The National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH) | Pioneers of Whole Health Education® and Whole Person Care
October 18, 2016

How To Stop Practicing Unhappiness

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD


You may think that the headline of this article is a joke–or that maybe it was written by mistake and it should be “How to Start Practicing Being Happy.” But in fact, the title is written correctly. Even though most of us would never intentionally set out to make ourselves unhappy, what we do often results in our being unhappy and also creates a habit or practice to keep us unhappy.

Unhappy Goals

To explain further, let us say that we have a goal to become as unhappy as we could possibly be. What would we have to do to create that outcome? We would need to spend our time focusing on the negative in life, and thinking lots of angry, stressful and frustrating thoughts. If we spent most of our conscious time thinking these unhappiness producing thoughts, we could successfully achieve our goal. Thinking unhappy thoughts or focusing on unhappy situations is what is necessary to feel or become unhappy.

We know this is how our feelings work because of the amazing new brain research that is being published every day on how our thoughts and feelings are connected to our state of wellbeing or unhappiness. We cannot get upset unless we are thinking angry, frustrated, fearful or negative thoughts, and these thoughts produce the same feelings.

The Science of Happiness

A Harvard Magazine article, The Science of Happiness,  discusses a course presented at Harvard by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., an associate of the Harvard psychology department, who teaches a course at Harvard University on Positive Psychology. This course is the single most popular course on campus and has a waiting list to get in. Ben-Shahar’s course offers his students an opportunity to look at and understand how we can create happiness or unhappiness through our thoughts, deeds and words.

Using Positing Psychology

Positive Psychology is a relatively new field of science begun by psychologist Martin Seligman, former President of the American Psychological Association, who has put forth the theory of “learned happiness” and how we can all learn to be happy by understanding how our thoughts and words create emotions and feelings that can make us feel happy or unhappy.

Try starting each day with a positive affirmation. It can be as simple as “Today I am going to feel happy…BECAUSE… I am looking forward to working on my project / am grateful for my family / because I am taking good care of myself – and so forth.

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October 11, 2016

Achieve Your Goals More Effortlessly

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

achieving-goalsWhether you are a student, business executive or homemaker, there is a well accepted (and extensively researched) principle that can help you achieve your goals more effortlessly. The Pareto principle is named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who made observations back in 1906, that 20% of any group, activity or effort results in an 80% outcome from that specific group or action.

This principle is also known as “The Law of the Vital Few”, the “80-20 Rule” and the “Principle of Factor Scarcity”. We can apply this 80-20 rule to just about anything. Take learning or studying as an example – 80% of academic success is created by 20% of your daily activity. The more we understand the most effective ways to apply 20% of our time to achieve 80% success, the less effort, stress and work are required.

Secrets Of High Achievers

The secret to high achievers’ time management is simple. They are always looking for ways to spend less time on “low payoff” activities and more time on “high payoff” activities. Limiting the use of the computer for social networking to free up more time to exercise, prepare healthy meals or study for example. Avoiding gossiping – a very low payoff activity – to allow more time for a quality activity or family time, can result in improved outcomes on many levels.

It is important to check in with ourselves daily, using any type of reminder technique to see if our activities are leading us to our main goals or if they wasting time that we could be using more productively. While leisure is an important part of our health and wellness, using time unproductively or in ways that distract us from achieving our goals is quite the opposite. Productive use of time leads to a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, whereas when we waste our time doing “low payoff” activities this can lead to feeling a lack of fulfillment or productivity.

Here are some simple guidelines to help you be more productive in less time:

> Have a “to do list” written down and refer to it often, checking off tasks as you complete them. Do not use a “mental check list” as this is a sure fire way for things to fall through the cracks.

> Do not multi-task. Our brains are designed to accomplish one task at a time. When we multi-task we do several things at once, but none of them optimally.

>Slow down – going too fast with any activity not only lessens the effectiveness of the outcome but it also diminishes our ability to have enjoyment from that activity. Slowing down means more enjoyment – and much less stress!

>Be sure to get enough sleep – our nervous system and brain need to rest and rejuvenate for us to perform at our best. If you cannot get enough sleep because of work or study demands, then be sure to nap during the day. A “power nap” is just that – a short rest to restore your mental and physical power.

> Learn to say no to things that take away time and energy from the things that produce your “high payoff” activities. While it may be enjoyable to do something unexpected, it can also lead to not doing the activities necessary to achieve your goals.

With daily effort and focus we can all learn to use our time more effectively and achieve the goals and outcomes we envision for ourselves.

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October 7, 2016

A Compassionate View of Eating Disorders: Adaptive Eating Strategies

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

It is easy to look at someone with an eating disorder and think that there is something “wrong” with them, but an informative and compassionate look at eating disorders, including obesity and binging, would reveal that eating disorders are one of many adaptive strategies which all of us use in some form or another.

Adaptive Strategy

In the case of someone with an eating disorder, their adaptive strategy attempts to eliminate the experience of emotional vulnerability through exerting control over the important, critical function of bodily nourishment. In the text, Emerging Theories in Health Promotion Practice and Research, by Ralph J. DiClemente, Richard A. Crosby, and Michelle C. Kegler, this subject is brought to light.

On page 105 of this impressive text, the book states: “The apparent fundamental nature of our motivation to feel good about ourselves [and exert control over our lives] underscores the importance, when necessary, of identifying adaptive strategies for fulfilling this need…”

This statement identifies the very human motivation and apparent need to feel good and exert control over our lives. Avoiding feelings of despair, depression, hopelessness or anxiety is a major motivation in our choice of adaptive strategies.

Feel Good Carbohydrates

Studies have shown processed carbohydrate ingestion to produce increased levels of serotonin, a “feel good” neurotransmitter that soothes our emotional feelings of depression, anxiety, despair and hopelessness. This translates to the possibility of eating disorders being an adaptive strategy that the body would be drawn to in an attempt to address our distress.

This can easily be seen with overeating and binge eating. By ingesting large amounts of food, the body can “fill up” to feel nourished and fortified. Often having a fuller, heavier body can provide a feeling of strength and insulation from vulnerability.

Understanding Feelings of Fulfillment

Eating disorders are dangerous and potentially fatal, but understanding the disorder can be powerful and healing. It is part of our human creativity to fulfill a need we all have to feel good and in control of our lives, and move away from pain and emotional hunger towards experiencing feelings of fulfillment. Eating disorders can represent a metaphor of this need for fulfillment and should be compassionately recognized not as something strange or wrong, but as a coping method for our common, and very human, motivations and imperatives.

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