Tag: joy

FINDING GRATITUDE UNDER EVERY NOOK & CRANNY

 

 

With Thanksgiving nipping at our heels, it’s a natural time of year to take stock of all we can be thankful for. When you appreciate the little things in life, a profound transformation occurs that can lift you out of the doldrums & help you to find more profound pleasure & meaning in your life.

In modern society, we’re bombarded with ads insisting we need the newest version of a gadget or device, the latest styles, & that more is better. We’ve become a throwaway society, but the good news is, we don’t have to subscribe to that persuasion.  In this newsletter, I highlight a few ways to find gratitude under every nook and cranny of your life.

Set a Positive Tone. Rather than reaching for your phone or computer first thing in the morning, take a few moments to say thank you for the morning itself. Sit up in bed, close your eyes, and breathe. Take a moment to notice the light of dawn or the pitter-patter of rain on the roof.  Perhaps when you get up, you enjoy making a delicious cup of coffee or tea, then sit in a comfy chair & inhale the aroma brewing. If you prefer yoga, do a few sun salutes honoring the gift of a new day. In other words, create a five-minute ritual that kicks your day off with the mantra, “Today, I will be grateful for my life.” After a few days of doing this, you’ll notice a difference, as it begins to set the tone for the rest of your day in a positive light.

Adopt A Less is More Attitude. Replacing the redundant “hole in the bucket,” “nothing is enough” syndrome with the idea that you have all you need is liberating. It affords you more time to take a walk, read a book, or indulge in an activity that costs nothing. Nature is such a giver, & it asks little from us. It provides us with glorious sunsets, the drama of cloud formations, the changing of seasons, & the sounds of waves crashing on the shore. If you begin to re-direct your focus on what you already have, you can let go of the constant need for more. Perhaps de-clutter & give away things you don’t use or need. When we open up the space we live in, we open our minds to clarity & widen our perspectives. If you struggle with clinging to stuff, try packing it away out of sight, knowing it’s not gone forever. With the holiday season on the horizon, practicing less is more can help curb overindulging in fatty foods. It can also help with perspective to gift-giving, maybe try homemade presents or gather without gifts.

Cultivate Simplicity. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the art of sophistication.” We don’t have to rely on riches to be wealthy. Finding joy in spending time with friends or being content to be alone are both ways to practice gratitude for the small things in life. Breaking bread together or cooking a meal can be a simple task that renders quality, not quantity. By simplifying your day to day routine, you allow yourself more time to let go of stress. Rather than packing each day with more things on the “to do” list, see if you can allow yourself time to just be. Try sitting in silence for a few moments in the middle of the day to tune out demands, real or imagined. We don’t always have to make a profit in order to profit.  Giving value to the small incidentals in our life helps create a sense of contentedness. Rather than filling every moment with work or the need for a result, try carving out time to daydream, to remember fond memories, to call a person you love and say hi or let them know you appreciate them.

Embrace the Difficult Things. Being grateful for the difficult times is probably the biggest challenge we all face. Much like the terrains of the world, life has its peaks & valleys, its ebbs & flows. There are those moments in life that we’re in emotional or pain, & being thankful is as easy as walking across the Sahara without water. Think back to the times in your life that you did pull through & came out stronger. Realizing situations are temporary & there are people to help you through can be a powerful acknowledgment. It’s a commonality we share with others, a bond that lets us know we’re not alone – & for that, let’s be grateful.

As you make choices & plans for these next few months, perhaps keep these thoughts in mind, & you may find yourself having a less stressful, more enjoyable holiday season. Remember to thank yourself as well for the gifts & talents you bring to the world; smile in the discovery of all the positive energy you donate.


Thoughts of Giving & Receiving

The act of giving is a challenge for many people, & often around the holidays, it seems to be on the minds of everyone I speak with. 

“Am I giving enough?” 

“Am I giving the right thing?” 

“Who do I want to give to?”

“Who do I have to give to?”

“Can I afford to give enough?”

At the heart of these questions is usually fear & what each person is afraid of may be different. It’s as if by giving, in some way, we believe that we may be disappointing others or letting them down. 

One thought I have about this is there are many ways we give of ourselves to others & you can find a way that makes you feel good in your heart so that you can feel safe, loving, & positive about who you are & the choices that you make.

Receiving from others is also on people’s minds during the holiday season more than any other time of year. You may be looking forward to receiving gifts, yet the act of accepting the presents in your heart can be a bit difficult for you.

Feelings of vulnerability are often present when we receive. We may feel that our friends/family are not sensitive to our taste or that they did not take the time to plan for our gifts, which can create feelings of hurt, resentment, being unimportant. 

