An Attitude of Gratitude

An Attitude of Gratitude

This time of the year, everywhere you turn your head, you’ve been hearing some buzz about the holidays!

Family time, good food, awesome gifts! You nod in agreement and can’t wait to see everyone you don’t spend nearly enough time with throughout the year – the hectic way of living made losing touch with people easier than ever.

So you’re excited – you can’t wait to take a break from everything and wind down for the day with the people you love the most.

In fact, you’re thrilled about the holidays like a child – you keep thinking of all the good laughs and all the deep talks that happen right after dinner. You crave the cozy homey feeling that you experience only during this time alone.

If you had a rough couple of weeks before Christmas, chances are, you’re literally counting the days until Christmas comes around so you can take your well-deserved break.

But sometimes – more often than not – you end up feeling empty after the day is over. Instead of feeling happy and content, you feel like crying.

You felt guilty for breaking your diet for the hundredth time this year – will you ever learn to say no to dessert?

You felt sad because you felt like no one has put as much of thought into their gifts as you’ve put in yours – why did you bother to carefully pick everyone’s gift?

You felt lonely when everyone was rushing to leave dinner and do their own thing – weren’t you supposed to sip hot cocoa and talk for hours in front of the fireplace?

And before you know it, you’re counting your sorrows instead of your blessings during what’s supposed to be, the most wonderful time of the year. You feel depressed and angry and frustrated even though you’ve promised yourself you won’t ever feel that way – you’re angry at the world for failing you, once again.

Do things really need to be this way? What did you do to deserve to feel like this?

Now, this is the moment where I want you to stop every single one of your self-loathing thoughts, close your eyes and look at yourself from the outside. Imagine that you’re looking at yourself the way your loved ones, your friends and family, would see you.

I understand you could be so frustrated you don’t want to do it but bear with me now and just give it a try.

Answer yourself honestly – what do you see?

If you ask me, I’ll tell you what I see – I see someone who instead of looking for reasons to be happy, looks for reasons to get mad. I see a person with some incredibly high expectations.

And let me tell you now – expectations, more often than not, are the straightforward path to disappointment. Often, we end up feeling so mad and disappointed because people didn’t act the way we expected them to!

Holidays are not about expectations – it’s okay even if your Christmas doesn’t look like a movie!

Holidays are about feeling grateful.

Holidays are about counting your blessings – not your sorrows.

Holidays shouldn’t get the best out of your own insecurities.

Sure, everyone left early but have you ever thought about the fact that maybe, they wanted to wind down early for the night – and that has nothing to do with you. Some people didn’t even get to spend a minute with their loved ones – and they sure wished to do so.

You got so mad at yourself for eating dessert you weren’t supposed to eat but there are people who didn’t eat dinner at all last night.

You got disappointed because maybe you thought your loved ones would put just a little bit more thought into the gifts – but how can you tell they didn’t? Maybe they thought that’s the perfect gift for you!

And sure, receiving attention from others feels nice but would you let the actions of others define your self-worth?

Listen, darling, here’s the thing:

The only person whose behavior and attitude you can control in this world is you and you alone.

You can’t control other people – and you certainly can’t let them create your happiness. Everyone’s responsible for their own happiness.

It depends on you and you alone whether you want to go around and point fingers at reasons for why you’re feeling miserable or whether you want to point that finger towards yourself and finally – finally! – take over the responsibility for your own life.

So instead of sulking around, have you ever tried actually telling your friends and family you’d want them to stay longer? Have you ever offered them to stay over for the night, just so they wouldn’t have to drive back home late at night?

Have you tried cooking a healthier dessert on Christmas day – so you don’t feel guilty after the feast is done? When did Christmas start being all about the food?

Have you tried thinking of other ways to handle gifts – secret Santa with a set budget beforehand is a great alternative so no one gets disappointed! – or maybe, have you thought of the fact that sometimes, people simply don’t know what to get you, which is completely and utterly fine.

People can’t read minds and they can’t tell what’s going on in your mind – unless you tell them.

But you’re the one who can read your own thoughts, and you’re the one who has all the power to shift them so they move along a nicer, more positive path.

Don’t depend on others to create your peace and happiness – they’ll always fail you and not because they don’t care for you but because they can’t know what is the thing that makes you truly and utterly happy.

The only person that does is you.

The sooner you realize that and the sooner you start working on your own life, the happier you’ll be.

Merry Christmas – and get to livin’.

Mental Agreements: How to start the process of healing?

Mental Agreements: How to start the process of healing?

