My Mind, Body, and Soul Revelation

ImageSo I went and got inspired and decided to tweak my blog to reflect this.

These past few weeks have made me increasingly aware that happiness is more than having a straight mind. Ironically, I sort of stumbled upon this revelation by accident.

For whatever reason, I have been on a health food kick lately. I began eating mostly whole foods and felt so much healthier and energized that I started thinking of other ways to attain this good feeling.

I began working out more consistently, switching up my workout routine. I ran along Lake Michigan and started a yoga class. Once again, I was feeling so good that I wanted to keep it going.

Then, it dawned on me that I could reach a higher level of happiness by nourishing not only my mind, but also my body and soul. This is by no means a new revelation I have stumbled upon. But I guess I had to experience the benefits of it before buying into it.

This idea of nourishing mind, body, and soul has really opened me up more to life. I find myself more open to new experiences that I know will leave me feeling good about myself. I welcome all positivity.

This “good feeling” feels almost like a drug. I want to find it wherever I can and as often as I can.

The best part is, unlike seeking the pleasurable, short-lived feeling found in alcohol, relationships, or money, I feel I am attaining this feeling through bettering myself.

It is like a double reward: I am feeling good in the moment and making long-lasting  benefits to my mind, body, and soul.

So this trinity will now be the focus of my life and this blog. I hope that through my experience, I can help others strengthen their minds, bodies, and souls.

What could be better?!

How to practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere

For all of you anxious and stressed out folks out there (and who isn’t these days?) I wanted to provide a simple how-to for practicing mindfulness and incorporating it into everyday life. In theory, the practice is rather simple, but in practice, in can be tricky. Like everything else in life, it gets easier over time. I’m no expert but I have attended a few classes, interned for Paul Harrison (themindfulnessmovie.com) and have been researching it for my final research project in graduate school. I think I have gained the most insight on mindfulness however, through being an anxious person who has used the technique as a way to regain focus and find clarity.

Mindfulness is all about being in the moment. A common misperception is that mindfulness is “not thinking.” I hate to break it to you anxious ones but to have a completely clear mind is impossible. But who wants to have an empty brain anyway? Wouldn’t we all rather focus on the beauty around us that we may not otherwise take notice of? Here are a few different ways I practice being mindful:

1.) I have tried to get into the habit of laying out my yoga mat first thing after I get out of bed and sitting quietly for atleast five minutes. Sit indian style, back straight, arms relaxed, eyes closed (or open if you prefer) and focus on what flows your mind. If your days to do list begins to run through your head, don’t immediately shue it away. Recognize it. Don’t judge it. Don’t yell at yourself for thinking about it. Just observe it. It is a challenge at first but slowly the thought will float away. If thoughts of your afternoon doctor appointment begin to arise, do the same thing. Observe the thought and release.

2.) You don’t need a yoga mat to be mindful. Today I practiced it for a few minutes on the train. Instead of allowing myself to be flooded with thoughts of things I needed to get done once I returned home, I listened. I listened to the guy across from me talk on his phone excitedly about his job. I listened to the sound system politely request that passengers don’t litter or assault one another. This pulled me from my inner chaos to the present moment.

More tips:
~Focus on your breath. Try breathing from the depths of your stomach. Observe the inhale and then release of the exhale. Feel your body begin to calm and muscles relax.

~Morning commutes are a great time to practice mindfulness. Rush hour traffic makes us all angry. What better time to practice being calm? Turn off the noise of the radio and put your phone on vibrate. Even two minutes of breathing and observing techniques will calm you.

~I have found that choosing one sense to focus on is a great way to direct my attention. As mentioned above, sometimes I focus entirely on what I hear. Or turn your attention to everything you see. Observe the car in front of you, the person sitting next to you (but don’t be creepy about it), the buildings your pass, the color of your socks, anything you see! Try not to judge what your are observing, rather stay in the present moment of just noticing.

I could go into further detail but want to keep this post simple as I understand practicing mindfulness can be overwhelming at first. It can be frustrating initially but it honestly gets easier every time you do it. Practicing for just a few minutes a day is a great start. Maybe think of the time of the day you are most stressed or anxious and set aside a few minutes to practice then. Or before bed or after you wake up. Experiment and stick with it. Life is intended to be lived in the moment and mindfulness is a great reminder of that.

3 small tweaks that can make a BIG difference

ImageWell in case anyone was wondering, I successfully accomplished my goal of not watching television for five days. It felt amazing. I eventually got to the point where I was so used to not having the chatter on in the background, that I did not even miss it. I enjoyed it so much that I have begun watching less and less television ever since. (I can proudly say I did not watch the two hour Bachelor episode that aired last night). Since I enjoyed my decision of keeping the television turned off, I got to wondering what other choices I could make that could positively influence not only my day, but my life in general. The following are three things I thought up (while not watching television mind you) that require very little effort but could definitely create positive results.

1.) Switching up the morning routine

The first thing many of us do after rolling out of bed (or perhaps even before getting out of bed if you keep electronics within an arms reach) is switch on our computers to check e-mail, turn on the television to get caught up on the morning’s depressing news, or check our cell phones for any social media updates (who doesn’t love waking up to a facebook friend request)? So many of us are guilty of these daily habits that it is difficult to see how detrimental they can be to the rest of our day. The coffee has not even begun to brew yet and we are already overstimulated! The effects of this media overload are often subtle, making it difficult to even be aware of it. This chaotic routine though can create an element of anxiety that will linger into your daily commute, that big business meeting and the rest of the day’s activities. Instead of switching on the computer and television first thing in the morning, turn on music that will set the tone for the rest of your day. Nothing says a happy, anxiety-free day like a little Bob Marley in the morning. It sounds simple, but it is amazing how the effects last throughout most of the day. Save the e-mail checking and facebook stalking for when you feel mentally relaxed and ready.

2.) Doing one thing for another

Again, this one seems simple and a bit of a no brainer. It is common knowledge that doing something for another will bring us happiness, but can you remember the last time you gave of yourself? It is so easy to get caught up in the daily hassles of work, bills, and numerous other responsibilities, that giving to someone else are easily overlooked. Whether it is volunteering for an hour a week or over tipping the morning barista at Starbucks, the smallest of gestures will be as rewarding to you as it is to the one on the receiving end. Be conscientious throughout the day of opportunities where you could lend your time or resources to improve the day of another. The irony is that your day will be equally improved.

3.) Try one thing outside of your comfort zone

Trying something out of the ordinary can help to broaden your horizons and expand your worldview. I’m not necessarily suggesting taking up sky diving or anything too extreme, but sometimes even the smallest of activities that stir up feelings of minor discomfort, can leave you with a renewed sense of self and awareness. For example, I recently attended a meditation class. Sitting Indian style with a bunch of strangers attempting to quiet my brain was certainly an unusual experience, but it was accompanied with a sense of accomplishment for trying something different. Trying new things can make you feel like a more rounded person and instill confidence. Whether it be taking up baking or training for a 5k, the feeling that you have mastered something new will not only make you more interesting but also happier overall. And isn’t that the ultimate accomplishment?