Smiling The Stress Away

Smile by the_momentI found this article on the Huffington Post. It came out last August so it’s a little older, but the information is still valid. It talks about how smiling, real smiling, can help lower your heart rate when you are stressed.

Here’s an excerpt:

Smiling Could Help with Stress: Study

New research shows that smiling — and especially genuine smiling (where your eyes and mouth muscles are engaged) — may play a part in lowering heart rate after you’ve done something stressful. The study will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

“The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment,” study researcher Sarah Pressman, of the University of Kansas, said in a statement. “Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!”

Here’s a link to the full article: Smiling Could Help With Stress: Study

I’m thinking about this because I do a lot of trade shows for my company. It’s stressful, really stressful. First there is the travel – even fun travel can be hard on the body and the mind, and this is rarely fun. Then there is the fact that I’m frequently traveling with coworkers. Ten or twelve hours in a car with anyone can be trying, but with a coworker? Doubly so. Plus there is the show itself. It’s hard work standing all day long in a 10′ square selling your products to people who are mostly uninterested.

It isn’t all bad, but it can be easy to slip into a foul mood. Maybe I should give this a try. Smiling is good for sales – if it lowers my heart rate too, that’s a pretty good bonus!

You Can Help NOAA Understand the Weather

The Ping ProjectSo, I thought this was cool: yesterday I heard about “mPING” a new app released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The idea is to get people to use the app to record the exact precipitation that is occurring. Apparently radar is not very good at determining mixed precipitation very well – ice mixed with rain, drizzle and so on. With this app we amateur meteorologists can report what is happening on the ground right now and all the data goes realtime to a map.  How cool is that?

There is a great article about the app on the Talking Points Memo website by Carl Franzen. If you think this kind of thing is as interesting and fun as I do, you should hop over to their site and read all the details.  Here’s a quote from Kim Elmore, a PhD meteorologist from the article:

“If you’re working for a power company and all of the sudden you start to see reports of freezing drizzle that weren’t forecast, you might think, ‘OK, we’re not in trouble now, but we could be in the next few hours. Let’s get crews in place in case any power line get knocked down,’” Elmore explained. “If you’re a city manager, you can begin to get salt trucks and plows ready to go as soon as you see reports of snow or freezing drizzle. If you’re a forecaster and the reports disagree with your forecast, you can update it, so the uncertainty is minimized.”

If you want to hear the article that got me excited about this, here’s the link on NPR. I just downloaded the app – and almost immediately the sun came out! Well, I live in the Midwest, there will be precipitation of some kind or another shortly!

Coats of Arms, Family Mottos and Phrases in Latin

My recent post about my personal code took a couple of days to write. While I was working on it, I got interested in coats of arms and family mottos. Here’s a smattering of things I found:

The first was a list on Wikipedia of common Latin phrases. What a great find! Some of my favorites:

cacoethes scribendi – “the incurable desire (or itch) for writing affects many.” I think WordPress should make this their motto.

celerius quam asparagi cocuntu – Or simply, “faster than cooking asparagus.” Awesome. This is going to replace “in two shakes of a lamb’s tail” in my vocabulary forever.

in omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro – “Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book.” Quote by Thomas à Kempis. I need this carved into the wood above my bookshelves.

mea navis aëricumbens anguillis abunda – “My hovercraft is full of eels.” Exactly so.

clarere audere gaudere – “[be] bright, daring, joyful.” I love this. I may have to take this one on as my own motto.

Speaking of which, I also used Google Translate to translate my personal code into Latin. “Loyalty, Respect, Responsibility, and the Right to Tell Stories.” Responsibility didn’t translate, I probably have the syntax wrong. “Responsible” did, but it didn’t feel right. “The right to tell stories” made it pretty lengthy, so after fiddling with it a bit, I chose the word “Truth” instead. Afterall, all stories, even fiction ones, have their own truth. The result:

Pietas Respicias Veritas

That sent me on an internet journey researching coats of arms. I found this site that gives the meanings behing the colors, the animals and more: Fleur-de-lis Designs. So fun! I hadn’t known that the patterns are called “furs”.