Many of us are uncomfortable with receiving, much more so than with giving because receiving taps into our own feelings of being loved. For some people, it can be much more challenging to allow love in & receiving does just that.

A lovely ritual you can do to assist yourself in allowing to both give & receive with ease is the following:

  1. Light a white candle.
  2. Sit in front of it for 5 minutes, watching it, letting your mind float.
  3. Wonder about the first three times you received something. Notice how you felt, what you saw/heard?
  4.  Now notice what you feel/think about those three times now.
  5. What are your challenges with giving & receiving?

 

 


The Art of Giving without Attachment

Have you ever done a kind deed simply for the sake of giving without any strings attached or payback considered?  Have you given away something of value to a stranger or given of your time without expecting any financial reward?  These are just a few examples of practicing the art of giving without attachment. What does giving without attachment really mean and why should you cultivate this practice?

The very definition of giving, freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone) has an inherently detached quality. There is an innate sense of letting go, the opposite of hoarding or holding on. But how often is our giving calculated?  Well if I babysit for a friend, she/he will do the same for me.  Giving without any expectation of outcome or praise is tough, but that is the essence of giving without attachment. Giving to grow your heart, to release your grip, to become liberated from that which you hold on to.

How does giving without strings liberate and grow your ability to love and to live a more meaningful life?  It connects you to your humanity, to your empathy, to your ability to see the suffering in others and feel something.  Giving also helps you to step outside your sphere and to connect with others on a visceral level.

Giving without attachment is a wonderful way to help you accept when others give to you.  Often, our childhood dictates a message of receiving that it’s better to give than receive, but if everyone is clamoring to give, who is receiving?  That message sends a negative image that receiving is for the poor, the needy, the weak, and the unsuccessful.  We all have times in our life when we want to receive.  Giving without attachment helps us to receive without feeling guilty or shamed.

Anne Frank, a diarist and one of the most talked about victims of the Holocaust once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”  It is often difficult in the modern world to remember this.  When you give, it does not have to be a thing or financial, (you can give of your time, your silent presence, a smile) you reap the internal rewards of connection, joy, and self esteem.  Giving builds character and helps you get outside of your own needs and desires and consider others.  When you give freely, you teach yourself a lesson in being unconditional.

Giving without attachment does not mean giving everything away and doing without.  It may entail digging a little deeper than merely skimming off the top. If you only give away your excess, you may want to look at other ways you can give. Become a mentor. Take a friend to lunch, just because or send a card without an occasion. Bake a dinner for a charity event, make an anonymous donation to a cultural or educational organization or slip a bill to a homeless person.

Think of all the people in your life that have given something to you without any expectation.  There are countless ways to pass on that giving tradition, and when you begin to drop the attachments and expected outcomes, you send a ripple of hope into the world, while expanding your ability to be a loving considerate human being.


Age is Just a Number

I was meditating recently when I had an incredible realization – I am ten years younger than I actually am. Of course, this realization was unusual. It’s not as though I have the ability to turn back time, or to jump back ten years to relive the past decade. But still, the thought came over me and I couldn’t shake it. And you know what? The oddest thing happened.

I felt amazing for the rest of the day. There was a renewed energy in my thoughts and actions. I felt physically and emotionally better. It almost felt like, well, I was ten years younger.

That’s when it occurred to me – lately I have been dwelling on the idea of my best years being behind me. During my meditation, I realized this doesn’t have to be true. Age is just a number.

Society often assigns negative or positive connotations to our age. We take
these societal ideas to heart – feeling hurt or somehow less than we once were as the years go by. As this isn’t a positive way of looking at things, realize that; you are as youthful, joyful, and content as you believe you are. You are in full control of how you feel – both about your body, your mind, and your life. Your physical age doesn’t need to have an impact on how you view yourself.

Many people use their age to measure themselves, or their success in life. Instead, we should reframe how we view ourselves (and our win’s – big and small). If we are content with ourselves, with where we’re at in life, our age has no bearing on that. If we’re not content with where we’re at – whether we’re young or old – we have the power to change things.

No matter how many years we have behind or ahead of us, they’re all equally wonderful. Let’s celebrate each one.


Cooling the Summertime Blues

If you’re feeling some summertime sadness this season, you are not alone. In some cases, summertime elicits a biological depression reaction. Almost 10% of people in the United States experience SAD (seasonal affective disorder) over the course of the summer. This is especially difficult emotionally, as summertime is always framed as a time when people are having the most fun during the year. However, summer isn’t all catching lightning bugs and digging your toes in the sand! Longer days with increased heat and humidity can make summer days downright miserable. People often have trouble sleeping, many experience unintended weight loss, loss of appetite, and generalized anxiety during the hot days of the summer season.

