Recently, I had the opportunity to take a small group of uniquely inspired ladies on a retreat at the Keys Creek Lavender Farm, out in the country setting of Valley Center– which is about 30 miles from San Diego, CA. In this space known for growing, healing and well-being, we spent the day focusing on and celebrating “The Self”. We weren’t cultivating conceit, self-righteousness or self-absorption. What we were doing was finally giving ourselves permission to treat us the way we treat others in life… with love, kindness and compassion. Spending time to focus on ourselves is not commonly encouraged in our western culture, where to get ahead (and sometimes just to make ends meet) we work the extra hours doing as much as we can, in addition to taking care of those around us, and responding to their needs– be it our significant others, children, parents, pets, etc…. As women of the 21st century, we are conditioned to do it all: juggling work, family and home life. We rinse and repeat these conditions all the time. Given that there are only 24 hours in a day, sometimes we run out of time to do it all, and find ourselves stressed out, burned out and most of all– out of balance.
It’s All About the Selfie Retreat allowed these women to regain balance and well-being, and give themselves the care they need. They had the opportunity to slow down and experience life focusing on the present moment. They asked themselves questions like “Who am I?” and “What do I need?” They did this through various reflective exercises, mindful meditations and intentional activities that supported savoring the moment and experiences. They participated in strengths finding, walking meditation, mindful yoga, mindful eating (nourishing themselves with purpose), sending loving-kindness to their loved ones, themselves and the world, and mindful self-talk—applying self-compassion techniques to cultivate both positive emotion and to use as coping tools when things don’t go as planned.
There’s not enough time and space to describe the full retreat in one post, so I’ve broken the day down into a few posts with this being installation #1. By the way, The Selfie Retreat is a staple service of BeingMerry.com, and is scheduled to happen at least once per calendar quarter. For this post, I’d like to focus on the mindful walking meditations that promoted self-love, self-care and gratitude.
Mindful Walking Meditation
We held a few different perspectives during our walking meditation, where we either focused or opened our awareness intentionally as we moved through nature, from a vintage barn setting where the ceiling was covered with bunches of drying lavender, to the labyrinth space where a magnificent crystal sits at the center. We initially focused our awareness on the sensations of walking – noticing the sensations in our leg muscles moving us through this space, the functioning of our joints supporting our bones, and our feet touching the ground and propelling us forward. We also focused our attention on our breathing—the intake of air at our nostrils, the releasing of stress in our exhale, the rising and falling of our chests or abdomens, and the opening of our hearts as we took in all of these sensations. We were aware of feeling of gratitude inside ourselves, for the ability to walk, breathe and exist without too much difficulty in those moments.
Our focus of awareness shifted once we reached the rock-lined labyrinth. These structures are unlike mazes as they have only one starting and ending point, which are one in the same. Labyrinths have been used throughout history in many cultures and over many centuries as a symbol of one’s spiritual journey, among other things. As we slowly walked through the labyrinth, we contemplated our life’s own journey, accepting all that we have gone through that has led us here to this moment. Sometimes the difficult times we experience are hard to accept, however, if we reframe those times and look for the silver linings (the lessons we learned as a result of those hard times), we see that without both the good and the bad times, we would not be exactly where we are today.
We ended our walk with an open awareness meditation, sensing and savoring our surroundings. In this type of meditation, we are encouraged to notice everything around us employing as many senses as we can. We notice the strength and temperature of both the breeze and the sun on our skin, as well as the aroma of the sweet lavender and fresh outdoors, and finally the songs of the birds chirping nearby and the sound of feet shuffle along the dirt path. Looking at the trees we pass, we notice the texture of the bark and the shape and color of the leaves with all their gradients. We are aware of our feet on the dirt path, and realize that many before us have walked this way as well. We may feel a sense of common humanity—being a part of something much bigger than ourselves. We feel a sense of awe and gratitude for life itself—all around us, and the ability to be a part of it. We realize that we are so very blessed.
How will you take time for yourself today? Trying going for a walk in nature.
But don’t take my word for it… try a walking meditation for yourself. Focus your awareness on your bodily sensations, or open it up to nature and the world, noticing all her splendid details. Try one perspective and then the other. Explore which twist of mindful walking resonates with you. There are other things you can think about (or sense) on a mindful walk (in each step “you arrive”, in each step “you are home”—Thich Nhat Hahn encourages this perspective). The main point is that you focus your awareness, or open it up. When you find your mind wandering, as it will during meditations, just bring it back kindly to the object of your focus or intention. This kind of slowing down, and focusing or opening does not only change your body (giving it a break from the crazy running around many of us do), but also your brain (rewiring the stress response) and spirit (responding with awe and offering gratitude) as well. Try it as your-SELFIE just may thank you for it!
