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EMOTIONAL WELLNESS

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Radical Gratitude: A Guide to Transform Hardships

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"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." Melody Beattie

Sitting in a coffee shop in Lincoln Road on a bright and sunny day I received a call from my aunt stating, “ Your Mom just had a seizure she is not looking well, I am scared she is not going to make it.” At that moment, everything started to feel as if it was operating in slow motion, my heart began to race, and I could barely breathe. My aunt continued, “Hurry and get here get on the first flight you can.” My mind began to race, and I immediately started to visualize the worst and thoughts began to cross my mind like wildfire such as “She is going to die,” “You won't be able to say goodbye,” “You should have been there.”

Hearing those words from my aunt I had to choose if I was going to believe in my thoughts of fear or gratitude. I knew that this was where I had to put into practice everything I have learned about gratitude. As the anxiety became prevalent in my mind and body, I started to make a shift. I began to think, “I am grateful that my mom is alive now,” “I am grateful that she is at the hospital and is being taken care of.” Shortly after changing my thoughts, I bought a ticket and started heading home to pack my bags and drive to the airport. Thinking thoughts of gratitude, of course, did not mean that I was happy or feeling good it just allowed me to see clearly and to make decisions to get me to where I needed to be. As I arrived to New York and walked in the hospital, I realized that it was a privilege for me to be able to get on a plane and get to my mother side. I felt gratitude for the fact that she had the luxury of having great doctors, nurses, and staff help her and take care of her. The same applies to everyday life; it is a privilege to have electricity, water, and food to feed our bodies. The more you practice this you will find endless things to feel grateful for.

After this experience, it has helped me feel gratitude on a deeper level than before. Life is challenging with its twist and turns, as many of us will learn. At times we focus so much on what is going wrong and what we need to change that we forget to appreciate the little things in life. Too often we spend our moments together complaining and in the thoughts of self-pity, sadness, and defeat. However, if we want to live radical lives, we must learn to focus on our blessings instead of our troubles. Of course, it’s not easy to do this especially when you experience something for the millionth time, or you’re on the verge of losing a loved one, or life feels as if everything is working against you. But life is not about making changes only if they are comfortable.

Developing the muscle of gratitude is like going to the gym it takes time and practice. As you start to make this change, you will feel uncomfortable, and your mind will struggle with this new way of thinking. How do we begin to live a life of radical gratitude? By starting our days with magnified appreciation. Some people pray and give thanks; I start my day by writing a list of at least ten things I am grateful for. However, you choose to practice gratitude is up to you and the more you do this; the more it becomes a habit. It starts to become your way of being, and you will find yourself not just doing this in the morning but also going through your day giving thanks.

Gratitude transforms your life and works as alchemy in situations of defeat. As I mentioned before, it is not easy, and it never gets easy, but you will be able to enjoy moments to the fullest because you appreciate the fact that you’re even alive. Truth is we will not be here forever, and as we know this intellectually, we must remember this in our hearts.

Years ago when I started this practice, I was experiencing heartbreak and found myself constantly complaining about it. When I read on the Internet about living with gratitude, I started to make my morning gratitude list daily.  Now, it is the way that I deal with everything in life. Start today by writing down all the blessings in your life and express appreciation to those you love while you can. Watch as your days start to feel lighter and next time you face hardship elevate your mind by thinking thoughts of appreciation.  Spend your days in radical gratitude and you’ll see how life will offer you more blessings than you could have ever imagined.

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Memento Mori: How to focus on the power of life

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Memento Mori: How to focus on the power of life

A great Stoic once said “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of our life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…”

Stoicism, for those who have not majored in philosophy, is considered a ideology of personal ethics. According to its teachings, we as social beings, can only find happiness in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain.

Stoicism incorporates the practice of logic to provoke us to use our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature's plan. By meditating on the contemplation of death the Stoics would train themselves to remain in the present moment. Back in the day, it was more than just a set of beliefs or ethical claims, it was considered more of a way of life.

I know the truth of death is an overwhelming reality for us to wrap our heads around. The fact that you are a mortal being, that will some day cease to exist? It’s hard to swallow.  Even as I write it my face cringes.

But my intention here is not so much to focus on the reality of our death, but instead on the power of our life.

“Memento Mori” is a Latin phrase that means “remember that you will die,” “remember that you are mortal”.  Now I understand that sounds morbid and as millennials the last thing we want is to be thinking too much about death, especially with today’s culture of youth glorification and the perpetuating consumeristic lie that you can stay young forever. The thought literally sits at odds with the comfortable narrative we have surrounded ourselves with.

