Linking Behaviour and Mood

Behaviour and mood are linked together…

Behaviour and MoodHave you ever noticed for example that when you are feeling “down” you sometimes simply have to engage in some stimulating breathing exercises or in doing something that nourishes you to feel much better? We tend to believe that all emotions last a long time but actually they don’t as it really depends which emotions we are talking about.

First, let us make the difference between “emotions” and “feelings”. In this article, the well-known neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, says the following:

“In everyday language we often use the terms interchangeably. This shows how closely connected emotions are with feelings. But for neuroscience, emotions are more or less the complex reactions the body has to certain stimuli. When we are afraid of something, our hearts begin to race, our mouths become dry, our skin turns pale and our muscles contract. This emotional reaction occurs automatically and unconsciously. Feelings occur after we become aware in our brain of such physical changes; only then do we experience the feeling of fear.”

Thus feelings are formed by emotions.

To test the length and effect of emotions, Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen from the University of Leuven in Belgium asked 233 students to recollect recent emotional episodes and report their duration.[1]. They found out that:

„Rumination is the central determinant of why some emotions last longer than others. Emotions associated with high levels of rumination will last longest“ (Professor Verduyn).”

Out of a set of 27 emotions, sadness apparently lasted the longest whereas shame, surprise, fear, disgust, boredom, being touched, irritated or feeling relief were over much faster.[2]

Mindfulness can help you  notice what’s going on in your body, inviting uncomfortable emotions and feelings in and letting them go, exactly as with positive emotions and wanted feelings. Being with yourself moment by moment helps you to stay anchored and not being “knocked-down” as well as feeling “helpless” when encountering strong emotions.

The following cartoon of Charlie Brown illustrates this in a fantastic way and it always makes me smile when I look at it! I hope you do so too….

Jenny

cartoon_charlie_brown

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2815719/Feeling-sad-FIVE-DAYS-shift-mood-Sadness-lasts-240-times-longer-emotions-study-claims.html

[2] The full research can be found here : http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11031-014-9445-y

 

Body Language – Keys to Non-verbal communication

You all know this: very often when speaking to other people, we only pay attention to the verbal clues that are given to us but not to the non-verbal ones. Very bad habit! I am sure you will be surprised but as already discussed in an earlier post, the verbal aspect in communications only accounts for 7 % (hence the content of what you are saying) when it comes to the relevance in terms of understanding information, thus to effectively communicating.

  • 38 % on the other hand come from the paraverbal aspect of communication (intonation, cadence, volume or pace) and
  • 55 % from the non-verbal aspects.

Intercultural CommunicationsSo when meeting somebody for the first time or when in a situation of negotiation, take a moment to see how confident your counterpart is.

Typical things to look for in confident people include:

  • Posture – standing tall with shoulders back.
  • Eye contact – solid with a “smiling” face.
  • Gestures with hands and arms – purposeful and deliberate.
  • Speech – slow and clear.
  • Tone of voice – moderate to low.

But be careful! As well as deciphering other people’s body language, you could also use this knowledge to convey feelings that you’re not actually experiencing…

Difficult meetings and defensiveness

Some of the common signs that the person you are speaking with may be feeling defensive include:

  • Hand/arm gestures are small and close to his or her body.
  • Facial expressions are minimal.
  • Body is physically turned away from you.
  • Arms are crossed in front of body.
  • Eyes maintain little contact, or are downcast.

By picking up these signs, you can change what you say or how you say it to help the other person become more at ease, and more receptive to what you are saying.

Working with groups and disengagement

Some of the typical signs and signals of people not being engaged. Some of these signs and signals include:

  • Heads are down.
  • Eyes are glazed, or gazing at something else.
  • Hands may be picking at clothes, or fiddling with pens.
  • People may be writing or doodling.
  • They may be sitting slumped in their chairs.

And finally, a tip:

To help practice and further develop your skill in picking up body language, engage in people watching. Observe people – be that on a bus/train or on television without the sound – and just notice how they act and react to each other. When you watch others, try to guess what they are saying or get a sense of what is going on between them!

Do you still read books?

BooksHow many people among you still read books? Or do you prefer reading your favourite magazines and authors on mobile devices? I must say that I still love holding a hard copy in my hands that I can feel, smell, touch…. Especially when entering an old library and imagining all the work that went into writing, drawing, updating the manuscripts and books, I feel very humble and at the same time interested and eager to sit down and sink into this atmosphere of knowledge, fantasy, thoughts….

