no publications until 1996-2000 with about 20 studies. That number doubled from 2001-2005. From 2006-2010 publications jumped to 150, and from 2011 to the present over 275 studies on gratitude have been published.

Much of this growth of scientific interest in gratitude can be traced to the early pioneering gratitude research of psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. In general, studies find that the frequency with which one experiences the feeling of gratitude, as well as the depth of emotion when experiencing it, are linked to improvements in perceived social support as well as reduced stress and depression. Among groups seeking to support this work, the Greater Good Science Center (Berkeley, CA), in collaboration with the Templeton Foundation (West Conshohocken, PA), has been a strong advocate of advancing the science of gratitude and expanding that science into diverse areas of human health and wellbeing. Continue reading

Your Body Is Wise But Needs You to Pay Attention

body

Although complementary medicine has made strong advances, mainstream medical practice still keeps faith with drugs and surgery as the default methods of treatment. The way forward for anyone who wants to establish a high level of wellbeing isn’t going to come via the family doctor but through self-care. The first rule of self-care is to trust in the body’s wisdom and to make choices in line with it.

Living in accord with your body’s wisdom is simple and natural, which is why practices that hovered on the fringe when I was first practicing medicine in the Seventies are now tried and true.  The following points are unarguable: Continue reading

The U.S. Economy? You Can’t Leave Out Body and Soul

shutterstock_20008843By Jim Clifton and Deepak Chopra

If economics aspires to be a science — “the dismal science” as it was traditionally called — it must recognize that the most relevant economic data are human. The rise and fall of GDP, mean household spending, and consumer confidence are useful statistics, but ultimately the “units” of the American economy are bodies and souls. What’s going on with them?

Even as the stock market soars, the unequal distribution of wealth, which reached an all-time U.S. high in 2012 (with the top 1% grabbing 20% of all incomes), also implies inequality in physical and mental well-being. We are breaking recent records there, too. It is well documented that the greatest burden on the economy is skyrocketing healthcare costs.

At $2.5 trillion annually, America’s healthcare bill is three times the size of the defense budget and nearly twice the size of the whole Russian economy. It is also roughly twice the size of the entire Indian economy, and India has a billion-plus population.

Graph

When you compare America’s per person health care spending to comparable societies, things look even worse. The U.S. spends more than $8,000 annually per person on healthcare, where Canada and Germany each spends roughly $4,500 per person, while the United Kingdom spends about $3,500, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Yet even as we lavishly outspend those countries, Americans have shorter life spans and generally worse health outcomes. In other words, citizens in comparable societies live longer but spend half the money we do on healthcare or less.

What’s afflicting our bodies to such an extent that the medical system may not be able to manage a turnaround? One big answer: epidemic rates of obesity and diabetes. Obesity is the primary cause of Type 2 diabetes and a major contributor to chronic disease in general, including hypertension and coronary artery disease. If the United States solved the obesity problem, its economy would arguably roar back, unburdened by unsustainable healthcare costs. The news that our obesity epidemic has stopped rising and in the case of school children may even be declining, is a start, although long overdue.

But the country can’t reliably tackle obesity, which is correlated with low income levels, or turn the economy around, if many of its citizens are depressed. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index just uncovered that being unemployed, dropping out of the workforce, or working part time while wanting full-time work are the strongest predictors of having depression. Unemployed adults and those not working as much as they would like to are about twice as likely to be depressed as Americans who are employed full time.

Clearly our society has a crisis of body and soul – and often both together, since depression significantly raises a person’s risk for disease almost across the board. Economists don’t realistically figure these human factors into their predictions, and we’ve only scratched the surface. Well-being also declines from a host of things specific to America: chronic stress, uncertainty over keeping a job, anxiety over lost pensions, pressure to increase productivity (already the highest in the world but constantly pushed to rise even higher), and the longest work week in the developed world, along with the lowest vacation time.

