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Monday, 23 February 2015

Are You Good at Making Excuses?

I chose this photo from my sky collection as the sun is bursting out 
of hiding from behind the clouds which is rather like today's topic of Making justifiable Excuses. M'reen

Are You Good at Making Excuses?

I was laughing as I read this piece from the satire magazine, 
The Onion: “Personal Trainer Impressed by Man’s Improved Excuses.
It purports to be an interview with a personal trainer who’s impressed by one of his clients
— a guy who has made amazing improvements in the sophistication of the excuses
he’s giving for not working out.

“Acknowledging that the progress made in such a short time was remarkable…
[the personal trainer said] he is very impressed by the improvement in both the strength
and consistency of his client’s excuses…’
A few months ago he had really weak pretences for not sticking to a workout plan,
but he’s put in a lot of effort and now he’s sporting much more robust and powerful justifications…
After seeing how he struggled early on with a simple excuse about traffic, it’s gratifying to see him push himself and dig deep for rationalizations that more believably exonerate him…[like] tackling a long, grueling story about how construction in his neighborhood aggravated his dust mite allergies.'”

I love this piece, because I love loopholes. Loopholes are so funny.  
So imaginative, and so ingenious.
We’re like cell phones searching for a signal
— as we cast about for an appropriate loophole to let us off the hook.
As Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Autobiography, “So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do. ”

When we want to find a loophole, we can always find a reason.
Note: with a loophole, we’re not mindfully making an exception,
but looking for a justification that excuses us from sticking to a particular habit.
If we can spot loopholes, we can perhaps resist invoking them,
and do a better job of keeping a good habit.

The ten — yes, ten — categories of loopholes are:
1. False choice loophole – “I can’t do this, because I’m so busy doing that”
    – this is one I often use, myself
2. Moral licensing loophole  — “I’ve been so good, it’s okay for me to do this”
3. Tomorrow loophole — “It’s okay to skip today, because I’m going to do this tomorrow”
4. Lack of control loophole — “I can’t help myself”
5. Planning to fail loophole, formerly known as the “Apparently irrelevant decision loophole”
6. “This doesn’t count” loophole – “I’m on vacation” “I’m sick” “It’s the weekend”
7. Questionable assumption loophole — “the label says it’s healthy”
8. Concern for others loophole — “I can’t do this because it might make other people uncomfortable”
9. Fake self-actualization loophole – “You only live once! Embrace the moment!”
10. One-coin loophole –“What difference does it make if I break my habit this one time?”
I love that the Onion article highlights the point that even if a person’s workouts aren’t improving,
he might be improving his loophole-seeking.

What loophole do you invoke most often?
I listed my own favorite as #1, the false choice loophole.
But I think that others, such as #4 and #6, are more popular.

Perhaps you’d like to check out my sister blogs:                this takes advantage of the experience and expertise of others.    describes the steps to reading in the way your mind prefers.          just for fun.
Advanced Reading Skills FaceBook group

To quote the Dr Seuss himself, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn; the more places you'll go.”

Sunday, 15 February 2015

10 points that: Eliminate stress and have more fun in your life!

I chose this particular photo of mine as I think it shows that stress can give or force the opportunity 
to explore other options; some of which can be interesting, beautiful and/or productive. M'reen

Eliminate stress and have more fun in your life!

In today’s hectic 24/7 society, it is a constant battle to balance our lives between work, family,
our social lives and have time to relax from the stresses and pressures of modern day living.
Stress is not harmful in short bursts and in fact necessary to cope 
with life’s demands and challenges.
In situations where you sense danger, whether real or not, 
your body kicks into action automatically in the form of the “fight or flight” reaction. 
This stress response is your body’s way of protecting you and it helps you stay focused, 
alert, motivated, energised and ready to face anything. 
It is only when the levels of pressure do not subside and become prolonged 
and on-going that stress can become harmful.
This in turn causes damage to your health, relationships at home and at work, mood, productivity 
and quality of life. We all deal with stress differently and what may adversely affect one person, 
another may thrive upon.
The key thing is to understand what causes your stress, the emotional and physical impact
of long term stress and how to put in place coping mechanisms to manage that stress.

