The Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

MEDITATION

“Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along.” -Paramahansa Yogananda

What is meditation?

If you haven’t tried or don’t know of anyone that meditates, then you’re probably thinking meditating is being alone on a mountain and chanting Ooooommmmm for hours. But in a more toned down sense of the definition, it is just clearing your mind or concentrating your mind on something specific for even just 5-10 minutes.

Why meditate?

Ok so now whyyyy would we want to sit quietly and do nothing for periods of time? Sounds boring doesn’t it?

It is actually quite hard to do!

So what  meditating is really doing is training your brain, kinda like exercising it. And it is good for it just like exercise is good for your body!

It improves concentration, improves mood (even to the point of combating depression), reduces anxiety, improves creativity, and even helps reduce pain!

And I think we could all use some help with at least one of those things!

Therefore, meditating is just as important as exercising for health and well being. It’s something to add to the list of daily must-do’s!

Ok So How Do I Do this Thing That I’ve Only Seen in Japanese Movies???

To start, simply find a quiet place, sit, relax, set a timer (start with 5 minutes if you haven’t tried this before), close your eyes, and try to clear your mind. Continue trying until the timer goes off – don’t check it and disrupt yourself!

Tips

There are apps for smart phones that have timers, background music or natural sounds that help to relax and block out background noise.

There are also videos on YouTube with music to listen to and that guide you through a meditation session.

You can try multiple times per day instead of once if you get disrupted or a time doesn’t work out. Experts meditate for hours so there’s no time limit on this! Though many studies show that meditating in blocks of 20 minutes per day shows the benefits, there are many others that show that even 5 minutes per day gives benefits! Therefore, start where you can and go from there.

Many people also combine meditation with Yoga, so if you’re already a Yoga fan, that may help you!

Next Steps

  • Find the best time of day for at least five to ten minutes of solitude

  • Find an appropriate, quiet setting

  • Start with 5 minutes per day

  • Relax

  • Patience, practice makes perfect and it gets easier!
   

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Read This the Next Time You’re Ready to Give Up on Your Goals

“Success is steady progress toward one’s personal goals.” -Jim Rohn

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Today marks the beginning of a new year.

This time of year is traditionally a time that we all look at the last year, reflect, and make goals for the new year.

However, most don’t succeed. Most quit after days or just a couple weeks. It is so easy to have lofty goals, set our eyes on something we’ve always wanted, whether it is a change about ourselves or something materialistic. But then when they don’t materialize right away it is so easy to give up.

Our society is one of instant results, we tend to want everything and we want it now!

But that is not the key to everlasting success and is in fact unhealthy and detrimental to our goals, not helpful.

I am a firm believer in sculpting life through habit – by both creating good habits and removing bad habits.

Habits don’t require willpower once they’re formed, and allows us to live in healthy ways on autopilot, thereby leaving the rest of our brain power and willpower for concentrating on other aspects of our lives.

But habits form slowly – around 14 to 21 days – and therefore feels like very slow progress.

However, progress is what is the key to success. Going all out and then quitting will never lead to success. But progress, however slow, will see through to the end!

Therefore, I urge people to instead of making huge lofty new year’s resolutions, make just one to start with, or make one per month. Smaller ones. Or if you really have one huge goal then break it up into 12 smaller goals that will accomplish the big goal by the end of the year. Then work on each of those smaller things per month and you will achieve the big goal at the end!

But the focus has to be on only on one thing at a time. If you focus on too many things at once, it becomes overwhelming and remember that quitting is what doesn’t lead to success.

So, key steps to making new year’s resolutions accomplishable:

  • Make one huge goal – or 12 smaller ones

    • If your goal is huge, break it up into 12 smaller goals, one per month

  • Prioritize your goals into which ones would be most beneficial to do first or sooner rather than later

  • Get yourself a calendar that is visible daily so your mindest stays on your goals

  • Practice that one and only one goal for that month. As tempting as it is to do more than one, especially if they seem easy, only focus on the single goal. Willpower is a precious resource!

  • By the end of each month, you won’t be concentrating on accomplishing that month’s goal as much as it is not part of your life!

 

 

 

   

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7 Steps to Being a Happy Person

happy cat
“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln

 

We all want to be happier than we are now, but what does it take? What does “being happy” actually look like? Here are some tips that will help you be happier than you are right now!

Be Grateful

One of the best ways to combat any unhappiness to negativity is to be grateful for what is going right in your life. Good friends, family members, jobs, homes, even just the simple things in life like nice weather and flowers in the lawn. Appreciating and focusing on all of these things makes the bad things fade away. Don’t focus on the bad, train your mind to focus on the good!

