Joy is sustainable happiness

by Donna Torney on March 29, 2017 · 0 comments

Science tells us that practicing gratitude has many health benefits, like feeling less lonely and building a stronger immune system.  So why is it sometimes difficult for us to feel grateful?  Why do we sometimes have a hard time saying thank you, when one of the byproducts of gratitude is joy, a positive emotion that is much easier to sustain than the fleeting happiness we feel when we get what we want.

 

Click here to sign up for the May session of the gratefulness course:  The Transformative Power of Sufficiency and Gratefulness.  

As Lynne Twist says in her interview with Brother David Stiendl-Rast, “We can bring joy to anything; Happiness must be pursued.”   When viewed this way, being joyful seems much less energy intensive than the never-ending hunt for happiness.

What stops you from feeling grateful? I know I sometimes have trouble trusting in my good fortune.  If this is a struggle you share with me, try finding gratitude in “safe” things, like the feeling of holding a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning, or the fact that you were able to cuddle with a beloved pet for a few minutes.

Fear is another emotion that puts up a wall against gratitude and keeps us wanting more.   If you are feeling fearful about having enough money, losing a loved one, or the state of the environment, take a few slow, deep breaths, you are in good company, but this company that could use some relief!  Exhale completely, and take a look at where you have influence.  The smallest act of assistance to someone in need can help you feel less fearful and a bit more in control, allowing you the space to feel grateful.

I find the emerging adults I work in my private practice are sometimes hesitant to express gratitude because they are trying to establish independence.  When we are trying to make it on our own, it can feel like a failure to ask for and receive help, and expressions of gratitude can trigger shame.  If this is your situation, remember that asking for help is an important life skill.  Try you best to say thanks, then Express your gratitude by envisioning the day when you can give back.  

Make gratitude your mindfulness practice this week.  If you need help with boosting your gratitude skills, consider joining the gratefulness.org eCourse hosted by Lynne Twist and Brother David Stiendl-Rast.

Click here to sign up for the May session of the gratefulness course:  The Transformative Power of Sufficiency and Gratefulness.  

http://gratefulness.org/blog/new-ecourse-transformative-power-sufficiency-gratefulness/

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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We love the idea of traveling for months (even years) on end.  What we don’t love as much though, is the craziness and imbalance that often accompany solo traveling, like exhaustion, and feeling homesick.

You’re sitting in a beautiful city, a thousand miles away from home, and you’re second-guessing why you started this whole game in the first place.

 But here’s a secret: That feeling…it’s totally OK; as long as you’ve got the right mental tools to help you pull through the sucky scenario and get back into the balance of things. We’ve got some helpful hints which may just be able to help you get back to that point of feeling balanced, sane, and centered.

Here’s how to bust the stress-cycle when traveling the world…

Tips for Traveling Mindfully

Essential #1 – Sleep

Absolutely nothing will go the way it’s supposed to when you’re deprived of sleep. You need to get in sync with your destination’s time difference from home so that your body has already started adjusting to the sleep cycle when you get there. In order to ensure you stay clear of mind and keep the balance where it should be, you HAVE to get enough sleep.

Essential #2 – Nourishment

The foods we eat while we’re traveling hugely impact our moods and our emotions, and they can disrupt our sanity as well. We get that eating on the run might not always be as easy as it would be back home, but you need to keep in mind how important the right foods, the minerals, and vitamins, are for keeping you balanced and centered.

Essential #3 – Plans

You don’t need to be OCD about planning and organizing and then planning some more, but once you see how much easier and better your travels are when you have a solid plan, you’ll understand why this is crucial for your wellbeing…. To some extent obviously! You still need a healthy mix of serendipity to help guide the way.

Plan your menus, plan your sleep cycle and start implementing it before you depart, plan your routes and stops. Plan on staying mindful and plan on when you’ll spend time reconnecting with your inner self.

Essential #4 – Exercise

If there was one thing we’d suggest getting really serious about, it would be your workout regime. Keeping up your healthy lifestyle and intentionally scheduling workouts on a daily basis during your travels will help keep your body and mind in shape. If you have an at home yoga program, then keep it up while you are traveling too, you’ll be able to find some great places & spaces for yoga while traveling! It’s also a great way in which you can explore your surroundings and clear your mind in one easy activity.

 Essential #5 – Staying in the Moment

Once you start feeling exhausted and not balanced, the only way your plans are going is south. Pretty soon too. That’s why you need to get to a point where you can stay in the present, being fully aware of where you are and why you’re there. You need to stop. Take in everything you see and smell, all that you feel in that moment. Connect with nature and the locals around you. Being present and just absorbing the energy around you is one of the best ways to regain control of your mind before your emotions take over, plus it’ll help you to better your emotions as well.

Essential #6 -Your Journal

We don’t all write in (or even keep) journals, but for solo travelers looking to stay sane on their journey, it’s crucial. Think about what made you happy today, and then put it in ink, or even note it down on your phone’s memo app. It’s the small things that make up the good memories you’ll take home, and it’s also the small things that will keep you balanced.

