I know from my experience and the research on humor and healing, that we need to laugh through a hard time to help us get through it – known as the Biology of Hope (when we anticipate an enjoyable event and laugh at a situation, our good stress, eustress, hormones beta endorphins and growth hormones kick in and help our immune system.)
Here are some proven ways to reduce stress with everything else going on around us:
Wake up 15-30 minutes earlier and get your day started at a more leisurely pace with enough time to have a proper breakfast. You can get much done while it is quiet such as exercising, yoga, meditating, getting your day organized. It also helps to have clothing selected and lunches prepared the night prior so you don’t have to think too much.
Write down everything (and do back-ups) – as we get older, our brains can’t hold all the info it once used to. Give your brain a break and keep all your notes in one place – either electronic, paper, or both so you won’t stress over what will happen to your info if your batteries die. We now know that stress kills our brain – as it also does our heart. Stress affects the hippocampus, the memory and retrieval system of our brains. You know you have brain cells dying from stress when you’re in a grocery store aisle and you have no idea why you are there…stress.
Do it today – stop procrastinating and make a decision. Procrastination and clutter are just postponed decisions. Figure out why you don’t want to make that decision and go about it in a different way, just do it.
The Law of Entropy states that everything without work or force applied to it will break down over time. That includes cars, gardens, our health, communication, or relationships. Focusing on prevention will help alleviate the stress caused by things breaking down. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Get rid of as many irritations, aggravations or energy drains that you can. It’s the culmination of all those little sniggly things that add up to big stress. So fix the broken towel bar, the squeaky door, the rip in your couch, or throw out the pitcher that is too heavy to lift. All those little drains add up to an empty energy tank.
Plan ahead – live for today and plan for tomorrow’s events or emergencies. Have contingency plans in place for the probable causes that may affect you. Living in Germany for 10 years, we had to have a NEO plan in place – a Non-combatants Evacuation Plan. We were supposed to always have at least a half a tank of gas in our car, our medical information and family info easily accessible and important documents within reach in case we had to evacuate in a conflict situation. Friends in California tell me they have an emergency kit in case of fire or Earthquake with all their important items in it near the door. Make sure all your documentation is in order and look towards the future.
In order to feel refreshed and recharged; I need to travel and surround myself with new discoveries, recreation and experiences. I need a vacation to regroup and put things into perspective so I can come back renewed and able to give my all. How about you – what do you do to reconnect, re-create and reconvene better than when you started?
On a recent trip to Moorea, French Polynesia; I felt I was in heaven. Everything was just perfect. The over-water bungalows were just as they were shown in the travel mags. Just as beautiful and the water and view looked like a screen saver. I had sent some photos back home to friends and they demanded I send some photos with me in them to prove that I didn’t swipe them off some internet photo gallery. The staff could not have been any nicer and accommodating. I thought to myself, THIS is why I like travelling five stars. You get treated much better from people in places that sport more stars. You feel better about yourself, even. The room was fabulous with a glass-bottom floor where you could see the fish and eel swimming below. You could have your breakfast brought to your deck by outrigger canoe, and the atmosphere was one of tropical elegance and ease.
I thought it couldn’t get any better and just then a knock at the door and a chilled bottle of champagne and sweets were brought to the hut. As I relaxed on the deck with the water lapping beneath me sipping champagne and eating chocolate crumpets; I thought to myself, “This just can’t get any better, I’m at the point of exploding with joy, contentment and happiness.”
I was about to take another sip and there before my very eyes, a full rainbow appears over the lush, green mountains -big as life. There was no rain around the vicinity, but there must have been some droplets someplace. I captured that moment to share with you and to remind myself that things can always get better than you’d ever imagined. I remember Oprah saying that there is no way she could have dreamed as big a dream as she is living in this moment, but God had a bigger dream for her. She just needed to listen and follow her path, follow her inner guidance.
Look for things to get better, keep an open mind that things can and will get better. Be grateful for what has come to you as it was done for you and not to you, and always be open for more and better to come into your life. When you live with an open heart and open mind, all kinds of rainbows can come into your life. Watch for the signs, be on the lookout for what falls in your path and keep your eyes open for rainbows of all kinds to bless you. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better….cue the rainbow…or a double rainbow!
Most of us are guilty of creating loooong lists of things to do and not managing to put much of a dent in the compilation of busy-ness. Then some of us even do something that wasn’t on said list and end up wanting credit for it (not that anybody is keeping track or watching), so we add whatever it is we did that wasn’t on our list to our list just so we can cross it off. I’m talking about another type of To Do list. A fun one. A list of trips and adventures I want to do during my lifetime. I don’t call it a Bucket List because that seems negative to me. I call it a Life List because I want to do it living Hartfully, vitally, and fully alive.
