THE GIFT YOU GIVE YOURSELF

As we noted last post, yesterday was my birthday. One gift that I make sure to give myself every year is the gift of ‘unplugging’. I do not take as much time as I should for self-care and that is certainly one thing I am working on in the coming year. It can be hard to dance that line between being driven and being able to pull back and give yourself the space to rest and recharge.

One thing that makes me shake my head on occasion is how good we take care of some of our ‘stuff’ in comparison to how we take care of ourselves. “Don’t leave your laptop outside too long or it will overheat and damage it.” Someone should have told me that one earlier. Yet, we will be outside without making sure we are staying cool or drinking enough water. We are using a paper shredder and it gets to a certain point and overheats forcing us to let it cool before we can begin again. In the same token we go without sleep. We consume vast amounts of coffee or energy drinks to get everything we need done in our lives.

It is no wonder that many of us suffer nervous breakdowns or at the very least have our health compromised by high stress levels. Are you aware that 90% of hospital visits can in some way be related to stress? Sound crazy? Many of today’s leading causes of death such as heart disease, cancer and many others are to a great extent lifestyle driven. If we put enough stress on a chain it will break on its weakest link. If we put too much stress on our bodies and minds, they will break at the weakest link. For some of us that might be a genetic condition we already have such as coronary health. It could be a cancer that runs in our family. Perhaps a breathing condition.

There is a reason when you are seriously sick they say you have a disease. If you break the world down it becomes dis-ease. That is a body that is not at ease. We may think we are saving time, money or stress by working ourselves to the bone, but it may cost us far more in the long run. Remember the quote we began this post with – almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. INCLUDING YOU.

Give yourself that gift today. Unplug and relax. You will feel better in the present and thank yourself in the long-run.

SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED A LITTLE BIT OF NOTHING

Some people may incorrectly assume that because I have been in the self-improvement field for over two decades and have written over 1300 blog posts and 2 books on the subject that I have it all together. Nothing could be further from the truth. I occasionally lose control of my emotions, I do not always remember to keep my focus on what I have to be grateful for. In short, I am a flawed and imperfect human just like everyone else. I am a perpetual student of the game. Always striving to learn something new from someone new. Quite often I find that hearing the same information presented in a slightly different way can make all the difference. That is why there is so much room for different people in this field.

All of the learning takes up a good deal of time. I listen to different meditations as I am falling asleep. I listen to motivational speakers at my day job and as I do chores around the house. I am always learning something new. Even if I listen to an hour talk and gain one line of information it is worth it. I do my best to record what I learn to share both on this blog and in the books I write. Even when I am watching a movie my brain is on the lookout for some insightful piece of information I can share with all of my followers. This can, on occasion, drive Margie a little crazy.

I spend mornings at the gym 6 days a week. Then I am off to my day job. After which I eat dinner and run off to a local coffee shop to write these posts and to work on my next book. Combine that with being a DJ every Saturday and Sunday and you can see that free time is at a premium. Throw in a couple of articles for different publications, appearances on podcasts and some social engagements and sleep becomes a luxury I seldom acquaint myself with. Every spare minute is consumed with my passion of gaining and sharing knowledge. You will find me in front of a coffee cup and behind a computer. This is the situation as I am typing this. As you can see in the picture below.

This Sunday, however, I was reminded of something I had completely forgotten. Sometimes you need a little bit of nothing. We had to DJ that evening and Margie was finishing up another marvelous cake creation. The weather was wonderful outside. The sun was warm and there was a gentle summer breeze. I wanted to be outside, but didn’t feel like working. The novel idea that some people just sit and relax came to mind. I grabbed a book I had been reading for about the third time. This may seem like working on gaining information, but reading is my guilty pleasure.

