There are so many reasons why you should try meditation! You'll find that you have less anxiety, less depression, better health, and better relationships. How many practices can claim that? Would you rather take a pill for anxiety or learn to calm your mind and body in a more natural way? There may be many unwanted side effects from medication (such as feeling "hung over" for hours, not being able to function with normal activities, and developing a dependency on the medication.) Meditation gives you calm and peaceful feelings without the side effects. And having a peaceful mind is a form of stress protection that can help you to clear your mind of worries.
This is not to say that you won’t worry about things ever, but you'll find that worry decreases in both intensity and duration. In addition, you will develop a more effective way of dealing with the stressful situations in your daily life; you'll become more resilient. You will be able to understand situations in a different light and be able to see the situations for what they really are. When your mind is not at peace, it is hard to be happy even under the most pleasant circumstances. In some forms of meditation, you can analyze the thought processes that pass through your mind. When you concentrate deeply on the thoughts and situations of your life, you can reach the point at which you find your own answers to your problems.
Today many types of meditation are recommended by health care professionals as a way of cleansing the mind and emotions of negative thoughts. By meditating, you can benefit from improved concentration and memory. It also helps to help you develop a greater understanding of stressful situations in your daily life so that you can have a greater understanding of the real cause of the problem. Anxiety is reduced dramatically. This helps you approach your problems with less stress because you do not impulsively react with fear, panic, depression, or anger. This, in turn, helps you get along with others much better.
Your body also benefits from meditation. When your mind is clear, you are better able to bring healing to the parts of your body that are ill. Meditating helps to improve the overall functioning of your immune system so that your body can fight off disease. As your body becomes more relaxed, your blood pressure lowers and your heart can pump the blood to the organs of the body.
The aim of meditation is to give you a sense of inner peace that you will use throughout your day in all your dealings. This is why it is recommended that you meditate in the morning as soon as you wake. The positive feelings that you bring into your mind and body will then help you cope with your day. I highly recommend meditation for all of the above reasons.
Start with a few minutes of silence each morning. It doesn't have to be long. In order to start a new habit, researchers tell us that you're better off doing your new habit a minute or two a day consistently for three weeks than an hour every once in a while. Once the habit is established, you'll want to keep this new habit because your physical and emotional health improve so much. Like anything else worth learning, you'll improve with practice. Let me know how it goes for you!
This is a guest post from Karen Leland, author of the book, Time Management In An Instant.
You know what you need to do. You know why you need to do it. You even know what steps you must take to get it done. But there’s one small problem: you can’t seem to get moving. It’s a common problem. Maybe it’s chronic procrastination or maybe you’re just so overwhelmed that you feel paralyzed. Either way, the task you must complete is just sitting there, gathering metaphorical (or perhaps literal) dust, and growing more ominous by the day.
A recently study by Dr. Piers Steel, a professor at the University of Calgary concluded that procrastination is on the rise. According to Steel’s research, in 1978 about 15 percent of the population were considered moderate procrastinators. Today that number is up to 60 percent, a four-fold increase. While procrastination is to some degree a natural phenomenon and can’t be completely eradicated, you can use the following ten strategies to to get in the habit of getting things done.
1. Take advantage of your power hours. Are you an early riser who tackles your morning to-do list with all the gusto of a bear eating honey? Perhaps you’re a night-owl and crank through your most pressing projects at 11:00 p.m.?
Either way, knowing and taking advantage of your natural energy patterns will help you steer clear of procrastination by using your power times to tackle the projects you find most challenging.
2. Focus for five minutes. The hardest part of overcoming procrastination is often just getting started. For a tedious task that you have been putting off try setting a timer for five-minutes and get to work. When the alarm sounds, if you feel like stopping – don’t be surprised if that first five minutes turns into 10, 15 and 20.
3. Create cues. Write down the item you need to do and place it somewhere where you can see it – your refrigerator door, car dashboard, calender, iphone, bathroom mirror. Posting prompts on items you are procrastinating about in a highly visible place, helps remind you to get them done.
4. Use the clout of your calendar: Do you have a task that has been lingering on your to-do list for days, weeks or even (gulp) months? If so, use the clout of your calendar to move from inertia to action. Open your planner or PDA and schedule a specific date and time period when you promise yourself that you will work on that item – and that item only.
5. Decide on the next action: One reason people procrastinate is they feel intimidated by the task as it is currently stated and can’t figure out what to do next. To overcome overwhelm, figure out the next smallest, easiest and most comfortable action you could take to move forward. By breaking down the bigger less defined item into smaller more specific chunks, you tell your mind “I can do this”!
6. Give yourself credit all along the way: The moment you take any action (no matter how small) – give yourself credit. Don’t wait until the entire to-do is complete before experiencing at least some degree of satisfaction and accomplishment.