Stop the Hatin’

Have you ever noticed that some people in life are just always negative? There’s always something wrong, there’s always something happening to prevent them from doing what they want, and nothing is good enough? Well those are just perspectives. To be happier sometimes, you have to change your perspective about life. For one, don’t try to “keep up with the Joneses”. Evern research shows that it negatively impacts your life and well being if you compare yourself to others. No one’s lives are going to be the same, but that doesn’t mean yours isn’t as good as others!

 Comparing yourself to others breeds jealousy which is a complete opposite to the whole happiness factor in life which is what we’re going for, right??

On the same note, don’t allow yourself to think negative thoughts about yourself either. It’s hard when society pushes so many expectations on us but really, being down on yourself about anything never helps. What helps is positive thinking, and making a plan. If there’s something you need to fix in life, then make a plan to accomplish it, and follow the plan! Don’t be harsh on yourself. No one is perfect and all we can do is try the best we can!

Reach Out to Your Loved Ones

Close, positive relationships with others helps provide a sense of belonging, combats loneliness, and helps us feel a sense of security.

Especially if you’re struggling with something in life, reach out to friends and family and get out of the house. Reach out to them for support. Remember that they care about you and often have good advice and would love to help you cope and get through the tough times.

On a similar note, pay attention to those that aren’t supportive or that make you feel bad or stressed. Those are detrimental to your life and well being. You don’t need that! Make sure that everyone you spend time with make you feel good, not bad. If you feel bad, they are not your real friends and try to avoid them if possible.

Meditate

Meditation is a method for either clearing your mind for a period of time, or of focusing your thoughts for a period of time, depending on your goals. Daily meditation has a tremendous number of benefits encompassing mental, emotional, and physical.

 Meditation reduces stress, improves clarity of thought and concentration, and enhances emotional well being.

I will be posting a more in depth article next week on meditation, but to start just find a quiet, relaxing environment and close your eyes and practice clearing your thoughts for at least five minutes per day. It feels really hard at first, but only with practice does it get easier!

Exercise

Exercise is one of those things that we see and hear a hundred times of day that it’s good and to do it and I’m not going to say anything different. We’ve all heard every reason why, so I’m going to focus on the actual doing!

 Find a good time of day (first thing in the morning is usually the best time) and just get started. Take a walk, lift some weights, drag out that DVD that hasn’t been used for ages. Your choice! The most important thing is do do it though.

You’ll better when you’re done!

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

Lastly, don’t worry, be happy about the future. You never know what’s really gong to happen, and worrying about what might happen can ruin your whole present. Which becomes your past! So son’t let anything uncertain sour your memories. Stop and smell the roses, enjoy your current surroundings, and stay focused on hat’s currently going on in your life.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it provides some basic building blocks to start on improving quality and happiness of life. There are many things to do from here which I will continue to post about but for now, follow the next steps. And join the newsletter where you will get notified of the upcoming 21 Days to Happiness free e-course!

Next Steps:

Create a daily journal to document everything you did or experienced that was positive that day. Anything from this post, or anything at all in life!

Also document negative thoughts and where they are coming from, and what you can do to try to counter them.

And finally write down what you’re grateful for every day. This journal will turn into the greatest resource for figuring out life problems (and what you need to do about them) and a continuous log of everything that is wonderful in your life which is invaluable!

   

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Why Being a Morning Person is an Unbelievably Good Idea

“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.” ~Richard Whately

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Do you like waking up in the morning?

Do you like waking up early in the morning?

No?

Well, you should!

Waking up early add enormous benefits to our lives. If used correctly, the extra time in the mornings can help you achieve your goals and feel better all day!

But I know what you’re thinking:

Wait but I sleep in so that I feel better! That sounds backwards

It seems backwards, and it will take a bit of preparing if you’re not already an early riser, but we’ll get to that later.

For now, the benefits (to motivate you to start!):

  • Studies show that early risers are happier, more optimistic people
  • The extra time allows you to “mosey” into the day instead of rushing headlong into people on the road, at work or your commute
  • The extra time also allow you to get something done every day that you’ve been wanting to do – something productive like exercise, work on your degree, or whatever your goals are!
  • Studies also show that humans sleep better earlier in the night versus during the later hours
  • You’ll have time to eat breakfast which also improves mood and health! If you have a family, it also provides an extra opportunity to eat and spend time together

I have naturally been a morning person, however at certain points of my life I have fallen off the bandwagon on this one. I end up “too tired” and hit the snooze a few times or set my alarm later. Which would later lead to setting my alarm later AND hitting snooze…

Which led me to rushing into my morning, skipping breakfast, getting frustrated when things weren’t going smoothly (wheeeere did that pair of purple socks go that I need? I’m late!) and arriving to wherever I was going in a frazzled mess. Not good times.

