Resolution: Be Like My Dog Friday, Jan 11 2013 

Posted by Marjory Abrams on Dec. 24, 2012 in Lessons in Life

I’ve read numerous funny e-mails about how being with a dog is preferable to being with people – no complaints, unconditional love. This morning, as I was scooping my dog’s poop, I realized that I could take a few lessons from my dog…

DexterChristmasSmall Christmas Portrait of Dexter the Boat Dog.

Always ready. Gingi could be fast asleep on her bed, but the minute she hears a footstep or a door open, she is up and frisky and eager to go. There’s no ramp-up time in the morning. No complaints about not getting enough sleep or being tired at the end of a long day or too busy with something else.

Never lazy. Even if she is comfortably snuggling on the couch with the family, if the doorbell rings, Gingi is the first one up to see who is there. If I’m comfy on the couch, I pause in hope that someone else will get the door, or answer the phone, or check the oven when the timer goes off.

Enjoy food. Even though she eats the same food every day, Gingi is always excited at mealtime. I’m not saying that I should eat the exact same food every day, but I don’t take pleasure the way that she does.

Ask for what you want. When Gingi wants to play, she brings her ball to the back door or nuzzles into your lap. When she wants to go out, she barks by the door. When she’s thirsty, she stands over her water bowl, then paws it if we take too long to notice. If I am hugging my husband or one of my daughters, she always nudges her way into the embrace for her share of the love. I frequently find it hard to ask for help or attention, hoping that my husband or children will read my mind or simply figure it out for themselves.

Hold no grudges. It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t spent any time in the yard with her, despite her daily attempts.  She is always eager to play no matter what happened yesterday, or even 5 minutes ago. No pouting or withholding because she didn’t get what she wanted.

Relax. If there is one lesson that I really need to learn from Gingi, it’s the ability to simply relax and be. No agenda. No goals. No guilt. Simple, pure enjoyment of life.

As for that poop part of her life… well, there’s a lot to be said for high-fiber and no junk food, which she proves to me twice every day.


Go Ahead…Be Bored. Thursday, Dec 6 2012 

by Carole Jackson>, Bottom Line Health

I never thought that I would see an entire book written about the concept of boredom — let alone find it interesting! But I certainly did. The recently published Boredom: A Lively History made me realize how underrated it actually is. Between e-mailing, texting and updating Facebook statuses… working anywhere and everywhere on laptops… and responding to endless phone calls, it seems like no matter where we are, we fill every minute of our free time. And that leaves precious few moments to simply daydream, which helps our creative juices flow. In today’s busy, wired world, slowing down and carving out moments for ourselves is more important than ever. To discuss the latest findings, I called the author, Peter Toohey, PhD, a professor of classics at the University of Calgary in Canada.


Dr. Toohey explained to me that research increasingly supports the notion that daydreaming — just like dreaming at night while you sleep — is actually a dynamic period for the brain. For example, in a recent study done by the University of British Columbia in Canada, investigators placed a group of students in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners and asked them to push a button when numbers appeared on a screen — a mindless, routine task that would give them an opportunity to daydream. After the exercise was over and researchers looked at the fMRI brain scans, they found that the parts of the students’ brains that are associated with complex problem-solving had actually been highly active during episodes of daydreaming.

In other words, while you are bored and daydreaming, you are unknowingly working your way through puzzles that are bothering you, such as figuring out the perfect theme for your child’s birthday party or discovering exactly what to say to your mother-in-law that will prevent her from spending the whole week with your family but won’t insult her. “Sometimes the most useful ideas and solutions come to us when we are trying the least hard,” said Dr. Toohey.


Of course, there are times when concentration is key. Dr. Toohey wouldn’t recommend daydreaming while, say, driving, rushing to meet an important deadline or having a heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse. But there are ways to create space for yourself — dull moments during which it’s perfectly acceptable to let your mind wander.

