The Distraction Attraction: Is It Helpful Or Harmful

Now that I’ve checked my lottery tickets, had a bath, washed and dried my hair, made lunch and a cup of tea, I think I’m ready to start writing this blog about distraction. The topic has been dancing around in my brain for a while now because I’m fascinated by human behavior and want to understand more about the role distraction plays in all of our lives. So, I put my distractions aside and here we are. Hahaha.

“Your results are the product of either personal focus or personal distractions. The choice is yours.”
– John Di Lemme

Here’s the question: is distraction a good thing or a bad thing? Well there’s a role for distraction and it’s helpful when it leads to interesting results. Sometimes we look for distraction because our work feels monotonous (I’m looking at you bills) or perhaps we have a short attention span and require ongoing stimulation to stay engaged.  If you’re having a challenging day, being distracted by a loved one, a furry or human friend is welcome medicine. There’s nothing like a good laugh to clear out stress or using proven mindfulness tools to take your attention away from feeling unsettled. So, I see the value in distraction but I also understand there’s a flip side.

Distractions are everywhere and we hold one of the biggest diversions in our hands when we scroll on our smart phone or dopamine dispenser. Dopamine is a feel good neurotransmitter the brain releases when we do something that meets a need like eating. Since about 2013, our devices have gradually crept into our lives and taken us over as a top distraction. Regulating how much time we engage with our devices is a real challenge for us humans, especially those with developing minds.

“One way to boost our willpower and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.”
Daniel Goleman

There are so many expectations placed on us at every age and every stage of life that we often turn to distraction to palliate the discomfort of feeling pressured to perform. Too many people move through their day without being intentional around how their day will unfold, so there’s time wasted and opportunities missed. It has to be said that procrastination is one of life’s most challenging distractions to manage and one of the best excuses we humans use when it comes to avoiding achieving something great, like paying the bills or writing the first chapter in your yet unwritten book. Setting an intention at the beginning of the day can be helpful when it comes to guiding our behavior and focus which will determine the results we’ll get. Committing to half an hour a day or each week on the bills or the book will move you closer to realizing your goal. Make sure to prioritize activities in your day and put yourself and social connection with others near or at the top of the list.

Worrying or ruminating are common habits of distraction that are more like place holders than productive practices because they achieve nothing; they’re like chewing bubble gum to solve a math problem. Recognizing that there are situations in life we have no control over and taking some small action on the situation instead of worrying about it helps to lower the stress hormones activated when we think too much.

“All profound distraction opens certain doors. You have to allow yourself to be distracted when you are unable to concentrate.”
– Julio Cortazar

Some people consider daydreaming a waste of time but I disagree. I think we should make time to day dream because that’s when we’re really connected to our imagination and in that creative space, our logical thinking mind can rest. Remember, there’s no expiry date on dreaming and goal setting, so feel free to imagine whatever you wish. When I get stuck while I’m writing, I’ll look out the window and let my mind wander. It doesn’t take long before an idea pops into my head and I’m back at it. So I’m living proof that daydreaming can be a productive practice. It just shouldn’t be a full time job because action, even small action, is the secret sauce when it comes to bringing our dreams to life.

We have high expectations for ourselves and sometimes get to the end of the day feeling like we haven’t accomplished much. Remember there will always be a to-do list and perhaps the distraction you chose, whether it was a walk around the block, a chat with a friend or a good laugh while watching a funny movie was just the thing you needed to make your day rewarding. We are so hard on ourselves and that is certainly counterproductive. So be gentle with yourself dear friends and enjoy every moment of everything because nobody is keeping score of how many things you check off your list. In fact the people who love you just want to see you be happy. So don’t dismiss distractions entirely; rather learn to embrace and manage them, so you can be well and live well.

Change your World by Changing your Words

What does it take to be a good communicator? Just because we can speak doesn’t mean we’re great at communicating but it’s a skill we can all learn and improve on. Surprise! Being a good communicator entails being a good listener too. We’ve all encountered people who listen just waiting for a chance to say something. You can be sure they’re not really listening to what you have to say and it’s important to recognize that, so you don’t waste not only your words but your time and energy. Keep that for people who want to listen to what you have to say. I believe we all deserve to be heard; it’s all in how we present ourselves and how we receive others.

