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If you’re feeling stressed over the upcoming election or anxiously awaiting official results, you’re not alone!

Nearly 70% of Americans report feeling apprehensive and concern over the 2020 presidential election. That’s up from 52% in 2016! There’s now even a term for it — Election Stress Disorder (ESD). Why are so many of us suffering from ESD?

As my Chapman University colleague, Dean Gail Stearns, rightfully states, “That anxiety you’re feeling right now — it’s not your fault.” 

To help you navigate ESD over the next few days — and weeks — please enjoy the video and resources below to help you cope with election anxiety.


TEN TIPS FOR COPING WITH ELECTION ANXIETY

  1. Acknowledge your fears, anxieties and concerns. Your emotions are real, so honor what you feel. Write them in your journal. Share them with others. Invite creativity. Discover, imagine, engage your hopes and fears, the beauty and ugliness of our world. Write, read, paint, sing, dance, soar.
  2. Take a breather Breathe. Breathe. Breathe some more. Take time in your day—at any moment—to take five to ten, slow, deep breaths. Science now affirms that doing so will regulate your body’s “stress-response” system and boost your “relaxation-response” system to feel calm and centered.
  3. Be adaptive, not reactive to change If your outside world feels “out of control,” focus on your inner world. The concept of “neuroplasticity” reveals how you have the ability to rewire and retrain the brain to be more adaptive to change. Focus on what you can manage. Let go of what you can’t. Activities—such as meditation, practicing gratitude, or mindful breathing—empower you to be less reactive to change and uncertainty.

Read all the Ten Tips here…

Stay Safe. Stay Strong. Stay Calm. Stay Connected.

Dr. Jay Kumar”Your Happiness Professor”
FB/IG/TW @docjaykumar
Author, Science of a Happy Brain
Instructor, “Investing in Happiness” (GenConnectU online course)

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As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, this year—more so than in the past—I can’t help but reflect on the significance behind this national holiday.

I’m reminded of the famous motto that is the backbone of American democracy: “United we stand; divided we fall.”

Yet, in a summer of unfolding and simultaneous crises, it may seem as if we’re more divided than ever.

As I reveal in my latest book Science of a Happy Brain, we humans are intensely social beings that evolved for community, compassion, and cooperation.

It is precisely why in moments of turmoil and crisis that we realize how interconnected and interdependent we truly are.

As challenging and chaotic these times justifiably feel, I believe that we are in a seminal point in our collective history.

There exists a precious opportunity to unite and to heal.

This Fourth of July, let’s celebrate more than just with food, festivities, and fireworks.

Let’s honor America’s ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” by remembering that there is far more that unites us than divides us.

While the Fourth of July is traditionally known as America’s “Independence Day”, this year let’s all choose to celebrate the holiday as our Inter-Dependence Day.

Together we thrive! United we heal!

Enjoy my debut article in Elephant Journal
“A Powerful Truth to Remember This Fourth of July”

Stay Safe. Stay Strong. Stay Calm. Stay Connected.

Dr. Jay
Your Happiness Professor
Author, Science of a Happy Brain
Online Course: “Investing in Happiness”
Follow me @docjaykumar (FB, IG, LI, TW)

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“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Rumi

If You’re Hurting, You’re Not Alone

Like many of us right now, my heart feels heavy. My soul hurts.

While navigating through the array of conflicting emotions over the past few days, I observed an interesting pattern in many of my conversations.

Amidst my numerous online meetings with university colleagues, email exchanges with faculty and students, and phone calls with family and friends from across the country, there’s one phrase I kept hearing over and over.

“I’m hurting.”

If you’re hurting, you’re not alone. We are collectively and rightfully hurting. Our nation’s soul is wounded. The psyche of the American people is in pain.

When people say “I’m hurting,” it’s the cries over social injustice we hear that drive our despair. It’s the plea for compassion and the desperate appeal to our common humanity that we seek in order to heal our hurt.

Even as our nation continues healing from the pain of a pandemic, America is now hurting from a chronic wound—the collective anguish and grief from being forced to confront the ugly moral crisis reflected by the national protests for racial equality. While the wound may feel fresh, the suffering is old. The agony is all too familiar.

As my students in Chapman’s “Happiness” course discover, happiness is more than just an individual pursuit. When the Founders of American democracy penned in the Declaration of Independence the famous phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” they understood that the “pursuit of happiness” spans both the self and society.

Social justice, human rights, and the general welfare of all people are integral for any society to thrive and prosper. As my colleague Dean Gail Stearns shares in her piece, “…some stress will not go away until we collectively dismantle the unjust structural causes of that stress.”

