As I’ve been writing about the past couple of weeks, the allostatic load of the extraordinarily stressful period we’re living, working and leading through demands that we be more mindful about the routines that can help us be both effective and healthy. I’ve already written about physical and mental routines. This week, I want to talk about relational routines; the ones that address our basic need for love and belonging and that also help keep us alive.

From a purely utilitarian standpoint, it’s fairly obvious that if you want to get positive results over the long-run, you need to invest in positive relationships. They’re essential to getting things done. From a humanistic standpoint, positive relationships make life more fun, strengthen your immune system (kind of important during a global pandemic), and increase your life expectancy by reducing the likelihood of heart disease, cancer, strokes and Alzheimer’s. As this article that summarizes the ground breaking research of UCLA professor Steve Cole states, “our bodies see loneliness as a mortal threat.” From an evolutionary standpoint, we’re wired to intuit loneliness and isolation as a threat to our survival because it’s easier for a group to fend off a saber tooth tiger than it is for an individual. The sense of isolation that working from home can bring prompts us to seek out connection with others. That’s why you’ve been doing all of those virtual happy hours and meet-ups. That’s a good thing because it’s helping you get out of the chronic state of fight or flight that both reduces your performance and your health and well-being.

As many of us will continue to work from home and maintain physical distance for the foreseeable future, here are a few things to consider incorporating into your virtual relationships as well the ones you have with the people you live with.

Include Transformational Listening In Your Mix – As I wrote about in my book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, there are three basic kinds of listening – transient, transactional and transformational. As the accompanying chart makes clear, all of us engage in transient listening where we’re so distracted with our own agenda and thoughts that we don’t actually listen. Transactional listening is focused on solving a problem or identifying a next step and is much higher value-added. We’re all seeing and doing a lot of that on work-related Zooms but if we stop at transactional listening, we miss out on the opportunities for deeper relationships. That’s where transformational listening comes in – listening with no other purpose than to connect and learn more about the other person or people. Open-ended questions that spark warm memories, a sense of fun, reflections on gratitude or hope for the future are a great way to set up transformational conversations. This blog post I wrote a few years ago has a list of those kinds of questions. Why not ask one or two of those in your next team Zoom meeting or casual conversation with a friend or family member?

Three Styles of Listening, The Eblin Group

Make the Time and Take the Time – Do your best to pay attention to how you’re allocating your conversational time. What percentage of it is focused on more transactional conversations? If more than 80 percent are focused on human “do-ings”, make and take some regular time to focus on the human beings through transformational conversations.

Variety is the Spice of Life – Routines and patterns are useful in life because they help us get things done without having to start from scratch every time we do them. The weekly staff meeting, the rotation of shirts you’re wearing on Zoom and the walk you go on after lunch are all examples of routines that are helpful until they’re not. They’re not when they get you into a rut of not noticing when you’re repeating yourself without looking for opportunities for deeper connection with colleagues, friends and family. Variety is the spice of life. Spark new connections by changing up your meetings and routines and inviting others into a different mix that brings fresh energy by shaking things up. A little creativity in a pandemic never hurt anyone!

Strong, healthy relationships are vital to both productivity and health and well-being. What have you been doing to deepen yours during the pandemic?

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As I write this, most of us in the United States are marking
one month of stay at home and work from home orders to mitigate the public
health impacts of the coronavirus. Those of us who are working from home
recognize it’s a privilege to do so and have enormous gratitude and admiration
for the health care workers, grocery store clerks, delivery people, first
responders and so many others who are going to work so the rest of us can stay

That said, staying home and working from home can present
some unexpected challenges. The biggest one that I’m noticing in talking with
my clients and observing myself is that many of us are actually putting in more
hours working from home than we did pre-pandemic. That’s not at all what I
expected when we started this new phase a month ago. In the early days of WFH,
my expectation for my clients was since their commuting time was going to shrink from
“home to office” to “bedroom to den,” they would suddenly
have way more time available to them during the day than they did at the end of

Initially, I thought, “Great, everyone will have more
time to sleep and work out.” What’s happening instead for most people I
talk with is that they’re spending that found time on more Zoom meetings. Then
things get compounded by the fact that a day of Zoom after Zoom means you’re
sitting at your desk even more than usual. Before you know it, it’s dinner time
and you haven’t done anything in terms of physical, mental, relational or
spiritual routines that help you be at your best for yourself, your family,
team, colleagues, customers, etc. You’re sitting more than you’re used to
because all of your meetings are in front of a screen and there’s no conference
room down the hall that you have to get up and walk to. You’re not going out
for lunch or coffee since you’re doing your meet-ups virtually from home. As
one client pointed out to me last week, your brain is becoming rewired from the
lack of fresh visual input when you drive back and forth to work. The days run
together because they all feel exactly the same. As I wrote to a client in an
email this morning, “Happy Monday – second verse, same as the first.”