Essential #7 – Feeling the Freedom

Being in another country far away from home has its perks, and it’s a beautiful thing once you recognize that freedom. You’ve made the right life choices, you’re self-regulated, and you’re independent. You are free to live your life and to achieve all that you set out to do, without the cultural and religious restrictions that so many are tied down by back home. That kind of freedom does not come to all, so let it empower your body and soul and let it fuel your mind to actually live out loud!

 Essential #8 – Learning Life Lessons

When you’re traveling solo, you should do so with the intent of traveling consciously, mindfully, so that you can use your adventure to essentially learn new life lessons. All of the good and all of the bad, they come together to teach us valuable lessons of life. All of your experiences happen for a reason, and with so much to see and feel, the best thing you can do as a solo traveler is to live the lessons you’ve learned in the days, weeks, and months that have gone by.

Final Thoughts

We’ve shown you eight essential tools you’ll need to stay sane while traveling solo, and if you haven’t been incorporating them on your travels, there’s no better time for it but now. Soak up all of the experiences available to you, but keep them stored in your heart so that you can take them back home again. Life can be a beautiful adventure, but it needs to be taken on with the mindset of traveling consciously!

About The Author

I’m Dan, and I’m the Editor in Chief of True North Athletics. I’m also an avid adventurer, digital nomad, and traveler. I enjoy all types of outdoor sports, a good golf tan, and spontaneous weekend trips. I currently live in Brazil where I can frequently be found hiking the rain forest around my city!

 

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What’s the Difference Between Ease and Easy?

by Donna Torney on February 8, 2017 · 0 comments

images-2What comes to mind when you hear the word easy?  maybe a single-digit math problem, or a six-piece puzzle?  Perhaps a recipe with four ingredients.

When it comes to the word ease, however, it’s not so simple to pull up a visual.  Ease is more of a feeling, more of a state of mind than an activity.   It’s a mindset that allows us to feel satisfaction, and to experience a positive state of calm, even in trying situations.  It’s that feeling of just finishing a job well-done, and sitting back, with a sigh, to relax.images

Wouldn’t it be nice to call up the feeling of ease more often?  It’s possible.  Take a look at these mindful hub articles and worksheets to start practicing well-being, right now:

Letting go of criticism

EASE is that feeling of just finishing a job well-done, and sitting back, with a sigh, to relax.

Practicing self-acceptance

Peace in the present moment

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness ever day!

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When you next find yourself among humans…..

by Donna Torney on January 17, 2017 · 1 comment

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“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt

Comparing situation A with situation B is a big part of how we make it through the day. Overuse of this often unconscious process, however, can feed anxiety and feelings of being “less than” or “better than” that lead to separation, isolation, and in worst cases, to violence.

Out of fear, we think by sizing up, categorizing, and otherwise pigeonholing people, places and things we keep ourselves safe from harm.

Taking a nonjudgmental stance, both toward others and ourselves, is one of the cornerstones of mindfulness.  This ability to step back and detach (applying equanimity) is a skill that will decrease anxiety, stress and discontent and increase feelings of connection to the human race.

But taking a nonjudgmental stance is easier said than done, as we humans are so good at judging.  We think by sizing up, categorizing, and otherwise pigeonholing people, places and things we keep ourselves safe from harm.

While using “good judgment” can certainly keep us safe from harm, excessive use of judgment that deems us better than or less than creates an artificial wall.

Try this mindfulness practice when you next find yourself among humans:

  1. Start by taking a few deep breaths, which will help you calm your nervous system and take a neutral stance.
  1.  As you walk down the road or the grocery aisle, note the thoughts that pop into your head.  You might mentally register someone as “short,” “tall,” “bald,” “smarter than me,” “better dressed than me,” or “poorer than me.”
  1.  Resist this urge to go on auto-pilot by thoughtlessly labeling your subject.  Instead of using one or two descriptive words, try using the phrase “Just like me” as you make your observations.  Here are a few examples:

“just like me, this person looks tired.”

“Just like me, this person worries.”

“Just like me, this person can feel joy.”

“Just like me, this person wants to be loved.”

See if this mindfulness experiment helps you to feel less critical and more connected a condition we all share – being human.  Connect with mindful hub.  Let us know how this exercise works for you.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

 

 

 

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Make Napping the New Black

by Donna Torney on January 13, 2017 · 0 comments

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The other day I mentioned that I felt guilty after taking a nap.  Luckily I have some kind friends who answered with loving responses, encouraging me to rest.  If only our culture would do the same.  If only we were allowed, like bears, to turn off our metabolism, tuck in the kids, and wake up in April.  What if we gave ourselves permission to create a human version of hibernation?

Soon enough we will be ushering in spring and sunnier days.  Our faces turned up toward the blue sky, and napping may not even occur to us.  For now, let’s honor our bear-selves and give in to rest, and trust in the science behind the benefits of napping, yoga, meditation, and other related restoration:

Don’t feed in to the burn-out culture.  Instead of bragging about your sleep deprivation, brag about your naps!