“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” Brian Tracy

I’ve come to understand good communication as a superpower and I’ve learned from years of being a people pleaser that there’s absolutely nothing for me to gain in telling people what I think they want to hear. People are smart; they figure it out.  I’ve been a student of communication since my University days at McGill and over four decades as a journalist and interviewer. I’m always working on improving my skill and as a coach, I enjoy supporting others as they learn about the power their words carry. Becoming mindful of our tone when we’re speaking can make a big difference in how our words are received by others. Communication is a powerful spark of life that connects or disconnects us as humans. When someone says something that hurts your feelings, you feel it, as you do when someone says something that lights you up. Being mindful of how we use our words makes the difference between a positive encounter that leaves everyone feeling good and a negative experience that leaves everyone feeling less than satisfied. It’s up to us which one we choose.

“It’s important to make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” Barack Obama

Being a good communicator requires that we’re curious, interested in others and that we notice what’s happening in front of us. Behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s extensive research on the topic of body language resulted in the 7-38-55 rule showing that 7% of all communication consists of words, whereas the nonverbal component such as the tone of our message makes up 38% and 55% is attributed to our body language. This information is very much relevant today, especially with people wearing masks and doing their best to communicate over Zoom.

Several years ago, my brother took me to dinner at a very fancy restaurant. He said let’s start speaking loudly and observe what happens in the room. We raised our voices a little and as we did, so did everyone around us. The level of noise in the room went up, it was the strangest thing. Same thing when you’re in a stressful situation, if you raise your voice, you’ll raise the stress. Likewise, if you speak calmly, your tone will help to dissipate the stress. Good communicators are naturally good leaders because they’re aware of what’s going on around them and they respond in a mature and compassionate manner.

Being mindful of the words we choose to use has great impact. Do you use positive words that show your kindness and compassion or do you choose negative words that make you sound like you’re complaining? You are in charge of the words you choose in the same way that you’re in charge of the thoughts you choose to think. You may have heard me say before that complaining is a sure sign that we’re ready to change something and maybe all we need to do is change how we communicate what we’re thinking and feeling. I get it, frustration fuels complaining but it’s our frustration and it has nothing to do with anybody else. There’s always a solution when we approach a challenge with a compassionate mindset instead of negativity or complaining.

Learning to improve our communication skills is really good for our mental health. Communicating well helps us to provide clarity and creates better relationships because it shows people that we care about them. Remember communication is your superpower too. Let’s all do our best to choose words that heal instead of harm. The next time you’re in a social situation, keep in mind that your words have great power and you can change someone’s day for the better by choosing your words carefully.

Here are a few tips to improve your communicating skills:

-Know your audience and act accordingly. Not everyone is into jokes but if you’re into them go ahead and tell one. Gauge the response and if people are interested keep going. If they don’t seem interested, try asking them a question about their day or ask something about them. Remember communication is a two way exchange.

-Notice your body language. Crossing your arms over your chest sends a message that you’re closed off, even when you’re not. Using open body language: uncrossed legs and arms send a signal that you welcome what the other person is saying.

-Practice active listening. This is especially important in a serious discussion. To ensure you’re hearing what the other person is saying, wait for a pause and say back to them what you heard. This helps to avoid misinterpretation and misunderstandings.

-Take a beat before you respond. It’s so easy to overreact and we need to watch that behavior. Before you respond, especially in a stressful or heated discussion, take a minute to think through what you really want to say. Too often when we don’t take a pause before speaking, we say something we may regret later.

-Be optimistic and positive. If you’re being rude, you might get that coming back to you; if you’re positive and optimistic, chances are good that that’s how others are going to treat you too.

Confessions of a Recovering People Pleaser

Click Here To Watch The Video. 

A quick review of my life so far indicates that for most of it, I was a people pleaser. I gradually developed into a diplomat instead of a doormat and eventually I courageously stood in my power and now live to love people without having to try to please them all. 

I can’t decide which takes more energy: the habit of people pleasing or mustering the courage to give it up. What I do know is that as a recovering people pleaser, I have more energy for creative pursuits, I have more time for friendships that are reciprocal and I have more space for joy to find me. I can tell you with confidence that it’s work worth doing.

“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.”
– Bruce Cockburn

My story certainly isn’t unique; it involves a splendidly dysfunctional family and parents who absolutely did their best despite the traumatic blows of losing two of their babies. I think you get the idea. I felt like I was always working hard for approval, recognition; even just to be seen. I probably wasn’t the best people pleaser though because I had and still have a rebellious streak and a deep curiosity which in the end may be what helped propel me forward. 