Easing into the morning, accomplishing something productive, having plenty of time to do everything you need and arriving where you need to be in a calm, confident mood instead of frazzled leads to a better overall quality of life!

If you’re an early riser already, good job and see if it’s early enough or if you’re still rushing as well.

If you’re not an early riser, you’ll have to take some steps to get there (and avoid the crankies):

  1. Figure out what time exactly you want to be waking up in the morning to not rush and do what you want to do
  2. Go to bed earlier (of course). Do this over a period of two weeks though, slowly incrementing your bedtime by 15 minutes until you’ve reaches the point at which you’ll get enough sleep
  3. Start making a goal for your next morning so whatever it is you so, you feel really good afterwards
   

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The Surprising Connection Between Journaling and Health

The Surprising Connection Between Journaling and Health

 

I am a thinker.

A non-stop, can’t-quiet-my-mind type of a thinker.

At times, I completely miss the first half of what someone says to me because I’m still caught up completing the thought my mind was currently on.

So much to do, so much to contemplate, so much to decide! So much to remember, so much to

Thinking too much to think???

Yes. Absolutely. I can’t stop. I go round and round and round and at the end of the day, my thoughts are a jumbled mess of what I need to think about again tomorrow.

Does this sound like you?

Fear not, my thinkers – there is a solution to the madness.

Step in: Journaling

Journaling is a soul-soother. Journaling expresses all of your thoughts and feelings and emotions, and plans, heartaches, every all at once. It gets it down on paper (or if you’re the electronic type like me, on the screen) and gives you the chance to express it, look it over, and release it all.

De-Clutter Your Mind

Getting everything down on a media does something for our brains – it clears it of whatever is going round and round and round. Our minds can only hold and remember so much at once. Journaling gets it all down so that your mind doesn’t have to remember it all anymore. It’s there in front of you if you ever needed it again!

journaling quote 3 by smkd 15 nov 2012

Organize Your Thoughts

Journaling allows our minds to express everything in all of its glorious complexity. Doing this however, does the opposite of putting out a garbled mess, it actually engages parts of our brains that organize it all, makes sense of it, makes conclusions from it. Awakens it to more things that you may not have even thought you were thinking! Related topics. Emotional topics. How we are feeling about how our days went. Which brings us to the next benefit…

Journaling Heals Your Feelings

Journaling is an avenue of expression that doesn’t harm others. It’s private, therefore we can say whatever we are truly feeling without hurting relationships, and getting ourselves into trouble. We can’t just bottle everything up inside – that’s harmful to us. We don’t want either one of those scenarios! So journaling is a safe expression of our thoughts and feelings – one that helps us contemplate it all, to make decisions on for later.

Journaling Helps Solve Your Problems

Documenting your every thought and feeling and events of the day helps your brain sort it out, categorize it, and relate it all. Feel down today but don’t know why? You have it all in writing. In a spectacular day? Those are usually more obvious but you have it in writing as well! Feeling stressed? How’s your week been? Not only does journaling give you the writing itself to pour over to see what the deal is, but it internally helps your brain sort it our without realizing it. It helps create awareness of what is going on, who you’re around, how people affect you, the environment affects you, how events affect you. It’s an insightful thing!

It Records Your Life!

Journalizing is also like a text-based photo album. How many memories have we lost over the course of our lifetimes, only to be remembered later when we see a photo or smell a particular smell? Then there’s that “oh yeah!!” moment! How much do we lose without something like a photo to document it?

With daily journaling, it’s easy to skim over it all and remember life events, people and  occasions. It’s especially easy with software in this era where entries can be tagged, categorized, and we can even insert pictures into it to make it complete.

   

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The Truth About Motivation I Wish I Knew 10 Years Ago

 

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” –Wayne Gretzky

 motivation

 

This is going to be a non-traditional post for me, but one that spoke to me in the moment and felt that it’s something important to get out there.

It’s about motivation and what it means to our lives and futures. It affects everything we think and do, and it’s important to be aware of and cultivate within ourselves.