7. Tackle the hard ones first: Almost everyone has more focus, energy and attention available at the beginning of their workday than at the end. When you have to do a hard task, get it out of the way and do it first thing in the morning. This way it won’t nag at you all day long.
8. Be decisive: Putting off a decision on what to do with that piece of paper won’t be any easier tomorrow than it is today. Train yourself to categorize every item that comes across your desk as something to do now, delegate, dump, or defer. Defer does not mean placing it back in the pile and pretending it does not exist. That is the pathway to procrastination. It means putting it in a dated tickler file, scheduling a time to do it, or moving it to a someday to-do list – where the guilt and stress of procrastination don’t apply.
9. Enlist encouragement. Tell a close friend what you’re going to accomplish by when and ask them to check in on your progress. Going public can create a self-imposed pressure to shun procrastination and perform. Having a buddy who can celebrate your successes, and help you maintain perspective when you procrastinate is invaluable.
10. Play let’s make a deal. To get yourself moving on a hard to do activity, try a bribe. Make a promise to yourself that when you stop procrastinating and take some action on the item, you get a reward. This can be a piece of chocolate, watching a favorite tv show, spending time with your family - anything that you value and will motivate you to get moving.
by Karen Leland
First of all, smile. Practice in the mirror until it feels natural. There's nothing like a smile to advertise your willingness to be friendly. You'll value yourself more as well.
Next, look up befriend in the dictionary. It says to act as a friend. To help. Find someone who is less fortunate than you, someone who has a bigger problem and help that person. You will find love, beauty, and joy in helping others. You'll learn to value yourself more as you give selfless service to others.
Look around your place in this world. See those kids without a ball? Bring one to the street and let it rip. See that old guy eating peanut butter everyday? Bring him a cup of coffee and a smile to go with it. Lady at the store needs a little extra change? Offer it with a smile. Do these random acts of friendship in your area and you just can't miss. Make up different scenarios in your mind and follow through with them. Someone needs a ride? Give it. Invite your neighbor to dinner. Tell her to bring a friend. Meet her kids, Hey! This is easy.You can help make the world be a better place. Every city and town on earth has need of volunteers.
Try stepping outside your comfort zone and do something a little scary--like going to a book club, talking to a stranger in a coffeeshop, taking a community education class, or sitting in a public park and chatting with strangers. Join Twitter and Facebook. Have a hobby? Go to meetup and schedule times you can meet with people who have similar interests.
Happiness is a lot like jam. You can't spread it without getting a bit of it on yourself in the process.
Focus on the long run.
It has been said that most people give up what they want in the long run for what they want in the short run. Sad, but true. A teen client says he wants to feel relaxed and fit in. So, he smokes cigarettes. His goal for the future? He wants to be healthy and physically fit.
Another client comes to family therapy to improve the family relationships. He doesn't see a problem with his workaholism--working 60 to 80 hours every week. His wife and children have a BIG problem with it.
The question often arises, how do you train yourself to focus on long-term goals? For most of us, it comes through trial and error. We have some success in a long-term goal, realize its importance, so take that leap of faith to do it again and again.
Take one small goal. Maybe it's adding pure water to your daily routine and excluding drinks that either add unnecessary calories or do not contribute to your overall good health.
If you can keep your promise to yourself for a whole week, give yourself a positive reinforcement for sticking to your goal. Be sure to give yourself a reward that isn't self-destructive. Think in terms of small pleasures--a trip to a favorite park, a drive through an area that you love, a walk through your favorite mall, etc.
Journal your progress.
Nothing has been more rewarding to me than to meaasure my progress. This doesn't need to be difficult. Sometimes a simple check mark on your calendar is enough.
Tell someone else.
When you tell your friend or spouse or sibling about your progress, you've just added another important component of success--accountability. For nearly twenty years I had an early morning walking partner. This was very motivating to me to meet with my friend every morning (often before dawn) and walk for an hour. Try it!
Good luck in keeping your goals!
This is basic, but important. You have legitimate rights just because you exist. So many obstacles to change begin right here. For example, your relative says that you're being selfish by focusing on changing yourself. It takes time. You're learning about the change process, so perhaps you're not serving others as much as you used to a week ago. And that's OK. It's time to claim your power and value yourself more. You have rights!
When I worked inpatient at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Utah, we had the patients decide where they were from the following two lists. This is taken from The Stress & Relaxation Workbook by Martha Davis PhD et al, New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, CA. Circle the beliefs that you have by how you behave.
Mistaken Traditional Assumptions
You did not have as much choice about which traditional assumptions you were taught as a child. Now, however, you have the option of deciding whether to continue behaving according to assumptions that keep you from being an assertive adult. Each of these mistaken assumptions violates one of your legitimate rights as an adult:
- It is selfish to put your needs before others' needs.
- It is shameful to make mistakes. You should have an appropriate response for every occasion.