One of the greatest revelations for me on this life adventure is learning that I’m not alone; that many of us have resorted to people pleasing as a survival strategy, to keep the peace, to fit in or to feel that we are valued. Using this habit of pleasing others is often a first choice because we don’t believe we have options and it does work for a time, until it doesn’t. You’ll know when it’s not working because you’ll feel emotionally depleted, physically exhausted and life will feel less than satisfying. I hope you won’t wait until you hit those markers to shift out the habit of pleasing others and choose to create space for yourself.

What does it feel like to be a people pleaser? Well, it feels like other people’s needs are more important than your own and there’s a willingness to try to take care of their needs even when it’s at the expense of meeting yours. It may look like you’re a do-gooder but it may feel like you’re a victim. Sometimes the habit is so deeply engrained that it’s tough to recognize in ourselves; see if you relate to some of these symptoms:

You agree to something you don’t really want to do.

-You have no free time.

-You feel that you need to be needed, to feel that life has purpose.

-You apologize all the time.

-You can’t say no.

-You need others to like you.

-You feel that people take advantage of you.

-You don’t get your needs met in relationships.

-You expect others to read your mind.

If you recognize yourself in any of those people pleasing symptoms, you are definitely not alone. My younger self can relate and my present self wants to help you shift out the need to please anyone but yourself. 

Waking up to the notion that I had chosen to please others over getting my needs met was quite rude because I didn’t know any other way to operate. I had to renovate my mindset which meant remodeling my thoughts about myself and how I operated in the world. What I did was begin with small steps and repeatedly interrupt the habits I had relied on to function in the world. 

Before we go any farther though, I have to say that pleasing people isn’t all wrong. Having healthy relationships means that we are compassionate and caring when it comes to those we love; the challenge is when we’re trying to win someone’s endorsement to bolster our self-esteem or we’re doing for others at the cost of our own well-being. By all means, do nice things for people; be kind but be careful because you are important and you matter too. Let’s get that straight.

True confession: it takes practice to shift out this tenacious habit of pleasing others and I strongly recommend starting with little steps that won’t scare you. Just take one of the tips on the list below and see how you can challenge yourself to put yourself first. Example: I never say yes right out of the gate to an invitation unless it’s an enthusiastic YES for me. My new habit is to say: “I’ll give it some thought and get back to you.” This way I recognize that I have a choice and I’ve learned to exercise that choice.

Here are a few tips to help with your renovations, if you choose to give up the habit of people pleasing.

-Know what your intention is in relationships.

-Know what your intention is around acts of kindness.

-Make time for yourself.

-Set boundaries: learn the power of the words yes and no.

-Think requests through. When someone asks you to do something, tell them you’ll get back to them. This gives you an opportunity to choose whether or not it’s a fit for you. 

-Establish mutual benefit in your relationships.

-Care for yourself in the same way you care for others.

Please don’t overwhelm yourself with the assignment because it’s easy to give up and revert to old habits. Let me remind you, so you can remind yourself that you are important and you matter; your dreams and goals are important and they matter too. Be confident that when you give away your resources and your kindness that it’s bringing you joy and not trouble. 

Focusing on our recovery as people pleasers helps us to move into more of a balance in our relationships, where we feel energized and satisfied that we are not only taking care of others but we’ve included ourselves in the equation. Don’t get me started on feeling guilty about making some alterations to how you operate because feeling guilty is like chewing bubble gum to solve a chemistry problem. It’s useless and it doesn’t serve anyone. Its action that creates the momentum, so here we go….in 3, 2, 1 action!

Footnote: How are you doing with your intention for 2022?

Is it the End of an Era for New Year’s Resolutions?

While the holidays are about celebrating, connecting, sharing and exchanging gifts, it’s how we choose to begin the New Year that will continue to make life merry and bright. The tradition for many people is to set New Year’s resolutions, despite the fact that most of us fail miserably when it comes to setting such high expectations for ourselves. We’re human after all and resolutions are intimidating. Okay maybe I’m speaking for myself here LOL. If resolutions work for you, congratulations you’re among the 20% who succeed; the rest of us need a better way and I might have found it.

Work on your strengths, not your weaknesses. How many of your New Year’s resolutions have been about fixing a flaw?      Jonathan Haidt

I think the tricky part about New Year’s resolutions is that when we’re setting them, we’re focusing on our vulnerabilities, thinking that if we shed forty pounds, give up smoking by March or start waking up at 4:30 am to get to the gym we’ll be happier. But that’s just not how happiness works. Happiness is nurtured by taking the pressure off and setting ourselves up for success with kindness.

