April Article Highlights

I truly believe that readers are leaders and I do my best to keep up with the latest news, studies and blogs. My interests range from positive psychology, health research, business tips to general self-help advice.

I come across so many informative and interesting posts on social media and in my RSS reader. I share them on my own Twitter and Facebook pages and have also collected some of the best posts and given you short summaries of the articles in a monthly highlights post.

Research Finds Regular Exercise Helps Balance Work And Home Life

ExerciseNot only is exercise great for your physical and emotional health, but recent research shows how it can be healthy for your work and home life balance as well. Many would think that taking time to exercise would take up too much free time, and even take away from home life, but these results indicate otherwise.

This study was conducted by Russell Clayton of the University of Florida, who asked 476 working adults to fill out a survey. The survey asked questions about work and home obligations, and how they were balanced. “Individuals who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle the interaction of their work and home life and were less likely to be stressed at work,” said Clayton. Clayton believes that the correlation may stem from the approach that people who spend time working out on a regular basis have to their obligations.

It’s important to take the time out of your day to engage in physical exercise, even if you only have 15 minutes. If you’re struggling with balancing your home and work life, take a short amount of time to go for a run, or head to the gym. When you take care of yourself, you have more confidence in your ability to handle other things in your life.

Breathing In Vs. Spacing Out

Your ability to recognize what your mind is engaging with, and control that, is really a core strength.” Peter Malinowski

Dan Hurley of the New York Times wrote this insightful article around the concept and practices of meditation. The concept of meditation started two and a half millenniums ago with Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who meditated beneath a tree for forty-nine days, and from that he became the Buddha.  Today this practice is utilized by many different people, and in many different professions, including the USA Marines.

Amishi Jha, director of the University of Miami’s Contemplative Neuroscience, Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, travelled to Hawaii to train USA Marines in meditation practice. They found that with as little as 12 minutes of mediation practice a day it helped the Marines keep their attention and working memory. In fact studies have shown that 11 hours a week of mindfulness actually enhanced the integrity and efficiency of the brain’s white matter.

Despite all the wonderful benefits of mindfulness, there is a drawback.  It’s important to know that there are times mindfulness can actually hinder, not improve your mental ability; especially when you want to form new habits. In a study presented at the Society for Neurosciences, they found that the higher adults scored on measurement of mindfulness, the worse they performed on implicit learning. So, the challenge with mindfulness is to know when to utilize this powerful practice, and when to put it aside.

Tired of Spinning Your Wheels? Ten Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever

Susan Biali

Dr. Susan Biali

We all have dreams, some big and some small, and it’s what we do with those dreams that matter. Often times our dreams just stay dreams, and are never fulfilled. Dr. Susan Biali gives a comprehensive list of questions that if you answer honestly, can lead you to your best life imaginable, and help you fulfill your dreams.

All these questions are wonderful, and very insightful, but there are a few that stood out to me. The first is about relationships. Quite often we find ourselves in relationships that are not life giving, but are life draining. In order to live the life we dream of we need to spend time with people who add to our lives and not take from them.

The second question that I find important is about our self-image, and concept. Sometimes we can be the only thing holding ourselves back from our dreams, and goals. What we believe about ourselves dictates where we will go in life and who we will be. Take time to think deeply about who you are now, and who you want to be.

Dr. Biali writes, “I believe that God places our most heartfelt desires inside us because they are signposts to the life that we may be meant to live.” So, remember that those dreams and goals you have within you aren’t always meant to just stay dreams. Pursue them, believe in them, and make them a reality.

Positive Effects of “Placebo Sleep”

placebo sleepLack of sleep seems to be an epidemic nowadays, as everyone is loaded up on caffeine just to get through the day. In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers tested the effects of what they call “placebo sleep”.

In this study, subjects were first required to report how well they slept the night before, on a scale of 1-10. They were then told a series of lies about REM sleep, and were given a phony test to measure how much REM sleep they had gotten the night before. Some subjects were told they got less than average, while others were told they got more than average. The results were surprising, as those who were told they got a better sleep, scored higher on learning tests, while those who were told they got less than average sleep scored much lower.

The implications of this study show how important mindset is. While you should do your best to be well rested, don’t give up on a day because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

Is Your Brain Chemically Dependent On Stress?

We all live with the understanding that stress is bad for our health and needs to be limited. However, many of us thrive off of stress and can’t seem to avoid stressful situations. Lisa Evans gives a great review of Heidi Hanna’s consensus on stress, and how we may be addicted to it.

Heidi Hanna, the author of Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress, believes that too many demands in our lives have caused the neurochemical dependant on stress. In fact, she feels that stress has become a drug. The problem with stress being a drug is that we have no way of removing it from our lives.

Hanna believes that we need stress for stimulation and growth, but over long periods of time stress has serious health implications. In order to avoid these health implications caused by stress, and to utilize its benefits, Hannah feels we need to incorporate frequent breaks. These breaks can consist of short sessions of mindfulness, physical activity, and social connections. We also need to maintain resilience by getting regular sleep, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining our overall health.


How To Stick With Good Habits While Your Willpower Is Gone

Author James Clear, of Psychology Today, gives a new perspective on how your environment can strongly impact your choices. In fact, contrary to popular belief, he believes that the number one driver of better habits is not willpower, but your environment.

Clear’s beliefs are strongly based on studies that have been conducted on this matter. For example, Anne Thorndike, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, carried out a study on willpower vs. environment.  They projected that by changing the environment in a cafeteria, they could alter the eating habits of those who ate there. They added water bottles throughout the cafeteria, and made other healthy food options available. The results were profound, soda sales dropped, while water sales increased, and overall eating habits were healthier.

Clear also explains that motivation is a “finite resource”, and once it’s gone you’re more likely to make decisions based on your environment. So, if you’re looking to change your eating habits, try to use “choice architecture” to increase your chances of grabbing healthy food. Clear suggests putting healthier food at eye level, and making it much more accessible.

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