I don’t know about you, but for me technology — as great as it can be — is often the biggest obstacle. So I’m going to try unplugging myself from all of my various devices (yes — that means the phone, the computer and the TV!) for about 30 minutes a day. Instead, I’m going to go for a walk or a bike ride, whittle a stick or knit a scarf, which will hopefully allow my thoughts to drift off into whatever direction they like.

I know what you’re thinking — it sounds boring. It gives us an uncomfortable feeling when we think about cutting off communication and facing silence. But, ironically, when we’re less wired, our brains’ batteries seem to recharge, so why not give it a shot?


Peter Toohey, PhD, professor of classics, faculty of arts, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Dr. Toohey is author of Boredom: A Lively History (Yale).

Success by Doing It Friday, May 25 2012 

The importance of immediate, massive, daily action has been written about many times already, but it is so important that it is worth writing about again and again. The examples in this article come from the world of business, but they could apply to other walks of life as well.

Marketing is the lifeblood of business, but sometimes businessmen will wait until they have written the perfect advertisement or sales message before they send out even one ad. They also spend weeks making sure their website is beautifully designed with all the latest refinements.

Meanwhile, good selling time is passing them by. Their product may even be out of date before they are happy with the advertisements. By the time they have everything perfect and ready to go, they may run out of capital and be forced to close down their business.

The best lesson I learned from the late Corey Rudl at a seminar in London was not to worry about creating a perfect website. Just get one up. His own dad had a website selling Ferrari car badges which was very ordinary, but it was making money.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire Mayor of New York, credits his success to getting going without spending too much time planning:

“We act from day one; others plan how to plan – for months.”

Dave and Heidi Perry talk about a fairly average businessman and average marketer whom they call Jack.

Jack’s motto was: “Doin’ it, Doin’ it, Doin’ it” i.e. do something, anything, every day towards achieving your marketing goals.

He kept plugging away each day with his marketing even though the format of his sales brochures and forms was not very good. He would not wait for the format to be improved. He believed in ‘Doin’ it’ even if he was not quite ready to do it.

This philosophy and behavior made him a multi-millionaire and a leader. Even though what he said was not profound and could at times be downright stupid, his action-oriented words and behavior led many to trust him and to follow his suggestions.

“He knew that to get a desired outcome, he had to actually DO something to get there.”

Jack knew that if his audience would just do something – anything – every day toward their goals, they, too, would get there. He, himself, just started doing something.

He didn’t wait until he had enough money to start his business or until his advertising materials were perfect or until he had a stockpile of products to sell. He started with what he had and did something every day to achieve his goal.

You can’t dream or wish your way into riches, although this can help. You have to actually do something about it. What is worse than a sales ad? No sales ad. Don’t wait until you have a great website or enough money to start your business.

Get goingnow and do something every day towards achieving your goal. You may still have doubts and fears but by doing something every day you will make progress and your confidence and power will increase.

Some people want to master a piece of software before they use it. The chances are that they will never use it!

The quickest way to learn how a software tool works is to start using it on a daily basis. We will make mistakes, of course, but we will also make progress in understanding the software.

I did not use an autoresponder for ages because I was afraid of making mistakes and sending people the wrong message. When I began using one, I almost immediately made mistakes but learned rapidly how to put them right and no one sent in any letters of complaint!

If possible, find a mentor who can hold your hand while you try something new. However, mentors are not always easily available, so trust yourself to have a go on your own and see what happens.

You will probably amaze yourself at what you can achieve on your own, especially if you don’t give up at the first signs of trouble.

Obviously preparation, thinking, and planning are worth doing but there comes a time when the most important thing is to actually start taking action even if this means you are running risks. Try it and see what happens.

Start “Doing it!”

Dealing with Needy People Thursday, May 17 2012 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health


Source: Lauren Zander, cofounder and chairman, Handel Group, New York

Dealing with Braggarts Tuesday, May 15 2012 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

We all have that one friend or relative—the one who “casually” references the big raise he got again and again. Or the one who won an iPad in a raffle and now can’t stop showing it to you as if it’s the Hope diamond. Or the one who always finds a way to mention in conversation how he runs a marathon every year.

