Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain

Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain

Exposure to nonstop negativity actually impairs brain function. Here’s how to defend yourself.

baby crying



Do you hate it when people complain? It turns out there’s a good reason: Listening to too much complaining is bad for your brain in multiple ways, according to Trevor Blake, a serial entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life. In the book, he describes how neuroscientists have learned to measure brain activity when faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session.

“The brain works more like a muscle than we thought,” Blake says. “So if you’re pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you’re more likely to behave that way as well.”

Even worse, being exposed to too much complaining can actually make you dumb. Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity–including viewing such material on TV–actually peels away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus. “That’s the part of your brain you need for problem solving,” he says. “Basically, it turns your brain to mush.”

But if you’re running a company, don’t you need to hear about anything that may have gone wrong? “There’s a big difference between bringing your attention to something that’s awry and a complaint,” Blake says. “Typically, people who are complaining don’t want a solution; they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing. You can almost hear brains clink when six people get together and start saying, ‘Isn’t it terrible?’ This will damage your brain even if you’re just passively listening. And if you try to change their behavior, you’ll become the target of the complaint.”

So, how do you defend yourself and your brain from all the negativity? Blake recommends the following tactics:

1. Get some distance

“My father was a chain smoker,” Blake confides. “I tried to change his habit, but it’s not easy to do that.” Blake knew secondhand smoke could damage his own lungs as well. “My only recourse was to distance myself.”

You should look at complaining the same way, he says. “The approach I’ve always taken with complaining is to think of it as the same as passive smoking.” Your brain will thank you if you get yourself away from the complainer, if you can.

2. Ask the complainer to fix the problem

Sometimes getting distance isn’t an option. If you can’t easily walk away, a second strategy is to ask the complainer to fix the problem.

“Try to get the person who’s complaining to take responsibility for a solution,” Blake says. “I typically respond to a complaint with, ‘What are you going to do about it?'” Many complainers walk away huffily at that point, because he hasn’t given them what they wanted, Blake reports. But some may actually try to solve the problem.

3. Shields up!

When you’re trapped listening to a complaint, you can use mental techniques to block out the griping and save your neurons. Blake favors one used by the late Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros during a match against Jack Nicklaus–a match the crowd wanted Ballesteros to lose. “He was having difficulty handling the hostility of the crowd,” Blake says. “So he imagined a bell jar that no one could see descending from the sky to protect him.”

Major League Baseball pitchers can sometimes be seen mouthing “Shields on!” as they stride to the mound, he says. He adds that his own imaginary defense is “more like a Harry Potter invisibility cloak.”

A related strategy is to mentally retreat to your imagined favorite spot, someplace you’d go if you could wave a magic wand. “For me, it was a ribbon of beautiful white sugary sand that extended out in a horseshoe shape from a private island,” Blake says. “I would take myself to my private retreat while people were ranting and raving. I could smile at them and nod in all the right places and meanwhile take myself for a walk on my private beach.”

Blake first saw the picture of the island in a magazine, and the image stuck with him. Eventually, he got a chance to try it for real. “It turned out the island was for rent, and it was the same one I’d seen,” he says. “So I rented it for a week. And I got to take that walk.”



Monday, August 20th, 2012

Balancing the mind, body and soul

I’ve always been a big fan of aromatherapy to balance the mind, body and soul. Many times when motivation was flagging, unhappiness at work had set in, or stress threatened to overwhelm, I’ve relied on the healing power of nature and the scent of flowers to rejuvenate, restore and revitalize.

But not everyone feels this way! I was completely unprepared and totally thrown when, after producing a small bottle of lavender oil in a session with a very stressed client, she flung her arms in the air, drew a massive cross over her body and yelled at me, “Don’t bring your snake oil in here. This isn’t going to work! I don’t think we can work together”

I felt like a white witch and feared I may suddenly be hauled away and burnt at the stake…and all this over the essence of lavender!

I haven’t let the experience put me off but I am a bit more wary about who I say what to.

Aromatherapy for Emotional Well-being

Although aromatherapy should not be considered a miracle cure for serious emotional issues,  the proper use of essential oils can enhance your emotional outlook and provide support and help balance your emotions during the day.  The use of essential oils for emotional well being is what is often first thought of when someone thinks of the term “aromatherapy.”

How they work: Essential oils are comprised of naturally occurring chemicals that work in synergy with one another.  Because essential oils evaporate quickly (known as being “volatile”), their molecules are easily inhaled.  Without providing an intimidating lesson in olfaction (the science of the sense of smell), the inhalations of these naturally occurring synergistic chemicals provide triggers to our brain.  These triggers effect our emotions.  Inhalation of these wondrous molecules also provides physical benefits that can work together to aid in our emotional state.

For example, Lavender is a well known mildly analgesic, useful for healing headaches, wounds, calming the nerves, insomnia and mild depression. Rosemary on the other hand is a mild stimulant and is used to treat physical and mental fatigue, forgetfulness and respiratory problems among other ailments.

What I’m smelling right now!

Right now in my office I have the lovely smell of geranium simmering in my diffuser.

Known familiarly as the ‘flower of constancy’, Geranium helps to lift the spirits and helps to bring joy and happiness to one’s daily activity. I certainly feel happier today:)

Here are some of the benefits the beautiful flower of geranium can bring to your home, work and life:

Harmonic and balancing, Geranium can be used for spiritual practice and meditation as she assists one in connecting to the intuition and wisdom messages of the heart. This naturally leads to an increased capacity for intimate and open communication between body, mind, and spirit. Geranium essential oil has the quality of equalizing hormonal and emotional extremes.

Known for its support in releasing negative and dis-harmonious memories, Geranium eases nervous tension and stress and is balancing to the emotions, thus lifting the spirits, and fostering a sense of peace and well-being. Indicated for those who feel the downward spiral of depression and for those whose lives are ‘lacking color’, the essential oil is celebrated for its ability to lift worry and anxiety. This clearing and dispelling of stagnant energy can be helpful for those who need the motivation and strength to bring their visions and projects into manifestation. These properties make it an ideal essential oil for stress-related disorders such as headaches, stomach aches, and menstrual cramps.

As both a sedative and uplifting oil, Geranium’s action on the nervous system is pronounced. Similar to both Basil and Rosemary, Geranium is a stimulant of the adrenal cortex, whose hormones are essentially of a balancing nature. Consequently it is indicated when the hormonal system needs balancing. This harmonizing effect on the emotions assists in reducing mood swings, and is helpful in cases of PMS and menopausal discomfort.

Connected to the feminine influence of the planet Venus, Geranium has a dynamic flowing energy that helps to balance the water in the body. As a kidney tonic, Geranium assists with releasing fluid retention and in this way is useful for cellulite therapies. Additionally Geranium helps with estrogen production and relieves fluid retention that may occur in some women prior to their moon cycle. Geranium helps regulate estrogen production and relieves edema (fluid retention) that may occur in some women prior to their moon cycle. When used massaged into the breast tissue, it assists in reducing swelling and engorgement thus making it a good remedy for mastitis.

As well as having a balancing effect on the mind, this uplifting essential oil has a great all-over balancing property also extends to the skin, where it helps to create balance between oily and dry skin. An astringent that is not dying, Geranium is soothing to the mucus membranes of the skin. Balancing the sebum production (the fatty acid secretions in the sebaceous glands) of the skin, Geranium helps to cleanse the skin as well as to restore balance, tone, and suppleness.