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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Giving is Living!

How important is giving back to the community, your family, your friends, or even a complete stranger you meet on the street?  Do you need to be wealthy to give back?  Do you need to have hours of free time?  Have you ever felt like you don’t have any skills that will be useful to someone else?  Everyone has something they can contribute to the world around them.  The tiniest acts of kindness can make the biggest difference in someone’s day.  Just ask Kristin Pedemonti who has given away over 500 bottles of bubbles on the NYC subway and carries a “Free Hugs” sign wherever she goes, because we all need our daily quota of hugs.

It is important to the community as well as you to be actively giving back each day, even it is simply giving someone a hug to make their day a little brighter.  I promise you that for every act of kindness you show not only will you bring joy to someone else but your day will be brighter and your body, mind and soul a bit healthier.

There are many ways to volunteer that don’t involve money in any way, not even a dime of gas.  You don’t need hours of free time to bring a smile to someone’s face.  Read a story to a child, compliment a stranger, give a hug to someone who may need one, share a meal with a neighbor, the list goes on and I am sure you can come up with a few of your own.  Become a virtual volunteer, check out ways you can volunteer online, no special skills needed, if you are living, breathing and can do anything at all you have what it takes to make someone’s day better.

A 2005 Stanford University survey of 7000 older adults found that frequent volunteering and helping others is linked to a healthier, longer life.  The study also showed it didn’t need to be giving on a grand scale, it could be anything meaningful.

Allen Luk's 1991 survey of thousands of volunteers in the US found that people who helped others reported better health than peers in their age group who didn’t volunteer. 

A recent survey of 4500 American volunteers showed the following;
  • 73% reported that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 89% reported that volunteering improved their sense of well being
  • 92% reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and give some free hugs, blow some bubbles, give someone a have no excuse...I have given you links to some great opportunities and I’m sure you can create a few of your own...give to others and you will always be giving back to yourself.

For more on Kristen and her storytelling adventure as well as her literacy program please visit her site.  To leave comments on her TED video click here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Smile and others will smile with you...

Have you ever noticed that when someone yawns you immediately feel a yawn coming on?   How about those moments of contagious laughter?  I remember moments of laughter with my family and friends that went on so long that my cheeks hurt, I was crying, my stomach was cramping, and I thought we would never stop laughing.

Do you notice that when you are spending time with someone filled with doom and gloom you feel a bit blue?  I suggest you pick a new color, after all there’s an entire rainbow.  Have you ever cried simply because someone else was crying?  Even if you had no idea why they were crying?  Do you ever find yourself smiling when someone smiles at you?  There is a correlation between your emotions and your facial expressions and a real smile is an emotional contagion.

So what is real?  How do you differentiate between a real smile and a fake one?  It’s all in the eyes, yes really it’s all in the eyes.  The Duchenne Smile was first identified by French physician Guillaume Duchenne who discovered a clear anatomical difference between a real smile and a fake one.  His research showed that a real smile activated not only the muscles that lift the corner of the mouth but the muscles around the eyes.  You know the ones, those muscles that we lovingly call crows be proud if your crow’s feet are quite is a sign that you have had a long life filled with smiles.  

Most often we associate a smile with first being happy, but did you know that if you are feeling down and you think of something that makes you smile, you now bring happiness to your day by first having the smile.  Try this experiment, think of something that makes you smile, keep smiling and now change your thought to something sad and try to maintain your smile.  If you are truly smiling and then think of something sad you can’t maintain that smile.  Now, think of something that brings joy to you and try not to smile..not so easy is it?

Each of us have so many reason’s throughout our day to smile and if you can’t think of a reason just stop and think of all the things you have to be grateful for in your life.  If you are still having a problem just look at the list of reasons to smile on this website and I bet you will come up with a few of your own.

Smiling improves your health and well-being.  When you smile and feel the joy associated with a smile you can lower your blood pressure, reduce anxiety, increase positive energy, and enhance the life of those you meet throughout your day.  A smile crosses language and cultural boundaries and is the best communication weapon you have and you carry it with you everywhere.  Whoever may have said that the mouth is a very powerful weapon may have been speaking about what comes out of the mouth but I believe that the silent voice of our mouths is equally as important.

No matter the emotion or the facial expression, it is undeniable that what is written on your face and is in your heart effects those around you.  The more genuine the expression, the more effective it is, so if you think faking a smile is going to make someone’s day..forget it...if you really want to make someone’s day, keep it real.  Make today the day that you unleash your inner smile guru!