- Bring a water bottle with you EVERYWHERE. Seriously, hydration affects everything from our skin to our moods. The ripple effect of dehydration makes us moody, constipated, and our bodies will start to crave any foods we see (regardless of health content) because our body can leach water from the food. I most commonly hear people complain about the taste of water fountain water…I challenge you to conquer this fear as the cost of NOT drinking water fountain water is so steep. You can certainly fill it before leaving your home with your water of choice…but in a pinch, fill up! Take the leap and buy the water bottle you have been lusting after…it is a small price to pay for the benefits reviewed.
- Take time at the beginning of your week to review your schedule and make a plan for when you will eat each day. This seems to be the first thing people skip and again, the consequences have a negative ripple effect on everyone you encounter (including yourself)! Each morning, make sure you have a stash of healthy snacks available in your bag, car, purse and/or desk. The magic time frame that you don’t want to exceed is 4 hours between meals. The kindest thing you can do for your blood sugar is to keep it stable.
- Eat raw. There are oodles of studies that show the health benefits of eating raw fruits/veggies/nuts/seeds; there is even indication for reduced risk of cancer! Eating raw produce, nuts, and/or seeds also provides you with the nutrients, fiber, fluids and energy that you need for optimal mood end energy stamina to get through the day! I would encourage you to always keep your fridge (home and work) stocked with produce and cheerlead yourself into eating it before it goes bad! Some are easier than others to take on the road: bananas, apples and carrot sticks travel quite well.
- Meditate. I know…big eye rolls from about 75% of you. Mediation doesn’t have to mean full on lotus position for 60 minutes; mediation could mean you close your eyes and take 10 slow deep breaths to re-center yourself and then resume your day. Longer periods of quiet reflection time can produce more long-lasting benefits, yet you need to start somewhere!
- Go outside. I am not sure of an easier and more FREE life hack than going outside for fresh air and sunshine! The act of walking away from the task at hand, improving blood circulation and taking slow cleansing breaths will provide you with renewed energy and fresh perspective. Stand firm and insist on breath breaks…just as smokers insist on smoke breaks! If you have time on your drive home, stop at a local park and take a moment to yourself. Whether walking or sitting on a bench, enjoy nature.
- Take the stairs and the “bad” parking spot. We live a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before; we even have to rely on pedometer devices to encourage us to move our bodies! A quick few hacks for how to get more steps are to take the stairs more often (use a restroom on a different floor, don’t take elevators, make yourself go to a different floor of your house more often) and to opt for a really bad parking spot (ie: the one FURTHEST from your destination!).
Are you a “yeller”? Yelling at your kids, your dog, your spouse, your siblings, your parents, your friends?
I do fall into this pattern at times: yelling at my kids more than I intend. Either after a bad day, a tiring day, or long stretches of grey weather. It is futile and literally has no effect on the outcome (except that I feel awful and they avoid me)…
…so why do we do it???
In general, yelling at another person is a punishment. From behaviorism research and theory, punishment is the least effective way to get another human to change their behavior…so…
…why do we do it???
In general, yelling at another person is a REWARD to the yeller…and we know that behaviors that are reinforced (it feels good and it relieves our pressure/stress) are likely to continue. The fact that we feel calmer after blowing off steam keeps us coming back to it time and again, even though it does not get the results we want! So many times we want to blame others or say things like “I don’t know why I did that”, so I am here to unveil this conundrum. We yell because yelling rewards US. We also have a lot of beliefs surrounding yelling that reinforce the behavior:
- That they will take us more seriously (the opposite is true, you are probably regularly telling them to speak to you calmly and respectfully; you are not modeling the behavior which makes you a hypocrite)
- That they will respect us more (again, the opposite is true…see reasoning above)
- That they will listen better (the opposite is usually true: either they respect you less and therefore don’t listen, they might think you are blowing off steam and therefore don’t take your yelling topic seriously, or you frighten them which causes their anxiety to spike and their brain processessing abilities to tank)
- That they are more likely to change (research shows that they are actually just more likely to lie to you, avoid you, and resent you)
Debunking the beliefs and educating ourselves on the facts about yelling is one step toward reducing the behavior. Taking time to understand why we act in certain ways can allow us to increase our awareness and become more mindful of our behaviors and triggers.
