The intention of this blog is to share information that I’ve learned—and continue to learn on how to live a mindful life, despite having a demanding schedule.To reiterate, my qualifications to blog on mindfulness are mediocre. But the perspective I have to share is interesting.
It can be difficult to stay mindful amid the to-dos of day-to-day life. In fact, a study at Harvard found that people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing. This kind of mindlessness is the norm, as the mind tends to spend its time focused on the past, the future, and trying out should have’s and what if’s. The study also found that allowing the brain to run on auto-pilot like this can make people unhappy. “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” the researchers said.
What can you do to become more mindful in your daily life? You can start by incorporating easy ways to practice mindfulness during the routine activities you’re already doing every day, like brushing your teeth and walking the dog. Here are 11 ways to practice mindfulness in your everyday life … and don’t stop here, these are just ideas and thought-starters. You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere, and with anyone by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now. Mindfulness is the simple act of paying attention and noticing and being present in whatever you’re doing. When most people go about their daily lives, their minds wander from the actual activity they are participating in, to other thoughts or sensations. When you’re mindful, you are actively involved in the activity with all of your senses instead of allowing your mind to wander.
So try these out and watch your mundane daily to-dos turn into your mindfulness practice.
1. Waking Up
Morning is a special time of day, even if you’re not a morning person. How you start your day will set the tone for your entire day ahead.
Before you even get out of bed, consider how you would like your day to go. Visualize the day ahead and get a sense for what the ideal version of your day looks like. Then set an intention for how you’d like the day to go. This could be as simple as “May this day be calm,” “May I feel light and ease throughout the day,” “May I overcome the challenges ahead with grace,” “May I feel healthy and vibrant,” or “May I be mindful and notice my states throughout the day.” Beginning your day with conscious attention and intention sets a conscious tone to your day ahead!
Tim Ferriss, author and podcast host (The Tim Ferriss Show) has interviewed more than a hundred highly successful people with diverse backgrounds and skillsets, and in a variety of industries. He always asks, “What’s your morning routine?” Along the way, he has collected five habits that he has incorporated into his morning routine, and one of them is making his bed.
It may seem like a childhood chore that’s a waste of time, unimportant, or unnecessary (you’re just going to use it again at night), but making your bed is a simple action you can take in the morning that makes you start your day feeling accomplished—and what better tone to set than a sense of pride and accomplishment? Taking charge and completing simple tasks will give you a foundation to take on more and more throughout the day.
3. Brushing Your Teeth
If you’re brushing like the dentist tells you to, you’re spending about two minutes every morning and evening brushing your teeth. Why not use it as a mindfulness practice?
Pay attention to the minty smell of the paste, the coolness as it touches your teeth, the feeling and sound of brushing, and the refreshing sense you get when you’re finished.
4. Taking a Shower
Your shower may be a time where you rush through the motions in an effort to get clean and ready for the day ahead. However, when you tune into your senses in a mindful way, you can gain a lot of access to the present moment. Next time you’re in the shower, really enjoy the feeling of washing your hair, feeling the soap on your skin, and soaking in the warmth. Notice the sounds and sensations of the water and how it makes you feel. Observe it all with mindful attention as you lather up and rinse!
5. Walking the Dog
You could think of walking the dog as another activity that you “just have to do before work,” OR, you could turn it into a mindfulness practice. As you walk Fido, pay attention to the details around you and focus on your breathing.
Don’t miss that your pawed pal is a powerful teacher of mindfulness. Ever notice how present Spot can be? Animals are extremely present, providing a role model for present-moment awareness. Really connect with your furry friend by noticing what they notice, paying attention to how much they love and need you, and noticing the details in the environment as you walk the neighborhood. Chances are, you’ll notice something new even if you’ve taken the same route every morning for years.
6. Eating Breakfast
Instead of eating your breakfast on the go, or skipping it entirely, plan to take adequate time for a mindful eating practice. As you eat your cereal, smoothie, or eggs and toast, really experience the flavors and textures of your morning meal. Notice the smell, the ways in which your food hits your tongue, and how the flavor affects different areas of your mouth. Also, notice the feelings of hunger you may experience before you eat and the feelings of satisfaction or fullness when you are finished.
7. Driving to Work
Ever notice a feeling of “auto-pilot” when you’re commuting in the morning? Instead of tuning into the radio or the mind chatter, tune into the present moment. Your time in traffic or in transition is an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness.
As you drive, notice the sounds, people, buildings, and sights as you pass them. If your window is open, notice the wind in your face and the temperature in the air. Even if you have driven that same route a million times prior, if you drive it in a mindful way, you will surely notice something new. Count how many new things you can notice each time you drive to work to ensure your attention is on the road.
It takes a moment or two for your computer to wake up in the morning. Instead of impatiently waiting, close your eyes and do a body scan to discover where you might be holding tension. Bring your attention to one body part at a time and observe any sensations, sending breath into any areas of tension and tightness. You can do this in just a couple of minutes—your computer will be ready to go when you are.
9. Eating Lunch
Instead of eating at your desk or multi-tasking, take a time-out to eat lunch and follow the steps in #6.
10. Waiting in Line at the Grocery Store
Waiting in a checkout line is often a time to get annoyed, impatient, or reach for your phone. Next time you find yourself becoming annoyed at the cashier for moving too slow or mindlessly checking your email again for the 23rdtime in the day, use that extra moment to practice mindfulness instead of impatience. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths, then identify five new sounds you hadn’t heard before, then open your eyes and notice five new things around you that you hadn’t noticed before. By the time you’re finished, you’ll be that much closer to the finish line.
11. Getting Ready for Bed
Having the right wind-down routine is critical to a good night’s sleep. You can design your own nighttime ritual that includes some gentle stretching, meditation, soothing music, sweet-smelling candles or incense, or reading. Before shutting your eyes, spend a few moments reflecting on your day: What you accomplished and what you’re grateful for. You can write it down in a journal, share it with your partner, or just close your eyes and reflect, for the perfect way to seal your day.
It’s important to remember that you can practice mindfulness in any activities you’re involved in throughout your days. This list is meant just to give you some ideas of things you might already be doing in your life, and how to transform them into a mindfulness practice. When you experience the mundane activities in life as mindful, you can begin to transform your entire way of being to more present and attentive.
