New Dreams for MLK Day

Today is the solemn anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. I would like to use this post as a tribute to MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Given all that has transpired since the 2016 elections, I would like to add some clauses to the dream…
I have a dream that the leader of the US will believe in and uphold the principles of the Constitution that all men and women are created equal and have the right to free speech. This includes the freedom of the press- not the suppression or demonization of it.

I have a dream that children will no longer need to practice lockdown drills and people can freely walk their neighborhoods and attend concerts without fear of being gunned down because the Supreme Court will realize that the intentions of the second amendment are not reflected in today’s reality.

I have a dream that race and ethnicity no longer matter as we all recognize that we have immigrants in our near or distant ancestors; and that people do not come from “s…hole” countries, but are judged by the situation they are in which brings them to seek residence in the US.

I have a dream that healthcare and social security will become civil rights. With the prospect of artificial intelligence taking away our jobs and well-being, we need a safety net that puts human beings before corporate profits.

I have a dream that nuclear war is never again on the tip of our tongues. There will be no reason to panic that we are about to be attacked, because we have all signed a nuclear armistice and have plans to deactivate our warheads.

I have a dream that people embrace the truth of science and history and agree to accept facts as facts and not seek to find their own “alternate facts”.

I have a dream that we can come together and compromise through civil debate and drop our partisan leanings for the common good; because we are not influenced by money, hate or tweets.

I have a dream where voting districts are drawn fairly and do not give excessive advantages to one party over another. And where people can vote without fear of being called in by ICE or the IRS. There should be no hardships presented to voters due to identification complications.

I know this is a lot to dream about, and it will not happen without action on the part of everyday citizens like ourselves. So write to your representatives, speak out at local meetings and events and contribute to causes that speak to your heart. We should each do what we can to make this world a better place tomorrow than it is today. That would be a fine tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King.

Using Sport Psychology for Real Life Situations

Smiley head happy

Image via Wikipedia

My son loves to play tennis. He is trying out for the JV team at his school. He played sixth singles last year and is hoping to move up the ladder. Obviously he is nervous about this challenge. When he worries about his game, he doesn’t play as well- losing focus on each point. By thinking he will lose, he is more likely to make that happen. With the goal of helping him, my husband read “The Best Tennis of Your Life” by sport psychologist and former tennis player Jeff Greenwald. Last night he reviewed some of the suggested mental strategies with our son. As I listened to him, I realized these strategies are not limited to sports but could be applicable to every day life.

One strategy is to use the feeling of gratitude. Greenwald says, ” It’s difficult to be worrying about the future…when you become aware of the bigger picture. ….Being grateful requires you to expand your perspective.”  (excerpt from Play with Gratitude)  I looked at the things I have been stressing over, planning our next vacation or losing a few pounds before I hit the beach, and realized how trivial these are in the big scheme of things. I took a deep breath and instead reflected how lucky I am to be able to afford a fun vacation. I am grateful that I am healthy enough to travel and participate in the exciting water or land sports we will do there-  snorkelling, swimming, tennis and hiking. I already feel calmer and more appreciative.

Obviously there are people with much more troubling worries than mine. People with real health concerns or financial difficulties may find it harder to find gratitude in their lives. In their cases, it is important to focus on the moment and not the woes of yesterday or tomorrow. If they can find something to be grateful for right now, even if it is only happiness that the sun is shining, it may help them to calm their minds and relieve some of their worries.

Another of Greenwald’s suggestions  was to recognize the difference between “productive worry” and “unproductive worry”. The first type involves something you can try to change. If you are worried you will miss a deadline at work, you can put in extra time or shift your priorities to meet it. If you can develop a strategy to combat your worry, you have handled it productively. Finding a way to cope with our problems, even in little baby steps, can give us more happiness and less worry.

The second type of worry is “about things that are outside your control”. Whether this is over travel plans or a long-term illness, there are some things over which we have no control. We can get ourselves to the airport early, but we can not decide when the plane takes off. We can follow our doctor’s protocol and look up information online, but every illness must run its course. Maybe there are some things we can improve, like packing snacks and a book if we get stuck or finding a remedy which relieves our symptoms temporarily, but that is where our control ends. The sooner we recognize our limits, the easier it will be to cast our worries aside.

The third strategy I would like to compare is the use of body language. Greenwald points out the difference on players’ stances, walks and facial expressions when they are winning versus losing. The same holds true in real life situations. When we are confident, we hold our heads up; when we are nervous, we slouch or avert our eyes. He suggests making a note of how you feel when things are going well and try to imitate that behaviour when they are not. By forcing yourself to act happy or calm, you can trick yourself into feeling that way too. Kind of like a body over mind power struggle. I know if I smile and make eye contact with a stranger when I am out walking, I feel a little happier. Even if I was deep in thought, diverting my attention to someone else, helps me to not dwell on my concerns too much.

I am not sure which of these tips my son will put into use on the courts. If he could appreciate that he loves this game and that worrying whether he wins or loses is unproductive, remember to focus on the individual points and not the outcome, and to smile and look at his opponent with confidence, then he will have incorporated the most important strategies which will benefit him throughout his life.

A smiley cup on a yellow ball.. =)

Note: All quotes are taken from “The Best Tennis of Your Life:50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance” by Jeff Greewald, Kindle edition ISBN 1558708448, Jan.1,2012.

Left hanging by Exercise TV

Before the holidays arrived, I had established a disciplined routine for myself. As soon as my kids left for school, I turned on my Exercise TV yoga workout. I would spend 25 minutes clearing my mind in downward dog or warrior II. Then I would take a steamy shower and by the time I came back downstairs I was ready to start my blog. After Thanksgiving, the chaos of the holidays season came crashing into my routine and threw it off balance. When January rolled in I hoped to return to the calmness of knowing what I was doing every day.

During the first week the kids were back in school, I searched my tv guide frantically. What had happened to my Exercise TV? I finally googled the topic and found out that the channel had shut down at the end of 2011. There were no suitable replacements available on cable (at least not for free). I don’t need to listen to discussions about diet and nutrition or hear stories about successful weight loss. I need someone to talk me through my workout. Whether I need encouragment to hold the pose just a little longer or to push my heart rate a little higher, having a trainer tell me what to do has a better rate of success than doing it on my own.

The other problem is that now I have to find another way to clear my head and free my thoughts. Those inverted poses really got the juices flowing. You’d think by now I could create my own routine, but at 8am I don’t have much willpower and a cup or two of coffee seems so much easier. Caffeine is not as effective as exercise though. Maybe I will have to resort to buying a dvd and popping it in every morning.

For now I’ll have to rely on my dogs to get me moving. Maybe a good jolt of cold air will be a refreshing start to my morning…