Aligning Your Goals and Values

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Goals, behaviours, values. Have you ever wondered how to link these things together so that what you say and what you do are in alignment?

If these things are out of alignment it’s likely obvious to you (or maybe not). As discussed in one of our recent blogs, goals and values tie in to Resilience. When our behaviour towards our goals aligns with our values, then bouncing back from life’s setbacks feels easier and more natural for us.

Let’s see how all of these things important concepts are linked….

Values

Values are like a built-in GPS that guides us in the direction of what truly matters. Values help guide daily actions and decisions. It’s a chosen life path with regard to relationships, personal growth, leisure, etc. For example, a value could be a love for travelling, or being a good mother or father.

A value is something that is meaningful to you, regardless of what’s meaningful to friends and family. It’s individual; however, many of our values tend to align with social values. One example of this alignment is kindness. One of your guiding values may be kindness, but we all know that not everyone finds kindness as one of their guiding values. That’s unfortunate (more on the importance of kindness in a future blog…stay tuned!).

So what if it feels like things are getting in the way of living your values? You’ll need to identify and overcome those things that get in the way. This is an important step, otherwise it may feel like there is constant internal conflict.

Even minor adjustments in behaviors can help steer us towards our overarching values. For example, if one of your values relates to health and wellness yet you continue to eat badly and get little if any exercise, then an internal conflict will likely surface. A minor adjustment will be required (i.e. a little more sleep or exercise).

Goals

g67599oalValues are your guiding direction, whereas goals are the achievements you set along the way towards the values. For example, if one of your values relates to travel, you could make a goal to go to Australia or the Bahamas – sounds good to me! One behaviour towards this goal may relate to how you spend money. Is it being spent in pursuit of the goal or is it being spent frivolously?

Another example is having a value related to life-long learning. A goal may be to finish a course, or pursue a certificate or degree. Ultimately, goals are informed by our values.

Stress is an important piece that weighs in on living our values. Part of being and living consistent with ones values is to clarify your values, be firmly aware of what they are, know which behaviors enable you to live consistent with these values, and then staying committed to them – despite experiencing stress and unwanted thoughts or experiences. These are the things that will take us off-course or out of alignment and cause us to live inconsistent with our values. For more info on this check out our blog on Changing Your Reaction to Stressful Thoughts.

It’s important to perform periodic check-ins to ensure our behaviours are consistent with our goals and values. If these are out of alignment then it’s time to sit back and re-think and re-adjust. Then commit to trying again. If you need to re-align again that’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Keep at it until your goals and behaviours align again with your values.

Australian psychologist Russ Harris said this about commitment:

Commitment isn’t about being perfect, always following through, or never going astray. Commitment means that when you inevitably stumble or get off track, you pick yourself up, find your bearings, and carry on in the most meaningful direction possible.

Living a life where your goals, behaviours, and values are in alignment is an important step to living your bestlife!

-Kevin


Are you Resilient?

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If you lost everything tomorrow would you be able to bounce back? Do you have the skills or talent, the strength or determination to turn failure into success? In spite of obstacles and setbacks, are you willing to keep going…to keep doing…to not give up? All of this relates to resilience.

Let’s start with this example – why is it that a child who grows up in an extremely adverse circumstance may end up doing well in life, whereas a child who grows up in a well-to-do family may end up doing so poorly in life?

It comes down to the fact that there are two basic elements to resilience – surviving and thriving in life. So what does this mean exactly? Another way to consider resilience is that it’s the ability to survive, or the ability to bounce back in life from tough situations. And then, thriving is about the ability to do what matters most in life, and optimizing well-being.

Fall seven times, stand up eight – Japanese Proverb

So where does resilience come from? Is it genetic? Well, here’s some great news – resilience can be acquired! Anne Masten from the University of Minnesota is one of the foremost experts in resilience and her research has shown that resilience can actually be acquired. Acquiring resilience happens by having a general awareness of resilience, engaging in intentional practices, being open to learning, and applying and integrating good lifestyle habits and routines.