Whether these people worked hard for their successes or just got lucky, their bragging is annoying either way. In addition to being irritating to listen to, braggarts can make you feel inadequate. It makes you want to cover your ears and say, “I get it! You’re special, and I’m not!”

So, short of insulting and/or avoiding these people, how can we stop them from getting under our skin? For ideas on that, I called life coach and frequent Daily Health Newscontributor Lauren Zander, who said that when dealing with a braggart, there are two different approaches that can work very well…

  • Reframe the situation in your mind. Be aware that even though your friend’s bragging may annoy you and sometimes make you feel bad about yourself, this result may not be intentional. Your friend may be so insecure that he is overcompensating for other areas in his life where he thinks he does not measure up. If the bragging happens only occasionally, try to simply smile and accept that you are important enough to this person that he has a need to impress you. Take it as a compliment—and then change the subject to something that does not involve whatever your friend is bragging about.
  • Speak up. If the bragging is more frequent or if you feel like you’re going to explode the next time your friend brags, then confront him. Your goal is to alert the other person that he is bragging so that he realizes that he is doing it and to let him know that it annoys you and (possibly) makes you feel bad about yourself. So the next time the bragging starts, try saying, “When you name drop about all those rich people you hang out with, it makes me feel as if you like those people more than you like me” or, “When you talk about how many races you’ve won, it just reminds me how I haven’t been to the gym in weeks.” You might find that he is surprised and apologetic, because nobody wants to sound like a braggart.

Source: Lauren Zander, cofounder and chairman, Handel Group, New York

Dealing with Tardy People Sunday, May 13 2012 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

You get to the theater at 8:00 pm on the dot, just like you and your friend planned—but he’s nowhere in sight. Then it’s 8:10 pm…then 8:20…and then finally you receive a text: Sorry, running late! (As if you didn’t know!) Since your friend has the tickets, you both end up missing the opening of the show—and even though he apologizes endlessly, you still feel ticked off a week later. Because after all, this isn’t the first time that he’s been tardy—not by a long shot.

Late people! If you have one in your life, you know that this selfish habit can drive you nuts. Unlike in high school or in the working world, there are no automatic penalties for being late to social gatherings. To get some good ideas about how to cope with this oh-so-annoying behavior, I called life coach and regular Daily Health News contributor Lauren Zander, who has advice on how to stay calm when it happens and to make your friend or loved one realize just how much his carelessness affects—and aggravates—you.


Chronic lateness doesn’t bother everyone, but it upsets some people a lot. Assuming that you are one of the latter, here are the steps to take…

Step 1. Explain to the friend who pushes that lateness button that this habit really bugs you. The truth is your friend actually might be oblivious to how his/her actions make other people feel. You might try saying to him, “I know you’re really busy, but it frustrates me when you’re late, because…” and then explain how your friend’s lateness has negatively impacted your life. This conversation might help solve the issue. If it doesn’t, it will definitely put this person on notice that chronic lateness really is an issue, and if it continues, you’ll have an easier time discussing possible next steps with your friend because you already laid the groundwork.

Step 2. The next time your friend is late (and he will be late again!), stay mum. But when it happens again after that, have another chat. Mention that he has been late twice since the two of you talked about it, and then start a discussion about ways to handle the problem that will reduce your stress and encourage promptness in him. This may involve a penalty of some kind. For instance, you might agree that the tardy person pays for the wine or dessert at dinner as a consequence of being late. Or you could make it clear that from now on, you are starting the activity on time with or without the late person. (And you should start handling your own tickets instead of relying on your friend!) Another effective option is to name an amount of time during which you will stay put at your meeting place—maybe about 20 minutes—before you simply leave. If you actually follow through on your agreement (and your friend realizes that if he doesn’t change his ways, he won’t see you anymore), then it’s likely that the lateness will stop.