So, what can we all do about this? As it happens, this is
also the period that in normal times a lot of people would be taking Spring
Break trips with their families. One of my CEO clients reminded me of that when
we talked last week. He, his leadership team and everyone else in their
financial services company have been working overtime these past four weeks to
take care of their customers and each other. He told me that he asked his
leaders to pick a weekday or two in the next couple of weeks to go offline for
a mini, stay-at-home Spring Break to renew and refresh the health and
well-being of themselves and their families.

That’s good advice for all of us. Just because you’re working
from home doesn’t mean you don’t need a little Spring Break time away from the WFH
routine. And, when you’re working that routine, make sure to schedule little
breaks throughout the day that get you out of your seat and away from the

In following my own advice, I took an extended nature walk
today and found the guy in the accompanying photo along the way. It brings me a
small sense of peace to consider that this bird has no idea there’s a pandemic
going on. It’s just another day in the pond for him.

So, this would normally be the point in the post where I’d
give you a little list of things to do to take a break. I’m not going to do
that this time. You know what to do. Please do it. Take care of yourself and
stay healthy – physically, mentally, relationally and spiritually.

Please share what you’re doing to take care of yourself during the pandemic. We’ll all benefit from the collective wisdom.

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For many professionals, a key aspect of a successful career lies in giving back to a community that once helped them to grow as people. Whether it’s to improve our health, to make a difference in the lives of our friends and neighbours, or to form new relationships, giving back can become the cornerstone on which a successful life is built. So, why is giving back to the community important, and what drives so many successful people to give back in such big ways?

Here are just a few reasons why helping others enables us to help ourselves, and why that might just be the biggest reward of all:
1. It Contributes to Our Sense of Well-Being

Although it may not seem obvious at the time, it’s a major truth in life that when we’re helping others, we’re also contributing to our own health and sense of well-being, mentally and physically.

Numerous studies have shown that acts of giving are linked to increased mental health in an individual. As many have said, being generous is not just about making others feel good, it’s mostly about feeling good about what we have done to others. After the act of giving, our brain will release happiness chemicals like dopamine throughout the body, aiding your sense of inner peace.

Studies have also shown that activities such as volunteering can boost self-esteem. In addition, charitable activities may even be good for maintaining a healthy heart, which is a benefit that can have a major impact on our overall health and quality of life.

Maintaining our own sense of well-being is just one component of the importance of giving back to the community, and for many people, a healthy lifestyle often begins with helping others.

2. It Adds Balance to Our Lives

When we give back to our communities and to the world at large, we’re often coming full circle on a cycle that has helped us on our own paths to success. For example, if your life was ever improved because of the kind words and support of a teacher or coach, or if you’ve ever relied on public education to learn new concepts, you may feel that giving back can simply mean providing others in our community with the same opportunities that you’ve been afforded.

The small things matter too. Even the purchase of a locally-made loaf of bread can mean participating in a system where people work hard to help one another; to wit, farmers, truck-drivers, store owners, and many other people all work hard so that we can eat a good meal. So when we give back, we’re really building on the larger whole that helps everyone in society reach their potential.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

3. It Expands Our Skills and Experience

When giving back to our community, we’re also often able to expand our skill set and develop new experiences that will aid us in the long run. Often, helping out in the community means developing strong organizational skills and communicating with a wide variety of people to accomplish a task.

That can mean that we’ll come away from the experience knowing more about problem-solving and effective leadership, two qualities that can contribute enormously to a successful life. Moreover, the knowledge that we’ve made a difference in the lives of others can provide a confidence-boost like no other!

It Strengthens Our Networks and Helps Build New Relationships

When we’re helping out in our communities, chances are good that we’ll also be meeting local leaders and expanding our network of friends and colleagues. When we’re meeting like-minded individuals, we’ll be improving our lives in the bargain.

Meeting new people and expanding our network not only benefits our professional life, but it can also improve our health and help us build a solid sense of self-confidence and self-worth.

When we’re surrounded by people with a commitment to helping others, we may also find that we hold ourselves to higher expectations and that the goodwill and positive attitude of people committed to charitable causes improve our mood and self-image.

Networking with other community leaders can also be a form of marketing that shows the true worth of our services or products. When people realize that we’re committed to improving the lives of others, it will speak volumes about the products or services that we’ve worked hard to develop. After all, charitable work gives us the opportunity to be the best representatives of our business and show others what our values and passions are all about.

“Instead of better glasses, your network gives you better eyes.” – Ronald Burt

4. It Increases a Sense of Purpose

The act of giving or the act of kindness can help an individual to gain (or regain) a sense of purpose in life. Just as success becomes easier to achieve when we build on the motivation to overcome obstacles and persevere in face of setbacks.

It’s also true that from time to time we must also strengthen and recommit to our sense of purpose by learning and connecting to the lives of others, so it’s easier to keep ourselves motivated.

Fulfilment from giving will also bring us joy, and no challenge will seem too great because the pathway to further success will become clearer. That is the development of a resilient and successful mindset done right!

These are just a few reasons why giving back is important to leading a healthy life and in finding the passion that will take our work from good to great. With the right attitude and a bit of effort, we can be sure that our contributions to our community can make a difference in the lives of others and help us live healthier, more fulfilling lives.

