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With July 4th approaching, it's time that we celebrate a different kind of independence--freedom from unfulfilling, incompatible, and emotionally unhealthy relationships. You may be caught in an unhealthy or unproductive relationship--but you don't know how to get out. For a while, your mind keeps you in the relationship by focusing on the pleasurable parts of being with that person (although there may be few bright spots), but then the negative and painful parts of the relationship hit you on the brain, and you want to get out. How can you free yourself a bad relationship? Here are 3 tips for Love Independence.

1. DON'T MISTAKE ADDICTION FOR LOVE: Psychologists have researched the brain chemistry of sex and love, and have found that certain brain chemicals are released when you first fall in love--these chemicals give you a "high" (euphoric) feeling like being on cocaine. But, the chemicals wear off over time--then you are back to square one. Like any drug, you build up tolerance, and then have withdrawal symptoms (you feel bad when you're not around your drug, "that person"). For some people, the constant breakup and makeup phases in a relationship are ways to get their "fix" of that love brain chemical. But, that is not true love. Love is not just excitement, thrills, and pleasure. Healthy love includes the qualities of trust, respect, and commitment. These elements provides far more pleasure to you in the long run of a relationship than the physical chemistry or attraction that wears off after a relationship has progressed.

2. MEDITATE ON YOUR LOVE FUTURE: Here is a simple exercise to help you look into the future of your relationship. Sit in a comfortable place, close your eyes, and take a deep breath--in and out. Now, visualize your Love Future: See what it will be like to be with your partner, 5 years from today--see what you will look like, what you will be doing, who is around you, and what you are feeling. Then, do the same mental projection into the future for 10, 20, and 30 years. Pay particular attention to your feelings during each time period--are you happy, sad, joyful, contented, frustrated, resentful, relaxed, or loving? Then, write down what you saw and felt in a journal. You may discover some interesting insights. Perhaps, you see that you worked out your differences with your love partner in the future, and you enjoyed a happy long-term relationship. Or, you may see that you have a dead-end with the person--the relationship will go nowhere--and you will be living a life of inauthenticity, sadness, and pain. If the latter is the case, then you know your answer--you need to leave the relationship, and save yourself years of heartache and trouble. See your future, and act on it now.

3. PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION: When you are torn between leaving or staying in a relationship, your friends and family members will often give you well-intentioned advice. Some will support you unconditionally ("Whatever you decide is best"), while others will chastise you for staying ("Don't be a fool; leave"). Now is the time to take a momentary break from the advice of others, and practice self-compassion--love and embrace yourself, no matter what--regardless of your weaknesses and soft spot for a particular individual whom you know, deep down, is no good for you. Realize that you are still a good person, even though you are staying (for now) with a person who is not emotionally healthy for you. You may be staying because you are still attracted to them--there is still something about that incompatible partner that you crave, even though you know that they are all wrong for you. If that is the case, be compassionate to yourself. Recognize that your "weakness" for that person is perfectly natural; as a human being, you may have a strong irrational desire for a particular person. At the same time, decide that you will embrace and love yourself no matter what decision you make in the relationship--to stay or go. You will be guided by your inner sense of rightness, and not by the opinions of others. You will love yourself, no matter what you decide to do.

Follow the 3 tips of Love Independence today, and break the chains of an unhealthy and incompatible relationship. If you decide that you need to move on, now is the right time for you to do it. Declare your emotional freedom today.

Would you like to think like a champion--someone who wins in life? Would like you like to consistently achieve the best results in your relationships, finances, health, and mental well-being? Now, you can by following 3 simple tips derived from positive psychology and the laws of habit formation.

1. AVOID THE LITTLE BADS: We may not realize it, but we often say negative phrases to ourselves--"little bads"--that become a part of our psychological makeup: "I don't have enough time." "I don't have enough money." "Life is difficult." These small, pocket-sized samples of negativity become ingrained in our minds, and before we know it, we start to feel bad, negative, and drained of energy. The key to defeat the "little bads" is to transform them into "little goods"--simple words of encouragement and positivity that we repeat to ourselves, in our daily thoughts. Now, you say to yourself, "I have all the time I need," "There is an abundance of money," and "Life, with positive belief, is easy." As you begin to speak differently to yourself, your attitude will brighten, and you will have far more energy, motivation, and desire to accomplish your goals.

2. START WITH THE EASY: Many times we want to do something in life--start a new career, relationship, or lifestyle--but we think doing so is too hard; it requires too much effort. The solution is to begin with an easy step, something you can complete in a short period of time, without much effort. If, for example, you want to start a new career, go online and read a couple of articles about people who have been successful in that field. If you want to write a book, start with the first sentence, with the first idea--just write down the first few phrases that come to you. If you want to get in shape, decide that you're going to go to the gym for only 20 minutes the first time. As you take these small steps--in psychology, they are called successive approximations to the goal--you begin to build momentum to take bigger steps, and accomplish bigger goals. You build on the earlier successes for future successes. Now, the online search leads you to a mentor you want to learn from. The early sentences lead to more writing and longer paragraphs. The 20 minutes at the gym become 30, then 45, then 1 hour, and you start to see the results in your physique and physical health--which motivate you to work out even more. The first early easy steps toward your goal have now led you to a higher level of accomplishment that further propels you forward.