Motivation:

The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way (via Google definition search)

I thought growing up that I knew what motivation meant. I thought it was the spur of the moment, supposedly-natural-initiative you were supposed to feel to clean your room. I thought it was supposed to be the long term good grades you’d get at the end of studying hard all semester…

Those were younger, school-based viewpoints of course

(Though the grades concept could apply to college, but then it’s a self-motivated thing instead of your parents telling you so)

Starting out as a young adult, I thought of motivation as essentially similar thing. Reasons to do whatever is it you *should* be doing – according to other’s standards.

And as a young adult who could finally make her own decisions, what I should have been doing of course fell by the wayside for whatever I felt like doing!

Don’t get me wrong,  I wasn’t irresponsible. I was actually completely responsible and maintained and supported my family and  my household very well. Out of responsibility though, not motivation.

As I am getting older, I am discovering that motivation means something completely different

I am finally beginning to understand that motivations are the real reason for living. For giving my all. For being who I am.

For doing what I do.

Motivation is the key to the real reasons for living. Motivation gives us our reasons for growing beyond what we are responsible for. Beyond what’s required. Beyond the status quo of society.

Motivation is what gives us enough ooomph to accomplish our every hearts desires. Accomplish our hopes and dreams and every grand thing we can imagine!

Do This:

Picture in your mind your dream life. Your dream environment, your dream location, doing whatever makes your heart skip a beat.

That is what you should be working towards every day!

Keep that picture in your head, figure out what you need to do to do it.

Break that down into small steps – steps you can work on every day.

Wake up in the morning with that picture in your mind.

Dream about it at night. Drift off during the day with those thoughts in your head.

That is what your motivation is. Working towards accomplishing your every dream and heart’s desire in life. It can be done!!

But only if you let it. Only if you work towards it.

Discard the status quo. Discard society’s expectations of you following the traditional path. Dream you best dreams and go for those. And work towards them every day!

They’re worth it.

   

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The #1 Way to Accomplish Your Goals

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

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-Tony Robbins

 

Do you have goals?

Most people have goals – what we want, what we desire, what we know would be just be plain good for us, for our family, our community…

Exercise, organize the house, wake up earlier, learn something new,  etc.

 

Do you actively work towards them?

Do we always accomplish them? Not likely.

If goals were always accomplished, the human race would be productive mo fo’s!

But we’re not usually that way…

 

Why Not?

We all have our reasons. Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough resources. Not enough support. Not enough sleep. Not enough coffee.

 

The super-duper secret to working towards your goals?

Work towards your goal first. First time of the day, first before doing anything else, first first first!

I’ve had many aspirations in my life, and I’m pretty hard on myself when I don’t work towards them. So much so that I  get discouraged and feel bad about myself, and the whole thing actually starts inhibiting me in other areas of my life.

However, we can’t all accomplish every single whim that crosses our minds! There’s not enough hours in the day!

BUT what we can do, is prioritize, pick the biggest most important one, and work towards that. First thing in the day. Every day. Even if your don’t have much time, it’s still better than no time!

But what good does that do??

Because it creates progress. It creates momentum. It creates a daily ritual and habit of working on your goals. And I’m all about momentum and habit!

Once you get the habit of working daily on goals, it becomes automatic and it keeps it in your sites. Your mind stays focused on it, and whatever it is that you want so bad doesn’t fall by the wayside. Slow progress is still progress. Don’t put unnecessary or unrealistic time limits on anything (that just discourages progress). Just get into the habit of doing something every day.

Then guess what happens when we start doing that? We start meeting our goals. We start feeling better. We feel more accomplished. We feel motivated. We want to do more. We feel confident. We get more aspirations. Life gets grand!

 

Next Steps:

  1. Prioritize your goals (or make one if you don’t have one!)
  2. Choose which one would be the most beneficial in your life. Something that makes you feel ecstatic just thinking about
  3. Plan a time slot for working on it into your day. First thing in the morning is best, that way no matter what happens during the day, your goal doesn’t end up being cut out!
  4. Plaster motivational and reminder memos and pictures in places you see all the time. I’m talking monitors, fridges, mirrors and such
  5. Monitor your progress. If something isn’t working for you and you’re missing your daily goal times, review what’s happening and adjust as necessary!

 

   

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Quickies

 

Today’s topic is a quickie but a biggie.

Answer this – what makes you happy?

You should be able to answer this within a split second. You should be able to come up with *multiple* answers within a few seconds.

In fact, you should be able to keep listing off things in your head even while you’re reading these words.