Want to focus on fitness in 2022? Then write down your intention, which could be something like: I want to feel fit and fantastic. Then look for and create opportunities to make that happen. Invite someone to walk with you, join a walking club or look for fitness classes on line. Take responsibility for your intention and repeat it often. A system that has proven to work is to write your intention on sticky notes, placing them on your bathroom mirror, your fridge and on your front door, to remind you to take on the day with your intention in mind. We need bite sized pieces instead of the whole enchilada to help us feel that we’re being successful.

Resolutions are goals with no clear path to get to them whereas intentions are more like a guide for our behaviour. I propose that we take our power back and set intentions instead of resolutions.

“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep is this: to rise above the little things.”   John Burroughs

Patience has been a challenge for many of us during this Pandemic pause. There are so many reasons we can feel frustrated because we feel restricted or maybe ignored. Choose an intention that helps you feel better, such as: I will be more patient. This means being more patient with yourself first and then with everyone you encounter in the day.

The handy little reminders on your mirror and door or beside your computer will prompt you to remember what’s important to you, especially when impatience wants to pop up. Saying to yourself “I will be more patient” calms frustration and creates space for a different result. After all, the only person we hurt when we act on our frustration is ourselves. Even when you aren’t patient, be kind to yourself and remember you can do better next time.

“Do the best you can until you know better; then when you know better, do better.”      -Maya Angelou

Intentions recognise our willingness to do better so we can feel better. It’s all about improving our behaviour in small increments and being present to our circumstances, so we feel that we’re in charge of our response to any situation. The little wins add up to big ones over time, trust me. The pressure of resolutions creates an underlying stress and because resolutions are focused on the future, we’re actually delaying our happiness until we reach the goal, which in many cases we never do. Setting an intention allows us to choose and develop healthy habits that are both achievable and meaningful.

Happy New Year and cheers to having the best intentions for 2022.

Sharing the Holiday Sparkle

You must not be afraid to sparkle bright! Watch Kat and Nat as they share so many great ideas and inspiration around the magic of the holidays. From bringing your best self to getting rest plus some fun laughter and secret family recipes. Don’t forget to have a magical holiday and reply to this email with any ideas you might have for future topics that interest you or your community. Click here to watch the video.

Merry Christmas!

Bring your own Sparkle to Light up the Holidays

I start to get excited about the holidays in late November. That’s when the greenery and decorations start to appear around the house and this little festive elf gets busy in the kitchen. I’ve probably mentioned it here before, so forgive me but my two favourite festive indulgences to make are plum pudding and white fruit cake. The plum pudding has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. My mother and my god mother used to get together in early November to make plum pudding that they shared with family and a few choice friends.

My mother-in-law made the most gorgeous white fruitcake that I’ve added my own special twist to, to make it my own. I now make several fruit cakes and smaller plum puddings, using our family recipes, to continue sharing this sweet gift; it’s one of the ways I share my sparkle during the holidays.

“Use each moment to make another’s eyes sparkle and to warm a heart.” – Doreen Virtue.

The magic of the season is apparent in the eyes of children and we can learn a lot from them about how to share our sparkle. The gifts that children give are among our most precious possessions: a Christmas decoration made by your child in grade one becomes a treasured ornament. It really is so simple and we forget that it’s not about the magnitude of our giving, it’s about the meaning. We can all share our sparkle during the holidays and it doesn’t have to cost anything, in fact we’ll be richer for it.

First of all, gift yourself by focusing on what you’re grateful for, when you first wake up in the morning. This sets you up to recognize the blessings in your life, so that you feel abundant. Then as you go about your day, you can share that abundance with others.

Give away smiles freely, hand out compliments like candy, be a generous listener, let someone go ahead of you in line. Each one of these suggestions is a meaningful gift from your heart; believe me, it will make a difference.

The other day I was waiting to merge into busy traffic when a driver in the lane I wanted to access, made it clear that she/he was going to let me in. I couldn’t believe it; the driver put on their turn signal as if they were going to pull off the road, just so their intention to let me in was very clear. I gave a wave as I pulled into traffic and did a little happy dance in my seat. I think I even said out loud “who does that?” Someone who felt abundant did that and I am so grateful.

It’s that simple. Perhaps it’s checking in on an old friend or connecting with a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. How about making a greeting card and sending it in the mail? Maybe you add an extra portion of whatever you’re making for dinner and share it with someone. Perhaps you bake some extra goodies and gift them. If you’re picking up some festive ornaments, get some extras and share them.

