Knowledge@Wharton has a post this month on networking, and while the information is not revolutionary, it is key to enhancing and building relationships.  In short, the key to building relationships is to build on existing links, enhancing existing relationships in groups you are already connected to, and enjoy the process to keep it sustainable.





For those of us whose work has us sitting at our desks all week, it’s time to stand up and take notice!  According to what I’ve been hearing and reading,  sitting for all those hours is wreaking havoc with our health, and may even be taking as much as 15 years off our life expectancy.  Yikes!

The good news is that this is easily corrected.    The simplest thing to do is just get up!  That’s right,  standing up for 30 seconds each hour is enough to counteract all that sitting.  Stand while you’re on the phone, walk to get a drink of water, march in place.  Or better yet, take a five minute walk or even do jumping jacks at your desk.  (This goes for those of you who spend a few hours in the evening in front of your television as well!)


A collection of flowers and stuff....

Flowers ignite the emotions and senses.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not an “outdoors” person.  I don’t get a thrill from gardening or hiking or biking or kayaking.

But I love nature.

When I am really stressed out, there’s nothing that soothes me more than heading to the ocean and watching and listening to the waves and the seagulls.  My heart bursts at the sight of the trees in bloom in the spring,  at viewing and smelling fields of wildflowers, and oh the majesty of mountains set off against big blue skies or hot pink sunsets.

People need nature.  What they may not know is that being in nature actually does provide physiological benefits that improve your sleep, your diastolic blood pressure and even your hormone balance!  And nature-based experiences have also been found to be therapeutic and healing, thereby improving ones overall emotional, spiritual and general psychological well-being.

I’ve taken to buying myself flowers every week to put on my desk.  The act of arranging them in itself makes me smile and my eyes land on them during the day, or when I pass through my office.    Of course, just think about how important flowers are to weddings, funerals and other special occasions…flowers and scents stimulate our emotions.

The great outdoors has other benefits.  The vitamin D from the sunlight has been proven to be greatly important to our immune system.  Season affect disorder (SAD) occurs when some individuals are deprived of natural light in the winter, and certainly has an effect on everyone’s mood  and sleep habits to one degree or another.  Consider how you feel in a bright and airy room versus a windowless cubicle.

Gardening (for those that don’t have a black thumb like I do) can also prove to be both physically and mentally beneficial.  Many of the religious anecdotes indicate that spiritual leaders had key mystical experiences in natural settings.  And according to John V Davis, “Survey results on frequency and triggers for peak experiences (Davis, Lockwood, & Wright) shows that nature is the most common trigger for peak experiences“ as defined by Maslow.

Flowers on your desk, plants in and around your home and office, walks on the beach or woodlands, all contribute major benefits to your Personal Environment.  How will you include more of that this week?


Drinking three cups of tea a day may help to significantly (10%) lower blood pressure according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.


Now they are saying this is a result of polyphenols and caffeine in the tea. But I’m wondering if the act of stopping what you’re doing to brew and drink the tea may be a contributing factor.  Ritual and relaxation are both huge aspects of your body and health environments!



Running man sculpture outside the Sport, Exerc...

Image via Wikipedia

I recently attended a meeting where one of the speakers was Dr. Mark Hyman.  Among other fascinating discussions, he talked about how important it was to create a support team as well as to set up your physical environment for success.  In the case of focusing on your health and eating habits, he talked about one of his successes with the Saddleback church, who with his help, created an entire program and website to promote health–The Daniel Plan.  Here parishioners can join a support team.  Get plan information and education in videos, blogs and more.  It’s a total environment for changing the way they live and getting fit and healthy.

I listened to some of the videos, in particular Dr. Daniel Amen and his wife going though someone’s pantry and refrigerator to eliminate all the “bad” foods–things like hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, chemicals and additives.  By doing so you not only become proactive in showing your commitment to yourself, you create a physical environment that supports healthy eating habits.

Mark joked about the collaboration between a nice Jewish boy from NY and the Saddleback Ministry.  But it’s no joke that this program is effective and changing lives.  Coming soon, he’ll have a website that will support those not part of the ministry, but you don’t have to wait to get started.

Commit to eating better.  Mark’s book, Ultrametabolism, is a good start, as are so many of the excellent books that have come out in recent years.  Prevention Magazine is another good resource.   There’s a wealth of resources both at the Daniel Plan site and Mark’s own site and

Commit to moving more.  It would be amazing to have the resources of a personal trainer, but you can do almost as well with one of the many sites that show you, step by step, how to exercise properly.  Two of my favorite are Livestrong and Mayo Clinic.

Get a support team!  Ask a few friends or find a group online.  Research has shown that those who have support do much better than those who go at it alone.

Set up your environments to support you.  Don’t buy foods that are bad for you. Stock your pantry and refrigerator with easily prepared and grabbed foods.  Read and learn about what’s important to your health and why.  Stay away from fast food places and avoid the neighborhood cupcake bakery. 😉  Find a walking or exercise buddy and commit to them.