When the fundamental right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is only conferred upon a selective segment of society—while at the active and systemic exclusion of others—the result is a divided and wounded nation.

The success and longevity of American democracy and the healing of our nation’s soul happen by remembering there is more that unites us, rather than divides us as a people.

The Need to Be Needed

In my role as Chapman University’s Director of Contemplative Practices and Well-being, with an academic focus on brain science and behavior, I recognize that how we respond to hurt is a reflection of how our brains have evolved to process pain and stress. Some of us will react to this collective hurt with anger, some with anxiety, some with alarm.

All these behavioral responses are expected, as they reveal a fundamental truth about how our brains are biologically wired. Recent studies attest how emotional, psychological, and social pain are processed in the shared regions of the brain that regulate physical pain.

It’s actually a recent revelation affirmed by a powerful discovery about the human brain. Your brain fundamentally evolved as a “social organ”. We humans intrinsically crave community and connection. We seek acceptance from and attachment to others. Most of all, we all desire the “need to be needed”.

As I state in my book Science of a Happy Brain: “When the lack of feeling a sense of value, belonging, and engagement is unrelenting, it triggers a cycle of despair and hopelessness that has the potential to accelerate the levels of anger, anxiety, and addiction in society.”

The need to be needed is a fundamental drive that exposes why many feel compelled to be called to action—we simply want to know that our life bears value and our presence in the world matters.

We all want to be heard and seen. It’s precisely the nourishment our “social brain” requires—to belong.

In his piece Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded, His Holiness the Dalai Lama perfectly gets to the heart of the hurt that many are feeling. He teaches, “This helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries. The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies.”

Whether it’s an individual or a population of society, experiencing any form of marginalization or neglect produces actual stress and trauma in our brain, body, and being.

The pain we experience from broken bonds (social) is just as real and strong as the pain we feel from a broken bone (physical). Simply put—pain is all the same in our brain.

Letting in the Light

We know from biology that when a bone breaks and mends, it becomes stronger. While our wounds—whether personal or societal—rightfully cause us pain and hurt, they equally provide an occasion for healing and for making us more resilient.

As the renowned Sufi poet Rumi relays, the wound itself is what makes it possible for the light to enter into the soul. Healing is a process of returning to a state of wholeness. In fact, the word “heal” is directly related to the word “whole”.

As painful and raw this crisis appears, as agonizing and hurtful the wounds feel, something beautiful and wondrous is happening.

We are witnessing the healing of America’s soul.

In the eloquent words of the late, great Senator John McCain: “To be connected to America’s causes—liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people—brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.”

We are in a seminal moment in our nation’s history. There exists a precious opportunity to heal our nation’s torn, weary, and battered soul. Honoring America’s philosophical ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness resides in our ability to invest in causes that unite us, not divide us.

Yes, our nation’s soul is wounded. Yes, we are all hurting. Healing the deep social and racial wounds—not just in America—but in our world occurs once we allow the light of compassion, empathy, and justice to be let in.

By fully committing ourselves to heal the painful wounds of racism, injustice, hatred, and divisiveness that have plagued America’s soul, we ultimately grow stronger and become more resilient as a nation and people. Our wounds begin to heal. Our soul becomes whole. We remain the United States of America.

Stay Safe. Stay Strong. Stay Calm. Stay Connected.

Dr. Jay
Your Happiness Professor
Author, Science of a Happy Brain
Online Course: “Investing in Happiness”
Follow me @docjaykumar (FB, IG, LI, TW)

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I’m thrilled to announce my partnership with genconnectU on a brand new online  course:

INVESTING IN HAPPINESS: Improving Your Business and Work Through Brain Science, provides a much-needed roadmap to success in these strange times.

For both businesses and employees, it can be difficult to navigate this changing, uncertain world.

Because the human brain is programmed to seek safety, security and stability, your employees will often react to change as if it’s a crisis — with feelings of helplessness, chaos, stress, fear, betrayal, grief, uncertainty, insecurity and anger.

Now, more than ever, businesses must have a clear strategy to help employees deal effectively with that change. Nurturing them through uncertainty by showing them that you value them is essential to helping them stay motivated and productive. By doing this, you’ll see lower turnover, less sick time, and a stronger long-term commitment, all of which will improve your bottom line.

In my online course, INVESTING IN HAPPINESS: Improving Your Business and Work Through Brain Science, I share novel approaches, insights and knowledge based on research into how the human brain works in a world of change.