10 tips for managing stress
1 Keep a diary of your feelings and emotions. What are your stress triggers?
2 Get plenty of sleep
3 Eat healthily and exercise regularly. 
    Avoid relying on smoking, alcohol or any other harmful habits as coping mechanisms
4 Make time to socialise with friends and family
5 Do more of the things you love – hobbies, interests
6 Keep a positive attitude and accept the things you cannot change
7 Manage your time effectively and learn to say no if demands are being made on your time.
8 Break down your to-do lists into bite-size chunks to avoid overwhelm
9 Be aware of your physical and emotional state
   and DON’T be afraid of asking for professional help
10 Remember the positive things in your life!
  Give yourself a much needed pat on the back and celebrate your many achievements
  Pamper yourself!

Taking some “me time” out on a regular basis is very important 
for your emotional and physical health and wellbeing.
It is essential to give yourself the space to reflect, refocus, reboot and re-energise in order
to maintain inner calm and peace in an otherwise demanding world.

Perhaps you’d like to check out my sister blogs:                this takes advantage of the experience and expertise of others.     describes the steps to reading in the way your mind prefers.          just for fun.
Advanced Reading Skills FaceBook group

To quote the Dr Seuss himself, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn; the more places you'll go.”

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Lighter Side of Life

I chose my photo of a dandelion clock, I think, for obvious reasons 
when considering the title of this article. M'reen

The Lighter Side of Life
By Homaira Kabir

“If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’ve missed the biggest joke of all.”
~ Rick Snyder

My paternal grandmother was known for her infectious sense of humor.
It is rumored that when she was young, her peels of laughter rang in the streets of her little neighborhood. She lived with us when I was growing up, and I remember her as my constant partner in mirth. She connected to my childlike sense of humor as naturally as she did to grown-up wit.
When my husband-to-be proposed to me years later, she was a strong advocate for the match,
her conviction based on the fact that he laughed a lot, hence would keep me happy.

What Good Comes from Humor?
Though illiterate, Dadima had a sharp insight into the workings of the mind.
Decades later, I now study through science what she believed through intuition.
From calming the cardiovascular system and improving depressive symptoms,
to enhancing relationships and providing a greater purpose in life,
humor has been shown to be an primary contributor to a well-lived life.
Research shows humor to be an indispensable trait for effective leadership,
not only as a de-stressor in challenging times but as a promoter of workplace morale.
Even being a parent is less bumpy when humor joins the ride.
Mothers with cheery dispositions are able to move through the flow of family chaos in a stable manner, thus contributing to the development of a secure attachment in their children.
Marriages are shown to be stronger when partners can appreciate the lighter side of life.

Other studies have demonstrated the effects of humor on recovery from bereavement.
Humor may help individuals find perspective on their loss thus leading to less depression
and a greater purpose in life. Certain therapy models, such as laughter yoga, encourage laughter
to calm the stress response and perhaps even lead to a mystical experience of transcendence.
The centrality of humor in our lives is reflected in the ritualized roles within societies of jesters and comedians. Across time and cultures, making people laugh has played an important part in society, 
from the YuSze of imperial China to the court jesters of medieval Europe,
from the stupidus of ancient Rome to the stand-ups in Improv Comedy Clubs.
Yet, while intended to make people laugh, humor can also bring tears of irritation
or outbursts of anger. I am a regular witness to my daughter’s desperate cries for help
over her teenage brother’s idea of jokes. We all watched the unfortunate events at Charlie Hebdo
a few weeks ago. What is it about humor that can give rise to the most extreme form
of moral emotions, from empathy and compassion and to fury and contempt?

Once Upon a Time
The answer may lie in the evolution of humor itself.
Although even non-human primates engaged in social play,
it was with the development of language that humans began to enjoy laughing and telling jokes. 
Humor is likely the result of a profound transition in the evolution of the brain,
the emergence of consciousness.