The cure for the worst things is a full-time job. Gallup workplace data show that the ultimate job is one in which you get to do what you do best every day, your manager encourages your development, and your opinion counts. When and if every American can have this “therapy” of full-time meaningful employment, then depression, stress, and anxiety will subside, and the average person will become much more motivated to tackle chronic health problems like obesity. The human factor can never be over-emphasized if we intend to get the economy roaring again, but more importantly, if we intend to take well-being seriously and not simply raw economic data.

* * *

Deepak Chopra, MD, is the founder of The Chopra Foundation and Co-Founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Chopra has written more than 75 books, translated into 35 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. www.deepakchopra.com

Jim Clifton is Chairman and CEO of Gallup, and author of The Coming Jobs War.

Deepak Chopra: Take a Journey Into Healing

The Chopra Center invites you to attend this rare opportunity to expand your understanding of mind-body healing, Ayurveda, and integrative health care. “Journey into Healing” features sessions with Chopra Center founder Deepak Chopra, M.D.; the Chopra Center’s expert integrative physicians and master educators; and world renowned guest speakers.

Each day of “Journey into Healing” combines daily sessions of experiential learning, interactive sessions, lectures, and group activities, offering unique opportunities to interact with like-minded individuals from around the world. In addition, Journey into Healing includes:

  • Instruction in Primordial Sound Meditation and daily group meditations
  • Morning and evening Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga classes (all levels)
  • The science of Ayurveda and a mind-body perspective on health and disease
  • The role of emotions and the mind in health and well-being
  • CME credits for physicians and other health care practitioners

Learn how to enhance your health, balance, and well-being at Journey into Healing, August 22-25, 2013!

16 Fascinating Facts About Sleep (Infographic)

Sleep is probably one of the most important contributing factors to our health,  yet most of us know surprisingly little about it. We spend roughly 1/3 of our lives sleeping (that’s thirty years if you live to be ninety!), and while it may look like there’s not a lot going on while you’re asleep, it’s far more complex than many of us would imagine. Most of scientific knowledge we have gained has only been acquired in the past twenty five years, and there’s still a great deal of mystery about how this altered state of consciousness works. 

But here’s what we do know…

Graphic Designer: Ellie Koning

Each week on the Intent Blog, we feature articles, videos, and images to inspire you to live a healthier, happier, more fulfilling life. This week, our focus is Rest and Sleep. If you’ve recently set an intent related to Sleep, share it with us in the comment section below. We’ll do our best to support you with interesting content to keep you motivated along the way!

Mallika Chopra: Wellbeing in the Dawn of Social Media

A few days ago, while flying back to LA from New Delhi, I sat in the airport lounge at the Dubai airport.  On the television in front of us footage of protesters being shoved by authorities in Libya played.  Just 8 days before, while flying from LA to Delhi, the same television showed celebration in Tahrir Square as it was announced that Mubarak had stepped down as Prime Minister.

Curious about what voices in the region were saying, I picked up numerous papers and magazines to read local editorials and reports.  And several words popped up over and over again – social media, Twitter and Facebook.  In an editorial in Arabian Business, editor Damian Reilly pointed out “as Hosni Mubarak found out… no address on state television is a match for the power of Facebook and Twitter.”

Social media is proving to be a most powerful tool for social transformation.  At the Sages & Scientists conference hosted by my father (Deepak Chopra) this past weekend, eminent scientists and researchers echoed that the tools for change are in the hands of the people.  At one point, Ian Somerhalder, actor from Lost and The Vampire Diaries, asked Allan Savory, President of the Savory Institute, how one shares the great insights of today’s scientists with the world.  (Savory explains how holistic management has the power to reverse desertification of the earth’s grasslands – a practical solution to one of Mother Earth’s dire problems.)

Savory replied that it is social media that will help save Mother Earth.

Research has shown that social networks influence people’s happiness.  If you have a happy friend you are 15% more likely to be happy.  But if your friend has a happy friend, you are 10% more likely to be happy, and if your friend’s friend is happy you still 6% more likely to be happy!

On my own social media site, www.intent.com, an online community for supporting people’s intentions, people state their intents, people support them, and community is created through shared aspirations.  We just crossed 1 Million supports for people’s personal aspirations to lead healthier, happier and socially engaged lives.  I can testify that when someone supports my intent, I feel good and am more likely to make sure I achieve it.

