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: 5 Ways to Happiness

Heather Edwards Happiness Psychotherapist CoachTime to get inspired. 5 Ways to Happiness.

This Psychology Today piece is by guest blogger: Heather Edwards. It is meant as wind behind your sails. It’s poetry, an action plan and modeling.

And, yes, it’s time to get going.

——–

Throughout the years, people have asked me how I do the intensive work that I do. This question perplexes me. I wonder the opposite.

How could I not do what I do?

Power Of Inspiration:

I am inspired by the healing, wanting, dreaming, changing, and transforming that happens in the therapy and coaching room everyday.

The person who leaves my office is not the same person who entered it 45 minutes earlier. They have a new insight, idea, peace, or focus to carry with them into the world.

Yes, it is sometimes difficult work. And it is always challenging. It ebbs and flows. But when you meet someone where they are — whether it’s a high point or low one — it validates them. It invites them to go somewhere else – somewhere better with you.

The Art Of Listening:

Non-judgment. Open awareness. Empathy. Compassion. Belief. That’s what I bring to the room.

Sure, I have a toolkit of therapy and coaching techniques, but those are rendered useless without the former as a foundation. With Carl Rogers as my teacher, I learned how to listen. When you truly hear someone, you can help someone.

Manifest Positive Intentions:

My mother is a birdwatcher, wildlife painter, and lover of life, family, and friends. I consider myself to be very similar in my passions. I’m not in the woods with binoculars, or in my artist studio with a paintbrush, but I’m in my office with eager people ready to stretch their wings and fly. They want to create. They want freedom. They want joy, purpose, and relevance. So do I.

It’s exhilarating, unpredictable, and yet, grounding.

Stay Grounded:

Trust. Authenticity. Courage. Hope. Intention. Abundance. Expansion. That’s what happens in the therapy and coaching room. It’s moving. It’s life changing. It’s what keeps me there and invites me back.

Balance:

Two sides of the same coin… Frustration/Hope…  Sorrow/Love…  Fear/Safety… And so on…  Spin it however you want. Whichever side of that coin faces up when the spinning stops, remember its source. A positive place, a wanting of light.

Embrace what you want.

Go deep down inside your gut.

Live. Love. Glow. Give.

Gratitude. Abundance. Positivity.

Believe in it. Embody it. Make it your truth.

 

Photo Source: iStock

3 Ways to Make the Law of Attraction Work for You

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach


Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and CoachYou got the inside scoop on The Secret.

You know that horrible dream where you’re in class and its exam day but you forgot to attend school all semester? You’re in a panic because you’re not prepared!  Well, you might feel panic now as you realize The Secret, on its own, doesn’t work. The universe isn’t manifesting your dreams without a little kick.

The Law of Attraction isn’t enough.

Hello, universe! You practice the Law of Attraction everyday – wishing, meditating, praying.  But you’re intentions haven’t manifested!  Well, it’s not surprising. What the experts didn’t tell you is that the Law of Attraction is only part of the better-life-equation.

There is power in positive thinking.

That’s been proven. It helps to restructure our brain and trigger the flow of feel-good hormones. No one can argue that! A positive mindset helps everything you do.

Neuroscience studies show that it prompts your body to function in ways that keep you healthy. Positive Psychology shows that being engaged in positive ways creates a sense of well-being and happiness. Both are necessary for success.

Awesome, right? But – where is your Corvette, book deal, or beach house??  Why isn’t  the universe delivering your intentions? You have clarity.  You called in very specific requests. But no one’s answering!

1. It takes more than belief – The Law of Attraction requires your engagement.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach

Realistic anticipation. Planning. Action. Flexibility. There will be obstacles and pitfalls. Be ready for them. Troubleshoot. Problem solve. Adapt. Consider what could go wrong. Explore those possibilities and prepare.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” William Arthur Ward.

2. Stress keeps you moving forward.

Healthy stress keeps us motivated.  When we visualize our future selves with our goals attained, it feels good but it reduces the drive we need to persevere.  It’s necessary to know the details of exactly what you want and how you’ll feel when it’s manifested – but don’t get too comfortable in your future-self-perfect-life-fantasy. Use that uncomfortable edge to keep focused and choose an action everyday to inch closer to your dream.