How often do you find yourself stressed out because of work? Statistically speaking, it’s likely that your answer is often. The American Institute of Stress cites job pressure – whether co-worker tension, bosses, or work overload – as by far the number one source of stress in America. Their study also found that 77 percent of the population regularly experiences physical symptoms caused by stress.
These widespread stress-related issues cost employers $300 billion a year. This means that stress is not just a problem for employees, but a giant, expensive hurdle employers must overcome as well.
Why Is Workplace Stress Getting Out of Hand?
The modern workplace has you tied to work no matter where you are. While technology has certainly increased efficiency and freedom, expectations of being available 24/7 blur the ever-so-important lines between work and personal time. Thirty five percent of people cite their jobs as an interference with their family or personal time as a significant source of stress. As the workforce shifts to an increasing number of people working remote and freelancing, the challenge of blurred boundaries becomes even more of a challenge.
How to Reduce Workplace Stress?
Working long hours and being passionate about what you do does not have to correlate to workplace stress. If you find yourself stressed at work to the point that it’s affecting your personal life, take heed. The following tips and infographic will give you some motivation to put yourself first for the sake of your sanity, well-being, and the quality of your work.
1. Set Boundaries
You don’t have to be available 24 hours a day. Setting work-life boundaries (and sticking to them) is one of many ways to reduce workplace stress and protect your time. Not only that, but when you have clear boundaries and time away from work to reset, you will also boost your productivity and performance at work. It’s a win-win!
Life is constantly dynamic and changing, making it difficult to feel in control — and easy to feel anxious and stressed. Job insecurity, relationship dynamics, health curveballs and costs, unexpected expenses, environmental disasters, political climate … these are all reasons that contribute to feelings of uncertainty.
It’s only natural to feel stress in the face of uncertainty. According to neuroscientist Dean Burnett, “in an evolutionary sense, the brain doesn’t like uncertainty. Anything uncertain is potentially a threat.”
While removing uncertainty entirely from our lives might sound attractive, no one is immune to uncertain and changing conditions. It is simply impossible to control the external world to ensure static, habitual, planned perfection. However some people are quite resilient to change, moving with the flow of life and accepting the curveballs that are presented, while others are inclined to meet change and uncertainty with resistance, causing anxiety, stress, and an overall negative attitude.
The good news is: if you’re less tolerant to the unknown and changing conditions of life, there are ways to build your capacity to manage the stress of uncertainty. In other words, you can learn to meet uncertainty with greater ease and resilience. Here are nine strategies to try…
1. Ground Yourself with Routines
Creating routines in your day can be the antidote to uncertainty. They provide stable anchors in your day that change and uncertainty often take away. Try to create big and small activities in your day and week that are consistent, for example:
Exercise at the same time every day
Go to bed at the same time each night
Commit to a weekly yoga class
Do your laundry and chores at the same time each week
Make the bed every morning
Feed and walk the dog at the same times each day
2. Take Care of Yourself
Practicing self-care is more important during times of uncertainty than ever. When you feel healthy and strong in your body, your mind is more apt to reflect a healthy and strong state as well. If you get sick, it’ll leave you less equipped to handle the stress of the changing tides.
Sometimes stressful times can disrupt healthy habits. Sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and meditating are all ways you can take care of yourself and put yourself in the best position possible to manage uncertainty. You can also incorporate healthy self-care practices into routines, killing two birds with one stone.
3. Practice Self-compassion
Understand that it’s going to take time to build your capacity and tolerance for stress, change, and uncertainty – and it’s difficult! So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t ace it right away. Be patient with yourself as you learn, grow, and build this competency within yourself. It won’t help you at all if you are criticizing yourself in the process of self-improvement.
If you’re still struggling with this one (it can be very difficult!), imagine a close friend or loved one is sitting in front of you suffering from the very change or uncertainty challenge that you are facing. What would be your advice to your friend? What words of wisdom and compassion do you have for him or her? Then, apply your own advice to your own life.
4. Meditate Every Day
Meditation can improve your capacity to respond to uncertainty and change. A consistent meditation practice will help you de-condition your reactions and habitual activity – i.e. reacting to uncertainty with anxiety, fear, and dread – and increase your capacity to manage the uncertainty with greater ease. Creating a state of mindfulness and inclining your mind to pause before letting it spin out of control is a natural extension of meditation.
5. Believe You Can
As you consider how tolerable or intolerable you might be of change and uncertainty, reflect on moments in the past where you’ve overcome similar stressful occasions. What did you do during that stressful time that helped you? What did you do that didn’t work? How can you use what you learned from that experience and apply it to present and future times of uncertainty?
Recognize that you have some data from this reflection – in other words, proof that you have what it takes to overcome what you’re going through.
6. Know You’re Not Alone
You are not the only one who has trouble moving through uncertainty. This challenge is part of being human. Simply remembering that you are not alone in this challenge, and knowing that many many many others feel out of control and anxious when they face uncertainty, and no one is immune to it, can make a huge difference.
7. Focus on What You CAN Control
If you are a self-proclaimed control freak, accepting change and uncertainty can be particularly difficult. Try to fill your need for control in ways that are within our control, like choosing what to make for dinner, which workout class to attend, and other simple decisions. This also goes back to #1: Establish Routines. Routines give your life structure that you can actually control, to which your control-freak tendencies will be pleased.
8. See Change as Opportunity
The brain may interpret uncertainty as stressful, but that doesn’t mean it actually IS stressful. In fact, there are many ways in which the uncertain and changing conditions may actually help you.
One of my all-time favorite quotes rings true on this theme:
“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” ~Rumi
To embrace this approach, as yourself “What if this was actually good for me?” Then consider what that could look like in your life.
9. Anticipate Change and Have a Plan
Since you know change is constant, have a plan to handle it before it runs your life. Have a list of friends and family you can call to help you cope with uncertainty and change when it comes and commit to maintaining your routines, healthy habits, and a positive attitude. Just knowing that you have a plan to cope can help you build your tolerance and capacity to manage feelings of uncertainty – even if you don’t actually need the plan.