What do you do when you are stuck?
- stuck in a meeting
- stuck in traffic
- stuck in line at the store
- stuck at home?
The reasons for stuck-ness are innumerable…mandated attendance, weather, the person in front of you can’t move, illness (hello flu season!); however, the feelings associated are typically the same: anger, annoyance, resentment, frustration. It may start off as slight irritation, moving into annoyance and frustration before moving into full blown anger; however typically, being stuck makes us mad!
So how are we going to get through this UNENDURABLE situation? To start, stop exaggerating! It’s not unendurable. It’s not typically as bad as we make it out to be in our head. Let me give you an example: I like Starbucks (fact), but the line at the drive through is absolutely ridiculous (opinion). My problem solving skills lead me to park and go inside every time I go there. I was very content with this decision. One day, while inside, I was so excited to see that there is a screen for the baristas that tells them how long people have been in the drive-thru. I expected to see 10 minutes….15 minutes…FOREVER! To my amazement, the longest wait time was 2 minutes 45 seconds. Really??….the line was LONG when I walked in! Then it hit me: I’ve been inside for about 3 minutes too! Why is it that being trapped in my car causes me to perceive time moving so much slower? I felt stuck!
How to guide to get unstuck:
- Realize that the trick isn’t actually to get unstuck, it’s to change how you feel about being (what you perceive as) stuck.
- Stop judging. Words like should, always, terrible, OMG, worst, never…are typically attached to a judgment. Instead, be descriptive. Explain how you feel and why.
Ex: Repleace “this is the longest line EVER, I ALWAYS get stuck in long lines” with “I am sitting in line at Starbucks, this has happened before and I can cope”
- Observe your posture.
Ex: Take your fingernails out of the steering wheel, let your shoulders fall from your ears back to their relaxed state, remove the scowl from your face…
- Consider other possible alternatives to catastrophizing
Ex: I finally have time to respond to those text messages (safely while not driving), I can plan the next few hours of my day, I can sit here and remember a positive memory to improve my mood, consider things you I am grateful for, or I can just enjoy this time to breathe!
- Stop fighting reality. In conjunction with #4, the reality is that you are in a situation that you can’t immediately get out of; catastrophizing is a great way to make the situation worse. Accept that you are where you are! (this will reduce suffering).
Are you are willing to give it a try? It’s amazing what changing your interpretation of a situation will do for your mood!
Formal Zen meditation is the type that I practice and encourage my friends, family, clients, etc to practice also. Notice I said practice…yes, sitting upright and still requires PRACTICE! The basic components are:
- Sit upright and still on meditation cushions (zafu and zabuton) with three points of contact with the floor to stabilize you. This should be a comfortable position and should not cause straining. For example, if you cannot get yourself into lotus position, don’t! It is encouraged that you find a position that you can hold for the duration of the meditation without discomfort. Frequent shifting is discouraged, I recommend that you experiment with different positions in your first few weeks.
- Clear your mind as best you can and focus on either nothing or your breathing.
- Practice non-attachment when you notice your mind drifting (as it will) by gently bringing your attention back to your breathing. The reality is that your mind will wander and it will wander more when you are new to meditation and/or when your stress is higher. We can acknowledge this without judging ourselves or the practice. It is simple, not easy! Many people complain that they feel MORE anxious when they try to quiet their mind…which may be true because they have removed all of the distractions that they normally put between their feelings and their consciousness. Ride that wave, calmness will follow. It reminds me of snorkeling in choppy water…the water is only choppy until you put your head under the water to see the reef below!