So, on our most recent trip to Tahiti and Bora Bora, my BFF Barb and I decided it would be apropos to use the stationery aboard the M.S. Paul Gauguin while we were sailing around French Polynesia and brainstorm our To Do list of adventure travel trips we want to experience. The ideas were flying fast and furious and I could hardly keep up with the trips that were spewing forth from our lips. Later that day one of our travel buddies had spotted us on the deck during our writing drill and asked us what we were consumed with and intent on writing. We showed them our list and they asked if they could join us on some of our future explorations.
Barb’s philosophy is that you always need something to look forward to and she grew up always planning the next trip while her family was still on their current trip. It was something they always did and something she/I now carry forth. One of the maxims I’ve heard throughout the years is that happiness is having something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. It keeps you young, vital, excited, and exciting. Sometimes we don’t have it all figured out immediately on our trip, but the mindset is there and we usually come up with something within a few days to a few weeks after our return. We are both good problem solvers and we find that travelling to far-away lands is always chalk-full of opportunities to solve some problems. Issues always come up, missed connections, bags not showing up, wrong bed configuration in the room, mixed-up meals, and communication disconnects. It gives you a chance to test your creative thinking skills and ingenuity. I also find it’s better to have the luxury of two or more brains working on the solution than just me. If it’s just me, then it gets a little weirdly nerve-wracking, and if it’s with my buddies, then it becomes an adventure.
What do you have to look forward to in your life? How are you living Hartfully and doing the things you want to do? How are your dreams playing out? Who are you inviting along for the ride? How do you make your ride enjoyable? I’ll share more Tahiti tales in future posts. There were so many amazing experiences to share that just lit me up. Once again it was one of those lifetime trips I’d been dreaming of for decades and it truly was a dream come true. What are you doing to make your dreams come true? Do you have a strategy in place, a visual, an accountability partner? I’ve uploaded our list – maybe it will spark some ideas in you.
It’s been my dream for a few decades to experience the Aurora Borealis, but like chasing rainbows there is no guarantee Mother Nature will comply with your travel plans. After many failed attempts to see the Northern Lights show in Canada and Alaska; I was determined that it was finally my turn. As luck (fate?) would have it; my college roommate was in town and we had dinner, not having seen each other for a few years. I mentioned that I wanted to visit Iceland and she said it was also on her To Do list. Fast-forward a year and here we were reunited on a flight to Reykjavik 35 years after living together in college off on our great Icelandic adventure.
As I discussed my intentions with what seemed like everybody who crossed my path for several weeks leading up to the trip; I learned that five other friends had either just returned, were planning on going the same month or the same week when Jennifer and I would be there. All of them who had just returned, came back without having seen the Lights.
We took another flight to the northern tip of Iceland because I wanted to make sure there was no light pollution to dilute the experience. We had registered our room at the front desk so they could call us if/when the lights materialized, and then we went upstairs to relax. We set out our clothing like firemen so we could easily get dressed for 20-degree weather in case the show started. I was sitting in a chair near the window with my eyes trained on the night sky and then I saw the clouds move only to realize it was the Northern Lights. I started yelling “the Lights, the Lights” and it was a scene reminiscent of the Keystone Cops as we tried to get dressed as fast as possible to catch a glimpse. We ran through the lobby announcing the lights and they didn’t disappoint as they danced across the sky. It was EXHILERATTING and it seemed all the guests were in the parking lot snapping photos.
After returning to bed; we received a call at 3:30am for yet another show of the Lights as we fumbled and bumbled our way to get dressed as fast as possible. Still breathtaking the second time around.
The next night I decided to experience the natural thermal baths and Mother Nature once again didn’t disappoint. It was a surreal experience to bask in the hot water outside, watching a full’ish moon, 15 degrees and watching the lights stream across the horizon. There’s something about natural wonders that move me beyond imagination. A dream come true.
The next morning, we capped off our northern tour by watching the crew set up on top of the frozen lake for the filming of the movie The Fate of the Furious– due out this month. A weird clash of the natural and the unnatural. I guess I’ll need to see the movie to bring that adventure to closure. Maybe I’ll call up Jennifer and we’ll meet someplace between our two cities to watch the movie together for yet another reunion.
Never give up on your dreams. If you really want something, speak it out loud, tell others, visualize, write it down, look at photos, hold the idea in your mind and figure out ways to get you there. Be still and ask how you can make it happen, the answers will come to you if you ask the right questions. Never would I have guessed during our college days when I first learned of the magnificence of the Aurora Borealis, that I would be traveling with my roommate three and a half decades later to make that dream come true.
