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How To Start To Like People Again

Applying your new awareness in public settings like I described in my last blog can be a very eye-opening exercise. Here are a few more things to be aware of; Take note if you automatically avoid eye contact when in public. See if you do this in some places but not others. Try to get a sense of whether you are feeling vulnerable, insecure, guilty, or just unwanted. I have noticed how people do this when first walking through the door into my gym, but then they loosen up and start making some eye contact after they begin exercising. Maybe it’s the common goal they have there; it’s like they remind themselves, “It’s OK; I am expected to be here.” See if you can name what you are feeling at each place you go. Like the doctor’s office, store, bank, post office, gym, or theater.

You may notice that at place where you have to wait to be served, that you tend to see the others as obstacles because typically you have to wait for them to get done before you can be taken care of. Initially, we walk into a store and see how much time this will cost us before we even think about a price. On the opposite side, I have actually noticed slight feelings of guilt when I am in line somewhere and another has to wait for me. (But that could just be my Catholic school guilt; let me know if that happens to you.)

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Honestly Do You Even Like People?

Thousands of years ago, meeting new people could mean extreme danger. A new tribe showing up out of nowhere could mean a battle to the death. Very seldom did a new group of people show up just to say, “Wus Up?” If you did not overcome this built in shyness factor as a child you may still dread social events of any kind. After years of this you may have conjured up some pretty good reasons for avoiding the masses. “People are annoying, I will have nothing in common, all they do is talk about themselves, most are boring.” Start today being mindful when you enter a public setting. Notice, in the background of your mind, the quiet assumption that people are judging you, even at the supermarket. Almost everyone does this. It is why we walk into a store and avoid most eye contact—and is why they, too, assume we don’t want anything to do with them. Our way of protecting ourselves is to either ignore the faces in front of us or begin to judge them back.

Once you start to see just how often you avoid eye contact with strangers, you will spot these underlying tendencies. I am still taken back when I am in a store and I hear a kind voice from a stranger or get a kind look. It is there that I instantly feel my defenses come down and am aware of my own negativity churning away in the background. Have you ever noticed that sometimes even when walking into a family event, you feel a slight hesitation until you get that first hug? Then it’s like, “Well, at least one person is glad to see me.” Even at functions with acquaintances you can have that sense of being ten years old again about to walk by a group of kids you don’t know. Being comfortable with people is like being able to dance well. It brings confidence and a sense of security. It is never too late to build your social muscles.

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What Is Your Purpose?

The importance of having a purpose in life can’t be overstated, and for good reason. Like I said in chapter seven scientific studies have proven time and time again that the happiest people in the world are those who feel they have a purpose. We need to matter.

That purpose can involve the world, your town, your family, or any organization where you feel needed or counted on. When that wanes, even in the course of a day, it can leave you experiencing low-grade misery. To the degree that you feel you make a difference, you will feel good. Purpose is why humans are drawn to join clubs, groups, fraternities, sororities, and other organizations.

In the course of your day, the short-term purposes may be obvious; your lifelong purpose, however, can be more obscure. Yet when you know what yours is, it will be the reason you spring out of bed in the morning.

Many people have no idea what their purpose is, and tons of seminars are given every year to help them find it. Not knowing one’s purpose can trigger a midlife crisis and can be the reason for taking trips to go find oneself. We all seem to have this innate need to know that there is a reason—and a damn good one—for being on this earth. Often this issue raises its head only long after college, as in college goals have more to do with career choice and making money; much less consideration is given to the importance of making a difference.

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What’s So Great About NOW?

When beginning a mindless activity, pause and notice what your body feels like. If it is brimming with intensity, notice that just by taking a moment to focus on it, your body and mind will slow back down. If you continue to pause intermittently to take note of your body’s energies, you might be amazed at how fast the energy returns to a state of tension even after just one minute. If you are angry, you may feel empowered by this kind of energy. You may feel it will help you to finish your task more efficiently. It doesn’t, however, because the energy is there without a focused mind to make the most of it. Being still and breathing deeply will cause a physiological alteration that can bring a calm to almost any moment.

RULE: Be mindful when you are doing something mindless.

It is simply a matter of what you really want in life, how happy you want to be, and the commitment you want to make. As with sticking with the gym or a diet, you have to give it time to transcend into a lifestyle. This rule does not bend: joy can be experienced only in the present, not in the future or past. So if joy is what you really want in life, why go looking in places where it will never be found. Joy is a bit different than happiness or calm it is almost divine but it evolves from moments of calm and happiness.

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Where Did I Put My Keys….AGAIN???