Here are six ways you can practice resilience and in essence get the most out of life…

  1. Practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness includes actions such as meditation, mindful breathing, and bringing your awareness to the present moment. These things can help you achieve mental clarity and lower life stressors. One study on the link between mindfulness and resilience in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that “Mindful people … can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down.” Pausing and observing the mind may help us get un-stuck in our story (thoughts) and as a result empower us to move forward.
  2. Ensuring your goals are in line with your overall values (more on this important concept in a future blog…stay tuned!).
  3. Managing negative emotions. Negative emotions narrow attention and behaviour. While emotions are generally a positive thing (some anxiety, anger, happiness is good); emotions can become overly negative when they start to impair – panic, violence, and mania for example. This is where rational and logical thinking get tossed out the window.
  4. imagesHJKZCJWOCultivating positive emotions. This is all about paying attention to positive emotions such as joy, serenity, hope, love, etc. Why is this important? First of all, this is essential to building resilience. Also, cultivating positive emotions can help to undo the after-effects of negative emotions. Positive emotions tend to broaden attention and behaviour. Because paying more attention to positive emotions helps you to bounce back from adversity, helps you cope better with stressful situations, and generally creates a more satisfying life. Choosing to pay attention to the positive relates to searching for the silver lining in things, and choosing to see the positive in others. Practicing gratitude is a part of cultivating positive emotions as well. For more information on gratitude, see one of our several gratitude posts.
  5. Meaningful relationships. This includes social connectedness, social support, mentorship, doing good for others, and including positive role models in your life. Regarding mentorship, the relationship includes the mentor – which is someone who can provide knowledge and wisdom on various things, and the mentee which is someone who is seeking to grow.
  6. Therapeutic lifestyle choices (TLC’s). TLC’s combine to optimize physical and mental well-being. What are the three biggest TLC’s?…exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Yes, that’s it. Getting some adequate exercise, paying attention to what you eat (you are what you eat), and for adults – getting approximately 7-9 hours of sleep every night. When it comes to nutrition, I’m not suggesting that you never eat ice cream or pizza again. Moderation is key. Other TLC’s include getting out in nature (or anything else that calms the mind), and scheduling time for relaxation (e.g. deep breathing, listening to music, gardening, etc).

The more difficulties and obstacles you face and overcome or conquer, the more resiliency you will naturally develop. Generally, resilient people are able to welcome change and difficulty as an opportunity for self-reflection, learning, and growing.

So go ahead and practice the six aspects above. See if you can work your way to bouncing back from life setbacks or adversity to RESILIENCE! Good luck and let us know how it goes!

-Kevin


I Found It… The Secret To A Happier Life

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If I said I found the secret to a happier and more fulfilling life, and it is an effortless habit, that takes only minutes a day…

Would you be interested in knowing what it is?

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It can:

  1. Lift your mood
  2. Increase motivation
  3. Help you focus your time and energy on the things in your life that you really want to “live with intention
  4. Not allow you to take things for granted
  5. Lift your spirits; experience joy, even in more difficult times

thG4IX9KVM    Have you guessed yet? (here are a few more hints…)

  • Focus on what is already here, what already surrounds you
  • Focus on what you can be grateful for in your life

Focus on GRATITUDE EVERYDAY, throughout the day!

That’s right… it is GRATITUDE!

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Gratitude fosters happiness, and doesn’t everyone strive for happiness?

To cultivate both gratitude and happiness:

Pause/Breathe:    simply pause throughout your day, a brief pause, and ask yourself the question –  What or who can I be grateful for today, in my life? 

