November officially begins the “season of giving,” when, out of habit or reminders we take time to write a check to our favorite charity, volunteer to serve meals at a local soup kitchen, or find some other way to give back to the community.
But here’s the thing.
Community needs are always there. January through December. Yep! And you know that good feeling you get when you contribute in some way? That can be yours – all year round.
It doesn’t need to take a lot of your time. And there are charitable organizations and volunteer opportunities to suit a variety of interests, talents and skill sets. Everything from spending an hour a week helping an adult learn to read to sharing your leadership or other skills a few hours a month on a nonprofit Board of Directors.
The choices are many and the benefits immense.
Here are just some of the benefits attributed to giving back.
It’s good for your health. Studies show that people who volunteer have better heart health (because they keep active) and are less likely to be depressed.
It’s an opportunity to leverage hidden talents. Frustrated at work because your talents are underutilized? Find an organization that needs your talent and volunteer. Community organizations are always looking for people with knowledge and talents they are willing to share.
It’s an opportunity to hone new skills. Looking for some leadership experience to take the next step in your career? Volunteer to head up your child’s PTA or lead a local beach clean-up project.
It expands your network. The face-to-face kind. How much in-person connecting are you doing vs. connecting online? Think about it. Step back from your computer and get out there and connect with people eyeball to eyeball! Yes, you’ll want to add them to your LinkedIn, but the best relationships start in person.
It reduces stress and increases happiness. Spending time helping others is a good way to turn your focus away from your own burdens. It can help you look at things with a new perspective, which can lead to increased happiness.
It may help you live longer. According to a report from the Mayo Clinic, “individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health. In addition, several studies have shown that volunteers with chronic or serious illness experience declines in pain intensity and depression when serving as peer volunteers for others also suffering from chronic pain.” Can we all say, Former President Jimmy Carter?
So now, what are you waiting for?
Till next time,
We all know that body language has a huge impact on our face-to-face communications. Our facial expressions, head nods, and body posture can influence whether the other person thinks we are sincere, are listening, and/or are telling the truth.
Generally, we think of body language, or nonverbals, in relation to how we communicate with others. But how does it impact our communication with ourselves? Does your body language make a difference in how you think and feel when you’re – in a group of strangers, feeling unprepared or unworthy in the face of a new challenge, or standing before a group of 200 people about to deliver an important presentation?
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, who teaches leadership at Harvard University, says it does. In her TEDTalk, “Your body language may shape who you are,” Cuddy describes how our bodies affect our thinking and our thinking affects our behaviors. If we adopt a “power pose” we are more likely to feel confident and capable, overcoming the anxiety that may be associated with a new or unfamiliar situation. She expands on this theme in her talk, and in her recently published book, Presence, with examples of her research and her personal story.
And…she shares how adopting a power pose for just two minutes can alter how you feel about yourself and how you approach a challenge.
Professor Cuddy describes the typical body postures of people who tend to feel powerful, either naturally, or in the moment. High power poses “are about expanding. You make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space.” She gives the example of athletes who win at competition – “When they cross the finish line and they’ve won…the arms go up in a V and their chin is slightly lifted.”
We all saw this recently in the iconic image of US Women’s Soccer Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe.
When we feel powerless, on the other hand, we do the opposite. In low power poses we close up. We make ourselves small. We adjust ourselves to get out of other people’s way. Visualize someone hunched over their desk, or sitting with their arms and legs crossed, or always moving to the back in group photos.
In one research study, Cuddy and her team found that when participants adopted a high-power pose for just two minutes their “confidence” hormone (testosterone) levels increased and their “anxiety” hormone (cortisol) levels decreased. It was the opposite for participants in the low power pose group.
So, the next time you’re anxious about a situation – an interview, first day on a new job, delivering an important presentation – try this: stand in front of a mirror and adopt a high-power pose, shoulders back, open stance, chin up. Hold that pose for two minutes.
And then, go get ‘em.
Till next time,
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,
In the current divisive and rather mean environment, I imagine many of you wake up wondering, “What is this world coming to?” I know I do. It would be so easy to just crawl under the covers with a good book and a powerful flashlight and wait until the world gets better. But then, I’ve never been one to just wait around for things to change. I think we each have a responsibility to make the change we want to see in the world – even if we can only make it one small step at a time.
I’d like to suggest that we start the change by committing to a random act of kindness every day. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be a kind word, a smile, opening a door, helping someone across the street.
“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” – Bob Kerrey
As much as it’s about the kind things you do and say, it’s also about NOT doing and saying the unkind things that may sometimes fight to be heard. The rant against someone who thinks differently than you; the angry email to a co-worker who let you down; the horn or (admit it) hand gesture in response to a careless driver; the snarky, anonymous comment on an online article. Pack those away in a “venting box” in favor of a kinder world.
Tomorrow, instead of waking up wondering what the world is coming to, wake up and ask yourself, “How can I be kinder today?” Then commit to looking for opportunities to show someone you care. Here are some ideas.
• Do a chore or run an errand for an elderly neighbor.
• Let people merge in front of you – even when they’re rude about it.
• Call your Mom.
• Say “please” and “thank you.” Always.
• Volunteer at a food kitchen.
• Smile and say “hello” to everyone you pass on the street.
• Buy breakfast or lunch for a homeless person.
• Donate to a food bank.
• Give a blanket or some warm clothes to those in need.
• Help a stranger.
You probably will find lots of opportunities, big and small, to be kind. I’d love to hear about your random acts of kindness and how they made you feel.
“Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead
Till next time,
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.
-Watch kids at play.
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,
Is it just me, or does rudeness seem to be on the rise?
You walk through an airport and it’s like “bumper-people” – people walking and talking on their phones and not paying attention to what’s in front of them. Or what about people who have a long (and loud) conversation on their phone without considering that maybe no one else really wants to hear it? Or when you’re in a restaurant with someone and throughout your conversation you can see that they have one eye tilting toward the mobile which they’ve left on the table top because they’re waiting for an “important call.” So what am I, chopped liver?
Seriously, people. Put the phone away. Talk softly. Look where you’re going.
And it’s not just phone etiquette. It’s common courtesy and respect for others that seem to be taking a back seat to some individuals’ needs to be first in line, to take all the credit for something (that they worked on with others) or to shape their environment so that it works best for them, regardless of the consequences or how it might impact others.
A while back I wrote a blog about “The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” (Leading by example. Ahem.) I’ve borrowed a few and added a few to create Karen’s Rules of Civility.
Smile – even at a stranger – you never know what amazing things may come of it.
Say “Please and Thank you.” Always.
Be accountable. Do what you say you’re going to do by when you say you’re going to do it.
Be on time. Being chronically late to meetings or events or dinner shows a lack of respect for others.
Remember, we’re all human; we have good days and bad days. Don’t glory in someone’s bad day.
Listen. Put down your cell phone and engage in conversation.
Be kind to one another. (Borrowed from Ellen DeGeneres).
Tell the truth. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Be curious. Never stop learning.
Forgive. Life is too short to hold a grudge.
It’s not rocket science. Set the example and hopefully others will follow.
You can hear more on this blog topic in my podcast, Rudeness is NOT a Core Competency. Let’s bring courtesy and kindness back!
Till next time,