And go straight to health!

stress elf

For all the holiday cheer this time of year, I find that for many of my clients the holidays are particularly stressful.  It’s a combination of overly busy schedules, family obligations, financial strain from gift-giving requirements, and often a reaction to too much food, too much joviality, and the endless stream of holiday requests and marketing.

Over the years, a few time-worn strategies to dealing with it all have emerged.

  1. Have reasonable expectations.  The media would have us believe that everyone’s holidays are right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, when in truth, they may be more like National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation.  Go with the flow instead of expecting perfection.
  2. Don’t say yes, when you want to say no.   Sounds simple, but over and over again people accept invitations out of a sense of obligation rather than a real desire.  It’s perfectly acceptable to say “Thank you so much, I’m afraid it’s not possible,” even if your alternate plans are Chinese take-out in front of The Big Bang Theory.
  3. Don’t overspend.  Another obvious strategy, and yet one often overlooked.  Set a budget for how much you’ll spend on gifts and stick too it.  Shop in advance so you’re not desparately looking for a gift at the last minute.  Make a list and use the internet to price shop.  Then call your local store before you head in to avoid disappointment with the item you’re hunting for isn’t available.
  4. Don’t leave things for the last minute.  That includes shopping, gift-wrapping, RSVPing, finding the right dress to wear for New Year’s Eve, or sending out holiday cards or letters.  (Consider a Christmas email and save both time and money!)
  5. Eat healthy despite the overabundance that surrounds you.  Just because it’s the holidays, it doesn’t mean you need to down a quart of heart-clogging eggnog (one cup won’t hurt), or Christmas cookies, or a dozen fried potato latkes.   Indulge wisely.  However, don’t even think about starting a diet this time of year.  That’s what January is for. 😉
  6. Get enough rest.  The holidays generally take us out of our routine, whether it’s because of the abundance of events, guests or travel.  This may be the time of year to indulge in naps!
  7. Give back.  During the holidays, find a way to give back to the community, whether that’s donating to a food bank, visiting some elderly people, or volunteering some time to a worthy cause.  Don’t over-commit, but do find a way to show love and gratitude.

Angela Spaxman, a Career and Executive Coach based in Hong Kong (and long time friend) talks about Mindfulness, and in particular about Mindfulness in the corporate world as the next big trend.  In her blog about the top benefits of mindfulness, she lists better listening ability, better moods, and in particular more control of your thinking as you are mindful of the negative thoughts that arise and take control of those thoughts by noticing them and replacing them with positive ones.

This is a perfect example of one way to control your memetic environment!

In the womb, we gently rock in a bubble of amniotic fluid.  As mothers, we rock our babies to sleep, in our arms or in a cradle.  When my babies wouldn’t sleep, we’d often put them in a car seat, and let the gentle motion of the car ride, put them to sleep.

And scientists have finally confirmed that gentle rocking (think hammock or waterbed)  propels us into sleep faster, and allows us to sleep more deeply. The Better Brain Life  blog quotes Dr. Sophie Schwartz, one of the researchers:  “The use of rocking to soothe sleep thus belongs to our repertoire of adaptive behaviors in which a natural mechanism of sleep … has been harnessed in the simplest manner since immemorial times,” wrote Dr. Schwartz and her colleagues in the report of their findings, published on June 21 in the journal Cell Biology.

There’s no question that some environments allow for better sleeping than others.  Imagine trying to sleep in a bright room, with a lumpy bed, and a jack hammer working away outside your window.  (Although I suspect my husband could do that with no problem.) It’s important to create the proper environment for sleeping, and that not only includes the absence of lighting and loud noise, and the proper bedding, it also includes creating a bedtime ritual for yourself.

It’s long been proven that children do better with a consistent bedtime ritual.  A warm bath, brush your teeth, get into fresh jammies and have mom sing you a lullaby or read you a story (or two or three.)  Adults would do well to create one as well. If you can, try going to sleep at the same time every night. Check your calendar for the next day and prepare ahead so you start the day without stress.  Wind down the day with soft music, or a bit of quiet reading. This is not the time to answer some more emails, watch the news (who decided that 11 PM was a good time for news?) or start on a new project. By doing the same thing night after night, you’re signaling your brain that it’s time for sleep.

My nightly ritual includes my nightly face ablutions, reading, and a sleep sound machine set to rain.  (And ok, I admit it, sometimes a bit of the Cooking Channel.)

Can’t get to sleep?  Try taking deep slow breaths, or doing a relaxation exercise or meditation.  Visualize a calm, peaceful place and then starting at your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head.  If you still find yourself wide awake, don’t fight it.  Make yourself a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk, daydream about something pleasant in a dimly lit space, and then let yourself drift off into sweet slumber.

I wonder if someone will make a king-sized cradle?