Which of course, lead me to a page to make my own coat of arms as shown above. When I tried to add my motto, it was too big for their character limit, so I went with Respicias Veritas.  Respect Truth. I like that.

So, what does all of this have to do with anything?

Nothing, really. Except that I have a friend who was telling me about some life changes she’s been going through. She’s working with a therapist on a lot of the same questions I have – Who am I? What’s next? What do I want? Who do I want to be? Her therapist had her working on developing her own Personal Life Statement, and when she told me about it, it became the seed that got me thinking about my own. These are all off-shoots of that. Although it has been fun researching family mottos in Latin and making my own coat of arms for the blog, it hasn’t been frivolous. It is all a part of being very conscious of who I am now, and who I want to become.

Success and the Art of Mistakes

Last week, I watched this video about a mother and daughter who hand crochet beautiful jewelry.

Handmade Portraits: Ayşegül & Sebahat from Etsy on Vimeo.

I think the point of the video was supposed to be about the relationship between mother and daughter (it appears to have been posted near Mother’s Day) but that wasn’t what caught my attention. What interested me was something the mother days:

By using my mistakes, I developed these techniques.

Isn’t that beautiful? Embracing the act of making mistakes. The same week, I read an article called The Success Myth, written by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. The article discusses how we tend to attribute innate ability to those who succeed – believing that someone is successful because of a talent or special gift they were born with. In fact, Dr. Grant Halvorson tells us, success is really more about people who can accept that they will make mistakes, but who also believe that they can improve. Here’s an excerpt:

When you study achievement for a living, as I do, one of the first things you learn is that measures of “ability” (like IQ) do a shockingly poor job of predicting future success. Intelligence, creativity, willpower, and social skill aptitudes like these are not only profoundly malleable (e.g., they grow with experience and effort), but they are just one small piece of the achievement puzzle.

So, what does predict success? Research tells us it’s using the right strategies that leads to accomplishment and achievement. Sounds simple, but strategies like being committed, recognizing temptations, planning ahead, monitoring your progress, persisting when the going gets tough, making an effort, and perhaps most important — believing you can improve — can make all the difference between success and failure.

I kind of fall in the middle. I do believe that some amount of innate skill is needed to be very successful at something – whether that talent is brains, brawn or the ability to sing. We need a touch of talent to get us started. But I also believe that there isn’t much out there that can’t be learned, if one is determined enough. While it is true that someone who is practically tone deaf like myself will never be an opera singer, I do believe that with lots of hard work and lessons I could be… well, not completely terrible. I believe that the two cliches of mental power – brain surgery and rocket science – could be learned by most anyone, if they really wanted to learn it. The problem is, of course time, effort, and money – and the willingness to make mistakes.

I think we lose our ability to make mistakes as we get older. When we were kids, it was pretty accepted that we’d screw up. No one expected that we would ride a bike perfectly the first time, or that we would draw like Michelangelo the first time we got a box of crayons. We expect children to try things – and we expect that they will fail.

When we get older, however, that expectation goes away. As we become adults, we are far more likely to try something once, and if we aren’t good at it, just give up. It takes a great sense of humor and determined spirit to keep on trying.

Personally, I have a sliding scale for my tolerance with mistakes. I am more tolerant of them when they are in private – in public I am mortified (even if I have no reason to be.) I am more tolerant when I expect something to be hard, but can be tough on myself if I perceive that the task is easy. I have a limit of times I will try something – the number changes, but when I hit it, I tend to give up and walk away. (Although honestly, that is usually because I have found that I am much less likely to succeed when I am frustrated. If I give myself a chance to cool down, I am much more likely to succeed.)

Today, I read this by author Neil Gaiman:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

I feel like the universe is telling me something. I love those magical moments where things seem to be converging – a phrase, a photo, a song – something repeats itself in various ways and causes me to take notice. Synchronicity. It feels like the universe is telling me that it is okay to take a giant step – to go ahead, make a few mistakes. Learn and grow your talent from them.

Maybe it is time to add a few more risks in my life.