Today, we are living in a digital world, where everybody can share everything, become a journalist, producer, filmmaker right out of their living room and live wherever they might be. Children already start having touch pads and smart phones from a very young age onwards and not many of them have actually seen a library from the inside.

LibraryDo they have to? No, I guess… it all depends on how you consume digital media, how much space you leave for just being and opening up for creativity and innovation.

As I travel through Europe and work with people from many different backgrounds and industries, I notice the same pattern: people feel overwhelmed, not “human” anymore, constantly reminded that they should be responding, checking, scrolling, informing, texting… you find people sitting in restaurants, tubes, buses, bars that don’t speak to each other but prefer sending out messages to their online “friends”. News, pictures, videos are volatile, replaced by a stream of newer, nicer, cooler images and texts every second. Social media spread information mostly without checking if the source of the information is actually credible.

Are you also constantly connected, on the run, hasting through your different activities?

Do you jump up, every time you hear the familiar ‘ping’ sound of your mobile device, indicating that something new came in even when it’s your neighbours phone or device?

Try this: switch off your ring tones, alarms and notices so that you don’t hear anymore when new messages come in! You will already feel somewhat more at ease.

Maybe you are even able to switch off your complete phone or tablet from time to time to allow yourself a brain break.

What do you think and how do you cope?

Jenny

Trusting Emergence

In order to move through the world with curiosity, sensitivity and closely attuned to your environment, being able to trust emergence and letting go into the change process is key. 

Gregory Kramer has the right words for this and I invite you to think about it over the weekend:

As you let go of plans, you are perched on the edge of possibility. Let the reminder to Trust Emergence arouse curiosity. What is happening now? Feel the truth of contingency and let it pull you out of any comfortable certainty. Attune to the unfolding moment and let your mind become nonresistive and pliable; let it move with experience. You can’t predict what someone will say, what will happen tomorrow. So you are waiting, relaxed in expectancy. Dwell in the moment lightly, with patience. If the mind wants to run ahead, to figure things out, remind yourself of the unpredictability of things. Let all plans fall away. Ride the moment. Locate the wisdom in not knowing. This leaves you open to anything, and not fearing change. Trust Emergence. – Insight Dialogue, page143

Jenny 

Perceptions: Road Blocks or Stepping Stones

Stepping StonesThe recent global events as well as a blog post from Dr. Milton Bennett about tolerance makes me think along the following lines: all humans have an automatic tendency to judge their own experiences.

Instead of simply noticing what is there in the present moment, unfolding and happening, we think about what needs to be changed, how things could or should be different. Something is not quite right in a way, not good enough, not what we had expected and wanted.

Often these thoughts will take us, quite automatically, down on some fairly well-worn paths in our minds. In this way, we lose awareness of the present moment and the ability to freely choose if and how to react. We  jump quickly on to conclusions, which seem to be the right ones and by doing so, trigger behaviors and actions from ourselves and others around us.

Relating to the idea of tolerance we might want to ask ourselves where our threshold lies.

  • How do we really feel deep inside us?
  • What type of experiences deplete us and which ones make us happy?
  • Where do we feel comfortable and where uncomfortable?

We can regain our freedom from automatic thoughts and reactions, if as a first step we simply acknowledge the actuality of the situation we find ourselves in, without being automatically hooked into tendencies to judge, fix, or want things to be different from the way they are.

How do we do this?

  1. Notice what is going on
  • How did your body feel in detail during the experience?
  • What thoughts and images accompanied the experience?
  • What moods, feelings and emotions accompanied the event?
  1. Explore the effects of bringing awareness to the direct experience
  • What do you notice?
  • Is your mind wandering away?
  • Is bringing awareness to the experience affecting it in a way? If so, how?
  1. Accept what is there without wanting to change anything
  2. Let go and simply acknowledge the arising and passing of emotions and thoughts without becoming entangled in the content of it.

Next time you’re confronted with a pleasant or unpleasant experience, try writing down what happened especially in steps 1 and 2. Exploring our own sensations, limits, beliefs, emotions, moods and thoughts is not easy and change doesn’t come over night. It comes with a lot of training and attention.

And of course, change starts with yourself and with how you experience and react to a situation and not with other people around you!