It’s “the most wonderful time of the year” again, when emphasis is placed on giving gifts to our loved ones to acknowledge our relationships and to keep the connections going. This holiday, my gift to my readers is sharing tips on how to give gifts of happiness with all, as recommended by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. These folks know what they are talking about as they study what makes a meaningful life. Great suggestions to put into practice… your social connections are sure to be strengthened by them… Enjoy and be sure to make yours merry!
Five Ways to Get the Gift Right! by the Greater Good Science Center!
photo creds: http://www.flower-arrangement-advisor.com/
It’s so interesting how the concept of mindfulness is springing up everywhere… and for a good reason. Mindfulness is so beneficial in so many ways; it helps us slow down, focus our attention, be present in the moment, tune into what is happening in our bodies and accept what is without judgement. It involves quieting our mind’s chatter (ruminations over past actions/behaviors, and worries about what tomorrow holds), and taking a “time-in” to connect with ourselves by observing how our body is responding in that moment, and savoring or acknowledging what is.
Mindfulness can be cultivated over time with practice and has tremendous benefits for our mind, body, spirit and relationships with others! The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley lists many benefits that result from practicing mindfulness. To list a few, they report mindfulness:
- boosts our immune system’s ability to fight off illness,
- improves our ability to focus affecting our memory and attention skills,
- reduces anger, anxiety, stress and depression,
- reduces symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,
- increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
- increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions–may be as good as antidepressants in fighting depression and preventing relapse,
- increases compassion, and self-compassion as well.
See their full list of benefits on their Mindfulness page.
Mindful.org is an online community dedicated to sharing the best of mindfulness-based practices, and is part of the “Mindful Initiative”, celebrating all things mindful in daily life. Additionally, mindfulness training, research and practice centers are popping up all around the country. Some centers are affiliated with universities such as The Center for Mindfulness at UCSD, and UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, while others are private practices where mindfulness trained professionals, such as therapists and life coaches, offer classes, workshops and retreats to get you started on incorporating mindfulness into your life. Businesses, schools, and the general public are now being targeted for specific applications such as stress reduction, eating, parenting, exercising, and relationships to name a few. The bottom line is that mindfulness is good for you and everything you do– from just basic existing to existing with flair, vitality and purpose. Furthermore, mindfulness encourages and increases our ability for compassion… which improves our connections with others and ultimately our life satisfaction.
Below I offer a couple of Mindfulness applications that can help you focus, attend to the here and now and cultivate compassion all at the same time. Try one out for yourself and let me know what resonated with you. Not everyone can quiet their chatting mind quickly… for most people it takes time and practice to cultivate mindfulness, and if it seems like it is not working one day for you, try it on another day, it may work then. The applications listed below are the basics that can get you started…
Mindful Breathing Meditation
Mindful breathing is one way to regulate our body’s response to stress and calm us down. This is one main component of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program created by Jon Kabat-Zin and taught in many institutions around the world. The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego is one of my favorite places for mindfulness training.
Steps for Mindful Breathing:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your feet grounded on the floor, and try to have your back straight. You can also do this meditation laying down.
- Close your eyes, or focus on something that allows you to drop your head to a low gaze, and take 3 deep breaths.
- On the inhale, take in the air through your nose as you count silently to 4. Feel the air rushing into your body as your chest and lungs begin to expand.
- On the exhale, let the air (or carbon dioxide) out through your mouth as you count silently to 6 or 8. Feel your chest contract and your belly rise as you let the air out.
- After 3 deep breaths this way, return to a normal breathing pattern but continue to focus on your breath feeling the sensations associated with the process.
- Notice how your body feels as you are taking in the air and the renewal that is happening in your body.
- Notice how your body feels as you let air out, disposing with the waste of what is no longer needed.
- Focus on your breath for 3-5 minutes. Many people are able to increase that time up to 20 minutes or more. Think of it as a way to connect with your body on the most basic level and reconnect with calmness.
- If/when your mind wanders (and for most of us, it does a lot), and you are no longer attending to your breath, acknowledge what you are thinking about something, and gently bring your focus back to your breath at your belly.