“A man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” Hunter S. Thompson

3. The feeling is the reward.

Instead of focusing on the desired material, focus on the desired feeling. That thing you want might not bring you the feeling you want.

If you want happiness, focus on experiences and ideas that make you feel good. If love is what you want, focus your energy on gratitude for the loving people in your life and in the world. If freedom is what you want, notice when and with whom you can let your guard down and be yourself, completely. Brainstorm ways to manifest those situations and experiences.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach“There is no path to happiness; happiness is the path.” – Buddha

You have to believe to achieve.

The song, “When you wish upon a star” was written for Pinocchio.  Here are a few lyrics, “Makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires, Will come to you…Like a bolt out of the blue. Suddenly, it comes to you. When you wish upon a star, Your dreams come true…”

The sentiment is genuinely heart-warming.  But few can say they’ve received their heart’s desire by simply wishing.  Even Pinocchio earned his dream through acts of bravery, truth, and selflessness.

Now, back to class and the universe.  You’re not going to pass that exam, make Dean’s list, or get into grad school without preparation. That Corvette won’t manifest without realistic planning and actionable steps.  So get ready to actualize your dreams with the power of intention, persistence, and massive action. Go!

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Space by Stuart Miles, Choices by Renjith Krishnan, Countryside by Dan.

Psychology Today – Easy Tips for Keeping New Years Resolutions

140772-141776This article is published in Psychology Today by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards.  It is entitled, “Break Bad Habits”. 

It’s countdown time!  The new year marks a fresh start for new beginnings.   Be prepared on January 1 to state your New Year Resolutions and stick to them! If your plan is to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, save money, or build your career or social network, then get started on developing a system for success that will work for you.

Resolutions without specific plans usually get pushed to the wayside by the demands of everyday life. Come April, they’re already out the window and down the street! Be prepared to keep your New Year Resolutions in 2014 using these simple tips for seeing them through to 2015.

Be specific: Define the details of your goals and make them measurable. For example, if your goal to is lose weight, how much weight do you want to lose? By when? If your goal is to spend less money and start a savings, how much money do you want to save? Set a deadline. Make your goals attainable, but not too easy. Setting goals you CAN achieve will keep you motivated.  Making them too easy isn’t really a challenge. The point is to stretch yourself to a higher level of functioning.

Make your goals personal: Stay true to your values and purpose. Do your goals come from a desire for improvement that are tied to your personal belief system? What is most important to you? The more personally meaningful they are, the more likely you are to stick to them and be successful.

Get a partner: Having a workout or healthy eating partner can help keep you motivated and on track. Design a supportive environment. For example, if you know that junk food and soda are your weakness, remove them from your home and replace them with healthy snacks and seltzer water. Remember, it’s nearly impossible to quit a behavior without replacing it with a new one. Find healthy alternatives. Start a progress chart. Record daily and weekly change. Write an accountability blog which others may be following.  Join a weight loss group or get a trainer.  IMG_6963

Believe in yourself: Your goals have to be important to you. Does it motivate you? Is it a value of yours? Is it a high priority? Do you have a sense of urgency about it? Can you imagine yourself 6 months from now, or a year from now, having succeeded in your goal? What does that look like? How did you get there? Retrace your steps to determine what you did to be successful in your future self. Do you have support?  If you believe you can do it, you will!

Put your goals in writing: Write them down in an “I Statement”. Put them in a visible place. Own them! This will serve as a reminder and motivator every time you see your personal statement. For example, if career development is your goal, “I will find a networking group in my field of interest and join it by February 1. I will seek out courses and sign up for at least one new class or conference in my field of interest by February 1.”. Stick these notes on your refrigerator or on your desk, in a high traffic area in your home or office. Set reminders in your phone. Review your goals regularly.

Replace self sabotaging thoughts with a positive mantra: Be flexible. Remember that failures are only temporary setbacks and great motivators for change. It’s never too late to get back on track. Even if you haven’t met your goal by your deadline, remember this is a process that takes time. Don’t confuse the destiny with the path. The path is meant to be savored, too. Each step you take will get you closer, even if its not exactly on schedule.  Remember, YOU CAN DO IT.