I informed the love of my life that I needed to just get away and relax. I was glad to find her not only understanding, but encouraging. My first attempt failed when the location I went to was closed. Lucky for me there was another coffee shop down the road with a west-facing balcony. I ordered my iced coffee inside, said hello to our friend Scott who happened to be there and took my leave to the patio. I sat for a few moments before opening the book. I listened to the birds singing and felt the nice breeze. As I opened my book and began to read I felt completely consumed. The outside world seemed to disappear and the author’s words came to life. At the end of each chapter I again returned to the world of the coffee shop patio. The birds were there to greet me. (As were the people in the drive-thru)

Here is what is worth noting. When I returned home from this hour-long moment of relaxation, I felt like I had slept for several hours. My body was refreshed. In addition, so was my mind. Ideas seemed to come to me faster than I could record them. Ideas for my next two books began to take shape. Then it occurred to me. While writing my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People, I had done this quite often. That is where a lot of the ideas for the book came. I knew and taught the importance of self-care, I just had forgot to take some for myself. I have decided there will be at the very least once a week where I will leave the computer at home and take a good book, or maybe just a journal with me. I will relax in a coffee shop or at a local park. Taking in the beauty of nature and allowing inspiration to come to me. It is a practice I recommend all of us do.

A NEW EXPERIENCE

I wanted to share with all of you a new experience I had at ‘Float Life’ this past Monday. As part of my birthday present Margie took me to experience a float. What is a float? The above tub you see is a floatation tub. It is exactly what the name implies, a tub in which you just float for an extended period of time. (I did it for 60 minutes) Why float? What benefits do you actually achieve? What was my experience like? I will answer all of those questions for any of you who are pondering floating yourself or who are just curious.

Why float and what benefits do you achieve by floating? I am going to paraphrase 2010 research statistics from Floatworks. Floatation eases stress and allows you to experience a greater sense of relaxation. For some the effects last days after the actual float. Floatation has been proven to reduce elevated levels of stress hormones as well as decrease blood pressure. They list several conditions this may help or relieve including, but not limited to

  • Meditation
  • sports and exercise recovery
  • insomnia
  • enhanced creativity
  • jet lag
  • PTSD, addiction, arthritis and fibromyalgia

This is all made possible by the 900 pounds of Epsom salt in each tub. The benefits of Epsom salt are plenty. It provides the body a dose of magnesium a mineral studies show most people are severely lacking. This helps soften the skin and hair, cleanse and detoxify the body as well as help stiff muscles and achy joints. I encourage everyone to research more into the benefits floatation provides.

What was my experience in the floatation device? After arriving and being given a brief introduction into what the process is and how to make the most of it, both Margie and I were left in our respective rooms to begin the float process. You begin by rinsing off in the shower they have inside the room. It took a while for the water to get warm, but it was refreshing. After the shower you are to put in some ear plugs so that your ears will not turn into a salt cavern over the next few days. The ear plugs were not what I was used to. It was a texture much like that of chewing gum. You rolled them into a ball and pushed them into your ears. This was surprisingly affective

There I stood naked sans two new ear plugs. Carefully getting into the tub the first thing I noticed was the temperature of the water. It is kept at skin temperature which is approximately 94 degrees Fahrenheit. This is done to increase the feeling of sensory deprivation. I thought it would feel warmer, but was decidedly comfortable.

During our introduction we were explained the many options available to customize your float. The first being a floatation ring that can act as a sort of make shift pillow. This is done for people who may have a hard time adjusting to the idea their head floats on top of the water. You can end up with a sore neck by trying to tuck your head to your chest to keep you head up. I declined use of this and found my head needed no further support than the water itself.

The second option was the light. As you saw in the first photo, which was of Margie’s tub, they had a light that could be various colors. Hers was pink. In my photo you can see my tended to be a mild blue. This seemed fitting as she was a woman and I am a man. You had the option of leaving the light on while you floated or turning it off. Wanting to experience the ‘full monty’ if you will, I decided to turn the light off. This eliminated the sense of sight and the distractions it may have caused.

The next option you had was the relaxing music that played inside the tub while you were floating. I began with the music on full volume. It was soft and seemed the perfect accompaniment. After relaxing for some time I decided to turn the music off and focus on my breathing as I teach so many. This worked really well with one exception. You could hear the sounds of people walking around outside and some other clunking type noise. I turned the music back on to a soft volume which seemed to drown out most of the noise.