3. JOIN A MASTERMIND GROUP: It is said that where 2 or more are gathered, great things can be accomplished. A Mastermind Group is a union of like-minded people who meet regularly (weekly or monthly) to exchange ideas, support each other, and help solve mutual problems. If, for example, you want to start a business, find 3 or 4 of the best business-minded people you know, and get together regularly for coffee or lunch. Bring your notepad or tablet, and let the ideas flow. In the first stage of idea gathering, the rule is that no one in the group critiques the ideas that are presented. The first phase of the group process is to simply generate ideas--as many as possible. Later, in the group meeting, is the cooling stage, where you help each other edit and critique the ideas, and come up with the best ones. This Mastermind process can work for any topic you are interested in--from raising children, to being a good cook, to inventing something to make a difference in the world. The important ingredient of the Mastermind Group is that you regularly meet with like-minded people who share your values and vision, and who sincerely want to help you reach your greatest goals (as you feel the same way toward them).

To summarize, here are the steps to think like a champion: 1. Avoid the Little Bads: Build up a reservoir of positivity, and strong, success-producing thoughts, in place of the defeating, nagging little negative thoughts. 2. Start with the Easy: Begin with what you can do with little effort: Generate momentum--a flow of energy and power--that leads you directly to your ultimate goals. 3. Join a Mastermind Group: Unite yourself with like-minded people in a weekly or monthly group in which you come up with ideas, and help each other reach your goals. With these three steps as your guide, you are now ready for Success Living--the life of a mental champion who achieves and contributes to society at the highest level.

Imagine that you walk into a room full of attractive singles who are wearing masks at a masquerade ball. As you dance with your chosen partner, he or she seems wonderful, and just your type. But, then, when the night is over, and the mask comes off, you realize that this "wonderful" person wasn't nearly as compatible with you as you thought. You are disappointed and wonder how this could happen. That is the real life "Dating Masquerade"--where singles meet people who appear one way, and then turn out to be something entirely different (incompatible).

The good news is that there is now a scientific way to identify a compatible partner based on Jungian/Myers-Briggs personality types. I call this approach, LoveTypes, because you identify the romantic style of the person most likely to be compatible with you in a long-term relationship.

The 4 Magic Questions that you can ask potential dating partners are:


THEY ARE EXTRAVERT (E) IF: THEY like to spend a lot of time socializing with friends or doing things with people in the outside world.

THEY ARE INTROVERT (I) IF: THEY enjoy spending more time alone or with a few close friends--reading, writing, thinking, meditating, and listening to music



THEY ARE SENSORY (S)/PRACTICAL IF:THEY would use the money to buy a house, invest, travel, and enjoy the sensory pleasures of life (fine wine, dining, etc.). They are realistic, concrete, down-to earth, and sensual.

THEY ARE INTUITIVE (N)/IMAGINATIVE IF: THEY would use the money to invest in a grand venture, plan, invention, or scheme to change the world or make a difference. They live by your intuition and imagination.








THEY'RE STRUCTURED/JUDGERS (J) IF YOU SAY: "No," or "I have to plan it out."


To have a happy relationship, you are better off finding someone who is similar to you on the key dimensions (especially Intuition/Practical). If you are different, the key is to learn how to respect your partner's style.

If you are in in the Los Angeles area tommorow, Saturday, 4/11/15 at 5:00PM, you are invited to come to a real-life social mixer called "The Dating Masquerade" at St. Felix in Hollywood (on Cahuenga). It is a Free event where you will wear a mask and have an opportunity to meet a compatible partner based on your personality type.

It's a lot of fun. Hope to see you there. You can register online at

It's your turn now: Ask the 4 Magic Questions and Get Ready for The Dating Masquerade!

Dr. Avila

When we were little kids, we were told to try hard. Our parents told us, the harder we try, the better our results: in grades, sports or activities, and eventually, in grown-up jobs. Although they meant well, our parents were only half right. Psychology tells us that trying too hard can actually defeat our purpose: If we do more of the wrong things, we get more of the same (bad) results.

There is a better way to achieve your goals and dreams. It is called "Trying Right": Putting forth the right effort in the right way for the right goals. Let's take a look at 3 examples of Trying Wrong, and three effective ways for "Trying Right."

TRYING WRONG EXAMPLE #1: NOT TRYING AT ALL: Many times we give up when we don't achieve our goals. We try for that ideal career, relationship, or mental attitude, but we keep failing. Eventually, we give up; we stop trying. In psychology, it is known as learned helplessness: In rat experiments, rats go through a maze looking for food. When they receive an electric shock just before they get the food, they may give up looking for food--they avoid traveling through the maze--even though there were no more shocks for them. They have learned to be helpless. It applies to humans, too. At some point after having a few failures in trying to achieve our goals, we believe we can't succeed. We stop trying to avoid the pain of failing. We have "learned" to be helpless.