A disappointing 80% of New Year’s resolutions are dead in the water by February. This would not be disappointing if there weren’t so many people yearning to make positive changes in their lives.
In my work as a coach, I often hear clients talk about how they struggle to focus on and stick with their goals. Many resolutions fall to the sideline because they are either unrealistic or because an actual, practical plan was never designed to make it happen in real life. So instead of creating several goals, choose ONE to focus on that will make the greatest positive impact on your life. Once you choose it, develop a practical plan to hold yourself accountable to weaving the new resolution into your life in an achievable, meaningful way. If you don’t know how to start devising that plan, schedule a free coaching session with me and I can help you get started !
To kick-start the process, ask yourself:
What do I want to invite more of in my life?
What do I want to focus on this year?
What do I want to accomplish, try out, or have fun with this year?
What can I actually commit to this year?
What is the one new thing I want to do that will make a big difference this year?
Whether you want to lower your stress, lose weight, get healthier, or improve your mood, relationships, finances, or career, consider making one of these New Year’s resolutions to make a meaningful difference in your life this year. And remember, just focus on ONE.
1. Do Less
In our culture, we tend to thrive on “more,” “better,” and “faster.” This resolution is all about asking yourself, “What can I possibly do less of?” and “What can I say no to?”
Instead of packing your calendar with activities and crowding your to-do list with more, take a step back and think about what you really want to do with your precious time. Think about what you can say no to and how you can design a balanced calendar so you have some breathing room this year.
2. Be Kinder
Practicing kindness can improve your health, reduce stress, make you happier, and make the world a better place, too. Doing things like stashing granola bars in your car to give them out to the homeless, promoting a friend’s small business, offering to run an errand for a sick friend, and treating someone to a smoothie or coffee are simple ways you can make kindness more contagious. Here are 44 ideas to get you started.
3. Connect More with Your Favorite People
Take time each week to connect with the people who are important to you. This may mean making sure to schedule quality time for dinners, game nights, coffee dates, movies, and meaningful conversations. When you do, try to keep your smartphone out of sight to make sure you’re really present with those you love. You can also try this mindful listening practice to connect even deeper with those around you.
4. Practice Patience
Patience has always been difficult for me. But I have grown to believe that even the most impatient people can improve their patience. We all know there are endless activities in any given day that test our patience, so this also means there are many, many opportunities to practice this virtue. If you want some tips on how to improve your patience as one of your New Year’s resolutions, read these seven strategies to build your patience muscles.
5. Embrace a Gratitude Mindset
It’s easy say thank you when you notice something you appreciate. But it’s also easy to quickly forget. Embracing a gratitude mindset is about becoming hyper aware of the things you appreciate—and holding onto that sense of gratitude. It’s about noticing the small and big things you’re grateful for in your life. Once you get into the rhythm of noticing gratitude in everything you do, it becomes part of your life and part of your mindset. Here are five ways to squeeze in a dose of gratitude.
Commit to an exercise routine if you don’t already have one, and exercise more often if you already do. Instead of counting calories you burn, create a specific goal, like “run a 10K by summer” or “go to yoga three times a week.” Trying new activities is another great way to make exercising more fun.
7. Commit to a Meditation Practice
Even five minutes a day of meditation can make you more focused, creative, compassionate, productive, and less stressed. If this is one of your New Year’s resolutions, read the 10 rules for new meditators to help you get started.
8. Get Enough Sleep
You can’t feel or function your best when you don’t get enough sleep. While that amount varies for everyone, most people need between seven and nine hours to be at their best. It’s important to know what that magic number is for you and prioritize your beauty rest accordingly.
When you don’t get enough sleep, or the quality of your sleep is not restful, it takes a giant toll on your mind and body. It probably comes as no surprise that even short-term sleep deficiencies can negatively impact your mental and performance state. For a better quality of life during your waking hours, including the ability to focus and be present and mindful during your day-to-day life, make sure to get the sleep your body needs.
9. Incline Your Mind Toward Positivity
This is more than the “be positive” New Year’s resolution that many people declare. And it’s more than simply “focusing on the silver lining.” This is about training your brain to be happier.
Psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Rick Hanson is known for saying, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” It means that in our culture, we are conditioned to focus on suffering, and it takes practice to rewire the brain to focus on positive things. In fact, for every negative experience, it takes seven positive experiences to reach homeostasis.
How do you practice inclining your mind to focus on positivity? By actively noticing positive states throughout the day. They are easy to miss, especially the tiny gems that grace our path. The more you can notice and open up to the beautiful experiences in life — however small — the more they shine, and the more you are inclining your mind toward positivity.
Rick Hanson suggested that when you notice something positive, to stay with it for as long as you’re able to make sure it doesn’t float by under acknowledged. For example, every time you notice a positive state – like joyful, energized, grateful, mindful, compassionate, connected – stay with the feeling for at least 15 seconds. Hanson wrote, “We must consciously experience what we want to learn – this may simply be the feeling of being loved or enjoying a walk. Now, turn that passing experience into a lasting change of neural structure or function, by ‘staying with’ the experience for up to 20 seconds at a time. Feel it. Allow it to sink into you like a sponge.”
If you can do this six times a day, for a total of a minute and a half every day, your mind will begin to notice unconsciously and be more inclined toward positive states.
10. Be More Curious
When you’re curious, problem solving becomes easier because you see more options, paths, and ways of solving a problem than your non-curious counterparts. You question more; you gather more opinions; you don’t stop at the first solution – which can lead to greater possibilities.
To truly embrace an attitude of curiosity means you begin to question things in your life and the world around you with no attachment to the answer. This last part is the key. Even if the subject at hand is something you know a lot about – pretend like you are getting to know it for the first time and with wonder, begin to inquire, observe, and learn. To do this without judgment requires an incredibly high degree of openness. Embracing curiosity involves playfulness, lightness, and openness – all fun qualities to practice, so remember to enjoy the process!
11. Save Cash
Consider spending less money each week and stashing it away for your future. Saving just an extra $10 every week and investing it wisely could mean great strides in your retirement fund, your travel budget, your kid’s college fund, or another meaningful event in your life down the road.
