Stress Spreads Like A Virus

Stress At Work

Outside of modern society, stress continues to be a useful tool for survival.  In small bursts, it allows the mind and body to quickly evaluate and evade the dangers of the natural world, such as falling tree branches, hungry lions and loud noises.  It’s easy to understand why one might assume that inside modern society, where those dangers are less present, that stress would be diminished.  Unfortunately, that is far from the truth.  Stress continues to rise at an alarming rate.  Rather than experiencing acute stress, as we would in nature, many of us experience chronic stress, which is jeopardizing the longterm health of modern populations around the world.

Today, teenagers report to be more stressed than their adult counterparts. That trend is only growing.  If this continues, future generations are looking at serious ramifications to their longterm health, such as a rise in cardiovascular diseases, cancer and highly weakened immune systems.

So how did we get here?

It turns out that we humans are both the problem and the solution.  Over time, we evolved to be empathetic creatures, highly attuned to the emotions of others.  When we see a person rushing through an office, or in a hurry to finish a task, that stress and anxiety is transferred onto us (e.g. “Second-Hand Stress“).  This cycle spreads like wildfire, eventually creating a booming stress culture, one where members who are not stressed are looked upon with suspicion, and those who are highly stressed are seen as productive and valuable.  The irony is that chronic stress actually reduces performance and productivity significantly, turning Mr. Busy into Mr. Inefficient.

The next time you’re in an office environment, or driving on the road, take a look around and observe the energy of the people around you.  Observe how that energy makes you feel in response.  And then be conscious of the energy you send off, even when you are stressed.  You could be unknowingly passing on Second-Hand Stress to your loved ones.

If you’re feeling stressed, try a quick breathing exercise or a 5 minute meditation before doing anything else.  There are stress management programs like bLife that help you measure stress, and provide useful tools to help you manage it.

The Role of Stress in Sneezing: New Study Links Stress to Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

AllergiesIt’s widely accepted that stress is the leading contributor of up to 60% of all known human illness and diseases– but new research suggests that even seasonal allergy symptoms can get an unwelcome boost from stress. According to researchers at Ohio State University, study participants who reported greater daily stress also reported worsening allergy symptoms in the days that followed.

“Stress can cause several negative effects on the body, including causing more symptoms for allergy sufferers,” says lead author of the new study, Dr. Amber Patterson. “Our study also found those with more frequent allergy flares also have a greater negative mood, which may be leading to these flares.”

The authors of the study concluded that allergy sufferers should reduce stress as much as possible, and recommended non-pharmaceutical techniques such as meditation and deep breathing to cope with stress and promote positivity, both of which appear to help alleviate symptoms.

Since chronic stress is proven to be at the root of disease and poor health, bLife is addressing the importance of a resilient mind with its holistic approach to mind fitness and wellness. In doing so, bLife is at the forefront of the mind fitness movement, as one of the first wellness technology companies to address the crucial mind-body feedback loop. Inspired by Elizabeth Blackburn’s breakthrough neurobiological research, bLife’s program can empower you to achieve optimal wellness with daily stress relief, meditation and positivity exercises, so you can reduce the impact of stress on your mind and body and reverse damage that has already been done.

Could stress be affecting your health? Click here to find out with our free assessment.

How to Perform in Life Like an Olympian

Post 22 olympicsThe 2014 Sochi Winter Games may have come and gone, but the inspiring performances of the athletes who broke records and defeated rivals will stick with us long after the torch goes out. You may have wondered to yourself as snowboarders flew down the mountain at seemingly impossible speeds, or ice skaters landed daring jumps, “How do they do that!?”

Learning how to stay motivated and positive during tough times, and overcoming emotional hurdles and distractions are skills that Olympic-level athletes have mastered through years of both physical and mental training. As the old sports adage goes, 90% of success in sports is mental, and athletes at all levels agree that it takes hard work to become mentally tough.

The great news is that each of us has the ability to make our minds stronger by investing some time and effort. So this week, we’re looking to some of our favorite athletes for new found inspiration on how we can live our best lives and perform at the highest level in everything we do – whether it’s being a better parent, partner, colleague or leader.

On Positivity: Keeping an optimistic attitude when the odds are against you can be tough. But try telling that to these gutsy Olympians. Olympic hurdler-turned-Bobsled runner, Lolo Jones uses this philosophy to stay positive: “I refuse to be deterred by failure. A failure today is not a failure if it leads to success tomorrow.” And paraplegic snowboarder Amy Purdy says it’s okay to have some negative thoughts every now and then. She suggests scheduling time each day to observe them instead of suppressing them. Then, afterward, decide to move forward. As she says, “”Never let defeat defeat you.”

