Increase exercise and decrease sugar…guaranteed to reduce CNS inflammation.

Originally posted on Effortless Mindfulness Blog:

Here is the first in a series of short instructional videos I created to celebrate Mental Health Awareness month. Each one will feature a practical step to help us increase well-being in daily life. The world needs each of us to tend to our mental, emotional and physical well-being. What is Tip #1? Exercise Daily.

There are two key elements that contribute most to maintaining physical, emotional and mental health: moderate daily exercise and good sleep. I can already hear the cries of, “I don’t have enough hours in the day as it is! Who has time to exercise?.” Yes, we are all crunched for time. But besides being great for physical health, daily exercise has significant anti-depressant effects, especially when done outside in the sun. Exercise has also been shown to increase hippocampal neurogenesis and more importantly, reduce central nervous system inflammation—an important contributor to anxious/depressive symptoms, mania and psychosis…

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j0410182[1] This is usually the who, what, when and how of the process. What’s the plan?


Once everyone is feeling heard and understood there is a natural energy to come to an agreement – to start putting in place strategies that meet needs.  It is tempting at this stage to rush through the agreement phase because everyone is so relieved to be finally at a place where it feels ok to be coming to an agreement. The agreement is a positive confirmation of each person’s willingness to do their part and the more explicit and clear the agreement the more likely it is to succeed.


Don’t rush. Take your time. Be in favour of slow agreements. Allow them to soak into you. Get a feel of how they sit in your body.

Agreements are clear, doable requests that include the specifics of:

  1. who
  2. what
  3. when
  4. where &
  5. how

The final factor for success is accountability. Without accountability you cannot be sure that the agreement is working. What if it is not? What then? If you wait too long to find out whether the agreement is working (or not) you may experience:

  • dangerous levels of frustration, resentment or resignation
  • begin to doubt the intentions of the parties in the agreement
  • begin to question the Cooperative Conflict process which led to your agreement

Accountability is not about making sure someone is doing what they no longer want to do. Accountability is about finding ways to ensure our mutual needs continue to be met. 

You can create accountability by setting specific times to review how well your agreements are working and schedule discussions to see what needs to be changed, if anything.

It might be that the agreement is less manageable in real life than anticipated. Sometimes you can’t know what want until you get it – so you make an agreement and it doesn’t work for you or the other person – and all that means is that something is missing and so you go back to find the missing ingredient or the need that is not yet being met.

A wonderful question that supports your process of staying connected if agreements are not being kept is:

“What’s preventing you from keeping this agreement and what agreement can we come up with that might work better? What needs will be met for both of us by renegotiating our agreement?”

j0430892[1] Sometimes it seems like no matter how good the shared intentions are old patterns of communication come into the conflict resolution process.


Here are some insights into what may be going on within yourself or with the other person and how to find a way forward.



Not wanting to discuss a particular issue

Resistant or defensive

Lack of willingness

· Lack of confidence in about ability to resolve an issue

· Taught to be nice or make things ok

· Fear of not being taken into consideration or heard

· Go back to intentions to resolve conflict – check if all your values are on the table

· Slow the process down so that each movement creates trust.

· Check if this is the right time to do this – do they need more empathy (pre-mediation or emergency first aid empathy) or to do this at another time?

· Focus on the qualities you want to experience in the relationship or as an outcome.

Scarcity thinking

Unwilling to consider other options

· Fear of losing something of value or not getting something they need

· Past experience of compromises that were costly

· Create an intention & vision statement based on values – not strategies. One strategy = only one opportunity. Strategies involve specific people, places, times and actions. On the other hand, a strategy-free intention describes only what you value and expresses the qualities you want to experience in your life. A values list opens the door to multiple strategies in the negotiation phase. Acknowledge that this phase will come in this process. The first stage is about discovery – getting heard, understanding each other and getting the important values on the table.

Lack of trust

“They’re lying”

“That’s not all of it…”

· Not all the info is on the table – identify need for transparency

· Worried they will not be able to take care of themselves – may give away something important

· Have prior experiences where trust has been broken or damaged

· Take some time to build a shared vision – put your needs on the table. Get clear about what is important to each person. Articulate the qualities you want in your life when you finish this process (not the strategies).

· Find an issue that is not so critical and resolve that first to build trust and achieve a success

· Build in strategies to check agreements are being met in the final phase and that if something changes for someone they will initiate a new discussion.

· Unwrap the term “lying” = people are telling their truth in a self-protective way. It is or has been dangerous for them to tell the whole truth – they are worried they will lose something they want or care about. It’s important to find out what they care about.

· Invite them to only trust the process to see if the lack of trust can be worked with.

· Put it on the table as a need for transparency/reliability/reassurance etc

Cynical or resigned


· Worried about being disappointed again around something they care about (as per past experiences).