However, the truth is, that it is a thought that we all need to be reminded of. The importance in this thought is not so much to focus on the end of things, but instead to focus on the NOW of life. The immense infinite now that we have each and everyday.

This phrase should force you to focus on what you can do NOW, with the life that you have at this given moment.

The HERE and NOW are the things that matter most.

You should be constantly asking yourself: How can I make the here and now really count? How am I letting fear stop me? How am I letting my past weigh me down?

Meditating and acknowledging your morality is only depressing if you miss the point.

Look at it as a way to find perspective in life. See it as a way to identify your priorities, your meaning, and what it is that you want most.

Use this idea as way to see life as a gift-- don't let yourself get lost in the trivial insignificant ordeals of the everyday human existence.

Don't let your vanity consume you.

Realize that you have a certain amount of time to live, so live life in a certain kind of way. Don’t let transient things become distractions. Don’t let drama consume you. Don’t let fear stop you and most of all to let your time escape you. The only truth you need to become conscious of is that life is precious, it is short and you have the power to make the most of it now.

Here are some ways to use “Memento Mori” to seize your life:

  1. Live life with purpose each and everyday. Do things because they are aligned with who you want to be.

  2. Stop making excuses. You never know what is or could be if you don’t try.

  3. Choose not to be a victim. Remember that you are always winning, even when you are losing you have won a new lesson or point of view that you otherwise would not have gotten.

  4. Stop comparing yourself to others, your life is your journey, no one else has to understand it and no one else can live it.

  5. Take action now in anyway, big or small steps count.

  6. Let go of the past that is weighing you down and don’t let it affect your future.

  7. Rethink what your priorities are.

  8. Mediate fully on what you want for yourself and why you want those things.

Finally, as this year comes to and end and a new one begins I invite you to think about all the new ways you can live the life you were meant to live -- today. No one has a better way of provoking this thought other than our dear Steve Jobs, when he reminds us in his famous commencement speech; "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

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Visiting the beach can change your brain in an incredible way

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Visiting the beach can change your brain in an incredible way

We all know that spending time outdoors is good for you on both a physical and mental level, but the benefits of spending time specifically at the beach have just been revealed.

That incredible feeling of peace and calmness that you experience at the beach is now being referred to as “blue space.” That’s what scientists have dubbed the effect that the combination of soothing smells and sounds of water have on your brain. The blue space is enough to make you feel at ease in a hypnotic sort of way.

When you notice how relaxed you feel at the beach, it’s not just all in your head. Science says that it’s a change in the way your brain reacts to its environment leaving you feeling happy, relaxed and reenergized.

Overall, this blue space effects you in four different ways.

1. Going to the beach reduces stress.

Water is nature’s cure to life’s stressors. It’s full of naturally occurring positive ions that are known for having the ability to make you feel at ease. So whether you jump in for a swim or simply dip your toes in the water, you’re sure to experience a feeling of relaxation. That’s one instant mood booster we could all use from time to time!

2. The beach boosts your creativity.

Feeling like you’re in a creative rut? Well, scientists now believe that the solution to this is the beach. Being in blue space allows you to clear your head and approach problems or projects in a more creative way. Much like meditation, the beach triggers a feeling of calmness that allows you to tune everything else out and reflect on what it is you’ve been needing to focus on.

3. Going to the beach can help reduce feelings of depression

Much like the effects that the beach has on feelings of stress and creative ruts, the beach also provides some relief to feelings of depression. The hypnotic sound of the waves in combination with the sight and smells of the beach can put you into a meditative space. In turn, you can clear your mind and reflect on life in a safe space away from the chaos of your daily life.

4. Overall, spending time at the beach will change your perspective on life.

And that perspective is going to change for the better! Nature in general has always been a factor in healthy happy lives, but the beach in particular is so good for the soul.

So grab the SPF and pack a picnic, because it’s time to head to the beach!

http://shareably.net/visiting-the-beach/

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Meditation as a Tool

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Meditation as a Tool

Meditation is spending time in quiet thought for relaxation or religious purposes according to the dictionary. The history of mediation is rich and it's many forms vast. It's also one of the tools needed to maintain wellness. 