They say you feel ‘weightless’ in these tubs. At fist when I got in that is how it felt. In addition whenever I felt myself bump into the side of the tub and pushed myself away I felt weightless as well. Basically, whenever I was in motion I felt as if I was floating. When my body was standing still the feeling was quite different. It was as if I was in some sort of suspended animation. My body was supported but there was no pressure from gravity. My body felt heavy, but relaxed.

When the female computer voice told me my time was over and the light came on my next challenge arose. Using muscles that I have been relaxing for the past hour in a tub that is impossible to sink in made it slightly difficult to sit up and open the lid. When I did I was careful climbing out as I was naked and didn’t want to end up with any injury that could land me in the emergency room.

Once out, we were instructed to shower off to remove most of the salt from our bodies. The shower included two liquids. One I assumed was some sort of body wash and the other a shampoo/conditioner combo. We were not told which was which and being that I had just taken a shower before I came I decided to just rinse off.

Two days later as I write this I can still feel my legs are relaxed and I am feeling good. There was some great tea in the waiting room that I was able to enjoy as I waited for Margie to complete her floating experience. There was also a great book chronicling the story of a man who went from a completely stressed out executive in the music business to owning his own float tub company. I would have liked to explore this story before I floated, but enjoyed it in reflection on my own experience as well.

Looking back I would like to approach my next float with more of an agenda. Perhaps have a certain meditation in my to do as I float. It would be neat if having the option of listening to a guided meditation as you float. I will also be sure to ask what is what when it comes to the options in the shower. I will definitely return to try this experience at Float life in Whitefish Bay. I recommend floating to anyone. The benefits far outweigh the risks and everyone can use a little rest in the middle of our busy lives. Look how happy I was when it was all over.

1 WAY TO MEDITATE EVERYDAY

Last post we spoke of the importance of spending time by yourself just being. This is often what people think of when they think of meditation. It is a fabulous way to get in touch with yourself and certainly something you could do while you escape to your spot in nature as we discussed last post.

This is not the only way to meditate. Quite often for people like myself who have a million thoughts running through their head at any given time it can be very difficult to just sit down and stop all the voices in their head. I must confess to a little bit of envy when I ask somebody what they are thinking and they genuinely reply, “Nothing.” With all of the benefits of meditation how can people like us still reap the benefits?

One way is to practice active meditation. It was a process developed by a man named Osho. I highly recommend looking up both the man and the researching the topic of active meditation. For those of you who like myself, never really enjoyed homework I will give you a brief look into the world of active meditation and how you can use the benefits in your own life. Originally, it was defined as a period of chaotic movement followed by a period of silence. It its simplest form this is what it is. It means you dance, yell, jump up and down and whatever else you can think of. Then, you just stand perfectly still and notice what happens with your body.

A more expanded definition of active meditation is really being totally mentally present while involved in a physical activity. I mentioned I was going for a bike ride While I was bike riding I was totally present in the experience. I noticed the feel of the wind as I biked. I enjoyed the view of the sun on the trees and the birds flying and singing all around me. I even enjoyed and stopped to talk to a deer along the way. I did not think about having to go to the post office later in the morning, what I was going to wear, or any other daily minutia we can get caught up in.

Even something as simple as walking can become a meditation. If you slow down and notice how you place your foot, the change in balance, the transfer of weight and every aspect of walking it can be a great way to actively meditate. Try doing this for just a minute. Then, as you get used to it, try to speed up while still remaining aware of everything. This takes some time but can be quite a fun experience once you get the hang of it. Try it with other activities as well. Drinking coffee, eating your breakfast. You can turn almost anything into a meditation.

Losing yourself in active meditation can be a great first step towards gaining control of your thoughts and emotions. I don’t know about you, but that is something I believe most of us could use a little more of. I would be interested to hear what activities you choose for your active meditation and what results you experience. Please feel free to share.