Summer also comes with a long list of emotional stressors. If you’re a parent, your kids might be home from school. There’s a societal pressure for you to be overjoyed – the kids are home! But whether you’re employed or you stay at home, this sudden shift in schedule can be difficult to manage. There may be financial worries around the vacations you’re expected to take, or any summer camps or babysitters you might hire to help watch your children while you work and/or try to take care of your daily task list.

Social media, of course, feeds the feeling you might have that you’re wrong for experiencing the blues during summer. Everyone has a picture-perfect projection of days at the beach, eating ice cream with friends, or going on sun-soaked adventures with family. I want to take this moment to communicate with you that feeling depressed during this season is completely okay. Embrace how you’re feeling rather than beating yourself up about it. You won’t be able to move past these negative emotions until you acknowledge them. Then, when you’re ready, try some of these tips to overcome your summertime blues:

  • Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep will make anybody miserable, and your body needs the extra energy right now to deal with changing schedules.
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will help you through the heat and humidity and keep your body feeling right. This will help improve your outlook.
  • Exercise, but don’t overdo it. Exercise releases endorphins, but when you push yourself too hard in the heat the sick feeling you may experience will detract from any positivity your work out brought you.
  • Think about your feelings. Take this time to be introspective.
  • Manage your expectations. If the finances aren’t there to take a big trip, think smaller. Do something that will bring you joy, even if it costs nothing. Release preconceived notions of the grand adventure summer is “meant” to be and do what makes you truly happy with people who fill up your days with positivity.
  • Build in quiet time. There’s a temptation to fill every day with barbeques, get togethers, and trips to the pool. Block out time specifically for yourself and/or your family, whichever you prefer. Read a book. Meditate. Take a long bath. Breathe.
  • Release any pressure. Whether you feel pressure to post pictures of your smiling family on social media (when you can’t get your toddler to stop crying over their just-dropped popsicle), or you feel pressured to spend every minute “having fun” and keeping busy, release the need to comply with these pressures. Make your schedule according to what brings you joy. If you wilt in the heat, don’t go to the beach. If your kids dislike camping, make s’mores over the stove.

Find your own summertime rhythm regardless of what friends, family, are doing. This will release any pressure to do it differently.


The Science Behind Laughter

Is laughter really the best medicine? We hear this saying all the time, and it can be easy to roll our eyes at when we’re not feeling so great. Whether it’s stress caused by outside situations that’s bringing you down, or internalized negativity, sometimes the last thing you want to do is laugh. Still, don’t we always feel noticeably better after a good laugh? Or don’t we feel like a weight has been lifted when you finally break down and laugh so hard you cry after a full day of everything-feels-like-it’s-going-wrong moments? The truth is that laughter is a kind of medicine – and not just because it makes us feel better emotionally! There’s a science behind it that proves just how positive laughter can be in your life (especially when you’re feeling down).

Laughter Gets Your Blood Flowing

The act of laughing dilates your blood vessels, improving the blood flow all over your body. Increased blood flow improves brain function, muscle function, and the function of most of your organs. It also decreases the chance of cardiovascular disease. So, just by improving blood flow, laughter helps to improve the functionality of the rest of your body. The increased blood flow also releases T-cells, B-cells, and Gamma-interferons, all of which boost your immune system.

Laughter Chills You Out

Feeling stressed? Overwhelmed? Laughter is the cure. The act of laughing releases endorphins, much like exercise does. These endorphins leave you feeling positive and relaxed. But, that’s not the only way laughter works to calm you down! When you laugh, your body reduces its output of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Laughter is very literally taking away your ability to hold on to stress.

Laughter Yoga

If you want to use laughter in your life, consider laughter yoga. The concept behind laughter yoga is that voluntary laughter acts the same as involuntary laughter. Some liken it to internal jogging – it’s an exercise for your mind intended to release the positive endorphins and reduce stress hormones. If you’re feeling a little nervous about trying it out for the first time, I recommend starting with this simple breathing and relaxation exercise:


Finding the Positive

Author Wayne Dyer wrote, “Every time I see a coin on the street, I stop, pick it up, put it into my pocket, and say out loud, ‘Thank you …for this symbol of abundance that keeps flowing into my life.’ Never once have I asked, ‘Why only a penny…? You know I need a lot more than that.”

It’s really that simple. Day after day train yourself to say thank-you. We all know that the more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. Change the negative self-talk into positive, even if at first you don’t believe yourself. “I can’t believe I am late to work again, I am always late.” can be, “It was a tough morning, but I am glad to be at work and will adjust myself to what is. It’s a gorgeous day and I am happy to be a part of it!” Or, “I am so resentful that I have to work late, I wanted to go to the gym and now I won’t even be having dinner until 9:00” can be, “I’ll grab a healthy snack to keep myself nourished until I can have dinner. I’m lucky to have a job and I love so many things about it!” Even if you don’t feel like you love it at the moment, tell yourself you do. You can find something positive when you look for it. It sounds simple and it is. We often make life a lot harder than it needs to be.