Our mind can be the source of great accomplishments. However, it can also be the cause of our emotional pain and our inability to achieve our goals. Traumatic experiences in childhood and internalized negative beliefs from our past can affect how we see ourselves and the world around us. Our thoughts shape our self-image and impact our actions. While most of the time we have thousands of thoughts rushing through our minds, the first step to reclaiming your emotional wellbeing is to become aware of the thoughts that are shaping your reality. Mental agreements are the thoughts that you have, that you have come to believe as a truth about yourself. Do you find these thoughts going through your mind ‘if I love, I always get hurt’ or ‘I’m a failure, I’ll never succeed.’ While external factors can diminish our self-worth, we are often our own worst enemies. When you buy into negative beliefs about yourself and hold them as unquestionable truths you stop yourself from reaching your full potential. Perhaps, your mother always told you that were a difficult child or you were teased by bullies at school. The close relationships that we have during our formative years have a long-lasting impact. You can start the process of healing by noticing and questioning your beliefs.

Mental agreements that promote a negative self-image can be the source of overeating, depression and addiction. The rigid beliefs that you hold about yourself are one of the major obstacles to your healing and the achievement of your goals. Negative thought patterns are repetitive and they invoke painful emotions. Negative patterns of thought can make you feel trapped. Once you become aware of your negative thoughts and beliefs, you have taken the first step to reclaiming your power. In the past, you may have used coping mechanisms to deal with your negative beliefs without even realizing what you were doing. You may have looked for diversions in unhealthy relationships or tried to numb your feelings with alcohol. You may have used overeating to comfort yourself in response to these difficult emotions. When you start recognizing these negative thoughts it can feel like there is a war taking place in your mind. At this point, it is important to be gentle with yourself and to practice self-compassion. Bringing awareness to your negative thoughts can be painful so take it one step at a time. This will help you to avoid feeling even guilty for having negative thoughts. This process doesn’t happen overnight and if you don’t address the root causes of your problematic thinking, you won’t be any closer to breaking free from it. The key is to change yourself from the inside out.

Negative thinking can result in high levels of stress which puts your body into survival mode. When you become aware of the thoughts that are resulting in emotional pain, it is possible to make positive changes to your beliefs and as a result, your actions. An obstacle to facing our pain and dealing with it in an aware and proactive manner is society’s conditioning which has us believing that emotions should be repressed rather than expressed. When you create a safe space where you can sit with your pain and unearth the thoughts behind it, you are creating a space for healing. Remember, your thought patterns have been learned and, therefore, they can be unlearned and changed.

Green Light to Forgiveness

Green Light to Forgiveness

All of us at one point in our lives have been hurt by the actions or words of another. Whether it was due to infidelity in a relationship, physical abuse or someone simply stepping on our foot while waiting in line at the grocery store, we all have contemplated if we should forgive those who have wronged us. According to author of Forgiveness Brings Freedom, Debbie Roome, “forgiveness is an act of pardoning a fault and in doing so, giving up resentment, hatred, wrath and all rights to restitution.”  The concept is quite simple, excuse the errs of others so that you can relieve yourself of anger, hurt and stress in order to move forward with happiness and security.

While the idea behind forgiveness is simple, the reality of practicing it proves to be more difficult. This is because we make it hard on ourselves.  You see, forgiveness is natural – just imagine a newborn baby. When a baby is born it has no sense of self.  It readily forgives and forgets when subjected to harm, no matter who the source or whether their actions were intentional or not.  It is only as we grow older do we learn to feel as though we are important (our ego) and that the world owes us something, especially when we feel we have been wronged.  We learn what it feels like to have pain, hurt and resentment.  We forger the natural instinct of forgiveness, believing that the pain we are suffering now is more important.

I know what you’re thinking…”Why should I forgive someone when he/she is the one who did me wrong?”  Simply because forgiving others is NOT beneficial for other people. Its beneficial for YOU! Continuing to hold a grudge is like spilling boiling water on yourself, resulting in scars and pain, and expecting another person to feel your pain, apologize and help heal the wounds.  You cannot grow, achieve goals and attain happiness if you are stuck in a state of mind that the world needs to apologize to you first.  It doesn’t work that way.  Catharine Ponder once said, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel.  Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”  When you allow someone else to have such control over you, it’s impossible to achieve anything positive.  You are giving someone else power over your mind, and ultimately the power to control your growth as a person.

