Building three mental muscles

Posted May 23, 2023 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Health

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“Your thoughts are powerful, and you can choose the thoughts you have!” Robin emphasized. “We can build a different type of brain… to bring about better mental health.”

Executive Wellness Coach Robin Stueber recently presented a Wahine Wellness: Empowerment workshop, sponsored by Samaritan Counseling Center Hawai’i. Robin shared her personal journey of mental wellness and how it led her to a calling as a wellness coach and Positive Intelligence coach.

Robin says that our mental wellness fluctuates day by day, moment by moment. We are constantly adjusting to the competing roles in our lives, unrealistic expectations (from ourselves and others), a lack of control, and unrealistic demands.

Our negative thoughts come from our inner “Judge” (of ourselves, others, and circumstances) and nine “Saboteurs” (Avoider, Controller, Hyper-Rational, Hyper-Vigilant, Over-Achiever, Perfectionist, Pleaser, Restless, and Victim). Like an alarm turning on to wake us up or a fire alarm ringing when the temperature is too high, the stress and pain we feel alert us that we need to take action.

These negative are helpful – but only for a few seconds.

As I was listening to Robin talk about “Saboteurs,” I found myself nodding my head at times.

Yes, I can have Avoider thinking – I tend to avoid conversations and situations that might create a conflict or bad feelings. Yes, I can have Perfectionist thinking – I tend to do things so that I know they will be done “the right way.” Yes, I can have Hyper-Vigilant thinking – I tend to worry about things that could go wrong.

Building our Positive Intelligence (PQ) muscles can help us reduce stress and build mental fitness. Robin says that we can strengthen three mental muscles:

Mental muscle #1: Saboteur Intercept. Recognize our negative thoughts and do something different. By acknowledging negative thoughts, we can choose to re-direct our thoughts.

Mental muscle #2: Sage Perspective. Embrace the idea that every situation presents a gift or opportunity. What can you learn?

Mental muscle #3: Self-Command. Be intentional about taking a positive action. Instead of reacting to a situation, choose how you will act. For example, you might choose to feel empathy for yourself or others; or choose to look at the bigger picture or a future vision.

Mental fitness is not something we do once – or once in a while. We need to build a daily practice of mental fitness, one “PQ rep” at a time.

Which “Saboteurs” cause negative thoughts for you? What is one thing you can do to change the pattern of your negative thoughts?


“The Awakened Brain” by Lisa Miller

Posted May 16, 2023 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Book Reviews

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“Each of us is endowed with a natural capacity to perceive a greater reality and consciously connect to the life force that moves in, through, and around us,” writes Lisa Miller, PhD.

This natural capacity may be called religion or faith or spirituality or dharma or mindfulness, or something that is personal to you.

But it is a choice. We can choose our guiding perspective on life. We can choose to be open to spiritual moments.

And our choice to practice being spiritual beings is what can protect us against mental suffering, even across generations.

This is the promise of “The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life” (2021) – based on evidence-based research and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan findings. She shares research as well as her personal quest as a spiritual being.

What is the awakened brain? Miller declares that, “The awakened brain is the neural circuitry that allows us to see the world more fully and thus enhance our individual, social, and global well-being.”

Seeing the world more fully is a mindset and a practice. It is something we must choose continuously. It is about being aware of the interconnectedness between our mind, body, spirit, and community – and the connection between ourselves, community, nature, and the greater universe.

I feel that the connections between us and within us have been weakened, and this leaves us more vulnerable to outside stressors and adverse situations.

Here are two questions we can ask when we are facing challenging times:

What is life showing me now? Asking this question is more empowering than asking, “Why am I suffering now?” Miller explains, “Feeling better isn’t just a matter of creating new thoughts, of replacing unhappy ones with happier ones – it’s also about noticing an aligning ourselves with whatever life is showing us.”

What meaning can I find in suffering? Asking this question is more empowering than asking, “What have I done to deserve suffering?” Miller says, “Spiritual awareness doesn’t buffer against ever fully suffering so much as suffering pulls spiritual awareness forward, building the spiritual core that prepares us for the next time we face suffering.”

“The Awakened Brain” reminds me that we cannot control every situation, but we can choose to react with awareness and curiosity.

What have you learned from adversity? Are there spiritual practices that help you cope with hardships?

What will you invite into your life?

Posted May 9, 2023 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Health

Tags: , ,

Sometimes we need to spend some time thinking about our future. We need space to reflect on where we are, where we’ve been, and what we want our life to look like.

I recently went to a Wahine Wellness: Vision Board workshop presented by Diana Honeker, Clinical Director, LMFT at Samaritan Counseling Center Hawai’i. A small group of us gathered after work with a shared purpose, and an opportunity to

We learned about three types of vision boards: the “I know exactly what I want” vision board, when you have a clear desire or goal; the “Opening and Allowing” vision board, when you’re not sure what you’re looking for, but allow yourself to be open; and the “Theme” vision board, where you reflect on what you want to happen in your life.

After a short grounding exercise, to clear our minds and set our intentions, we started looking through scrapbook materials and magazines, hunting for things that caught our attention or sparked ideas. I made sure to bring a photo of my family, but I kept myself open to the words and images that resonated with me.

We also had an opportunity to share the vision boards we created and what it meant for our lives (but only if we were comfortable sharing – it was okay to “pass”). Did we already know what our goals are? Did we learn something new about what we want or need?