Now you’re ready to ring in the new year with a plan for a new you! Write your goals down. Be specific. Do some soul searching to determine what’s most important to you. Tell your friends. Get a partner. Set reminders. Chart your progress. Be patient. If you need more support, get a Life Coach, Counselor, or expert in the life domain you’re focused on to help you succeed. Happy New Year and New YOU!

Psychology Today – Five Secrets of Highly Successful People

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This article is published in Psychology Today by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards.  It is entitled, “5 Tips for Success”.

Everyone has a unique life story. Family traditions, religious beliefs, and cultural norms differ and converge in a myriad of ways across people and places.  We embody our personal experiences and take them with us, wherever we go. We use our history as a road map through life. What’s familiar is comfortable and predictable.  The downside is, it can keep us stuck in old patterns that hold us back.

What if you took the road less travelled?  What if you could shed the part of your life story that is holding you back while developing those that propel you forward?  Well, you can!  Recalibrate the GPS.  Follow these five secrets to creating the life you want.

1. Large and In Charge.

You can effect neural firings and change the structure of your brain!  Daniel J. Siegel describes this neuroplasticity of the brain in his book, “Interpersonal Neurobiology”.  By choosing to focus on positive experiences, you can manage and regulate your neural firings.  The more you take in the good, the more naturally your brain will spontaneously notice it unfolding around you.  You can reap the benefits of positivity that otherwise may have been overlooked.  We’ve all heard the saying, “Smell the roses.”.  Rick Hanson also talks about this in his book, “Buddha’s Brain – The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom.”.

Notice when you feel your best, most confident, prolific self. Fully absorb the gratifying feelings that happen in these moments. Look for opportunities to experience successes and accomplishment. Spend a few minutes each day encoding positive feelings. This can gradually improve and change your brain structure over time allowing you to build momentum toward goal fulfillment.

2. Bring on the Love.

Lake Tahoe

Positive energy breeds positive energy. Laughter is contagious. The best therapy can be a hearty laugh with friends.  Notice your company when you are feeling your best. The more time you spend with positive people in a supportive environment, the better you will feel. Positive relationships are one of the essential elements of well-being in Positive Psychology, according to Martin Seligman. Well-being is proven to be more fulfilling than happiness. It’s comprised of positive emotion (pleasure, ecstasy, comfort, etc), engagement (in an activity or moment), positive relationships, meaning (belonging and serving something larger than yourself), and accomplishment. Spend time with those you love and cherish. Participate in meaningful activities in which you are industrious.

3.  Scared and Alone.

Certain circumstances and challenges seem overwhelming. They take us outside our familiar comfort zone or back to a previous stressful time.  They can create insecurity and threaten our self esteem. Being faced with a seemingly impossible task can stop us in our tracks. Here are a few ways to accept the challenge and assert your new empowered self!

– Jump right in! This is a method that typically results in finding that your worst fears didn’t come true …and were likely exaggerated from the start.

– Take “baby steps” toward your goal and celebrate your progress every step of the way. This will reduce your fear gradually over time with each new successful experience.

– Challenge  automatic negative thoughts by rating their validity on a scale of 1 – 100.  Chances are they are pretty unrealistic and invalid.  Replace them with rational thoughts.

– Mindfully notice your body and breath.  Breathe slowly.  Shift your attention between bodily sensations and the surrounding environment.  In doing so, you can regulate physical reactions that feel like panic.

– Notice the inner child holding onto fear in moments of self doubt.   Soothe him/her.  Use your wisdom to inform and calm that inner part of yourself.

4. Goodbye, Chaos!

New studies in neuroscience show that we are capable of achieving anything we want. The trick to this achievement is truly wanting it and believing you can do it!  We’re born with an amazing brain capable of learning and mastering more than we even understand. It’s not because we can’t achieve it, but because we don’t fully tap into our brain’s potential. Fears and anxieties might convince us that we can’t do math or we aren’t an artistic type. Brain studies demonstrate this to be untrue. Now more than ever, it’s evident that practice DOES make perfect! Tony Buzan talks about this in his book, “The Mind Map Book”. The more time you spend repeating the same exercise or thought pattern, the better you will perform it over time. With practice, you are strengthening the neural pathways responsible for mastering those thought and behavior patterns. So take a painting class or learn a new sport or language! If you believe you can do it, you will.