12. Design a Morning Routine
I’m a huge advocate of morning routines. I used to wake up feeling rushed, which would make my entire day feel the same stressed-out sentiment. Since the first thing you do when you wake up will set the tone for your entire day, you better be intentional about your mornings. If you want to move through your day with ease, energy, awareness and confidence, start your day with activities that encourage those states of mind.
Declare every moment an opportunity to learn this year! Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language, an instrument, or a dance style — its time to make it happen. Research has shown that people who continually learn new things throughout life are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so step outside of your comfort zone and start now.
14. Let Go of Expectations
When you set the bar too high, you may be disappointed. When you set the bar too low and expect nothing, you end up dreading the event. There are many overused clichés about expectations, but the point is: expectations are rarely helpful. Allow yourself to be surprised by whatever the moment will hold by letting go of whatever you believe will happen and instead, just letting it happen.
15. Know Your Priorities
If you don’t know what matters most in any given day or week, you won’t be able to get the most important things done.
At the beginning of each day (or end of each day for the following day), make a to-do list that only includes three things. You may be tempted to add more than three things, but don’t. If you’re feeling stressed and it’s because you have too much to do, take five minutes to write down all that’s swimming in your head, and then prioritize. Removing items off your to-do list that aren’t important so you can focus on what is, is incredibly helpful to reduce feelings of overwhelm. Remember, if your to-do list is overwhelmed, chances are you are, too. Make prioritization one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2019 and notice how much less stressed you feel.
16. Listen More and Talk Less
If you’re an introvert, this may be easy for you (and you may even want to invert the resolution!). But if you are an extrovert, this may be the perfect New Year’s resolution for you. When most people are listening, their mind is elsewhere, either waiting for the other person to finish speaking or preparing what it is they are going to say next. See if you can tune in more to what others are saying, without feeling like you have to chime in. Here are some tips on how to practice mindful listening.
17. Make Time and Space for Yourself
If you often operate in the over-planned, too-busy mode, it’s important to be intentional about this.
Time and space doesn’t just mean to make time for yourself and the things you love to do. In order to get into a deeper state of self-awareness, you’ll want to set aside time without distractions — to detach from the nonstop electronic and social demands on daily life. Therefore, this also means to carve out the time away from your smart phone, access to social media, and steady stream of texts, calls, and emails. When you are at the mercy of notifications, it means you are living according to someone else’s agenda. When you detach from these things, you are in charge of your time.
18. Set a Daily Intention
Setting your intention is the practice of conscious action in your life. Your intention can help to guide your every action as you move through your day, so the outcome is not left up to chance.
19. Travel More
Whether you want to increase the amount of countries you visit or time spent relaxing, traveling can increase your perspective in helpful ways. So use those vacation days, book that flight, pack your bags, and grab your bucket list. Traveling helps you stretch your limits and step outside of your comfort zone. What could be better to focus on this year?
What New Year’s resolutions are you choosing to focus on in 2019?
Patience is one of those virtues that sounds simple from a distance. However, while the thought of waiting for something you want or need seems easy in theory, it is much more arduous in practice. When you’re actually faced with the obstacle, the entire concept of patience grows more challenging, and it can be difficult to improve patience in the moment.
This test of patience rings true not just for Type-A East Coasters like me, but also for special education teachers, speech therapists, and nurses – who drip with patience. At times, it’s not a muscle that’s easy to flex no matter who you are.
Some people have more patience for family and loved ones, while others find strangers actually easier to be patient around. For some, the smaller the obstacle, the less the patience – and for others, the opposite is true.
Whatever or whomever your trigger, patience is most difficult to muster up when you encounter a roadblock or waiting time between you and that something you want or need. Whether it’s as simple as:
The long line at the grocery store when you just want to get home with your groceries
The hold time when you want to speak to a customer service representative
The five minutes you must wait when your spouse is running late for dinner
Waiting for your computer to reboot
Or as BIG as:
Waiting for your doctor to call you with test results
Waiting to hear back about whether or not you got that promotion or dream job
Waiting for an investor’s offer on a business
No matter the gravity of the situation, mindfulness can help you practice patience. What is the link between mindfulness and patience? Let’s have a look:
Patience vs. Mindfulness
To understand the role mindfulness plays in being patient, let’s make sure we are all working off of the same definition of patience, which, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary means, “bearing pains or trials calmly and without compliant” and “steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.”
You can’t really practice patience if you’re not mindful – aware of the situation you’re in and your reaction to it. In the face of discomfort, inconvenience, or difficulty, which is an inevitable part of life on this planet, you must persevere calmly, steadily, and mindfully.
This may be easier in the face of some of the simple inconveniences, like waiting in line or in traffic, and can become much more difficult at the center of a very troubling or prolonged situation.
The good news is that even the most impatient people can improve patience. And there are ample opportunities to practice being patient, given the inevitable inconveniences, annoyances, and unplanned challenges that show up pretty much all the time. So you want to get better at patience? You must practice patience. Here are seven strategies you can use to build your patience muscles.
Pause and Breathe
If you use the time you must wait to take a few deep breaths, your nervous system will slow down instead of speed up. In some situations, by the time you have taken 10 deep breaths, your wait will be over. In others, these breaths will help to center you and invite a calmer reaction to the wait.
Have you ever noticed that when you meet an unplanned inconvenience or challenge with resistance, you are really thrown off – and your mood can turn sour and heavy? Everything becomes about overcoming and removing the challenge when you resist it.
On the other hand, when you meet an unplanned inconvenience or challenge with calmness, your mood remains steady and patient. This is the power in responding, rather than reacting to unwelcome circumstances. Most often, it is not external circumstances that make you upset, it is your reaction to those external circumstances that causes the greater dose of stress in life.
How do you control this when you’re at risk for getting impatient? The trick here is to reduce resisting experiences that come your way, where you are unable to affect change. Practicing acceptance does not necessarily mean you like, want, support, or endorse everything you cross paths with. Rather, it means you’re choosing to allow it to be there without resistance, when you can’t change it anyway.
