What Makes You Come Alive? Find Your Flow

flow heather edwards

I recently gave a speech at New York Toastmasters. The attendees were moved and asked me to post it online. It’s about integrating Mindfulness & Positive Psychology into your everyday life…. See the YouTube video here…

What makes you come alive? I mean really alive. When you feel the flow of energy moving in your body. When there’s excitement on a visceral level and a calling of your attention to a particular person, place, or activity.

It’s thrilling, calming, and you’re in love with the moment. Nothing else matters. Call it passion, finding your flow, or just plain fun.

Let’s go with flow. Let’s take a ride together.  Let’s explore wellness, the universe, and gratitude.

Flow heals you from the inside out. It reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. It increases serotonin, which helps regulate mood, memory, sleep, & body temperature.

It can reduce pain and inflammation. It increases energy and a sense of being mentally awake and capable.

It helps to improve relationships by developing shared, meaningful bonds with others. It makes you healthy, strong, and really alive!

When you experience flow, you’re free. You’re immersed in an activity, and feeling like you’re exactly where you’re meant to be…

There’s a lightness, completeness, and connection with someone or something outside yourself that transports you to a new place.

It’s an alignment of sorts. An experience of awe, wonder, and curiosity.  

You’re no longer in your head. You’re fully present in this moment – right here, right now, at the intersection of this time and place.

There is a novelty and oneness with the intricacies of the moment. One foot is planted firmly in the safe and familiar, and the other dips freely into the unknown, exploring uncertainty, & tempting vulnerability… You’re stretching.

Your senses are attuned. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your face and the weightlessness of the wind in your hair. You absorb the fresh life-giving oxygen of the flowers, trees, and mother earth with each breath. You’re awake, aware, alive! It’s sublime.

You feel connected to beauty & a wider purpose. You seem insignificant and immensely integral to this beautiful tapestry of life. You’re uniquely distinct from it and one with it, at the same time.

When you pan out to the universe and observe yourself in this world, the one that we know, you’re tiny, invisible even. Yet, without your presence here many things would be different. In that sense, You’re huge in this life to those around you. It’s all about perspective.

What connects you to something larger than yourself?

Whether it’s a country road & the low rumble of my Harley, the crispness of the glittering snow beneath my skis, or the thump of each excited foot step exploring unchartered territory, it reminds me of the preciousness of every breath.

The stillness of my meditation within the frenzied activity of New York City amplifies and soothes the chaos of everyday life.

It calls my attention to the details of everything around me – shapes, colors scents, sounds, textures, people & my interaction with them.

I notice the lull of the crashing waves in Fire Island, the grandeur of the NYC forrest of buildings, & the gentle smile on my husband’s face behind his handlebar mustache. It makes me grateful.

Gratitude and meditation have all the health benefits of flow plus developing regions of your brain responsible for kindness, compassion, & peace.

It creates a complete and total presence. It’s transcendent. It’s time passing without your knowing it.

Eleanor Roosevelt said – “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Try to live by that, at least once in awhile.

It makes you grow. It is living authentically to your fullest potential. It’s not merely surviving, it’s thriving at the pinnacle of existence.

When it both excites and frightens you, you need to pursue it. This is your life history in the making.

What excites you? What will you pursue?

Passion. FUN. Flow. Inspiration. Losing track of time. Getting lost in a person, place, or activity that awakens and nourishes you keeps you alive.

The latest research proves that flow develops healthy brain activity, supports learning and memory, and increases your overall health & resilience in the face of stress.

Laugh. Shout. Whisper. Love. Be. Here. Now. Live like you’re still alive!

I’ve taken you on this journey to inspire you to find the thing that connects you to your flow. Your life depends on it.

I’ll ask you again – what makes you come alive? Go do it.

Psychology Today – Getting Unstuck: Kick Starting Your Marriage

136048-136019This article is published in Psychology Today by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards.
When your relationship needs repair…
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Time to Kick-Start Your Marriage:It’s easy to get caught up in work, childcare, managing your home, and keeping up with bills. The day to day realities of adult life can be draining, and under these pressures, any relationship can atrophy.