 

 

 

 

How to enjoy little things

Everyday tips – what we can learn from children’s books

Enjoying the present momentDo you know the feeling: you are running around like crazy, most of the time on autopilot mode, trying to perform all the different roles that you are playing in life. At the end of the day you feel exhausted and most certainly were not able to do everything you had on your list.

The funny thing actually is that most people thought that technology would give us some time back by organizing our tasks, meetings and social life (or maybe it was more like a marketing argument). In fact it is quite the opposite, more and more people seem to have less time.

Well, here’s a story from a children’s book that I came across, which might speak to you as it did to me:

It talks about a little snail, a very slow one, which one-day was surprisingly invited for coffee by some “racing” snails. The only problem was that the meeting point with the faster snails was far away and our little friend actually very slow as it enjoyed every moment of every journey. It nevertheless decided to accept the invitation and to hit the road directly in orStorytellingder to arrive on time two days later.
As it so happens, on its way it passed through a field of fresh salad and found that it had never seen such fantastic green leaves in its life. It hence stopped to eat. Of course it became tired after a while and found a perfect place to sleep. Awake again, the snail thought: “oh no, I am going to be late” but then it simply decided to do what it always did: enjoying the present moment and not to worry anymore.
As you can imagine, in the end it arrived (obviously) too late and the party was long over. A little bug walking by wondered why the snail was looking so happy and content although there was nobody left and questioned it. The snail simply responded that it did not matter at all as it could now enjoy the journey back even more and do everything slowly as it was used to.

 

Writing this, a large smile comes to my face… we should all read children’s stories from time to time as they have so much to teach us!

We all have a choice when it comes to our own lives: either we run through it or we choose to walk through it more mindfully, enjoying single moments as they arise and living here and now.

Maybe you’d like to try this different way of living!

Some tips on how to get you started:

  1. Take your time: when you get up in the morning, instead of jumping out of your bed, stay there, warm, peacefully and smile to yourself.
  2. Being mindful of little things: taking your shower, brushing your teeth, making a cup of coffee or tea can be something enjoyable. Try being fully present and bring your mind back to what you are doing when it wanders away (as that’s what minds do).
  3. In your car: before you drive off, take a moment to notice that you’re breathing. Don’t switch on the music or your hands-free-device but focus on how you’re feeling, tuning in to your body. If your mind wanders away judging other drivers, that’s normal; simply label it as a “judgment” and bring it back to yourself, breathing and driving.
  4. In public transport: leave early enough so that you can enjoy the walk to the bus or tube station. Don’t rush, breathe and notice the colors, the smells, the sun…maybe you’ll notice something that you never did before!

Let me know how it goes 😉

Jenny

A mindful home – 10 tips

Mindful HomeHappy New Year to all of you! I hope that you begin 2015 with a fresh look and some new energy…

Today, while reading some articles on the net, I came across Karen Maezen Miller’s blog post about a mindful home. I find it very beautiful, especially when taken figuratively and I think that we can all learn something from it. It sometimes takes a lot of willpower to build new habits!  I hence wanted to share Karen’s 10 tips here with you:

  1. Wake with the sun: there is no purer light than what we see when we open our eyes first thing in the morning.
  2. Sit: mindfulness without meditation is just a word.
  3. Make your bed: the state of your bed is the state of your head. Enfold your day in dignity.
  4. Empty the hampers:do the laundry without resentment or commentary and have an intimate encounter with the very fabric of life.
  5. Wash your bowl: rinse away self-importance and clean up your own mess. If you leave it undone, it will get sticky.
  6. Set a timer: if you’re distracted by the weight of what’s undone, set a kitchen timer and, like a monk in a monastery, devote yourself wholeheartedly to the task at hand before the bell rings.
  7. Rake the leaves: rake, weed, or sweep. You’ll never finish for good, but you’ll learn the point of pointlessness.
  8. Eat when hungry: align your inexhaustible desires with the one true appetite.
  9. Let the darkness come: set a curfew on the internet and TV and discover the natural balance between daylight and darkness, work and rest.
  10. Sleep when tired: nothing more to it.

Here’s wishing you an excellent week!

Jenny

 

 

The Gift of Mindfulness

Happy Holiday Season

Happy Holiday Season

As Christmas is approaching and instead of rushing to the shops to find a last minute gift, why not giving mindfulness to somebody you love….?