Our environment effects our thoughts, and our thoughts affect our environment. Your surroundings (or Physical Environment) are composed of the tangible aspects of your life: your home, your car, your office, artwork, “toys”and nature. This environment presents observable clues of what’s going on in our lives. So if things are vibrant and going well, it’s likely your home and office reflect that.  When chaos reigns in our lives, it’s likely that clutter, damaged items, noise and chaos are reflected in our homes.

Everyone has different needs when it comes to their Physical Environment.  Some people need simplicity, some vibrant colors, and for some opulence and elegance are what they need.  Your Physical Environment can affect your creativity, your mood, motivation and even your energy.  The Chinese knew this and developed a complex system for creating an ideal environment in Feng Shui. However, you don’t need to hurry out and hire a Feng Shui consultant. Begin by figuring out what you need in your environment. What in yours is currently working for you? What’s not? Our environment  isn’t ideal when it lacks a quality we need, whether that’s nature, beauty, serenity, scented candles, or even sounds such as water or music.

And that’s not to say your environment needs to be picture perfect or ready for House Beautiful. Years ago, I was invited to someone’s home for lunch.  She had a few things she needed to complete for work, and led me into her living room to wait for her to finish.  The living room was a showpiece.    White plush carpeting, white sofas, white marble coffee table,  beautiful artwork on the walls.  All very expensive, all very sterile.  There was not an ounce of color.  The throw pillows were white, and the coffee table was bare…not a magazine or object in site.  I was almost afraid to move.  After a few minutes, I went looking for another spot to sit, and found the very cluttered den, complete with magazines, toys all over the floor and knick knacks everywhere.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and sat down.

You don’t need to do an immediate renovation, although sometimes rearranging the furniture can have an immediate impact.  Do however take some time each day to scan your physical environment.  Are there things out of place, out of date, or out of order?  Take care of them immediately.  A wise man once told the child me that “a truly lazy person will put things away immediately, because that means there will never be a huge amount of work to do all at once.”

Well designed environments can naturally increase performance, creativity and effectiveness.  They can inspire you and give you energy as well as calm you.As you walk through an area, look at your possessions and ask yourself three more questions:  Is it beautiful?  Is it useful?  Do I love it?  If you answer yes to any of those, that’s a keeper.  If you can’t answer yes, put it in a box and donate or trash it.

Now go ahead and ask yourself these questions:

Are my home, office and car clutter free?

Do my home, office and car express who I am?

Do my home and office inspire me?

Are all my possessions in good repair and up to date?

Does everything in my physical environment pass the “I love it” test?

Is there an area in my home where I feel more energized and inspired?

This morning someone sent me a video in memory of 9-11.  There it all was again. The planes hitting the towers.  The burning.  The chaos.  The faces.  All set to poignant music.  I’m sure for some, this was an appropriate way to remember, for me it was a smack in the face.

I don’t need to see this sad reminder of hate and devastation.  I knew people who died.  I am surrounded by communities that lost hundreds to this horror.  I’m no stranger to this tragedy.

I’m a bit astonished that we’re approaching the tenth anniversary of 9-11!  It’s not just that a decade has passed since that awful day, but it also marks ten years that I have not watched or listened to the news, with a few exceptions.

I was sitting at my desk that morning, when a friend called and said, “turn on the news, something has happened at the World Trade Center.”  As a result, I was watching it live as the second plane hit.  After remaining glued to the TV, for I’m not sure how long, I finally pulled myself away from it temporarily to drive the short distance to the beach where I, along to the dozens other who gathered there, watched the billowing smoke rise from the towers from afar.

For the next few days, like everyone else, I remained glued to the news whenever I was home.   I listened to speculation about what happened, watched the commentaries on how things were handled, and found myself anxious, angry and disturbed by the often conflicting information.

After a few days of this I knew I had to stop watching.  I turned off the TV, turned on some classical music, and within hours had reclaimed my equilibrium.  It was not that I was unaffected any longer, more that I had taken control of my memetic and emotional environment and chosen how I would respond.

I know someone will ask…but how do you get the news then?  How do you know what’s going on?  I see the news online of course — at sites of my choosing. I read the headlines and if I’m moved to learn more, I read the rest.  I am signed up to receive news alerts, and the husband or friends keep me abreast.  But I no longer fill my consciousness with the rapes, murders, house fires, war, starvation or the disease of the day.  I no longer listen to someone’s political agenda, spin on the news, or the continuing rhetoric and hyperbole.

In contrast, my mom has two TVs and a radio set to different news stations all day long.  She is constantly worried (and tries to tell me about it) about the economic conditions, the tainted food in some far off state, the latest pronouncement about what’s bad for you (often the exact opposite of what she heard last week.)  It causes her needless anxiety.  But she can’t stop herself, much as I try to get her to watch some mindless TV, or film, or the Food Network (my default station.)

She won’t control her memetic environment, but you can control yours.  Decide what information you will allow into your life.  It may surprise you what a difference it makes.

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