You only need to search the web and find what type or types fit your needs and lifestyle. I practice several different styles of meditation because different needs require it. Meditation seems like the buzz word of the moment but I first encountered it's benefits while in high school many years ago. I grew up in New York and attended high school in the West Village of New York City.  They offered a course in Yoga and I signed up immediately. At the beginning and end of every class we meditated. At the time I didn't have a clue as to it's benefits nor it's absolute necessity. 


Over time I've developed what is called a meditation practice. Meaning, I meditate twice daily morning and night everyday for a half hour each time. My goal is to be able to mediate for up to an hour each time. I also, when the need arises practice mini meditations throughout the day. Mini meditations are focused breathing and mantra techniques that can be done anywhere. For example breathing in for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of seven and finally exhaling for a count of eight. It reduces your stress level almost immediately by allowing for the blood to flow to every part of our body. With a mini mantra meditation,  I usually repeat a mantra while being conscious of my breath; I breathe "in love and peace and I breathe out anxiety and fear". I will do each of these mini meditations for approximately three to five minutes, just repeating the meditations till I am mindful of the actual moment and the stress level has been reduced. 


In my previous post I mentioned how I experienced severe anxiety and panic attacks. I overcame them through meditation. There are many types of meditation but what I found was practicing "I Am" meditation and "Guided" meditations allowed for me to gain control back over my life. With "I am" meditations I could do it anywhere and anytime as needed. I wrote down a list of "I am's"; I am healthy, I am strong, I am loved, I am not alone, etc and committed it to memory but when I couldn't focus I just opened my journal and I read it out loud over and over again. "I am", meditation would stop the attack. With "Guided Meditation" I needed to be home and lying down. It helped me immensely to be taken away via a calm and assuring voice to focus on a specific scenario. That scenario for me is always a beach scene and the crashing of the waves on the surf. "Guided" meditation recharged me so I would get my strength and energy back. With panic attacks, everything begins to race, your breathing becomes shallow,  flight or fight kicks and before you know it you're completely wiped out and that's hoping you didn't rush yourself to the hospital because you thought you were dying. In my case the episodes were so severe I would hyperventilate which has a list of it's own horrific ailments. 

My meditation time is something I absolutely rely on to keep me going throughout the day. It's also something that grows continually. It's not easy to quiet the mind when it's filled with to do lists, time constraints, sleepiness and all of life's noises good and bad. We all need to recharge, recuperate and regroup. Meditation re-charges your battery so when life comes at you, you're capable of being resilient. 


I meditate because I need to clear my mind.  I need to shut down so I can rebuild my mind in a healthy and authentic way daily.  It takes time and I am still learning and I pray I always will be. In order to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul connection meditation is key. 
 

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How to be Mindful

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How to be Mindful

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in the scientific study of mindfulness, mindfulness is "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally". Practicing mindfulness is about controlling the way you think about the world. It is about learning to live in the present moment because you choose to! 

Step 1: Pay Attention On Purpose

Okay. Imagine having a cup of very hot tea, filled right up to the top. Now maybe this has already happened to you, but imagine having to transport that tea to someone else. Lets say across the room. In that instant you are paying attention on purpose, I am sure! You become fully conscious of what you are doing, because you are aware that the water in the cup is hot and that any miss-step could be a critical one. Therefore you proceed with the utmost caution. In those 30 seconds it takes you to get the tea cup to another person you have experienced full and utter complete mindfulness. Unless of course, the person you're giving the tea to is your boss. In that case you might be worried about the future of your job if your were to spill it on them.

However, my point is that 'Paying Attention On Purpose' is focusing on what you're doing at any given moment so that you can do whatever it is that you're doing in the best possible way. It doesn't matter what it is, when you do something mindfully you are doing it fully: fully focused, fully aware and with purpose.

Its easy for us to get distracted in our heads from time to time or get lost in our feelings about things that have already happened. It is easy to worry about the future and stress about our work. However, being able to recognize when your mind begins to wander and bringing your attention back to what you want to focus on-- is the first step to being mindful!

Recap:

1. Become conscious of where your focus lies

2. Become aware of your actions

3. Give your actions purpose

 

Step 2: Be in the Present Moment

This is fairly straightforward, however it tends to be very hard to follow, I can attest to that myself. Replaying things that have already occurred in my head over and over is a part-time job for me. It's important to catch ourselves in those moments of irrationality and understand that no matter how much we dwell on the past -- nothing will change. No amount of 'reminisation' (this could possible be a new word I just invented) can change the things that have already occurred!

"Its done and over with sweetheart so just get with the program."


