I found this picture rather amusing. As I looked at it I was beginning a run of 14 days in row of working. Just for good measure, 3 of those days had 2 jobs and one had a job and a seminar. It included driving at least 50 miles everyday and on one occasion, more than 100. I felt exhausted just typing about it!
While these words are being constructed, it is day 14 of those 14. I am just preparing to head out to DJ. I am looking forward to a nice day off tomorrow. My plans are to visit the Milwaukee County Zoo and go out to lunch with my lovely Margie and my mother. It is to a Mexican restaurant so I would think a quick nap might follow that. The evening calls for a nice dinner and movie at home with my love.
As tough as the last 2 weeks have been, and as wonderful as tomorrow will be, I realize my meditation on the subject that I am wasting a great deal of my energy. Thinking of how challenging the upcoming working days were going to be had me feeling exhausted before the alarm clock went off on the first day. This made each day seem a little tougher than it needed to be. Keeping this thought in my mind had me mentally exhausted. Doing this daily lead to physical exhaustion as well.
Looking forward to my wonderful day tomorrow is certainly a noble pursuit. However, I must be careful not to dread the journey of arrival.
Both of these activities drain our energy and both have the same simple solution – live in the present moment. It is something I remind my life-coaching clients and seem to have forgotten myself. You can certainly plan for tomorrow. Lay your clothes out ahead, get the coffee ready and other such activities. Yet spending time worrying about the arduous day ahead will only steal the joy and energy from the day at hand.
The same can be said for suspending joy until a future event. It is great,and I feel vital, to always have something to look forward to. Supressing the joy of today in anticipation of the joys of tomorrow makes little or no sense. In this case, it makes perfect sense to be greedy. Look for joy every second of every day! Look for joy in the present, while being excited for the joy to come!
Living in the present gives us a great many gifts. One of those gifts is more mental and physical energy. Next time you feel yourself thinking “Next week was exhausting!” Slow down, and remind yourself to take one day at a time!
The art of conveying our emotions in a healthy way can be a tricky thing. To make sure that your feelings are heard while giving proper respect to others can be a difficult thing. It is also an ongoing lesson. It is not something we get right once and never have to worry about again. You could have a healthy discussion one day and the next make a bad situation worse by saying something the wrong way.
This fear can lead many people to do something even worse – hold everything inside. This can not only lead to a great deal of misunderstanding, as you can imagine, but also lead to a great deal of hurt and resentment.
These emotions are not only felt by those holding everything in,but by those in their lives. Let us say that you are deeply hurt by something your friend has told you but you don’t want to start a disagreement so you don’t say anything. This friend may continue to say this thing again and again. This can cause you to resent your friend. There you are feeling hurt and resentful.
It goes a level deeper. Should you true feelings come out, be it in a fit of rage or some other way, your friend will feel bad that they were hurting you all this time without knowing. They may even resent the fact you did not let them know what they were saying hurt you. There they are feeling hurt and resentful.
Lastly, holding your hurt and pain inside can cause a lifetime of physical and emotional pain. What the stress of repressed emotions does to the body can lead to issues such as heart disease, ulcers and other lifestyle driven conditions. It can also leave a trail of broken hearts and ruined friendships.
If you have issues trapped inside of you, invest in learning how to express them in a healthy manner. While you are learning these skills it may benefit you to share them with a professional such as a life coach or therapist. They can also help you find healthy ways to deal with these emotions.
However you choose to share your emotions, whether that is learning to do so or with a professional, make sure you do so. Because keeping your feelings inside makes as much sense as farting in a wetsuit and can be a lot more harmful.
Here is a photo that is worth a thousand words. Don’t worry, we will be well under that today.
Your happiness. What makes you happy? Think of how many things you can rely on to put a smile on your face and joy in your heart? You noticed the word in italics? That is because there is really only one source we have control over that we can rely on to make us happy and that is ourselves.
It is true that seeing a smile on my lady’s face melts my heart and puts a smile on my own face. It is further true that I have a good deal of influence on that. If that is what I rely on solely to bring me happiness, I could be very disappointed. There are days when I do the best I can and due to situations beyond my control her smile is fleeting at best. This leaves me frustrated and sad, although determined to find a way to bring her joy.