5. Hello, Dreams and Aspirations!

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”, Mae West.   Make the most of your life!  Imagine it as you want it to be. Notice what gives you energy. Get started on setting clear, achievable goals. If at first your goals seem too lofty, then break them down into smaller ones. Establish daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly targets. Remember that everything is a process. If it’s worthwhile, it probably takes a lot of hard work and a steady dose of time. Practice patience and flexibility with yourself while holding true to taking forward steps.

Begin mindfully acknowledging your extraordinary individual strengths and nurture them.   Notice your most challenging moments as opportunities for growth and empowerment and don’t shy away.  Clarify your strengths, challenges, and life goals. Overcome those old habits that stifle you.  Begin to design your best life.  It’s never too late to start creating the life you want.  In the words of John Cage, “Begin anywhere.”.

Choose the high road, the low road, or the one in the middle.  Just be mindful of what works and what doesn’t.  There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to creating the life YOU want, but through mindfulness you can choose the actions that create positive change for YOU.  Leave fear at the door.  Embrace your future self.  In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”.

 

Psychology Today – Difficult Divorce? 6 ways to get unstuck.

136891-136917This article, “Difficult Divorce? 6 Ways to Get Unstuck. – Divorce can work out for the best.”, was originally published on November 19, 2013 by Mark Banschick, M.D. and Heather Edwards, LMHC in Psychology Today.  It addresses the basic feelings of grief, anger, and fear in divorce followed by self care and planning for a better life. Read further for tips on how to navigate this challenging life transition…

When entering into marital bliss, nobody plans to get divorced. In fact, it’s the farthest thing from mind. The union is meant to be forever – through sickness and health, better or worse, sicker or poorer. Until death do we part… Or do we?

In this guest blog, Heather Edwards, a New York based therapist and life coach, provides six basic tips for getting unstuck from the shifting winds of a divorce.

The decision to get a divorce is a difficult and life changing one. It often comes after years of unhappiness and unending conflict. When a couple finally resigns to the idea of going separate ways, it hurts. And, it only takes one to decide it’s over.

Divorce is a death of sorts, and can initiate a ripple effect beginning with the married couple, traveling their children and families. How does one cope with the massive loss and minimize the collateral damage caused by the parting of the ways? Use these tips to recognize the emotional components of divorce; then consider developing a plan to get yourself to a better place.

Grief: Divorce can feel so sad it hurts.

It’s not what you planned for yourself, nor your family. You’ve lost the future you were counting on and the person you thought would share it with you. This experience deserves time and attention to allow a natural, healthy grief process to unfold. Recognize your pain and work on it. Find time to cry, but also make room for your normal responsibilities. Grief counts, like a tsunami of unhappiness, but it passes and routine still demands. Children, a job, exercise and even the dog, require attention. Grief is part of life, but it need not take over your life.

“… a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – Carl Jung

Anger: It is a natural to feel anger as part of grief and loss.

You might feel angry at your spouse for all the reasons the marriage didn’t work out. You might even want revenge. Sometimes “getting even” or “punishing” the spouse plays out in the fight over assets or child custody. Acknowledge your anger but find a way to avoid destructive behaviors. Spending excessive time and energy on it can cause more pain and negatively affect you and your family. Identify the source of the anger and adjust your semantics or expectations to make room for acceptance.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Fear: Uncertainty is unnerving.

There’s probably a myriad of questions swirling in your head about your future. Talk to a mediator or a divorce attorney to gain the information you need to protect yourself and your children. Sometimes an ex spouse can be difficult or worse. Knowledge is empowering. Remember that things usually get better. This is not only an ending. It’s a new beginning. Divorce is a difficult transition that leads to better days and happier times. It’s your opportunity to create the life you want with new-found wisdom and strength. Search for what you have learned and how you have grown.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts

Develop a Plan: Try planning your new life with everyone’s best interests at heart.