Most people continue to hold on to resentment well into their adult life, some all the way to their coffin.  Resentment is to repeatedly “resend” negative thoughts back to the mind.  Most of us as adults are still reliving a childhood situation where we believe we were wronged.  It’s the main reason people are so unwilling to and incapable of forgiving.  We have to let go of those hurt feelings and forgive because when we constantly repeat those unconstructive thoughts which cloud our positive thinking we enable the worst to happen.  We remain stuck in the cycle of reliving our pain and giving someone else power over ourselves.  When we forgive and let go of that link we gain a relief of emotional and physical stress.  We also receive freedom from the pain of the past, greater health and well being, and a greater happiness in the present as well as the future.

In order to move forward, we must forgive our faults as well as the faults of others.  Begin by acknowledging the “wrong” or fault and understand the cause.  Then, release the pain and emotional link to that person and/or situation associated with it by accepting what they did was wrong.  Forgive and move forward with life.  Discontinue dwelling on the past and instead look forward to a positive future.  This process may take weeks, months or possible years, but forgiveness can be attained.  We must remember since humans are not omniscient or infallible, mistakes are inevitable for all of us.  When we understand and accept human infallibility, it becomes much easier to forgive the mistakes of others, as well as our own.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Grateful

Don’t Get Mad, Get Grateful

For those of you who don’t know, aside from having this wonderful blog full of ideas and advice, I also have a community outreach website for Soaring Higher, the spiritual and mental side of my project to promote health, wellness and personal success.  Recently, the site received a post which I would like to share here as well, as I believe it is an important story and life lesson we could all stand to learn from.

“A couple of months ago I lost my job. This job was my only source of income which maintained my independence and allowed me to pay for college, my own apartment and transportation, among many other obligations. When I reached out to my family for slight assistance, which I rarely do, they claimed they were not able to help and began to ignore my phone calls completely. I turned to my professed friends, whom I have helped on numerous occasions, only to have no one willing to provide me assistance yet again. Even my boyfriend at that time would not, at the very least, offer me $10 to borrow so that I would not be on the streets homeless and starving. It felt like I could not get a good grip on life and there was no one there to catch me.

In that situation it was effortless for me to contemplate and question, “Why me?” I would constantly dwell on the negative aspects of my situation not realizing those negative feelings were not beneficial at all for my betterment. Distressing with myself and others only created a vicious cycle of negative judgment and actions. I had to realize to be grateful during hard times because adverse situations come to teach us a lesson in life. A nonconstructive occurrence teaches us humility, humbleness, and compassion for others. How can we attain compassion for others who have fallen on hard times when we ourselves have never known what if feels like to owe over $500 in overdue bills with only $15 in our pockets? How can we give respect to others who finally have reached success after years of dedication when we ourselves have never lost our employment unexpectedly? How can we find strength if we never had to struggle?

I strongly believe that nothing in life occurs by coincidences. When I lost my job, it was meant to happen at that time. When my so-called friends abandoned me, it was meant for me to see how my friendships were misleading. This epiphany enabled me to comprehend that if it were not for these occurrences I would not have known for the need to change friends. If I didn’t lose that job at that time, I would not have been able to attain the two occupations where I am currently employed. Everything we experience transpires for a reason. Although we may not know the reason, our experiences-good and bad- lead to other experiences and situations which improve our spirituality and personality. So when you come along jagged rocks amid your path in life, don’t get mad: get grateful. Be grateful that you were able to gain strength by overcoming that obstacle.”

~ Krystal, Cleveland OH

I believe many of us have experienced something similar to Krystal’s situation at some point in our lives.  Down and out on luck with nowhere to turn we felt hopeless and angry, angry with ourselves and those around us.  At that point, we have two options- continue the negative thinking and begin the blame game or take stock of the situation and ask some serious questions, analyze them and most importantly learn.

Ask yourself

How did I get here? What decisions did I make that perhaps I should have not? Was there a flaw in my thinking, perhaps I was too quick on the draw or procrastinated too long instead of taking action? Have previous pitfalls been a result of similar mistakes?

Who was there to help me?  In my darkest hour, who was I able to rely on? Take note of this not so you can lean on them again when the situation arises but to make sure you repay them in kind.  Similarly, make note of the people that perhaps do not deserve your love and affection and you would be better off without.  Your time and emotions are precious, save them for people who matter.

What is my new plan of action? Doing nothing is unlikely to bring about any positive change.  Be productive and realize you are the only person who can take the initiative of your own life and happiness.  Make a list of possible solutions and ACT on them! Time spent lamenting is time wasted. Time spent doing the same actions that got you in the mess in the first place are even a bigger waste.