Primate play.. not too unlike  teenage boy play
Consciousness allowed us to create a coherent narrative of our history,
with a lived past and an anticipated future. With the ability to look into the future came too
the realization of impending dangers and our eventual demise.
This not only infused life with fear, it also created the desire to beat biological existence
and find meaning by belonging to something more eternal than the finite self.
Meaning provided the stability that the emotional upheaval of life did not,
and humor allowed us to move past the chaos of constant change by focusing
on the larger perspective and seeing the absurdity of most of our insignificant worries.
With consciousness too emerged the self that existed within the framework of other people. 
Morality and culture evolved to allow for peaceful existence within the social structures
that were key to our survival. Humor built relationships within tribes
and strengthened in-group bonds, often at the expense of inter-group relationships.
Today, however, our tribe is slightly larger than the couple of hundred people
in our ancestors’ times. 
We live a global existence and our sense of humor has to take the sensitivities and cultures
of 7 billion people into account if we are indeed to thrive as a humanity.
This is not always easy, and yet it is essential.

Other People Matter
So what are we to do? Chris Peterson’s short and sweet motto may be just the reminder 
we need. ‘Other People Matter’ guides us back to the essence of humor.
Laughing at another’s expense disconnects us from our human values
and lowers us on what Jonathan Haidt calls the dimension of divinity.

Around the globe
In our inter-connected world, we need to build other-focused strengths that take all cultures
and traditions into account. Joshua Greene stresses the importance of connecting
to one’s own individual experience with another’s pain and of exposing ourselves
to cultural experiences so as to build empathy. Jonathan Haidt calls for greater perspective,
humility and a general acceptance and appreciation of all moral matrices.
Perhaps the focus on the other will also help my son develop his budding career.
I may remind my young comedian that a joke ceases to be a joke when it affects the sensitivities
of the person who witnesses it, and that the success of any stand-up depends on his ability to refine 
an effective act that is appropriate for different audiences in different settings, depending on tastes, traits and temperament. Strutting around with boxers over his head or socks hanging off his ears 
may not be the most appropriate form of humor when his twin sister is trying to solve
a complicated math equation. Until he manages to build social intelligence and a more coherent act, 
I may warn him to simply stop when he finds that the other person is not with him.
Trying to clarify the humor is the worst form of fun and leads to the most desperate cries for help.
E. B. White, the great New Yorker humorist, once observed that explaining humor
is a bit like dissecting a frog: “It can be done, but the subject tends to die in the process.”

Siblings laughing together
I may also help my daughter build her own sense of humor 
by encouraging her to nurture her imagination.
I may remind her of her contagious peals of laughter at her brother’s attempts at comedy 
not too long ago, and how they enhanced both their happiness and their relationship.
Nurturing the kid in her and enabling her to appreciate the absurd
and the unexpected will undoubtedly fuel her imagination and contribute to her growth.
A good life is the synchronized dance of hedonic and eudaimonic happiness, 
for at the end of the day, all we want is to be happy and live meaningful lives. 
Although life may simply be a meaningless ride that we try and cloak with a fulfilling purpose, 
humor allows us to laugh at the insignificance of most things in the vast flow of human experience 
and yet connect to what we find truly important.
Dadima’s memories are filled with the smiles she spread.
Her instincts about my husband were right for he fills our days with much laughter and joy. 
In life and after death, we will be known for the way we made others feel. 
Happy beats unhappy any day.

Perhaps you’d like to check out my sister blogs:                this takes advantage of the experience and expertise of others.     describes the steps to reading in the way your mind prefers.          just for fun.
Advanced Reading Skills FaceBook group

To quote the Dr Seuss himself, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn; the more places you'll go.”

Monday, 2 February 2015

2 blogs: Why You Need To Leave Your Negative Friends Behind and How to Meet New Friends

 Photo taken by M'reen. Wind sock at Newmarket racecourses' airport.

