Experience the Now

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It is granted that life can keep us busy. In the mornings, whilst having breakfast, you may be thinking about the day ahead. Planning what you are going to do. Are the kids ready for school? Have I got everything ready for work? Where did I put that report that’s due today? Looking at the clock, you panic as there is only 15 minutes before you have to be out the door. During the day you rush from one task to the other. If only you could just “STOP!”

Does that sound familiar? Does the above describe you? Are you wishing that life would just slow down for a minute so you could enjoy it a bit more? Do you sometimes wish time would come to a screeching halt, even for a split second, so that you can stop being so busy and enjoy life? When we get so focused on being busy, we lose focus of what is happening around us. So how do we “stop” in our busyness?  All it takes is a conscious effort.

For the two weeks (or try and make it four weeks, as it is said it takes at least a month to form a new habit) try this experiment:

During the day, just stop what you are doing for five minutes. Close your eyes and take in some deep breathes. Focus on your breathing. Do this for a minute. Now open your eyes and just look around you. What do you see? Look at the things around you as though it is the first time you have seen them. What are the shapes and colours of the objects? Listen. What do you hear? Are there any sounds in the distance? What are they? Now close your eyes and sniff the air. What can you smell? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? What else can you smell? Now focus on yourself. How do you feel? Are you relaxed or stressed? If you still feel stressed, do some more deep breathing and visualise the air rushing through your body, relaxing and energising every part of it.

After the exercise, ask yourself how you feel? Did you find yourself more aware as to what is happening around you?

We all need to take time out of our daily busyness and appreciate what is happening “here and now”. Instead of our minds constantly thinking ahead, planning what to do next, we need to experience “this moment”. It’s more than a superficial experience. When we begin to use all of our senses in a more profound way, then we will begin to find a new richness in the life around us.

It is then that we truly “experience the now.” When our minds are constantly planning ahead, it is robbing us of the chance to experience “this moment” in all it’s richness and diversity.

So, do yourself a favour, stop and enjoy “now”! You will find that life takes on a new, exciting and profound level.

 

 

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Rewire your brain

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It has been claimed that our brains are naturally wired for negativity. This isn’t so bad as it helps up become aware of dangers and threats that surround us. It is only when everything is seen in a negative light that it becomes maladaptive.

Here’s an experiment that you can try for yourself. If you do something wrong, what is/are the first thought(s) that enter into your mind? Are they positive or negative?

Another exercise you can do, to see which way your brain is wired, is to keep a “thought journal” for a week. You can keep it for longer if you want, a month would be ample time. At the end of your chosen period, make a list of all the positive and negative thoughts. Which category is greater?

If you find that you automatically think negatively, or that you have a greater ratio of negative thoughts to positive ones, then it is time to do some rewiring work.

Remember, not all negative thoughts are bad. It’s only when the negative thoughts have no real basis in reality that there is a problem. You need to be honest with yourself and ask how accurate your negative thinking is.

Just as there may be faulty wiring in a house, we also may discover that we possess “faulty wiring”. What happens if we neglect to deal with the faulty wiring we discover in a house? There is the risk that such wiring can cause a fire and the house is destroyed. Our metaphorical house is our health, well-being and our relationships. If we don’t deal with the faulty wiring in our thinking, we can end up burnt-out and our relationships destroyed.

If we find that our physical house has faulty wiring, we need to replace the wiring with new wiring. So it is with the wiring in our brain. If our negative thinking is found to have no basis in facts, then we need to have a “rewiring”. The maladaptive negative thinking is akin to the faulty wiring that threatens the house. It threatens our well-being, our happiness, our peace and serenity and also affects our relationships.

But how do we go about rewiring our thoughts? It is a process, just as it is in determining where the faulty wiring is hidden behind the walls of a house. Once it is discovered, then the wiring can be replaced with the new wiring. So, the first step is awareness. Once we have a negative thought, we need to determine whether it is natural and helpful (remember that not all negative thoughts are bad). If we decide that the the negative thought is faulty, then we need to replace it with a positive thought. We are now on the way to rewiring our thinking.

