Chelsea Manning Is Back, And Hacking Again, Only This Time For A Bitcoin-Based Privacy Startup

Five years ago, from her prison cell, trans whistleblower Chelsea Manning sketched out a new way to protect online privacy. Now, she is helping an MIT-affiliated cryptographer bring the next generation of privacy software online.

Chelsea Manning’s long blonde hair catches in a cool summer breeze as she turns the corner into Brooklyn’s Starr Bar, a dimly lit counter-cultural haunt in the heart of the hipster enclave of Bushwick. The 33-year-old best known for leaking hundreds of thousands of top-secret government documents to Julian Assange in 2010, then coming out as a transgender woman, walks past a poster depicting sea turtles, humans and geese merging to form the outline of a dove. Beside the image are the words, “Your Nations Cannot Contain Us.”

Dressed in a black suit and wearing a silver Omega watch, she makes her way to a small wooden table illuminated by a shaft of sunlight. She orders a Coke. Contrary to what one might expect, this whistleblower turned trans icon looks uncomfortable in the hip surroundings. A fan reverently approaches her and welcomes her back. “This is my life,” she says after he leaves, expressing gratitude for the well wishes and lamenting the loss of her privacy. “I’m not just famous—I’m in the history books.”

While serving the longest sentence ever doled out to a whistleblower after she used the privacy-protecting Tor Network to anonymously leak 700,000 government documents, she used her time in incarceration to devise a better way to cover the tracks of other online users.

Knowing that the nonprofit Tor Project she used to send files to Wikileaks had become increasingly vulnerable to the prying eyes of intelligence agencies and law enforcement, she sketched out a new way to hide internet traffic using blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, to build a similar network, without troublesome government funding. The entire plan was hatched in a military prison, on paper.

Fixing the known weaknesses of these networks is about more than just protecting future whistleblowers and criminals. Private networks are also vital for big businesses who want to protect trade secrets. The privacy network industry, including the virtual private networks (VPNs) familiar to many corporate users, generated $29 billion in revenue in 2019 and is expected to triple to $75 billion by 2027.

Manning thinks that not-for-profit efforts like Tor, which relies on U.S. government funding and a worldwide network of volunteers to run its anonymous servers, aren’t robust enough. “Nonprofits are unsustainable,” says Manning casually, sipping from her Coke. “They require constant upholding by large capital funds, by large governments.”

By January 2017, she was 7 years into a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, home to the likes of former Army Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 14 fellow soldiers in 2009. As President Barack Obama prepared to leave office, he granted Manning an unconditional commutation of her sentence. Newly tasting freedom, she was contacted by Harry Halpin, the 41-year-old mathematician who worked for World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee at MIT from 2013 to 2016 helping standardize the use of cryptography across Web browsers.

Halpin asked Manning to look for security weaknesses in his new privacy project, which eventually became Nym, a Neuchâtel, Switzerland-based crypto startup. Halpin founded Nym in 2018 to send data anonymously around the Internet using the same blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin. To date, Nym has raised some $8.5 million from a group of crypto investors including Binance, Polychain Capital and NGC Ventures. The firm now employs ten people and is using its latest round of capital to double its team size.

Halpin was impressed by Manning’s technical knowledge. More than just a famous leaker who happened to have access to secret documents, Manning struck Halpin as someone with a deep technological understanding of how governments and big business seek to spy on private messages.

“We’ve very rarely had access to people who really were inside the machine, who can explain what they believe the actual capabilities of these kinds of adversaries are, what kinds of attacks are more likely,” says Halpin. “She’ll help us fix holes in our design.”

Born in Oklahoma on December 17, 1987, Manning had her first exposure to what’s called network traffic analysis in high school. She and her Welsh mother, Susan, had moved to Haverfordwest, Wales, in 2001, when Manning was 13. In a computer class there, in 2003, she first learned to circumvent blocks put in place by the school to prevent students downloading certain files—and got caught pirating music by Linkin Park, Jay-Z and others.

