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


Self-Reflection: Dare to be the Ideal You!

We are half way through another year… Does it feel like it has flown by? Are you wondering where the time has gone?

Time itself, doesn’t slow down.

However, we must allow ourselves to:

  • reduce the rush
  • slow down in life
  • and, get to know ourselves better

or, we can become emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally frazzled.

To most, it feels like our society is fixated on a “go, go, go” mentality; a fast-paced environment that leaves little time for rest and introspection / self-reflection.

What is Self-Reflection?

Self-Reflection is:

  • a practical way to use a few minutes a day to work on yourself – even when busy
  • asking yourself thought-provoking questions to help develop a deeper level of understanding yourself
  • allows you to absorb, process and organize the information you take in all the time
  • emphasizes balance and mindfulness (active, open attention on the present), allowing you to have a clearer picture of your true desires; who you really are
  • remove inner roadblocks and release emotional tension and stress
  • promotes positive change, self-awareness
  • it allows you to become more proactive, than reactive

iceberg You often do not have a clue why you are doing a certain thing and why you feel the way you feel.  The subconscious mind, which makes up 90% of your brain function, is on autopilot and can trigger certain behaviors in certain situations.  These triggered behaviors don’t necessarily lead to the desired outcome.

Self-Reflection helps with that!

Through self-reflection, you can:

  • change how you see yourself
  • how you feel about certain situations
  • how you act

“Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.”                                            – Eleanor Roosevelt

The Benefits of Self-Reflection include:

  1. Keeping you focused on the bigger picture!
    • It is important to have a clear vision of where you see yourself in the future – write it down if you have to or create a vision board, to continuously remind yourself of what you intend to accomplish!
    • By keeping an overall goal in mind, your daily tasks become more meaningful and less frustrating
  2. Allowing you to define your own happiness!
    • Recognize the positive events and activities in your life, and apply these to future endeavors and goals
    • Ask yourself: When am I most happy? What am I most proud of and why? Who do I most enjoy spending time with?
  3. Preventing you from worrying about things out of your control!
    • Self-reflection allows you to direct your energy toward self-improvement, rather than trying to improve others, and change things you have no control over
    • Why worry about traffic jams, or those with odd opinions, when you can be improving yourself?
  4. Noticing negative patterns in your life!
    • Self-reflection enables you recognize negative patterns; understand how and why they have a damaging effect on your emotions; allow you to consider alternative approaches and alleviate the stressors.
    • ie: toxic relationship or work environment
  5. Increasing self-awareness for improved results!
    • With increased self-awareness, you are more likely to trust your gut when making decisions, and you will feel more confident in your choices!
    • You will have the courage to face fears and challenges, because you are confident in who you are!
    • You will be more aware of who YOU are, and what YOU truly want in life!

Other benefits include: developing better critical thinking skills, communication skills, social awareness, empathy, tolerance, creativity, emotional awareness, …

What is an immediate, short-term goal that you have right now?

Do you have a goal to spend more time with family, exercise more, start a new hobby (painting, ping pong, golf, paddle boarding, …)?

  • these goals could be unrealized (not met) because of lack of self-awareness
  • you need to know how to direct your behavior, in order to know how to pursue your goal
  • self-reflection helps you make progress on the goals that will improve the quality of your life

Self-Reflection Tools, Activities and Methods:

  1. Self-Reflective Journaling:

Self-reflective journaling is not about jotting down your days’ activities, but rather:

  • your thoughts, your perspective, your feelings, your actions, the feedback from your environment throughout the day
  • It is about becoming aware of your actions and behaviors, and the results of those actions and behaviors.
  • You will think about everything that happened throughout your day, and WRITE down (journal): why it happened, how you felt, why did you feel that way, how is that affiliated to your beliefs and values, …

The purpose of self-reflective journaling is:

  • to get things out of your head and clear your mind, allowing you to relax
  • allow you gain insights you may otherwise miss
  • useful problem-solving tool

Three ways to keep your self-reflective journal:

  1. Notebook – the best! (Your hand is connected directly to your brain and handwriting with no blinking lights, popups, distractions … is the best way to go!)
  2. App – on tablet, phone, laptop, etc (notepad or journaling software, even something as simple as Evernote)
  3. Private Blog – not the safest option

Some journal prompts to get you started.