TIME TO ESCAPE

This was my view at about 7:30 this morning as I prepared to go for a bicycle ride. Only a small journey from where this picture is taken is a small clearing I like to go to and think, read or just relax. It not only provides me a nice walk in the park, but it gives me a place to recharge my soul.

In today’s busy world where we are constantly surrounded by people and technology, it can be hard to escape. That is why this weekend I recommend you have an escape. If you don’t have a special spot like mine, it may be a good time to start pondering where a good place for you might be. Ideally, this place should be a spot in nature. Losing all of the urban sounds that we experience daily will give you more peace than you can imagine. Even if you live in the heart of the city, find a park like I did where you may not be able to escape the sounds of the modern world entirely, but you can lose yourself by focusing on the sounds of nature. The wind blowing through the trees, birds singing, maybe even a small brook or creek near by.

The other caveat about selecting a spot is it should be somewhere you can be alone. As you can see in the photo above, you might have some visitors from time to time. In a world filled with constant interaction, whether it be in person, or now even on social media when we are by ourselves, finding time to spend with the person in the mirror is far and few between. Isn’t it great to spend time with others? Of course it is, but without spending time alone with our thoughts we can end up feeling lost. What do I mean by this? That is a great question. Let me ask you something and you tell me if it rings true for you. Have you ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed? Have you ever walked into a room and forgot if you were coming or going?

A lot of us are so focused on giving to others we forget to stop and think of what we may need or what our goals for our life is. We are focused on giving to our families, our job and our friends. There is nothing wrong with helping others and being a productive member of society. If we do that at the expense of ourselves we can end up feeling burnt out and unable to give anything to anyone.

Take time to escape this weekend. Spend at least 30 minutes alone and preferably in nature. If you are anything like me you will leave not only recharged, but with a sense of joy and inner peace you did not have when you arrived. Begin to think of your spot today and escape with yourself this weekend. I would love to hear how it affected you. Feel free to come back to this post on Monday and share in the comments below. Even though you will be by yourself, you never know who you will meet.

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

This is me, reading at Starbucks. Usually when I’m here I am busy writing these blogs, working on my next book or enjoying the company of good friends.

Not on this day though. No, I was enjoying the feeling of the sun on my skin and the great book we spoke about yesterday. The great thing about doing this is that in addition to being very relaxing, it also helps the time I’m working.

When you relax it gives your brain a chance to straighten everything out. That way when you focus again, your focus will be so much better and your productivity will be that much better!

So don’t feel guilty taking time to relax. In fact, know by doing so you will be making your work time even more productive!

WE ARE ALL GUILTY 

Do you ever stress about things you can’t change? I think we pretty much all do. Whether I’m at a show as a DJ,or working at the post office, giving a speech or seminar it just wondering through this amazing life i often hear people stressed over things outside their control. 

Sometimes it is the current political climate or what some elected official did. I have even seen people to the point of tears based on the performance or actions of their favorite sports team. What i find even more unbelievable is the petty personal issues. Who said what about who online, who is dating who, etc. 

Not only do all of these items bring us mental and emotional exhaustion, but acting this way over a prolonged period of time can cause us physical distress as well. Leading to such conditions such as ulcers,lack of sleep and even fatal conditions such as heart attacks  (for which the 1 risk factor is stress and job dissatisfaction)

So what to do about the things that upset us that are out of our control? Let us learn to do what we can and let go. Don’t like what a politician is doing? Write letters, start an online petition or just support his opponent. Your favorite team not doing well? Write a letter to the coach or general manager. Don’t like some personal thing someone is doing? Either let them know if you feel it is a must, or just focus on all your friends doing things that make you happy and proud. 

Constantly talking and complaining about conditions, especially those out of our control, does us no good and plenty of harm. Instead, do what most successful and happy  people i know do,  focus on the person in the mirror. Concentrate on improving their condition and on making them a better person. It will not only reduce your stress, but as you improve and progress it will give you something to be proud of. That will be something worth talking about!

Feel free to share your tips about letting go of what we cannot change in the comments below.