The Value of a Smile

Smiling is awesome.

CuteSmilingGirlIt can make us feel better, happier and more positive almost instantaneously. When we’re feeling down, even a forced smile in the mirror can lift our mood and help us feel more optimistic about life, even when we face challenges.

Most of us will smile when we make eye contact with someone smiling and know that if we smile at someone, even a stranger, very often they will smile back.

Why is that?

Charles Darwin, in his 1872 publication “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” was one of the first to propose that “the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.”

From research since that time, we have the facial feedback hypothesis which states that “facial movement can influence experience”. In other words, our facial expressions contribute to how we feel.

Zygomaticus_major_muscle

When we smile and flex the zygomatic major muscle (the one that raises the corners of the mouth when a person smiles) our brain thinks, “I must be happy.”

So, if your mood is neutral or worse, the facial feedback hypothesis says it will improve by simply smiling.

People who smile appear more likeable according to researchers at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland in 2011. Subjects were asked to rate smiling and attractiveness and both men and women were more attracted to images of people who made eye contact and smiled than those who did not.

 

Smilers tend to be more productive at work and make more money (for example, waitresses know they’ll receive better tips when they smile at their customers or even draw smiley faces on the bill!) Black-Smiley

Other Benefits of Smiling

smiling-man

Smiling releases the feel-good neurotransmitters, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin  that provide numerous health benefits, including:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Increased endurance
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced stress
  • Strengthened immune system

In a tense setting, smiling not only decreases your stress levels, it makes you more relaxed, allowing you to better collect your thoughts and make more informed decisions.It can also make you seem more trustworthy and competent and because smiling is contagious, when you smile others will likely smile too, making them more relaxed as well.

So smile more often, at yourself and at others. You can never know what is happening in other people’s lives, but some people feel very lonely and isolated so just smiling can make a huge difference in their day.

Be aware, however, that not everyone is capable of responding. Studies have shown that facial feedback appears to be processed differently by individuals in the autism spectrum. Anyone suffering facial paralysis does not have the ability to smile and unfortunately statistics show that these people suffer more from depression than the general populations.

So if you smile at someone and they don’t respond, don’t make judgements or be discouraged, keep smiling as you will always benefit yourself.

No smile is ever wasted.

Rabbit Smiling

How often do you think about your thoughts?

Everything we are, arises with our thoughts. Buddha is believed to have said this thousands of years ago, but it is not original, the concept is also found in the Bible, in Hindu sacred literature and is fundamental to most of the world’s religions.

The problem for most of us is that thoughts just come into our head without us doing anything to put them there in much the same way that our heart beats without us having to think about it. These are often referred to as automatic thoughts and a lot of the time they are negative, even though we don’t realise it, and we are thinking and worrying about things in the past or in the future, stressing out over things we have no control over and that may be highly unlikely to ever happen anyway. Sometimes, these thoughts in our mind seem to be going around and around to such an extent that we feel overwhelmed because we don’t know how to turn them off.

So, the important question really is “can we control our thoughts and focus only on the thoughts that we believe are important to us and let all the others go by?

The good news is that we can. William James, one of the founders of the philosophical school of pragmatism, said The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

Of course, although we have the ability to choose which thoughts to focus on, we have to train our mind to filter out probably 99% of our thoughts as they are not useful.

Thinking

Learning to Train Your Mind

A good way to start is to practice what has become known as mindfulness, the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment?—?and accepting it without judgement. Scientific studies of mindfulness have found it to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.

It’s become increasingly common for mindfulness meditation to be combined with psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioural therapy, which makes makes good sense, since meditation and this therapy share the common goal of helping people gain perspective on irrational, dysfunctional, and self-defeating thoughts.

There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, and a web search will bring up many options such as joining a yoga group or daily meditation. But if you want to get started on your own, here’s the method I learned about 15 years ago and it has worked well for me.

Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet place and relax your body

Woman Resting

Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.

 

Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus and become aware of sounds, sensations and the thoughts passing through your mind

Accept each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad. If your mind starts to race or to wander, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.

Once you learn to focus your thoughts this way, you can change negative thoughts to positive ones.

Perhaps you dread going to the dentist yet have an appointment coming up and your thought is “I have to go to the dentist”. Consider this thought and realise that when we say we “have to” do something we are dis-empowering ourselves, making ourselves the victim of what we must do. Experiment with using a different word, such as “I plan to go to the dentist” and repeat this new sentence a few times and see if you feel a subtle difference in your mind and body. Now, make another change to your sentences such as, “I choose to go to the dentist” and notice the difference you feel. Once again, change your sentence to something really positive like, “I really appreciate the benefits of going to the dentist and getting my teeth fixed up” and realise that it is true, you really do feel better after your dentist has finished working on your teeth.