The headmaster had been watching remotely. “It was the first moment where it dawned on me, ‘Oh, this is a thing. You can do this.’ By 2008 Manning’s interest in network traffic analysis first brought her to The Onion Router (Tor), a volunteer network of computers that sits on top of the internet and helps hide a user’s identity. The nonprofit organization leveraged something called “onion routing,” which hides messages beneath layers of encryption.

Each message is only decipherable by a different member of the network, which routes the message to the next router, ensuring that only the sender and receiver can decipher it all. Ironically, the network colloquially known as the “Dark Web,” used by Manning to send classified documents to WikiLeaks, was developed by the U.S. government to protect spies and other government agents operating online.

At around the same time Manning discovered Tor, she joined the U.S. Army. As a young intelligence analyst her job was to sort through classified databases in search of tactical patterns. After becoming disillusioned with what she learned about the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, she plugged into her computer, put in her headphones, and loaded a CD with music from another of her favorite musicians, Lady Gaga.

Instead of listening to the album, though, she erased it and downloaded what would eventually be known as the largest single leak in U.S. history, ranging from sensitive diplomatic cables to video showing U.S. soldiers killing civilians, including two Reuters journalists.

In prison she studied carpentry, but she never stopped exploring her earlier vocation. “I’m a certified carpenter,” she says. “But when I wasn’t doing that, I would read a lot of cryptography papers.” In 2016, she was visited in prison by Yan Zhu, a physicist from MIT who would later go on to become chief security officer of Brave, a privacy-protecting internet browser that pays users in cryptocurrency in exchange for agreeing to see ads.

She and Zhu were concerned with vulnerabilities they saw in Tor, including its dependence on the goodwill of governments and academic institutions. In 2020 53% of its $5 million funding came from the U.S. government and 27% came from other Western governments, tax-subsidized nonprofits, foundations and companies. Worse, in their opinion, the technology being developed to break privacy was being funded at a higher rate than the technology to protect it.

“As the Dark Web, or Tor and VPN and all these other services became more prolific, the tools to do traffic analysis had dramatically improved,” says Manning. “And there’s sort of been a cold war that’s been going on between the Tor project developers, and a number of state actors and large internet service providers.” In 2014, the FBI learned how to decipher Tor data. By 2020 a single user reportedly controlled enough Tor nodes to steal bitcoin transactions initiated over the network.

Using two lined pieces of composition paper from the prison commissary, Manning drew a schematic for Zhu of what she called Tor Plus. Instead of just encrypting the data she proposed to inject the information equivalent of noise into network communications. In the margins of the document she even postulated that blockchain, the technology popularized by bitcoin, could play a role.

Then, this February Halpin woke her up late one night with an encrypted text message asking her to take a look at a paper describing Nym. Developed completely separately from Manning’s jailhouse sketch, the paper detailed an almost identical system disguising real messages with white noise. A hybrid of the decentralized Tor that relies on donor support and a corporate-owned VPN that requires trusting a company, this network promised the best of both worlds.

Organized as a for-profit enterprise, Nym would pay people and organizations running the network in cryptocurrency. “The next day I cleared my schedule,” she says. By July she’d signed a contract with Nym to run a security audit that could eventually include a closer look at the code, the math and the defensive scenarios against government attacks.

Unlike Tor, which uses the onion router to obscure data sent on a shared network, Nym uses what’s called a mix network, or mixnet, that not only shuffles the data, but also alternates the methods by which the data is shuffled, making it nearly impossible to reassemble.

“Imagine you have a deck of cards,” says Manning. “What’s really unique here is that what’s being done is that you are taking essentially a deck of cards, and you are taking a bunch of other decks of cards, and you are shuffling those decks of cards as well.”

And, as it, turns out, not every government is comfortable using a privacy network largely funded by the U.S. government. Despite Halpin’s commitment to build a network that doesn’t require government funding to operate, in July Nym accepted a €200,000 grant from the European Commission to help get it off the ground.


