Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Do You Honor Your Pinky?

Yesterday, Karla (my business partner and friend) and I were having lunch with Will Leamon from Universal Force Yoga on 24th street. We're hoping to plan an exciting event together.

While enjoying our salads, Will was sharing mudras with us to help wake us up (we both had late nights). What is a mudra?

From Wikipedia on Feb 22, 2010:
A mudrā en-us-mudra-2.ogg [muːˈdrɑː] (help·info) (Sanskrit: मुद्रा, lit. "seal") is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudrās involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. A mudrā is a spiritual gesture and an energetic seal of authenticity employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions and traditions of Dharma and Taoism.

In yoga, mudrās are used in conjuntion with pranayama (yogic breathing excercises), generally while seated in Vajrasana pose, to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of prana in the body.

A brain research paper published in the National Academy of Sciences in November 2009, demonstrated that hand gestures stimulate the same regions of the brain as language.[1]

The point: every little bone in your body is signficant. Even moving your pinky in a certain way can have power over your emotions and thoughts.

There is a LOT of knowledge out there I don't know. And I bet you don't know it all either. And I know that positive psychology is still figuring it out, too. How exciting.

Much love,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mindful Multi-tasking...Am I Brilliant or Kidding Myself?

I'm eating chocolate, doing laundry, facebooking, editing a paper, blogging, and watching the Olympics.

What does Positive Psychology say about multi-tasking?

Hmmm...I don't know. But let me talk about mindfulness.

If I am eating chocolate mindlessly yet am mindful that I am eating the chocolate in such a way, where am I? Let's see...

Mindfulness creates a space, a distance, between the “self” and the contents of one’s consciousness which includes thoughts, emotions, motives, one’s behavior, and the world (Maddux, 2009).

In this space, a flexibility imbues the individual, opening one up to novelty, sensitivity to context, and engagement with the present (Langer, 2009). Because we're open, mindfulness enables us to best deal with the inevitable uncertainties of life.

Still with me?

According to Barbara Fredrickson (2009), mindfulness is the gateway to optimism and positive emotion: “once you deliberately cultivate openness [via mindfulness], positivity follows automatically, along with its broaden-and-build entourage.”

Well, that's a plus! (pun intended).

Fredrickson further discusses how mindfulness is linked with resilience; because it is more grounded in the present, when mindful, an individual is less concerned or worried about the future. They don’t overgeneralize or overreact.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the first Western scientist to teach and apply Eastern mindfulness practices to his medical patients using a methodology called, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), discusses mindfulness as a non-judgmental attending to one’s inner experience with full awareness (Fredrickson, 2009).

For example, if one has a negative thought, in a mindful state, one can step back, accept the thought as just a thought, and not give into it.

AHA! This means I AM being mindful of my behavior right now and without slapping myself on the wrist, can step back and say, "enough, Stella, hide the chocolate!"

Here's where it gets interesting...

Over 25 years of studies reveal that mindfulness contributes to greater competence, health and longevity, positive affect, creativity, charisma, and reduced burnout (Langer, 1989, 1997).

In fact, mindfulness helps you experience less stress, less pain, reduced anxiety, clearer skin, and better immune functioning.

It's like vitamins, birth control pills, exercise, and pro-biotics all rolled into one!

Furthermore, it’s been proven that mindfulness training affects your brain; it reduces activity in circuits linked with negativity and increases activity in circuits linked with positivity (Fredrickson, 2009).

The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness, going on automatic pilot. Most of the time we are mindless (Langer, 2009). Langer describes that mindlessness occurs in two forms: 1)through repetition such as driving the same route home and 2) Through single exposure of information such as when we blindly accept information without questioning it when presented by “authority” figures. So beware!

What can you do to be more mindful?

1. Meditate! Not sure how? Listen to Gabrielle Bernstein's guided meditations on iTunes.

2. When in conversation with someone, LISTEN to what they're saying instead of thinking about you're going to say or planning your grocery list.

3. Doing "mindless" tasks? NEVER! Even simple things like LAUNDRY can be done mindfully. Pay attention to the task at hand. For example, consider how amazing it is that you just have to press a button and presto, your clothing gets washed. Pay attention to how deliciously warm your clothing feels when it comes out of the dryer. Be HERE.

And yes, it's probably best to not do your laundry, blog, watch the Olympics, eat chocolate, facebook, and write a paper at the same time.

More mindfully now, with love,


Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity. New York: Crown Publisher.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003), "Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future," Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 10:144-56.

Langer, E. (2009). Mindfulness Versus Positive Evaluation. In Lopez, J. & Snyder, C. R. (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 279-293). New York: Oxford University Press.

Maddux, J. E. (2009). Self-efficacy: The power of believing you can. In Snyder, C. R., & Lopez, S. J. (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, 2nd ed. (pp. 335-343). New York: Oxford University Press.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Stuff that Makes Me Cry

Living with meaning, meaning, being in service of something bigger than you, actually helps you live longer (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1986)!

Here are some fun facts about living a life that matters (Luks, 1988):
Two thirds of people who perform altruistic behaviors report actual physical effects:
50% report a “high” feeling
43% of people who helped reported feeling stronger and more energized
28% felt warm
22% felt calmer and less depressed
21% experienced greater self worth
13% experienced few aches and pains

This has HUGE impact on what we "prescribe" to make ourselves feel better. Instead of seeking support, perhaps we should be GIVING support.