On Focus: Many athletes use mind fitness techniques to cope with adversity and to get back on track when they lose their way. Says freestyle aerial skier Emily Cook: “We all deal with failures and setbacks and obstacles, but for me, it’s kind of under a microscope—I literally fall on my face. But in life there are many ways to fall on your face. You’ve got to just brush it off and try again.” She utilizes breathing and relaxation techniques to calm herself down and snap back into the present moment after a bad fall. And 2010 Olympic moguls skier Heather McPhie agrees that taking a moment to stop and listen to what your body is telling you is essential to staying focused: “During our last training camp, I took 10 minutes each day to center myself. I set a timer and did nothing. It helped me observe things, like tightness in my right shoulder that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.”

On Staying Motivated: Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter, a sports psychologist who works with a number of elite athletes, says that visualization can be used for any problem or goal you’d like to work on, and can help motivate you to be your best. To make it effective, she guides the athletes she works with to use all of their senses to experience the imagery as if it were real. In fact, Dr. Dahlkoetter says that one of the speed skaters she works with (who set a new record at the Olympic trials after practicing this technique), “feels her forefoot pushing off the track, she hears her skating splits, and she sees herself surging ahead of the competition. She experiences all of the elements of her race in explicit detail before executing her performance.”

Looking for more ideas on how to increase your performance in life? Click here to learn more about the mind fitness tools bLife has to help you get there.

(Photo Courtesy of Iurii Osadchi / Shutterstock.com)

Show Yourself Some Love

Vday2Each year on February 14th, we make it a point to show love and appreciation toward the ones we care about most. But this year, we think you should add an extra person to your Valentine’s Day list: YOU.

Women, in particular, tend to be much more compassionate towards others than themselves, and this lack of self-care can lead to unnecessary stress and stress-related health issues, such as premature aging and weight gain. Learning how to show self-compassion takes practice, but studies show it’s a more-than-worthy pursuit. According to experts such as Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion greatly improves your emotional well-being, increases happiness and productivity, reduces anxiety and depression, and can even help in maintaining that new health and fitness regimen you started in the New Year.

So what exactly is “self-compassion” and how can you cultivate it? Dr. Neff defines self-compassion as showing warmth and understanding toward ourselves when we experience pain or perceived failures. This requires us to take a new approach to our emotions and a have a willingness to observe negative thoughts as they occur without trying to suppress or judge them. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to cultivate self-love is with a daily mindfulness practice. Being mindful as you eat something delicious or as you take a nature walk is a great way to start your practice, but mindfulness meditation can be an especially helpful way to relax and let go of negativity when you become critical of decisions you’ve made or when you feel discouraged.

Here’s a simple breathing exercise from meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh, that you can do right now, wherever you are, to get into a more mindful, compassionate mindset. First, close your eyes, and inhale. As you breathe in, think to yourself: “this is my in-breath.” When you exhale, think: “this is my out-breath.” Repeat this exercise with several deep, slow breaths. Instead of forcing yourself to stop thinking about your mistakes in the past or problems in the future, this will help shift your mind’s focus toward your breathing. Be joyful as you celebrate your breath: it means you’re alive, and being alive means you have numerous opportunities to do great things in the future, despite the minor setbacks you might have experienced in the past.

The bLife mind fitness program makes it easy to show yourself love each day. Click here to learn more.

Creating an Armor of Optimism


As our earlier post mentions, cultivating optimism is an important practice that helps us create a healthy mind. The more optimistic we are about our lives, the more likely we are to manifest those good intentions into reality.  And as Coach Meg explains in the video above, cultivating optimism can also act as a sort of armor to protect ourselves against negative experiences that we may encounter.  She references research that shows we should aim for a ratio of 3 positive experiences for every 1 negative experience each day in order to create what she calls an “upward spiral.” By tracking this ratio each day and creating this upward spiral, we can ensure that we set ourselves on a continual path of happiness and well-being.

For help on learning how to cultivate optimism, take our free assessment and get a personalized program with specific positivity exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine.

TEDx Talk: The Science Behind Mind Fitness

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at TEDx Venice Beach about the growing mind fitness movement and the inspiration behind bLife. Below is the video of my talk about my personal journey as well as the science behind mind fitness.

As you travel along your own personal journey with the bLife program, we would love to hear about your experiences and get your feedback on the platform. Please email us at feedback@blife.com or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter. We look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,
Paul Campbell
Co-Founder and CEO, bLife, Inc.
paul@myblife.com

 

Getting Closer to Our Best Self

We’re on the verge of another new year already, and that means people of all ages are gearing up for improvements in every area of their lives – from finances to health to relationships. In reflecting on 2013, which area is most in need of love and attention in your own life?


In the short video above, Coach Meg Moore and Dr. Tali Sharot, bLife Scientific Advisors, provide an overview of how to cultivate positive emotions as a way to get closer to our best selves in 2014. When we’re afraid of the future and lose hope and optimism, it paralyzes us and keeps us from moving forward to reach our goals. Therefore, cultivating optimism is an essential new year’s resolution for everyone – not just because it creates happiness, but because science has proven it to be the foundation of every other area of our lives.