Imagine you are driving through a winter storm.  This isn’t the first storm of the season and you have had previous problems on the roads already.  As the snow begins coming down harder your windshield is icing up faster that your blades can work. Your tires are bald and the lack of traction leaves you at the mercy of the road. You click for your windshield fluid but realize that it is empty, empty just like it was during the last snow storm and the one before that as well.  You haven’t bothered topping it off and your procrastination has again come back to bite you.

As you hit a particularly icy patch on the road,  your car begins to spin out of control.  You try to grab firm control of the wheel but your inevitable crash course has already been set in motion. Pushing the brakes does no good as your tires no longer have any grip on the road. You slip and slide and find yourself and your car in a ditch on the side of the road, sitting in half a foot of snow.

Recovering from the initial shock you sit there and wait, surely someone noticed you spiral out of control and will come by to see if you’re OK.  The problem is that you weren’t the only one out there driving in hazardous conditions.  Everyone else is battling the elements as well, careful to follow the barely visible tire track path and get their van full of kids or an ailing parent back to the safety of their home.  And while they sympathize with your situation, they are risking their safety and those of their loved ones by pulling over and offering assistance.

blog5Realizing you ‘re going to need to call for help you dial your insurance or Triple A provider but they’re too busy or out of the area and cannot come to you aid.  You call your brother/uncle/ best friend who lives down the street but they do not feel like leaving their home/the dinner is on the stove/ they’re waiting for the 50% off sale online to start and cannot, absolutely  cannot live without a new pair of strappy sandals.

Now you’re getting angry, revving up the gas pedal and hoping you will be able to get out of the ditch.  Nothing.  You hit the gas again, shooting more snow in the air and further burying your vehicle.  One last final attempt and now you have sealed your fate to sit in the ditch until the storm clears and an emergency crew comes to your rescue.

Hopeless, angry and defeated with nowhere to turn you can a) sit there and get angry, curse the gods and other vehicles passing you by or b)assess the situation, how you got there, what you can learn from it and what positive actions can be taken right now.

1.Realize you should have filled up your windshield fluid and gotten new tires.  Instead of putting it off, doing this simple task could have allowed you to have a clear view of the road and firm control over the terrain, perhaps allowing you to navigate the road better and miss the icy spot that all the other cars seem to be passing with more grace.

2. Change your insurance/Triple A provider.  Why be their customer and pay them money when they are not there to assist you?

3. Remember their reactions the next time your brother/uncle/best friend asks for help.

4. Accept that actions spurred by negative emotion are of no benefit (revving up that gas when you know very well it will do you no good)

5. In the future plan ahead when leaving in a storm, grab a shovel and be ready to spring to action immediately after a crisis, it’s a lot easier to dig yourself out while the hole is still fresh and new accumulation hasn’t set in.

6.Finally, remember your misery and  the  next time you see a stranded vehicle, don’t simply think “Glad it wasn’t me” and drive but, but pull over and offer assistance.

Yes, it’s an unpleasant experience that can set back your day, or longer in the case of a lost job or other more unfortunate circumstances.  But I encourage you, as Krystal did, to move forward and look at your situation from a different perspective.  Instead of taking it for face value, see the situation as an opportunity to learn a lesson.  Ask yourself ” What can I use form this to empower myself?”  Instead of being angry, hurt or resentful try to be thankful, grateful and appreciated the opportunity to grow.  I know you’re thinking, “Eric, how can I be thankful when I’m sitting in a ditch with snow piling on my car?”  Be thankful you didn’t hit a pole and wreck your car or hit another car in the process.  Be thankful your car has heat and you’re not a homeless person suffering through the cold in an alley.  Be grateful you made it through alive.

If we accept every negative as an opportunity to be more positive in the future, the sting of defeat won’t hurt as bad.  If you are quick to react instead of further dwelling on your misfortune, you will waste less time on the negative and more on creating a positive turnaround or a new beginning.  By realizing what got you in the mess in the first place you can prevent the same misfortune from happening again. Most importantly, taking things in stride will allow you to have a a healthier and more stable inner spirit, one that will be successful in breeding positivity which you can in turn see materialize in the outside world.

Stay positive, stay grateful and please, for goodness’  sake, top off your windshield fluid!