- Set a timer for your meditation goal, and one it goes off, return to your normal state, but notice if you feel like your heart has opened up. For many, that is the result we feel after this type of meditation.
Mindful Eating-savoring Meditation
Slowing down to eat has great benefits for our bodies and minds alike. Many people don’t think twice about when and where they are eating, and how they are eating. Many of us just shovel food into our mouths without thinking twice. Some people stand to eat, while others mindlessly watch TV and eat. According to an article, “The Surprising Benefits of Mindful Eating,” by Dr. Susan Albers some benefits found with mindful eating include:
- reduces overeating and binge eating,
- improves weight loss and reduce your body mass index (BMI)
- helps ability to cope with chronic eating problems such as anorexia and bulimia, and reduce anxious thoughts about food and your body, and
- improves the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.
Steps for Mindful Eating:
So how do you eat mindfully? By just slowing down the whole process of eating, step by step.
- Select a piece of food that you desire. Try a few strawberries or a slice of orange; a piece of cheese or even chocolate– whatever your body is asking for.
- Notice the unique characteristics of the food; the color, the smell, the texture, the shape, the density, the flavor.
- Savor each unique characteristic as much as you can with each of your senses; is the color deeper in one area than another? does the texture change, does the flavor change from once you put it in your mouth, to when you finish chewing?
- Put the food into your mouth and put your spoon or fork down.
- Chew each bite of food completely and swallow before embarking on another bite. Some suggest to chew each bite at least 20 times.
- Take a moment to rest in between bites to savor even more.
- Notice how your body is responding to the nourishment. Depending on how much you have eaten, are you feeling fuller?
- This next step does step out of the power of “now”, but offers opportunities to show gratitude. Before you embark on another bite, think about everyone who was involved in getting that particular food to your door, to your table. Send gratitude to the farmers who may have cultivated the food you are eating. Those who tended to the food, who prepared the food for baking, eating, etc., who cooked the food if applicable, who enabled you to buy the food. The list can be very long depending on what type of food you are mindfully eating and savoring.
- As you take your next bite, start the process over again, and this time again sense the food with as many senses as you can as you are eating it. The more you sense, the more you can savor and reflect back on with gratitude.
- Repeat taking time with each step– selecting the bite, observing the food, sensing the food, chewing and swallowing, and giving thanks. Soon, you will realize that you may not be as hungry as you thought… with a little time, our bodies catch up with our brain and overeating could be a think of the past!
Let me know what you think of these meditations and applications for mindfulness. More information can be found in the Resources section of this website. Just think what life would be like if we lived our days being mindful. If you would like some guidance stepping into Mindfulness, send me an email and we’ll get you started!
In June of 2012, The United Nations declared March 20th the International Day of Happiness. They proclaimed that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, and invited the world to observe the day AND become involved in education and awareness-raising activities.
So, this site/blog post is one my of awareness-raising activities (not just for one day, but for all days). Because I teach and study The Science of Happiness and am a Well-being Coach, this day means a lot to me. Globally, it invites us all to INTENTIONALLY put goodness out there into the world. And science shows that goodness has a ripple effect on other people. What vibe will our planet give off that day when we spread the word and kindness to everyone we know, globally?
On another note, my sixteen year old daughter asked, “Why can’t every day be Happiness Day?” Good question Bailey. Why indeed cannot every day be Happiness Day? Well, every day can be a day we choose happiness. But what does that mean? What is happiness, after all? It’s a right and something we can pursue, as noted by our forefathers in the Declaration of Independence. But, as Will Smith’s character Chris Gardner in the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness asks, “Can we ever attain happiness?”
Another question to ask is what does happiness mean to you? (Pharrell Williams gives us some suggestions– which you may want to clap along with;))
Humans have been trying to answer this question for more than 2,000 years. From the Greek philosophers (Epicurus and Aristotle respectively), two definitions surfaced. The first is Hedonic Happiness which focuses on maximizing pleasure and feeling good. Many people still see happiness this way today, as always laughing, smiling, being joyful and in search of pleasure. This view of happiness is sometimes seen as self-centered, but it is a part of the self that needs to attended to, for everyone wants to feel good. And when we feel good, we do good. And that goodness is contagious. Which brings us to a second view of Happiness.