The good news is that it’s possible to create a more positive outlook with scientifically-proven visualization techniques. According to Sharot’s research, people who proactively imagine good events in their future show increased activity in the part of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is most notable for its role in regulating emotion and preventing depression with proper functioning. To get started now, close your eyes, and try visualizing yourself in the future at your personal best. Look ahead to the new year – what do you see? Perhaps it’s you spending quality time with dear friends, receiving a promotion at work, or completing a long-term project. Just visualizing this kind of future for yourself can shift your perspective, leading to more hope and optimism and increasing the likelihood that you’ll take the necessary steps to make it a reality.

Want to get closer to your best self in 2014? Click here to take our free 5-minute assessment to get started.

Savoring Each Moment

During the holidays, we can easily become overwhelmed by the chaos of traveling, shopping and family gatherings. But it’s important to slow down, and appreciate these moments and the treasured relationships with the people we love.



In the short video above, Coach Meg Moore, bLife Scientific Advisor, provides an overview of how to savor each moment – and turn it into a moment of appreciation – during the holidays this year.

Studies show that practicing gratitude by showing appreciation for the little things is especially good for kids. According to Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading scientific experts on the subject of gratitude, 10-19 year-olds have reported greater life satisfaction, and tend to feel more positive and more connected to their community when they express appreciation for the many gifts they’ve been given, whether it’s a helping hand, good health, athletic talent, or good grades.

Over the holiday break, get the whole family involved in creating a new habit of savoring these special moments.  Notice a small gesture – maybe a hug with a grandparent or older siblings baking together in the kitchen and capture it with your phone. Share your appreciation of that moment with friends and family using the hashtag #gratitude on Twitter or Instagram - or do a quick search for #gratitude for even more inspiration.

Looking for ways to practice gratitude in your everyday life? Check out the new bLife Mind Fitness program for customized tools and exercises designed by our experts.

 

 

 

Feeling Stressed? Gift Yourself a Good Night’s Sleep!

While stress is certainly not specific to the holiday season, it can definitely sneak up on you more than usual as you travel about town buying gifts and spreading holiday cheer in between meetings and recitals. With even more demands on our time during the shortest, darkest days of the year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and uneasy about getting everything done before going to sleep each night.

As noted in our earlier post about how stress affects sleep, research shows that just a few nights of poor sleep can lead to a significant increase in stress hormones, creating a cycle of insomnia and anxiety that can also lead, over time, to serious health problems, as shown in the infograph below.

But how can we build our resilience to stress as it continues to rise during the holidays? Some experts suggest taking a 15-minute break for yourself at least once a day to refresh your mind and restore calm. You could also try “Alternate Nostril Breathing,” which is said to “clear the channels” and help you feel more awake. To get started, sit in a comfortable, meditative pose and hold the right thumb over the right nostril. Inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue this pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril, and so on for several breaths. Gently focus on the ease of your breath as you do the exercise. *Note: If you start to feel dizzy or light-headed, discontinue the exercise.

Similarly, to maintain a healthy sleep habit (which will in turn improve the body’s ability to ward off stress) if you are traveling to different time zones to be with loved ones, be sure to do your regular bedtime ritual – wherever you are – to set the stage for calm, restorative sleep. This could include taking a bath or listening to relaxing music, and reducing the amount of ambient light before hitting the hay. And when it comes to indulging in holiday treats and sweets, remember that extra alcohol or sugar could interfere with your sleep and leave you feeling less-than-jolly in the morning.

For even more helpful, scientifically-proven tips on improving sleep and reducing stress, check out the new bLife mind fitness program here.

Blog-Post-2-Infograph-The-Vicious-Cycle-of-Stress-and-Insomnia2

This Holiday Season: Be Thankful

As the busy holiday season ramps up, and we rush around town to get all of the gifts on our list, it’s easy to lose sight of the real meaning of the holidays. So often, we forget to acknowledge all of the wonderful friends and family that surround us and to feel grateful for our health and happiness. But feeling gratitude sometimes takes practice – in fact, scientists actually recommend we participate in daily journaling of what we’re grateful for as a sort of “shortcut to emotional fitness” throughout the year. It’s important to make a regular habit out of stopping and taking note of our blessings.

In the short video above, Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas and Coach Meg Moore, bLife Scientific Advisors, provide a brief overview of how we can choose our thoughts and practice being positive each and every day. Coach Meg recommends making time to summarize in a daily journal the little “jewels in our day” that may otherwise go unappreciated or unnoticed, such as an opportunity to connect with a family member, or a kind act by someone in the community.

Click here to learn more about other positivity exercises from bLife.