It can take several months to make a shift, but changing the way that you talk to yourself every day will eventually have profound effects on your day to day attitude and even your physical health. You may be having a tough minute, but you don’t have to have a tough day.


Born Again was originally published on Bridge of Life


Meditation: A Tool for Total Wellness

I ablesContemplate on this: Quieting your mind on a regular basis can result in both mental and physical well-being! How wonderful is that?

Meditation may, on a physical level:

  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce body pain caused by tension
  • Improve sleep, mood, behavior, and energy level

On an emotional/mental level, meditation may:

  • Promote feelings of calm and peace
  • Support clearer and more positive thinking
  • Expand awareness and perspective, which can lead to self-revelations and transformation
  • Encourage sharper thinking: New, creative, and productive ideas have the opportunity to arise in a quieted, focused mind

There are many kinds of meditations and ways to meditate. The best type and method of meditation is what appeals to and works for you…after all, if it doesn’t do those two things, you most likely won’t do it! The effects of meditation can be achieved in a few minutes a day, although many people find themselves engaging in longer sessions because of the positive results they experience. Also, keep in mind that the kind of meditation you are drawn to may change over time, as well as the effects you experience. Think of meditation as a personal trainer for your inner “fitness” program. As your inner fitness grows and changes, so will your “workout.”

Here are a few ways to meditate:

Focus your attention on a single thing. It can be a visualized object, a word, a mantra, or just the rhythm of your breath. When you notice your mind has wandered (which our minds are prone to do), gently bring it back to the original focus. Over time, you will experience less distractions and greater singular focus. Some examples of this type of meditation: Buddhist meditation, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation.

Allow your mind to go as it may, without judgment or attachment. Tune in to all of your senses; be aware of sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Acknowledge them and then let them go. Your thoughts and awareness will flow freely in and out, like the waves of the ocean. Some examples of this type of meditation: Mindfulness meditation, Vipassana.

Follow a guided meditation. Normally, you listen to a recording of a meditation that has a specific purpose, such as increasing energy, reducing anxiety, letting go of fear or anger, promoting restful sleep, raising levels of gratitude, etc. There are many different guided meditations available, which you can access online. I particularly enjoy Louise Hay.

Try making meditation a part of your daily ritual, and see what good can result!


Are Your Thoughts Making You Sick?

Flu season is upon us, and we are all trying to be as proactive as possible to avoid getting sick. Coming down with the flu, a cold, or any kind of illness is not pleasant, nor convenient in our busy lives…especially with all the holidays approaching! So we might get a flu vaccine, try to eat right and exercise, get enough sleep, stock up on vitamin C and hand sanitizer, and stay away from people who look sick. We’ve done everything we can. Or have we?

One very important factor we might not have considered as contributing to sickness is…our thoughts! We know from numerous news reports that being in a constant state of stress has negative health consequences, but what about our thoughts in general? Can the way we think make us sick?

Studies show that our thoughts are so powerful they can affect our physical well-being. Try to recall the last time you came down with a cold. What was going on in your life? What was the gist of your inner dialogue the days leading up to your sickness? Were your thoughts focused on worry, fear, anxiety, guilt, anger, or resentment?

Our health can also be compromised when:

  • We keep our feelings locked inside, instead of dealing with or expressing them.
  • We don’t speak up for ourselves and then experience feelings of powerlessness or other energy-depleting emotions.
  • We can’t let go of past experiences that brought us pain, distress, or tension that continue to affect us as we relive the experience in our minds and through retelling the story to others.
  • We think negatively about others, and ourselves focusing on faults and mistakes instead of positive traits or actions.

While thinking negatively or in an unconstructive way will not necessarily make you sick, it can play a part in it. If that kind of thinking can make us sick, then thinking in a way that is positive, loving, and caring toward ourselves and the world around us can contribute to our well-being. So why not add, “wellness thinking” to our regimen of healthy living?

Here are ways to break the cycle of thoughts that can harm our health that you can incorporate into every day:

  • Be aware of the focus of your thoughts. When you bring awareness to what and how you think, you can change or redirect the inner chatter as needed.
  • Think about what the consequences might be to you by continuing to think or feel a certain way. Will they benefit or harm you?
  • Try laughter yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, or other methods to center you emotionally/ spiritually/mentally. Even a few minutes can act as a reset button.