We have today very powerful tools to heal ourselves, our society and Mother Earth. One tweet that reaches 500K followers creates a wave of information through Re-tweets.  When the message hits the core intents of a society – as we have seen in the Middle East – it is nearly impossible to turn back the tidal wave for change.

Its hard for me to envision what the world will be like even 5 years from now when my young daughters are seeking to express themselves to their friends, communities and the world.  But, I can only be excited and hopeful that we are seeing a new dawn where the hope for peace, healing and justice are truly at our fingertips.

Psychological Self-Maintenance

Over the last several years I have been reading a lot of Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan (the former, Lynn, is the ex of Carl Sagan and the mother of the latter).  This mother-son writing duo – to my estimation – is one of the key think-tanks on this planet at the present time.  Lynn is a fearless iconoclast brilliantly redefining our understanding of life.  But this post isn’t about “life,” in its biochemical or cosmic sense.  This post is about inner life and maintenance thereof. 

As some of the readers of my blog know, I recently published a book called “Lotus Effect” which is a program of the identity detox designed to help you “shed suffering” and “rediscover your (so-called) essential self.”  What I want to show you in this post is the interplay between biology and psychology, namely, the interplay between the two fundamental questions: “What is life?” and “Who am I?”

In their book “What is Life?” Margulis and Sagan write of life as “islands of order in an ocean of chaos.” This isn’t just a poetic stance, this is a kind of thermodynamic proclamation of independence.  You see, according to the second law of thermodynamics entropy (i.e. chaos, disorder) increases “in any moving or energy-using [i.e. living, i.e. existing] system.”  In other words, everything tends to fall apart.  But life – while it exists – resists this tendency for disorder through self-maintenance. 

Here’s Margulis & Son on this point:

“Body concentrates order.  It continuously self-repairs.  Every five days you get a new stomach lining.  You get a new liver every two months.  Your skin replaces itself every six weeks.  Every year, 98 percent of the atoms of your body are replaced.  This non-stop chemical replacement, metabolism, is a sure sign of life.”

This process of self-repair is called “autopoiesis” which is Greek for “self-making.”

Margulis & Son again:

“Without autopoietic behavior, organic beings do not self-maintain – they are not alive.”

So, where am I going with all this?  To the notion of psychological autopoiesis, to what an early 20th century Armenian mystic Gurdjieff used to call “self-remembering,” to what I call “identity detox,” i.e. to the work of psychological self-maintenance.  When I say "psychological self-maintenance," I am not talking about emotional self-regulation (mood management).  I am talking – literally – about identity-regulation, Self-maintenance, identity hygiene.

When you ask yourself “Who am I?” you, in a sense, begin the process of shedding the outdated psychological skin and replacing it with a renewed sense of self.  You see, psychologically speaking, we are mired in informational misrepresentations of who/what we are.  We keep confusing ourselves with what we do, with what we have, with what we feel and think, with the roles with play, with our history.  This informational confusion is the entropy of identity, a continuous loss of self.  We simply disappear behind all these words of self-descriptions and self-definitions. 

The task of psychological self-maintenance is the same as that of biological self-maintenance: it is autopoiesis, it is a job of self-making.  Instead of being made (programmed) into “this” or “that,” we have to continuously de-program.  We have to keep asking ourselves this basic identity-detoxing question “Who am I – who am I at my core, at my foundation, who am I when I shed my roles, when I dis-identify from all that’s fleeting and transient in my life, who am I when go beyond my self-descriptions, – who am I in essence, rather than in form?”

As you see, the “Who am I?” question isn’t just a superficial inquiry.  It is a depth-psychology probe.  It is an invitation to drill down through the informational calluses that weigh us down.  It is an informational detox, a detox of identity, an informational strip-down, a process of remembering that you are not any information about you but that which is in the process of formation. 

I know it sounds heady and confusing.  And it is: you have to use your head and you have to tolerate the initial confusion that comes with this kind of self-work, before you finally begin to know what/who you are by being clear about what/who you are not.

Each day you are actively involved in life-supporting metabolic self-maintenance: you eat, you excrete, you repeat this cycle.  The same goes for psychological self-maintenance, but in reverse: first, you excrete (shed) the ego-dirt, the informational dust that gets in your mind’s eye, the suffering of identification with what you are not; and, then, you “feed” yourself – through meditation and contemplation – with a sense of self, with a sense of “am-ness.”

This kind of daily “identity detox” is no more complicated or time-consuming than brushing your teeth.  It is part of psychological hygiene, not a chore but an enjoyable task of self-remembering.  There are many different experiential ways of accomplishing this.  Just like with biological self-maintenance, you have a choice of any breakfast of consciousness you wish.  It so happens that I, myself, like Dzogchen-style “sky-gazing meditation” for my “am-ness cereal.”  That doesn’t make me a Buddhist.  If you want to go with the Biblical “bagel-and-ham” of “I am that I am” to start and/or finish your day, you don’t have to be a Christian to do so.  Any psychologically-autopoietic identity-detox method would do!

Enough rambling.  Time to load up on “am-ness” calories!  Lotus-eating time!

p.s.:

Read anything written by Margulis & Son!  It’s complex but scientifically and existentially brave.  I particularly recommend “What Is Life?” and “Microcosmos.”

p.s.s.:

Now, just for fun, here’s a 1985 hit by the Austrian band Opus, "Life is Life" (when I was a Soviet youth, I heard this tautological anthem from every open dorm window; the song has strange grammar and a definite feel-good message, with an unexpected third-stanza assertion that "every minute of the future is a memory of the past" – an intriguing Zen-like cautionary point).  Enjoy!

Resources:  Lotus Effect

You May Be A Gossip and Not Even Know It!

If you had asked me if I was a gossip and if I gossiped before yesterday, when I kicked off the Inner Mean Girl 40-day cleanse with about 6500 women, I would have given you an emphatic "NO!" I don’t talk bad about people. I don’t watch snarky reality TV and I (except for the occasional glance at People magazine at the airport) don’t read tabloid magazines. I gave that all up along my spiritual path these last 10 years… or so I thought.

And then yesterday, on Day One of our 40-Day Cleanse, gossip tried to sneak up on me. It was like I could feel it coming on like a cold, you know when you first get that itchy throat and then all of the sudden before you know it, you have full blown snot coming out of your nose.

During an evening phone conversation with a good friend of mine, Catherine, a person who I also consider to be impeccable with her word, I relayed to her an experience I kept having that involved another woman. I asked her a question with total integrity… to try and figure out what my block was, nothing to do with the other woman. "What am I doing to create this situation?" I asked. She answered with the truth, "Nothing, the two of you just aren’t supposed to be connected."

And that’s when I started to feel the energy of my Inner Mean Girl looming in the background, sitting in the darkness getting ready to pounce, like an energy that wanted to jump in, take charge and "Go Rouge."  I felt this urge to ask Catherine, "Well why do you think that?" and I could feel that urge coming from this longing place inside of me… like some dark recess that wanted to be filled.

And then on the other end of me was my Inner Wisdom screaming, "Don’t do it! Don’t ask that question! You will just invite the Inner Mean Girl in and she’ll take us down the Rabbit Hole!" Now I wish I could tell you that in all my great will power, I resisted the urge of my Inner Mean Girl and followed my Inner Wisdom… but that’s not how the story goes.

The words, "Catherine, why do you think that we aren’t supposed to connect?" came blurting out of my lips but in slow motion, like my Inner Mean Girl was yanking toxic taffy out of me…

UGH!

Like a rock hitting the pit of my stomach I felt the toxin of those words and it was like I could see this big movie marquee in lights flashing "GOSSIP! GOSSIP! READ ALL ABOUT IT!!"

Now here is where I did turn things around and tap into the power of this 40-day Inner Mean Girl Cleanse.  I had AWARENESS that what I was about to engage in, what I honestly started to engage in, was toxic self-sabotaging Gossip!  It what I am now dubbing "Sneaky Gossip." This variety of gossip didn’t look like blantantly talking poorly about someone or putting someone down, but make no mistake about it, in some way I was trying to make myself feel better by talking about someone else, and that IS gossip.

So I used the self-love tool of Awareness that I learned, and that we teach in Inner Mean Girl Reform School, and that SARK taught us about on our launch call, to take back the power of my words from my Inner Mean Girl – ripped the steering wheel of the conversation right out of her hands – and said to Catherine, ‘You know, you are right. It’s okay we aren’t connecting. I think what she is doing is great. And I am on the right path for me."

And in that instant you know what happened??? That hole that had been trying to be filled by my IMG with gossip, instantly filled with self-love from the Good Talk, and I felt GREAT about me and totally unattached to everything else. Way better than I would have felt if I had gone down the toxic rabbit hole and continued spewing ick from my lips.

This experience of Sneaky Gossip caused me to write a Facebook Post asking people this question:

If gossip was a color or a substance coming out of your mouth, what do you suppose it would look, feel, or taste like?

The answers made me smile and cracked me up – and I’ve included a few of them here so that you can get a better handle on when Sneaky Gossip is sneaking up on you!  Even when the gossip is super subtle, you can still feel the toxin leaking from your lips…

    •    Like eating too much cotton candy, looks like it might be tasty buts feels yucky and sick.
    •    Boogers
    •    When I was a kid (in the 80s) they had a toy called "slime" and it was green and came in a little plastic garbage can and it’s sole purpose was that you took it out of the can and held it and it was cold and wet and slimy. That’s gossip!

I invite you to join me and over 6000 women and growing as we give up Gossip and 5 other of the most self-sabotaging habits of our Inner Mean Girls! Imagine the impact we can have on our lives and on the world.

To join us for the FREE! cleanse, go to http://www.meangirlcleanse.com

And to get more scoop on this SNEAKY GOSSIP check out our Video Blog about what Gossip really is…

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / mariano luchinni photographer

Happiness, Shmappiness

All this fuss about happiness. Treatises on the topic multiplying like bunnies. A whole school of psychology springing into existence. The latest and greatest research published in blogs on a daily basis.

People consider me a positive, even exuberant person. Yet I can’t help but wonder: Is happiness what it’s really all about?

Extreme examples: F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn’t always happy as he drank himself to death writing the great American novel. Mozart wasn’t necessarily happy as he composed the music that still makes so many of our souls fly. Van Gogh sure didn’t seem happy as he painted works of art that make me feel as though I’m conversing with the angels.

Hyperbole and oversimplification aside, I’ve found that my most intense and powerful growth has come from moments of unhappiness. At my first job, when I was posted to an oil and gas plant in

rural Canada and told to “make people redundant.” After my divorce five years ago, when I felt like an utter failure. Now, facing 40 without the family I’d imagined I’d have.

These challenges have led me deeper into my spiritual practices: yoga, meditation, reading poetry, and serving the planet. With greater compassion for my own flaws, I’ve simultaneously developed more tolerance for the foibles of others. Thanks to unhappiness, I’ve truly accepted that I’m not perfect and can’t be the best at everything, in spite of having had an extraordinarily blessed life.

So these days, I seek peace. I make an effort to love every single person, from the woman who cuts me off on the freeway, to the guy at the checkout counter, to my parents and friends. I shine my light on them. I practice gratitude daily: for my family, home, city, work, heck, even my car (I am in love with my Mini!). I find utter joy in a few minutes of blissed out dancing at a club. In gazing at the flowers that deck my garden walk. In entering the flow of writing or swimming.

Then something jars me—a neck ache, a difficult conversation, a rejection from a potential lover. And I breathe. I find my smile. I recite my mantra, “Love more, fear less.”

What I have, as a result, is greater connectedness to all beings and to the Earth, and confidence that I’m okay, no, that I’m more than enough. And that’s not happiness. It’s something subtler. I call it wellbeing.

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