THE TRYING RIGHT SOLUTION: REFLECT ON PEOPLE WHO HAVE ALREADY SUCCEEDED. If you want a great relationship, study people who have them. If you want to make more money, find a financial mentor who can teach you the ropes of finances. If you want spiritual peace, learn from someone who truly has it. Absorb the knowledge and wisdom of those who have already succeeded in the areas you are interested in. When you do this, you have a road map to avoid the electric shocks (pain) of the world; you can go through the maze of life accomplishing your goals with minimum pain and maximum satisfaction.

TRYING WRONG EXAMPLE #2: TRYING TOO HARD: Another problem we have is trying too hard. Have you ever noticed the man or woman who tries too hard to impress a potential romantic partner (while secretly believing that he or she is socially inadequate), and then ends up pushing him or her away? Or, in the classic case of stutterers, they worry so much about stuttering (and try so hard not to), that they end up stuttering even more. They suffer from what is called "anticipatory anxiety"; they are anxious about being anxious, which makes them even more anxious (and they stutter even more).

THE TRYING RIGHT SOLUTION: REVERSE YOUR TRYING AND MAKE IT FUNNY: The solution to trying too hard is to reverse your effort, and intentionally try to be the opposite of what you have been trying to be. If you have been trying "not to stutter," as an exercise, do the opposite: Tell yourself that "I am the greatest stutterer in the world." Exaggerate your stuttering with a few friends; even make a joke out of it: "I, I, I, am, am, am, the biggggest stutter in the world. Looook aatt me." When you intentionally stutter in this humorous experimental way, you take away your anxiety about stuttering, and you become more relaxed. Paradoxically, the more you intentionally try to stutter (as a humorous experiment), the less likely you are to do so (you actually speak more fluently and confidently). Trying less hard gets you into what Eastern philosophers call the flow of "effortless effort." By trying less (in the right way), you actually accomplish more.

TRYING WRONG EXAMPLE #3: TRYING FOR THE WRONG THINGS: Now we get to one of the biggest problems in our society: trying for goals that do not fulfill us. An artist strives to make more money, even though that is not her primary passion in life. A businessman is told by friends to relax more and lie on the beach, even though finances are his greatest talent, and he hates wasting time. There is nothing wrong with either money or relaxation. What matters is whether a goal matches who you really are inside. By having mismatched goals (from our true nature), we suffer because we extend too much energy chasing the wrong things--objectives that can never truly satisfy us. We lose our power--giving power to the objective which we think will make us happy (but it won't).

THE TRYING RIGHT SOLUTION: TRY FOR YOUR GOD-GIVEN TALENT (DON): All of us have a God-given talent, also known as "Don," a secret wellspring of ability, power, and skill that is unique to our psychological DNA. Known by many names, such as "multiple intelligences," "strengths," or "talents," this reservoir of inner power and ability is our birthright. For some of us, it is emotional, or spiritual, or financial, or athletic, or scientific, or artistic, or word-related. Regardless of what our "Don" is, our mission is to actualize that ability for the greater good of others--which naturally is reflected back to us in our own inner growth and happiness. While it's perfectly fine for the businessman to dabble in leisure, or the artist to learn about finances, the ultimate key to your happiness and success is to discover and nurture and focus on that true power or ability your have inside--the wonderful talent called "DON." Now, when you put all of your effort into your Don, you will only see positive results in many areas of your life. You world will change miraculously.

In life, some people recover quickly from tragedy and trauma, becoming stronger and more resilient, while others suffer more, and become weaker. The Eggshell skull person is the person who becomes weaker with each challenge or trauma in life--they just can't get over their problems in life: their loss of self-esteem, setbacks in relationships, career, and health, victimization, and just plain bad luck. One problem leads to the next. On the other hand, the Steel Skull Person is the one who becomes more powerful from adversity--he or she can "turn lemons into lemonade," and learn from their experiences, so they become wiser, happier, and more successful.

Would you like to become a Steel Skull person who becomes stronger from adversity, challenges, and pain? Recent research has identified the 7 traits of the Steel Skull individual, also known as resilience--the ability to withstand and overcome stress, trauma, and catastrophe.

Here are the 7 secrets of the Steel Skull Individual.

Recent research literature has shed light on the characteristics and strengths of resilient people, i.e. "Steel-Skulled." These are the 7 Steel-Skulled factors often mentioned in the research:

HUMOR: People with a good sense of humor feel that they are bigger than the problem--they can "toy" or "play with their difficulties" if they desire. They say to themselves: "I don't have to let this scare me." For example, Gavrilovic, Lecic-Tosevski, Dimic, Pejovic-Milovancevic, Knezevic & Priebe (2003) found that the use of humor was one of the most effective coping strategies used by civilians subjected to bombing and air raids, and was related to lower levels of posttraumatic stress "intrusions" one year later.

