How can you use social media to lift us up?

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Read this . . .

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“Love literally made people healthier”

love flower

Last fall I took a fabulous free Coursera class, Positive Psychology, taught by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I liked it so much, that I’ve started to read her book Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection.

Fredrickson believes that positive emotions are like “nutrients,” and that small doses, or “micro-moments” of positive connection with others over time “broaden and build” us. While negative emotions help us narrow, focus, and solve problems (we need negative emotions too!), positive emotions help us think creatively and become more resourceful and resilient.

She talks a lot about the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve, which connects your brain to lots of parts of your body, including your heart. If something scary happens and your heart starts to race, Frederickson says in Love 2.0:

“[I]t’s your vagus nerve that eventually soothes your racing heart, by orchestrating (together with oxytocin) the equally ancestral calm-and-connect response. . . your vagus nerve is a biological asset that supports and coordinates your experiences of love.”

Vagal tone can be measured by, “tracking your heart rate in conjunction with your breathing rate.” The higher your vagal tone is, the better it is for your heart’s health. According to Fredrickson, your vagal tone is also an indicator of the health of your parasympathetic nervous system and your immune system.

To measure the impact of love, Fredrickson chose study participants at random to learn lovingkindness meditation, a practice where you wish lovingkindness for yourself, people you love, people you feel neutral about, people who challenge you, and the world at large.

Even though the participants only practiced lovingkindness meditation for about an hour each week, over the months their vagal tone increased.

How cool is that?

“Love literally made people healthier.”

You can read a full explanation in this excerpt from Chapter 3 (Love’s Biology) from Love 2.0 on Aeon and the study on PubMed Central at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine.

If you want to check out Fredrickson’s free Positive Psychology course on Coursera, the next session starts July 4th.

Photo by me.

Wanna be creative for 30 days, just for the joy of it?

Painting 2

Hello Big Visionaries!

I’m working on a new e-course tentatively called, Just for the Joy of It: 30-Day Creativity Practice for Busy People. I’ll be guiding folks through how to embrace the time they have and use it to express their creative potential. We’ll be focusing on process, not product, so anyone can play, even if they feel like they’re not a “real” artist, writer, musician, crafter, etc.

I know that spending time being creative can feel like a luxury, but numerous studies have shown that creative self-expression (e.g. visual arts, crafting, writing, singing, dancing, coloring) can improve our health and happiness, so really, creative time is a necessity!

I’m offering a huge discount to a limited number of people who commit to participating actively in the first session and giving me honest feedback on the course content and activities.

If you’re interested in joining the first session, please complete this very short form.

UPDATE: Registration is open for Just for the Joy of It: 30-Day Creativity Practice for Busy People. You can learn more and sign up here.

Painting by me.

Why You Should (literally) Get Off Your Butt and Walk Towards Your Big Vision

Walking to work

I’ve been having back pain off and on for eight months. I’ve tried lots of things to make it feel better, but so far only a few things have helped: more stretching and walking, and less sitting. Like many of you, I spend a lot of time sitting. Like, a lot.

There are all kinds of scary statistics about the negative health effects of sitting, but I’m more interested in the positive effects of walking:

  1. It helps us think.
  2. It improves our physical heath.
  3. It improves our mental health.

Walking to work 2

Believe me, I absolutely know how hard it is to sit less and move more, especially if you have a job that requires you to sit all day. Some things that have helped me, or people I know are:

  1. Walk to work. For example, I can walk from my home to a BART station, rather than take a bus most of the way.
  2. Set a timer and get up from your desk every 30-60 minutes.
  3. Take a walk as part of your lunch break.
  4. Have walking meetings at work. Beth Kanter shares 5 tips to host effective walking meetings.
  5. Meet friends for a walk in an interesting neighborhood, or natural setting.
  6. Walk to errands. I’m lucky enough to live about a mile from a grocery store, so I can walk there and back plus get in some functional fitness by carrying a couple bags. If you don’t live within walking distance of stores, you could park at the farthest point away from the entrance as possible.
  7. Get a Fitbit, or other fitness tracker. I love my Fitbit Zip. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it keeps me aware of how much, or how little I move each day.
  8. Take photos. Sometimes I get bored walking, especially if it is on the same route day-after-day, but once I set the intention to take a least one photo every time I went for a walk, I enjoyed it a lot more.
  9. Get a dog!
One of my favorite dogs ever.

What tips do you have for how to sit less and move more?

All photos by me.