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Enjoy the View:    look around you throughout your day, and appreciate and acknowledge your surroundings, be grateful for them (the beautiful sunset, the laughing children, the cute puppy, the majestic mountains)

Be Insightful:    improve your self-esteem and self-confidence by being appreciative of yourself.  Make a habit of identifying things you can be grateful for about yourself each day (you helped someone out, you made a good decision, you met a goal, your sense of humour was spot on today)

The Little Things:    look for the small daily things you can appreciate, the things you may take for granted (your lunch, your dog welcoming you home each day, your car getting you to work each morning, the pen that allows you to write your thoughts/lists)

Timing is Everything:    You will learn to recognize and acknowledge gratitude all the time, before you know it! But until then, it helps to set aside 1 minute in the morning each day or 1-2 minutes in the evening, before bed, and use a journal or Gratitude Box

IMG_7189  GratitudePinterestLI   gratitude-journal--225x300  (see: New Years GRATITUTIONS (Part II) for some great ideas!)

Yell It From the Rooftops:    You can’t keep all of this gratitude bottled up inside! You need to express it! You are grateful for all that surrounds you and you are happier, so let others know you are grateful for having them in your life – make them happy as well!

So there you have it! The secret to a happier and more fulfilling life:

GRATITUDE!

Happiness isn’t about finding something new, it is about focusing on what is already here, and appreciating it, being thankful for it.

Gratitude turns what you already have into enough.

You can always choose to be grateful, which in turn, means you can always choose to be happy.  Think about it…

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With overwhelming gratitude for my multitude of simple life blessings, and in happiness,

Krista


Your Attitude is Contagious

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Attitude is contagious, is yours worth catching? Consider this – your attitude towards anything can work with you towards your goals and dreams, and can lead you to accomplish things you didn’t think were possible. OR conversely, your attitude can work against you and limit your potential, which keeps you in a spiral of negative attitude.

It’s also contagious in that your attitude affects others – whether it’s family, friends, or co-workers. If your positive attitude today makes one person smile then isn’t it worth it? I think so. Remember that you may only be one person to the world, but to one person you may be the world.

So which one do you choose? Yes, it is a choice! If you want to live your best life, it’s an easy choice. Choose a positive attitude.

-Kevin


Changing Your Reaction to Stressful Thoughts

 

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Stress. One little word that seems to be on many people’s minds these days. If you’re finding stress entering into your day-to-day life, I would like to offer some suggestions on how to alleviate this state of mind. Here’s one simple way. Wayne Dyer says:

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

So what does this mean, exactly? Consider for a moment that an outside event can invoke completely different thoughts for two different people. Person #1 may think – wow, that’s so cool!, or I’m good with that. Meanwhile the exact same event may cause person #2 to melt down or say I am so not good with that. What’s the difference? It’s the immediate unconscious thoughts due to years of conditioning. That’s all.

Consider how you might change your own thoughts and responses to outside things or people. It’s really not important to change people or things (good luck with that anyways), it’s more important to consider your own reaction to the seemingly unchangeable. So just let it go, and change the way you view the thing that is seemingly creating stress for you. Of course that sounds easy but it can be difficult to take either of these actions (changing your thoughts or letting go).

facebook_-330887767.jpgPart of alleviating stress in your life relates to letting go of things you cannot control or change. It’s an inner choice:

– you can choose to stay in an out-of-control spiral where external stressors like people or things typically don’t change; or

– you can remove yourself from the stressor by thinking differently about it; whether it’s for a moment or longer term. So again you basically have two options:

1. Stay the course and continue to feel the stress; or
2. Change your inner thoughts and reaction to the stress event. Then feel the weight lifted off your shoulders (in other words, stress begone!).

Which do you choose? I prefer the one that lessens my stress.

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Emotions. Everyone who wants a piece of inner peace say “I”. We discussed thoughts earlier, but consider that your thoughts create your emotions (because without a thought there would be no emotion – where do you think emotion comes from?). It’s true that emotions can be beneficial in some ways and for some things. They’re part of our system of sensing and responding to the world. But try not to let emotions completely control you. They will chew you up and spit you out if you let them run rampant. So please, make a good choice. Never allow another person or event to control your thoughts and emotions.