The first vision board I created, living through the pandemic for a year and a half, was about living with purpose, living with aloha, and living mindfully.

This evening, I created a vision board that reflected on the things I want to invite into my life… family, simplicity, creativity, beauty.

What will you invite into your life? How do you envision your future?

All of us can practice leadership

Posted May 2, 2023 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business

Tags: , , , ,

Photo from the Hawai’i Leadership Forum

“Leadership is an activity, not a position or authority,” declared Ed O’Malley, co-author of “When Everyone Leads: The Toughest Challenges Get Seen and Solved” (2023). Ed is president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation and founded the Kansas Leadership Center, and was the guest speaker at a recent Hawai’i Leadership Forum event, “When We All Lead.”

I was sitting in a small auditorium at the end of the day, and his words took me by surprise. I sat up a little straighter. Leadership isn’t vision? Leadership isn’t a servant’s heart? Then what is it?

Ed went on to explain that leadership is motivating others to make progress on tough challenges. Leadership bridges the gap between our concerns for today and our aspirations for the future.

Leadership is risky (I wrote this down and underlined it). In that gap, there’s a lot of space for loss, fear, failure, and hard work. (That’s probably why there are many people in important positions who don’t exercise leadership.)

Ed encourages us to shift our mindset from being a leader to practicing leadership.

Here are three take-aways from Ed’s Q&A with Bill Coy of the Hawai’i Leadership Forum:

1. Identify your purpose. Authority is like management, making sure things run smoothly. Leadership needs a clear and transparent purpose, a tough challenge to tackle. It requires both pragmatism and optimism. Without a clear sense of purpose, there can be no progress.

2. Determine if the challenge technical or adaptive. Is it a technical problem with a clear solution or an adaptive challenge where you need to learn? You may need to run experiments quickly – not to solve a problem, but to get data back so you make better decisions. By the way, that’s what makes leadership so risky – a lot of those experiments will fail.

3. Help people become problem-solvers. Create conditions under which people can learn and grow and develop. You don’t have to solve the problem yourself, but you can engage other people to solve problems. Balance creating psychological safety, where people can express their concerns and doubts, with creating a brave space, where people can take risks.

“If anyone can lead, then everyone can lead.”

Have you consciously chosen to take action and become a leader? Are there times when you took action and inadvertently became a leader?

Resource colonization and healing in “Powerlands”

Posted April 25, 2023 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Community, Environment

Tags: , , , , ,

Directed by Navajo (Diné) filmmaker Ivey-Camille Manybeads Tso, “Powerlands” is a documentary film that investigates the displacement of Indigenous people and devastation of the environment caused by the same chemical companies that have exploited the land where she was born.

With heart-store stories of Mauna Kea protests and the recent Red Hill water contamination in my thoughts, I attended a free screening hosted by LAING Hawai’i on a Sunday afternoon at UH Mānoa.

Resource colonization is a global problem. “Powerlands” lets us hear the voices and stories of Indigenous peoples around the world.

The film begins in the Navajo Nation (Dinétah Land), where they are struggling the lack of water, the exploitation of the land for natural resources (coal, oil, gas, and uranium), pollution, and government harassment in the form of livestock impoundment and forced relocation.

The film takes us to the Wayúu in La Guajira, Columbia, where the Indigenous people are displaced by coal mining that covers 270 square miles of land, forced relocation, pollution, the loss of agriculture, the loss of food autonomy, and the loss of community…

Tampakan in The Philippines, where leaders have been killed, protesters line the streets, and guerilla soldiers join the New People’s Army to resist mining…

Standing Rock at the Lakota Nation, where in 2016 people gathered to protest the oil pipeline and heal historical trauma with peace and prayer…

Oaxaca, Mexico, where 2,000 wind turbines were installed without involvement from Indigenous peoples, who have lost their land and community…

Coming full circle, the film closes at the Navajo Nation with a cultural gathering to create clay for traditional pottery.

I felt sadness, anger, outrage, hope, empathy. I remember the film in flashes:

Flash: Navajo Duwayne Blackrock says, “This is who we are and where we want to be.” How can I become more sure of my identity and my place in the world?

Flash: At a meeting, a mining corporate executive expresses outrage that the good they have done for the community is not appreciated. How can Indigenous people become empowered to decide what is good for Indigenous people?

Flash: The wife of a slain B’laan leader chants her prayers that no one will be harmed and her hopes for peace. What can she teach us about looking beyond our loss, pain, and anger?

Flash: A guerilla soldier dances in the forest, his rain boots stepping rhythmically on the mud-packed ground, the rifle around his shoulder incorporated into his dance. How can peaceful protest lead to understanding, restoration, and forgiveness?

Flash: “We are not separate from our environment,” Navajo elder marie gladue (name in lowercase letters) says. This could have been said by a Native Hawaiian kupuna (elder). What makes some people separate themselves from the land, and how can we help them reconnect?

I am thankful to Ivey-Camille Manybeads Tso, LAING Hawai’i, and the sponsors of this film screening for the opportunity to watch, learn, and reflect about resource colonization, environmental activism, environmental racism, and power.

What similarities and differences do you see between these Indigenous communities and Hawai’i? What does the title “Powerlands” mean to you?