“Every day,” a leader once noted, “I need to adjust my attitude.” That’s certainly true now.
In the midst of this turmoil, I’ve been thinking about bananas. It’s true, I like bananas, but mostly I’ve been thinking about Alfred Kahn, an economist, late 1970s, who after being scolded by the White House for using the term “depression,” substituted the word “banana.”
If Kahn were alive today, he’d say we haven’t seen a banana like this since 1918 (the Spanish flu).
If you google coronavirus, you’ll get 4.7 billion results. Banana, 7.6 million. What’s the right balance between . . .
1) worrying non-stop (coronavirus, coronavirus, coronavirus!!!)
2) living in denial (banana, banana, banana)
Here’s a simple suggestion for when NOT to think about pandemics (or other problems). It involves your mood.
Your mood varies during the day, and is influenced by your physical state, which you can check along two dimensions (source: Dr. Robert Thayer, author, “Calm Energy”).
1) Tired, and its opposite, energized, is one physical dimension and, if you had any energy, you could grab a pen and plot this on a vertical line (or Y axis), “Tired” on the bottom, “Energized” on top.
2) Tense vs. calm is the other physical dimension. It goes on an intersecting horizontal line (or X axis): “Tense” on the left, “Calm,” right.
Presto! You’re now looking at Dr. Thayer’s four combos, ranging from tense-tired (lower left) to calm-energy (upper right).
Our worst moods—and most negative thoughts—come from tense-tired, which is why problems that rattle you at night may look less frightening after sleep.
So give yourself a break: avoid reading, talking or, to the extent possible, even thinking about these things when tense-tired.
Our best moods come from calm-energy which, Dr. Thayer suggests, resembles what others call “flow,” or “being in the zone.”
Can you change your mood? Yes, and a lot of what we do every day is an attempt to self-regulate. But we often do that poorly, such as with bad food or substance abuse.
Dr. Thayer’s approach is primarily physical: a fast, 10-minute walk tops his list of mood-busters. You could walk, or just stand up and stretch, several times/day, whenever your mood drops.
And cognitive approaches—what we’re telling ourselves—work too. On your next short walk, try syncing your breath with a positive word or phrase.
For example, you might silently repeat, “breathing in, ENERGY; breathing out, CALM.” (The “breathing in, breathing out” phrasing comes from meditation teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.)
Experiment with different words. Probably not “pandemic.”
Tip: Can a brisk, 10-minute walk really change your mood? Let’s find out.
P.S. Better than a banana: Check out these 10 webinars e.g. Resilience @ Work; Your Point?; Presence; Bulletproof Feedback . . . To arrange a webinar, or get more info, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-879-0934.
P.P.S. Rather just read a book?
You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World, named one of the best biz books of the year by an obscure, but obviously brilliant, Canadian newspaper. Available in print, kindle, audio.
“Both practical and funny, it’s a great read for anyone who wants to have more impact at work. Hellman has mastered the art of communication, and he lets you in on the secrets. Highly recommended.”
—Tim Saeger, Executive Vice President and Chief R&D Officer, iRobot
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PAUL HELLMAN consults & speaks internationally on how to make your point—fast, focused, powerful.
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