I found this fascinating quote today:

With the everyday stresses from work, parenting and budgeting finances, it’s no surprise that stress has been directly linked to causing heart disease, high blood pressure and decreased immunity. In a survey conducted by the American Institute of Stress, about 75-90 percent of all visits to general physicians are for stress-related problems. While it is difficult to avoid stress altogether, there are several ways to relieve stress and manage it through simple and often free practices that can be done at home and work.Workingwellresources, Working Well Resources’ Blog, Apr 2010

You should read the whole article.

According to Gallup’s Well-Being Index, three million Americans have less access to basic necessities than they did in the first three months of 2008, the same year data collection for the index began. In most areas such as Life Evaluation, Emotional Health, Physical Health and Healthy Behaviors, Americans have improved their sense of well-being. In fact, it is at its second highest since 2008. In other areas with less personal control such as the Workplace, there continues to be a lag in well-being.

What does this tell us?

  • Personal control matters.
  • Having access to things that fulfill our basic needs matters.
  • Being connected matters.

We must begin to understand that not only is our overall well-being a composite of numerous factors, but also our collective well-being as a human race. It is reminiscent of the butterfly effect. The wings of a butterfly on one end of the Earth can influence a hurricane on the other. We are all connected. Nature is connected. Despite all our knowledge, it is funny that we still act as if we are not.

Let’s look at an example. Did you know that happiness is contagious? I’m not just talking about a smile you might meet at the check-out line; your happiness impacts the happiness of others in your proximity as well. A recent study by James Fowler that relied on participants from the Framingham Heart Study found that a friend who becomes happier and lives less than a mile from you increases your likelihood of happiness by 25%. Apparently, this goes for your friend of a friend, too. Interestingly, happiness levels were not affected, according to the Harvard University-led project, at the workplace. That is, your work colleague’s happiness levels do not impact your own. Perhaps it has to do with the competitive environment or that you may have a different type of relationship with your co-workers than you do with your friends.

What might the solution be to increasing overall global happiness levels ergo overall well-being? Work with those you love! And love what you do. According to Deepak Chopra’s recent video report, only 20% loved what they did. “It is no wonder,” he states, “that more people have heart attacks on Monday morning at 9 a.m. than any other time.”

What is your dream job? What steps can you take today to get one step closer to it? The happiness of the planet depends on it.

Does slow scare you?

April 29, 2010

When you think of slowing down, do you get frightened? Do you think you’ll be considered a loser, lazy or worse, just plain incapable? The truth is slow is faster and fast is simply exhausting.

Embracing the power of slow is about making the choice to spend your time on the things you are meant to do. Trust your inner voice. It is your wisest ally.

I offer you the opportunity to draw inspiration from Marianne Williamson’s words about our deepest fear in this short film. It might just be the best three minutes and forty-one slow seconds you spend today!

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Happy Hump Day, All! It’s poll time. Let’s vote!

Clutter be gone

April 27, 2010

Sometimes I just get the urge to purge. That dresser drawer that won’t close because it’s stuffed to the gills, but you find yourself tolerating it way too long? The countertop filled with little papers? That basket of folded laundry that never quite made it up the stairs?

Clutter symbolizes an unmade decision. We look at something, stuff it away or drop it on a surface somewhere and label it in our minds as ‘to be handled later’. Clutter is the physical manifestation of procrastination, items in various stages of decision-making (or not).

One way to combat paper clutter is to keep a recycling paper bin outside. Before the junk mail even enters your house, you’ve tossed it. Or open your mail over a trash can.

The change of seasons is a great time to evaluate your closet. As you move warmer clothes to the back and bring forth the warm weather ones, ask yourself how often you wore that neon sweater from Aunt Betty. I eliminated three bags full of old clothes that I’ve had since the mid-90s. It felt delicious to bless them as they went into the bag. “Thank you. You no longer serve me. Fare well and blessings to you!”

If you have a hard time letting go of things in your life, try to let go of a few physical things. Notice how liberated you feel as you open your closet to fewer things and more space. It is one simple pathway to joy!

The garden is a mythological place. It’s the main stage for the beginning of humanity ~ in Biblical terms, that is. It is the showcase of Nature’s riches. And it is the place from which I have learned more about life than just about anywhere else.

You see I have an ancient apple tree outside my office window. I stare at it every day when sitting at my desk, which I do often. It stands strong against the hurling winds with equanimity, just as it plays host to swarms of nearby bees that drink from its blossoms. That is, until last year…

My husband, that merciless plant warrior, pruned its branches beyond recognition after our neighbor complained that its fouling apples dropped too numerously upon his property.

“I’ll be back,” it whispered to me through my tears as I watched the dead branches being neatly stacked for the recycling bin.

The next spring no blossoms sprang from its branches and its leaves were crushed in a hail storm. Haggard and worn, the tree stood in silence as summer folded into autumn, which was soon follwed by a relentless winter that lasted until virtually last week.

As spring finally got around to Germany on Saturday, I worried we’d never see another verdant thing hanging from its limbs. There were indeed leaves emerging, but the blossoms were nowhere to be seen! I found myself comparing a neighboring tree.

“You see! Their tree has blossoms. And ours, well, I suppose it’s all over now…” My own pessimissim surprised me.

Sunday morning I asked my husband if that white reflection I detected without my glasses really was a blossom.

“Nope,” he exhaled, clearly tired of my fretting.

A few hours later, the house was wrapped in silence. The children and my husband were off to their various athletic activities while I sat beside the tree, gazing heavenward.

As I scooped a spoonful of yoghurt into my mouth, I saw it! A merry carousel of buds holding strong against the sun. Then, as if by magic, I detected another and another! It was as if the tree’s promise was unfolding before my very eyes. Funny I hadn’t see it until now…

It had  taken a year to recover from the vigorous purging of the old. It had sought shelter against the storm and had meditated in silence, as any tree does: still, patient, majestic in its unwaivering decision simply to exist. Right here. Right now. Just as it is. With or without blossoms.

What I learned from the apple tree is a precious life lesson. I learned there is a reason for every season, that sometimes we are pregnant with hope and renewal; sometimes we are shattered and torn; and sometimes we need dormancy before we can emerge in all our beauty, too.

As I write these last lines, I see the bees are memorizing the tree’s DNA so that, in time, they will drink from its abundant nectar supply once again.

Thank you, my arboresque friend. You are indeed the poster tree for slow!

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Living a Day of ‘Yes’

April 23, 2010

On those occasions when I’ve been a tad too harsh with myself (or with the kids, for that matter), I institute a day of YES. It’s simple. I say ‘yes’ to those certain things I normally say ‘no’ to.

Such as Nutella for lunch. Say what? Listen. We have been on a non-Nutella diet going on three weeks here. My kids have been well-behaved. So yes, that’s what we’ll be having for lunch (along with homemade crepes, which my dad would fondly call a mere ‘sugar delivery system’).

Then there is the ‘should I not just take a day off from that project today?” Another resounding YES comes from deep within.

TV in the middle of the afternoon? Yes.

A brisk walk to the country store and back instead of a boring exercise class? Yes (I did not get a donut whilst there. I have my limits).

Homework put off until Saturday morning? I feel my yes muscle quiver. Well, alright…

Boundaries are the key to happiness. When they are sometimes extended, we get to enjoy greener pastures before returning to the familiar. Have you thought about how you’d live a day of ‘yes’? You might just find some of the things, such as a little time off, could be the very thing you need.

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