COMPASSION AND EMPATHY: Putting oneself in another's shoes, feeling as that person feels, is a recipe for recovery and resilience-building after trauma. A Vietnam veteran who killed a 15-year-old soldier in Vietnam adopts an Asian child as his own, and begins to heal from the guilt of taking a life. A mother who lost her son in a brutal knife attack becomes a foster parent to take care of unwanted and abandoned children--thus healing her wounds from the murder of her son. Moreover, self-compassion can also benefit the trauma survivor--those who practice self-compassion engage in fewer avoidance strategies following trauma exposure (Thompson and Waltz, 2008).

MEANING: Viktor Frankl, and his Logotherapy, place a strong emphasis on finding the meaning in suffering or traumatic experiences. Those individuals who are able to find meaning from their trauma often recover faster and better. For example, a self-described "workaholic" who injured his back in a car accident finds himself unable to care for himself, and finally realizes how much his family means to him--thus, allowing him to place his injury in the larger context of helping to heal his family. Research also shows that those who suffered from a recent loss are able to recover faster, and have a stronger sense of meaning, when they are strongly committed to spiritual and religious goals (Emmons, Colby, Kaiser, Wong & Fry, 1998).

EMOTIONAL GRANULARITY: Individuals who can accurately identify and verbalize their emotions (emotional granularity) after traumatic events usually develop more resilience as a buffer against the psychological and physiological consequences related to the trauma (Fredrickson, Tugade, Waugh, & Larkin, 2003; Schmidt & Andrykowski, 2004).

OPTIMISM: The optimistic person recovers more quickly from trauma. A study by Dennis Chearney, the Dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, examined 750 Vietnam War veterans who were held as prisoners of war for six to eight years. Tortured, and kept in solitary confinement, these 750 men were surprisingly resilient despite suffering from extreme stress. These survivors were different from their fellow veterans in that they didn't develop PTSD or depression after they were released. The key, Chearney found, was that they maintained a strong sense of optimism--a firm hopefulness and confidence about the future, despite the circumstances.

GRATITUDE: The grateful person also tends to develop a thick skull. People with high levels of gratitude reverse their perspective from "poor me" to a larger universal perspective of shared goodness; thereby, reducing their pain. Emmons & McCullough (2003), for example, found that "counting one's blessings" in a journal led to better functioning--both psychologically and physically.

SOCIAL SUPPORT: Research has consistently showed that social support is essential for recovering from trauma and developing resiliency. For example, Boscarino (1995), found that those Vietnam veterans who had high levels of social support were 180% less likely to develop PTSD when compared with veterans who didn't have the same levels of social support.

In summary, if you want to be a steel-skulled person who is able to overcome stress, trauma, and conflicts to achieve success and happiness, learn to develop the 7 Traits of the Steel-Skulled person. You will come out on top in your quest for the good life.

There are two energies in the world--extending and withdrawing. Either we are extending our (positive) energy by giving, creating, loving, and growing, or we are withdrawing our energy, our essence, through self-centeredness, fear, and inadequacy. Every day, we are in a constant dance of energy. Some days we feel great--we smile at other people, offer goodwill and advice, and help where we can. Other days we don't have the same energy, the same good feelings, and it is hard for us to come out of our self-focused "poor me" attitude.

I will let you in on a little secret of the ages. If you want to have richness (financial and emotional) in your life beyond your wildest dreams, practice the habit of Generosity. True generosity--giving to others without expecting anything in return--is the ultimate energy-expander. When you give simply because doing so is part of your nature, you are extending your positive energy into the world. When you do this, your own internal energy--your personal feelings of well-being, happiness, and love--will grow even more. The more you spend of your positive energy, the more you will receive in return. You will receive stronger relationships, more financial prosperity, more joy and health, more satisfaction in your work, more love in your life.

The Habit of Generosity is a habit you can develop and practice on a daily basis. Just like going to the gym, brushing your teeth, or going to work--you create habits out of everyday activities. Habits can be good or bad, productive or unproductive (smoking, eating fried foods, swearing), but Generosity--giving to others from your heart--is one of the best and most positive habits you can have.

Here are some practical tips for developing the Habit of Generosity:

*HAVE A GENEROSITY WEEK: During the next 7 days, focus on giving fully of yourself to others--not just money, but time, energy, advice, love, attention, and that rare, special gift, listening with full heart. When you practice giving outwardly to loved ones and even strangers, visualize your positive energy (think of it like color, green or yellow, etc.), as it expands outward--shining a ray of loving light energy to the people you are directing your generosity to. When you do this, you will notice that your previous feelings of frustration, anger, regret, and deprivation will vanish, and in their place, you will experience newfound joy, peace, and satisfaction.