“Maybe our sparkle comes from somewhere deeper inside, somewhere so pure and authentic and real, it doesn’t need gloss or polish or glitter to shine.”  – Mandy Hale.

I don’t know about you but I’m not interested in Christmas shopping anymore; not only because it feels stressful but I realized a few years ago that shopping is not the point of the holidays. It’s not about presents as in gifts; rather it’s about presence as in awareness and mindfulness. It’s a beautiful time of year to get decked out with decorations, lights and special food. It’s also an opportunity to pause, reflect, spend time with those we care about and make a difference for others with our sparkle.

While it’s the season of giving, we shouldn’t forget to give to ourselves. Making time to both rest and be active during this time of year will benefit our mood and fill us with positive energy. Taking good care of ourselves is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to those we care about because when we feel good, we carry that sparkle with us not only during the holidays but throughout the year. So, wrap yourself in goodness and shine bright this holiday season.

Easy Steps To Thriving As We Age

“Don’t let your age control your life. Let your life control your age.”

 – Anthony D. Williams

Think about what brings you joy. Is it your children or grandchildren? Watching birds? Helping others? Good conversation with your friends? Maybe it’s a perfect cup of tea or coffee; perhaps it’s inspiring music or a great book.

Right now I’m enjoying a giant cup of herbal tea in my oversized love cup, as I share some thoughts with you. Both of these things bring me a great deal of joy. One is easy (the cup of tea) and one is challenging. Writing always dares me to dig deeper for something meaningful to share. Writing asks me to learn before I teach anything; it expands my perspective and keeps my mind wide open. My intention with writing has always been to learn more about our place in the world and to discover how I can help others stretch their understanding and as a result expand their possibilities. Writing keeps me in a growth mindset and I’m very grateful for that.

“Be open to new ideas; never stop growing. Learning nourishes our happiness.”

-Kathie Donovan

It’s up to us whether or not we appreciate the power of learning new ideas or savouring our favourite simple pleasures but these are the very things that make our days special. Too often we allow ourselves to get caught up in overthinking about what might happen next or worrying about situations we have no control over. Part of enjoying a happy, healthy life is valuing the simple things that we could easily take for granted.

Here’s an important truth. We are each in charge of our happiness and we have far more power and control over it than we recognize.

Our best bet when it comes to healthy aging is to take care of our physical and mental wellness. Our body and mind are naturally connected; when we take care of our body our mind feels better. Cultivating habits such as making movement part of our daily routine, eating a healthy diet, watching where we allow our thoughts to go and recognizing the importance of interdependence all point us in the right direction.

Researchers who study centenarians (folks who live to 100 years and beyond) have shared that our attitude is important as we age. Our attitude is shaped by how we invest our time, so it’s important to do things that make us happy.  Being accepting of change is another key component of a healthy attitude and that includes rejecting negative stereotypes of aging. What we’ve been told about aging over many decades is not necessarily going to be your experience, if you take care of your attitude.

While we’re all subjected to negative thoughts, the difference between living a mediocre life and thriving as we age is how much power we give to negativity. It’s true that our lives can be completely reimagined when we shift the focus of our thoughts. When we are accountable for what we choose to think, we live a life that’s happening for us instead of a life that’s happening to us. Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts challenges us and that’s a good thing. For example, a negative thought might be -life is so boring- replace that thought with – I am capable of anything I set my mind to; I look for possibilities for joy every day. I’ve learned that complaining is like saying a prayer, asking for what you don’t want, so be careful because complaining is widely acceptable but not effective when it comes to thriving.

Now is the time to stand up for ourselves and use the power of our thoughts to improve the results we see in our lives. We are all important and we matter; what we think about ourselves and our environment, including the people we interact with matters too. Here are a few more simple habits to cultivate that will contribute to living a fulfilling life.

  1. Learn to be grateful. Write down what you’re grateful for. Say thank you often; give out compliments like candy.
  2. Practice kindness toward yourself and others.
  3. Live in the present. The past doesn’t exist any longer and the future hasn’t happened yet. Worrying about either is like chewing gum to solve a chemistry problem, it gets you nowhere.
  4. Live with purpose. Focus on activities and pursuits that are meaningful to you.
  5. Stay curious. Ask questions; learn to be interested in other people and subjects you may have not yet explored.
  6. Let go of bitterness, anger and excuses. Practice forgiveness and compassion toward yourself and others.

Choosing to use some of these techniques will convince you that you have far more power and control in your life than you thought you did. Take some of these ideas, try them and enjoy all of the benefits and opportunities life has to offer.

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