Why You Need To Leave Your Negative Friends Behind

“Everybody isn’t your friend. Just because they hang around you and laugh with you doesn’t mean they’re for you. Just because they say they got your back, doesn’t mean they won’t stab you in it. People pretend well. Jealousy sometimes doesn’t live far. 
So know your circle. At the end of the day real situations expose fake people so pay attention.”
Trent Shelton (Former NFL Wide Receiver)

“Cutting negative people from my life does not mean I hate them, it simply means I respect me.”
Marilyn Monroe (Actress, The Seven Year Itch)

“You cannot expect to live a positive life if you hang with negative people.”
Joel Osteen (Author, You Can, You Will)

The only way to move forward in life is to leave your negative friends behind.
I ran into the emergency room like a maniac and told the first nurse I saw I was dying.
My heart was racing, I was light headed, and I couldn’t breathe. 
The nurse looked at me like I was an idiot, which somehow made me feel better.
I was legit freaking out. Twenty minutes earlier I was in a movie theatre
watching the second preview when my body started playing tricks. 
My face felt red hot and the room started spinning. I tried to play it cool for a minute but ended up snapping—I leapt over the dirty velvet chairs, jumped into my car, and drove to the hospital.
I thought I was having a heart attack.
The fact that my chest didn’t hurt and I could drive fine didn’t register.
The emergency room doctor told me I was having a panic attack caused by stress.
I went from feeling like I was dying to feeling like a 6-year old girl.
What kind of grown man has panic attacks?
M’reen, I’ve experienced this once for a few minutes – extremely frightening.

Friends Who Are Not Your Friends
I had just spent three days partying with my friends. But these friends weren’t really my friends. 
They were just a few guys I had been trying to impress for years.  
You know—those friends you have who don’t really like you. 
The kind who just tolerate you as long as you do what they do.
But, if you step away and do anything different, they cut you down.
I hate parties. The only reason I went was to make my friends happy.
Sure, it was my choice but it was a bad choice.
It was a choice based on obligation and wanting to fit in. 
I always felt obligated to do what my friends were doing. 
Like there was something invisible pulling me to the group.
My brain would fight the pull. But it would lose. Over and over again.
I was being pulled in a hundred other directions at work and home too.
I was trying to make my boss happy so I could get promoted.
I was trying to make my girlfriend happy so I could live in peace.
I was trying to make my family happy so I wouldn’t feel guilty. 
I felt like my entire life revolved around making other people happy
at the expense of my happiness. 
I thought I was handling the stress of all of this well. But I wasn’t.
Eventually it was too much and that’s when I had the panic attack.

Which Came First, Misery Or Miserable People? 
Your body and mind can only handle so much stress. You can only carry so much obligation. Obligation is like a rubber band. It can stretch and stretch but at a certain point it’s going to snap.
No matter how big, old, strong, or smart you are. Everyone has a snapping point. 
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
You may have heard other versions of this like “most men lead lives of quiet desperation
and die with their song still inside them.” Either way, Thoreau’s words ring true for many people. 
We often feel stuck and desperate in our lives.
We go through our days unconfident and unfocused. 
Maybe we read something offhand or watch a particular movie that fills us with energy.
But this energy quickly dissipates. It vanishes because we have nothing to channel it into.
Or, it’s snuffed out by the crowd of negative people we’ve somehow let into our lives.
The combination of being stretched thin by obligation and feeling stuck will ruin your life. 
Over time, your internal drive will die. 
Guilt and despair will take over.
Your misery will attract more miserable people until you find yourself asking, which came first? Misery? Or the miserable people?

Stop Ignoring Reality, Start Getting Real
The case against keeping negative friends in your life is a strong one.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see how these people can destroy your dreams,
ruin your health, and turn you into an equally miserable person.
100% — Chances you will become more negative for each negative person you let into your life.
                In contrast, each positive person you let in your life increases your chances
                of becoming positive  by only 11%.
Double — Put another way, one negative friend doubles your chances of becoming unhappy.
50% — People who give in to worries and demands from negative relationships
             have a 50% increase in risk of dying early.
34% — Negative relationships boost heart disease risk by 34%.
Poverty — Negativity is linked to poverty and reduced brain activity.
Brain damage — Listening to a negative person for just 30 minutes peels away neurons
             in your hippocampus, the part of your brain that’s responsible for problem-solving.
Reduced creativity — People who work for a negative boss are far less creative
            than those who work for a positive boss.
Depression and anxiety — Complaining about your problems increases your risk of developing
            both clinical depression and anxiety.
Low self-esteem — Listening to or watching negative people interact lowers your self-esteem
           and makes you more neurotic.
Poor performance — Engaging with negative people prior to performance tests,
           rather than ignoring them, decreases test scores.
Increased pain — Negativity overrides effect of pain medication in surgery patients.
Loss of sleep — Negativity increases the effect of poor sleep on pain.
Early death — People who use negative emotional language have higher rates of mortality.