Purchase this course for your business and your employees to succeed and thrive. www.bit.ly/DrJayK

There’s never been a time more important to humanize your organizational messages and actions. Learn more and watch a preview of the course at bit.ly/DrJayK

Dr. Jay
Your Happiness Professor
Author, Science of a Happy Brain
Online Course: “Investing in Happiness”
Follow me @docjaykumar (FB, IG, LI, TW)

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How exactly does gratitude make you happy and healthy?

The emotion of gratitude has powerful benefits to your overall health and well-being and helps you to feel more connected to others.

Just saying the simple words “thank you” can lift you out of your own individual concerns and serve to remind you of the joy and happiness others bring to your life.

When you express gratitude, it’s as if your brain steps on the “emotional brakes”. Suddenly, the emotions of sadness, self-pity or stress—that were driving you—are slowed and enable you to cope with stressful circumstances and be more resilient in the face of challenges.

A second reason to pause and express gratitude is that even simple expressions of gratitude can have long-lasting effects on those who receive them. When people feel valued they are more likely to help others.

Scientists now recognize that gratitude is one of the most powerful and healthiest of human emotions. Studies at University of Miami, UC Davis, and other universities successfully demonstrate that remembering to be grateful for what you have in life can greatly outweigh any sadness, stress, or challenges you might currently be experiencing.

Learn more about the powerful healing benefits of gratitude and practical tools for developing greater health and happiness in my first book The Five Secrets for Achieving Authentic Health and Happiness.

Stay Calm. Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.

Dr. Jay
Your Happiness Professor
Author of “Science of a Happy Brain”
Follow me @docjaykumar (FB, IG, LI, TW)

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“Coping Fatigue”

Learning to cope in the midst of crisis and uncertainty can understandably take its toll on your brain, body, and being. These feelings can become all the more heightened in a situation like the COVID-19 crisis when trying to manage stress and anxiety over your health, work, family, finances, and the future.

As I highlight in my first piece Be Adaptive, Not Reactive to Change, we’re actually dealing with two simultaneous contagions—the threat from the actual virus and the spreading psychological trauma it generates.

I’m finding my university students, those in my personal life, and even myself are experiencing what I call “coping fatigue”—we’re simply overwhelmed trying to cope with feelings of fear, grief, and hopelessness.

I find the following phrases are becoming all too common:
“I wake up in the middle of the night with my thoughts racing.”
“It’s hard not to feel hopeless and scared for myself and my family.”
“How can I manage my exhaustion and overwhelm?”

Most of you know that stress does more than just create anxiety and worry. Left unchecked, chronic stress undermines your ability to focus, sleep, work, and persist.

“Coping fatigue” can occur when the demand on your cognitive capacity surpasses what you’re normally able to manage and regulate. When this cognitive overload becomes unrelenting and feels out of your control, is it any wonder we’re dealing with “coping fatigue” at the moment? What can you do?

As revealed in my new book “Science of a Happy Brain“, both brain science and timeless spiritual wisdom provide strategies for us to cope and not to lose hope.

Brain Science

From the perspective of brain science, we humans can only retain a finite amount of cognitive information in any given moment. As a strategy for survival, the human brain evolved primarily to “focus on the bad, forget the good” in moments of crisis or trauma.

It’s a concept sometimes referred to as your brain’s negativity bias. Your “Survival Brain” evolved to focus on negative experiences and register stressful situations more strongly than remembering positive ones.

Here’s how you can understand it. I’ve often heard your brain’s negativity bias as best explained by the following phrase: “Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and like Teflon for positive ones.”

What that means is your brain excels at making the bad experiences stick, while making the good ones slip away. This concept is the essence behind your brain’s negativity bias—your brain is biased to remember more effectively the stressful and negative experiences than the joyful, happy ones.

Your brain’s built-in negativity bias can be one reason behind “coping fatigue” that can lead us to lose hope and drop into despair.

Buddhist Psychology

Borrowing wisdom from Buddhist psychology, it reveals that one primary source of suffering originates in the failure to accept the nature of change.

Putting this idea into the context of the current crisis, here’s a Buddhist riddle: How do you make a happy person become sad, and a sad person become happy? Just say, “What you’re feeling will soon pass.”

What this punch line implies is how the Buddha realized nothing lasts forever—both good times and bad times are temporary experiences. Both pain and pleasure are fleeting sensations in your fluctuating mind, but in the moment your mind deceives you into thinking these states are permanent.

In the case of pain, you suffer when you forget painful experiences are only temporary. We suffer when we forget that everything in life is never permanent.