- Length of meditation varies, the magic isn’t in the number of minutes; rather it is in the willingness to practice steps 1-3 over and over and over. Meditation is a muscle that most of us forget we have, thus it is out of shape and needs to be worked consistently over time.
The benefits of sitting practice are innumerable. Science finds that:
You can really meditate whenever your want, where-ever you want, with whoever you want. I recommend group meditation in the beginning…think about how much you cognitively know about exercising and eating healthy vs what you actually do in your day-to-day life…? I find that group meditation holds you accountable and achieves better results just as group exercise does! Most major cities have group meditations or a zen center to provide this structure.
In 2005 I took a trip as a college credit across the United States in a 15 passenger van with 12 other students that I really didn’t know. The purpose of the trip was to experience different cultures and create art in ways that I could not experience in my Midwestern campus life. The most inspiring part of the trip for me, that has left a lasting imprint on my psyche was a hike down into Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. Hiking down into the basin of the canyon was the only time I have every experienced true Oneness with the world.
I recall a specific moment during the descent in which I subsequently felt minuscule and gigantic…and immediately started crying! In this one moment, I remember seeing a small flower growing out of a rock. I was so much more complex, large, and evolved than this plant AND at the same time I looked across this canyon and realized that I am a tiny speck on this planet. The hike into the Canyon is 1 1/4 miles each way and I would estimate that I had this experience about 1/3 of the way down. I hiked the rest of the way with complete awareness of the awe of nature.
This is the sound of silence.
How would you capture silence in a photograph? Is it a positive image like this one, showing a much-needed break? Or is it the opposite, revealing the lack of communication in a friendship or the dangers of not speaking out? Show us your interpretation in a new post.
1. Tell other people they are beautiful if you think they are.
It never ceases to amaze me how kind-hearted and honest kids can be. The truth is, I am shy! My daughter doesn’t get her outgoing nature from me! And yet…even today as we were walking into a building, she turned to another little girl (a stranger, approximately 9 years old) and said “you’re beautiful!” to her….and the little girl smiled so big and said “thanks! you are too!”
IT WAS AMAZING! In what world would two adult women (strangers) exchange compliments like that!?!
Furthermore, she does this often…grocery stores, church, etc…If she thinks you are beautiful, she will let you know 🙂
2. Dancing is a guaranteed mood boost.
Again…shy mom…NOT SHY kid! She can dance and dance and dance…My child will hear the faintest music in a store and break out dancing to her heart’s desire! It has taught me to join in occasionally…and it ALWAYS cheers me up 🙂
3. Slow and steady wins the race.
Being the mom of a preschooler is hard. There are a LOT of comparisons. There are parenting books about which parenting books to read! At every turn it seems like your preschooler is falling behind because she doesn’t know 7 languages and can’t write her entire name in cursive… but what I am learning right along side her, is that comparisons are crap. Kids all get there in their own time and no amount of stress is going to speed them up, if anything, it will slow them down.
So think about your own life, what would be different if you were vocally kinder, danced more, and stopped comparing yourself to others?
Thoughts, feelings, behaviors. They are all connected and the relationship is transactional. This means that while one influences another, that change will in turn influence another factor. None of the three can exist without the other two.
This begs the question, where do we make the change in our lives if we have suffering? Do you change what thoughts you have, do you change your actions before or after the thoughts, or do you change how you feel about the situation? The answer is ANY of the three will elicit change; however, I will tell you that I believe that it is easier to BEHAVE your way into thinking differently than it is to THINK your way into behaving differently. Feelings will happen.
Think about it: You wake up to your alarm. You are very tired as you didn’t sleep well. You were up late crying, emotional about something that had happened. Is it easier to get yourself to think “gee, I am so glad to be awake early! The fact that I have a headache from crying is no problem! I look forward to seeing people today who may ask me how I’m doing!” OR is it easier to get out of bed, turn on the radio to some upbeat music, and pour a bowl of fruity pebbles? I imagine that if you try to change your thoughts, you may end up with anxiety, dread, sadness (and you may never get out of bed, at least not on time!)…whereas if you try to change your behavior, you may actually feel pride, competence and contentment.