You may not be able to control what comes your way, but you can control what you do with it. You know the old lemonade poem “if life hands you lemons, yadda, yadda, yadda”. Your confidence and energy will increase each time you successfully handle one of these situations. Take stock of your uniqueness, your strengths, your experiences, and your options to create the best opportunity for yourself. Capitalize on your circumstances to make a difference in the world or in your local community. Don’t dwell on what has been in the past; start fresh from today to make a difference in your circumstances.
Look at what you can learn from each of your experiences. It’s up to you whether you see each of your experiences as positive or negative and your choice of perception has everything to do with the outcomes of you capitalize on your experience. When you find yourself in the middle of a life lesson, learn from it so you don’t have to keep repeating it in order to get the lesson. Instead of saying “why me”, ask yourself what can be gained or learned from the experience. Your brain will answer any questions you ask it, so make sure you are asking the right questions in order to capitalize on your situation.
The study of the science of happiness has just recently caught up with what generally happy people already intuitively knew. In the past couple decades the science of Positive Psychology has learned:
- Happiness does not come from genetics, luck or chance
- Happiness has a lot less to do with circumstances than we originally thought
- Happiness is not the result of some big, momentous occasion or event or goal attainment – it is realized by all the little small, daily things that add up moment by moment
- Happiness is created by thing simply, daily things we decide to do – how we choose to move through the world
- Unhappiness is created by NOT choosing to do those simple, daily things that we recognize as the things that create our happiness – we must identify the things that we are doing first so we know which things to keep doing and keep putting in our lives so maintain our happiness and be consciously aware of the things we add to our lives that bring us joy and happiness as well as those things that create unhappiness and delete those things.
- Happiness comes from conscious living and living purposefully – being in tune with what you allow in your life and deciding what you do and what you don’t, having the feeling of being in control of how you live your life
Some other rules of the road for creating happiness stemming from the scientific research as part of the Positive Psychology movement:
- Keep a positive mindset and speak in positive vs. negative terms
- Make a regular practice of counting your blessings and focus on gratitude and appreciation
- Do kind things for others and help make the world a better place in the service of others
Keeping a positive mindset and speaking positive words is more powerful than most people realize. There was some amazing evidence of this at the third World Congress on Positive Psychology as reported by the Center for Disease Control. They linked the incidence of atherosclerotic disease county by county of the northeastern United States with the amount of negative words used by those counties as evidenced by the Twitter posts. The study had analyzed 40,000 words in over 80 million tweets and when the results were overlaid with a county-by-county analysis of heart attacks, it was nearly an exact correlation. The words used that were predictive of illness were expressions of anger, hostility, aggression, disengagement and lack of social support.
The study also revealed the correlation of positive attitude and lower risk of heart attacks in a county-by-county study with these maps also being nearly identical – similar to the negative words and more heart attacks. The positive words that correlated with health included fabulous, helpful share, great, interesting, gratitude.
Being in the personal development field for over 30 years; this “new” scientific evidence only certifies what many of the thought leaders, motivational speakers and experts in the field of human performance have been saying for decades. I’m very grateful there is now science behind what we’ve been touting for a long time. It gives more intellectual weigh and credibility to what we’ve been sharing with our audiences on the positive side effects of positive thinking. It has opened doors and opened the minds of many in the corporate world, in government and in the general public about how their mindset and the mindset of an organization has a great deal to do with the morale of the people and their performance.
Combining Fun and Effectiveness is good business. Often, those of us in the personal development field have found roughly 10 % of those in our audience are really attuned to the positive thinking movement; but when you link that movement to the happiness movement, then the percentage of those who are willing to embrace it skyrockets to well over 50%. I haven’t yet met anybody who doesn’t want to be happy, though I’ve met many who want to be happier or even those who are happy, but didn’t know it because of their mindset and their choice of focus. How is your mindset? How are you choosing to be happy? Have you noticed what words you choose on a daily basis? Have you paid any attention to your tweets and Facebook posts and the type of words you are using? Try transforming your words and I bet you will begin to transform your life. I dare you…
What we think about, we bring about and we give energy to what we focus on. So as long as we complain about our current circumstances, our mind will focus on it and keep us stuck. By continually thinking, talking, writing, complaining aobut a current situation; we are continually reinforcing the very same neural pathways in our brain that got us there in the first place.
We need to send different vibrations to our brains and create different neural pathways by thinking, doing, writing about, reading about, speaking about and envisioning the reality that we want to create. If we keep these thoughts on the top of our mind, we can get unstuck and move our way towards the success we want, edging out the old stuff that we don’t want without thinking about it. The way to get unstuck is to take action and actions start with thoughts. We must flood our brain with unconscious thoughts and conscious thoughts and images of this new reality. This is why vision boards or treasure maps of what we want in our lives is so vitally important – to give our brain something to land on.