*PRACTICE REVERSE GIVING--THE REVERSE BIRTHDAY: On your birthday, you expect to receive gifts. On your next birthday, why not do the opposite, and give gifts to your loved ones on your birthday? This way, you receive the greatest gift of all: the feeling of gratitude for all of the love and friendship you have received from those closest to you. Reverse giving banishes our self-centered need to receive, and expands our mind to focus on giving love and goodwill. Remember: When we want to receive gifts from others (whether interest, attention, or love), we are often afraid that we won't get the gift we want in exactly the way we want it. Thus, we live in anxiety and fear. On the other hand, THERE IS NO FEAR IN GIVING. When we give from our inner core, we win--regardless of whether someone accepts our gift or not. When we give with true generosity, our job is simply to give; that is all. When we give, we extend our loving energy outward, and at the same time, we replenish our own store of power and love. It is a law of nature: What goes out must also come in.

*BE AN EVERYDAY SANTA CLAUS--Don't just wait for one day a year to be giving and loving, i.e. on Christmas. Consider Christmas to be a daily holiday in which you give kindness and goodwill to others. Do you remember the thrill of opening new gifts as a child on Christmas? Now, you can experience the Christmas spirit of giving every single day of your life. Give freely of yourself every day, and it will seem like Christmas is every day.

Yes, the secret to happiness and success is simple: When you think of Generosity as your daily habit, your thoughts, attitudes, and actions will change accordingly. Where before, you may have felt restricted, deprived, anxious, and worried because you didn't have enough, now you will feel grateful, happy, and proud that your life is overflowing with goodness. Think of it: Who can give away the most? Those who have the most. By reversing the paradigm, you first begin by giving away all you have--in time, energy, finances, attention, love, respect, kindness--and you will see that this reversal of action will bring an abundance of those same things into your life. Your life will be increasingly rich when you live this way. As has been recorded in times of old, the promise is unalterable: "BRING THE WHOLE TITHE INTO THE STOREHOUSE, THAT THERE MAY BE FOOD IN MY HOUSE.TEST ME IN THIS, AND SEE IF I WILL NOT THROW OPEN THE FLOODGATES OF HEAVEN, AND POUR OUT SO MUCH BLESSING THAT THERE WILL NOT BE ROOM ENOUGH TO STORE IT."

Imagine that your mental life is like a series of martial art belt tests. You start as a white belt, then earn your yellow belt, as you work your way up to the highest level of mental mastery, also known as the black belt. Earning a black belt in the mind means that you have reached a high level of inner wisdom and knowledge--that you have achieved (or are achieving) your fullest potential as a human being. To reach that highest level is a wonderful, incredible feeling--to know that you are elevating yourself and creating more joy and success in your life and in the lives of the ones you love.

With this article, we will begin the first in a series of "Black Belt of the Mind" lessons. Each lesson will take you one step closer to achieving that sense of absolute confidence and supreme mastery over your inner and outer world.

Today's first lesson is this:


People believe they have choices, but the truth is that they don't. There is no choice in life.


If you live from your higher, Unified Nature, also known as your intuition or gut feeling, you don't have any choices to make. You simply know what to do. There is no need to choose between two alternatives, between this or that. There is no need to analyze anything; you simply follow your intuition. You know which person to stay with, which one to leave. You know which friend to make, which one to avoid. You know where to invest your time, energy, and money, and where not to invest it. You have no choices to make because you live simply from your sense of true knowing, and you act accordingly. Life is simple, clear, beautiful, true.

If you live from your lower, Divided Nature, also known as your "monkey mind" (the part of you that is always frantically chasing thought after thought), then you also have no choice: Whatever you decide will turn out wrong. To be happy, you think you need to choose between this and that person, this and that activity, this and that business venture. But, the truth is that neither choice will succeed; all will fail; because you are haven't created a mind that is calm, unified, and purposeful. A woman asks, "Should I stay with this man I love, even if we fight a lot?" The answer is simple: As long as you are divided in your emotions and thoughts, it doesn't matter what you decide. If you decide to stay with him, sooner or later, part of your mind will question your decision and urge you leave. If you leave him, the other part of your mind will call you "a fool" for leaving such "a loving and caring man." Either way, you lose; either way the decision you make will fail--simply because you are not united in the core of your nature. It doesn't matter whether the woman stays with the man or leaves him; if her mind is divided, she is not balanced. If she is not balanced, she will fall.

The truth is that you have no choice in your everyday routine matters, but you have one very important choice in the way you choose to spend your time on earth. You can either live from your Unified Nature or your Divided Nature. One you have decided which core to live from, the rest is easy.

If you choose to live from your Divided Nature--a life of chasing for external prizes, trying to steal your identity from the thrills of the world--then the rest of your life is guaranteed: disappointment, frustration, and failure. No choice.