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Daily Tune-Up : Meditation

Daily Tune-Up : Meditation

What if I told you there was a way for you to reduce stress, increase metabolism, lower blood pressure and alleviate pain without having to go to the doctor, take medicine or undergo strenuous physical exertion?  You don’t have to invest a fortune in this remedy and it is not required of you to leave the comforts of your home.  It’s not an experimental new method either; in fact it has been around since 1500 BCE.  If you suffer from chronic pain, high stress levels or have been unable to break free of the chains of depression or addiction then this may be just the miracle you have been looking for.  If your life is simply just too hectic and you could use an opportunity to sit in peace and quiet then what I’m proposing is just the remedy for you as well.  I’m talking about meditation – a natural healing method practiced and trusted the world over.

blog10The first mention of meditation can be found among the Hindu practitioners of Vedantism in 1500 BC.  After that it can be found in the scripts of Taoists and Buddhists in what is known today as China, philosophers of ancient Greece, the Old Testament, Qur’an , the Benedictine monks all the way to today’s Hollywood “it” crowd devout to Kabbalah and inseparable from their yoga mats.The fact that meditation as a concept has been able to transcend religious sects and withstand the test of time are reason enough to look deeper into the possible positive effects that it may have on your health and wellness.

 

First of all, what is meditation? Due to its prevalence in so many varying cultural settings, meditation does not conform to a set definition.  In the Baha’I faith, it is regarded as “the key for opening the doors of mysteries to your mind. In that state man abstracts himself: in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves.”  A study and review conducted in 2006 by prominent scholars Walsh and Shapiro yielded the characterization that “meditation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration”. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine lists  “ [increasing] calmness and physical relaxation, [improving] psychological balance, [coping] with illness, or [enhancing] overall health and well-being,” as reasons for secular meditation.

Well if meditation is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it? It’s true that only 9% of Americans practice mediation, and while that number is an increase from the 7% of the population in 2002 it is still a rather small share of the market that could stand to benefit from meditation.  Think about it, the leading causes of death in the United States stem from cardiovascular disease, depression and stress, and while many of us are quick to reach for the “easy” solution and add another pill to our daily regimen, these are all ailments that stem from a disrupted psyche and nervous system that could stand some mental and spiritual attention.  There are already so many chemical toxins in our environment which poison our natural being that adding more chemically altered substances seems to go against all grains of logic.  Yet that is exactly what we do by accepting the overworked, unattached and pharmaceutical company funded doctor’s suggestion to try this course of drug A with combination of drug B and follow up in 3 months for either a refill or a new set of wonder drugs.

Considering that the majority of us are already pressed for time, taking a pill with your morning coffee seems like such a convenient solution that many of us do not take the time to question it. The average American associates meditation with new age hippies and people in robes sitting in a pretzel like position while humming away.  This misconceived prejudice is another reason many of us are quick to discount meditation.  Aside from being one of the oldest healing methods in the world, meditation is a routine for some of the healthiest and most active people in the world.  Some of the top physiological benefits of meditation are not limited to and include:

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While the positive fruits of meditation are bountiful, achieving the state of inner reflection and peace does take time and practice.  In last year’s popular movie “Eat Love Pray” the protagonist quickly discovers that mediation is not as easy as closing your eyes and humming away to a newfound level of peace and understanding.  Clearing the mind and focusing on your inner self is harder to do than it sounds and nearly impossible as long as the noise of the busy world around us continues to invade our inner space.  Perhaps this is one of the main reasons that meditation has not caught on in the States, our society is far too loud and engulfed in all things social and busy that it is harder for us to find a place of peace and tranquility.

Perhaps you will be unsuccessful in your initial attempts at achieving a state of full meditation. And while the list of above mentioned benefits should stimulate you to not give up after the first round of failed attempts, you can also seek solace in knowing that even they are helping transform and take you to a better place.  Taking the time to sit quietly with your own thoughts can provide the opportunity to listen to yourself and hear the voices previously drowned out by the meaningless chatter of your superfluous and commercial needs and wants.  Simply taking the time to breathe right and sit up straight can have wondrous effects on your respiratory system as well as your posture.  Finally, sitting in a quiet and relaxing space will help recharge your batteries and reduce stress levels simply by taking you out of the polluted (both chemically and mentally) environment that exists in today’s 24/7, non-stop society.

Meditation does not require a monthly membership, religious affiliation or a deity.  All you really need is 20-30 minutes of your day, dedicated to shutting off outside distracters and focusing on clearing your mind and soul in a calm and relaxing environment. Turn off that cell phone, forget about the bills hanging on the refrigerator and the fight you had with your significant other.  Forget the shopping list for this weekend’s dinner and the hole that needs to be patched up in your son’s jeans.  Find a comfortable place to sit and let the natural breathing rhythms usher in a new found level of peace, relaxation and self-awareness. Make yourself open to the positive benefits of this ancient healing method and welcome in a better, healthier you.

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO MEDITATION

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