A second definition is Eudemonic Happiness, which emphasizes living by virtues and functioning well in areas that are not tied to physical or personal pleasures. Living well by doing good, and contributing something back to the greater good– to an entity bigger than ourselves.
In The Happiness Journey, we learn that scientist Corey Keyes took these two ideas and blended it with a third to define a new kind of happy, called “flourishing,” which is defined as feeling good and functioning well both socially and personally. This view on happiness really looks at the holistic beings that we all are, and considers our mental and physical health and our connections to each other and to the world at large.
Still, other religious experts have contributed more meanings for happiness. Buddha notes that Happiness is moving away from suffering. The Dalai Lama states that happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from our own actions, and if we want others to be happy, we need to practice compassion. In addition, if we want to be happy, we need to practice compassion. Another well-known spiritual teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, notes that true happiness is based on peace.
All religions have their view on happiness. But which view of happiness will you celebrate March 20th? You can follow Epicurus’ words along with Thich Nhat Hanh, and do something for yourself that brings you peace and positive emotion. You can follow Aristotle and the Dalai Lama, and do something with integrity for the goodness of yourself AND others. You can follow Keyes’ definition and do all of the above and more.
Whatever you do, just do something INTENTIONALLY… acknowledge something good in life, in your life, and in the world. Be grateful that you have the ability to choose, and YOUR choice can influence your own and other’s happiness greatly!
Be sure to check back on March 20th for some suggestions on how you can increase your happiness– and it won’t cost you a thing!
(If you are interested in knowing more about Flourishing, consider taking The Happiness Journey).
Time for a post as I finish up teaching a couple of courses of The Happiness Journey, through Hapacus, and continue on with the class that I am taking which I wrote about previously, Love 2.0 with Barbara Fredrickson. It has been a juggling act, teaching, coaching, learning and living life with all the conditions I’ve built into it (family, kids, responsibilities, etc…). On the bright side, I am managing a fairly stressful load by CHOOSING to build positive emotions into my daily diet. As I teach the Happiness Journey, I remind my students and myself that happiness is only one emotion they can choose. There are a host of other positive emotions they can access if they need a lift out of a blue mood, which could be more conducive to actually lifting them up. And these positive emotions can lead to others as well, leading to an upward spiral.
So what are the other positive emotions from which we can choose?
There are at least ten positive emotions that you can call on and cultivate at any time. There are many more, but ten show up in many positive psychology studies. In another one of Barbara Fredrickson’s books, Positivity, she calls them out in order from the most often occurring:
- Joy (happiness)
and as suggested by another researcher, Kristen Neff,
I included this last positive emotion out after reading quite a bit on the subject as well. I would definitely add it to the top of my list… from which to cultivate at any time… especially for a busy working mom in this day and age. One of my favorites, besides love (and kindness), is gratitude which I hope to really savor and talk about more in November.
Can we really CHOOSE to feel positive emotion? And why are positive emotions important?
The homework for the Love 2.0 class involves revisiting Positivity fully. This book has reminded me of the key concepts about positive emotions in general, and YES, how choosing them intentionally can produce great benefits psychologically, physically and socially. This is one reason why they are so important. Here are some other key concepts worth knowing about:
- You can choose positive emotions by noting HOW you interpret events and ideas AS they unfold (and AFTER they unfold as well).
- We need 3 positive emotions/encounters for every 1 negative emotion felt– to enable us to flourish. (some are challenging this ratio right now– but considering many people have a ratio of 0 to 1 or 1 to 1, 3 to 1 can make a dramatic difference in life satisfaction levels, on a whole).
- Letting positive emotion linger will bring more health benefits.
- Positive emotions encourage positive spirals all around you, i.e., one positive emotion can lead to the others.
- Those who WITNESS positive emotions will feel more inspired and uplifted and are more likely to engage in positive emotion themselves.
- Positive emotions can help you broaden your physical and psychological outlook and build your life with more possibilities in a real physiological way.
- People who have a high positivity ratio live on the average 10 years longer than those who don’t. They also get sick less often and are able to bounce back from health and psychological setbacks more effectively and at a faster rate.
- Positivity is contagious.
This last point is pretty big. Your good mood influences how you interact with those around you, who adjust how they interact with those around them, and so on and so forth. This is a stellar example of how you can really “Be the Change You want to See in the World,” as Gandhi quoted years ago.
How can I choose and cultivate positive emotion?