Again, this sounds simple on paper, and it may be easier said than done. How do you change your thoughts and resulting reactions. Better yet, how do you sustain this change into a learned behaviour? This is where “leverage” may come in handy. Tony Robbins says “Leverage is uncovering what’s most important to a person to help them make the commitment to making a change. To ensure that change is lasting, the commitment has to be overwhelming. It has to overcome the forces of inertia that hold our old behaviours and beliefs in place.”

He goes on to say that “to access leverage, you must…associate massive PAIN to not changing NOW, and massive PLEASURE to changing immediately. The motivation is based on both pain AND pleasure. Pain is short-term motivation, but you need the pleasure side for long-term motivation.”

To sum up, consider how a better life choice decision for alleviating stress, like changing your thoughts or emotional reaction to external events, could help you change your life for the better.

Continue to practice these strategies and you’ll be on your way to living your best life!

– Kevin


#happiness Part III

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It’s here! That’s right, now that the International Day of Happiness is upon us, what better way to celebrate than by checking out the Day of Happiness website. Also, let’s add a few more actions to increase your general happiness! Remember in Part I, I discussed practicing Pro-Social Qualities and Mindfulness as ways of increasing happiness. Then in Part II, I discussed taking actions like Flow and Awe as methods we can use to tap into more happiness.

So let’s get right to it, here are two further researched happiness actions you can try…

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5. Laughter. When is the last time you laughed? When is the laugh time you had a really good belly laugh? If it’s been a while, get on it! There are lots of funny movies, funny people, and other things that can induce laughter – like remembering funny times in the past, or surrounding yourself with people who like to laugh and find the humour in everyday life. So, try not to be so serious all the time, seriously. A vast amount of research has shown that laughter can contribute to overall health and wellness including increasing your resilience and improving your overall mood.

6. Self-compassion. Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion, says that self-compassion is a state where you understand your own suffering and use mindfulness, kindness, and openness to hold it non-judgementally and consider it part of the human condition. In other words, self-compassion is where you would consider grace for the self even despite unfortunate circumstances. Kristin Neff says that self-compassion entails three core components: 3-Elements-of-Self-Compassion1

She goes on to say that we must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.

Research has shown that people with self-compassion tend have an inner strength of a self that is worthy of respect, and their sense of self-worth tends to be less rattled. They also tend to worry less about social comparison, and feel less need to retaliate for perceived personal slights.

This research suggests that self-compassion provides a sense of calmness. Think of it as a safe place from a perceived hurricane of positive and negative self-judgment. It can shelter you from questions like “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By practicing kindness, and realizing that all of us have an imperfect human condition; you can be confidently on your way to feel more safe and secure, feeling like you belong, and embracing life fully.

Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds and it does take some work to realize and practice self-compassion. It may take baby steps to break old habits. A pause for self-awareness can help to self-identify when we need more compassion for ourselves. Consider how allowing, with an open heart, life to be as it is could help you change your life for the better.

You may be asking “isn’t it selfish to consider the self”? In response to this I would say that allowing self-compassion into your life may, over time, allow you to respond to others and lifes’ challenges in a way that is more open-hearted and loving.

So there you have it. That’s 6 all together. Let’s summarize these happiness actions one more time:

1 & 2 Practicing Pro-Social Qualities and Mindfulness or Awareness

3 & 4 Flow and Awe

5 & 6 Laughter and Self-Compassion

So what are you waiting for? After you reflect on these a bit, start practicing these actions to increase your #happiness. Let’s GO!

Please let me know how this goes for you, or if you have any questions on these Actions. And don’t forget to go to the International Day of Happiness site to join in with other people celebrating this day of happiness!

Benjamin Franklin said:

“Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances”.

-Kevin


Happiness is an inside job

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Happiness is an inside job. Outward circumstances, and actions of others, do not create lasting happiness. That’s a lot of power to assign to anyone or anything else anyways. Sure, these outward circumstances may cause you to feel moments of joy. But deep and lasting happiness – that comes from within. You are ultimately responsible for your happiness. It’s a big responsibility. Are you ready for this?

