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Well being is something we all desire. But staying healthy and feeling good can be quite a challenge especially with the stresses that pervade every aspect of our lives today. Everyone is aware that regular exercise and eating healthfully are two essential steps to well being. In this series you'll learn about a third step; relaxation.
Not just sitting around but some specific activities that trigger your body's relaxation response. You'll learn about the importance of deep relaxation for reducing the harmful affects of stress along with a series of easy to do relaxation skills. And through our weekly questionnaire you'll gain an awareness of how stress may be affecting you. So get a paper and pencil ready and join us as we take the next step to well being.
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Over the series we've seen how stress has secretly invaded almost every aspect of our lives whether we were aware of it or not.
Deepak: How might our lives change if we become aware of the affects of stress and learn how to manage it? [music] [music] In this last program we're going to look at how stress affects the achievement of our overall life goals.
Our final questionnaire will help you recognize the effects of stress in important areas of your life and you'll learn one more simple exercise that can help you bring about change.
Eli Bay, director of The Relaxation Institute in Toronto is a pioneer in the teaching of relaxation skills for stress management.
Eli: In childhood most of us had dreams of life that lay ahead of us; as unsophisticated as these may have been these ideas often held the seeds of what we still feel is most important for us to have accomplished in our lives. In early adulthood if we weren't swept up too soon into the rush of life these dreams may have crystallized into aspirations and life goals. How have you done? How would those children and young adults you once were feel if they could see you now? In other words how do you feel about the way your life has turned out and what you're accomplishing?
A feeling of success according to your own definition has a lot to do with well being and a sense of self esteem. The pressure to achieve our goals may add to our overall stress levels but in laying out what we want to achieve we can also define when we can relax knowing that we are on our way. Far greater stress is created by not being in control of our lives; then we get caught up in the cycle of reaction that's inherent in the stress mechanism. Setting realistic priorities is an essential part of stress management.
Dr. Cunningham: Survival is the primary desire of most living things including us and if we feel threatened that becomes the number one priority. Whatever that takes and that can be just managing to survive the drive and the traffic or stay in the job and not lose it--satisfy the boss and the requirements of a job--regardless and our other needs will tend to drop away. We end up not doing up what we might really choose to do if everything was ideal. We end up trying to survive just to survive in the environment which is quite harsh and unfriendly in many ways of course and so we forget about the things that are healthy for us and the things that we would really enjoy and would really be neutering.
Sheila: The stresses of life and having to do this and do that and going here and having every minute of your day planned out did not allow me to sit back and think what do I really want?
Paul: I was going through my life way too quickly and I had --probably because of that--I had lost the awareness of some of the things that are important in life.
Dr. Cunningham: So as soon as your feet hit the floor in the morning you're thinking, "what am I going to do next; what am I going to do today" there isn't any space. If we create that space say by doing a relaxation exercise for twenty minutes there's an opportunity for long buried ideas or plans or emotions to come to the surface and they often do. That can be painful but it can also be very, very rewarding and helpful and give us a new insight --or different perspective-- on just how we're spending our time and we can ask ourselves, "Is that what I want to be doing or have I forgotten that I really wanted to be doing something else?"
Dr. Hanson: I've always found that relaxation is one of the most underestimated and underused tools in being able to fight back against the stresses in our busy lives. When people find themselves stuck in old habit patterns and old paradigms for example and they are not being successful by their own yardstick I often find that relaxation is a very useful way of helping them break through some of those problems.
By relaxation I simply mean choosing anyone of the modalities that we've seen here on this program but finding something that works for you, that will allow you to clear your mind of other distractions and help you to focus in on a new mindset or a a new paradigm or a new life goal that you've been trying to achieve. When you can do that with clarity then you can visualize what it's like for you to be in that situation. You can imagine what it's going to taste like, what it's going to smell like, what it's going to feel like; everything about achieving that goal that you're trying to achieve.
Dr. Cunningham: If you can re-interest yourself in your goals or even develop new ones that might be a very life enhancing and life promoting kind of a way to be because you could be out there doing those things, you'll be excited, you'll be motivated. It changes the bodies chemistry to be like that.
Dr. Hanson: So we need to know more than just the amount of stress that's around us we need to know what we're doing about it every step of the way. And if we're making good choices and we're learning how to relax and control what's going on inside our bodies high levels of stress that might be swirling in chaos around us don't need to spell disaster at all. In fact it can enhance our lives, give us greater memories, and improve our health and our longevity all at the same time.