- If you can't convince others that your feelings are reasonable, then they must be wrong, or maybe you are going crazy.
- You should respect the views of others, especially if they are in a position of authority. Keep your differences of opinion to yourself. Listen and learn
- You should always try to be logical and consistent.
- You should be flexible and adjust. Others have good reasons for their actions and it's not polite to question them.
- You should never interrupt people. Asking questions reveals your stupidity to others.
- Don't rock the boat.
- You shouldn't take up others' valuable time with your problems.
- People don't want to hear that you feel bad, so keep it to yourself.
- When someone takes the time to give you advice, you should take it very seriously. They are often right.
- Knowing that you did something well is its own reward. People don't like show-offs. Successful people are secretly disliked and envied. Be modest when complimented.
- You should always try to accommodate others. If you don't, they won't be there when you need them.
- Don't be anti-social. People are going to think you don't like them if you say you'd rather be alone instead of with them.
- You should always have a good reason for what you feel and do.
- When someone is in trouble, you should help them.
- You should be sensitive to the needs and wishes of others, even when they are unable to tell you what they want.
- It's not nice to put people off. If questioned, give an answer
Your Legitimate Rights
- You have the right to put yourself first sometimes.
- You have the right to make mistakes.
- You have the right to be the final judge of your feelings and accept them as legitimate.
- You have the right to have your own opinions and convictions.
- You have the right to change your mind or decide on a different course of action.
- You have a right to protest unfair treatment or criticism.
- You have a right to interrupt in order to ask for clarification.
- You have a right to negotiate for change.
- You have a right to ask for help or emotional support.
- You have a right to feel and express pain.
- You have a right to ignore the advice of others.
- You have a right to receive formal recognition for your work and achievements.
- You have a right to say "no."
- You have a right to be alone, even if others would prefer your company.
- You have a right not to have to justify yourself to others.
- You have a right not to take responsibility for someone else's problem.
- You have a right not to have to anticipate others' needs and wishes.
- You have a right not to always worry about the goodwill of others.
- You have a right to choose not to respond to a situation.
If you're like most people, your behavior reflects some mistaken traditional assumptions. The more that you can start living your legitimate rights, the more likely it is that you will allow yourself to make important changes in your life that will affect every other area of your life. You will value yourself more and become a better person in the process.
You cannot manage what you don’t measure. So keeping track through a journal or diary is essential. You can keep this simple or you can get fancy. I keep track on my computer. But when I’m on the road, I carry a little notebook in my purse. It's especially important to journal your progress if you're in the process of recovering from an addiction. Your journal will help you to see where you're doing well and what you need to avoid to do even better.
Here are the things that I write down every day:
*the date and my morning weight
*the amount of water I drank during the day
*What I ate, the amount I ate, and the time I ate
*What kind of exercise I did–strength training, aerobic, or stretching and how long I did it
*How long I meditated
You can also measure other things like your mood, your level of energy, your mental clarity, your motivation, or your stress level. I find it easiest to use a simple one to ten scale with ten being the best and one being the worst. I also like to give myself a little smiley face if I did well that day. Positive reinforcement can be just that simple.
There are a number of free online journal sites. I like several formats at Bella Online.
At first I found it a bother to journal. Now it takes less than 5 minutes a day and it keeps me on track. I highly recommend it!
What do you really, really want? You're probably very aware of what you DON'T want. But what DO you want? Planning is essential for success. But, before you can plan, you need to identify what you want. What you want may fall into one or more of these general areas:
a. Better relationships
b. Spiritual growth
c. Knowledge and mental clarity
d. Financial success
e. Health and fitness
Score yourself from 1 - 10 in each of these six areas. A low score means that you're not doing well in this area. A high score is where you feel a lot of confidence and success. Write down the scores.
I want you to choose one goal in one category. In which category did you score the lowest? No doubt you have some problems in that area. If you didn't have problems in that area, what would your life be like? Stop and think about that question. Use your imagination to picture happiness for yourself in that area.
If happiness itself is your goal, then imagine yourself smiling, laughing, jumping for joy, dancing, singing, or skipping. Imagine yourself pumping your fists in the air over your head, tears of joy streaming down your face. That's happy. And that's how specific I want you to see yourself.
What I'm trying to do here is to help you to focus on success. It's so easy to get discouraged or to blame circumstances or other people, but that just won't help you to get to where you want to be. And, you can't change other people. So, take the time to decide which category you want to work on first. Here are some questions to ponder:
What would you dare to dream if you knew you absolutely couldn't fail?
What would you do you if you could wave a magic wand and have exactly what you want.
What will the eventual outcome be?
Imagine the possibilities that you could achieve if you dared to dream!
What would that look like? Jot it down. Flesh it out with details.
Rather than writing something vague like, "I want to be healthy," you will get better results by being specific. This is one client's goal: "I want to bring my cholesterol level down 20 points and my glucose level down to below 100. I can see my kids smiling at me because I can go hiking with them and they're proud of me." See what I mean? Write it down in a paragraph.
We're laying the groundwork for changing your inner world. And here's the exciting news: your outer world can't help but conform to your inner world! So changing your inner world will be an awesome journey. Promise!
Did you know that people change in stages? This applies to most every type of change. Whether you are trying to improve yourself via New Year's Resolutions, give up a bad habit, or lessen the grip that addictions hold on your life. Understanding these stages will help you to ease up a bit on yourself, be less hard on yourself.
James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente developed a "Stages of Change Model" in the late 1970s and early 1980s when they were studying how smokers gave up their habits. These stages can be useful for anyone who is trying to make changes in their lives. By breaking a change down into stages, taking baby steps, it's much easier to accomplish permanent change.
Briefly, these stages are:
1. Precontemplation--At this stage the person is not yet acknowledging that a problem exists.
2. Contemplation--The person is aware that there is a problem, but is not ready or sure that they want to make changes.
3. Preparation/Determination--The person gets ready to make changes.
4. Action/Willpower--Actual changes are made in this stage.
5. Maintenance--The person maintains the changes.
6. Relapse--The person returns to old behaviors and abandons the changes. Relapse is fairly common if you're working to overcome an addiction.
You can use this model for your benefit by assessing which stage you are in. And give yourself some credit! Many people become very hard on themselves when they are not able to sustain new behaviors for long periods of time. But, consider this: the average person fails five times before making changes with New Year's resolutions!
Please remember that wherever you are, that's OK. And don't expect yourself to progress neatly from one stage to the next. Most people jump all over the place. So, it's not unusual to see a person go from contemplation to action to preparation to relapse to precontemplation. And some people never relapse. But don't be hard on yourself if you do return to old behaviors. Getting down on yourself only makes it harder to try again later.
The stresses associated with daily living can add up. People who experience chronic work stress are 68 percent more likely to have coronary heart disease. 68 Percent! This was one of the findings of a 12-year study conducted through University College London. Also contributing to stress are lifestyle habits such as poor diet, smoking, alcohol consumption and a negative attitude.
Over time, stress disturbs the autonomic nervous system (that system of your body that controls involuntary bodily functions). This can cause "cardiac instability."
Stress is a killer
In a study conducted at the University of Iowa, researchers found that police officers have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than that of the general population. They attribute this to the day-to-day stress of their jobs.
Becoming less stressed
What you want to do is promote parasympathetic system dominance. In simple terms, that means feeling less stressed. When our sympathetic system is dominant (the fight-flight response), our bodies wear out.
Techniques that promote parasympathetic nervous system dominance include:
- Listening to relaxing music
- A long bath with the door locked—especially combined with music, and candles.
- Bodywork involves some form of touching, energetic work or the physical manipulation of the body—massasge, reiki, yoga, Feldenkrais, rolfing
- Get out into nature
- Locomotion in nature—walking, skiing, rowing, running, hiking
- Exercise--like dancing, treadmill, basketball, swimming
Equally important is good nutrition. It's so important for stress management to eat healthy foods and stay away from junk food--like soda pop, sugar, "empty calories." Your body will thank you.
Stress can impact your health. So, it's important to add stress protection to your life every day. Carving out time to relax is important! See our articles on relaxation, breathwork, and meditation.
I have often told clients that goals are stars in the sky. We can use them to guide us and inspire us. When goals are used as a a stick to beat ourselves, they’re no longer useful. So, put the stick down. Stop beating yourself up. Tomorrow is a new day.
Self-destructive habits reinforce guilt and shame. A few definitions: Guilt is “Oops! I made a mistake.” Shame is “I am a mistake.” It can also include feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, helplessness, powerlessness, inferiority, and many more horrible feelings. So, let’s say that you feel guilty about your self-destructive habit or addiction and you want to give it up. You make some progress, and then you relapse.
You’re right back to square one. Starting over. This is where many of my clients start feeling guilty and ashamed. They engage in negative self-talk and feel terrible about their relapse. ("I’m doing it again. I’m so stupid. Why can’t I do it right?”) Of course, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. We all have slips. But some people get REALLY down on themselves, making it harder to bounce back. Now they’ve put extra pressure on themselves to perform. They must do it PERFECTLY. And let’s face it: no one is perfect.
So what do you do instead? You learn to forgive yourself. You learn to be gentle with yourself. Over and over and over again. When you catch yourself in the act of being hard on yourself, say something different. You could say, "It's just a mistake. We all make mistakes. I'm still a fine and worthwhile person. I choose to let this go and not be so hard on myself."
Claim your right to be human (translation: less than perfect). Put the stick down. As you move on and resolve to let go of the shame or guilt, you will value yourself more, making it easier to do better in the future.