“Knowing that Wikileaks had become increasingly vulnerable to prying eyes from intelligence agencies and law enforcement, she sketched out a new way to hide internet traffic using blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin.”


“The problem is that there was never a financial model that made any sense to build this technology,” says Halpin. “There was no interest from users, venture capital and big companies. And now you’re seeing what we consider a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the stars, where there’s interest in privacy from venture capital. There’s an interest in privacy for users.

There’s interest in privacy from companies. And most of the interest from the venture capital side and the company side and the user side has been driven by cryptocurrency. And this was not the case even five years ago.”Even Tor itself is exploring how to use blockchain to create the next generation of its software. After receiving 26% of its total donations in cryptocurrency last year, the Tor Project received a $670,000 grant from advocates of the Zcash cryptocurrency and sold a non-fungible token (NFT) representing the first .onion address for $2 million in May, 2021.

Now, Tor cofounder Nick Mathewson says the Seattle-based nonprofit is exploring some of the same techniques developed by cryptocurrency companies to create Tor credentials that let users develop a reputation without revealing their identity. What he calls an “anonymous blacklistable credential.”

“If you’ve got a website, and somebody does something you don’t like, you can ban them,” says Mathewson. “You can ban the person who did that activity without ever finding out what other activities they did or figuring out whom you banned.”

Though Mathewson is interested in the possibility of using blockchain to upgrade Tor itself, he warns that making for-profit privacy infrastructure could lead to more money being spent on marketing than product development. “Our mission is to encourage the use of privacy technology,” says Mathewson. “I don’t really care whether that privacy tool is the one I made or not.”

Ironically, the same cryptocurrency culture Halpin says brought so much attention from investors, deterred Manning from getting involved earlier. Though she counts herself among the earliest bitcoin adopters, claiming to have mined cryptocurrency shortly after Satoshi Nakomoto activated it in 2009, she sold her bitcoin last year for decidedly nonmonetary reasons.

“I am not a fan of the culture around blockchain and cryptocurrency,” she says. “There’s a lot of large personalities that are very out there, like your Elon Musks and whatnot,” she says. “And it‘s very, like, ‘Oh, we’re going to get rich off of blockchain.’ It’s very nouveau riche. Like a new-yuppies-bro-culture that’s surrounded it. It has gotten a little bit better in some corners. But I think that culture is what I’m talking about. It’s like Gordon Gekko, but blockchain.”

Michael del Castillo

By: Michael del Castillo

Source: Chelsea Manning Is Back, And Hacking Again, Only This Time For A Bitcoin-Based Privacy Startup

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3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work

Given that many of us will spend up to one-third of our lives at work, it’s not surprising that happiness at work is a topic of concern. Research shows that our happiness at work determines how motivated, productive, and engaged we are.

As an ACHIEVE trainer for the Psychological Safety in the Workplace workshop, I have had many discussions with participants and teams about workplace well-being and satisfaction. I am often asked, “What actions and circumstances best lead to happiness at work?” 

The answer? Happiness at work is complex. Various influences and factors contribute to our well-being at work including organizational culture, the alignment between our values and the organization’s, and the level of job compensation and security.

While some of these factors may be beyond our control, happiness can be enhanced through specific behavioural and cognitive practices, referred to in positive psychology as “positive interventions.”

Here are three positive interventions you can use to increase your happiness at work:

Strive for the Happiness Zone

Research shows that 40 percent of personal happiness results from our own actions, behaviours, and thought patterns. This 40 percent zone is where you have some control over your happiness and where practicing positive interventions will be most helpful. However, this practice will be different for everyone. Some people are happiest when they accomplish a goal at work, while others feel most happy when they are connected and collaborating with colleagues. It’s important to understand which activities contribute to individual happiness at work.

Prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday.

One way to begin is to prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday. Take note of activities that seem to uplift your mood during the week. Carefully observe your workdays, becoming mindful of the activities, behaviours, or situations that create a sense of a good day versus a bad day. Look for a pattern across the days and weeks. Are there certain activities, situations, or circumstances that consistently seem to contribute to a positive workday? Make a conscious effort to prioritizing doing more of them.