Is something I must tell myself about every half a milli second, as my mind wanders from one past event to another trying to recreate how I could have done things differently.

"If only I didn't tell that person to go to hell...Maybe things would have been different..."

And they probably would have been different, but there is nothing you can do about it now. Snapping myself back to reality is my forte, but only long enough until my mind wanders on to something that still has yet to occur like:

"What am I going to do.. I want 3 children. But if I have three children most hotel rooms only accommodate four. Then what happens to the third...? Do we get two rooms?"


It happens to all of us. We get caught up in the future or our idea of what the future will be like. Now, I'm not saying to never think of the future and go live as a nomad letting the stars guide your way.  It okay to have a plan, in fact, its very important to set goals for yourself. However, once they are set, you must come back to the present moment. You can't dwell in your thoughts and hopes for too long, because you will never be able to achieve the things you want to unless you embrace the thing that already are. To live in the present moment is to live more purposefully in the directions of your dreams. 

Recap

1. Don't live in the past

2. Avoid getting caught up in the future

 

 

Step 3: Practice Non-Judgement

You will realize that as you become more aware of the present moment, you will also become more aware of things that maybe you would have never noticed before. Perhaps those things involve people around you or even your own emotions. Its important to observe all the new things that fall into your range of awareness without judgement, categorization or analyzation.

Learn to observe your surroundings objectively. Don't look down on others, don't question things and most importantly don't become what you feel. Although it is important to acknowledge what you feel, it is essential to be able to let them go as well. Embrace the essence of your feelings and emotions but do so from an "outside looking in" kind of way. When you start to feel anger or sadness, register it, acknowledge what those emotions feel like, take mental notes, process them but then let them go. Think of yourself as your own patient. Once you have acknowledged your feelings objectively, use your breath to let them go. Don't cling to those feelings. Even the good ones. The only thing you should cling to during mindfulness is the awareness of your own existence- what you sense moment-by-moment.

Keep in mind that not all will choose to be mindful and in your practice you will come across people that are caught up in their own negativity. Empathize with them, notice how that makes you feel, notice where they are on their journey and keep moving along with your own. Imagine a dog goes into a restaurant and everyone is eating. It goes up to the first table and it gets shooed away while the people say "you stupid dog". Then the dog goes to the next table with the same enthusiasm and they say the same. Like this dog, don't let the outside circumstances or negativity steal your peace or distract you from your journey. Continue on until you find the table where they pat you on the head and give you a treat. Don't expect everyone to adopt the same perspectives as you. Practicing mindfulness is a personal journey and letting go of judgements includes not judging others for their lack of mindfulness. Focus on your own growth and progress, become an example for others to follow.

Recap:

1. Let go of the need to judge, categorize & analyze.

2. Don't cling to negative or positive emotions.

3. Treat your feelings and experiences objectively

4. Be patient with others who are not as mindful as you have become.
 

 

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Mindfulmess vs. Mindfulness

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Mindfulmess vs. Mindfulness

 

mind·ful·mess

noun

1. a state of being unconscious or unaware of something 

2. a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the past events and the ones that have yet to come. 

3. Feeling frustrated or disappointed by one's feelings, thoughts, or reactions. 

4. Reacting to moments or events that have already occurred.

 

mind·ful·ness

noun

1. a state of being conscious or aware of something

2. a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment

3. Calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

4. Moment by moment awareness in the present. 

 

Which are you? Lately, I must say I've been more of a 'mindful-mess'. As I am currently adapting to a new home, new people, unusual circumstances and different ideals. I have become more and more aware of my abrupt need to make judgements, my irritability at almost everything and a sense of anxiety about things that have not yet occurred. I’ll be honest, for the longest time I thought I had mastered the art of being mindful, but the recent influx of unusual circumstances have proven me otherwise!

Gone are the days that I paused before I responded as if I couldn't understand what you said. Gone are the days when I walked around taking it all in like it was the first day of spring. Gone are the days where I felt like I could see the future and clearly understand all things. What has happened? Where has my mindfulness gone? Why is my mind such a mess? These questions have begun to oscillate in my head.

Now, be aware that although I may not be as mindful as I once was, the fact that I can acknowledge the lack therein is mindful in itself. So ask yourself these questions: Do you realise when your being mindful? Do you realise when your mind is more of a mess? Are you able to catch yourself in those moments and recognise its not your best?