2) Empathy Map

empathy mapAn Empathy Map helps you:

  • identify your needs
  • identify the disconnections between:
    • what you say
    • what you do
  • practice identification of your feelings/thoughts/attitudes
  • analyse yourself from a 3rd person perspective

Empathy Map activity 

3) Six Thinking Hats

Edward de Bono’s, The Six Thinking Hats, is a simple, effective method that helps to increase productivity, focus and mindfulness.   The main idea is that by “mentally” wearing and switching “hats”, you can easily focus and redirect thoughts, a meeting or a conversation. sixhats-1

This process allows you to look at situations and yourself from a different perspective.  It can also help you when practicing self-reflection by providing new insight.  It is also quite fun!

Are you going to wear a blue, white, yellow, black, red or green hat?

The Six Thinking Hats activity

4) Why? Why? Why?

Did you know that asking yourself “why” repeatedly, helps you get to the root of a problem by encouraging analytical flow?

Try it:

  • think of a situation: (I didn’t get the promotion, I rocked that presentation today, that hatrick I scored was unexpected, I failed the exam,…); OR a certain feeling: (I was distracted all day, I am in a bad mood, I am unusually upbeat today,…)
  • once you have a situation or feeling in mind, start asking yourself WHY
  • do it 5 or 10 times
  • you will gain new insight into yourself
    • ie: I was distracted all day
    • Why was I distracted all day?
      • maybe I was thinking about the kids activities tonight and the upcoming vacation and having to get immunizations and what to do if the dog gets sick again while we are gone
    • Why was I thinking about the kids activities tonight?
      • I may need to get someone to carpool Sally so I can pick up Joe…
      • Why? because there isn’t enough time between the two
      • (take steps to arrange this… why be distracted all day?)
    • Why was I thinking about the upcoming vacation?
      • I should be making packing lists and determing what we will be doing each day
      • Why? to ensure we have appropriate clothing for weather and in case we need to buy passes in advance
      • (set aside some time in your schedule to do this… avoid future distraction)
    • Why was I thinking about immunizations?
      • these need to be scheduled
      • (schedule them! avoid worrying about it any longer)
    • Why was I thinking about if the dog gets sick again?
      • I need a plan in place, or decide I can’t control this
      • Why? because it is causing me stress and really is out of my control
      • (decide to have a back up plan for the dog or let it go)

Another Why? Why? Why? exercise

5) Meditation

One of the best ways to connect with yourself, and observe your thoughts is the method of self-reflection, meditation.

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Some great apps when first trying to discipline your mind with meditation are:

Headspace with Andy Puddicombe

Deepak Chopra Meditation Experience

Calm

6) Life Fulfilment Chart

This chart is a visual representation of 10 key areas of your life.  It allows you to self-reflect and determine how fulfilled or satisfied you are currently in each of the areas.  You will assess each area on a scale of 1-10. Then highlight certain areas in red and others in green, and ask yourself “why” for all 10 areas of life.

Life Fulfilment Chart

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Self-reflection can change the course of your life simply by better understanding who you are, and what you are.  It is all about YOU: your whys, your desires and what you want in life.

Self-reflection is about understanding, tolerance of self, increasing your capacity of love for yourself and others, becoming more aware, and noticing things about yourself and your past that may be contributing to current life patterns and emotional states – positive or negative.

Take time to self-reflect.  Dare to be the ideal you!

Krista


Achieve All Goals: The 5 Step Mindset Shift 

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change-your-mind-set“I wish…”

“If only…”

“It’s not fair…”

“Why can’t I….”

Just shift your mindset and you can!

