Institute Director Janice Marturano, Author at Institute for Mindful Leadership

Building Your Resilience in 2023 Begins with Sleep

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Building Your Resilience in 2023 Begins with Sleep

As you begin this new year, check in with your body and mind. Are you feeling centered and energized? Or, have you noticed that there is a pernicious weariness that accompanies you each day. You are not just a little sleepy, you are exhausted. It just doesn’t seem possible to fully recharge your batteries, or to ‘bounce back’ after a particularly busy period. If this feels true for you, you are not alone. Feeling exhausted, or losing your resilience, is one of the most common complaints I hear from the busy professionals who attend my workshops and retreats.

And what do you know about how you show up for your life when you aren’t feeling rested? Are you less patient? More likely to make a mistake? Less likely to embody compassion? You simply cannot live well when your body and mind are longing for rest. And when there are many days and weeks of feeling this exhaustion, it depletes your resilience. You are no longer capable of just bouncing back.

The ability to cultivate resilience is a multi-faceted practice, but it all begins with quality sleep. Over decades of working with professionals, I have found that the most common culprits interfering with your sleep can be significantly diminished if you are able to take 3 steps:

  1. Turn off all electronics at least one hour before you go to bed. The light from computers and phones stimulates the brain preventing it from beginning to relax and prepare for sleep.
  2. Leave all electronics outside the bedroom. Trying to sleep with your phone or laptop inches from your head sends the signal that the brain should stay on ‘high alert’ waiting for the next ding or notification icon. This is true even if it is turned off.
  3. When you are in bed, pay attention to the sensations of your breath. When your mind is pulled away from the breath and begins to go over your ‘to do’ list, or begins replaying a conversation, be consistent about letting it go for now, and returning your attention to your breath. Be patient with yourself but keep practicing in this way. You are training your mind to ease into sleep rather than worrying the night away.

These simple mindfulness steps are not easy. You may have conditioned yourself to be connected 24/7 but the toll on your brain and body is not sustainable, and the first place you may notice the effects is in poor sleep. Sleep is when you recharge so you can be at your best-your brain and your cells need this time to cultivate resilience and prepare you for the next day. Be patient with yourself and keep working on these steps until they become your nighttime regime.

Sweet dreams!

Are Peace And Joy Possible In The Midst Of Chaos? A Mindfulness Perspective

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The Power of Peace and Joy

The past few years have been a time of unprecedented turmoil, uncertainty, and fear. Never in our lifetimes have we been confronted by so many challenges at work, at home and in our communities. And yet, we are now embarking on the season that is traditionally spoken about as a time to embody peace and joy. Are these two states of being even possible amid such chaos? Let’s take a closer look at them.

A Closer Look at Peace

In the many years that I have been practicing mindful leadership, I have seen in myself and others that the single biggest barrier to embodying peace is to believe that it is conditioned on something happening or changing. ‘When I get that promotion, I will find peace’, ‘When I find my soulmate, I will find peace’, or ‘When everything goes back to normal, I will find peace’. True peace, however, is a state of being that originates within us. It is a willingness to turn toward and to be with things just as they are.

 

Peacefulness is a by-product of letting go of wanting to control or change the people or things around us. This is not about giving up or apathy. It is about letting go of the struggle to make the world conform to how we want it to be. When we let go in this way, we find the spaciousness to reflect on what is here, and then to make a conscious choice about the skillful next step. We are expanding our repertoire of how we meet the moments of our lives by seeing what is already here with greater clarity and compassion.

A Closer Look at Joy

In this season, the word ‘joy’ is splattered everywhere we look…greeting cards, store displays and town centers. But what does it really mean? Joy is different from happiness. Happiness is a triggered emotion. It most often is fleeting and arises in response to something external.

Joy, however, arises from an internal peacefulness with who you are, and how you choose to meet the world. Cultivating joy requires us to engage in quiet reflection, noticing our basic humanity and goodness, and it invites us to make wise and compassionate choices about our life, and the lives we influence. Joy is not fleeting; it is a state of being we can strengthen each day. How will you strengthen joy today? Can you engage in an act of self-compassion that recognizes your basic humanity and goodness?