See our Part 1 and Part 2 blogs on #happiness for some concrete actions you can take to increase your happiness. Part 3 is coming March 20th…stay tuned!

Krista and Kevin


#Happiness (how can I get some of that) Part II

 

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Did you know that there is a day dedicated to happiness? It’s called the International Day of Happiness, and it’s coming up on March 20th. As it states on their website “We’re inviting everyone to focus on their connections with others.”

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In Part I of this blog I had stressed the key finding of a 75 year Harvard study which demonstrates the importance of our connection with others. In the Part I blog, I had also included a background to happiness, and mentioned a further action to help induce moment-to-moment feelings of happiness: Mindfulness. Being present.

Before we get started on Part II, I’d like to mention a further way to incorporate mindfulness into your day-to-day routine, which as I mentioned previously has been shown to lead to happiness. 5-10 years ago I was a meditation non-believer, but after practicing it for several months now, I absolutely see and feel the benefits meditation can provide. In fact, a multitude of studies show how meditation can have positive effects on several aspects of health, resilience, and better relationships.

So let’s continue on to Part II of #happiness. Here are a few more ways you can take action in order to increase your #happiness!

3. Flow. Famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly coined the term flow to describe a particular state of heightened consciousness. Flow can appear when we do certain activities throughout the day or week, ones that can increase our joyous moments. These activities should be ones that you really enjoy, a favorite activity. Think about this for a moment. What are some things that have brought you joy over the years? Was it a sport or an activity? Visiting family or friends or animals perhaps? Achieving a goal? Reading? There are so many possibilities! Other ways of referring to this state of Flow are “being in the zone” or times where you are involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter and you may lose track of time. Researchers have shown that states of flow have a strong association to happiness.  

thG4IX9KVM4. Awe. You know, that experience you feel when you look up at huge beautiful trees, or perhaps looking at this beach photo here, or a beautiful painting. When was the last time you went star-gazing and saw a shooting star? What tends to put you in a state of awe? It’s really about experiencing awe / wonder / beauty, which makes us feel like we are in the presence of something larger than ourselves.

Researchers have linked positive emotions – especially the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art, and spirituality – with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (which are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder). Elevated cytokines have shown association to autoimmune diseases and depression. UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner says “that awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art – has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”

And there you have it, Flow and Awe are another two ways to tap into #happiness. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list and we will explore more ways to tap into happiness in the months to come.

Keep in mind that happiness is different things to different people. There simply isn’t one happiness strategy that works for everyone.

One final note, please try to not let your happiness depend on what others say or do. Remember that happiness is truly up to you and it’s yours and yours only. It’s an inside job.

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Benjamin Franklin said:

Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind, than on outward circumstances.

Looking forward to continuing on this happiness journey with you. Remember, we are all in this together!

Kevin


Embrace the Day!


Life can present you with many rewarding experiences and many challenges.

Expect the unexpected, there will be challenges along the way. It’s how you respond to life’s challenges that matters.

You can’t control the curveballs being thrown at you, you can however, control how you react to them. So, make sure you move out of the way as quickly as possible, so that curveball doesn’t knock you down!

Be sure to allow yourself the freedom to experience an array of appropriate emotions for each life experience.  These are all encompassing moments that change, mold and challenge us as individuals.

Happiness is dependent on expression of all emotions.

When life throws you a curve ball, what are some of the ways you cope?

Embrace the Day!

Embrace Life!

-Krista


#happiness (How can I get some of that!) Part I

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#happiness is one of the most popular hashtags around right now. Makes sense right? Whoever doesn’t want happiness in their life say “I” (room goes silent now). But the question is…how do we get this thing called happiness? How do I summon this greater power throughout the day? Let’s examine.