Reach out to professionals with the tools and training required to help you make the best decisions possible. Mediators can be hired to create an “alternative dispute resolution” and help negotiate a settlement. Divorce attorneys can be hired to answer questions and legally execute details about assets and custody issues. Carefully consider your options.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” – Abraham Lincoln

Self Care: Continue to take care of precious cargo – You.

You need all the same rest, nutrition, exercise, and pampering as always! Go to the gym or take a yoga class. Eat healthy foods. Meet friends for lunch or after work. It’s crucial to feel good in order to continue managing all your normal responsibilities. Make an extra effort to carve out “me” time. Lean on your friends and family. It’s okay to ask for support and feedback about your changing life situation. If you need more support than they can provide – seek out a therapist, counselor, or coach.

Children First: If you have children, pay special attention to their emotions and needs.

Sometimes children feel responsible for the break up. Reassure them the divorce or separationis not their fault and that both parents love them very much. Don’t talk negatively with or about your spouse in front of them. Spend time playing and having fun with them. Their highest priorities are love and safety. And they need to see that you are safe and happy, too!

In the words of Muhammad Ali,

“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”

Take Home Message:

Although it seems your life has been turned upside down, now it’s more important than ever to take good care of yourself and your children. Find a healthy way to grieve so that you can attend to the normal responsibilities beckoning you. Find support, lean on friends, family, and professionals that can provide you with what’s needed to get through these tough times.

Yet, each day that passes gets you closer to the life you want to live. Imagine the long term positive outcomes that will result from your resilience during this transition. And, continue being the best you can be! Recapture your dignity. Your children will notice…and you will feel better.

Design Your Best Life

IMG_9273Each of us has a unique life story. We come from different families, places, and generations. Our circumstances effect and shape who we are and become. Personal experiences are part of us, wherever we go. We use our history to guide us through life. What’s familiar is comfortable and predictable. Sometimes though, it’s not the most helpful. How do we acknowledge and let go of the part of our life story that holds us back? How do we flourish, soothe, and celebrate our truly unique, special, and amazing potential?    Answer the following questions to help clarify your strengths, challenges, and life goals.  Begin to design your best life.

1. When do I shine?
There are times, situations, places, and environments where we shine! Notice when you feel your best, most confident, productive self. Fully absorb the gratifying feelings that happen in those moments. Look for opportunities to experience successes and prosperity more often. Spending a few minutes encoding positive feelings, sensory, and cognitive information can gradually change your brain structure.

Daniel J. Siegel describes this neuroplasticity of the brain in his book, “Interpersonal Neurobiology”.  By choosing to focus on the positive you are managing and regulating your neural firings.  The more you take in the good, the more naturally your brain will spontaneously notice it unfolding around you and reap the benefits of positivity.  Rick Hanson also talks about this in his book, “Buddha’s Brain – The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom.”.

2. What are my most difficult moments?
Certain circumstances or challenges seem overwhelming. They take us outside our comfort zone, back to a previous stressful time, and feel unfamiliar thus creating insecurity in our confidence and performance. Being faced with a seemingly impossible task can stop us in our tracks. Here are a few ways to address this situation.
– Take “baby steps” toward your goal and celebrate your progress every step of the way. This will reduce your fear gradually over time with each new successful experience.
– Jump right in! This is a method that typically results in finding out your worst fears didn’t come true and were exaggerated.
– Ask yourself what you are saying to yourself (noticing your internal monologue) about those intimidating situations. Challenging those automatic thoughts by rating their validity on a scale of 1 – 100. Replace negative thoughts with positive, hopeful ones.
– Mindfully notice your body, breath, and surroundings. Breathe. Deliberately shift your attention between your immediate physical sensations and surrounding stimuli – smells, colors, lights, objects, people, temperature, etc.  In doing so, you can become more in control of bodily reactions that feel like panic.
– Notice the inner child holding onto fear in those moments of self doubt. What is he/she experiencing?  Soothe him/her.  Use your wisdom to inform and calm that inner part of yourself.