 

As we near the closing of this difficult year, I wish for you, and those you love, a peaceful and joyous New Year.

Warm regards,

Janice

If You Don’t Know How to Set Boundaries, You’ll Lose More Than Just Sleep

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If it was nearly impossible to distinguish work time from personal time before the pandemic, now it truly seems like an unattainable dream. The demands of the new ways we are working, the pulls to care for family and ourselves, and our attempts to stay connected with friends can make the day and night seem like a blur of computer screens and smartphone notifications. Our body and mind begin to feel under siege and, without setting some boundaries, we can feel isolated, exhausted and overwhelmed.

In this complex, rapidly changing world, is it possible to really set some boundaries between work and non-work time? Can we find the courage to put down the demands and distractions so we can recharge and more fully inhabit our life? Before you believe that inner voice reactive answer: ‘there is no way I can change this chaos!’, try this simple experiment in mindful leadership:

1. Transitions between segments in your work schedule

Look for the natural breaks in your scheduled day and create an intentional boundary. Boundaries require intentional, disciplined choices. For example, your 10 am conference ends at 11 am. When you leave that meeting, take a few minutes to stand and stretch at your desk. Take a few deep breaths and exhale with a sigh each time. Invite your mind to let go of the interactions in that meeting and pay attention to how your body feels as you stand up and stretch. These few minutes belong to you. Use them to care for yourself and re-center your mind and body so it is ready for the next segment of your day.

A second example involves making the choice to really nourish yourself during the day. When it is time to have lunch, it is also time to transition away from work. Close the computer, put away your phone and walk mindfully to lunch. Feel your feet on the floor of the hallway and redirect your attention to those steps every time your mind begins to pull you back to work. If you are home with other family members, invite them to join you as you prepare lunch and connect with one another over a meal. If you are at work, invite a colleague to join you.

These short breaks are important ways to help you cultivate resiliency in a hectic schedule. Look for other mindful breaks that support you and make a conscious choice to integrate them into your schedule. For more ideas, see my article on Purposeful Pauses at work:

2. Transitions between tech time and no tech time

Although it may seem strange to even think about it, your smartphone and laptop have off switches. Choose to use them. At some point in your day, at least 1 hour before bed, and ideally more, turn them all off. And keep them out of your bedroom. If you have been relying on them to wake you up in the morning, consider investing in an alarm clock. Having tech right next your head while you are trying to sleep often interferes with deep, restorative sleep because a part of your brain is waiting for the technology to buzz. And a failure to get a good night’s sleep affects your physical and mental health. You are not only feeling tired, lack of high quality sleep affects, among other things, your immune system, memory and creativity.

You take great care to keep the technology recharged. Do the same for yourself by disconnecting from technology for set periods every day. This choice to create a boundary and leave tech behind for a while will allow you to connect to yourself, family, pets or friends. Trying to authentically connect with one eye on a screen is disrespectful and guaranteed to be noticed by others. Think about it, when you are speaking with someone and they keep glancing at their phones, how does it make you feel?

Create a ‘no tech zone’ for your house, and set aside ‘no tech hours’ for your entire family. You may soon find that tech connections are no substitute for human connections.

Bringing Mindfulness To Work In 5 Easy Steps With Purposeful Pauses

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Mindfulness training is about learning to be awake for the moments of your life. This sounds easy, but is it? For most of us, our daily lives are so jam-packed with meetings and constant distractions, that we are more often on auto-pilot than awake. We just put our heads down and plow through the day as best as we can.

 
 

When we begin mindfulness training, we usually learn to practice while sitting quietly. This is an important part of the training but it is not enough. We also need to learn to bring our training right into the midst of our day. And the good news is that you can explore this aspect of the training without adding anything on to your ‘to-do’ list. I call this part of the training Purposeful Pauses and it has been an integral part of the Institute for Mindful Leadership’s training for more than 15 years.