There are many ways to cultivate positive emotion. As noted above, you can choose positive emotions by noting HOW you interpret events and ideas (and the meaning you assign them– The Happiness Journey addresses this concept through explanatory styles).
You can also choose intentional activities like:
- Connecting with nature (through sounds, sights, smells, touch)– by being outdoors or with animals/creature. Nature can inspire you, remind you that you’re part of a bigger picture (humble/awe you), and in return you may display gratitude and love for allowing this connection.
- Connecting with others– by showing interest, being curious, being kind or helping, When you help someone, you externalize your positivity and it moves between you and another person like a dance… adding more possibilities for goodness in the world.
- Opening your mind — by focusing on the present moment and finding the positive meaning in the situation. At any time, ask yourself in any given moment, “What is right here? What can I celebrate?” Or on a different note, dream about the future… anticipate an event in which you can plan and savor, and replay in your mind at a later date.
- Opening your heart– by savoring goodness, counting your blessings and following your passion. For any of the emotions or methods above, ask yourself, “When was the last time I felt this feeling? Can I think of other triggers that can produce these feelings? What can I do now to cultivate these feelings?”
There are many other methods you can employ to cultivate and choose positive emotions. If you would like to grow your repertoire/library, and learning about new tools that can help you increase your positive emotion, please email/contact me at any time.
What We Focus on Grows
Now that you know what positive emotions are, how they can benefit us and how we can choose them, what positive emotion will you CHOOSE to focus on today? Do it for today, tomorrow and if you can– everyday– and your heart, your mind and your body will thank you in years to come!
The topic of strengths, specifically character strengths, is getting a lot of airplay these days especially in the fields of Positive Psychology, Positive Education and Business as well. Positive Psychology identifies character strengths as the 24 traits (derived from 6 common core) seen in human beings across cultures and time– that are universal to the human experience. These traits or strengths are values you embody that help make you who you are- they reside inside and are pretty stable over time. Researchers, educators, employers and now the general public are starting to realize that focusing and building on such strengths, rather than weaknesses, can make for a happier, meaningful life in which you are engage and living more optimally. Also, using strengths in times of adversity or conflict can also help us cope better with the situation and progress on to a resolution.
The VIA (Values in Action) Institute studies and assists people in identifying and using strengths– doing so for over a decade now. They offer online assessment tools — some are free– for individuals to discover their strengths so that they may use them in all aspects of their lives, from working and learning, to interacting and existing. Here are a few reported research findings taken directly from the VIA Website:
- Using one’s signature strengths in a new way increased happiness and decreased depression for 6 months (Gander, Proyer, Ruch, & Wyss, 2012).
- The use of signature strengths elevates individuals’ harmonious passion (i.e., doing activities that are freely chosen without constraints, are highly important, and part of the individual’s identity). This then leads to higher well-being (Forest et al., 2012).
- Among youth, the use of signature strengths in novel ways along with personally meaningful goal-setting led to increases in student engagement and hope (Madden, Green, & Grant, 2011).
- A qualitative study examined the use of VIA strengths by women in the workplace and found that in all cases, strengths led to a “virtuous circle” in which the strengths use helped them overcome obstacles that had impeded strengths use. All subjects derived unique value from using character strengths at work (Elson & Boniwell, 2011).
- Employees who used four or more of their signature strengths had more positive work experiences and work-as-a-calling than those who expressed less than four (Harzer & Ruch, 2012a).
If you’re interested in identifying your strengths and taking the assessment tool, go to VIA Me. The test is 120 questions– and may take 10 or so minutes. They also have a free assessment tool for kids, to understand their strengths for the same reason; build them up to make life more happy and get through challenges more successfully. Both are free tools, with reports that follow that call out your top 5 strengths and introduce you to ways you can use them to get more from life.
I took the VIA Me test– 2 times this year. My findings did not change between those times, and they did not surprise me. My signature or top 5 strengths include love of learning, creativity, curiosity, appreciating beauty and excellence, and gratitude. What did surprise me was the suggestion to use those strengths in novel ways, and to use them to get through difficult times. It works… when met with some recent obstacles, I reflected back on my strength to figure out solutions. Especially the strength of creativity. I would ask myself is there a creative solution here? When I started to lose interest in something that has interested me in the past (like exercise routines), I used my strengths in new ways, and my interest returned (this relates to a term in positive psychology called hedonic adaptation… something we all do whether we want to or not–i.e. lose interest after a while).