Focus on Meaningful Interactions

The importance of interpersonal connections at work is noted in ACHIEVE’s book, The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work. People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

A first step to creating meaningful connections at work is to improve your listening skills and increase the depth and value of your interactions. During a workplace interaction, consciously choose to actively listen to what someone has to say and invite them to share more during the conversation. Researchers refer to this as listening generously – we allow the person to have the entire spotlight to feel genuinely listened to and validated.

Simple responses like “That’s great, I’d like to hear more,” or “It sounds like this is important to you, I’d like to learn more,” can make a team member feel more valued, resulting in increased well-being at work. As the listener, you feel good too because you are creating a more meaningful interaction. Remember, the more connected and positive interactions we have with work colleagues, the happier our work experience.

Generate Gratitude

Completing a gratitude exercise even once a week has been proven to increase happiness over time. There is no better place to practice gratitude than at work, given the amount of time we spend there.

People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

One of the most simple and effective ways to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. Record the things in your workweek you felt grateful for. Examples may include compliments you received about your work, small wins or accomplishments, or completing a difficult task. To make this team-based, try keeping a gratitude jar.

Invite your colleagues to join you in recording things they are grateful for. Use sticky notes, or if you are a virtual team, post something on a virtual collaborative whiteboard. On Friday, go through the notes. The best part of this simple exercise is the immediate uplift in mood and perspective shift that occurs from recognizing just how many things went well during the workweek.

Workplace happiness takes effort and practice, but the result is improved well-being, greater productivity, and stronger workplace connections – all of which can result in decreased stress and more work satisfaction. Happiness at work is truly worth the effort.

By:Jennifer Kelly

Source: 3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work | ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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The Neuroscience of Breaking Out of Negative Thinking (and How to Do It in Under 30 Seconds)

You just got off the phone with one of your most important clients. The game-changing deal you were trying to close is off. They’re not interested. You’ve just pitched 10 potential investors. They all say they’re “interested” but it’s been two weeks. You refresh your inbox hourly, and yet still no word.

How do you react in these situations?

If you’re like most people, your mind floods with negativity. “Maybe our product sucks,” “Why can’t I just get a break?” or “Maybe there’s something wrong with me.”

Neuroscientists have a name for this automatic habit of the brain: “negativity bias.” It’s an adaptive trait of human psychology that served us well when we were hunting with spears on the savanna 120,000 years ago.

In modern times, however, this habit of the brain leaves us reacting to a harsh email or difficult conversation as if our life were in danger. It activates a cascade of stress hormones and leaves us fixated on potential threats, unable to see the bigger picture.

Neuroscientist Rick Hanson has a great analogy for this strange quality of the mind. “Your brain,” he writes in his book Buddha’s Brain, “is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” When you lose a client, when the investors don’t come calling, or when you face the hundreds of other daily disappointments of life, you’re wired to forget all the good things and to instead obsess over the negative.

The Ultra-Efficient Transformation of Notice-Shift-Rewire

How can we reverse this hard-wired habit of the mind?

Three words: Notice-Shift-Rewire. This simple strategy puts into into practice the core insight coming out of the neuroscience revolution of the past 30 years–the insight that, in the words of early neuroscientist Donald Hebb, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” It’s the insight that reminds us the brain isn’t fixed. Its habits aren’t like plaster. They’re more like plastic, strong enough to resist the occasional push but pliable enough to change in response to repeated effort.

That’s the magic of Notice-Shift-Rewire. By taking a moment each day to bring our attention to this practice, we build the habit of shifting out of negativity bias to more useful mind states: remembering our past wins, celebrating our strengths, and seeing life as a series of opportunities rather than a relentless slog through setbacks and heartbreak.

How do you integrate the practice of Notice-Shift-Rewire into the midst of everyday life?