 

Purposeful Pauses invite you to notice what is here to be noticed when you intentionally bring your attention to a moment in your day. For example, you notice that you are drinking a cup of coffee-the warmth in your hand, the aroma, the taste on your tongue, etc. Your full attention is on the experience of drinking that cup of coffee. And, it is also about redirecting your attention when it takes off into the future or the past while you are taking a Purposeful Pause. For example, while you are paying attention to your coffee, you notice that your mind starts to worry about tomorrow’s presentation. In that moment when you realize you are no longer paying attention to the experience of drinking your coffee, you redirect your attention back to the taste of the coffee on your tongue, or the warmth of the cup, etc. A Purposeful Pause only takes a couple of minutes but it breaks the autopilot way of living and helps to train your mind to be focused. Each time you redirect your attention, you are building the ‘muscle’ that keeps you focused and present.

These mini-trainings are a continuation of the attention training you experience when you are practicing meditation on your cushion or in your chair. Purposeful Pauses allow you to turn off the autopilot and find some spaciousness in the day to make conscious choices…when you are awake, you are present for your life. When you need to make important choices, you want your full focus to be on the task at hand.

 

Here are a few other examples to get you started:

  1. Choose to start your day rather than letting the day start you-begin each day be noticing the sensations of the breath for a few breaths before jumping out of bed. What is your intention for the day?
  2. Use transitions wisely-choose to drive to and from work without listening to music or phone messages. Just drive-pay attention to what you see, hear, smell and touch. What do you notice about how you arrive?
  3. Nourish yourself-mindfully eat your lunch without looking at your computer screen or phone. How are you taking care of your body’s needs today?
  4. Just walk between meetings-no emails or texts. If you are telecommuting, use the time between meetings to take a few breaths, stand up and stretch or walk down your hallway. In just a few moments, you can let go of the last meeting and feel more centered and ready for the next meeting.
  5. As you turn off your computer for the day, ask yourself What Went Well? We have a tendency to focus on what didn’t go well so we need to be intentional about bringing our attention to what did go well.

After our workshops and retreats, our clients consistently tell us how bringing Purposeful Pauses into their lives makes an immediate difference in how they show up-for their colleagues and for their families. What other Purposeful Pauses can you find? Look closely, where would a break in your day serve you?

You Can Take 2 Simple Steps To Bring Gratitude Into Your Life

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This has been a difficult, stressful time for most of us – adults and children. It is easy to understand why the uncertainty and dangers we hear about each day generate feelings like fear, anxiety, frustration, isolation and sadness. And these are precisely the times when starting a daily practice of gratitude can make a big difference in our quality of life, and the peacefulness with which we meet each day. We begin by understanding the difference between gratitude and thankfulness.

 
 

Gratitude is not the same as thankfulness.

 

Gratitude does not come as a response to something you have been given or earned. That is “being thankful.” Gratitude is a much deeper way of living that comes from an awareness of being in the moment. For example, think of the millions of moments and people and circumstances that have come together for you to simply be here, right now, alive in this moment. Stop and consider this for a minute. Look back at this last year and recall a memorable moment. If just one event was slightly different, or one person made a different decision, or one storm had a different trajectory, how would that moment have changed?

 

And, of course, you can go back even further. What if one ancestor made a different choice, or was received by their new country in a different way? Or what if an illness or injury occurred?

It really is quite an amazing miracle that we are who we are, where we are, and doing what we are. Gratitude is the deep feeling we get when we acknowledge that things are pretty amazing, and in response, we choose to meet our life with an open-heartedness and presence that comes from that recognition. A formal gratitude practice helps us cultivate those qualities and pay attention to the many sources of joy and peacefulness that are all around us, even when the day is chaotic.

How do I begin a daily gratitude practice?

The practice steps below are simple and can be done individually or as a family:

  1. Choose a time each day to sit quietly and write down 3 things for which you are grateful. Whatever you notice that day is fine. There is only one rule-you cannot repeat anything. If you notice the beautiful fall leaves or the delicious crunch of a newly-picked apple today, you can not use them again tomorrow. Keep looking. How many days/months can you keep this up? If you are using this practice with your family, create a Family Gratitude Journal and leave it on the table. It may become a treasured keepsake over time!
  2. Pay close attention to your body sensations while you are writing. What are you noticing as you bring your moment to mind? Warmth, lightness, tingling, openness, softening etc.

After you have been practicing gratitude for a few weeks, what do you notice about the way you are meeting your life? Has it affected your choices? Thoughts? Emotions? How might gratitude change your community, organization or family?