In this way, practicing patience is to practice making your default reaction to accept what is with openness, rather than resist it. This does not mean you have to welcome the situation with open arms and enthusiasm – it just means that you avoid resisting it and let it happen within a neutral attitude.
Acknowledge the Effects of Impatience
In the moment, notice what is making you impatient and ask yourself:
Do I have control over the situation? If not, what do I have control over in this moment?
Is the feeling of impatience helping or exacerbating the impact of the situation?
What emotion or mood would be more helpful, instead of the impatience?
Look for the Silver Lining or Lesson
Get curious about the particular moment you are in. Is there anything about the challenging or inconvenient situation that may land a positive impact on your life? Is there anything positive that was not available to you before – and now is – now that this challenge has presented itself?
This may be include meeting someone new, discovering a new coffee shop, or having the opportunity to practice patience and exercise those muscles.
Use the Extra Time Wisely
Now that you have extra time in this moment, what will you do with it? Instead of focusing on the thing that is in your way, or the thing you are after, focus on something else you normally don’t have time for.
After all, how often do you find yourself with “extra time?” Probably not very often. Use that time to meditate, read an article, listen to a podcast, text something nice to a loved one, or practice gratitude.
Assume that the obstacle before you was put in your way because you needed to slow down and take a break.
Watch your impulse to perceive the challenge before you as unfair or as bad timing. Instead, shake off any anger or frustration and take this as a cue that an old friend is reminding you that you need a moment to slow down and reset.
If you shift your thinking about the meaning of the obstacle, you’ll wind up arriving wherever you’re headed with a calmer, clearer mind and attitude.
Getting better at being patient will make your life (and the lives of those around you) easier and ultimately will make you a happier person. After all – adversity won’t be going away anytime soon – it’s part of the human experience and you can’t escape it. So you may as well learn to improve your patience and calmly endure the setbacks, difficulties, and unwelcome roadblocks along the way.
I’ve been to more than 30 countries and have spent about a year and a half immersed in other cultures. My biggest motivation to travel is learning about the way people live in different cultures. I have always been fascinated by human behavior, cultures, and the way people live, work, practice rituals, and take care of themselves in the various parts of the world. Different cultures approach wellness in different ways, and there is a lot to learn from each and every tradition and ritual practiced from East to West and North to South.
Every culture has different traditions and rituals for mindfulness, prayer, self-improvement, happiness, and wellness. Here is a snapshot of some of my most unique and favorite travel memories:
Baños de Cajon, Ecuador, which is essentially a steam bath in a box. I can’t even describe it – if you ever make it to Baños in Ecuador, you must give it a try.
Holy water ceremonies in Bali
Thermal bath houses, Budapest, Hungary
Thai massage, Thailand
Floating in the Dead Sea, Israel
Mud bathing, Hawaii
Salsa dancing, Cuba
Cacao ceremonies, Costa Rica
In the name of stress management, self-love, and curiosity, take a time out and try something new to help you be more present and find more joy in your life. Each country has unique ways of managing stress and finding balance in the mind and body, and I’ve outlined some below to get you started.
From the ancient Egyptian ritual of cupping therapy to Japan’s practice on Shinrin Yoku, try one of the following 12 practices, inspired by diverse cultures, but easy to incorporate into your own life, wherever you live.
1. India: Laughter Yoga
The practice of laughter yoga originates from Dr. Madan Kataria’s 1995 article titled Laughter — the Best Medicine, which discussed the health benefits of laughing. He created a practice that combined breathing exercises with forced laughter. Laughter reduces stress, boosts the immune system, helps fight depression and anxiety, and increases happiness.
How to practice: Find ways to laugh in your daily life! Here are some ideas:
Try a laughter yoga class
Try improv comedy
Watch a funny show or movie
Go to a comedy show
Spend time with your hilarious friends
2. Japan: Shinrin Yoku
The Japanese practice Shinrin Yoku means “forest bathing.” It’s a preventative health care method based on the belief that there are plenty of health benefits from living in the forest. The time spent in nature is said to encourage clearer intuition, increased flow of energy, deepening of friendships, and overall higher levels of happiness.
How to practice: Get outdoors! It’s as simple as that. If you need more ideas, try these:
Take a walk
Plan a picnic in the woods
Start a garden
3. Egypt: Cupping Therapy
A medical practice first used by the Egyptians, cupping therapy is the practice of pulling toxins from the body. The cups used many years ago were made of animal horns, and today glass cups are used. It is also used in Chinese medicine to aid in healing. The cup is placed on the patient in the area that needs healing and heat is applied. The cup works as a vacuum as blood is drawn to the skin. It is used to treat blood disorders, migraines, skin problems, and pain, among other things.
How to practice: Find a facility that practices cupping therapy near you. You might start by looking up acupuncturists, as cupping is often a part of a Chinese medicine practice.
4. China: Acupuncture
The traditional Chinese treatment of acupuncture involves inserting needles into the body to balance energy. Doctors of Chinese Medicine use needles in specific points along the meridians to balance the flow of energy, or Chi (QI) that flows through the body. Many people find that acupuncture can help treat headaches, back pain, neck pain, allergies, insomnia, infertility, high blood pressure, and much more.
How to practice: Find a licensed acupuncturist near you.
5. Russia: Banya or Sauna
A banya is a small wooden room that is heated with firewood, also known as a Russian sauna or steam bath. Banyas began as a place to be social – for people to gather and converse. Today, there is still a specific ritual that you’ll find if you visit a banya in Russia. You don’t heat up just once; you leave the room and return many times. The banya is a place that brings people together, and is also said to help cleanse the skin, detox the body, and boost the immune system.
How to practice: Plan a sauna day with your friends. Find a sauna near you (it doesn’t have to be a banya) and be intentional about going in with an open mind.
6. Norway: Friluftsliv
In Norwegian, Friluftsliv translates to “open-air living.” The word refers to our relationship with nature. It suggests that exploration and appreciation of nature will lead to greater happiness.
How to practice: Similar to Shinrin Yoku, find ways to get outdoors! Plan a camping trip with friends so you can spend an entire weekend in nature. Make sure to be respectful of your surroundings and leave no trace.