There are other simple items that bring me joy outside of myself. I enjoy relaxing in a coffee shop enjoying a steaming beverage. Right now they are all closed here due to the Corona virus pandemic. I enjoy warm sunny days. As you read this the high temperature where I live is slightly above freezing with a possibility of snow.
Not that enjoying many things outside of yourself to increase your happiness isn’t good, it is great and we will discuss that in greater detail coming up in the next few posts. What I am recommending is that you find a few things inside of yourself that bring you joy. These should be things in which you have control over. A few examples are meditation, reading, going for a walk in nature, singing a simple song you enjoy, whistling or even just daydreaming.
These are a few of my personal happiness hacks. I would love to hear what you do that makes you happy. What internal activities bring a smile to your face? If you don’t have any, now would be a great time to come up with a solid list.
In these days where we are rightfully concerned about our physical well-being and making sure that we take care of our immune system getting enough sleep is a very important aspect of that. Considering that last statement, how do we find ourselves beginning a post titled “When you are tired, go for a walk”? That is a great question. We are going to explore several reasons for doing just that as I share both a story and pictures of a recent walk that I went on. This walk itself followed an eight-hour work day that began at 5 am and followed a night of little or no sleep. As you can imagine, I was very tired. What would prompt me to take that time to go for a walk?
My mother and I routinely go for walks through nature. Being that the period for good weather here in Wisconsin, where we live, is short, we do our best to take advantage of every good day. As I write this, the temperature has dropped and Autumn is setting in. Soon, the snow will fall and walking will become more of an adventure and less of a relaxing stroll. Back to our day in question. I had just completed a shift at my day job working 5am to 1pm. This was day 10 of working 13 in a row. Although I was certainly feeling tired, the sunshine and pleasant late summer weather was calling me. On my way home I spoke with my mother by telephone. She informed me she planned on going for a walk through the woods on a new path she had discovered.
My mother agreed to pick me up, as she knew where this path was to be found. A short drive later we arrived at our starting point behind a large hospital complex. This space was formerly used as the Milwaukee County Asylum/Hospital for the Insane as it was called. It was shuttered in 1914 in light of questionable practices as well as a more modern venue with updated treatments for those with mental health conditions. Knowing this, the woods often take on a somewhat haunting ambience. Not in a bad way, but as if they have secrets to be shared that can only be discovered by exploring their sun-dappled paths. There is even a marker letting you know that buried in the grounds are the remains of over 200 souls that had no friends or family to claim them. Before we left, my mother and I stopped at this marker to offer thoughts and prayers for the souls of these individuals.
We enjoy walking for its many health benefits. When it comes to a good walk, there are a multitude of physical benefits. It is great for your heart. By walking you bring up your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and help circulation. Walking can also help you shore up your bones, lose weight, strengthen your muscles, improve your sleep and help your joints. Certainly, all of these are great reasons to walk and are some of the benefits we are chasing. However, by choosing this path and others in nature there are other reasons we are walking. Back to more reasons for walking this fine day. Often, our feelings of physical exhaustion can really be an outward display of emotional and spiritual exhaustion.
Walking in nature has many additional emotional as well as health benefits you cannot even find walking at the gym or throughout the city. That is because different parts of our brain are activated when we walk in nature. Some of the benefits you can see are helps control depression, reduces anxiety, helps battle cold and flu, speeds recovery time after sickness and makes you happy. Why is this? Science is still working to discover exact answers. In a 2015 study researchers compared the brains of healthy people who walked 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found significantly lower activity in the prefrontal cortex of those who walked in nature. That is the part of the brain that is active during rumination or repetitive focus on negative thoughts.
As if all of these benefits were not enough, there is even more. Nature sounds such as frogs, birds and just the sound of the wind through the trees help reduce blood pressure as well as cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. In addition, visual focus on greenery and natural settings seem to distract your mind from focus on negative thoughts. How much nature is enough, you may ask. It is recommended to try for 30 minutes in nature 3 days a week. This can be trip to the beach, a walk through the local park or even a camping trip on the weekend. Combining the physical health benefits of walking and the emotional and spiritual benefits of nature, you will find yourself feeling tired but refreshed at the conclusion of your journey.