If you choose to live from your Unified Nature--a life of continual inner study, growth, and elevation, of using the external world as a training ground to uplift your mind and spirit--then your future is also assured. The person with a strong Unified Nature devotes himself or herself to studying themselves, reading good books on self-elevation, and learning from teachers who provide authentic psychological and spiritual truths. The person of Unified Nature is always learning and continually wanting to improve themselves so they can help others in the process. When you live from your Unified Nature, whatever you do will succeed; whatever you decide will work. There is no need to agonize over this or that. You simply know what is good, true, pure, and authentic. You have no choice because you don't need to choose. You simply are.

Imagine that you are sitting at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Delicious, mouthwatering dishes abound everywhere you look. But, then you notice something quite extraordinary: The dishes before you are not made from food, but instead are prepared with special ingredients from your own mind-- Gratitude, Optimism, and Love. These are "The 3 Dishes of Well-Being"-- the uplifting emotional states that positive psychologists have identified as essential for overcoming adversity, developing psychological resilience, and achieving human potential. When we help those who are ill and suffering, we can provide them with a tremendous benefit by offering them these three sumptuous psychological dishes.

First, we begin with the appetizer: Gratitude.

Gratitude is the realization that the good in your life comes from outside you--whether it is given to you by a higher power, family member, friend, or even a stranger. Research shows that grateful people sleep 40% better, have lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, and are 30% less likely to suffer from depression. In a controlled study with patients who had neuromuscular disease, those who kept a daily Gratitude Journal reported better sleep and a more positive mood, as well as increased social connection and optimism.

How to Cultivate More Gratefulness: Here are a few powerful techniques you can use to increase gratitude in yourself and the people you help:

*Keep a Gratitude Journal: Every day write down 3 things you're grateful for: for example, being alive, sharing time with your family, eating a nice meal, spending time in nature, helping someone on the job. This is the most powerful, research-proven way to improve your feelings of gratitude, well-being, and contentment. Research shows that people who keep a gratitude journal have a 25% higher level of happiness.
*Practice Gratitude in Reverse: Mother Theresa said "I am grateful not for what I can receive, but for what I can give." Those of us in the helping professions can feel grateful for the people we help on a daily basis.

*Fill Your Gratitude Jar Daily: This is a great way to teach Gratitude to children, and also experience it for ourselves. During the day, put a coin in your "Gratitude Jar" (write "Gratitude" outside it) each time you are grateful for something. Soon, your jar will fill up to the brim with coins. When, it gets full, give it away to a needy person or charitable organization. Then, get a new Gratitude Jar. Valuable lessons are being learned: Gratitude can be grown, then it can be given away. Gratitude never ends.
Next, we come to the main course: Optimism.

Optimism: Optimism is the belief that everything will turn out all right--that tomorrow we will be healthier, happier, and more prosperous. Optimism reduces fear, anxiety, and stress because we no longer are afraid that the worst will happen. Optimism is now making its way into medicine. Nurses are using it to promote the mental health of patients--to speed up recovery and achieve more positive medical outcomes. More medical facts: Optimists are less likely to die between the ages of 50 and 65, and are 30% less likely to die from cardiac arrest. Optimists also make more money--optimistic salespeople sell 35% more. Optimists are even luckier. In Dr. Richard Wiseman's research with "lucky" versus "unlucky people," he found certain common characteristics in lucky people, namely optimism--looking on the bright side of life.

For example, subjects in a study were asked to imagine a scenario where they were in a bank, and suddenly a bank robber came in and started shooting, wounding them in the shoulder. People who were unlucky in life made comments such as "that is the worst thing that could ever happen to them; here I was minding my own business, and I was shot in the shoulder." Those who were lucky in life, on the other hand, said that incident was actually very lucky. They tended to say things like: "First of all, I could have been shot in the head instead of the shoulder. Plus, I will be on the nightly news, and I may get free publicity; who knows, maybe I can even get my own reality show." The bottom line: Optimistic people are luckier, as well as happier and healthier.

How do you improve your optimism? Seek out new opportunities, look for the positive in any situation, no matter how gloomy or difficult it may first appear. Practice positive affirmations: Repeat this phrase to yourself several times a day: "I am growing and expanding and learning more each day. I am becoming a better and happier person." Create a vision board where you cut and paste pictures of the goals you want to achieve in life: relationship, career, financial, health, and family. Look at the board daily, and feel yourself achieving those goals. Every day, decide to live the Optimist's way: The way of true health

Finally, we come to the most delicious of dishes, the dessert of life, Love.

Love: Philosophers, writers, and poet have all written about love for thousands of years. Now psychologists are scientifically investigating the power of love to heal physical and emotional wounds. In a remarkable study, married subjects were given suction blister wounds, and were then observed to see if they displayed hostile or loving behavior toward each other. Loving couples had a 40% faster rate of healing than the argumentative, hostile couples. Simply put, love can even heal physical wounds. Loving interaction (even showing affection to a pet) can release more of the hormone Oxytocin, which reduces high blood pressure, lowers anxiety, and inhibits the production of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Loving energy is not simply based on romantic love. It is the special essence of human existence; it can be expressed in all of our daily interactions. Loving energy incorporates the elements of compassion, humanity, caring, and gentleness that are innate in the human mind and spirit.

