Steps to align our external world with our internal voice

 

imageDo your actions reflect what is going on inside of you?

You want to lose weight, but you dine at McDonald’s.

You want to spend less time at the office and more time with your kids, but yet your day planner consists of endless corporate meetings.

Here is a personal example: I absolutely hate feeling hungover. My body has never responded well to alcohol, even if it’s just a drink or two. I despise waking up the next morning tired, achy, and with zero energy.

But yet, more weekends than not, I find myself enjoying a couple glasses of wine, completely ignoring that voice of reason that is reminding me of my poor decision.

Human beings are a highly intelligent species but yet our mode of thinking often suggests otherwise.

So many things that overwhelm and stress us out, believe it or not, are within our control.

I could choose not to drink alcohol and it would rid of my hangover problem. It is that simple!

So how do we make our actions reflect our internal desires?

First, make clear what your internal wants and needs are. Make a list. Write out that you want to lose weight or start working out. Start out with just one or two of your top priorities so that you do not overwhelm yourself.

Second, make a list of what your life would look like if it reflected these goals. For example, if your life reflected your desire for weight loss, maybe your refrigerator would be stocked full of fruits and vegetable. Perhaps, you would go on evening walks. Envision which external actions would reflect your internal goals.

Lastly, after you have made clear what your internal desires are and what they look like on the outside, make a plan. Keeping with the example of weight loss, plan a trip to the grocery store with a healthy grocery list in hand. Make arrangements with a friend to begin walking a couple nights a week.

It can be helpful to find a buddy with similar goals to help hold you accountable but if you can’t, then hold yourself accountable.

Humans have much more willpower and self-control than we give ourselves credit for. The hardest part is tapping into it. Be commitment. Experiment and find what works for you. If you are visual, write out lists. If you need reminders to keep you committed, put up post-its around your house and in your car.

Happiness is increased when our outer world reflects our inner thoughts. When everything is aligned, there is peace. Make a commitment to seeking this peace, followed by a commitment to the steps necessary for getting there.

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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?!

Achievement of a perfect moment

birds

Ever have that moment in life when you stop and think, “Things aren’t all that bad?” It happens in an instant. A flash of peace and contentment pierces through you. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have these moments as often as we’d like and when they do occur, they pass quicker than they arose

I had one of these moments this morning and it got me thinking how I could get more of them. I went for a run down to Lake Michigan and though it was particularly cold and gloomy for a Spring morning, I could see the sun slowly trying to peak through the clouds. For some reason, I instantly compared it to happiness trying to peak its way through a string of negative thoughts. The past 24 hours have been filled with anxious, somewhat lonesome thoughts for reasons I won’t bore you with now. If there was ever a time I needed to find that perfect moment, now was it.

On my way back home, I walked past a pond. It’s nestled back in some woods and is particularly peaceful. I felt compelled to just stand there and observe. As I stood there looking out on the water, the most beautiful bird touched down just a few feet next to me. Then, a second one accompanied him (or her I suppose). I watched as they peacefully rested there looking out onto the water and the Chicago skyline.

To make this moment even better, a song came onto my Pandora that I had never heard. It was called “Let her go” by the British band, Passenger. If I could have written a song myself to express how I felt in that moment, I’m pretty sure that would be it. It was the perfect touch to a perfect moment. (I highly recommend taking a listen)

This moment was simple. It wasn’t particularly exciting. But it brought calm and clarity to my life. I can’t help but wonder how much more at peace I would be overall if I could accumulate more of these moments. I don’t think these moments can be planned out. I think they find you when you aren’t even looking for them. The only thing we can do is be open to them and ready to invite them in when they find us.

Does it take a death sentence to finally start living?

ImageMorrie Schwartz said it best: “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

How should we be living? Are some better at it than others? What qualifies as a ‘good life?’

Those who are provided warning ahead of time, often remark how they did not truly understand what was important in life before they were told they did not have much longer to live it.

Does it take a terminal diagnosis to fully understand how precious life is?

Must we all first be dying before finally living?

I don’t think we can fully grasp the awareness and appreciation that comes with being informed your time on this planet is limited. But do we need a medical doctor to give us permission to live before we finally decide to do so? In reality, aren’t we all living on limited time? Just because someone isn’t sitting across from you in a white coat giving you an estimated timetable of how many days, weeks, months, or years you have left, does not mean you cannot live as if, God forbid, this may one day be the case.

What if we spent our lives as if we were preparing for a theoretical doctor’s visit where we discover our time is running out?  For many of us, living with this mindset would generate different conversations, different actions, an overall different life.

Our smiles would be wider, our words kinder, our hearts fuller. A shift in focus from the everyday hassles to the everyday beauty we are often too busy to take notice of would change our perspective.

We all live on the same planet, yet we each perceive life on this planet differently. Essentially, our reality is not life itself but how we interpret life, the good and the bad. It is difficult to fathom how we all breathe the same air and look up to see the same sun, but yet, our perceptions of what goes on around us is so subjective.

This difference in perception is proof that we are in control of what makes a happy life and what makes a miserable one. If you have the ability to look at something in a negative, distaining light, you also have the power to look at with joyful, loving awareness.