When I see and live meaning in action I just want to cry. Here's a few accounts of what's made me cry recently:

1. GIVING: During Thanksgiving Day weekend I visited my grandparents and did some gentle exercises with them on the carpet. After wards I massaged my grandpas back and his ears. He smiled with such glee it made me want to cry. Later I was telling my classmates in Philly about how meaningful this was to me and I did cry.

2. A few weeks ago I received the BEST gift ever. My friends, Alina and Klim Kavall, bought me the domain and hooked it up so I didn't have to do a thing. They had no idea this was one of those annoying things that I kept pushing off on my to-do list. The unexpected kindness of this gesture made me tear. Seriously, this was better than diamonds.

3. Watching HBO's Documentary on Temple Grandin, the autistic woman who revolutionized slaughterhouses.
This movie made me sob. Watch it. I cried for her courage, her will, her overcoming, and her devotion to leave a meaningful mark on this world.

4. Being a part of one of best friend's wedding showers.
Experiencing the product of the magnificent effort her mom and maid of honor invested and watching it all come to fruition.

5. Feeling grateful for just how freaking fortunate I am to have such an amazing family, group of friends, job, roof over my head, food in my fridge, coat on my back, toothpaste, a beautiful body that works, heat, a computer, safety, and I can go on. (This isn't really about meaning, more about feeling gratitude acutely...but still makes the crying list.)

To finish off...

"If you pay attention to all that you have, you'll always find more. If you pay attention to what you don't have, you'll always find you don't have enough" (Unknown).

With my love,

Hendrick, C. & Hendrick, S. (1986). A theory and method of love. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 392-402.

Luks, A (1988, October). Helper’s high: Volunteering makes people feel good, physically and emotionally. and like “runner’s calm,” it’s probably good for your health. Psychology Today, 22(10), 34-42.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Happiness Project

I met Gretchen Rubin yesterday who many of you have heard of from the Today Show, Oprah and other great coverage. She's the hot lawyer turned enlightened happiness experimenter. She wrote a book called the Happiness Project. Gretchen is lovely. Honest, smart, and well-versed in all the latest research on happiness.

She's going to be in NYC next week and in Philly the following week. Definitely visit if you're around.

New York City – February 24, 2010
334 Amsterdam Avenue (76th Street)
7:30 pm
Tickets: call 646-505-5708

Philadelphia -- March 2, 2010
Joseph Fox Bookshop
Hyatt at The Bellevue 200 South Broad Street
7:00 pm

Much love,

My Version of Being a Rebel

Okay. I've had another streak of not writing. But that's okay. Everyday I come up with FAB blog ideas and I just haven't created the opportunity to write. But I'm actually proud of myself for that. Normally I'd be chewing myself a new one for not doing what I SHOULD be doing...but I say, go ahead, and feel what it's like to NOT be perfect. It's actually nice. A little messy, but nice.

Here's an account of what else I've NOT been doing that I normally would consider something that I SHOULD be doing. Note: this exercise is obviously for those who may index high on anal perfectionism, work way too hard, are too hard on themselves, and try to please everyone in the world. If you don't experience these challenges, this post may not be a thrill for you. But watch-out, this is Stella being bad.

1. Last week I sent out the Ladies Who Launch newsletter with a typo in the subject line. Hell, this blog probably has a bunch of typos in it, too. Someone wrote me an edgy note that they were not "impressed". That totally sucked and gnawed at me because typos are not professional. I sent her a note that I hope she had at least enjoyed the content (the content was pretty good). I did not apologize. I'm tired of f'in apologizing.

2. I handed my positive psychology homework in late and I did not feel bad about it. Now this is Stella getting real rebellious. Watch out. Normally I'd torture myself with caffeine and sugar to meet the deadline. This time I said, F it. I need to take care of myself. (Isn't that what this program is about anyway?). The feeling guilty alarm tried to go off, but I snoozed it. I did feel a little bad...but didn't dwell on it.

3. I dance like crazy for 15-20 minutes instead of working out.
Normally I'd be like "well, it's not a real workout." But instead, I just let myself do something I love that's fun, releasing, and silly. Sure, it's not making me an Olympian, but you should see me grind by myself at 8am in my pj's.

4. I'm not answering all of my e-mails.
I get so many. I'm so freakin busy. I know there is an effective way to manage them...I know there are time management tricks I can try. But for now, there are just some e-mails that are going to fall through the cracks. And I'm not going to feel bad about it dammmit!

5. I take cabs! There are definitely moments where it would make more sense to take the subway...but lately, I've just been indulging in some above ground action. It might take longer and cost more, but I deserve not to have to walk between Times Square and Port Authority (my favorite places in the world) in high heels and 3 million freakin bags.

Okay, so I know I'm a pathetic bad girl. But here's what I've learned by releasing the "shoulds," Jewish guilt, and Miss Perfect agenda.

1. I am perfect! Family and friends still love me. I'm still in business. And I still got an "A." It's not that I got away with being "bad." The lesson is that I'm NOT bad. I'm perfect even when I do things I think aren't. We're all perfect even when we're messing up.

2. Letting yourself get a little messy is fun and opens you up to "ohhhh, what else I can get away with?" This did not encourage me to do further damage of any sort, but rather, reminded me of how much control I have over my everyday experience and LIFE! What a concept.

3. Being bad is like chocolate (at least for me).
A little fix is healthy. But too much makes you sick. I've handed in all my assignments on time since my tardy episode.

Now it's your turn. For one day, don't SHOULD all over yourself and see what happens.

With my love and a little bad ass,