The Buddhist notion of impermanence is not unique, as it is equally reflected among the world’s spiritual traditions by the common phrase: This, too, shall pass. It is exactly this universal concept of embracing the temporary nature of suffering is what we first need to remember as a strategy to combat “coping fatigue”.

Although you may find it even more challenging right now to stay calm and centered, please don’t lose hope. By applying spiritual wisdom and discoveries from brain science, you can develop practices and skills to promote “calm is the cure” into your life.

Stay Calm. Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.

Dr. Jay
Your Happiness Professor
Author of “Science of a Happy Brain”
Follow me @docjaykumar (FB, IG, LI, TW)

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Your key to keeping calm in times of crisis and uncertainty is learning how to “Be Adaptive, Not Reactive to Change”.

Enjoy the first in the “Calm Is the Cure” video series to help you achieve greater emotional and mental well-being. Get more great, free content at www.DrJayKumar.com

Stay Calm. Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.

Dr. Jay
Your Happiness Professor
Author of “Science of a Happy Brain”
Follow me @docjaykumar (FB, IG, LI, TW)

 

 

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Navigating change is never easy. Whether it’s a health scare, personal loss, or financial hardship, it’s natural to experience anxiety, grief, and a lack of feeling in control. But the current COVID-19 crisis is in a league of its own. The unexpected disruption to our accustomed routine can feel overwhelming and unrelenting. Worst of all, the change is hitting every part of our life—all at once.

In times of crisis and uncertainty, we can instinctively revert to our primal “Survival Brain”—the innate biological “fight-or-flight response” for seeking safety, security and stability. Our Survival Brain abhors change; it craves certitude. Thanks to our Survival Brain, we have evolved to “be adaptive” in order to solve problems in an unstable environment. But, left unchecked and rampant the Survival Brain can also make us “be reactive” under stressful and threatening situations that fuel chaos and confusion.

As students in my Chapman “Happiness” course discover, we don’t have to be imprisoned by our Survival Brain. In fact, brain science and timeless spiritual wisdom both teach us a valuable lesson: When your outside world feels out of control, learn to control your inside world. The concept of “neuroplasticity” reveals how we have the ability to rewire and retrain the brain to be more adaptive to change. Contemplative practices, such as meditation or mindful breathing, empower us to be less reactive to uncertainty. Together, science and spirituality provide solutions for coping with crisis.

Below are the 4Cs—applied strategies drawn from both science and spirituality—to help us be adaptive, not reactive in these challenging times of change and uncertainty.

The 4Cs to “Be Adaptive, Not Reactive”

COMFORT
Boost your immunity through sleep, diet, exercise, and meditation.
View your health holistically—brain, body, and being. Avoid sugar and processed foods, as they increase inflammation and suppress your immunity to disease. When feelings of anxiety or panic pops up, stop and take ten, slow, deep breaths. Science affirms that doing so will regulate your body’s “stress-response” system, strengthen your immune system, and increase resilience.

CONTRIBUTION
Sacrifices can be heroic and patriotic.
We all will be required to make sacrifices and alter our way of life. If you’re required to self-isolate or have to cancel a trip, wedding, or graduation, remember that it’s for the ultimate welfare of society. Reframe your sacrifices as altruistic acts of civic responsibility, of religious duty, and of patriotism for the greater good. If your kids are upset over scrapped vacations, birthdays, or family gatherings, call them “heroes” for their courage in understanding how their sacrifices help society.

CONNECTION
We need each other.
Times of crisis expose how we are far more interconnected and interdependent than we realize. If you’re required to implement “physical distancing,” it doesn’t equate to “social distancing and disconnecting”. Show up for one another. Message the people you care about. Check in on a long-lost friend, family members, and your elderly neighbors. Have your kids make and send a video to grandparents they can’t visit.

COMPASSION
Practice proper “emotional and mental hygiene”
Know it’s okay to acknowledge your fears, anxieties, and concerns. Your emotions are real, so honor what you feel. Practicing emotional and spiritual self-care can equally help you feel calm, centered, and in control. Listencompassionately. Practice empathy. Be gentle to yourself. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Kindness is key. Remember that fear is not the final word.

Dr. Jay Kumar is the Director of Contemplative Practices and Wellbeing at The Fish Interfaith Center. Join him every Thur. 3-4pm for his “Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind”  webinar series.

Stay Calm. Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.

Dr. Jay
Your Happiness Professor
Author of “Science of a Happy Brain”
Follow me @docjaykumar (FB, IG, LI, TW)

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Quote of the Week

“No external conditions are required for happiness. Happiness is who you are!” —Dr. Jay Kumar