3. Who brings out the best in me?
Positive energy breeds positive energy. Laughter is contagious. Notice who you are with when you are feeling your best. The more time you spend with positive people in a loving environment, the better you will feel. Positive relationships are one of the elements of well-being in Positive Psychology, according to Martin Seligman. Well-being has been determined to be even more fulfilling than happiness. It’s comprised of positive emotion (pleasure, ecstasy, comfort, etc), engagement (in an activity or moment), positive relationships, meaning (belonging and serving something larger than yourself), and accomplishment. Spend time with those you love and cherish. Participate in meaningful activities in which you are industrious.

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4. What old beliefs cause chaos?
New studies in neuroscience show that we are capable of achieving anything we want. The trick to this achievement is truly wanting to succeed and believing in yourself!  We’re born with an amazing brain capable of learning and mastering more than we even understand. It’s not because we can’t achieve it, but because we don’t fully tap into our brain’s potential. Fears and anxieties might convince us that we can’t do math or we aren’t an artistic type. Brain studies are demonstrating this to be untrue. Now more than ever, it’s evident that practice DOES make perfect! Tony Buzan talks about this in his book, “The Mind Map Book”. The more time you spend repeating the same exercise or thought pattern or challenge, the better you will perform it over time. Each time you practice, you are strengthening the neural pathways responsible for those thought and behavior patterns. So take a painting class or learn a new sport or language! If you believe you can do it, you will.

5. What do I want to get out of life?

You only live once. Make the most of it! Imagine your life as you want it to be. Notice your preferences, hobbies, interests, strengths, talents, and desires. Get started on setting clear, achievable goals. If at first they seem too lofty, then break them down into smaller ones. Establish daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly targets. Remember that everything is a process. If it’s worthwhile, it probably takes a lot of hard work.  In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”.

Seeking Refuge

Sleeping CatPsychology 101 teaches students everywhere that besides food, water, and air, the most basic of human needs is SAFETY.  Just watching the news today can be traumatizing.  It seems the news networks are building their audience and profits by sensationalizing real and/or perceived threats to their viewers’ personal and public safety.  We’re easily captivated by the shock and horror of natural disasters and man’s capability to commit heinous acts.  Whatever the headline, it grasps our attention, shakes us up, and dares us to let go.  What does one do with the barrage of real threats and sensationalism around us?  Where does one find refuge?  How can we create a sense of peace and carry on our lives a productive and optimistic way?  Here are a few suggestions for keeping your feet on the ground, your head lifted high, and getting-on-with-it amidst the chaos of everyday life.

*Surround yourself with positive people.

We feed off of each others’ energy and attitudes.  We feel happier around happy people.  Find the people in your life that encourage the experiences and state of mind you crave.  Strengthen those relationships.  Let them know how much you value them.  Replay the positive messages you’ve heard from those you love and respectBelieve in yourself.  Recall those revitalizing messages that give you energy when you hear the voice of fear, self doubt, or criticism in your head.  Write yourself a letter of encouragement.  Practice being a friend to YOU.

*Meditate.

Take a time-out to redirect your thoughts to the present moment.  Be mindful of your existence in the immediate environment.  Focus on your breath and how it feels filling your lungs and belly, and leaving your body through a slow exhale.  Notice any tension in your body as you breathe.  Notice the sounds and smells around you and let them go.  Do this for five minutes each day and you will begin to feel more at peace and less stressed out. 

*Relish happy experiences past, present, and future.

Write about them.  Spend a few minutes each day reminiscing about good times and future plans and goals.  This can change your brain structure in positive ways.  Writing about cherished memories and ideas strengthens the neurological chain of events responsible for positive-thought processes.  It also gives you another way of appreciating them.  Our brains naturally attend to negative aspects of our environment to keep us safe.  Retrain your brain to notice the joyful, empowering ones more easily!

*Accept that fear is a feeling.

It’s not a guarantee that something negative will happen.  Notice your feeling.  Label it.  Let it go.  Use your imagination to allow feelings to drift by like a cloud in the sky or a leaf on a stream.  Don’t get caught up in that feeling.  Simply notice it, name it, and let it go.  That moment of emotional distance from your feelings can result in a more peaceful, productive, problem-solving state of mind.

*Celebrate each day.

Appreciate the people, places, and activities that feed your soul.  Notice even the tiniest of pleasures.  Be an active participant in life.  Let others know that you value them.  You’re not alone in feeling negative feelings.  It’s a normal part of life.  That’s what makes it so important to demonstrate gratitude and nurture the sources of your well-being at every opportunity.