About a decade ago, neuroscience began probing the cause of this excessive mind wandering, and it seems to be the default state the mind goes to whenever we lose interest in what we are doing or become tired. And now thanks to all of our modern marvels we now have the attention span of eight seconds, so now we are almost never here in the moment! The purpose of this wandering state seems to be so we can decide whether our reaction to our spouse this morning was warranted. However, this program is broken, so instead of thinking through the issues at hand and drawing helpful, insightful conclusions, we ruminate repeatedly over situations, conversations, and even a single sentence said to us ad nauseam.

This reptilian brain of yours, is the seat of your unconscious and can process more than 200,000 bits of info per second! That is a lot of processing power. So about every eight seconds, or whenever you get bored it takes over grabbing memories from your past, speculating on your future, and scanning your environment for danger, which could mean just a dirty look. This so constant that it becomes an energy you can actually feel in your physical body, like an undercurrent of anxiety or worry, even though you may not be aware of it. Being distracted by all this internal noise can result in your moving about restlessly, recklessly, dropping things, or even being a klutz. The most common symptom, though, is that it leaves you absentminded and forgetful.

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Try Something NEW and Get Out of That Rut!

If you want to make a change in your life,  at some point you actually have to do something not just contemplate it. But your amygdala will hit the sirens and warn you to stay put. It is how it kept you alive thousands of years ago, but in present day it is causing us to die of  boredom, monotony, and a lack of purpose. Ignore those fears that say, “Not now, I’ll do it later, I have too many other things on my plate, I have to think about it” That s all contrived crap we come up with because our brains are screaming, “STOP! DONT EVEN THINK OF TRYING SOMETHING NEW” and we have no idea why it is doing that. Start a new habit today to do one new thing a day and in 2 weeks you will unstoppable!

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Pillow Panic

Does this sound familiar?

Your head hits the pillow and you begin having a heated one-sided discussion with that coworker, child, or spouse, and although this is happening only in your head, you get as angry and upset as if it were happening in real life, with all the same harmful chemicals in play. (My personal favorite is rehashing a situation from childhood or with someone who isn’t even in my life anymore.) Talk about insane behavior! Over and over in your head, you will make your point, chasing some sort of elusive validation like a dog chasing his tail. Before you know it, you’re tossing and turning and can’t sleep.

For others, fears of your loved ones being in danger take over. If you are a parent you know this all too well and mothers are especially good at it. As we toss and turn witnessing this horror movie of our own making, we search for any reliable gut feeling or sense that we are correct in our fears. As if knowing something bad was coming would allow us to prevent it anyway.

Oh sure were their dangers at some point, yes but never affiliated with a particular night of tossing and turning. So after all the stress one day can hand you, you climb into bed exhausted and your brain hops back on the Worry-Go-Round.

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Why We Love to Bitch

Bosses often make the big mistake of allowing employees to feel that their jobs are not secure, assuming this insecurity will motivate them to work harder. When in fact, it makes them much less productive because they live in fear and crisis mode.

When uncertainty has you rattled, you may engage in any of the following behaviors to increase some brain chemicals, but the benefits are short-lived. If you complain to other coworkers about how bad your company or boss is, those who agree with you will make you feel safer and more connected because of serotonin and oxytocin. If you put the government or world leaders down, predicting doom and gloom, you make the world feel predictable, releasing some serotonin. Even making false predictions about the future will make you feel superior. If you like to get fired up and debate or argue about life events, you will release dopamine.

Misery doesn’t just love company; it needs it! It allows us to crawl on our knees, bleeding and bruised, side by side, and feel that it’s us against them…whoever “them” is at the time. Next time you are waiting in line in a public place, see how long it takes for someone to make eye contact with you and roll their eyes, as if to say, “Do you believe this?”Eventually someone else might either speak up with sarcasm or make some kind of disgruntled noise, and then for a moment or two you will all feel better.

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Do You Throw Tantrums?

A-Tan

When anger does overtake you, always remember that you are almost never upset for the reason you think you are. Only after you calm down will you see the truth, and it will almost always have its root in some kind of fear. I suggest to clients that when anger rises, they should stop and ask, “What am I afraid of right now?” Common fears are those of embarrassment, rejection, loss, and danger. Getting to that root will always put things in perspective.

When you get upset, your brain knows that you need something at that moment, so you may experience a hundred images in seconds, giving rise to anger, frustration, self-pity, and loneliness that support and validate your current belief about the situation. This can happen quickly especially when you are disappointed by someone close to you. The next time someone does something to upset you, see if you can spot how many “blaming” memories flood in to validate your outrage toward this person. You will have to be fast because the memories will be there in under a second yelling, “Pick me! Hey, over here! I can prove he did that on purpose. I can show you that she doesn’t really care.” Next thing you know, you become angrier at the person than the situation warrants, and when pressed for a reason, you will probably bark, “Because you always do this!” Your brain is programmed to ignore any information that would disprove your violated feelings. It does this to protect you.

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