Negative friends will ruin your life. It’s not a question of if they will ruin your life,
it’s a question of when.
Study after study shows that negativity has a drastic impact on your physical, 
mental, and financial wellbeing. 
The only way to protect yourself against this
is to start being very deliberate with who you let into your life. 
Otherwise, you’ll never be anything more than average.
Don’t keep doing what you’re doing.
Don’t keep interacting with the same negative people
and ignoring the reality of what these people are doing to your life.
Instead, get real. Be honest with yourself about how much your negative friends are costing you. Then, make a strong decision to drop them.

Two Biggest Reasons To Drop Your Negative Friends
Friendship is important. Humans are social animals and interacting with people can
make you happier, healthier and more successful. But, these people have to be the right people.
There are over 7 billion individuals on the planet. 
Yet, we often let ourselves get obsessed with making just one or two individuals happy. 
We fight for the approval of a select few who will never like us and never treat us well instead of casting our nets back out to the masses to find positive people who will like us just the way we are. This is a mistake for two essential reasons.

1. Positive people will not come into your life until the negative people are gone.
Like attracts like. If you and your surroundings are positive, you will attract positive people
and things into your life. 
If, on the other hand, you are negative or if you allow negative people into your life,
you will repel positive people. Instead, you will draw negativity and pain toward you.
Self-reliance is critical to success but there’s only so much you can do on your own.
You only have two eyes and two ears. A strong network of positive and like minded people
will allow you to see and hear more. You’ll also be able to tap into more wisdom.
And as a result, you’ll never stay stuck.
Imagine what you could do if you had the right connections.
You have to make room for positive connections.
You’ll never be able to build a strong network of positive people
until you delete the negative people from your life. It’s a zero sum game.
Positivity and negativity can’t coexist in your life. You have to get rid of one to attract the other.

2. You will never do anything positive or meaningful with negative people in your life.
You cannot be a positive person with negative people in your life.
It’s a losing battle. Have you ever sat next to someone who yawned and felt the urge to yawn?
Have you ever found yourself repeating a particular phrase that someone close to you often says,
or getting a song stuck in your head that someone else was singing? 
Did you ever sit down to lunch at the office and overhear two people gossiping
and feel the urge to jump in and gossip too?
Mirror neurons in your brain cause you to automatically copy your surroundings.
Powerful psychological factors including group thinknegativity bias, and the chameleon effect 
drive you to fit in and replicate everything your five senses take in.
Research shows that people who are lied to are more likely to lie and cheat.
Similar research shows that having an obese friend increases your chances of becoming obese
by 171% and having a smoker in your family increases your chances of smoking by 61%.
But, people can make you better too. For example, studies show that having just one happy friend increases your chances of becoming happy by 15%. In fact, having just one friend of a friend
who is happy increases your chances of being happy by 10% and having one friend of a friend 
of a friend who is happy increases your chances of being happy by 6%.
There’s no escaping the fact that the people you let into your life will influence how you perceive life. 
They will also influence what you achieve in life. 
If you feel stuck in life and want to make a positive change, the single most important thing
you can do is drop negative friends, family members, colleagues, and negative people. 
Now you know what to do and why you need to do it. The only question left is how?

How To Leave Your Negative Friends Behind
Like cigarettes, booze, and jelly donuts, most people know that negative friends are bad for them. 
They know that their lives would be better without negative people in it.
The problem is they don’t know how to get rid of these negative people.
The first step to getting rid of your negative friends is to realize that you are the problem,
not them. It’s your own weak decisions that are keeping these people in your life. 
The truth is you’re addicted to negative people. You’re addicted to the gossip,
to the cosy feeling of fitting in, and to the comfort of being accepted by familiar faces.
Perhaps you are using your negative friends as a crutch. 
You keep them around so that when you fail (or fail to try anything new),
you can blame your failures on your negative friends, not yourself. 
Or maybe you enjoy having negative people around who aren’t doing anything with their lives because it makes you feel better about your life.