Now that you understand the process, use it on other limiting thoughts you have, such as:

I don’t like meeting new people
I’m terrified of having to speak in public
I’ll never lose weight
I hate my job

You Are In Control

You Are In control of Your Life

With time and practice your thoughts will become more positive and more empowering. Unconscious thoughts will still occur naturally but it’s up to you to monitor them and control the quality of your thinking.

You are the master of your thoughts and the creator of your life. You are always in control even if you make poor choices!

Man can alter his life by altering his thinking”. ? William James

Control your thoughts and everything will be under your control.” ? Debasish Mridha

Two Small Sentences that Eased My Trepidation

When you need Encouragement

Trepidation-Uncertainty

 

I’ve just read Alex Mathers article “What I learned writing thirty self-development articles in thirty days”, and as a newbie on Medium with the goal of writing every day, I was encouraged by what he had to say.

 

Two sentences stood out for me; the first was:

Being OK

 

“We must be OK with the idea that some of our work will be ignored or disliked.”

This was timely advice for me because I’d been spending so much time on each article that it was turning into a real drag, instead of something I’d hoped to enjoy and be stimulated by. You’d think, being in my senior years now, that I’d have understood this concept pretty well by now and I do, in other areas of my life, but this is the first time I’ve really put my writing “out there” and so there’s this tendency to be self-conscious and want perfection (never achieved of course) but still aimed at.

Alex’s other sentence that jumped out at me was:

Show Up

Showing up will show the world you mean business, but it?—?more importantly?—?will show yourself what you are capable of.”

Now that was just what I wanted to hear; it doesn’t matter if anyone reads my stuff or not, I’m writing for myself and to see what happens. Self-growth of some kind must occur!

A Mother’s Expectations Causing Conflict

My mother was an intelligent woman and had been a bright student at school, good with language and with figures so one of her teachers was encouraging her to be an accountant or a teacher herself.

Now, this was back in 1938, a time when young women were expected to obey their father’s will and my grandfather had the usual belief of the time, that education was wasted on females. So much to her horror and despite many arguments and appeals, my poor mother was taken out of school at age 14 and put to work in a factory doing piecework (sewing cut-out fabric pieces to make garments).

We must understand the times, my grandfather was a caring person and didn’t do this to punish mum, but to give her what he thought was a good start in life by earning some money to fill her glory box. In those days it was up to young girls to get their household linen and clothing ready in anticipation of a married life; working families could not afford that expense on the pay that one man earned.

Mum had to make the best of it and she became a very skilled seamstress, but later when she married, she was very determined that ALL her children would get a good education. And so, we did, but unfortunately, we were pressured into the careers mum had wanted in her own youth.

Most of us had a different preference, I know my youngest sister wanted to stay on the farm, but “girls can’t be farmers” said our parents. When I left school, I had visions of working in the radio station in the technical area, (not an announcer) but mum vetoed that because it was shift-work and deemed not suitable for a girl my age (I was nearly 18 by then for goodness sake?—?what didn’t I fight harder?)

Mother-Daughter-Argument

Conflict in the form of rebellion or arguments from children in those days very often resulted in a lick of the strap, which was fairly effective in getting kids to toe the line, but I feel we were luckier than many of our friends in that we were listened to in family discussion time. Even so, we all felt it was more about making us understand why we were being pushed in certain directions as the pressure remained and we became a family of three long-term teachers and one short-term one, me.

It wasn’t a bad result for any of us really, just not our first choice but in later years mum admitted that the real truth behind these denials of our choices was in fact that mum wanted us all to have a tertiary education, what she’d longed for and been denied in her own youth.

Thank you, Mum.

Thank You

Having Fun With Powtoon

Create animated videos and presentations with Powtoon

It’s free and it’s awesome

PowToon is a company wthat sells cloud-based software for creating animated presentations and animated explainer videos.

It is easy to get going quickly and great fun. You can use it for free, just the videos have a “Created by Powtoon” outro on them, and the selection of themes and images is less than for paid versions, but there are still plenty to use to make a good video or presentation

edupowtoon

 

Edu Powtoon is really really cheap – from $1 per month for students, $2 a month for teachers and only $8 a month for a whole classroom! That is a really sweet deal.