Marriage Has Positive & Negative Cycles:

Most couples go through it. Communication breaks down, sexual intimacy becomes an after-thought, fun is infrequent, and empathy is a strain. Sometimes conflict and arguing escalates, or for others, the marriage starts failing as the couple resorts to living parallel lives. Either way, the negative cycle has replaced the life enhancing positive cycle that couples find when they turn love into an action verb.

Since the “D” word was not in your vocabulary when you got married, how can you flex and rebuild that svelte marriage muscle?

In this guest blog, Heather Edwards, a New York based therapist and life coach, lays out five ways to build positive energy back into your relationship.

Have Fun:

It sounds like the easy answer, but it’s always a good place to start.

Consider the ways you used to enjoy each other’s company. You used to play together. What did you enjoy doing most? Was it going to a concert, park, or favorite restaurant? Maybe it was taking a bike ride, getting a massage together, or walking on the beach. Whatever the activity, make a commitment to one new action that brings energy into your relationship. If being together feels stifling for you, it probably feels the same way for your spouse or partner. Any activity that doesn’t have some level of enjoyment in it will eventually be one you want to rid from your life. The same applies to your marriage. So start breathing fresh air into it!

Self Awareness:

Be aware of your needs.

What needs are not being met by your partner?  Respect, encouragement, acceptance, and trust are a few needs that can feel compromised when marriages break down. These higher-level needs are sometimes masked by the day to day gripes, nagging or avoidant behavior that can become commonplace. Recognize your own negative behaviors as destructive, not constructive, and question what need is suffering underneath it. That’s probably what’s motivating your bad behavior, not just the dirty socks on the floor. Consider ways to constructively express yourself.

Ending a negative cycle begins when you see what you are doing to each other.

Communicate:

Your partner is not a mind reader, nor does he or she have a crystal ball that will enlighten him or her.

That means it is up to you to say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you want your message to be heard in a non-defensive way, then you need to verbalize your thoughts and feelings in a way that is not blaming, judging, nor critical. Blaming and judging can lead to defensiveness and stonewalling. Criticism can lead to contempt and resentment—and that’s the negative cycle.

If what you want to build is openness, strength, and mutual support, then change the way you communicate. Rather than focusing your attention on your partners actions, focus on your experience of it. Own your feelings. Simply state what you feel when certain behaviors occur. Clearly and calmly ask for what you want. State, “I feel ___, because ___, and I want ___”.

Empathy:

Now that you’re aware of your true feelings, needs, and wants, consider your spouse’s experience of this problem.

All relationships experience power struggles. And, you know you are in one if either you or your partner needs to win at all costs. You may not always agree, but you need not make him or her feel stupid or crazy. When it’s about winning an argument, you both lose.

Hear the feelings words he or she is using. Notice the body language and requests made. Imagine how it feels to express oneself in the manner he or she is using. Practice walking in their shoes.  Check it out. It’s okay to let your spouse know that you recognize their struggle and that it’s real and valid. After all, you’re in this together, trying to find a way to live your lives better.

Intimacy:

Intimacy can be the barometer, or measure of pressure and change, in a relationship. Have you noticed your intimacy changing as stress, conflict, and detachment rise? Well, it’s an easy indicator that something is suffering badly and needs your attention. Identify the troubled areas in your marriage and apply all of the above interventions to them. Make improving your sex life with your spouse a priority.

Oxytocin, a bonding hormone that is released during sex, will bring you closer and increase warm, loving feelings toward each other. Just do it! Set aside time to nurture yourselves in this way.

Have fun reconnecting with each other!

5 SIMPLE TIPS TO RESTORE LIFE BALANCE

IMG_6354Lately it seems we’re obsessed with establishing balance in our lives.  The day to day rat race keeps us running in diametrically opposed directions from one moment to the next. When life feels off-kilter, whether its due to neglected or all-consuming life domains, we strive to re-balance ourselves and maintain a comfortable order.  Some of us desire more time with family and less time at work.  Some need time for self nurturing, and less time worrying about everyone else.  Some crave time for education and skill development instead of household chores.  The formula for balance may look quite different for everyone.  Regardless, the demands of daily life can leave us feeling exhausted and depleted.  No matter how it looks for you, at the end of the day, the satisfaction we seek is the same.  It’s an equilibrium.  A sense of peace.  Although it’s not straight forward, it is achievable.  It’s composition requires soul searching and personal exploration of values to clearly define its meaning.  Use these quick tips for assessing where your life is out of balance and how to restore its equilibrium.