I hope you enjoyed the photos I shared with you in this post from my walk with my mother through Sanctuary Woods as they are called. I encourage you to find a natural place near you to explore a few days a week. You will find rewards of both the spiritual as well as physical. What if you are unable to escape due to factors beyond your control? Science tell us that by listening to nature sounds and looking at pictures of natural settings can help offer some of the benefits you may get from being in the environment itself. You would lose the physical benefits of walking as well as the fresh air you can smell in the woods, but something is better than nothing. I encourage you to share picture or stories of your escapes into nature.
Most of you know I am an advocate for physical fitness. Personally, I work out 6 days a week on a regular basis. It provides me a feeling of a win each morning. It also helps reduce stress and allow me to face the day with a feeling of confidence. When I begin talking about fitness to people who attend my self-improvement seminars they are a little surprised. They shouldn’t be. Physical fitness does as much for your mental well-being as it does for your body. There are numerous studies showing the benefit to regular exercise. You do not have to do it 6 days a week like me. You don’t even have to go to the gym. What is certain, is that we must make time to keep our bodies in the best shape we can. It strengthens our immune system, it allows us to heal from injury quicker and can go a long way to avoiding that injury in the first place.
This was brought home to me with my experience having the corona virus. My symptoms were not as bad as they could have been considering I have asthma and a heart condition. My doctor told me, off the record, that he believed that fact that I had kept my body in decent shape helped it deal with the virus better than had I not. This seems like an obvious conclusion. Same if you injure yourself. Your body’s muscles, tendons and the like will be better able to heal if they were in a good shape to begin with. We could go on for an entire post about what you choose to eat and how it affects you not only physically, but mentally as well.
As important as all of the things we talked about are, they are not what the main point of this post is. The physical sets a good example that is easy to understand. If you don’t take care of your body you will get sick and injured more often. However, taking care of your mind and your soul is even more important. Look, I am as guilty of this as anyone. I have had experiences where I meditated twice a day for 20 minutes. My mind was sharp, I had a lot less stress and just felt better all the way around. Guess how many times I have meditated in the last week? That would be none. I know the benefits I would receive. I have even experienced them! Why haven’t I taken the time to sit down and practice some form of meditation? The same reason lots of us do not do the things we know would improve our life – I didn’t have the time.
This is a bunch of B.S. Not only does it qualify for what that usually stands for, but it also means ‘belief system’. We believe that we do not have time to take care of ourselves. It is true many of us our very busy. I can excuse my lack of self-care by telling everyone in addition to my job at the Post Office, I DJ two nights a week, write blogs 5 days a week and work on writing books. Recently, you can add a television appearance, speaking engagement and other obligations. If I ask myself one question, “Are people who are busier than me still finding time to practice self-care?” Of course they are. It is making it a priority. I have managed to do this with good results with the gym. That hour a day, six days a week belongs to the gym. Why can’t I manage to do it for something like meditating?
The answer is in our priorities. What do we make important? If I told you that if you showed up at my house at 4 am tomorrow I would give you one million dollars, where would you be at 3:55? Another reason is we do not stop and think of what the trade off is by neglecting our self-care. Stress in our modern world is at an all-time high. If we are to remain in a stressed state over a prolonged period of time we will be forced to make time for the results. A nervous break down? Perhaps. Maybe even just feeling burned out and not being able to give our attention and energy to things we might enjoy.
There are other things that may occur that we might not think of. We could snap at some undeserving soul because we are in a state of being stressed out. Then we must not only make time to heal that relationship, there are feelings that may very well linger for quite some time. If we exist in a state of fear or nervousness for an extended period of time we may develop things such as ulcers or high blood pressure. We would certainly have to make time for those.
All of these symptoms could be avoided if we took time to practice some self-care steps. We would end up being more productive, happy and healthier individuals. This would certainly save time in the long term. I get it though, life is busy. In the picture above there are a few 5 minute steps that can serve you to remain full of inner peace. I would love to hear some of the things you do to help your inner health. The more steps we share with each other, the more we can all be healthier and happier people.
One of the aspects of improving myself I am still working on is raising the rent in my head. Let me explain. When something happens that affects me negatively it tends to pop back into my head over and over. Does this happen to you? Hours later, the thought seems to pop into your head out of nowhere! You will be seemingly mentally occupied doing something else when a question like, “Why on earth did he say that?” or worse an emotionally charged thought like, “That makes me so mad she did that!”shows up. This happens in my mind more often than I care to admit. The language tends to be a little more colorful, but the basic thoughts are the same.