Step 3. If you try one or more of the techniques above and the lateness still doesn’t end—and you still want to be friends with this person—your next move is to plan activities more selectively so his lateness is less likely to cause anxiety. In truth, this decision can be a little sad because it means that some activities that you have enjoyed together in the past, such as going to that show or having private time for coffee, will have to stop. Instead, you will do only things that are not time-sensitive or that involve more than just the two of you. These could include group dinners out…inviting three or four friends over to your place for drinks…or getting together with a group for a game of poker. That way, if your friend is late, you’ll be with other people and it won’t matter nearly as much. Maybe someday he’ll reform, but if he doesn’t, his lateness won’t cause all that stress that it used to—and that could be good for both of you.

Of course, if none of the above strategies work, consider gently encouraging your tardy friend to see a psychological counselor, who might be able to help him or her break the bad habit.

Source: Lauren Zander, cofounder and chairman, Handel Group, New York

Making Loudmouths Shut Up! Friday, May 11 2012 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Surely you’ve been to a dinner party where one of the guests has ideas about, say, politics or the economy that you find illogical—maybe even alarming. Yet he continues to blab on and on about “how things should be” without taking into account anyone else’s opinion. People like this tend to be aggressive, overconfident and, perhaps most annoying of all, uncomfortably loud. And—correct me if I’m wrong—there seems to be more of them around these days.

Is your blood pressure rising just thinking about it? Mine is! And that’s not healthy. So I called life coach and regular Daily Health News contributor Lauren Zander and asked her, “What’s the best way to deal with these opinionated bullies without sinking to their level?”


Zander’s plan for dealing with a loudmouth…

  • Don’t say the first thing that comes to your mind. Though it’s tempting to denounce the shouter as an idiot or to outshout him with your own opinion, doing this will not change his mind. It will lead only to verbal fisticuffs—not to mention discomfort and awkward silences from others at the dinner table. As Zander noted, it isn’t always necessary to state your own principles—let alone fight about them—in order to remain true to them. Instead, while the tirade goes on, take a deep breath and say to yourself, I will not take the bait. With any luck, the loudmouth will soon pipe down, and then you and the others in the group will be able to get back to some real conversation.
  • Change the subject. However, what if your loudmouth really is asking for a fight and persists in his rant? To keep him from hijacking the entire event, somebody will have to step in, Zander said, and if you want to be that person, here is what to do. Wait for a moment when the rant has slowed down—and then say to him, “Your point of view is very different from mine, and I understand that it’s really important to you. But we’ll never agree, so there is no point in talking about this further. Let’s talk about something else instead.” Then suggest a new topic—ideally something that is also interesting, but perhaps less weighty, such as food, technology, entertainment, family, travel or hobbies. Even if people at the table have differing opinions about such topics, discussing them is less likely to invoke fury. And, Zander told me, “As simple as it is, this technique of changing the subject tends to take argumentative people by surprise and quiet them.” Before the loudmouth can climb back on his soapbox, you and the other guests are already involved in a different discussion.

All in all, the key to getting less worked up by loudmouths is to let go of the idea that you’re going to “put them in their place” or change them, said Zander. Instead, what can keep you feeling calm and less angry in their presence is to defuse the entire encounter. And whether or not they say so, everyone else in the group will be silently thanking you for it!

Source: Lauren Zander, cofounder and chairman, Handel Group, New York

Are You Destined For Happiness? How to Tell Thursday, Aug 18 2011 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

“Don’t look back. Leave the past in the past. Just keep moving forward.” How often have you heard that string of wisdom? Well, you’re about to hear the opposite. A new study published in the June 20011 issue of Personality and Individual Differences is telling us to reverse our thinking if we want to be truly happy.

Intrigued, I placed a call to the Personality and Well-Being Lab at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where assistant professor of psychology Ryan T. Howell, PhD, focuses on learning all he can about the factors that affect human happiness. He told me that research has consistently found that personality has a strong influence on personal happiness and satisfaction. This is not only because it affects how you go about each day — but also because it shapes how you think about past events in your life.

