“When we go to a place where we can actually hear ourselves, we hear what is speaking to us. We hear what is around us. And if we can hear it, then we can make it sing.”

- In an episode of the Meditative Story podcast, musician Andrew Bird talks about the creativity that comes from disconnecting from the noise and reconnecting with ourselves and our environment.

Wellness Tip

Laugh Your Cares Away

You know that friend who sends you funny memes all the time? They might be doing you good. Turns out laughter is medicine with proven benefits.

“In these uncertain times,” writes Dr. Emma Seppala, author of The Happiness Track, “laughing yourself silly may just be a smart thing to do.” She points to five areas in which laughter has (serious) research-backed benefits:

  • Physical health: studies show laughter boosts immunity and lowers cholesterol.
  • Mental health: laughing releases endorphins, lowers stress, and reduces anxiety.
  • Memory & learning: a pinch of humor can help you learn faster and remember better.
  • Relationships: no surprises that laughter brings people closer – or that humor is an attractive trait.
  • Community well-being: laughter and happiness are contagious, says Seppala. So spreading joy is good for the community.

Now, the big question: can you force it? What if times are hard and your favorite comedy show just isn’t rousing any laughs? Interestingly, there’s lots of encouraging research on laughter therapy and laughter yoga. These studies suggest you don’t need to burst out laughing spontaneously to reap the benefits.

So next time a silly meme arrives or your Dad tells a lame joke, try giving a little chuckle even if you’re not in the mood. It might just help to lift your spirits.

Productivity Tip

Set Hard Stops

2020 has taught us many things. One of them: working from home isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Sure, you can eat more snacks and say no to pants. But it’s a double-edged sword. When work and life blur together, one can take over the other.

So here’s a way to make sure your workday has a defined start and finish: set hard stops. (And by the way – this goes for the office as well.)

Hard stops are basically commitments you make that force you to stop working at a particular time. Want to have a proper hour-long lunch break instead of slamming a sandwich at your desk? Schedule a lunch date with a friend.

Want to switch off your computer at 6 pm sharp? Book in for a yoga class. Or schedule a post-work walk with your partner.

The scheduling part is key here. If you make vague plans, you don’t have the incentive to keep them. But when someone is counting on you to show up at a particular time, you’ll make an effort to do it. That’s one of the reasons the daily schedule section of your Panda Planner is so simple yet so powerful.

Try it tomorrow and see if it helps you keep your work-life balance in check.

Routine Breakdown

Oprah Winfrey, Talk Show Host, Media Executive & Philanthropist

Billionaire media personality Oprah Winfrey keeps her morning routine pretty simple. Here’s what she does:

  • Wakes up without an alarm by setting a wakeup time in her mind.
  • Heads to her home gym to do a workout of an elliptical machine, treadmill, and situps.
  • Does 10-20 minutes of a sitting or walking meditation.
  • Goes through her schedule for the day while eating a breakfast of boiled eggs and multigrain toast.

Why it works

  • Waking up naturally is healthier than waking up with an alarm, which can disrupt our body’s natural rhythms.
  • Need we say it? Keeping active is good!
  • Meditation has countless proven benefits, and walking meditation adds a physical health element as well. One study found that walking meditation improved fitness as well as lowered depression in elderly participants.

Have you ever tried a walking meditation? If you’re the type who has trouble staying still, it might be for you! UC Berkeley has a great set of detailed steps you can follow, and it only takes 10 minutes.

Why not give it a shot tomorrow as your daily meditation – and let us know how you go!