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

-Maya Angelou

Is your mind caught up in negative thought patterns?  nothing-changes-if-nothing-changes-252x300

Life satisfaction begins with a positive mindset.

  • If you believe you are pathetic, guess what…
  • If you believe you will fail, you are destined to.
  • However…
  • If you believe you are powerful, you are!
  • If you believe you will succeed, you can!

Mindset is a way of thinking, based on a set of beliefs, that determines one’s behaviour, outlook and mental attitude.

Your mind is a powerful tool, fill it with positive thoughts and your life will start to change positively. 

Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by CHANGE.

                                                                            -Jim Rohn

What do you want? What do you truly want your everyday “normal” to be? Really think about it.

  • Maybe you want to start working out each morning before the kids wake up, and feel energized.
  • Or you have a weight loss plan you are considering;
  • How about an education or career plan that you have been thinking about? Put it into action!
  • Are you thinking you would like to travel more?
  • Or do you and your partner want to spend more quality time together?

new-mindsetIt is not an unreachable dream… a future plan.  Part of creating your “normal” for today is picturing it as a natural part of your everyday life now.  Visualize it, and master the art of living it now.  Be the energy you want to attract. Begin to live it, create your “normal”, your new reality.

Right now some of you are saying:

“Ya but, my life has been so hard.”  

“My circumstances don’t allow for the changes I want to make.”

“You don’t know what I’ve been through.”

MINDSET.

I, like you, have endured some struggles.

In the past 5 years, I have been widowed in my late 30’s, after 13 years of marriage (suicide as a result of PTSD); lost my dad to cancer; battled for my own life twice with two ruptured ectopics, and suffered the loss of those pregnancies; coped with the effects of our adopted daughter’s mental illness and the associated loss; and am currently dealing with the neurological illness that my thriving 14 year old has suddenly developed and is now affecting her athletic and academic performance; I have had to change careers; and more…  My struggles will not be the same as yours, and can’t be compared.  But we all have struggles.  It is how we choose to let them affect us.4fc6423507712f33a596b77fae2872e5

Make the choice to change your perspective and embrace today with positivity, despite the challenges and stumbling blocks, and always be grateful for the little things (a sunset, a puppy licking you, a baby trying to walk, a horse running through a field, the majestic mountains in the distance, a cup of coffee, a smile from a stranger…).

My life would not be as happy, fulfilled and wonderful as it is without gratitude and a shift to a positive mindset.

A positive mindset, gratitude, always remember that everyone has struggles, and it is how they choose to deal with them, that can create positive change; this is how I have achieved my goals, and chosen to live the life I am living.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

                                                                                                               -George Bernard Shaw

What choices do you need to make to create this “normal”?

 

What actions do you need to take?

  1. Define your goal(s)
  2. Change your beliefs – from negative thought patterns to positive thought patterns; “I am worthy of this”; “I am deserving”; “there is time”; etc
  3. Think positive thoughts – “I can do this!”
  4. Identify fears and potential obstacles – “I will not succeed”; “I have failed in the past”; “I will not have the support of others”; “I do not believe in myself”; “I cannot stick with anything”; etc
  5. Practice gratitude – be grateful for what you do have, and each step that you do accomplish toward achieving your goal and shifting your mindsetmindset-shift

 

To achieve goals and live the life you want to live, you don’t need superhuman strength, or the ability to time travel or wall crawl like Spiderman.  All you need is to change your mind. Sounds pretty simple really, doesn’t it?

 

 

With Positive Thoughts for your Mindset Shift,

Krista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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


#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 (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


Take Moments to Enjoy the Journey

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A simple reminder that we should take moments in our lives to experience joy, wonder, and “awe” along this journey called Life! Take a moment from what your mind perceives as the seriousness of life, and look up at the sky, or at anything in nature; really anything that puts you in a state of wonder or awe. Also, let’s remind each other how amazing life is, because we are all in this together. Joy, wonder, and awe are simple tools we can use to Embrace Life within ourselves, and outwardly with those around us. Eckhart Tolle said:

“Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be”.

Kevin