*Laugh & Smile.

The act of smiling forces a chain reaction of muscular, hormonal, and neural activity that is associated with happiness.  It therefore is difficult to hold onto negative feelings when smiling.  Laughter is associated with strengthening the immune system due to the physiology involved.  Here is some information about this… http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/05/can-laughter-be-therapeutic/ Try it right now!  It can actually lift your mood

*Distract yourself.

The more time and energy you devote to fearful or negative thoughts, the more power you give them.  The effect can be stifling for positive behaviors.  Do what makes you smile.  Go for a walk.  Spend time with old friends, family, or neighbors.  Treat yourself to a show, dinner, massage, or yoga class.  Do the opposite of negative thoughts and behaviors.  You deserve to feel good!

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.

EVERYDAY INSPIRATION

IMG_5971SEARCH FOR INSPIRATION EVERYDAY! I find inspiration in the people around me. My clients, friends, and family give me ENERGY, AMBITION, AND PURPOSE. The beginning of a new year brings introspection, evaluation, and a quest for self improvement. Along with the usual resolutions, most of us seek to develop a unique and personally meaningful aspect of our lives. I wonder if you’ve said, “I want a creative outlet.”, “I want a mission.”, “I always loved [dance] as a child. I want to bring that back into my life.”

DISCOVER YOUR PASSION. What makes you smile, laugh out loud, or shout? The path to fulfilling your quest for meaning lies within YOU. Where does your mind wander to when you have a moment of peace and quiet. IMAGINE that there are no barriers and money is no object. What would you do? Where would you be? Look around. What do you notice? What does that place look like? Who is there? How do you feel? What are you experiencing?

NOTICE WHAT YOU DO when you’re not working, parenting, or involved in chores. Do you listen to music? Do you write? Do you enjoy art? Are you biking, skiing, hiking, or walking? Do you eagerly await the next great recipe or restaurant review on the cooking channel? Or are you engrossed in culinary, arts, or entertainment magazines? Are you dreaming of flying a plane or running a marathon? Are you outside in nature enjoying the mountains, the beach, or wide open spaces? Pay attention to these DREAMS and behaviors. They are clues to your true passions.

WHAT SETS YOU FREE? What activities take you to another place? Perhaps music transports you down memory lane or to a peaceful, excited, and creative place. Consider learning to play an instrument, becoming a D.J., or a dancer. Where do you begin? Start by calling local colleges and private instructors for information on how to learn that new skill. If it seems too daunting, then start smaller by sharing playlists or seeking out concerts and performances that get you fired up. Take a dance class at a local studio. The point is to challenge yourself and enjoy life.

If your wanderlust is roaming the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Friday nights, then perhaps your inner artist is ready to burst out. Museums, colleges, and private art studios offer a host of classes and seminars that teach art history and how to design and produce art. Maybe you’ve already dabbled in painting, ceramics, needle point, or jewelry making and want to take it to the next level. Take a class in a new technique or find free on-line tutorials at sites like Craftsy.com. If you want to start making money through your creative talents, start an on-line store at Etsy.com

Is cooking (or eating!) your passion? Try out a new recipe every week. Find healthy ones at whatwillyoubee.com! Educate yourself on a variety of cultures and traditions through culinary exploration. If physical exercise is your outlet, break up your usual routine and take a rock climbing class, a dance class, or hike a new trail. Gym membership, personal trainers and coaches are a steady and reliable source of support and expertise. Join a pick-up team at your local park or recreation center. Yoga can help calm your body, mind, and spirit. If you’re feeling bored or stuck with the usual activities, ITS TIME TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. There’s no shortage of information available to get you started on your path to a more fulfilled life. Find a meet up group that shares your interests. Meetup.com has activity groups for everything from hiking, running, biking, and soccer to mom and tech meet ups. Whatever your interest, you can find it there and make new friends to boot! Let go of your fears and expectations. “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST. Shake things up in 2013! Let your curiosity be your guide. Don’t stick with the status quo. Remember, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT TO DO! “What the mind can conceive, it can achieve.”, -Napoleon Hill.