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First of all, what is happiness? That is a loaded question, so let’s start by looking at one happiness researcher’s definition. In her book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

OK, so where does happiness really come from, and how does it mysteriously appear? Some scientists have said that it arrives as a reaction to outside events, the events that bring us joy. While other scientists discuss it as being an inside job (it is conjured up from within ourselves). I believe that it is something that arrives from within ourselves. Sure, it seems like an outside event is the trigger, however the exact same outside event can mean different things to different people. It’s intentional activity that’s really important here; it’s how we choose to create or do an activity, and ultimately our response to it. Think about it – a simple thing could seemingly cause one person to be unhappy while another person could be joyous. The event is exactly the same. It’s our reaction to the event that can be so different.

In fact, according to research, approximately 50% of our happiness is accounted for by genetics, 10% by life circumstances, and 40% by intentional activity. The 40% intentional activity is what we should focus on changing, and I will discuss some ways to do this shortly.

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Now what about “joy”, how does this relate to happiness? We are all well aware of the moment-to-moment times of joy that seem to arrive from external things, like when we see a baby smile or a tail-wagging happy puppy. But have you seen the popular movie Inside Out where we learn from the character named Joy – that real happiness involves a suite of emotions including sadness. Yes, you saw that correctly, sustained happiness will include times of sadness, believe it or not. Happiness is not simply a constant euphoric state without negative emotions included along the way. Unhappy emotions like anger, fear, and sadness are quite normal, and at times, appropriate. If we continually set a high bar for happiness, we can become disappointed when we don’t meet that bar. An acceptance of some “negative” emotions is ok.

So happiness – how does it appear and continue with us along our journey called LIFE? This is a question many of us talk about and, we at Embrace Life have often wondered about this illusive word too. So let’s get to it…here are two ways of conjuring up more happiness in our lives:

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1. Practicing “pro-social” qualities like human connection, gratitude, and compassion, etc. Some examples of this could include practicing “Three Good Things” (or you could even try One Good Thing)”. Practicing Three Good Things involves, on a weekly basis, writing down three things good that happened in your life. This activity reminds us to seek out and savor positive things. This could include our connections with our friends and family, or considering how grateful we are for little things throughout the week. Regularly practicing pro-social qualities can help us feel more connected to others and connecting to something higher outside of the self. Check out this fantastic 12 minute TEDtalk on an exciting 75 year Harvard study on living the good life. The #1 thing learned in this study is that good relationships keep you happier and healthier….period! The quality of your relationships really matter, not necessarily the quantity. Good relationships with family, friends, and community are what really matter. And besides general happiness in life, there are many other benefits as mentioned in the video.

2. Mindfulness and awareness. Be present. In an article on Mindfulness , well-known mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses how to cultivate mindfulness as follows: “although mindfulness can be cultivated through formal meditation, that’s not the only way. It’s not really about sitting in the full lotus, like pretending you’re a statue in a British museum,” he says…“It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.”

Here are a three key components of practicing mindfulness that Kabat-Zinn and others identify:

• Turn your mind to your breathing, really noticing it, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.

• Notice what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.

• Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.

Mindfulness is important in that it includes awareness. Self-awareness – we can’t be authentic without being ourselves. And we can’t be ourselves without really knowing ourselves. Therefore, being authentic all starts with self-awareness. Consider being more aware of your reaction to words and actions, be it positive or negative. Try pausing for a second before a reaction to anything, and generally pausing from time-to-time in your everyday life. This gives your prefrontal cortex time to access a more positive road to take in your reaction to anything, be it positive or negative. Consider Gandhi’s famous quote:

‘Happiness is when what you think, say and do are in harmony’

Personally, I have found meditation to help with taking pauses at opportune times, and for thinking things through with greater clarity and purpose.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Practice the above and we think that you will see a difference over time. We are making strides to practice these things too – and we really hope that you will try this too. We would love to hear how it goes!

Stay tuned for Part II of this Happiness blog where I will discuss further happiness actions to include in your daily routine.

Kevin