So don’t wait for a death sentence to set a fire under you to start living the life you have always dreamed. Always bear in mind that we are not promised more than this day, this moment. We are all dying but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take advantage of every breathing moment to live.

To quote everyone’s favorite Shawshank Redemption quote,

“Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.”

What one week of dog ownership taught me

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It sounded like a recipe for disaster from the jump. Single girl living in a 500 square foot apartment in Chicago seeks large dog for companionship. Well, when worded that way it actually sounds like a really desperate, slightly disturbing personal ad.

I initially moved to the city from Ohio with a friend whom I had grown up with since third grade. We made up silly dances at recess in elementary school, fought for the affection of the same boy in middle school, decked ourselves out in our school’s colors to attend football games in high school and even roomed together for two years in college. There was little we did not know about one another. After living in the city together for a year, we were treated to a third roommate, another girlfriend of ours that was the third member of our ill choreographed dance trio from fifth grade.

The three of us went way back and together; we were starting a new chapter in the big city.  This bliss was short-lived however, as they both decided to return to their roots in Ohio, leaving me as the last standing member of the trio.

After the sad exit of my girlfriends, a break up with my boyfriend, and the move into my newly renovated, extremely lonely apartment, I decided that now was the time to adopt a dog. I had talked about it for two years and figured now was as good a time as any. I was alone, living off loans from the government now that I attended graduate school and had plenty of time to tend to a pet.

Why not? Well, in retrospect there were plenty of answers to that question.

I arrived at the local animal shelter on a sunny, Sunday morning prepared to bring home an older, slightly larger dog (I have nothing against small dogs other than the fact that I do not like a majority of them). I was taken into a private room with a couple of dogs, many of who were running around as if amphetamines had been slipped into their breakfast bowls. I asked for a dog that was perhaps a bit less likely to destroy my apartment and in trotted Zeb.

Zeb was a 50-pound Labrador Retriever and only 7 months old. I was apprehensive at first of the fact that he was still a young puppy. But after two minutes in the room with him, I was in love. I had never witnessed a dog with such a calm, sweet demeanor! It did not matter that they said he could grow to weigh as much as 90 pounds. With a temperament as sweet as any animal, or person for that matter, that I had ever seen, I thought I could handle it.

Well, as it turned out, I could not.

Zeb, whose name I changed to Gaston, was cool as a cucumber the first few days after I brought him home. In fact, I did not even hear him bark until about day 5. After he became comfortable in his surroundings, Gaston went from cool and calm to hyper and crazy. He was a puppy. That is what they do. I totally get it. But to try and control a hyper active puppy in a tiny studio apartment just seemed cruel.

I walked him about 5 to 7 times a day just to tire him out. (I ultimately lost about 5 pounds that week from all of the activity myself). I signed him up for obedience classes, spent an outrageous amount of money on toys to keep him entertained (pet stores are ridiculously overpriced by the way), and hired a dog walker.

Ultimately, I realized that I was the one who was not ready to take on the responsibilities of my boy, Gaston. I fight issues of anxiety and the added pressure that came with being responsible for a pet, was too much to bear.

It was unbelievable how much he and I bonded in such a short period of time, though. When I realized that the situation was not fair to Gaston and that I needed to return him, I packed him up in my car, along with his ridiculous amount of toys and $150 dog tick prevention medication I had purchased after taking him to the vet.

I bawled like a baby all the way to the shelter, while saying goodbye to him, all the way home, all through the night, and basically the rest of the weekend. I have never felt like such a disappointment. I had let this dog down. It was the first time I discovered what it truly felt like to be deeply depressed.

I called the shelter everyday, often more than once, after I dropped him off to see if he had been adopted yet. Not surprisingly, a family who had kids and another dog adopted him two days later. This was the environment he deserved and a part of me knew it all along.

My motives for adopting Gaston were selfish. I was alone for basically the first time in my entire life. I was lacking a support system and thought Gaston could be it for me. I have always taken pride in being a strong, independent woman but not until after all of this occurred, did I realize how irrelevant my independence was in comparison to my need for social support.

Humans are wired with the need to connect to other humans. It is our nature to crave connections and bonds. After I had been stripped of so many of mine, I looked to a dog to fill in the gap. Essentially, I looked to a dog to find happiness.

After my week with Gaston, I learned happiness couldn’t be sought. I always envisioned my life would be happy and rich with the companionship of a dog. As is the case with most things though, when you go into a situation with unrealistic expectations, you will undoubtedly be let down.

I now value my friendships, both in the city and beyond, more than I ever have. I live for the small, often short-lived human connections I make throughout the day, whether it is a conversation with a stranger in an elevator or the guy who makes my coffee at Starbucks. Strive to find happiness within those moments because I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

I often think of Gaston and those crazy seven days we shared together. He probably would not even recognize who I was if I saw him today. I am grateful he has a good home, though and for the fact that I have finally found some contentment in living alone.

Happiness is not something you can chase nor easily attain. However, keeping close to those you know well and connecting with those you do not, is a good place to start looking. That is a pretty profound lesson to learn from an adopted Lab.

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?