7. Japan: Inemuri or Power Naps
In Japan, people have embraced the practice of closing their eyes to rest for just a moment – anywhere at any time – from subway stations to coffee shops. Inemuri is not a full state of sleep, but rather an in-between stage like daydreaming. It is seen as respectful in Japan because it means the person has worked very hard, and strong work ethic is part of the Japanese culture.
How to practice: When you feel tired throughout the week, try taking a moment and closing your eyes. Allow yourself moments of peace throughout the day. If you fall asleep easily, you might want to set an alarm – just in case.
8. Iceland: Hot Springs
Iceland is known as “the land of fire and ice” because of its unique mix of glaciers and volcanic activity. The geothermal energy heats up areas of water, creating natural hot springs. These hot springs are said to offer anti-aging properties, decrease pain, improve acne, and increase endorphins and blood circulation.
How to practice: Find a natural hot spring in your area. If you aren’t in close proximity to a natural hot spring, try a hot bath with natural bath salts. Taking time to give your skin some love can help you relax and unwind.
9. South America: Mate Tea
Originating in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil, yerba mate is an herbal tea that’s made from the leaves of the llex paraguariensis plant. It is commonly used as a replacement for coffee since it does have caffeine. Yerba mate is rich in antioxidants, boosts energy, can enhance physical performance, and can boost your immune system.
How to practice: Try swapping your morning coffee for some mate tea and see if you notice an increase in energy throughout your day. It may give you the caffeine buzz without the jitters.
10.Tibet: Tibetan Singing Bowls
Tibetan singing bowls are used in sound healing. They create a vibration that is said to heal on many levels. The sonic waves resonate with your brainwaves and synchronize, to create a feeling of peace.
How to practice: Some yoga studios offer sound healing sessions; do some research to find out if any are near you. Spotify also has many relaxing options to listen to Tibetan singing bowls online, check it out.
11. Sweden: Fika
Fika is often translated as a “coffee and cake break,” but Swedish coffee breaks are more about the state of mind than the coffee and the cake. For Swedes, Fika is a moment to slow down and share a coffee and bite to eat with loved ones. You can’t Fika by yourself – it’s a ritual you do with friends to connect and socialize.
How to practice: Bake some cookies, put on a pot of coffee or tea, and invite a friend over to help you enjoy them. Or pick up a friend on your way to check out a new coffee shop or bakery.
12. Nigeria: Ubuntu
Ubuntu is a way of life or a philosophy of life. The word ubuntu literally translates to “so much,” or “I am because we are. This is a gesture of appreciation for others, and a concept that we are all part of the same family. This sense of community manifests itself as kindness, caring, and compassion toward others. At its core, ubuntu highlights the traits of sharing, fairness, hospitality, caring, and honesty in the community.
How to practice: Practice generosity and kindness. Make it your goal to focus on interacting with others with care, supporting those in your life who need you, and allowing yourself to be supported by friends and family. For more ideas, check out these 44 acts of kindness.
Managing your stress doesn’t have to be only about practicing yoga and meditation (although those are great strategies, too!) There many ways to find balance and joy in your life, and looking to other cultures for inspiration is a fun way to explore the world of wellness.
The lives we live in this digital age are full of overwhelm and stress. In the competitive cycle of trying to do more, be better, work harder, and accomplish more, we can easily lose sight of how that cycle—without pause—can affect the mind and body. By the time we realize we are stressed, we are completely drained – physically and emotionally. We look back and realize we don’t know how the stress piled up so high, and can’t remember the last time we had a real vacation. Enter: The wide, wild world of stress-management advice.
Sometimes you realize you need to start managing your stress, and other times the doctor, a significant other, friends, or children point this out for you. The advice you get from books, friends, podcasts, websites, and loved ones may sound reasonable – for a lot of people. But not for you. Somehow it doesn’t work for you.
Where does that leave you in the game of managing your stress?
Follow these tips and you’ll learn that you’re not empty-handed on stress-management advice if the popular tips aren’t your thing. There are loads of ways to manage your stress, far beyond the trendy advice out there today. Just because everyone is meditating for 30 minute a day and that doesn’t interest you, it doesn’t mean there aren’t excellent ways you can learn to manage your stress. Keep reading to find some alternatives to the popular stress-management advice on the market.
Not Into Meditation? Try Mindful Walking, Instead
Some people are more restless than others, making meditation particularly difficult to practice. (I know this first-hand because it took me years to settle into a regular practice.) If you naturally gravitate to movement, rather than stillness, go for a walk without your phone and pay attention to every detail around you. Really tune into each step you take, each flower you pass by, each rustle of the trees that you hear, and every breath you take. Walking meditation is a great way to reduce stress and relax the nervous system.
Make sure to leave your phone behind, which means no music, podcasts, or phone conversations while you walk. This time is meant for you, not anyone else. Take advantage of it as a window where you detach from tech and connect with the present moment.
Not Into Working Out? Try Movement, Instead
If the thought of working out conjures up thoughts about sweaty gym socks and a boring exercise routine, you’ll never get your cardio in.
Instead of forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy, find a fun activity that doesn’t sound like a chore – and that has the side effect of exercise. Think: beach volleyball, dance class, hiking, pick-up basketball, riding your bike, sightseeing on foot, or yoga class.
Not Into Yoga? Try Tai Chi, Instead
Speaking of yoga, you may be one of those people who wouldn’t be caught dead in a yoga class. Despite how many yogis are flocking to the studios, (and how there is now a studio on every block), you may oppose it. So, don’t force yourself to go.
Still interested in taking a class to help you manage your stress? Try Tai Chi. Like yoga, Tai Chi is a practice that integrates the mind and body with controlled movements and breathing. Some people refer to it as a moving meditation and others describe it as an art. Give it a try and see if it’s something you can incorporate into your life as a way to help you manage your stress.
Not Into Aromatherapy? Try Taking 5 Deep Breaths, Instead
Lavender, rose, and lemongrass may be the best way for some to cut the edge of stress, but If you don’t like those scents, it may offer you nothing more than a headache. If aromatherapy isn’t your thing, leave the scent behind and keep it simple.