If your answer is yes. Then you have known what mindfulness is. In fact, we all have. You see, mindfulness is a basic human function that has become not so basic due to all the distractions of the world. As you may already know, mindfulness is rooted in Buddhism and it is considered one of the oldest traditions ever practiced. Back in the day, Buddha believed that mindfulness should be part of everyday life and he believed that it was a key for gaining deep wisdom. Wisdom about life, purpose, people and most importantly wisdom about yourself! 

Although, this idea of being aware of the reality of things in the present moment has had its peaks here and there since the 1970s, it is not just a trend, it has been around for thousands of years and will probably be around for many more. Therefore, it is important for us to be aware of our mindfulness versus our 'mindful-mess' so that we can be fully present in the here and now rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

Being mindful is a moment-by-moment awareness in the present moment that can be gained or lost depending on us. Yes, like all things in life being mindful takes practice and it takes a lot of work on our behalf. We have to choose to be mindful everyday in anyway we can. You can practice being mindful as you're eating, as you're walking, as you're taking a shower or as you're driving. Use the sensations of breathing as your anchor to the present moment and go from there. Little by little build up on your sensory experience and learn to take them in one by one as they occur. If your not sure where to start read my blog on 'How to be Mindful' for help. 

And, if you are not sure where you lie on a mindfulness vs. 'mindful-mess' scale take this test. Become aware of where you are in your mindfulness and feel free to share your results in the comments section below.

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Resilience the Beginning

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Resilience the Beginning

Resilience is the capacity to recover from difficulties. To thrive despite the mess and chaos of life and also the beauty. To be resilient is something one has to want. No matter where you find yourself in the depth of despair or cloud 9 you have to be cognizant of life. You could be homeless, suffering abuse, newly in love or about to have a baby and a million other possibilities but if you loose sight of who you are and the dream you have for the life you want, you could find yourself broken and desperate. I've suffered the highs and lows of life. I've been homeless and destitute and I've been high on the mountain. 


A fall no matter where you land always hurts. Yes, some falls are further than others; the loss of a loved one, a terminal diagnosis, a breakup or a breakdown. Yes, I've visited all of these scenarios and I've hit rock bottom a number of times. Each time I've climbed back up those mountains over and over again sometimes on my hands and knees, because something inside of me would never give up. 


 That "something" I've learned changes at times but at its root is being selfless. Sounds simple I know. Don't be selfish and I won't need meds or suffer any longer, I can stop self-harming etc. Not exactly, but move out of your head and your own way and the possibilities are endless. This I know is true. Our minds are all capable of the same things. Our brains unless hindered by chemical imbalances we've brought on by ourselves or organic imbalances; can be reconstructed by holistic methods. 


I'm a firm believer in meditation and self-reflection. We must become self-aware and find empathy not only for ourselves but more importantly for others. We must live a life of gratitude. Several years ago I had hit what I thought was rockiest of bottoms. I was depressed, suffering from severe panic attacks and anxiety, I was bulimic, obese and self-harm was an activity I engaged in on a daily basis.


So, I did what all people do I sought out medical help. I went to a psychologist who in forty-five minutes and a co-pay wrote up a prescription; several in fact that turned me into a zombie. My senses were dulled, the light in my eyes was dulled, my soul stolen by an endless supply of prescription medications. My life was diminished and if I stayed this course agoraphobia was right around the corner. 


I knew something had to be better. I knew there had to be more for me and this blessing of life than living unhealthy and unhappy. With the aid of my brother we logged on to our computers and sought alternatives. What we came across was a wealth of knowledge and real sustainable options other than what was being offered to me at the time. 


I started to meditate. I didn't really understand how this could help but I  was ready and willing to try anything to get my life back; not only for myself but for the people I care about and the possibility of a more fulfilling life. That's where being selfless comes in. 


You must dig deep and find something to grab a hold of. What you grab hold of can be anything from a higher power, seeing a sunrise to someone or something you love. If none of those things are viable for you, then hold onto the possibility of what might come in the future. Hold on to hope and let that catapult you into health. I truly believe in a mind, body and soul connection. I believe one can not exist without the other. I believe in you and I believe in me. I know you can do it because  I have done it repeatedly. I'm not perfect! Falling and getting back up is living! I can also tell you that it does get easier after each fall. I continue to climb by using the tools that have worked in the past and new ones I've picked up along the way. 


So if you allow me, I would like to share those tools with you in upcoming posts. I would love to hear from you and I would also love to learn about any of the tools you've picked up along the way that has made you resilient in this thing called life. 
 

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