Sheila: I think relaxation has a positive impact. I think I see those goals more clearly and they become much more accessible when I eliminate all of the stressful events and situations that took those goals away from me.
Paul: Interestingly enough I hadn't really played music for a long time--I was a guitar player; professional guitar player prior to woking in the Arts Management Business--but as a result of the relaxation course I started to play a lot more than I had for two or three years and that felt really great.
Dr. Hanson: If you're not feeling good about yourself and you really hate to go in Monday mornings into the office and you have a poor self image and you view yourself as not being a success and you're unable to sleep and you're troubled those are all very bad signals that won't show up on a typical doctors examination or any other way. I think self evaluation tests can be a very big help for most people because they are so busy worrying about things around them that they never have time to sit down and reflect upon themselves and that's the real value of a self test. It forces them to think. [silence]
Deepak: Eli before we get into the self test I'd like to explore a little more about the relationship between success and well being. Wouldn't you say they are essentially the same thing?
Eli: That's an interesting point. It's hard to imagine total well being without feeling successful. And by being successful I don't just mean financial success--although that's obviously a part of it--if you set out to be a successful wife and mother and even though you couldn't care less about your career and you've achieved your goal the you're a success. Success is something that's self defined; it's how you feel about yourself and it's hard to imagine feeling totally successful without enjoying a certain degree of well being. We have a questionnaire that will spotlight different aspects of well being and it can provide a holistic perspective examine your achievements and your estimation of your success in various key areas of your life.
Deepak: So it's time for pencil and paper.
Eli: Yes and don't worry if you don't have paper and pencil handy just think about the points as they come up and relate them to your own life and answer the questions within the context of the last three months. Let's look at the first question: "You awake each morning feeling refreshed and energetic." If this was almost always true for you within the last three months give yourself a three, if it was often true give yourself a two, if it was only sometimes true a one, and if it was almost never true give yourself a zero.
Let's look at the next question: "Your body is flexible and full of energy." Think about it; is it a three, a two, a one, or a zero? "Your body is a source of pleasure for you." Is that true or not so? "You think clearly and effectively." Think about it. "Your memory is good." Is that a three, a two, a one, or a zero? These questions deal with our body and how well it is functioning. It's how we experience our body and our mind. As we saw in the second program of the series the physical state of our body is a very important indicator of our overall well being. Now let's look at the next question: "You enjoy regular exercise."
Again if that's almost always true give it a three, if it's almost never true give it a zero or the numbers in between. "You eat nutritious and well balanced meals." Three, two, one, or zero? "You don't smoke." "You avoid overuse of alcohol and drugs." And again here when we're talking about drugs it's not just street drugs but we're talking about even prescription drugs; even drugs like ASA. " "You take good care of your teeth and the rest of your body." It seems like something like seventy percent of people over the age of thirty-five have gum disease so certainly it's worth mentioning the importance of taking care of your teeth. "You take time to relax and revitalize yourself." Score it three, two, one, or zero.
And again when we're talking about relaxation we're not talking about the kind of relaxation that you think you get when you watch television or go for a walk after dinner. We are talking about literally the shutting down of the body's stress mechanism. These questions of course deal with how you take care of yourself; areas over which we have some kind of personal control and you can see several of these areas are among the major bulwarks against disease. Let's look at the next question: "You enjoy your family relationships." Almost always, often, sometimes, or almost never. "You are happy with your balance of work, leisure and family time." Is it a three, two, one, or zero? "You know that other people care for you."
Think about that; rate it three, two, one, or zero. "You have good reliable friendships." "There are people in whom you can confide." Almost always, often, sometimes, or almost never. "You contribute to the happiness and well being of others." Almost always, often, sometimes, or almost never. These questions deal with relationships and relationships are extremely important to maintain an overall well being. There is a whole body of literature that talks about how the support we get from our relationships really are essential to maintain overall well being. I think it was Matthew Arnold who said, "No man is an island."
Let's look at the next group of questions: "You are satisfied with your financial situation." Almost always, often, sometimes, or almost never. "You feel you can get what you want out of life." Is that a three, a two, a one, or a zero? "You are happy with the way your life is going." "You feel that you are responsible for the way your life has turned out." Take a moment and think about that. Is that almost always true, often, sometimes, or almost never? "You have control over the important aspects of your life." Three, two, one, or zero? And these questions of course deal with control and control is a very important aspect of well being.