I also had two of my children take the test (the 3rd will do so soon), and the results surprised me a bit. Knowing their strengths has helped me relate to them better; for I call out a strength when I see it and celebrate it. This kind of exercise not only helps me with being grateful that they possess such strengths, but it also helps them too… realize the strength and feel good about having that quality as a part of themselves– which increases self-esteem and happiness in general.
So, now that you know (in a nutshell) what strengths are, are you willing to give it a shot and check out yours? I’m telling ya, you’ll be glad you did!
If you’d like some help with this process or would like to talk more about it, just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wow! Could it be? A whole year and some has passed since my last entry into the bloggosphere, and so much has happened I cannot believe I did not write about it. But that’s okay. I’ll forgive myself and get on to reflecting and sharing now.
My last entry involved slowing down, smelling the roses and being grateful. Previously, I also wrote about Random Acts of Kindness and Self-compassion. What I was beginning to realize at that time was that my interest in psychology was resurrected, and a new focus on positive aspects was blooming. Now I’ve come to understand this field as Positive Psychology, and I have begun to immerse myself in it 110%
A New Perspective from which to Write
I’m committing to make this field and new perspective a central part of my life; going back to school and training as a Life Coach, with an emphasis on applying positive psychology findings to help people flourish. I found positive psychology on my own, and the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA), which lead me to the 3rd World Congress on Positive Psychology this past June (2013). From that experience, I found Mentor Coach.com, and Master Classes and lectures with the big hitters in the field, and I am very grateful to be able to learn and grow from all these resources around me. And I am preparing to give back… sharing some neat concepts that are scientifically based to increase well-being, positive emotion and life satisfaction. All this through this blog, and through Happiness and Well-being Workshops that I hope to facilitate in the near future.
One concept I would like to focus on today is the power of savoring. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley defines savoring as “the concept that being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings during positive events can increase happiness in the short and long run.” However, further elaborated on by various scholars at the IPPA conference we find three types of savoring: retrospective (past events), concurrent (present events) and prospective (future events). Add one more variable to the concept, relational savoring (done with another person to enhance your present relationship) and you’ve got a recipe for increasing positive emotion in your life, aka, happiness, which affects your well-being on many levels (prolongs your life, reduces illness and stress and a whole lotta other benefits) all from the concept of savoring.
Examples of Savoring
I’ve built a savoring album on Facebook. It holds many memories– many that involve nature and loved ones– that I wish to savor– and savor with others. When I savor retrospectively, I think back on that time in that moment… trying to remember how the atmosphere felt; what my senses remember hearing, seeing, smelling, touching. If there was a loved on involved, I try to remember the interactions of the time and really dig deep to try to remember how I felt. The picture below is from my savoring album. I took it on a walk I went on a couple of weeks ago. The morning was fresh, the grass smelled like it had just been groomed. The sky was beginning to show it’s face, having woken up from a restful night’s slumber. The hills in the distant were crisp, and I was thankful for these conditions. And I was also grateful that my knee (which does not have an ACL) was working, as were my other body systems, and I was happy. I felt blessed then, as I do right now, reliving it. Sooooo thankful for the weather here in San Diego… and being able to live here to experience it.
Currently, I sit here at my desk typing this post, with double french doors open to our courtyard that holds nature in place– plants such as giant birds of paradise, palm trees and other plants. I feel a slight breeze blow through the door opening and see the greenery reachable by a small walk. I close my eyes and hear the sound of birds chirping. I look and see giant leaves swaying just a bit by the breeze. What I smell is freshness– in the air and to the start to the day. I feel blessed to have this moment. (so quiet… especially since the kids are sleeping in since it’s the last Friday before school starts!).
Prosepectively, I am savoring a day to spend with my kids…. just to be. Since this is the last friday of Summer, I told them we would “play hookey” and do something fun all day. This is very much out of our norm, since everyday- even in the summer- involves chores and responsibilities. Today, we will take a day off from those things– and just be with each other. I’ve given them some options on how to spend the day. I will wake them after posting this entry (because it’s 9:45am– that is plenty of time for a 16, 14 and 10 year old to sleep in), and check in to see where today will take us. I know this is our last summer with a 16, 14 and 10 year old. Next summer, they will be 17, 15 and 11. And I also will be a year old. Who knows what will happen in the coming year? Hopefully opportunities for growth… for us all. But for now, we will appreciate the day ahead of us. What a blessing it will be.