 

Why not try it for yourself – start off free – it might be all you ever need.

https://www.powtoon.com/edu-home/

 

 

 

Here’s one I made during a Udemy course “Animation For Beginners: 5 Day Animation Challenge” taught by Anneke Camstra on Udemy https://www.udemy.com/animationchalle…


Here’s one I made for our wine saver promotion

 

How To Get Ideas For Blog Posts

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We all experience bloggers block from time to time, but don’t let it stop you from giving your subscribers the content they’ve been waiting for.

Here are 7 ideas that will help you come up with blog posts worth reading.

 1) Test or Review Something And Post Your Results

 If you’re really stuck for ideas, why not give yourself a challenge and post the results? For example, in the personal development niche this could mean making a gratitude list each day and writing about the effects. Or you could try a new fitness program and write about how you’re dealing with it. In most cases, readers in any niche love to read real life case studies!

 2) Google It!

 Why not Google the main topic of your blog and see what appears? You don’t want to copy any other blogs, of course, but one idea will often lead to another. Have a read around blogs in your niche – maybe even blogs outside of your niche – and see what they’re writing about. Either use this as inspiration for your own topics or write a direct response to what’s already out there.

3) Find Helpful or Interesting Videos & Share Them With Your Readers

 Why not get surfing YouTube and see if there’s an interesting video you can share with your subscribers? Embed the video into a post where you give your own personal comments. This is a super-fast way to come up with content that’s still interesting.

 4) Use What Happens In Your Daily Life As Inspiration

 You might not be writing a personal blog, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring personal experience into the posts you write. If you can relate personal experience to the topics you write about, then do so. Sometimes you have to get creative, but your blog posts will be more interesting as a result!

5) Ask Readers To Ask Questions

 What better way of coming up with content that your readers will enjoy than to invite them to ask questions? Write up a quick post one day asking them what they want to know, then post a follow up a few days later with all the answers. This last method is also an excellent way to connect with your audience.

0006_TRS_3DC6) Give Your Readers a Poll to Participate In.

Not everyone will ask questions, but if you give your readers a short, relevant poll to complete you can get some great feedback

7) Check Your Analytics to see what people are typing in their searches

 Checking your stats can leave you with a whole range of blog post ideas. Take a look at the keywords people are typing in to find your site. Chances are that some of the things they’re searching for aren’t on your blog yet. Why not use these keywords as ideas for future blog posts? You’ll also have the added benefit of knowing there’s a future audience for those posts!

Season’s Greetings to All

Xmas-bg-rot-crop49-sml

Best wishes to you all for the festive season and may 2013 bring you love, peace and happiness.

 I have talked about the delightful animated cards from Ojolie.com in  another post this month so I thought I would send one to you all to see why I find them so appealing. Here is my favorite for this year for you all to enjoy.

PAPERCUTPEACEONEARTH01P2

2-Minute Rule to Success

Life is a series of minutes. When a person looks at life in minutes versus hours, days, weeks, and years it is easier to make progress. As a society, we believe we must have large blocks of time to get anything done, yet, what is true is that finding things that can be done in two minutes actually is a very freeing activity; very empowering. 

So, what is the 2-Minute Rule? The 2-Minute Rule is a highly effective method that anyone can use anytime – anywhere.

The 2-Minute rule, in effect, is looking at things that can be done in two minutes. People have a tendency to let these two minute opportunities pass them by because they believe that two minutes are not enough time to get anything done.

Here's the challenge – look around when you have a two minutes as you are waiting to make a scheduled phone call, go pick the kids up from school, finishing cooking dinner – you get the idea – what do you see that you could do that would take only two minutes?

Tasks such as: sort the mail, unload the dishwasher, put a load of clothes in the washer, sweep the front porch, call the groomer for an appointment for your dogs, file, pay a bill or two, clean out a kitchen drawer, listen to a YouTube video on setting up a Twitter account, etc. You get the picture – right?

Getting in the habit of using this 2-Minute Rule is so empowering, energizing, and quickly and easily helps you become organized and productive. As you go through your day, ask yourself "is there anything I could do with this block of time"? If so, do it.

Sometimes the two minutes can become five minutes – that is okay. You can also set a timer if you only have a few minutes and do not want to forget to get on a scheduled call or pick up the kids from soccer practice.

The more you use this 2-Minute Rule (more or less), the more excited you will become about being more organized, having less clutter, having less distractions, etc. Our minds are always nagging us about things that need to get done, fretting about keys that are lost, worrying, and feeling guilty.

When you incorporate the 2-Minute Rule you will hear less mind chatter. People have a tendency to discount the power of this little 2-Minute Rule – believing that doing something for two minutes cannot possibly make a difference in their lives and how they feel. Word to the wise – "try it, you will like it."