1. Notice your negativity bias.

The first step is to bring awareness to this ordinary habit of the mind. Catch yourself when you slip into self-doubt, rumination, anxiety, and fear. Notice when your mind starts spinning out worst-case scenarios about how it’s all going to come crashing apart.

2. Shift to a moment of gratitude.

Noticing opens the space for carving new neural pathways. Shifting allows you to flood this space with a more productive focus of attention. A few seconds of gratitude is the most efficient way to do this. Think of one thing you’re grateful for right now. Your home. Your job. Your health. Your family. Your talents and strengths. Your drive.

3. Rewire your brain.

Here’s where the real work of begins. Hanson calls this the simple act of savoring. It’s taking 15 seconds to stay with this new mindset — to encode it deep into the fabric of your mind.

This last step is where we transform our ordinary habit of overlooking the positive. It’s where we shift the brain’s response to all the good in life from Teflon to Velcro. We’re flipping our evolved wiring on its head — taking just a few seconds to build stronger memories around all the good things happening in life.

The best thing about this practice is that it’s time efficient, portable, and powerful. It takes less than 30 seconds, you can do it anytime and anywhere, and you will begin to experience an immediate shift in your mindset.

The moment you make this shift, everything changes. You remember your purpose, look forward to new challenges, and face life with renewed optimism.

By: Nate Klemp

Source: The Neuroscience of Breaking Out of Negative Thinking (and How to Do It in Under 30 Seconds)

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For Happiness In Tough Times, Be More Grateful

Young beautiful African American afro woman with curly hair wearing casual sweater smiling with hands on chest with closed eyes and grateful gesture on face.

These uplifting findings offer routes to business success, as well as individual well being. If we accept gratitude increases happiness, we also know joyful people are more curious, creative, and resilient. Great qualities to possess in a challenging and disrupted post-pandemic world.

Turning Up The Happiness Dial 

The evidence is relatively new. However, great thinkers have long identified gratitude as a desirable trait of an emotionally mature mind. The Roman statesman Marcus Cicero described it as the greatest virtue – and a parent to all the other beneficial qualities. The eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume called ingratitude “the most horrible and unnatural crime that a person is capable of committing”.

In King Lear, Shakespeare has his eponymous hero angrily accuse his ungrateful daughter Goneril of being a “marble-hearted fiend”. No surprise that most of us have parents who insisted on “thank yous” like marine corps drill instructors.

Psychologists call your personal level of day-to-day happiness your “set point”. We all inherit an individual benchmark for cheerfulness rooted in our genes and upbringing. It’s long been argued that this setting is stubbornly stable over time. Research shows, whether you win the lottery, or are paralyzed from the neck down, you tend to gravitate back to your set point after three to six months.

If you doubt this, next time you board a flight (those times are returning), glance at the faces of people sitting in the comfy business class seats. Do they look any more contented? Mostly, you’ll find their faces reveal the same level of happiness as the less fortunate trudging towards coach.

Positive Psychology researchers now suggest certain habits can shift your happiness set point in the right direction. There’s a healthy debate about how big the effect can be. However, one point has been agreed upon. Gratitude is one of the few intentional human emotions which has a sustainable impact. Here are three simple, but powerful ways, to move your happiness dial upwards, and keep it there.

1. Count Your Blessings  

Writing down three new things that you’re grateful for starts to change the physical structure of your brain. Researchers have shown the impact builds after about three weeks of this daily activity. American psychologist Sean Anchor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, said: “…at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first.”

2. Send a Grateful Email 

Another route is to consciously express gratitude to the people in your life. In my leadership programs, we ask participants to pick three people and write a short story about them in the form of an email. The idea is to describe a time when that person helped.

Professor Dan Cable, the author of Exceptional: Build Your Personal Highlight Reel and Unlock Your Potential, advises: “It’s important that the email story has a beginning, middle, and an end. I encourage people to include gritty, specific elements of the event which helps the person receiving the email to relive the memory when they read it.”

