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Laughter Really IS the Best Medicine

December 11th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

Charlie Chaplin once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” I couldn’t agree more. In this often oh-so-serious world, we need to find opportunities to take things (at the very least, ourselves) a little less seriously.  Laughter is good for the heart. It’s good for the head. It’s good for the soul.

Here’s what research tells us about laughter.

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh (I like to call it a “belly laugh”) relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

In addition to these physical and emotional benefits of laughter, there are also cognitive and social benefits.  Humor and laughter contribute to increased creativity, improved problem solving, enhanced memory and increased ability to deal with stress.  They also strengthen bonds with family and friends, increase attractiveness to others, and contribute to happier marriages and closer relationships.

And you might also be interested to know that while you are laughing you are burning calories! A researcher from Vanderbilt University conducted a small study in which he measured the amount of calories expended in laughing. It turned out that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories.

Perhaps the best testimony for laughing comes from those who have spent their lives helping us derive the benefits of a chuckle, a chortle, a guffaw, a giggle, a cackle, a crack up, a smile, and a big ol’ belly laugh.  Here’s what a few of them have said….

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle

“We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.” – Ellen DeGeneres

“If love is the treasure, laughter is the key.” Yakov Smirnoff

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” – Mark Twain

“If Heaven exists, to know that there’s laughter, that would be a great thing.” – Robin Williams

“A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it just destroys any kind of system of dividing people.” – John Cleese

“Live by this credo: have a little laugh at life and look around you for happiness instead of sadness. Laughter has always brought me out of unhappy situations.” – Red Skelton

Till next time…keep laughing,

Karen

Health, Life, Stress, wellness

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past year or so (and who would blame you?) you’ve probably felt the effects of the big black cloud of negativity that’s looming about. I see it hovering in the buildings of the organizations I work with, reflected in the grim expressions of people on the street, and bolstered by the politicians and pundits we hear every…single…day. Even Pollyanna might have difficulty finding something to be glad about today.

So what are we to do? Give in to the negativity? No! Despite what’s going on around you, you have a choice as to how you respond to it, just like in this Native American legend.

One evening an old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."

"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

I’m here to suggest that you feed the right wolf. Make a conscious effort to focus on the positive, and increase what Shirzad Chamine calls your “positive intelligence” (PQ). Not only will you be happier, you’ll improve your relationships, increase your success at work, and, let’s face it, be a lot more fun to be around!

Here are some ideas for feeding the right wolf.

-Think about one thing that is causing you a lot of stress. Now think of three ways you can turn that into an opportunity.
-Practice saying “Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…”
-Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down something positive about the day.
-Surround yourself with positive people.
-Turn off the news and turn on a comedy.
-Get away from your computer and go for a walk, a hike, a run or some other activity OUTSIDE.
-Play.
-Watch kids at play.
-Meditate.

And check out my latest podcast: Please and Thank You - words that are very easy to use.

Let’s make positivity (and politeness!) “trending…”

“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.” – Joyce Meyer

Till next time,
Karen

Kindness, Life, People, Stress, wellness

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Overextended? Try These Stress Busters!

April 16th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

Research shows that 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.  Additionally, 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and…(as if that is not enough) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a workplace hazard. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually! What is wrong with this picture???

We all know that a little stress is OK. It keeps our fight-or-flight juices working, and often helps us get the job done. And, we all know someone who lives by the motto: “I do my best work under pressure.”

However, too much stress can contribute to a laundry list of health issues, including headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, chest pain, and insomnia. Not to mention how being over-stressed (and no doubt cranky!) can impair relationships, decrease productivity, and increase the risk of accidents.

Having too much stress, or as we call it at Lumina Learning, being “overextended,” can even turn your positive qualities into negative ones. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended.  Someone who is typically creative and social, may become impulsive and over-emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Nice Guy turns into Attila the Hun, it’s time to get a handle on stress.

So…how do you do it? Start by taking some time to sit down and review your day, your week, your life. Where and when do you notice your body crying “uncle” via a headache, mood swing, or other physical signal? Can you identify particular responsibilities, activities, people that are stress triggers for you? Is it the unexpected that gets to you, the volume of work, the work itself, or the fact that you never seem to get a break?

Write your personal/professional stressors down and then select and prioritize three that you will work on to reduce. Do you need to have a “difficult conversation” with someone to resolve a lingering issue? Do you need to request more resources to meet a looming deadline you are worried about? Ask for what you need.

And, to get started on reducing your stress level in general, here are some stress busters for you.

Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you do not take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”

Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline, or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates or suggest alternative resources.

Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if necessary. Take a break.

Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.

Laugh. I can’t recommend this enough. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine!

“Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change…Life’s too short to be anything but happy.” – Unknown

Till next time,
Karen

 

 

Health, self-awareness, Stress, wellness

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Are You Leaving Vacation Days on the Table? Don’t!

September 18th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

karenblog1

I just got back from my annual two-week vacation at the Jersey Shore. It...was...wonderful! I love the work I do, and am so grateful to be able to do this work, and I was ready for some down time to feed my soul. I think we all need to get away once in a while to relax and refresh. Yet it's astounding how many people don't take that opportunity!

In fact, in 2016, more than half of American workers - 54% - left vacation days unused, according to a recent survey by Project: Time Off, who studies American vacation habits. This means that 662 million vacation days were left on the table, and since some of those days had to be forfeited (since they couldn’t be rolled over, banked or paid out) American workers gave up $66.4 billion in benefits in 2016. Seriously?

Here are some more startling facts from the Project: Time Off report.

-Unused vacation days cost the U.S. economy $236 billion in 2016, due to lost spending

-That spending would have supported 1.8 million American jobs, and generated $70 billion in additional income for American workers

-If the 54% of workers who left time unused took just one more day off, it would drive $33 billion in economic impact

So why are Americans so reluctant to take vacations? Some often-cited reasons (ahem, excuses) are: heavy workload, lack of money to “go anywhere” and the perception that people who take time off are less dedicated.

It may also stem from the fact that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not require its employers to offer their workers paid vacation time. In their report, No-Vacation Nation researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that:

-Nearly one-fourth of U.S. companies offer no paid time off

-Those companies that do offer an average of only 10 days vacation per year

Compare this to European countries where employers are required by law to offer at least 20 days per year. And they expect their employees to take it! In Austria, the typical employee gets 25 days annual leave plus 13 paid holidays. Now that’s a vacation!

It amazes me that so many people in the U.S. who DO have the opportunity to take time off don’t take it. Even those working for companies that have unlimited or more generous than average time off policies.

Back to that 54%. If you’re in that category, you are missing out on myriad benefits from getting away from the office. And I mean REALLY getting away. Not just moving your electronics to the beach! Research shows that time away from work:

-Improves overall health

-Increases creativity (New experiences! Different scenery!)

-Provides for quality time with family

-Ignites neural connections (increasing your brain power, and that’s got to be good!)

-Increases productivity upon return

So what are you waiting for? You still have plenty of time before the winter weather sets in, and popular vacation spots are less crowded in the fall. Even if you take a “staycation” (note: without electronics), you’ll feel better for it. Your family will feel better for it. And, yes, the company will survive while you’re gone.

Till next time,

Karen

Health, Jersey shore, Stress, wellness

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What Are You Doing This Summer?

June 15th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and, for many of us, the signal to start thinking about our annual vacation. Well, many of us have been thinking about it since January. Let’s be honest.

If you don’t already have something on the calendar, I encourage you to take a few minutes right now (well, after you finish reading this) and pencil in a week or two weeks or whatever your schedule allows. You need a break. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your employer.

Taking vacation has been shown to:
• Reduce stress
• Contribute to better physical and mental health
• Improve relationships

When companies encourage their employees to take vacation, they benefit through:
• Higher employee productivity
• Stronger workplace morale
• Greater retention
• Healthier employees

Whether you take an exotic vacation or a low-key “staycation,” get something on the calendar before the summer gets away from you!

Once you’ve scheduled your vacation, don’t stop there. I highly recommend that you pick a day this summer, and in fact, maybe once a month or once a quarter, that is just…for…you. One day that is your day to do whatever you want, except work! Go to a spa, take a hike, play a round of golf, or just sit by the ocean…whatever feeds your soul.

Just like you need to give your body a break from your workouts, you need to give your brain a break from your work. Thinking, managing your emotions, making decisions, creating new ideas, interacting with others, all require mental effort that can wear your brain out. You need to give it a rest.

In the words of Maya Angelou: “Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

Till next time,
Karen

Health, Relationships, Stress, Work-life balance

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Stressed? Time to Evaluate Priorities!

February 22nd, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and…(as if that is not enough) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a workplace hazard. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually!

We all know that a little stress is OK. It keeps our fight-or-flight juices working, and often helps us get the job done. How many times have you heard someone say, “I do my best work under stress.”

However, too much stress can contribute to a laundry list of health issues, including headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, chest pain, and insomnia. Not to mention how being over-stressed (and no doubt cranky!) can impair relationships, decrease productivity, and increase the risk of accidents. Having too much stress, or as we call it at Lumina Learning, being “overextended,” can even turn your positive qualities into negative ones. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social, may become impulsive and overly emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Nice Guy turns into Attila the Hun, it’s time to get a handle on stress.

That being said, the next question is, “so how do I do it?” Start by allocating some time to sit down and review your day, your week, your life. Where and when do you notice your body crying “uncle” via a headache, mood swing, or other physical signal? Can you identify particular responsibilities, activities, people that are stress triggers for you? Is it the unexpected that gets to you, the volume of work, the work itself, or the fact that you never seem to get a break? Write your personal/professional stressors down and then select and prioritize three that you will work on to mitigate. Do you need to have a “difficult conversation” with someone to work through a stressful relationship? Do you need to request more resources to meet a looming deadline you are worried about? Ask for what you need.

And to ease your stress in general, give yourself a break, and do these 5 things:

1. Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you don’t take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
2. Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline, or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates or suggest alternative resources.
3. Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if necessary. Take a break.
4. Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
5. Laugh. I can’t recommend this enough. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine.

Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change…Life’s too short to be anything but happy.” – Unknown

Till next time,

Karen

Behavioral assessments, Health, People, Stress

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