All the research is quite clear in demonstrating that the more control you experience in your immediate environment the healthier you're going to be. Most people think that the people at the highest end of the pecking order in organizations would have the most stress symptoms but in fact the reverse is true; they find that the people at the lower ends of the pecking order have more stress related systems. For example secretaries, word processing operators, labors, waitresses, lab technicians have among the highest degree of stress related symptoms because they have the least control over setting their own personal agendas. And this is not just true in the work environment, this is true in all aspects of life.
Let's look at the next question: "You are working towards your life goals." Almost always, often, sometimes, or almost never. "You are living up to your life's goals, aspirations or dreams." Take a moment; are you a three, a two, a one, or a zero? "You enjoy your work." Almost always, often, sometimes, or almost never. "You can see how your work contributes to society." Is that a three, two, one, or zero? "You are pleased with your level of success and recognition." These questions look at our life and career goals. If we achieve our goals in our career and work especially in this culture we tend to feel successful; when we miss the mark we tend to feel stressed.
Having goals is extremely important; they motivate us and they spur us on to achievements. As the Koran says, "If you don't know where you're going any road will get you there." Let's look at the next group of questions: "You are satisfied with your personal growth and development." Three, two, one, or zero. "You enjoy life and you look forward to your future." Is that almost always true, often, sometimes, or almost never true? "You never feel bored." Is that a three, a two, a one, or a zero? "You express your creative abilities." Think about that; is that almost always true or almost never true? "You are satisfied with your spiritual development." Almost always, or almost never, or somewhere in between?
And the very last question, "You do not compromise your integrity." Is that a three, a two, a one, or a zero? This last section deals with your personal development; it measures the richness of your inner life and your personal strength both of which are necessary components of well being.
Deepak: I found this test to be pretty good. It was straightforward and I didn't have any trouble understanding any of the questions. In fact I was able to add up my scores as we went along and I got a seventy- two.
Eli: That's good. Actually a perfect score would be ninety-nine; if you had a three in each one of the questions you could get a ninety-nine. Anything over seventy-five indicates that you're experiencing a high degree of well being. Between fifty and seventy-five indicates that you exercise some self care but there are deficiencies; there are areas that you need to look at.
If you scored between twenty-five and fifty it indicates that you're not experiencing a whole lot of well being in your life and you may really want to look into a program that could help you to enhance your overall well being. If you scored under twenty-five then it indicates that there are really serious difficulties and that you might want to seek professional help.
Deepak: I lost a lot of my points in specific groups. For example the one on taking care of yourself; what this questionnaire is telling me is that I should exercise more, eat nutritious, well balanced meals a little more often, and take time out to relax and revitalize myself.
Eli: Well that's the idea of this test; it's really to indicate for you those areas that you could really build and enhance and strengthen your well being. And of course this is just one indicator of stress; it doesn't deal with the major changes. In fact each of these programs--for those of you who aren't familiar with the series--each of these programs deals with a different aspect of stress and I would recommend that you might want to get the home study package that lists all of the tests and you get a real overview of how well you are dealing with the well being in different aspects of your life.
Deepak: Eli you have shown us a number of exercise through the seven previous programs in the series. You've shown us deep breathing exercises, you've shown us tension exercises, and you've shown us mental focusing exercises; for the last episode in the series what would you like to show us?
Eli: Well I want to show you an exercise that is extremely practical, extremely easy and it's not a relaxation exercise although it can be used as a relaxation exercise. But this is really an exercise that enhances or that can be added upon the relaxed state. I mean basically the other techniques help us to get into a relaxed state; the exercise that we're going to do today is called Visualization or Mental Rehearsal.
Basically what it involves is your rehearsing the successful achievement of your goal before you have it. It's basically a skill that's being used by Olympic athletes or being used in various forms of cancer treatment where people actually imagine --for example in cancer--that they imagine that their bodies immune system is fighting back and destroying the cancers or in athletics people actually imagine themselves and rehearse in their mind over and over again their breaking through to higher levels of achievement.
It seems that our brains cannot tell the difference between what is real and what we imagine and there is an ideal state in which to work with these skills. When you are in a deeply relaxed state--and that can happen as a result of doing these exercises or relaxation exercise or it can be just as a result of just falling off to sleep so it's an ideal time to do it as well. When you are falling off to sleep, when you wake up in the morning first thing or in a deeply relaxed state your brain waves shift and it's an optimal time to literally put these new programs into your bio-computer if you will. And basically it involves you're just thinking about what you want to achieve; you rehearse it in your mind before you have it. Do you have a particular goal that you would like to work to achieve?
Deepak: Um huh; I'd like to lose some weight.
Eli: Okay it's helpful to think of a specific weight that you'd like to achieve.
Deepak: Uh huh; one hundred and sixty.
Eli: Okay would you like to do an exercise?
Eli: Okay first of all we're going to start with a relaxation exercise actually the one we learned in program six--the three to one and the ten to one--to get you into the right state and then I'll guide you through the visualization.
Eli: Get comfortable in your chair, close your eyes, and for those of you at home you get much more out of this program by actually doing the exercise with us rather than just watching so follow along with us.
Start by taking a deep breath, hold it, imagine the number three, and then as you breath out let your whole body relax; just let go. Let go of all the physical tensions, all the tightness, relax your facial muscles, your jaw, your lips, your tongue. Relax your neck and shoulders, arms and hands, your chest and stomach. Let your body just breathe itself; just let go of tightness.
Take another deep breath hold it, imagine the number two, and then as you breathe out just let your mind relax; let your mind become clear, and calm, and peaceful, and tranquil. Take another deep breath, hold it for a moment, imagine the number one, and then as you breathe out just let go; let your emotions relax and just allow yourself to dissolve to a nice comfortable warm pleasant state of relaxation. I'm going to count now from ten down to one; as the numbers descend just allow yourself to become twice as relaxed as you were at the previous number. When you get to the number one you will be more relaxed than you've ever been.
Your mind will be alert and your body will be relaxed. Ten, just allow yourself to become twice as relaxed as we move down to nine. Twice as relaxed again as we move to eight; just letting go. You are going deeper and deeper into relaxation; seven. Six, five; going deeper and deeper into relaxation. Four, three, two, and one. Just quickly scan your body and let go of any tension. Pay particular attention to your jaw and your neck and shoulders. Just let the breathing happen naturally and let your body breathe itself.
Okay now I want you to imagine that you are walking down the street and you're feeling excellent and your body feels healthy and you feel in balance and you feel trim and svelte. Imagine; see it from inside your own body. You're looking through your own eyes; you're walking by a store window and you look and you can see that you're trim and you feel good and really allow yourself to feel good as you imagine this. I mean create it in your mind the way you want it to be. This is something you can control. Focus your mind on the objective that you want to achieve.
See it, hear it, smell it, taste it and again don't worry if you can't see pictures; if you can feel it or just sense it or imagine it in some way that's the key. Our brain can't tell the difference between what we're imagining and what is real. Imagine walking down the street feeling trim and slim and just at the weight that you want to be. And imagine others coming up to you and acknowledging you and saying, "Hey wow you look great." I mean imagine it; create it in your mind the way a theater director would create it. I mean this is something you have control over. The more emotion you can put behind it the more powerful it will be. Imagine; think of situations that would sort of reinforce your goal.
You are getting into an old pair of pants that has been in the closet for ten years and suddenly you're back into them and you feel good. Really allow yourself to feel good; emotions drive this whole process. Imagine it, rehearse it, create it in your mind; the more vividly you can do it the more powerful it will be. I mean imagine it; create the images in your own mind. the images that speak to you. Okay now take a deep breath, hold it, exhale, and very slowly--and you're doing this at home--just slowly open your eyes. Take a half a minute or so and just little bit by little bit just slowly, slowly, slowly open your eyes. Little bit by little bit by little bit.
Deepak: So am I losing weight?
Eli: Don't expect instant miracles--again don't preclude them--but realize this is part of a process that can help you to focus your intention. The difference of the focusing of intention and unfocused intention is the difference between a laser and an incandescent bulb; they both give off the same energy but when it's focused that laser can go right through steel. In the same way we can use our--focus--our intentions in most dramatic ways using tools like the relaxation and the visualization.
Deepak: Well I'm certainly going to do these exercises from now on Eli and I think that a lot of people at home will too. Thanks very much.
Eli: Oh a pleasure.
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Program Length: 26:50 min
About the Program:
Program 8 Succeeding Better, sums up the series by looking at the importance of relaxation to all aspects of life in the context of your overall life goals, well being and success according to your own definition.