Measure by Measure

With the assistance of his coauthor, UC Berkeley PhD student Jia Wei Zhang, Dr. Howell assessed the 750 participants (all undergraduate students) in order to determine whether there was a predictable pattern linking positive memories of the past with optimism for the future and negative memories of the past with pessimism for the future.

  • Participants were asked to rate themselves on the “Big Five” personality traits — extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. (You can see where you stand on “The Big Five” at
  • They were asked questions about their view of past experiences — for instance, did they enjoy thinking about the “good old days”? Did they savor happy memories? Did they tend to reframe painful experiences in a more positive light?
  • They were asked to rate how satisfied they felt about their lives overall and were queried about whether they believed it was hard work or fate that shaped what happened in their lives or would shape their future outcomes.

Results: The study showed that the greatest influence on current life satisfaction was how the students viewed their pasts… and that the greatest differences in current life satisfaction were found between those who scored high on the “extroverted” scale and those who scored high on the “neurotic” scale. The remaining three of the “big five” traits were not associated with more or less happiness in life.

Dr. Howell concluded…

  • Highly extroverted people — energetic, talkative individuals who seek out the company of others — tend to be happier with their lives because they embrace a positive and nostalgic view of the past, while also enjoying the everyday pleasures of life.
  • People who score high on the neurotic scale (those who are moody, insecure, fretful, anxious and irritable) are more likely to remember the past with anguish and also have a greater tendency to be unhappy.

How to Get Happier

It’s notoriously difficult to change one’s personality, but Dr. Howell says you may be able to alter your view of your past — and boost your happiness — by focusing on happy memories and/or trying to reframe sad recollections in a more positive and optimistic way, perhaps by figuring out how those experiences helped you develop strength or self-reliance. It also pays to be kind to yourself and have some self-compassion, adds coauthor Zhang — meaning, try to accept that although what has happened in the past can’t be changed, you can learn from it to make the future better.

At his SFSU lab, Dr. Howell is continuing to study how various factors affect happiness, from where you live to how much money you make to your religious beliefs and social involvement. We will update you regularly on new findings about how to have a happier life, but in the meantime, whenever you can, try to choose glasses that are rose-colored and half-full — you’ll like your life better as a result!

Ryan T. Howell, PhD, assistant professor and quantitative psychologist, department of psychology, San Francisco State University.

Jia Wei Zhang, PhD student, department of psychology, University of California, Berkeley, California.

Backstrapolate (verb) To extrapolate backward from completion of your goal to determine all the steps necessary to achieve it. Tuesday, Jan 11 2011 

Those educated in Journalism know of at least one privilege that comes from their calling.  Journalists create new words.  Yes, scientists, explorers and others NAME new things, ideas, places, etc.  Names are different than words.  With few exceptions, names don’t get found in spell checkers the way words do.

So I’ve invented “backstrapolate” a verb for the process otherwise known as the “completion-backwards principle”  and any of a host of other names for what we all know is the most powerful way to achieve anything.

Athletes envision themselves crossing the finish line and then the steps necessary to get them there, always energizing their effort with the images of that crossing.

With your pre-frontal cortex (what some call the “life-simulator”) showing you enjoying the rewards of attaining your goals, you’ll similarly energize your efforts to determine all the little steps required to attain your goals and instill the motivation to complete each step.

So as we approach this Spring, the season of renewal, remember what has truly made you happy in your life. Imagine doing that always and then backstrapolate to find out how to make that image a reality.

And write me and let me know how you did.

Quitting Time — How to Have a Happy Ending Friday, Oct 15 2010 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

The pain of breaking up has been a staple of pop music for generations — and in truth, any kind of breakup, be it from a relationship, a job, even where you live, is hard to do! People stay in fractious marriages for decades… continue working at jobs that they can barely tolerate, sometimes in cities that they claim to loathe. What is it about calling something quits… finished… over… done with… that we find so incredibly difficult?

Actually, says Lauren Zander, life coach and regular Daily Health News contributor, it’s not the endings that we fear — it’s the shapeless, unknowable future that comes next. We want to know that all will be well, that we can have fairy-tale endings like the stories we listened to in childhood, in which people lived together “happily ever after.” People quite naturally fear the unknown — a situation or relationship may not be terribly fulfilling or even all that comfortable, but staying with the “devil you know” seems safer (and is more predictable) than wrestling with one you haven’t met. Also, ending what is requires a vision for what can be… it takes imagination, a tool that many adults aren’t used to using.

What’s to Fear?

In truth, endings are full of gifts — most especially the opportunity for a new beginning and potentially one that is far more gratifying. Also once you’ve accepted that you’re willing to end something — a job, a romance or even an unused gym membership or volunteer activity that you no longer enjoy — you often feel an immediate sense of new freedom and energy. You can choose to use this to face the problem and fix it… or forever let go.

The hardest part is deciding in the first place — to end or not. To make this decision, Zander says that you’ll have to ask yourself some hard questions. If you’re weighing whether to stay with or leave your partner, your career or even something more ephemeral, such as your faith in a particular religion, you must identify your real feelings. Does he, she or it make you happy and energized? Or do you feel, instead, endless and insurmountable frustration, disappointment, emptiness, boredom, resentment, anger or any of a host of other bad feelings? Obviously, if the feelings you’ve ticked off are mostly — or all — on the second list, an ending is likely to be the right decision.

When Feelings are Buried

Acknowledging unhappy feelings toward a long-standing relationship or association is not always easy to do. People often aren’t even aware that they harbor negative feelings — they’ve grown used to hiding them even from themselves, describing everything as “fine.” They see themselves as loyal and committed and say that they accept their situation and its imperfections, but meanwhile, deep inside, they are miserable and sometimes even desperate for change. Consider, for instance, the woman who feels captive in the very large house where her children were raised, burdened by its upkeep and bored with her life — who is unable to see how it might be possible to move to an easy-to-care-for condo that would open up many new possibilities.

Feelings don’t have to stay buried, says Zander — here’s a great way to unearth them: Pay attention to what you complain about the most. Listen to yourself for a few days and hear what you say… because your complaints will reveal what you need to address. “When people constantly complain about something, they are begging themselves to put an end to the problem,” says Zander. Mind you, these complaints may not even be spoken aloud — often they just fester in your mind, leaving you feeling angry at your spouse or frustrated by your boss.

Moving Forward or Idling?

Once you become attuned to what is making you unhappy, consider what would make you happy — again, a vision will motivate you. If you already know details about the kind of job you want, you may be able to get it by transferring within the same company… or if it’s more leisure and less work in the house and garden you crave, perhaps your solution is simply hiring some help.

It’s especially important to examine your closest relationships. Are you fulfilled, happy and growing — or are you merely tolerating where you are, suffering through life out of a sense of obligation? Zander points out that if the latter dominates in your thoughts, it’s quite likely that the other party feels the same. What improvements are possible? Or if improvements won’t be enough, it may mean that it’s time to flat out end things.

If it becomes clear that what you really want is an ending, don’t be afraid to make it happen… but do be ready to experience a range of feelings, from joy to sadness, terror to relief and, without a doubt, anxiety about what comes next. Before you make your final departure, write down your dream of the future in as much detail as possible so that you don’t feel as though you are walking into the abyss. This will be your road map. Expect that your vision may change along the way — that’s quite okay! It’s part of the process.

Leaping into the unknown after an ending requires faith and trust that while life unfolds in ways that you can’t control, somehow you still will be “all right.” And here’s something you can look forward to: Zander points out that endings often are followed by a period of intense excitement. She said that time and again, she has seen her clients realize “the most important times in their lives emerged from willingness to let go of what has been outworn and is no longer useful” and that then led to a new beginning. Yes, it takes courage — but your life will be vibrant and filled with adventures that never would have happened otherwise!

Lauren Zander, cofounder and chairman, The Handel Group, .

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