The next step is to look for positive things in your life. Sometimes we take things for granted. We stop appreciating things and, more importantly, people. When was the last time you told someone how much you appreciate them? When was the last time you just stopped and appreciated nature? Go for a walk and just listen to the sounds of nature. Look at the beauty of the flowers and the trees. When we start to become more aware and thankful for the positive things surround us every day, then our brains will automatically begin to forge new channels for the positive thoughts to flow through.

Another step is to look at our self-image. What do you think about yourself? Do you like yourself, or hate yourself? How do you react when someone says something nasty to you. Do you believe the comments the person has made? Or do you just explain it away as the person is having a bad day? We can’t avoid people saying negative things to us, but we can avoid taking the comments on board as facts about us. If you find that you are mulling over the bad comments made towards you, then you need to ask yourself why you are thinking about the comments. At a fundamental level you may believe that the comments are true. But is this an accurate assessment of who you truly are? For example, I used to be told that I am no good and that I would never amount to anything. I believed that, because that is the message I was given several times a week as I was growing up. Then as I got older, I would sometimes have someone say to me “You’re useless.” I would go over the comment over and over again in my mind and I would agree with the comments. Why? Because that was the message that had been “programmed” into my brain. In other words, my brain was wired to think the negative comments were true.

So, how do we go about rewiring our thinking from a negative self-image, into a positive self image? Again, it is a process. As we encounter a negative self-belief, we need to find an opposing positive self-belief. In my example, as I achieved things in life, I realised that I’m not useless. So whenever someone made comments along that line, I would dismiss such comments by remembering the things that I have achieved. As you challenge the negative self-image, with a positive self-image, you are rewiring your brain.

It has been suggested that to overcome 1 negative comment/criticism requires 5 positive comments. Here’s some homework for you. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned about keeping a “Thought journal” for a week in which you record your thinking. Again, I want you to keep a notebook and record down nothing but positive thoughts for the duration of the exercise. How long you want to do it for is up to you, but I recommend at least a month (as that is usually the duration it takes to replace old habits with new habits).

By challenging your negative thoughts, determining whether they are healthy or not, you are on your way to rewiring you brain. It’s a process. It will take time. But the results are worth it!

Let your rewiring begin!

 

Seek hope

Hi everyone,

First I want to apologise, it’s been a long time since my last post.

Over the past several months I have relocated to a new country and the transition has been hard at times. There have been high points but these have been far exceeded by low points when I have hit the bottom of despair and felt like I could not carry on. Through these times there has been someone who has been my angel who has told me not to give up and remain positive. My wife.

Reflecting back on the low points I find that hope had abandoned me and that there was little point pushing forward. However, I could still see glints of hope breaking through the black, heavy clouds of despair. My angel was also by my side encouraging me to keep going.

When I had things to hope for, I was fine. But then those things would be taken away and I would find myself back in the downward spiral. I was tired of pushing forward when there was nothing to hope for. Looking to the horizon for something, anything that could give me hope,  I would, at times find something and then I realised things aren’t as bad as they seem.

From the past half year I have learned that one needs hope. Without hope, there is nothing to strive for, nothing to look forward to. When my wife was telling me to remain positive, I replied that at times it’s hard to do so when things weren’t happening the way I imagined they would. Yet she was the rock that kept me anchored. My focus was on the things that weren’t happening rather than on the things that were happening. When someone is in the grips of despair and hopelessness, their focus emphasises the negative and ignores the positive. The opposite happens when you are feeling great and have hope.

I have also realised that things don’t happen the way you expect them to. Life loves to through “curve balls” at you. It’s how you deal with those balls that determines if you’re going to win or lose the game. At times I found I punted them and other times I hit them out of the park. You also need to hit the balls out of the park and win the game.

When it seems that hope has abandoned you and there is little reason to move forward, seek out something to hope for and make your way towards it.

 

 

 

What is Reflecting back at you?

LionCatHi folks, how are you all doing?

I want to start this post with an illustration:

John wakes up to a beautiful, sunny morning. The birds are singing and he gets out of bed and thinks to himself “Today is going to be a great day!”. On the drive to work he gets stuck in traffic, but isn’t too phased by the hold up because he realises that that is just part of living in a major city. So he turns up his radio and sings along to the song that is playing. When he finally gets to work, he smiles at his colleagues and greets them. They smile back and return the greeting. They like John because he is usually happy and cheerful and lights up the work place with his positivity.

During the day, he receives some bad news. A deal he has spent some time on has fallen through. Even though he is upset over the news, he just accepts that sometimes “You can’t win ’em all.” But even though he has lost that deal, he usually considers what may have gone wrong and takes learnings from it. Then gets on with enjoying the rest of the day. 

Let’s consider another person, Don:

Don wakes up to the same sunny, beautiful day that John had woken up to. Don just knows that today is going to be an awful day. Why? Because Don says that everyday is awful. Don is always quick to point out what has gone wrong, who is to blame for things going wrong and reasons as to why he should not bother. “What’s the point? Things will just get screwed up like they always do.” 

Don is caught in a traffic jam, he toots his horn and screams out at the cars in front of him. When he arrives late for work, it is not his fault “The damn idiots on the road made me late!” His work colleagues try and avoid him because he is always moody and negative. In the afternoon, he is told that a client he had been talking to for a major deal has declined to go ahead with it. Don says “I knew that would happen. Things like that are always happening to me!” 

In the 2 illustrations we have two different individuals sharing quite a similar day. But what is the difference? Simply, the mind set between John and Don! Don is so negative and with this negativity he is focused on everything that goes wrong around him. John on the other had is always looking at the positive things that happen in his day. Sure, he missed out on the deal, but it didn’t affect him like it did with Don.

When you are in a negative frame of mind you are always looking at all the negative things that happen and use those things to justify why you are so negative. The same is also true for people who look at the positive things in life. They see the good things that happen and put those things forward as evidence for their positivity. Does that mean that bad things don’t happen to people who are positive? NO! It just means that instead of treating the bad things as a major catastrophe, those with a positive outlook reframe the event and look at it as maybe a slight set-back, a challenge to overcome or just simply something that was beyond their control to deal with.

How do you view your world? Do you always see the negative things that happen? Do you always focus on the negative way people have treated you? Are you always quick to blame others for the problems you face? If so, then I recommend that you change your mind-set! How do you change from a negative view of the world to a positive one? It will not happen over night. You will not magically go to bed thinking “In the morning I am going to be so positive and happy and love the world!” and then wake up in the morning with a complete personality change. It takes small, progressive steps.

Here are some things you can start doing:

  1. Show appreciation of yourself! How can you get others to like you and accept you if you do not love and accept yourself? Make a list of your positive qualities. Look at that list everyday and tell yourself that you are a beautiful, unique individual.
  2. Smile: When you smile, even when you don’t feel like it, you will be amazed at how your thoughts pull into line!
  3. Practice gratitude: How often do you thank somebody for a kind word they have said, or a kind deed that they have done?
  4. Do a selfless act: Each day make it a goal to do a random selfless act. The joy and appreciation you will receive will make your day!
  5. Focus on your successes: What have you done well? What are you good at? Is there anything you have accomplished? If so, then think about that accomplishment and then focus on what you want to accomplish next? If you are yet to accomplish something, then go out and do it!

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a step in the right direction.

Let me know how you get on!!

 

Focus on Yourself!

One of the banes of society is that people seem to compare their lifestyle with those around them. How many times have we looked at the metaphorical “Joneses” and wished that we had what they have? How does it make you feel when you compare your life with those around you? We can either find that we are satisfied or unsatisfied with our lot in life.

In psychology there is a term – social comparison. This is where we compare ourselves with those around us and use that as a gauge for our life satisfaction. There are 2 types of this comparison: Upward Comparison and Downward Comparison and both of these evoke different emotions.

Upward comparison occurs when we compare our life with those who we perceive to have a better life than us. They may earn more than us, have a bigger house than us, seem to be more successful than us. The other day I was having a conversation with a person who was experiencing such a comparison. The person came across as being resentful toward the person they were comparing themselves to. That is the danger with upward comparison, it can make you feel like you have failed in your life. It fills you with feelings of dissatisfaction and maybe jealousy. It could lead you to feeling depressed as you begin to see what you think is lack in your life.

The other side of the coin is when we look at those who have less than us. People who are socially and economically inferior to us. This is what downward comparison is. When we come across people who have less than what we have, then we feel that things are not as bad as we thought. We feel that we have got a good life, we are not struggling as much as we thought we were. We have food on the table and a roof over our heads. How do you feel when you compare yourself to those who are lower down on the socio-economic ladder? You probably feel satisfied with your life, you see the abundance that you have, you feel happy and confident.

It is interesting to see the contrasts in the paradigms when we consider social comparisons: one can lead to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, lack and sadness. The other leads to feelings of satisfaction, abundance and happiness. What has led to these differences in feelings? Simply this: Who are you focusing on and comparing yourself to?

True happiness does not come by focusing on the lives of those around us and seeing how we “stack up”. We need to focus on one thing only: ourselves and our life.  That may sound selfish but it isn’t! We need to begin to compare ourselves to ourselves. Are you growing as a person? Are you the same person you were a week ago? A month ago? A year ago? What changes have you made to improve yourself (not as a means of pleasing other people, but as a way of accepting yourself and loving yourself as a unique human being.) You will also find a flow-on effect on those around you as your life becomes more positive and richer.

If you find that you are always concerned about how you life is compared to those around you, please STOP! You will never experience true happiness. Look at who you are now and compare that to who you were. Who do you want to be in the future? When you realise that you have grown as human being, then that is true happiness and satisfaction.

“Door Openers”

Every now and then we all come across someone who, inadvertently, with kindness causes us to unlock a part of our memories that we have hidden away. I refer to these people as “Door Openers”. Usually these memories are locked away because those they are too painful, or too traumatic, to face.

I had a situation like that yesterday, when my wife was getting excited because it was the first time she will have shared my birthday. I cried, but I did not know why. She was excited and I felt touched by her kindness and enthusiasm. In the afternoon I realised that my sadness had been caused by the reality that I have never had someone so excited about my “special day”. No one really seemed to care, so  I began to try and not care either.

Every other year I tried to treat my birthday as just another day, but deep within I wanted someone to at least make an effort to acknowledge how special the day was. I became good at hiding the pain and the sadness and got to a stage where I would not tell anyone what day was my birthday.

Yesterday I came to a realisation that my wife had actually unlocked a door that I had securely locked up for years. The pain came flooding out and I cried and cried. I found the situation to be a catharsis that allowed me to find healing in that area.

In your life you will have “Door Openers”enter and unlock a door that has been bolted tightly shut for years. Allow the door to be opened and face the raw emotions that poor out from behind it. Not only will you find healing, you will also realise that you have become a stronger person!

Please do not force the door open, for doing so means that you are not ready to deal with what is locked behind it. When the time is right, someone will come along with the right “key” and unlock the door. It is at this time that you will be ready to face the pain, the torment, the anger that surfaces when those memories are released from where the have been kept under “house arrest”.

The Stress WMD!

Hi folks!

Over the past several posts I have offered you all different ways of combating stress with different relaxation techniques. As the final post in this series (I hope you all have found something that works for you!) you may wonder which technique is the best. To be honest, they all have their merits and I recommend that you use all of them.

To me I consider the techniques to be individual parcels of a bigger “Stress Buster” package. Individually the different techniques provide beneficial affect in helping you alleviate and reduce stress, but as you use the techniques together the affect is tremendous! Just think of a Weapon of Mass Destruction blowing away stress!

How does the WMD work? It works by you employing all the techniques daily as you combat the stress you face. During the day do a body scan when you feel yourself getting tense. Stop and do deep breathing and visualise the stress melting away. When you have a break throughout the day, you can do some subtle progressive relaxation and deep breathing. At the end of the day you can take 20-30 minutes out of your schedule and do some meditation and/or visualisation exercises.

When you use the techniques in combination you will maximise the benefit that they have. Just think of it as a “Stress Buster Synergy” – the effect of the whole is greater than the individual parts.  Remember that it is important for you to do this daily. In a month, stop and take stock of the stress level(s) in your life and you will be surprised at how much more relaxed, calm and at peace you are.