Close your eyes and take five deep breaths – inhaling on a slow count of four, and exhaling on a slow count of eight. Focusing on the exhale can help you neutralize feelings of stress, and settle both the mind and the body. The outward breath is neurologically tied to the relaxation response in the brain, that’s why you sigh when you’re relieved.
Not Into Positive Psychology? Try Sitting with Your Stress, Instead
Setting intentions, positive affirmations, encouraging self-talk … this works great for some people. For others, it exacerbates the stress. If you’re in the thick of overwhelm, trying (and in some cases, failing) to focus on the positive, may hand you a greater does of stress.
If you’re one of those people who, when faced with a challenge, is turned off by the idea of looking at the silver lining, take heart. It may help you even more to really be in the moment with your stress.
On one hand, it works for many to incline the mind toward a more positive state by practicing gratitude and focusing on the positive aspects of the challenge. On the other hand, it can be helpful to really feel the difficult experience you are in – in moderation. Some levels of stress can be helpful to fuel a positive change. If you are able to really experience the stress and reflect on it, it’s likely you’ll figure out how to eliminate it and make a positive difference in your life.
Think about the last time you felt stressed, frustrated, or unhappy. Did you sink into the stress and let it overcome you? Or did it catalyze a positive change and push you forward in a new direction?
Mindful moments aren’t only for meditations. One of the reasons we create a meditation practice is to cultivate more mindful presence throughout our day-to-day lives. But there are a number of things that get in the way of maintaining that feeling of inner peace all day long — and one of the biggest culprits is technology.
Distractions are abundant in our world — and our laptops, tablets, and smart phones are a big contributor to those distractions. We grab our smart phones when they beep or ring, and pretty much any time we’re bored or curious. This counters productivity if we’re trying to get work done that requires real thinking; it can also disrupt moments of connecting with our family, friends, and real selves.
I am someone who is very easily distracted, and I know I have trouble resisting when I hear my phone ring or beep. So I have to get creative in setting boundaries to avoid feeling like technology has a hold on my life.
Dr. Larry Rosen, expert researcher and writer in what he calls, “The Psychology of Technology,” suggests an easy formula to combat the power our devices have over us. He came up with an easy acronym: ABC.
A: Awareness. Know what distracts YOU.
B: Breath. Calm and reset often.
C: Choices. Make good choices for you.
This first step is critical. Know what distracts you and what helps you reset. Once you have a clear understanding of what steals your attention, you can find a practice that works for you to reduce those distractions.
Since our culture promotes work breaks, vacations, and even time away from the kids, let’s add technology breaks to the list of things necessary to help the mind reset. Here are five ways to take a technology break that have worked for me to minimize distraction and stay focused.
Technology Break #1: Take a Technology Vacation
Designate device-free windows of time to ditch your device and stay in the moment. Here are some ideas:
Turn your phone off every Sunday (or a day of your choosing), making that conscious effort to take a technology break. If you like the idea but aren’t ready to go that far, try just one day a week from noon – 4 p.m.
Silence your phone every evening from 6-8 p.m. (or another two-hour window of time)
Take one weekend a month and go somewhere in nature without cell service. If you have more willpower, you can simply avoid using your device instead of going somewhere that doesn’t allow you to connect. I don’t have that kind of willpower, so I like to travel without service.
Create conscious intentions around picking up your phone: Ask yourself, do I really need that info, or do I need something else?
Technology Break #2: Turn Your Phone Off
This sounds easy, but it’s not easy to follow through with. For many, our smart phone is our source of music, our calculator, and our means of communication and entertainment. Turn it off?! When it doesn’t need a restart?!
If that sounds impossible … try the next one instead …
Technology Break #3: Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode
One of my favorite things about traveling is being disconnected. I get so much done on airplanes, without the distraction of emails, Google, Facebook, and phone calls. It didn’t occur to me until recently that I can just take the same approach when I need to crank out some critical thinking or writing.
I also put my phone on airplane mode 30 or 45 minutes before I got to sleep at night, and I don’t flip it off airplane mode until the next morning, about an hour after I wake up, post-meditation. This helps me start my day in a more present way.
If that still sounds impossible … start even smaller and try the next one …
Technology Break #4: Silence Your Notifications
When you’ve got an important task at hand, turn off your notifications so you won’t be interrupted. This means all app notifications that pop up on your screen, email and calendar reminders that ding or appear, and your phone’s volume.
Technology Break #5: Set Up a Device-Free Zone
Designate one or two areas in your house where devices are not allowed, and stick to your rules. Once you’re used to it, you’ll find yourself enjoying those places most in your home. Good trial zones might be your bedroom, backyard, living room, kids’ rooms, or kitchen table.
Once you begin to incorporate more technology breaks into your life, your instinct to grab your phone for every little thing will decrease, you’ll rely less on technology, and you’ll find yourself more present in day-to-day life.
While these words may be similar in semantics, the difference between responding and reacting in stressful situations can be profound.
The difference between the two lies in a deep breath, a pause, or a brief moment of mindful presence. That moment can mean the difference between sending the entire situation or relationship soaring to greater heights, or falling down a slippery slope.
Let’s take a closer look at what the phrase respond vs. react represents, and learn some tools to help you respond to life’s circumstances – even when you’re triggered by stress – in a way that serves your well-being and everyone around you.
Reactions are instinctual and stem from the subconscious mind. There’s no filtering process when you react in a situation – you’re running on auto-pilot. When you react, you do and say things without thinking first and don’t consider the implications of what you do or say – you just act. Reactions are like a puppy who hasn’t been trained. That untrained puppy is going to bark at every dog it sees, jump at every passing neighbor, and then he’ll eat your dinner … as soon as he sees it.
Responses are more thoughtful. When your respond, you first explore in your mind the possible outcomes of your reply before saying a word. You may weigh the pros and cons and consider what would be best for yourself and others in the situation. Responses are more like the well-trained and well-behaved dog who comes when you call him, barks only when there’s a reason to bark, and waits patiently for his treat.
Would you rather be the type of person who creates a calm and happy environment around you, like the well-behaved dog? Or the kind of person who is a wild card – totally unpredictable and can cause the people around you stress, like the untrained puppy?