When senior executives pluck up the courage to write their emails, Dan and I find a wonderfully rewarding dynamic plays out. Within hours or days, the managers often get an email back. They receive a similarly grateful story in return from their delighted friend, colleague, or family member.

If you are nervous about sharing a grateful story, there is a fascinating facet of the research that is encouraging. It turns out it’s worth writing the story even if you don’t subsequently press send on the email. The evidence shows that people who create the narratives but decide to keep them to themselves, still enjoy the uplifting benefits. Although, of course, their friends do not.

This habit of being more explicitly grateful in writing or face-to-face has a snowball effect. Researchers found the improvements in mental health increase after 12 weeks of the habit. This is exciting because the mental health benefits of other positive activities often decrease over time.

3. Meditate, Gratefully   

Coronavirus has transformed mindfulness – the ability to focus on the present moment without judgment – from a management fad into an essential business tool. It’s possible to inject gratitude into this powerful approach by concentrating on what you are currently thankful for: the warmth of the sun, a great book you’re reading, or a special person in your life.

Happiness has come into sharp focus in the teeth of the pandemic. The results in a recent global Gallup survey were counterintuitive. Average happiness across 95 countries has crept up when compared to three years before Coronavirus struck. Even more surprising, Covid-19 has increased the happiness of older people more than any other group. This despite the risk of death being far higher. On average, the elderly are more cheerful while the young are more miserable.

The explanation is gratitude. Last month, The Economist put it this way: “Old people probably are not actually healthier. Rather, Covid-19 has changed the yardstick. They feel healthier because they have dodged a disease that could kill them.”

The scientific research into gratitude now supports the diversionary tactics my wife and I used with our young sons. For two tired, working parents, The Grateful Game started dinner on a positive footing and crowded out bad behavior. We found it easier to divert their attention to something positive, rather than endlessly saying “no” to negative behavior.

The same trick works for all of us. Being grateful shifts your attention away from toxic emotions and towards something more uplifting. Do it for long enough, and it permanently rewires your brain to be a happier person. And, for that, we can all be very grateful.

I am an award-winning business author, global executive educator and Programme Director at London Business School. My most recent book ‘The Human Edge, how curiosity and creativity are your superpowers in the digital economy’ (Pearson) was named as the Business Book of The Year 2020. I’ve led leadership development programmes for global clients in industries including advertising, automotive, consumer goods, banking & insurance, manufacturing, media, recruitment and technology.  I’ve shared my insights into building creative leadership and innovative teams in more than 400 virtual and face-to-face talks to executive audiences around the world. Previously, I’ve been a successful entrepreneur, the founding CEO of London Business School’s Centre for Creative Business and a national TV journalist with the BBC and ITV.

Source: For Happiness In Tough Times, Be More Grateful

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4 Ways Gratitude Helps Entrepreneurs Right Now

In business, the return on investment (ROI) for your money is valued in terms of the ratio between your net profit and the cost of investment.  A financial analyst quickly calculates this value which generally reflects success, failure and or progress on the part of an entrepreneur or investor. 

The ROI for health and well-being, for entrepreneurs, investors and us all alike, is not as easily calculable. There is plenty of research in health and medicine that discusses how to improve health, regain health and sustain good health. A clear takeaway from the research on gratitude is that gratitude supports well-being in terms of physical, mental, emotional and social health, especially in the time of coronavirus.  In other words, the ROI for well-being from expressing gratitude is particularly strong at this time.

Related: Why Gratitude Makes Leaders More Effective

What are the benefits of expressing gratitude?  There are at least 4 perks of expressing gratitude that promote health and well-being.

1. Expressing gratitude strengthens our relationships

In a study demonstrating that gratitude strengthens relationships, the researchers write, “Relationships with others who are responsive to our whole self — our likes and dislikes, our needs and preferences — can help us get through difficult times and flourish in good times.”

Gratitude’s ability to strengthen relationships leads to strong support systems that boost overall well-being.  The next time you think of a close friend, consider showcasing your gratitude for them!  