At the end of the day, the chance to give back to our communities may be one of the most rewarding aspects of a life well-lived. Remember, enjoy the journey, and you just may happen upon a truly life-changing experience in the bargain!

What do you do to give back to your community? Share with us below!

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Unless you’ve been living on a remote tropical island (and during recent turbulent times you may have been tempted to escape there), you have seen the growing evidence about the huge positive impact gratitude has on your health. As little as five minutes a day of focused gratitude, the no-cost quality of life booster, contributes to impressive improvements not only in emotional health, but also in physical, social, and spiritual health.

Some may ask, “what is gratitude?” Gratitude is a different emotion from happiness because it is most often a reaction to another individual’s generosity. The trigger, according to science, is to receive a message from someone else, interpret it as beneficial to yourself, and experience thankfulness.

Repeatedly, studies have shown that performing simple gratitude exercises, like keeping a gratitude diary or writing letters of thanks, can produce a range of impressive health benefits that often continue well after the expressions of gratitude are finished.

Ready to boost all your dimensions with some thank you’s? Here are 6 positive side effects of being grateful:
1. Physical Benefits

People who experience and express gratitude report feeling healthier than other people and report fewer aches and pains. This positive attitude creates a generous snowball of good health since thankful people are also more likely to exercise more often and visit their doctor regularly, which is likely to contribute to further longevity. The health benefits of a daily gratitude journal have been proven to decrease depression and anxiety, as well as improve cardiovascular function in heart patients.

A free health booster for us all? Grab a pen before bed and spend a mere 15 minutes jotting down what you are grateful for that day, and odds are you will sleep better and longer. That increases not only your quality but also potentially the quantity of your life.

2. Adds To Your Emotional Bank Account Balance

The math of your emotional bank account is pretty simple: positive emotions contribute, negative emotions withdraw. More positive + less negative = Higher emotional balance. Research shows that when it comes to your emotional bank account, gratitude is like a generous grandma who just can’t stop giving, and defends her sweet one against all negative withdrawals.

The simple act of writing a thank-you note to someone who has blessed you produces profound good feelings, empathy, and optimism. Remembering the moment that inspired the thank you card, in turn, produces even more positive emotions, a sort of cascading happiness effect.

Not only does gratitude increase well-being and happiness, it also shuts down emotional withdrawals by decreasing toxic emotions such as envy, resentment, frustration, guilt, and regret. No wonder small daily deposits of gratitude can have a compounding effect on your emotional bank account. So, go write grandma that thank you note you’ve been meaning to send. She’s earned your interest!

“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” – Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

3. Builds Stronger Relationships

Grateful people appear warm and responsive, which increases their trust in others and influences them to approach and bond with their benefactors. Researchers refer to this as the “broaden-and-build theory” of positive emotions, where positive feelings encourage us to seek out new experiences, people, and activities. This comfort zone expansion increases the odds of finding high-quality relationship partners.

Expressions of thanks can also reinforce the bonds of current relationships, through the give-and-take of mutual gratitude. This immediate effect of greater joy contributes to long-term social success, so much that the person receiving gratitude reaps rewards in personal well-being and relationship satisfaction up to six months after the deliberate gratitude expression. That’s a powerful social benefit!

4. Better Work Environment

The impact of gratitude can even improve your work environment. A simple daily practice of reflecting on the parts of your job you are grateful for has been proven to positively impact your productivity, goal achievement, decision-making and networking skills.

Not only can being thankful help you manage your job responsibilities more effectively, but it also reduces job-related stress and burnout. Knowing this, it’s not hard to see how small doses of thankfulness could result in increased job satisfaction, but also a potential promotion, when you play your thank you cards right!

5. Fills Your Spirit

The spiritual blessings of counting your blessings are profound. Being grateful for what you have improves your self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance and achieving your life purpose.

Recent research on types of gratitude have important significance for not only individuals but society as a whole. Study participants who had reflected on and expressed gratitude for experiences rather than material purchases, were significantly more generous to others and kept less for themselves than did those in the group who reflected on possessions.

One explanation, according to scientists, is that when people feel closer to other humans, they might treat others better. By structuring community experiences and events that promote social and spiritual connection, organizers can encourage more future altruistic behavior, which benefits us all.

“It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.” – Naomi Williams

6. Brain Power

Still skeptical? Even brain scans, hard scientific data, are confirming the astonishing impact of gratitude in 3 fascinating ways. A brain experiencing gratitude toward a specific person is flooded with feel-good hormones which makes you more inclined to desire that feeling again and make you feel attached to others at the same time.

Brain scans show gratitude also does something quite peculiar: it activates the hypothalamus.  Being thankful actually makes our metabolism, hunger and other natural bodily functions work more efficiently.

Perhaps most significantly during this high-stress era, gratitude increases mental strength. Remembering all you have to be thankful for, even during the most tragic times of your life, creates resilience and reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

So, there you have it. That “Attitude of Gratitude” isn’t a platitude…it’s a health booster of highest magnitude!

What are you most grateful for today? Let us know in the comments below!

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