We know it is one of the HARDEST things to do, to act differently than we may feel. Think back to the last time you were feeling depressed, I bet it would have been REALLY hard to get you to go exercise! The last time you were really anxious, I bet it would have been REALLY hard to convince you to go lay down and listen to a meditation. And the last time you were fuming mad, I bet it would have been difficult to get you to go for a walk…and yet this is what I suggest! Why would I suggest something so radically difficult? Mainly because if you do, you will see how quickly it remedies the intensity of the emotion and thoughts. I propose that if you do it a few times in a row, you will begin to trust the process…this is pretty much what all people with good habits say about how they stick to their routines!
So work on doing the opposite of your (ineffective) urge and see if the thoughts and feelings come along in a helpful way!
A new year has me reflecting on words that spark passion in me. Words that make me want to do better, be better, try harder…(yes…a word can do that for me!). Today I choose RISE.
When I think of the word rise, here’s what comes to mind:
- bread rising
- Jesus rising from the dead
- the phrase “rise up”
- people rising up against something
- a mountain peak rising against the horizon
- the phrase “rise and shine”
- my grandma saying “early to bed, early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and wise”
Every single one of these associations has a positive connection in my mind! I think of the freshness, the renewed energy, the promise that is associating with something rising, and that makes me think it is a perfect word for January! January is the rising of a new year, the sun has set on 2017 and nothing can be done to change it.
For me, as I have shared, my goal this year is mostly centered on building my business Your Mental Restoration in an effort of achieving my larger goal of helping others optimize their mental health. I see my role as being a hand that reaches down into the dust of the depression pit, into the chaos of an anxious mind and reaches through the brick walls of anger in an effort of helping even one person to have better mental health. I know that as I work on this goal, it will also propel me to naturally work on others; as we know that helping others is surefire way to help ones’ self!
I hope that you think of a way to help yourself rise against the strife that 2017 brought for so many. I hope that you create a vision that inspires you as a majestic mountaintop inspires many. I hope that you find habits that help you to rise and shine each morning much as the words my grandma shared with me have guided me.
Happy 2018! It’s not over yet so we can’t call it a loss, don’t dare have actions that make it seem like you think it already is!
In general, I vow not to make “New Year’s Resolutions”; I find them to be laden with high expectations and low follow through which leads to disappointment, depression and shame. I am not; however, anti goal-setting or anti intention-setting. In fact, my strategy has been for the last few years, to choose a word or theme that I deem to be my word or phrase of the impending year.
In order to set an intention for 2018, you must first tread into the land of goals and resolutions. You need to ask yourself several self-inquiry questions:
- What am I proud of accomplishing in 2017?
- What do I regret doing and not doing?
- What do I want people to think about me? What kind of reputation do I want? If people described me in three words, what words would I want them to use?
- What is going well in my family life? What would I like to see improve?
- What is going well for me financially and what would I like to work on?
- How is my self-care? My health? Am I taking care of my body? What is a realistic area that I could improve on?
- How do I feel about my connections in life? Spiritually? Relationships with peers? Family? Co-workers?
- Am I living according to the values that are important to me? What do I feel passionately about?
I would encourage you to journal long and hard on these topics. Research the ones that stand out to you. Ask (trusted) people in your life what they think about your functioning in each area.
Once you have explored what went well last year and what areas you would like to grow in 2018, start looking for commonalities in your answers. Do you see a common theme? If so…that might be something you can boil down into a word/phrase! If not, that’s ok! Triage your answers into your top one or two areas for growth and work to find a commonality between those two. Don’t be afraid to use http://www.thesaurus.com/ to find a word that really speaks to you.
That’s it! That’s the hard part…once you have your word or phrase for 2018, shout it out, what is yours?! I would encourage you to make it public so that your are more likely to achieve results.
My word for 2018 is BUILD.