1.  What are your top five priorities today?  Name the life domains that define you in this moment.  There is an emotional you.  There is a physical you.  There is a sexual, intellectual, professional, spiritual, recreational, and social you.  Are you attending to all the facets of your life that are you?  Take a few minutes to consider each of the roles and realms of your life that receive your attention, and those that don’t.  Give each a score from 1-10 representing how prominent they are in your life now.  Give them another score of 1-10 representing how you want them to rank in your life.  What do you notice when you compare your scores?  Does any area of your life need more time and attention?  Name one thing you can do today, or this week, to get closer to that comfortable balance.

2.  Recognize feelings as sensory cues to the kind of changes you want to make.   If you’re feeling an urgency to devote time to an area of your life that’s been neglected, then get started!  Listen to your feelings.  This is a valuable source of information about what’s important to you. It’s the voice of your values.  It may be the key that unlocks the answers to achieving that sense of satisfaction.

3.  Take an inventory of your daily activities.  Write down how you spend your time.  What do you notice?  Are some areas of your life consuming more of your time and energy than others?  Is there an opportunity to change that distribution of your time?  Is there wasted time?  Once you’ve acknowledged how you’re spending your time each day, you can make adjustments based on what you need to be doing.  Schedule your time and stick to it.  

4.  Ask for help.  Don’t be afraid to delegate.  Identify chores, tasks, and activities that you can share with your partner, spouse, or children to free up time for yourself.   Devote newfound time to the neglected areas of your life.  Most often, they’re the self care realms of life.  Is there a class you want to take, a book you want to read, or a sport, instrument, or language you want to learn?  Be creative in finding the time and resources to make it happen.  The happier and more balanced you feel, the better you’ll be at fulfilling the roles and responsibilities to which you are accountable.

5.  Manage stress.  Stress is an implicit part of life.  In moderation, it’s what keeps us going.  When it’s overwhelming, it can be stifling.  Find ways to reduce your stress by reducing your number of daily tasks and do something nice for yourself.  Stop multitasking.  Slow down.  Turn off the television and log out of your computer.  Take a bubble bath, go for a walk, have dinner with a friend.   Exercise a few times each week.  Get rest.  Breathe.  You deserve to have fun and relax.  One could argue you need it in order to be your best at the myriad of roles you play in life.

Make Summertime Work for You

The official start of summer is almost here.  And unless you plan it well, in the blink of an eye, it’s gone! Here in the Northeast, we only get a few months of warmth, sunshine, and extended daylight hours. This has proven to improve mood, lower anxiety, and increase energy levels.   How can you be sure to maximize the energy boost you get from the glorious sunlight and vitamin D?

It’s easy if you stay organized.  Plan your summer from the start.   Name your priorities.  What do you want to accomplish?  Is it family time?  Taking a vacation?  Home improvement projects?  Building your career or business?  Enjoying the outdoors? Reconnecting with friends?

Get out your day planner and schedule your summer.  Give yourself deadlines for completing important tasks or planning a vacation.  Is there a concert you don’t want to miss?  Is there a friend you’re overdue to visit?  You’ll be surprised how quickly the weekends fill up!  There are tons of tools online for staying organized.  Here is one example…  http://www.keepandshare.com/htm/calendars/free_printable_day_planner.php

Keep focused on career goals.  FInd a networking group to join on-line or in-person.   Commit to specific times and dates for important phone calls and meetings, personal goals for productivity,  and performance of your job.  Be creative in finding ways to enjoy your work while maintaining a healthy balance with fun.

Get outside.  There is evidence that suggests that not only sunshine, but soil improves mood and increases relaxation.  Take a walk in a park, do some gardening, connect with nature.  The bacteria in soil can actually make you feel better by effecting your serotonin levels. http://www.hortmag.com/blogs/gardening-blog/dirt-can-make-you-happy

Be in the moment.  Notice the beauty in your surroundings.  What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel?  Tune in to each of your five senses.  Appreciate them.  Now that you have your summer planned and on track, feel free to relax and enjoy each breath.