It frustrates me because it will only serve to amplify and intensify the negative emotions. In other words, not only have I allowed my emotions to be affected in a bad way by this person in the first place, now I am the one allowing this situation to affect me again and again! This person is not continuing to hurt or upset me, I am doing it to myself with my thoughts. How stupid is that? Like I mentioned at the start of this blog, it is something I am working on with myself.
To amplify the frustration I was already feeling, another thought came into my head. How come the same thing doesn’t happen with positive experiences? I thought about what I do to keep this negative experiences hanging around and decided to do the same thing with the positive ones. In the negative example I had unconsciously used negative self talk to relive and feel that emotion again and again. Why this did not seem to happen with good thoughts with equal frequency and intensity was beyond me. What I did decide was to pursue it consciously.
One of the best ways to keep a positive experience alive in our thoughts and in our conversation, both in and outside of our head, is to express gratitude for that experience. This is a great option for many reasons. Let us take a look at a few. First, it allows the other party to feel appreciated. When someone feels that you genuinely feel appreciative for something they did for you, they are more likely to do more nice things for you. That would be the second benefit. The third benefit is the improvement in the quality of your inner dialogue. When your self-talk improves, so does your emotions. Thinking about why that person made us feel angry has us feeling….well…angry. That certainly sucks. If, however, we focus how nice someone was to do something for us we feel grateful. We can also feel such feelings as loved, appreciated, valued and many other positive emotions. All this good emotion brings us two other benefits. One, a positive effect on our health. Being in a positive emotional state helps our immune system, allows us to heal quicker and a host of other positive benefits. By doing so it helps eliminate many of the health ramifications of negative thinking. The raised blood pressure of anger, the upset stomach of worry and the suppressed immune function of depression. Here is one of the best benefits of being grateful – it gives you less time to think and feel all of those terrible thoughts.
Our minds can only focus on one thought at a time. Why not make it a good one? If we allow ourselves to get worked up by negative circumstances, we owe it to ourselves to put just as much effort into getting worked up and excited over positive experiences. For every minute we are happy, we lose 60 seconds of unhappiness. The longer we can express our gratitude for all of the good things happening in our life, the better our life will be.
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.
I have always been a fan of Michael J Fox. Good actor, great human. Being open with his struggles with Parkinson’s disease and his desire to help those similarly affected. This post is not so much about the man or the condition, but about the approach demonstrated in both the situation and the quote above.
I think acceptance is one of the most important first steps in whatever situation you are facing. The issue for many of us is that we confuse acceptance with resignation. When you accept something, it does not mean you are ok with it. It also does not mean you are not going to work to improve or find away to work despite it. If you find there is a situation that is not to your liking there are two ways in which we can approach this. We can argue, fight and complain about it. We can continue to deny and work against it. This usually results in wasted energy on our behalf and a lot of additional stress. No real benefit there. You certainly will not find yourself any closer to an amazing life.
The second way, and far more recommended way, is to first accept the situation as it is. Perhaps you were let go from your job unfairly. You could complain and let everyone know just how bad the company ‘did you wrong’. Chances are you will still be remain unemployed at the end of the day. Your time would have been better served working on the situation. Saying to yourself, “I was let go. It shouldn’t have happened but it did.” Then begin to analyze the situation to see what, if anything, you can learn from it. Were you too comfortable being involved in workplace politics? Did you leave yourself vulnerable and relied too much on a single source of income? Did you not keep your resume up to date?Maybe the same holds true for your education and your skill set?
Once you discover what you can learn from the situation, do not beat yourself up over that. Instead, note that it is so and learn from that. Didn’t keep your resume up to date? Time to work on that. Need to brush up on some skills? Go ahead and do that. Maybe next time try to keep a better lookout for a workplace with a lot less drama and politics. These steps work for both people and situations. If your friend has a different political or social view than you, don’t waste your time trying to “change them over to your way of thinking.” The more productive path is to accept your friend for who they are and make sure to steer situations and conversations in a direction that does not bring up that subject.