One of my favorite books as of lately is “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. The author offers a few practical activities that involve savoring, worth checking out. One that I talk about above that is helping me remember and relive special moments is the savoring album. Today, I challenge you to do some savoring of your own. Create an online album, or even better, go through your older albums from years ago– when they weren’t digital. Try to think back to those moments. How was life different then? What didn’t you know, that you know now? What things brought the sparkle to your eye? What things held your interest? Take a moment and relive. Science shows, when you relive a special moment you build positive emotion, which builds resilience, and eventually a longer, happier life… one built on flourishing!
February 14th. What better day to celebrate love and kindness in the world (besides on your own birthday) than on Valentine’s Day? Last night I spent some time writing words of love to my husband and family. Today I presented those words to them, and found it put me on a path of love for the day; on a gentler road. What if we started all our days like that? What if the world started all their days with loving words and compliments? What a changed world we would see– one of pure compassion. Makes me want to try to start every day this way. It does take time and effort, but it’s well worth it.
Words that Matter
Last night I also helped my 9-year-old daughter with her Valentines. She has moved away from store-bought valentine’s for a few years now, and prefers to make them herself. Last year she made bookmark valentines. This year it was even more simple: a piece of paper cut out like a heart (with butterflies printed on it– as her school’s mascot is the Monarch), a complimentary sentence, and a lollypop attached. She made these by herself, stamping names onto the heart, adding a scrolling glittery decoration as well, and composed each compliment. I loved reading what she thought of her classmates: “You are creative,” You are a good friend,” You are generous,” You are good at math.” On and on and on she went. How wonderful for these kids to have those words to go back to whenever they need a little lift. She made me a card, and her father, brother and sister one as well. I love her warm spirit and seeing the good in other people. I just wished she would see more of the good spirit in herself, every day.
Words for Thy Self
Though my youngest has a complimentary spirit toward others, she does not have one towards herself. Unfortunately, she is always comparing herself to others; but only in the areas in which she is lacking. She constantly replays tapes of negativity about herself. Where she’s heard this information from, I’m not sure. But I want to put an end to it. So, this month we’ve started an experiment using daily self-affirmations. I saw an interview this Fall on Oprah’s Lifeclass , “You Become What You Believe,” with Cheryl Richardson— a life coach, author and expert on self-care. On Cheryl’s website she states:
- “Self-care is good for the planet. From years of personal experience, as well as coaching great men and women, I’ve come to understand that selfishness leads to selflessness. When we care deeply for ourselves, we naturally begin to care for others – our families, our friends, our greater global community, and the environment – in a healthier and more effective way.”
During her interview with Oprah, Cheryl recommended– to improve your self-image– saying positive daily affirmations for 30 days to turn your attitude around from a half-empty to half-full perspective. Her thinking– shared by many– is that we need to retrain our brain to thinking we are what we intend, and then we will act accordingly. Repeating this process (saying an affirmation everyday) allows the brain to strengthen associations, making this an exercise of the brain as well. Self-fulfilling prophecy is in volumes of psychological research, and still exists after all these years, even though we know our mind can trick us into believing anything really. Cheryl recommends breaking away from old habits of self-doubt and into new habits of self-love. If we can trick our brains into believing the worst about ourselves and then acting to make that belief true, we are then able to trick our brains to believing the best about ourselves, and then acting to make THAT belief true. What I am talking about here is directly tied into self-compassion and self-kindness that I posted about previously.
Daily Self-Affirmation Resources
Below is a list of resources that I use for daily self-affirmations; little reminders that life is positive and we are up for the challenge. Take a look. Some are print based and others are electronic. The great thing is that they are available to all– and can help lead us in the right direction– the direction of self-love.
- Cheryl Richardson shares a list of affirmations on Oprah.com.
- Another source I go to– or one that comes to me in my inbox via email is from Owning Kristina. It’s called “Mojo Mondays” and it’s a way to start your week off thinking about something healthy… for yourself.
- Louise Hay, a motivational author and founder of Hay House Publications also promotes daily affirmations.
- I found a nice app recently for the iPhone. An Affirmations app that has numerous positive affirmations for all to practice, all at your finger tips. Worth checking out.
- Facebook has a Positive Affirmations page as well, with new posts daily.
Which ever source you choose to pull from, the point is– just be kinder to yourself and to do so, you need to believe in yourself fully.
Wishing everyone a lovely Valentine’s day full of kindness in any form!