One of the best ways to increase loving energy is through the practice of loving kindness meditation.

Practice Daily Loving Kindness Meditation: In a quiet place, sit down, close your eyes, and visualize that from the center of your stomach, you are emitting a colored light (maybe red, green, or white) that represents loving energy. Imagine that you are sending this ray of light, this loving energy, to the person who is closest you emotionally in your life right now: perhaps a child, spouse, parent, or animal. Next, visualize that this loving light energy keeps spreading out to your other loved ones--your family members who live elsewhere. Further, see this loving light energy spreading outward to your friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. Continue expanding that loving energy to your neighborhood, to the person at the gas station, the waiter, to people you don't know, to the homeless, to the poor, sick, and elderly, to your entire city, and beyond. Practicing this loving kindness exercise for five to 10 minutes daily can produce tremendous benefits in your life. Loving kindness meditation has been helpful in increasing social connectedness, reducing pain, anger, and psychological distress, and even in treating depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

Those who practice loving kindness meditation will experience deep feelings of compassion for themselves and others. Moreover, this compassion will act as a natural healing force for the body, mind, and spirit. Compassion and loving kindness have been found to transform and heal deep trauma because it gives us a sense of hope that love does exist and can be shared.

Now, you are ready for your complete meal. You have the main dishes of Gratitude, Optimism, and Love on your psychological table. Wherever you are, and wherever you go, serve this meal to yourself and others. When you do this, you will never go emotionally hungry. You, and those you care about, will have all of the essential nutritious ingredients to live a happy, healthy, and successful life.

Enjoy the 3 Dishes of Well-Being. Bon appétit.

Have you ever dealt with a difficult person? You know the type:  grumpy, critical, negative, angry, complaining, gossiping, and just a big pain in the derrière.  Maybe, it's your boss, friend, family member, or even your spouse or romantic partner.   All of us know people like that.  And, many times, we can't just avoid the person or leave the relationship--we can't quit our job; we have a lot invested in our marriage.

What do we do when we have to be around a negative or difficult person?  The key is to learn to separate ourselves--our psyche, our emotional health--from the negativity of that individual.  In psychology, there a emotional state known as Mood Contagion.  The reality is that moods are contagious: You can be infected with either negativity or positivity when you are around other people. And, you can influence others the same way; you can either bring positive energy into a room, or you can carry negativity and despair with you.

 The key for your emotional health is this: Put up a psychological force field, or shield, that protects you from the negative "emotional bullets" fired at you by people who are at a low level of psychological and spiritual development.  Decide that you will not be infected by the emotional negativity of others. You will be immune to their lower nature.

Here are four secrets to immunizing yourself against difficult people.

1. See Them As Suffering From Themselves. People are their own reward and their own punishment.   All of us live in our minds.  Our minds can be a palace--full of pleasurable, happy thoughts--or a prison: full of negativity, complaints, regrets, and insecurities.  When someone is criticizing you or being mean to you, realize that they are also suffering from the fiery force of their own words.  Watch as their face becomes red, they tremble in anger, they clench their fists. Their blood pressure is going up, their mind is a whirl of aggression and pain.  The reality is that they are harming themselves--physically and psychologically--with the very negativity they are trying to give to you.  Instead of fearing them, or being angry at them, simply maintain a calm, compassionate state.  Be like the doctor who doesn't get angry or fearful when he or she sees a sick patient.  The doctor simply gives medicine to the sick person--it is up to the sick person whether they want to take it.  The doctor is not hurt in any way by the actions of the patient.  The doctor simply offers help and that is all.

2. Refuse Their "Gift" of Negativity. Negativity is not really a gift; it is actually a booby trap that is primed to explode at a moment's nervous. The person giving the negativity thinks its a gift because that is all they have to give. The key here is for you to refuse to accept that person's negativity.  When someone gives you a gift in real life, and you politely refuse it, where does the gift go?  To the original gift-giver.  As an example, if someone wants you to gossip about a friend, refuse the gift, say:  "I don't talk about other people when they're not present.  Thanks for the gift of gossip, but I don't desire it. I give it back to you."  In this way, you will liberate yourself from the need to accept the negativity others try to give you, and you will be free from the consequences of that so called gift.
3. Learn the Reverse Lesson. Here's a beautiful thought: Let the negativity of others teach you how to be the opposite. You can learn peace from an angry person, patience from a impatient person.  Think of everyone in your life as a teacher--even the most difficult, aggressive, mean-spirited, and hateful person you can encounter. You learn the reverse lesson by seeing how much they suffer from their own negativity and weakness.  You see the pained look on their face, their slumped posture, their destroyed relationships.  Then, you say to yourself, "Thank God: I am not like them."  Try an experiment: To learn the Gift of Patience, go to the grocery store and observe all the rushed, worried, and stressed out people. Then, intentionally choose the longest line in the store and practice waiting.  You might find some additional benefits: You can sharpen your conversational skills in line, you can think or mediate, and you can observe and learn from others.  At any rate, you will  have disciplined and mastered your mind to be patient.  Remember, either you rule your mind, or your mind rules you.