The best place that acceptance can pay off is with yourself. Accept your faults or things that you could improve on. This requires both a great deal of honesty and bravery. Then, go to work on those things. Without admitting there is an issue to begin with, it makes it very difficult to craft a plan to improve it. Accepting you have a shortcoming (newsflash – we all do) does not make you less of a person. Quite the opposite. It means you are brave enough to admit, even to yourself, that there are areas in which you can improve. Then, accept that and begin to work on finding a way to work through it. By doing this in all areas of your life you will reduce stress and find your speed and success and solving problems will increase.
In this day and age there is a lot we cannot control. It can leave some people feeling scared or uncertain. Then again, others seem completely unfazed. Do these people shelter themselves from what is going on in the world today? Are they more ignorant to the news and the other scary and negative information the rest of us are being fed? The answer is ‘no’.
We see it in our friends, family and coworkers as well. It seems people fall in one of two categories. Either they break a nail and the day is over. You know the type. Over-emotional. Stress out something terrible. It is worse when those people seem to take it out on others. It is even worse if you have a boss like that. So I have heard anyway. Then there is the other side of the coin. There are people that nothing seems to get them down. They get a flat on the way to work and they take it in stride. They lose a job and somehow find the positive in the situation. These people used to drive me crazy, that is until I became one.
There is one axiom that helped me turn it all around and I am going to share it with you in hopes it can do the same in your life. That pillar of knowledge is not only true, but is worth printing out and hanging in every corner of your house. Maybe putting one in the car for when some less enlightened soul cuts you off in traffic. Need one at work? I would imagine that would be the case. This nugget of knowledge may be hard to believe at first, but use it and you will find it is true. Almost everyone has heard this statement before but not many agree with it. They almost seem to fight it even though it is the key to adding both joy and opportunity to your life. Why would someone fight something that could be so powerful? When you understand and make this statement part of your life you not only feel more in control, but you are more in control. Who among us would not want more of that in their life? Here is the reason why more people do not subscribe to this belief. Along with joy, opportunity and control this statement requires you to take responsibility for your emotions, your inner peace, your sense of joy and the current state of your life.
Yes my fine friends, that is the secret. “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Before I start hearing all the excuses as to why this isn’t true, let me share a personal story with you. I was employed through a temporary service that was supposed to let me know after 30 days if the company I was working for would like to hire me. If they did, it would mean a raise of $4/hour. Thirty days came and went and no news. I called every day and was told they had not heard anything. After 3 days of this I called the company I was working at. They told me that they had asked to hire me but the temp service had not gotten back to them. When I confronted the service about it I was told they did it so they could keep me because I was a good worker. I will spare you the details of what happened after that except to say that I kept my head and looked elsewhere. The job I would’ve gotten moved to Mexico 6 months after I would have been hired. I then got a job that put me in position to get the job I have now, making more than I would have.
You may be thinking that it worked for me, but it wouldn’t work for you. When you decide what things mean and how to use them in your life, you are greeted with a lot more happiness and inner peace. When you choose how to act, instead of letting your emotions choose how you react, you win. This is simple, but it is not easy. The more you practice this, the better you will become. Then when the next challenge comes, ask yourself “How am I going to choose to react to this?” When you ask yourself this question it will go a long way to helping you go from reacting…to acting. You make the decision, not your emotions. Again, this is not easy but it is so worth it. You will find yourself slowly developing a positive mindset and discovering ways to turn negatives into positives.
We all know that to quickly get us outof trouble when using a computer we can press ‘ctrl + alt + Del’. This picture reminds us when we find ourselves facing a tough situation in life we can do the same thing.
‘Ctrl’ the first button reminds us to control ourselves. The truth is, we cannot control life, only how we react to it. We cannot control the actions of others, only how much we choose to let them affect us. As you can see, by looking at how we control ourselves, we can go a long way to controlling our life.
‘Alt’ the second button, reminds us to search for alternate solutions. What we have been doing up to that point may not have been working so well. Looking for different ways of attacking, or even looking at, the problemmay be just what is needed.
Lastly, there is ‘Del’. Reminding us that as painful as it may be, sometimes deleting the situation that is causing us stress is what is needed.
Use this computer analogy to help you quickly adjust to all of life’s challenges. If the situation seems to have you stressed or stuck, just push ‘control + alt + delete’.