2. Expressing gratitude improves our mental health

Gratitude has a positive impact on mental health, encouraging inspiration, motivation, wonder and satisfaction.  Looking for a boost to get your days started?  Expressing gratitude can help you feel inspired by scouring for things big and small to be grateful for.  Inspiration, in turn, leads to motivation which can help reach your goals. Regularly feeling gratitude about nature and connection helps reignite our sense of awe.  

3. Expressing gratitude helps relieve stress

Gratitude helps lower our levels of cortisol — a stress hormone — by about 23 percent, helping to prevent the health problems that stress can lead up to. What does that mean? You can help avert the negative consequences of stress including weight gain, anxiety, headaches, and even heart disease through mindfulness strategies such as a regular gratitude practice.  

Related: The Biological Reason to Practice Gratitude

4. Expressing gratitude curbs anxiety

The ROI on expressing gratitude includes help with anxiety.  A 2015 Italian study in Self and Identity showed that “being grateful renders individuals more prone to show kindness, comprehension, support, and compassion toward themselves when setbacks and frustrations occur.”

Related: How the ‘Gratitude Effect’ Can Reshape Your Life and Its Direction

By promoting self-compassion and self-understanding, gratitude helps reduce unbeneficial self-talk.  In turn, this alleviates anxiety, which 40 million American adults face. 

The ROI for expressing gratitude is real and tangible. Try three strategies to get started on your gratitude practice: 

1. Make a list of three things you are grateful for each day.

More specifically, pick out three different parts/things in each day that you can be grateful for and enjoy them. For example, you appreciate the peacefulness of the sun rising in the morning. Or you like taking your shower and feeling ready to start your day.  These could be regular things you savor or something different each day.

2. Write a thank-you note to someone you care about

Share with a friend why he or she is so meaningful to you.  Or, tell a loved one thank you for them just being who they are.  It might feel awkward, but the bonds you strengthen will leave you feeling satisfied.

3. Write and share an uplifting and inspirational social media post

Post an uplifting quote about gratitude with your friends on social media. Or, you celebrate a friend or loved one’s birthday with a loving and heartfelt status post on a friendly and uplifting app or platform. Enjoy these moments.

By engaging in gratitude regularly,  your ROI for well-being will be multiplied many times over.  Your relationships and stress and anxiety levels will improve.  Invest in gratitude today to see the dividends both now and later.  Coronavirus may have us socially distanced, but our gratitude for living and each other can bring us closer together in meaningful ways.


By: Najma Khorrami / Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

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How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed During the Coronavirus Pandemic

1

“New year, new me” memes were a common theme on 1st January 2020. We even had the benefit of starting a new decade with the promise of being fitter, more fulfilled and accomplished. What a difference a quarter can make.

With all the plans I had for this year, it never occurred to me that this would be the first time I truly appreciated flour and toilet paper! These are the most volatile times many European entrepreneurs will have seen in their lifetimes. With this global pandemic, there has been a wide range of responses and it’s not uncommon for people to struggle with feeling overwhelmed.

Messages on social media range from: “If you don’t come out of this pandemic with a new skill, you don’t lack time, you lack discipline” to “It’s OK if you’re not achieving peak productivity in the throes of a global pandemic! It’s fine to just chill in your pyjamas.”

In these stressful times, how do you strike the right balance between taking care of your mental health and taking advantage of some downtime?

1. Gratitude

Focusing on what we have, rather than what we’re missing is a vital part of fostering a healthy outlook. If you don’t have an Instagram-worthy mansion, you can still be grateful that you have somewhere to sleep at night.

The restriction around leaving the house has led people to appreciate nature and fresh air. I am certainly savouring exploring Oxford with renewed enthusiasm. At the very least, we can be grateful that we have life. Now, more than ever, that is something to cherish.

2. Connect with others.

Social isolation does not have to mean emotional isolation. Connect with your friends and family. Check if they are OK and don’t be afraid to share how you truly feel with those you trust. Over the course of human history, this is the best time (or at least the least awful) to have a global pandemic.