Stop telling your hard luck story. Stop all the stories that got you stuck or in your current circumstance because it will keep you there. Just shut up about it already. If somebody asks, then all you need to say is that you know more now than you did yesterday and then do what politicians do and change the topic to what you’re doing now and in the future to create your new future. I once started in a join venture with some other speakers and authors to talk about life’s transitions. It became clear to me that if I continued down that path to speak about and write about the tough stories and how it catapulted us into life transitions, that it would keep me stuck in the story. Once I was enlightened to this fact, I immediately and abruptly pulled out of the venture to save my own success and sanity and to stop the story dead in its tracks. One of the best decisions I ever made and in the nick of time before it did any more damage.
Get ouf of the endless negative self-talk loop. The self-talk starts with a thought, then comes out of your mouth or stays in your brain only talking to you, then if affects your self-image and your subconscious takes over and believes what you say and think and then that affects your performance because you believe that’s who you are. If you want to be successful, you must jam the negative self-talk airwaves and replace it with more positive self-talk, beliefs and stop the negative stories. Focus on what you want and not on what you don’t want.
One way to do this is to do a vision board. I have created one inside my medicine cabinet so I see it at least twice per day when I brush my teeth and get ready for the day and when I get ready to turn in for the night. I start my day with images of what I want my day and my life to look like and I have those images fresh in my brain to dream about when my mind is most receptive to images. I also have created a tri-panel card from BizBuilderCards.com that I carry with me in my purse so when I’m waiting in lines or have some extra time, I look at the photos and read my affirmations. I’ve also taken photos of my vision boards and carry it with me on my Iphone.
Another way is to write down positive affirmations in the present tense, as if they already happened. If you writ them in a negative fashion of what you don’t want, it puts that image in your brain and you start focusing on that. If you write in a future tense, your subconscious will always keep it in the future, just out of reach. Start focusing on who you are now, who you want to be, what you want to do and what you want to have. Be, Do, Have. It must start with Be. Be the person you want to be and do the things you want do to and then you will have the things you want to have. It starts with thoughts and self-talk about who you want to be and your subconscious and your body and your life will follow.
Our brains answer whatever questions we ask. So if you want more empowering answers, ask more empowering questions. If you want dumb answers that will keep you stuck, just keep asking dumb questions such as “Why is this happening to me, again?”
It’s automatic. Our mind starts talking to us and answering questions it reads in book titles, hears on TV commercials or hears in your head. Questions such as “do you have the coolest cell phone”, “are you sick and tired of belly fat”, “is your house under water or are you in debt”. We’re asked disempowering questions all the time and we are answering in a negative way automatically whether we are aware of it or not. If you want different results and different answers, then turn your questions around to lead you to better results and more creative solutions. Better questions such as “what can I do to be more fit”, “who can I hire/ask/seek advice from to help me be financially solvent or free”, or “how can I creatively re-finance my home or sell it in this market?”
I asked myself the creative house selling question when I had a property for sale in the Phoenix market at the bottom of the real estate bust with my 2 next-door neighbor’s homes for sale and 3 more on my street for sale at the same time. Here’s what my brain came up with after bringing my challenge to my mastermind group and twisting around their ideas: offer an additional $1000 bonus directly to the buyer’s agent and offer a free cruise to Mexico to the buyers and throw in my patio furnishings. Voila – my house sold quickly and the cruise to Mexico only cost me a few hundred dollars, but the perceived value was much higher. Without asking the empower question of how I can creatively and boldly market my house, it would still be sitting there. (On a side note- my realtor didn’t come up with anything out of the usual to get it sold, it was my responsibility to take empowering action.)
So instead of asking “How did I get myself in this mess?”, instead ask yourself “What would (name your hero here) do in this situation?” or “What ways can I move forward from this or learn from this?” or even “Who do I know who could give me advice on winning over this situation?” You may ask yourself “What can I do now, what do I have power over that I can change right now to start moving me forward?” See the differences in the questions and how your answers can either keep you stuck or move you towards better results?
I see so many professionals stuck in their old ways who are blind to the possibilities and it can be as simple as asking themselves the right questions to get the right answers. Be creative in your problem solving. Write it down, brainstorm with friends and let it flow. When times get tough, the tough get creative in their solutions. Do activities to access the right side of your brain, the creative side to help the solutions flow. Try juggling, throwing a Koosh Ball between your left and right side, do the hoola hoop, dance, play in the dog park, draw/paint or do something artistic to access that creative side of your brain. Inspiration can pop up anywhere when you allow the process to happen.
Start asking more empowering questions of yourself and your clients and you will start to see more powerful results coming out of that process.