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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Go to your “Happy Place”

Hi everyone!

In my last post I mentioned about how meditation helps to destress you and also how it helps to center yourself. In this post i want to take meditation up a notch. No, I do not want you to stand on your head or anything random, I just want you to use your imagination as you meditate.

You have probably heard people tell someone they need to go to their “Happy Place” when a person is stressed and losing the plot. That is where I want you to end up going to, but you do not have to wait until you are about to explode in a fit of stress and rage. You can go there everyday and you will find that you will feel more relaxed and less stressed.

So what is a “Happy Place”? It is just as it sounds: a place you would like to retreat to where you feel safe, serene, relaxed and happy! A place where you can be by yourself and just enjoy being there. The good news is that you don’t have to travel far to reach your happy place. In fact you do not have to travel anywhere. Just find a place in your home where you can be by yourself, undisturbed, for 20-30 minutes.

What does a “Happy Place” look like? It can look like whatever you want it to look like. That’s the awesome thing about “Happy Places”, everybody has their own and it does not have to be the same place as anyone else’s. A “Happy Place” is a highly subjective place and you can make it as special as you want. My “Happy Place” is a clearing, deep in a forest, where the grass is soft and the air is warm. I can hear a river trickling by and the sound of the birds in the tree and the forest animals coming and visiting me. I can smell the sweet fragrance of the pine trees surrounding my clearing and also the aroma of the flowers on the edge of the clearing.

Your “Happy Place” could be similar to mine. It could also be a beach, or  a river bank, or a garden, or somewhere on another planet! Just create a place that you would love to go to when you feel the world is beating you down. It is a place you can escape to and just “be”.

How do you visit your “Happy Place”? By following these steps.

1. Find somewhere where you can be undisturbed for 20-30 minutes. Take the phone off the hook if you can.

2. Close your eyes and then take in several deep breathes and exhale. Feel your body relax.

3. Now go to your “Happy Place”. What does it look like? Explore it. What can you see? What can you hear? Listen carefully are there any sounds that are subtle? What can you feel? How warm is the air? Can you feel the sun on your face? If your “Happy Place” is the beach, can you feel the sand underneath you? Is it soft or grainy? If your “Happy Place” is by the river, what does the grass feel like? Explore the feelings and sensations. Enjoy them because this is your personal place where you can escape to and just relax and be. There is no stress, no pressure and no demands on you. What can you smell? The scent of the salt on the sea breeze as it blows softly across your face. The earthy smell of the grass as you are in the forest. The perfume from the flowers that you see scattered here and there around you. Can you smell anything subtle? Reach out and touch things around you. How do the feel? Soft and smooth or hard? What does the sand feel like as you pick up a handful and let the grains slip through your fingers? When you dip your feet in the river, does it feel cold or warm? Is it flowing swiftly or is it gentle?

4. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes. Have a stretch if you want to.

5. Examine how you feel now compared to before your started this exercise.

The whole idea of this exercise is to get you to employ your senses in the meditation. That is why I said we were taking it up a notch. In my last post you were more passively just sitting and thinking on one thought. In the “Happy Place” exercise you are being more active: seeing feeling, hearing, touching and smelling.  The brain is a powerful machine and it can not distinguish between the real and the imagined. Once you do this exercise you will be amazed at how real your “Happy Place” seems to be.

Do this exercise daily for at least two weeks and you will be amazed at the affect it has on your overall well-being. No one will have to tell you to go to your “Happy Place” any more because you have already been there.