· Find an issue that is not so critical and resolve that first to build trust and achieve a success

· Ask them whether they have tried a lot of things before that haven’t worked & empathise

· Ask, “what’s preventing you from wanting to work through this process?’



Wanting to move to next step before other person is ready


· Fear of not being heard

· Fear of losing something you value

· Feeling uncomfortable with the process

· Listen first – they will not be able to hear you until they feel heard. Bookmark where you are. Verify what you have heard by asking them to confirm that what you have reflected back is accurate and complete.

· Check in if they are normally a fast speaker or come from a culture where interrupting is not an issue. Explain that in this process slower enables the process to move faster in the long run.

· Check if it’s not you who are feeling impatient (could it be your feelings and not theirs?)

· Remember how long you have been going over the same issues or the same type of issues and not getting what you want and how much time, energy and resources that has cost you. Now is your chance to create a win-win resolution if you take the time.

· Acknowledge the newness and discomfort of this type of process – look for signs of progress and name them.

j0432828[1] Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip.

After a good meal and a bottle of wine they bunked down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his friend.


“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

Watson replied, “I see millions upon millions of stars.”

“So what does that tell you?” asked Sherlock.

Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”

Holmes was silent for a minute and then spoke. “It tells me someone has stolen our tent!”

What’s meaning do YOU make from this story? Do you have one just like it? How often have you had those kind of conversations where you and a friend seemly experienced the same event but perceived it differently?

Two things come up for me:

  • the power of clear observations – what actually happened?
  • hearing how the other person perceives what happened – what story or meaning did they attach to the events?

In NVC we would invite you to consider the value in making clear observations. Clear observations describe events as if a camera had recorded it, and in doing so, can help us find points of agreement. I have written about these in my blog – if you want to know more about observations and how they can bring more clarity and reduce conflict in your life then just type observations into the search box and start practising.

I read this story on Tammy Lenski’s blog ConflictZen. If you know the original source, we’d both appreciate learning it.


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stairwellI was recently trying to work through a misunderstanding and I had just finished reflecting back what I had heard the other person saying. I guessed their feelings and needs and they breathed a big sigh of relief and said:

“I am so glad you really get it and agree with me!”

Oh dear. I clearly needed to bring some clarity to this situation.


Understanding is not agreeing


Understanding is simply understanding what the other person is saying.

You are understanding what the person values, how that’s important to them, how it may have been missing for them in the past and what they would like about it in the future.

Often people in conflict are unwilling to show that they understand how “it all is” for the other person because they fear that it will be interpreted as agreeing. This may lead to behaviours in the conversation like not letting the person finish speaking, repeating their point of view many times or a resistance to reflecting back what has been said.

You can ensure this confusion about the understanding and agreeing is clarified by:

  • reflecting back and then asking any of the following:

Did you hear that I understood you or agree with you?”

I’d like you to understand that I think I get the essence of what you are saying and there are some parts that while I get them, I don’t agree with them.”

  • stating, at the start of the conversation, that reflecting back is not agreeing

We are going to go back and forth here in building our understanding of each other, but we not saying we’re agreeing with each other.”

I’m going to really listen to you and make sure I hear what you are trying to say but let’s make sure neither of us is interpreting that as agreement because we may not agree – we are just in a discovery process at this stage.”

  • When they say something that you think indicates they think you are in agreement you can say something like:

“It sounds like you think I have agreed with you – is that accurate?”

“Are you willing to hear what I am not in agreement with at this stage, or would you like to hear that later?”


“We judge other people by their outsides, that is their behaviours, words and actions and we judge ourselves by our insides that is our intentions." Virginia Satir

When we are in conflict it can be almost impossible to imagine finding any place of agreement and usually that is because we are in conflict over strategies for getting our needs met.

When we have  in  mind how we want to sort this problem out, or what the best outcome for us is, before start our coaching or mediation then we are discussing strategies. Remember strategies involve people, places, times and actions. It has been my experience, however, that if we can flip this process over on its head and start out by talking about our values and intentions then we can get on the same page. In this process each person gets clear about what’s most important for them and co-creating  a shared vision of success.

This might include:

  • what do you hope for in terms of the relationship – expressed as qualities you value – ease, autonomy, consideration, honest, dependability, fun and so on.
  • knowing how to gain clarity about a conflict situation…what it’s really about, for you, and what most needs to be discussed to clear the air and get back on track together.
  • listening to and reflecting back what is really important for the other person.
  • acknowledging your fears and concerns
  • hearing the fears and concerns of the other person
  • finding the values you share
      Think of a conflict you have been in – not the biggest conflict in your life – but that you can reflect upon now with some equanimity. What needs were you meeting? What needs was the other person meeting? What did you hope for in terms of the relationship? What did they hope for?


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