Being mindfully present when responding, means you can notice when something triggers you, and you continue to observe yourself as you have an emotional response to the situation. You are able to distance yourself from the experience and watch your mind react to it.
Take the Space When You’re Triggered
Adding that pause – that layer of observation, space, mindfulness, or whatever you want to call it – to the moment when you notice you’re triggered can mean the difference between strengthening or breaking a relationship, between a child, colleague, employee, or neighbor walking away feeling supported or disregarded. That space could mean a few deep breaths as you allow the reaction to fade and invite your balance to return. Or, it could mean taking a day or a week to cool down and reduce the charge of your emotional response. Every person and every situation will require a different way of doing this. Taking some space when you’re triggered gifts you the time to make a conscious decision on your next step.
Have you ever acted on your anger, said something you didn’t mean, or did something you later regretted?
If you answered Yes to the previous question, have you ever experienced anger that faded with time, where after you stepped back, you no longer felt the charge? (If you answered No to the previous question, I want to know your secret…)
The reason most, if not all of you answered Yes, to that second question is because for most of us, emotions aren’t static … they come and go, and your responses to situations can be greatly different from one moment to the very next.
Often when we hear something that we don’t like or is unexpected in some way, the natural tendency is to get defensive or judge the situation quickly. This is the natural tendency of the human mind – to run on auto-pilot. An NYU Study found that a person decides how trustworthy another person is – judges someone else – in as little as 30 milliseconds. This is not enough time to conscious register a face, but it’s enough time for the brain to make a judgment.
Creating a short pause before responding to the trigger can help you disconnect from those automatic reactions and change the course of the situation completely.
Here’s an acronym I came up with to help myself and my clients in those moments when we notice we’re triggered, and you can use it, too. It’s called P.L.A.C.E.:
As soon as you notice you’re triggered, take a breath. For example, let’s say you get cut off on the highway. Before you spin into the typical road rage and get bent out of shape, as soon as you notice your energy shift, take a deep breath.
L: Label Your Reaction
What are you feeling? Is it frustration, insecurity, or something else? In the example of getting cut off on the highway, are you angry? Anxious?
A: Ask Yourself Why
What actually triggered you? Was it the event itself, or could it have been related to a previous judgment you had or a common trigger? This step invites you to bring awareness to your common triggers and blind spots. Often, the emotion is tied to something below the surface of the actual event.
In our example of being cut off, it likely isn’t the person cutting you off that’s making you angry … it’s likely that you’re going to be late and don’t have time to spare. When we get cut off … we go into reaction and anger mode. When we cut someone else off … it’s because we’re late to pick up the kids or late to a meeting. We’ve all been on both sides.
C: Choose a Skillful Response
This is a critical step – it’s where all the magic happens in the process. As you take that step back, consider … what matters most in this situation? What is my goal? And how can I respond in a productive way – a way that will move me closer to my goal? In our example, the most important thing is likely to arrive at your destination safely, and the best way to respond is most likely to let it go and keep yourself collected and attentive for the drive.
E: Empower Yourself
Empower yourself to move forward from that place of awareness so that you can invite a healthier, more ecological outcome for everyone for everyone involved.
You are building that self-reflective capacity – strengthening that muscle within yourself to respond with purpose.
Let me be clear. This is not easy and it takes practice. It’s impossible to be unreactive 100% of the time (at least I have not yet figured out how to do this.) The goal is to decrease the amount of time you are reactive, and recover your centeredness more quickly. You must realize that you WILL go into auto-pilot when work gets stressful. The faster you can acknowledge when you’re triggered, the faster you’ll be able to regulate your nervous system, and get yourself back on track.
As with anything in life, it takes practice. Learning to become nonreactive is a continual process that gets easier over time. Rick Hanson is well-known for the phrase “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” In this context, what it means is that the more you can practice being calm and nonreactive and the more you invite responses rather than reactions, the better at it you become.
When we are not present and when we are stressed out, we are caught up in it all, and it’s more difficult to choose our response. We lose the boundary of our inner landscape with what’s happening externally and the context around us. When you are mindfully present, you have access to the space between the trigger and the response.
This is what this famous quote is referring to –this quote is often attributed to Viktor Frankl although he wasn’t the actual author.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~Author Unknown.
The bottom line is, you have a choice. In stressful situations, you can either respond or react. You cannot do both simultaneously. Which will you choose?
When trust is broken – internally in the workplace, with customers, or in relationships – it is far more difficult to get results and build deeper connections. You end up in an ineffective loop that leads nowhere. And sometimes – you don’t even know why trust was broken in the first place. The problem is, building trust is no easy task. Where do you start, especially when trust has been broken?
In this Ted Talk, Frances Frei, Harvard Business School Professor, makes the case that trust is the most important element of all in business and in life, “Trust is the foundation for everything we do, and if we can learn to trust one another more, we can have unprecedented human progress.”
Frei gives a 15-minute crash course on how to build, maintain, and rebuild trust, using the three components required in building trusting relationships:
She says, “When all three of these things are working, we have great trust. But if any one of these three gets shaky, if any one of these three wobbles, trust is threatened.” The tricky thing is, any of these three components can start to wobble at the drop of a hat. Breaking trust can come from something as simple as:
An employee stops trusting their supervisor when they break a promise.
A child has a hard time trusting their parent because they are using their smartphone every time they are in a conversation.
A relationship suffers when one side says something insincere (you can always tell!)
A client loses trust after a meeting where the vendor was distracted and unfocused.
The reason for a trust breach can, of course, be more complicated and profound, such as: A company faces a trust breach when their CEO is tied to sexual misconduct or their customers’ security is violated.
Losing trust can take many different forms and mistrust can be cued at any moment without realizing it. It’s important to become more aware of your words and actions to make sure you’re being authentic, logical, and empathetic – and building trust in the process.
Frei ends by addressing the leaders in the room, emphasizing the importance of their roles and how they have the power to set the attitude of trust on their teams. “It is your obligation to set the conditions that not only make it safe for us to be authentic but make it welcome, make it celebrated and cherish it for exactly what it is, which is the key for us achieving greater excellence than we have ever known is possible.”
Watch this 15-minute Ted Talk for the full crash course on building and maintaining trust: