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Mindfulness

Magic Number to happiness

The Magic Number to Happiness

By | Mindfulness, Mindfulness and Life | No Comments

Research suggests that there is a magic ratio to happiness, based on your amount of positive and negative experiences. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson identifies the optimal ratio as about 3:1, meaning 3 positive experiences to every 1 negative one. Most people are stuck around 2:1, which is just enough to get by, but not to flourish.

What does it mean “to flourish”? It is to “live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience” (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005).

Happy CookiesIn relationships, the bar is set even higher. Happy couples tend to have a 5:1 ratio, and those in the 2:1 range are likely to divorce. This bar continues to rise as you expand to other relationships. In general, the less often you interact with someone, the more positive to negative experiences you’ll need to have a happy relationship.

Fredrickson explains the individual effect through her broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. The theory suggests that the cumulative experience of momentary positive emotions aids in the development of resources for long-term success and well-being, in particular through growth in resilience (Fredrickson 1998, 2001).

However, the power of the ratio does not go on infinitely. Individuals who have a positive to negative ratio of over 11:1 are just as unhappy as the 2:1 individuals. There is balance to everything.

The easiest route is to improve your ratio is to find more positive experiences. There are plenty of ways to have a positive experience, including contacting a friend, writing a gratitude log, volunteering, and giving a compliment.

Happy BoysIn our already highly-quantified world, it may feel silly to add yet another metric to count. You might be wondering – why does anyone need to track these experiences, when we can just ask people if they are happy or not? Well, a separate study examined the effect of positive emotions on life satisfaction and resilience. After a month of tracking emotions, it was found that improvement in resilience was predicted by the quantity of positive experiences (Cohn et al, 2009). Meanwhile, negative experiences and self reported life satisfaction did not lead to any gain in resilience.

How do you even identify positive and negative experiences? Through mindfulness! Use Pocket Clarity to develop your awareness so you can identify your positive and negative moments throughout the day. Pocket Clarity memberships are available for as little as $5 per month! Join the club today.

  1. Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing. The American Psychologist, 60(7), 678–686. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.7.678
  2. Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009). Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 9(3), 361–368. doi:10.1037/a0015952

Photo credits: Flickr, Flickr, Flickr

Meditate in the Morning

Why Meditating First Thing in the Morning is Awesome and How to Get Started

By | Mindfulness, Mindfulness and Life | No Comments

Trying to decide when to meditate? Developing a morning meditation routine can be key to developing a consistent meditation practice, and may provide the most benefits. In this post I explain why meditating in the morning is a good idea and then break down how to get started.

Why Meditate in the Morning?

man257It wakes you up

There are a variety of types and forms of meditation. Some can help you fall asleep, others can invigorate you. A body scan meditation that has you lie flat might just lead to an early morning nap. Choose a focused attention or loving kindness meditation that engages you and calls for you to sit upright and at attention. With the right intention, you’ll leave the session charged up and ready for the day.

Your mind is clear

Once you get started in the activities of the day it is hard to stop. By meditating first thing in the morning, you reduce the amount of stressors from the day that can disrupt your meditation.

Fewer distractions

The key to meditating early in the morning is that less people are awake. This means less people demanding your time via text, email or otherwise and expecting immediate responses.

breakfast-food-maple-syrup-4626-ScaledEasier to create a habit

A habit is a behavior done with little or no conscious thought. With enough repetition and the right setup you can make meditation a start to a strong morning routine. (See below on how to get started) The more variables that get placed into your day (a deadline gets pushed up, a new crisis happens) the lower the chance you will succeed in developing a meditation habit.

More of the day to enjoy the benefits of meditation

Simply put, if you meditate early in the day, you can gain the benefits of charging yourself up from the start. (And possibly have those effects last throughout the day!)

How To Get Started

 

bed-hostel-hotel-4217-ScaledChoose your place to sit

Be specific. Get your pillows or chair and put them in a room that you know will be quiet and removed from distractions. Do this the night before, so all you need to do in the morning is roll out of bed and head to your sitting place. If you can avoid it, try to not meditate in bed. Sit on the floor at the side of the bed instead.

If meditating outside, find a location that will not have too much street traffic that could be jarring (garbage trucks, for example).

Get your guided audio of choice ready

If you use a mobile app like Pocket Clarity, you can easily choose the session that meets your needs or set a timer. Reduce the barriers to getting your practice going by putting your meditation app on your phone’s primary homescreen.

Set your alarm

The easy excuse to skip a morning meditation is that you slept too much and have to get started with the day. Nullify this excuse by setting an alarm. Skip the snooze button and take control of your day from the start. If you are giving yourself enough sleep, you’ll soon not need an alarm at all.

Give yourself time

A corollary of the previous. Allot enough time for you to complete a meditation. You should not have to glance at the clock to make sure the meditation will be done in time.

Keep the pace, even on weekends

Remember that weekends are an arbitrary construct. We could have 4 day work weeks or 7 day work weeks, it would not change the fact that your body wants a reliable sleep/wake schedule. There’s nothing wrong with sleeping in from time to time, but you are hurting your success if you plan to sleep until 10am on weekends while sleeping until 6am during the workweek.

Get a good night’s rest by starting with an evening routine

Set an evening routine that allows you to wind down before going to bed. That means being away from your cell phone or computer for 30 minutes before bed, so your brain can unwind. It is a great time to read a book, talk with your roommates or family, or meditate (see what I did there?).

Start a Nightly Routine, use Siri

Need help remembering to start getting ready for bed? Siri’s got you covered.

Take Action

By following these steps, you should be able to fill in the statement below. To do this well, it might make sense to complete the statement in reverse order (decide when you need to start your day, which informs when you wake up, which informs when you need to go to sleep to get a good night’s rest.):

The Morning Meditation Pledge

To develop my morning meditation practice, I will set a reminder to wind down at pm and go to bed at pm in order to wake up at am. When I wake up, I will go to and meditate for minutes, which will allow me enough time to do the rest of my morning routine starting at am. To make my meditation practice easier, I will use and it is on my phone’s homescreen.

Signed,

In Conclusion

To be clear, any meditation habit is better than no meditation habit. But by taking these steps you will be in good shape to start a regular meditation practice that gives you the most benefits. When you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up over it, just get back to the routine.

Tell me what you think! When do you meditate during the day and is it working for you? Contact us and we might include your comments in a future post.

-Charles

Thanks to Joel of Buffer for the last two tips on how to get started.

Image Attributions:

Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed under CC BY 3.0
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Why Top Athletes Practice Mindfulness To Reach Peak Performance

By | Mindfulness | No Comments

Top athletes in a number of fields are getting a competitive edge through mindfulness. Already pushing their physical limits in the gym and on the practice field, the mind has become the next training ground for elite performers.

In football, the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are well known for their commitment to mental excellence, driven by their head coach, Pete Carroll. He has a staff that works with players on developing mindfulness, so he can more easily direct each player’s focus:

“We don’t talk about mindfulness that much, but that’s how we operate. We focus on what’s right in front of us. We don’t care about the other team or the environment we’re playing in. We just take every game as if it’s the most important in the world and focus right on that. That takes great mindfulness.”

Michael Gervais is the sports psychologist who works with the team on meditation, visualization and more. His key to reaching peak performance is developing confidence:

“Confidence is the cornerstone of great performance… And it comes from just one place: what we say to ourselves…  you have to have a disciplined mind to focus on when you’ve been successful in the past and to bring that success into the present. Part of the training is being mindful, on a moment-to-moment basis, of whether you’re building or taking away from your confidence. The second part is being able to guide yourself back to the present moment and adopt a positive mindset about what is possible.”

The players have bought into the system as well. Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas describes his practice as essential to changing his perspective:

“When you’re quiet and don’t say anything, you start to see the unseen. That’s why people need to be observant and listen. When I turned my ears to listening, I improved, personally and in everything.”

“You’ve got to [meditate]. That’s how you get into the flow. That’s why I do my little dance, my back pedal, because I’m flowing with the offense. However, you’re going to get at me, I’m going to adapt. I’m going to flow with you like water.”

Quarterback Russell Wilson describes what they do in Seattle to think and perform at an elite level:

“We do imagery work and talk about having that innovative mindset of being special,” Wilson says. “We talk about being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed.”

That success has increased acceptance of mindfulness training in football, but it can also have other benefits. The University of Miami football team is part of a study examining mindfulness practice and its relationship to growth of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that shrinks from the rigors of football.

This success is not limited to football. Phil Jackson, the “Zen Master” is well known for his introduction of mindfulness into the daily routine of his basketball teams. His ability to make mindfulness practice accessible to his players and get buy in from his stars is part of why he won 11 NBA championships as a coach:

“A lot of our players in the NBA are from deeply religious families very much like my background… anything that would be a conflict of their religious beliefs I didn’t want to touch or get them upset about it… so we talked about mindfulness as being as much as we pump iron and we run to build our strength up, we need to build our mental strength up… we need to build our mental strength so we can focus, get one pointed attention, and so we can be in concert with each other in times of need… you do that through mindfulness. You reset yourself.”

Derek Fisher won multiple NBA titles under Phil Jackson, and now is implementing a mindfulness program for the New York Knicks, the team he now coaches:

“I think it falls into the category of mental performance. We’ve seen that evolve in professional sports in recent years where instead of always focusing on improving your performance in just the muscles and the bodies and the shooting, there is a very big muscle up here that also needs training sometimes,” Fisher said. “And so mindful training, mental performance, we take it seriously.”

During his tenure as a coach Phil Jackson worked with two of the greatest players in NBA history, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Not to be left behind, LeBron James famously has been captured doing breathing exercises during the NBA Finals.

The Boston Red Sox recently created a behavioral health department to supplement the efforts of their mental skills coach Bob Tewksbury. The new department’s emphasis will be on teaching mindfulness.

Top tennis player Novak Djokovic practices meditation and is known for his visits to a Buddhist center in Wimbledon village to recharge during the two-week long Grand Slam.

Mindfulness has also reached space (well, the subatmosphere at least). Felix Baumgartner’s famous jump almost did not happen due to his issues with claustrophobia. Dr. Gervais helped Baumgartner visualize success and practice mindfulness to overcome his anxiety and successfully make the jump.

Dr. Steve Hickman and researchers at UCSD have tested mindfulness training with olympic athletes and found that the same techniques to reduce anxiety and increase compassion can also help anyone reach peak performance:

“We know pretty conclusively that mindfulness training can help people with chronic pain and illness and this has been the focus of mindfulness training for 30 years. We also know that there is an amazing parallel between what we teach in mindfulness and the brains of peak performers.

“People have wondered if there is a ceiling effect and whether people who already have attributes of mindfulness might not achieve the same benefits. It’s looking like peak performers can benefit from mindfulness training and this means recreational athletes, as well as other peak performers in business, academia and other fields, could likely benefit, too.”

What’s holding you back? Take inspiration from these top performers and get started on your mindfulness practice today.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Don't Just Stand There, Meditate!

7 Trigger Moments During the Day to Remind You to Meditate

By | Mindfulness, Mindfulness and Life | No Comments

Despite your zen ambitions, it is easy to forget to stop and meditate each day. As people set a New Year’s resolution or personal goal to meditate daily, more and more will not reach their goal because they don’t develop a plan and stick to it.

You won’t be one of those people, because you’re powered with this. Behavior change is something we’ll cover more in later posts, but one of the keys is having the proper triggers-events that remind you to take action- to remind you of the desired behavior. Here are seven triggers you can use to meditate daily. Choose the one or more that you think will work best for you to keep a regular meditation practice.

1. When You Wake Up

First things first. This is my preferred time to do a single task. I currently am working on a daily goal of writing 750 words a day, and this post is a part of that. First thing in the morning is a great time because you just do it. It becomes your default action over time, just roll out of bed and get to your practice. Be aware to identify if you find yourself too groggy to get started. You should be meditating, not napping!

2. Before/After a meal

Meditating before a meal in particular can help you focus and prevent yourself from binge eating. By being more aware going into the meal, you can then also practice mindful eating. Sitting after a meal is an option as well, but try to not eat any foods that will overly distract you from your meditation practice. Be sure to pick a specific mealtime for each day, whether it is before breakfast, your mid-afternoon snack.

3. Before/After a workout

Get in the zone before you work out! Top athletes across the world are practicing mindfulness to reach their top performance level. Get yourself in the right state of mind to achieve your athletic goals with meditation before your workout. Like with meals, we don’t recommend a strong meditation after your workout, as you may be too fatigued to maintain your focus. However, post workout is a good time to reflect on what you just did, and think about ways to improve.

4. Before/After a meeting

Whether it is a meeting with an client, your staff, or just a family gathering, a meditation before a meeting or event can help you focus your thoughts and possibly encourage greater empathy.

This is particularly relevant before situations that will become testy or high anxiety. Help yourself out beforehand with a meditation, and be more aware of any of your impulsive moments. If you need to have an outburst, at least be under control of it.

Technology Hack: If you have a regular meeting and use any calendaring software, set an earlier reminder before your meeting to also prepare your mind for it. Add an extra 5 minutes or more for a quick meditation.

5. Before/During/After Your Commute

Road rage is easy – you don’t know the person, you are just yelling at a car with someone who is clearly an idiot or a maniac inside. If you know you are about to be in traffic that drains your spirit, take an extra three minutes and meditate before you take the road. It might cause you to have some empathy for the old lady who clearly has never heard of a turn signal.

If something bad happens on your drive and you feel it affecting you, take a moment to meditate before you go into your next location. The last thing you want is to project your frustration from a bad drive on to someone else who had nothing to do with it.

Public transit (or carpooling ) provides the opportunity to meditate while on the go. If you feel comfortable doing so, close your eyes and tune out. Just be sure you don’t miss your stop!

6. Before Bed

You can purposefully practice meditation as a first step in the process of preparing for bed. A key here is to make sure you start this before you are too tired, and fall asleep before getting to the rest of your preparing for bed routine.

One of the top uses of meditation audio applications is to help with falling asleep. While it is slightly different, in that after the meditation you won’t be able to reflect on it, it is still better than nothing at all.
One of the best parts of using a biofeedback application like Clarity is that it trains you to calm the mind. Use the same process to fall asleep.

7. Set a daily alarm

Set a block of time out of your daily schedule for meditation, say a half hour at 2pm, and set it as a recurring event in your calendar. The key here is to stick to your time daily.

A simple trick is to set the even as a recurring event in your calendar. This way your daily practice time is protected against someone scheduling a meeting. If you use Clarity to practice meditation you can set a daily reminder time within the app.

8. Your Personal Trigger

We hope you find a way to practice in a way that suits you. These seven moments are great cues, but we invite you to consider what are the triggers that you find most suitable. When do you meditate? Leave a comment on Twitter or Facebook and share your tips on how you best find and make the time to meditate each day.

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Mindfulness Feature by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes Tonight!

By | Mindfulness | No Comments

Mindfulness continues to become more mainstream as more and more people are finding help with anxiety, depression and stress reduction. CBS’s 60 Minutes will feature a segment on mindfulness in tonight’s prime time airing. Anderson Cooper documents his experience with taking a mindfulness course and interviews some mindfulness leaders including John Kabat-Zinn, Chade-Meng Tan and Congressman Tim Ryan. He even straps into an EEG (electro machine to see how his thoughts affect his brain activity. [Update: Video segment embedded below]

Here are some teasers for the episode that 60 Minutes has posted:

Congressman Tim Ryan is featured and one can’t help but think of mindfulness and congressional gridlock. But mindfulness can help improve the nationwide discourse we have on a number of contentious issues.

Anderson Cooper puts on an EEG (electroencephalogram) cap to see how his brainwaves change in response to his thoughts. (Note: you can see your brain in action with Clarity)

A photo posted by 60 Minutes (@60minutes) on

We’re excited to see more awareness come to the space, and hope people find a way to try mindfulness for themselves. More updates after the show airs tonight!

[Update] The segment is up online. View the part that aired and extra segments on the 60 Minutes website.

NG2014 Clarity Demo

Hundreds of Demo Sessions Later, Clarity Pro Pre Orders Are Now Available

By | Clarity, Mindfulness | No Comments

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to do live demos of Clarity while talking about the brain, mindfulness, and technology. Some of the highlight events include the mHealth Summit, the LAUNCH Festival, UCSD Center for Mindfulness Annual Conference, and the NeuroGaming Conference.1 In this wide range of populations – health professionals, tech early adopters, school teachers, neuroscientists – I’ve found a common thread – people are excited about the potential of new technology to gain more insight into our brains and our selves.

The field is very new – providing consumer priced EEG (brainwave sensing) solutions was not accessible until a few years ago. Consumer comfort in wearables beyond the medical context has only started to grow significantly in the past few years, and the Google Glass backlash shows it is not completely there.2 There is a lot we need to learn – we including product developers, academic researchers, clinicians, and the general population. It will be an exciting ride, and I look forward to sharing more details about the work being done at ThreePound and elsewhere that help improve lives and advance science.

So click the button in the header to pre order the Pro version of Clarity, and go to the Headset Showcase to purchase your brainwave sensing headset. I look forward to you joining me on this adventure into our brains, and our selves.

-Charles

1. I’m grateful to these conferences and others for supporting ThreePound in a number of ways. Special thanks are due to Startup Health, the LAUNCH team, Steve Hickman and NeuroSky.

2. I specify “non medical wearables” because hearing aids, among other wearable health products, have been around for a long time.

P.S. Look below for some photos of some of the conferences. It’s clear you can achieve clarity anywhere!

MBSR Three Pound Clarity Word Cloud

Why Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction?

By | Clarity, Mindfulness | No Comments

Some have wondered why we’re focused on pairing brainwave reading headsets with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). With the high level of pressure placed on “living in the moment” and “looking inside oneself” people mistakenly associate mindfulness as a fly-by-night, new age fad. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re excited about mindfulness for a number of reasons, and you should be too: Read More