Replace Bad People With A Good Plan
The second step to ditching your negative friends is making a strong decision to focus your life
on something new. You need to create a magnificent obsession for yourself. 
You need to focus your powers on a single purpose, something that fully absorbs you
and makes you feel alive again. 
If you don’t have any goals for yourself, you will never be able to quit negative people.
The only way to escape negative people is to replace them. 
Non-smokers quit smoking, not by giving up the habit, but by replacing it with a better habit.
In the same way, you need to replace your negative friends with something positive and incredible–something exciting that makes you jump out of bed in the morning. 
You need to create a plan for your life that will bring you happiness and success,
while attracting other happy and successful people into your life.
The time to get rid of your negative friends is now. Cut them loose.
Create a plan for something better. Don’t look back at what you’re leaving behind;
look forward to everything you can accomplish.
Look forward to the endless possibilities and opportunities in front of you.

Photo taken by M'reen, Supportive Friends in Hemel Hempstead. UK 

How to Meet New Friends
 Polly Campbell 

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with three people I adore. 
We had great conversation. Great laughs. 
And great views of the sun on the countryside. For about seven hours.
That’s a lot of time. But instead of feeling arduous or draining, the time flew by.
At the end of all that time together, I felt refreshed. I felt restored. I just plain felt better.
Such is the power of friendship.

Plenty of research proves that social support can ward of depression and increase optimism
and resilience – all good for our overall well-being. But the healthy and supportive relationships
also help us pursue our goals and even make healthier choices.
Now, scientists say, friendships can even inoculate us against the common cold.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who receive more hugs
are less likely to get sick. Hugs were a way to gauge social support.
People who received a lot of hugs, have more social support since we usually aren’t
(or better not be) grabbing hold of complete strangers. More hugs equal more social support.
More social support means less stress
and that means we are less susceptible to infection and colds, according to researchers.
Its clear solid relationships are an essential part, not only of a fun life, but a healthy one.
Yet the world changes at such a fast pace, it can be hard to maintain those connections.
People move, divorce, change jobs, and relationships fall away.
We also tend to communicate more via technology than keeping up the face-to-face interactions 
that buoy us. So, it’s time we work harder to care for the friendships we have.
And if you are missing those kinds of rock-solid relationships,
here are three ways to get back out there again and start building new friendships.
It takes a little energy and effort, but better health and well-being are the big pay-offs.

Three Ways to Meet New Friends

Move toward your talents and interests. Are you a good tennis player? Sign up for a league.
Do you like to write? Join a local writer’s group or put author readings on your calendar.
Are you good at organizing? Volunteer for a local group that does work you admire.
When you contribute your gifts to the world, you often run into others that share those talents.
This is a good foundation for friendship.  
It’s easier to start talking when you have something in common.

Notice the people along the way. Engage in life. Participate. Play. Have fun.
Do the activities you enjoy – but notice others along the way. Keep your head up. Say “hello.”
Be friendly, but patient. Friendships don’t start overnight.
Nor will you want to hang out with everyone you meet.
But when you are having fun, you exude positive energy and you are much more likely to encounter great people, and potential friends.  When you do, when you end up chatting, pay attention
to what they are sharing, show interest. Next time you two run into each other,
this gives you a natural entry point, something to ask about, if it feels appropriate.

Be authentic. Don’t blow smoke.
You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of good, loving relationships so be yourself.
You won’t connect with everyone you meet – nor would you want to.
That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you – or them. So don’t blame or beat yourself up. Just be true, open, and do the things you enjoy and your true nature will shine through.
That will be enough to build friendships that matter.

Perhaps you’d like to check out my sister blogs:                this takes advantage of the experience and expertise of others.     describes the steps to reading in the way your mind prefers.          just for fun.
Advanced Reading Skills FaceBook group

To quote the Dr Seuss himself, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn; the more places you'll go.”