Why Self-Care is NOT Selfish!

Does this sound familiar?

Hectic mornings, kids to school, work, workout, groceries, cook, clean, kids’ activities, spouses’ poker night, pay bills, crazy bedtime, phone calls, laundry, pack lunches, limited time with spouse, finally your bedtime… and REPEAT

WorkingMum_IS-e1362833917975You can switch it up a bit to suit your situation. The question remains: where is the “you” time? There just doesn’t seem to be any time left. We often fail to see how time for ourselves can fit into our daily routine. We are worth prioritizing, so we can be the best version of ourselves.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Do you see what others likely see: A vibrant, always-at-her-best supermom, wife extraordinaire, volunteer of the year, top career woman, the woman who can juggle it all? Or do you see a somewhat neglected, tired, unbalanced and lonely woman, in need of praise, time to pursue her passions, and time to just breathe?

We praise our kids for pooping, because we love them.  So why do we feel guilty asking for praise or praising ourselves for all of the things we do? Do we feel guilty loving ourselves? We deserve and need the same love, reassurance and nurturing that we provide children, to be the best version of our self.  Guilt should never accompany self-love.

What can we do?

We can still be super…moms, wives, volunteers, career women, and an incredible “juggler” who finds time for herself as well, so that we can be at our best emotionally and physically, feel like ourselves again.  We simply need to see that taking time for ourselves can fit into our regular routine, and realize that it needs to… We can’t give from an empty well!

When you hear the words “self-care” what comes to mind?

I’m too busy at work this month; the kids are just starting soccer and baseball season…good luck finding a spare minute for me; once I look after everything and everyone else in my life, I’ll take care of me! Do you think it would be selfish to put yourself before others?

Are you familiar with the adage, “Take care of yourself first or you will have nothing left to give others,”?  If so, why do you feel selfish or guilty putting yourself first?

Our behavior and emotions impact everyone around us, our children included. We might think that those around us: our children, friends, co-workers, and loved ones, are oblivious to how we really feel, if we “act” positive and relaxed.  How we feel, and our actions, affect them, even at a young age; they can feel our stress and our need for rest and rejuvenation.

If you need more convincing, think of it this way:

Your heart pumps blood to itself first, then it pumps blood out to the rest of your body.  This is how it keeps you alive. It serves itself first, then the other organs. It needs to take care of itself before it can take care of others, or you wouldn’t be alive.

You need to take care of you first.  Then, you can take care of others.

You deserve to take care of you. Those you care about, deserve it as well. You will be nourished, rejuvenated, the best version of yourself, and your well will be full and available to the important things and people in your life.

Love yourself.

Your Coach,

Krista


BESTLIFE! 2018

It’s the start of a new year and you are pumped to get or keep going on your new years resolutions…right?!? Or, now that we are a few weeks into the year have you found yourself stumbling out of the gate? Do you need a push or a gentle reminder? Do you find yourself doing “busywork” much more than some of your most passionate work, you know…the things that motivate you? We are all human, but that’s the point. We are human beings, not human doings. Sure, you have things that must get done every day but are you consciously making time for the things you really want to do?

As human beings we have the ability to make a conscious choice to embrace life, and live our best life. But why do we get caught up in all of this busywork hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year? It’s because we chug along in life doing what we feel we need to do, but we don’t take enough moments to clarify what it is that really matters to us. We just keep doing what we’re doing because others have told us that this is what we should do in life. Have you taken the time to figure out yet what YOUR bestlife looks like?

Living your bestlife may include many different areas including:

So how are you going to live your bestlife? Start with this: picture yourself doing what you love to do whether it’s serving others, taking a walk in nature, slowing down at times

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Me on a hike in BC

to appreciate the little things in life, or taking a course in something that you love. How does it feel? Pretty good hey? So how do you get to this place? TAKE ACTION! Sure, easier said than done. So how do we take action?

  • Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat.
  • Research and spend time with who/what you love.
  • Take a course or read about something that’s interesting to you.
  • Say no to busywork sometimes.
  • Strike a healthy balance between work and play.
  • Make better choices (i.e. stop and ask yourself if this current decision is beneficial for yourself, or serves others).
  • Find a passion and motivation, see Motivation – it’s an inside job.

One more important thing. Put aside all of the things everyone told you about who you are and what you should do. Now take some time to figure out who you really are and what you love to do (your life purpose). Once again I’ll repeat this…then TAKE ACTION! Always remember that this is all on you, and you can do it. Make it happen.

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For further information check out a previous blog on Embracing Life Every Day.

If you have anything to add to this or any general questions on living your bestlife I would love to hear from you. We are all in this together, and I want to learn from others too.

Embracing life as best I can,

Kevin


Kindness Leads to Happiness

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Are you kind? Do you practice kindness? If not, how do you do it? Let’s explore…

Let’s start with a basic definition: Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Does that sound like something you would like to incorporate into your daily life? Wouldn’t that make this world a better place to live? If you’re on board, then read on…

In a recent blog on Aligning Your Values and Goals I mention that kindness is an important value that not everyone has (but I certainly wish it was widespread). In some cultures you may generally notice that kindness is more common than in others.

However, did you know that there is a World Kindness Day celebrated every year on November 13? A simple Google search will pull up several organizations that are resourceful for day-to-day kindness information. One example is the Random Acts of Kindness organization which states on its website:

Imagine a world.

Where people look out for each other.

Where we all pay it forward.

Where success is measured in selfless acts.

Where kindness is the philosophy of life.

Now what about happiness? Does kindness actually lead to happiness? Yes, studies have shown that practicing kindness by giving to others (rather than receiving) can lead to more happiness.

What’s even more exciting is that this can lead to a virtuous cycle which may increase our lasting happiness. According to one study completed by Harvard and University of British Columbia researchers and published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, two happiness findings were apparent according to the authors:

  1. People in general felt happier when they recalled a time they bought something for someone else. People felt even happier than when they remembered buying something for themselves.
  2. The happier people felt about their past generosity, generally the more likely they were in the present to choose to spend on others instead of themselves.

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So then how do we get to a point where we are practicing more kindness, especially if we feel like we need more of it within ourselves in order to be kinder to others? Kind behavior tends to come to us more naturally when we’re moving towards compassion and connection with others.

Intentionally practicing kindness in our everyday lives, even on days when we’re not in a particularly generous mood, can go a long way toward turning kindness into a habit. That’s largely because of the way kindness breeds happiness: The good feelings serve to reinforce our kind acts and make us more likely to want to perform them in the future.

To state this another way – making concerted effort to perform more kind and generous acts in the short term tends to increase the amount of kindness we perform over the long term. Wow, pretty simple hey?

As Tim McGraw’s song Humble and Kind says:

Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re goin
Don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind.

Maximizing the positive effects of generosity can help with kindness as well. One strategy is to take the initiative to learn about the impact of your generosity, which can elicit contagious feelings of joy. For example, see this video of a bone marrow donor meeting the little girl whose life he saved.

So get out there and practice kindness. Let’s all chip in individually to help make this world a better place.

Stay kind,

-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


#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


#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