With the advances in technology and healthcare, we have the capability to reach out to people all over the globe with nothing more than a basic smartphone or laptop. Take advantage of this.

3. Forgive yourself.

Sometimes you may plan to contact a former customer, update your website or write a LinkedIn post but when you get ready to do it, you find the monitor blurs as you play out different transmission scenarios in your head. It’s not always easy to be focused and now you may find it harder than ever. But understand that it’s OK to be scared, upset or worried. You don’t have to apologise to others or yourself for feeling concerned and not being at your absolute best. This is a perfectly normal response to the situation.

The founder of rational emotive behavioral therapy, Albert Ellis, identified that we have a tendency to feeling negative emotions because we’re feeling a negative emotion. This is how downward spirals can begin. For instance, if you feel worried about the impact coronavirus has on family working in healthcare, that’s a primary emotion. Then you may feel a secondary emotion of shame or guilt because worry has meant you haven’t been able to focus on getting through everything you’d planned. Recognizing that our emotions are legitimate and acceptable prevents us from making ourselves feel even worse.

We are often much harder on ourselves than we would be on others, so consider what you’d say to a friend who is beating themself up over not keeping up with teaching their child’s curriculum. Apply the encouragement and reassurance that you would offer them to yourself. You are just as deserving of grace as anybody else.

4. Focus on what you can control.

In the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey recommends focusing on things that you can control: those things that are within your circle of influence. Your circle of concern goes beyond that and contains international events that are outside of your power. When we focus on what we are able to control, we have a greater ability to deal with things that are outside of our control.

We may not be able to bring about global healing and make reparations for those harmed, but we can certainly commit to conducting ourselves in a way that instils self-respect, rather than regret.  What’s within your circle of influence? The list is endless. What do you choose to eat? When do you go to sleep and wake up? How much of your time do you spend exercising, connecting with loved ones or identifying new business opportunities that you can explore? Do you take advantage of technology for restoration and utility or do you binge on Netflix? What do you choose to dwell on?

You have a choice to make about these things and many more. Focus on the things that you can control and do the best you can with them.

As long as we have life there is always something to be thankful for. So, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, step back and allow yourself a break. Reflect on the things that you are grateful for and forgive yourself for not always being the soul of perfection. Your response to this crisis is within your control and it’s your responsibility to guard your emotional health as much as your physical health. Effectively managing your emotions will put you in the best position to deal with practical challenges and cultivate opportunities for you personally, as well as your business.

Karlene Agard

By:

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com

bev1

gen1

In the face of uncertainty, managing anxiety and stress while also staying prepared and informed can be difficult. So what can you do to protect your mental health as the COVID-19 outbreak unfolds? Here are some recommendations from the experts. Put down the smart phone. Take breaks from social media and the news. Give your mind a chance to disconnect. Consider setting up specific times or time limits on how long you spend checking the news each day, so you can stay informed without getting overwhelmed.
Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy habits as much as possible. Eat well-balanced meals, get some exercise, get plenty of sleep, and avoid bad habits, like too much alcohol. Enjoy your hobbies. Take the time to engage in relaxing activities, like reading a book, cooking a nice meal, or doing something creative like painting or knitting. Check in with your friends and family. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation! Connect with the people you care about to share your concerns and feelings and see how you can help support them.
Take a deep breath to avoid burnout. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop and take a deep breath. Step back and give yourself space to process your feelings. Consider doing some stretches or yoga, or engaging in a short mindfulness exercise to help keep you grounded. If your stress is interfering with your daily life, contact your health care provider to ask about additional care and resources. One place you can visit: UC San Diego Health – Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/p… The Center For Mindfulness, The Sanford Institute, and the Compassion Institute at UC San Diego Health are working together to provide daily resources to support mindfulness and compassion. Find their schedule and resources here: https://medschool.ucsd.edu/som/fmph/r…
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