If not, we need to fix that!

Try to think of whatever has made you happy in the past. Stuff you did, stuff you saw…. Ideas yet?

Nothing huge or drastic, I’m talking about the small pleasures in life. Quickies – like walks, talks, a song.

Find something that makes you happy, and do it. Do it now!!

Do something that makes you happy every day.

Humans in general don’t pay enough attention to ourselves.

Go and make sure to give yourself a quickie every day. Your soul will thank you!

 

So next steps, remember to:

do more of what makes you happy

   

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Are habits controlling your life?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle

 

I frequently write about simple, easy, efficient, or quick ways to change our lives.

The reason is this: if we can do something, anything, simple, short, easy, whatever, every day, then what happens is it becomes a habit.

Humans are creatures of habit

Therefore, if we want to change something about ourselves or our lives, what we need to do is either create a new habit, or get rid of an old one. I will talk about both, but usually people think in terms of creating new habits, so I discuss those more.

The good and the bad about habits

Habits very much define how our days go – productive/unproductive? Did you do everything you wanted to do? No? What happened?

I did what I always do every day instead

So there we have it. Instead of getting myself motivated and getting one of my goals done and out of the way, I fell into the routine of what I always do every day. Sound familiar?

That is why I am all about making things quick, simple, and easy! If we get into the habit of doing this quick easy thing every day, guess what happens? We’re productive, we cross something off our lists, we make progress towards something big. But most of all, we just made a habit of doing it! Which makes it automatic from then on to continue to do that same thing every day, and possibly even do it more. Progress is motivating, and motivation changes habits, and good habits make progress, and so on!

It’s a cycle habit

So we have to looks at our usual day-to-day routines. Are they full of good habits or bad ones? And by bad, I don’t even mean bad-bad. I just mean non-productive (watching too much TV) or just activities that aren’t working towards your higher goals (browsing Pinterest for five hours). Are your habits cycling your life towards what you want? No?

Let’s change that

Research shows  it takes at least two weeks to form a habit, and usually three or more. So then don’t try to change more than one thing at a time, else you most likely won’t

change anything. Work on one habit at a time that you want to add or change, and just do that one thing every day for a month. After you find yourself automatically doing tat one thing every day, you are ready to add a new habit. People tend to do too much all-or-nothing decision making. Life isn’t about all or nothing, life is about making progress towards something better. With progress, you will get there eventually.

TODO’s

  • Choose one habit you want to add to your life (preferably a positive one)
  • Make it as simple, easy, quick, and streamlined as possible. It needs to be something you are 100% sure you can do every day. Not 70% or even 90%, but 100% of the time. Nothing is too easy, don’t go big. This is about progress.
  • Choose the best time of day that you *know* you will be able to do it
  • Do it every day, no excuses. Excuses are also a habit 😉

 

Post it on your fridge, mark it on your calendar, create reminders on your phone. Do everything you can to not forget to do it, and to do it no matter what. Keep a log. If there is a day you miss (but I know you won’t!) write it in your log and write about why and what happened. Also write about how to prevent missing a day in the future.

You’ll be surprised at the results after a month!

   

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Be more fit in 5-minutes per day. Really!

“The first wealth is health.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

To piggyback on last week’s post, I’m going to talk about something that benefits everyone in every aspect of life, and it’s something everyone can do!

It has to do with fitness, and is actually weight training. Many people go straight cardio when they want to “get fit” but they’re not realizing the benefits of working out with weights and increasing muscle mass – increased caloric burn, increased metabolism, less aches and pains from atrophy, makes bones stronger (listening ladies??) and honestly I can do on for a long time about this!

I call them mini-sets. They are mini repetition sets of weight/working out repetitions.

They only take five minutes, and they go like this: choose two areas of your body you want to work on. The only requirement is that they need to be unrelated to each other. Like arms and legs, abs and legs, etc. Then switch off doing a set of repetitions with those two body parts, no rest in between!

An example would be:

  • A set of 15 reps of military presses (pushing weights from shoulder height till they touch each other above your head)
  • A set of 15 squats
  • Repeat the military presses
  • Squats
  • Military presses
  • Squats
  • Done!

This process takes 5 minutes or less. Do this once every other day (to give those muscles time to heal) and you will see improvements!

For the other days, you can pick two other muscle groups. Say biceps and abs. To maximize effort and time, try to use whole body movements.

Even with a routine as simple as this, you are still working out your entire body every week!

Crazy, right???

   

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