Let me share how I came to work with and practice mindfulness:

At one point in my life, when children came into the family, my personal time became suddenly very scarce as I also continued to work full-time in positions with high responsibility involving international travel and dealing with everything else alongside. Up to that point, I had been able to manage my work-life balance quite well but suddenly without me noticing it, it changed. I did not take enough time out with and for myself anymore. This led to a heavy gall bladder incident in early 2009 where I was told that I was on the edge of burnout and that I had to stop running around.

I then saw an article about mindfulness and thought that it was very much in line with what and who I am. I decided to take up the challenge and found a MBSR teacher close to where I live and with whom I wanted to take up the journey. I actually gave it a try not knowing exactly what it was.

As a matter of fact, in a couple of weeks I rediscovered myself and wondered how I could have possibly been forgetting to take care of myself all this time. I began reading many books about mindfulness and at the same time engaged a lot in intercultural communications (which in fact is my specialization) attending courses etc. I discovered that mindfulness and the qualities of being open, non-judgmental, trusting etc. were exactly the same as what we would strive for when reaching higher levels of intercultural competence. This link (being myself a senior communications professional) struck my interest as well as the link to leadership.

freeimages.co.uk christmas images

Image Source: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

It is no surprise that I then fell on literature from Daniel Goleman and others writing about emotional intelligence as well from Otto Scharmer with his theory U. I suddenly found enormous pleasure at not only reading through all the literature on neuroscience, brain, leadership and interpersonal/intercultural communications I could get, but also deepening my own practice.

I attended many silence retreats and found them extremely nourishing and also kept looking forward every day to my own home practice. I began living in the present moment and saw colours, smelled things that I had forgotten. I also began being different with my children, showing them more things and being more patient. I subsequently decided to broaden my horizon by learning mindfulness for children, attending the training with mindfulschools.org in the US as well as with Eline Snel from the AMT in the Netherlands. I am now on my way to become a certified mindfulness for children teacher and am practicing with my own children as well as conducting interventions with other children privately for now. Training the leaders of tomorrow is wonderful!

Additionally, I took a  jump into the unknown and am now working with mindfulness in the workplace (designing programmes and workshops on mindful leadership for women for instance), coaching individuals using mindfulness techniques as well as integrating the mindfulness approach into my communications work, i.e. mindful listening training with teams, responding to emails mindfully etc.

Mindfulness has become the “umbrella” under which I offer my services and my state of being… I find it deeply rewarding and fulfilling to work with people, accompanying them on their path of finding themselves again (not to say becoming human again). It is like the discovery of something that has been lost for a long time.

I am also now working more in-depth on projects aiming at bringing mindfulness to the formal school education sector here in Switzerland. The effects of what the leadership theory calls VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) can be strongly felt here too. Everything is in disruption, people are running around without liking what they do, feeling insecure and unhappy with less time every month.

I am now following my gut feeling and my inner guidance and although it is not easy, I feel that I am at the right place at the right time.

So, now you know it all!

Here’s wishing you an excellent Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

Thanks for being on this journey with me and looking forward to interacting and maybe seeing you again next year.

Jenny

Leading yourself

Jenny Ebermann Self-Leadership Services

… is not easy! In fact it is a major challenge and hurdle to many people. It starts by one simple thing: how many of you are able to look at yourselves in the mirror and give yourselves a virtual hug? It might seem simple but many of us did not grow up to like ourselves… there was always something missing or something not good enough.

In fact, we are our worst enemies as we continuously judge ourselves not seeing the little progresses we make but instead being stuck on all the things that could have been done better, different, more adequately….these things then keep coming back to our thoughts, moving along and influencing everything we do.

So here’s what to do:

  • First of all, start by seeing all the little positive things in your lives. Being present, moment by moment will help you.
  • Start writing down some objectives for yourself, these should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) and could be linked to any aspect of your life (professional, private, yourself…)
  • Write action plans for every single objective, identifying all little steps towards the attainment of your goal/objective (I am happy to share a template with you would like to see one)
  • Check-in with yourself at a regular basis and write down all the things that you did well and achieved in line with your action plan. I am sure that there are many; your brain needs to see that!
  • Stop judging yourself at a continuous basis, rather begin seeing the hurdles and “failures” as opportunities to grow.
  • Try smiling at yourself and liking yourself (if you don’t already do so) every day a little bit more. You deserve all your attention! and finally, remember:
  • We are all “imperfect” and that’s what makes us human!

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of the week! Jenny