4. Attract Your Own Level. People ask this question: Why does an insecure person attract an abusive one?  The answer is simple: Because they are on the same low psychological level of development--only in different forms.  The insecure person unconsciously attracts an abuser because that is what feels "natural" to them, while the abuser unconsciously attracts an insecure person because that is what feels "comfortable." In reality, neither is truly natural or comfortablethey are both suffering from their own weakened states of mind.  To attract a higher level person in your life, you need to be a higher level person. Work on yourself:  read, think, meditate, pray, associate with higher level people (kind, loving, giving, compassionate); study yourself and others.  Once you start to become a happier, more fulfilled, integrated human being, you will discover a miracle:  The old negative "friends" and relationships in your life will fade away, and you will attract more loving, compatible, healthy, and fulfilling human connections.

The greatest secret of all is this: Love Your Higher Source, Love Yourself, and Love Others, and you will live life to the fullest.

It is said that King Solomon of ancient Israel had 700 wives and 300 concubines. In other words, he probably had a lot of in-law problems, to be sure. But, he also must have learned quite a bit about love and romance, as evidenced by the beautiful book of poetry he wrote, Song of Songs. You can apply some of his messages of love wisdom to improve your own love life and have a deeper, more satisfying relationship.

Here are 4 Love Secrets from King Solomon:

1. Let Love Sleep: In our fast-food society, people want to fall in love, or at least, in lust, quickly. As soon as they meet an attractive stranger, many singles are already thinking: "Is he or she the one?" Many times singles get their hopes up, only to be crushed later when they discover that the sexy stranger was not compatible with them, at all. Solomon says: "Don't arouse or awaken love until it so desires." In other words, love must be cultivated like a flower, watered, and taken care of, and given enough time to bloom. Don't be in a hurry to turn that acquaintance into a soul mate. Take the time to nurture a friendship that will, in time, turn into a lasting love and beautiful relationship that will stand the test of time. Remember: Love cannot be forced or pressured; it must develop at its own pace.

2. Eat From Your Own Garden: Many people are tempted to stray in relationships. Whether it's a random thought of flirtation ("what would it be like with that person?") or an actual sexual affair, many people are not completely satisfied in their relationships. "The grass is greener over the next hill" is a phrase that summarizes the wandering eye of many people in the love game. But, Solomon says it best when he talks about devoted love with one person: "I will climb the palm tree and take hold of its fruit; I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." When you think of a well-taken care of garden, you can imagine there being many delicious fruits; a variety of tasty delights. In the same way, your lover can be a constant feast for you if you invest your time, energy, and spirit into cultivating one special relationship. In this relationship, you can feed each other mentally and physically, providing a variety of attitudes and styles to keep the love interesting: sometimes shy, other times aggressive; sometimes comforting and security-giving, but also wild and unpredictable on other occasions. If you take the time to plant your emotional seeds and water your garden (with time, energy, and affection), you will receive all of the love and happiness you desire.

3 Sing Praises to Your Beloved: Love poetry is a lost art among couples. There is nothing sexier--it's an ideal aphrodisiac, to be sure--than to recite (and listen) to love poetry. Here's your homework love assignment for the week with your mate: For the next seven days, spend 10-15 minutes each day reciting love poetry to each other. You can find poems on the Internet or come up with your own. The key is to make sure that the poem resonates with you; the words should speak to the way you feel about your partner. Also, when reciting the poetry to each other, make sure you look directly into each other's eyes. Who wouldn't melt with words like these from King Solomon? "Your lips drip sweetness; your name is like perfume poured out--you have stolen my heart with one glance." Take the time this week to say love poems to your beloved, and notice the increase in your loving and romantic feelings toward each other.

4. Respect the Power of Love: Many people forget how powerful a force love truly is. Love cannot be contained, controlled, or played with. It also cannot be bought; it must be freely given and freely received. Solomon proclaimed: "Love is a blazing fire that can not be quenched; rivers can not sweep it away." Some people treat love as a game; seeing how many men and women they can bed or get to fall in love with them. This may give them a temporary ego boost, but will end up costing them in the long run in emotional turmoil and may even result in physical violence from spurned lovers. At the same time, some people try to buy the love of others with material goods or the promise of security. Again, this is a fool's vain hope. Love is a force of nature that must be respected, nurtured, and treasured. When you are swept away by this beautiful unstoppable force, you can only do one thing: Succumb to its ecstatic power and bathe in its miraculous delights.

Now, by following these four love secrets from the wise King Solomon, you can improve your love life and achieve the greatest feeling of all: to be completely and unequivocally relinquished in love for your one and only soul mate. Enjoy the Love: the sweetest song of all.


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