Research shows that napping and resting boost creativity and problem-solving.  Scientists at NASA rely on rested astronauts to make 40% fewer mistakes.  Today, allow yourself to take a mindful siesta.  Make mid-day downtime a firm commitment on your schedule.

If you can lay down, do so for only twenty to thirty minutes.  The ideal nap is a light sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed, not groggy.  If you can’t lay down, you can rest by moving away from your computer and taking some gentle stretches.  If you absolutely can’t move away from your screen try a meditation app like calm.com or headspace and focus on your breathing, allowing yourself to luxuriate in a half-awake state.

Most Americans are sleep-walking around with a big sleep deficit.  If you are feeling fatigued consider the following:

1.  Go to sleep at the same time every night.

2.  Use your bed for sleep and sex only.  That means not catching up on past seasons of your favorite Netflix series.   Make eight hours of sleep the new black.

3.  Learn how to relax your mind and body on cue.  If this seems foreign to you, check out our post on Yoga Nidra.

4.  Keep your naps short and toward the middle of the day  – especially if you struggle with insomnia.

5.  Choose tea and toast or milk and oatmeal as your evening snack over alcohol.

6.  Turn the lights out!  Especially computer screens.  Any blue light from LED screens tells your brain to stay awake.

Need more incentive to nap?  Visit the National Sleep Foundation website.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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Be Like Fred

by Donna Torney on December 2, 2016 · 0 comments

imagesIn Dickens’ timeless Christmas Carol we meet Ebenezer Scrooge, a joyless bachelor who just can’t seem to muster one drop of generosity for any being on earth, not even his amiable nephew, Fred.  In spite of Ebenezer’s outright hostile response to his nephew’s invitation to Christmas dinner, Fred remains steadfast in his kindness toward his uncle.

Let’s all try to be more like Fred.

May we all embody the spirit of Fred this Christmas and find the open-heartedness to respond (not react) to ill will,  prejudice, and self-centeredness with empathy, equanimity, and joy.  May we remember the sufferings, even those of the insufferable and grumpy, the narcissistic and greedy, and model compassion, believing in the miraculous fact of our mirror neurons, and their ability to change the mood of those with whom we interact.  In other words, please remember that meanness and kindness are both contagious.

Scrooge’s nephew obviously knew a thing or two about the power of even-mindedness.  By practicing empathy, or at least keeping our own Scrooginess in check, we are more apt to experience positive emotions.  Over time the increase in positive mood-states can soften any tendencies we have to be harsh.  These tendencies are detrimental to our own well-being and to the well-being of others who witness our Scrooginess.

So for your own sake as well as for the Scrooges in your life, I wish you the ability to be like Fred!

Not a scrooge fan?  Check out another Fred we love:

Happy holidays!  We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day this year!

Still struggling with Scrooginess?  Contact us.

 

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Coping with the Holidays in Recovery

by Donna Torney on November 23, 2016 · 0 comments

Thanks to Constance Ray from Recovery Well for this informative guest post!

4 Tips for Keeping the Holidays Civil to Beat Stress

The holiday season is a time for celebration, fun, and food. Unfortunately, it is also a time for family members to come together and discuss sensitive issues such as politics, beliefs, religion, and other dangerous conversational territory. It can be hard to enjoy the holidays when you’re stepping on eggshells around argumentative, misinformed, or downright rude family members.

Thanksgiving

But, they are your family, and sometimes it’s better to take preventative measures than try to force your opinionated uncle to see your point of view. Here are a few tips to help you survive (and hopefully enjoy) the holiday season.

Remember That You Love Your Family

When one of your relatives is being argumentative or condescending, it can be tough to remember that you love them. However, you do need to make an effort to look past your anger or frustration and remember some of the good conversations or activities you have done with them. Bring up one of these memories and derail the negative conversation, transforming it into something positive.

Avoid Criticism

Even if you don’t feel that you’re the problem, you may be guilty of criticizing, being condescending, or broaching a sensitive topic. Criticism is one of the easiest ways to start a family fight. If you have children going on a path you don’t like, hold it in. If you have an uncle voting for an unsavory political candidate, keep your mouth shut.

If your aunt has decided to quit her job and sell jewelry on Etsy, now is not the time to bring it up. Your criticism will have no effect on what your relatives have chosen to do or think. It will only serve to aggravate them and make them defensive, ruining the holiday season for everyone.

Stop Seeking Approval

If you and your family don’t always see eye to eye, they are unlikely to provide you with acceptance and approval for certain things. Abstaining from alcohol, for example, can be very difficult for your family to swallow during the festivities.

Though familial support is preferable, you shouldn’t go out looking for support from a disagreeable relative. It will, in most cases, result in frustration for you, which in turn can cause you to lash out. Seeking approval from disapproving family members is a recipe for stress and frustration.

Keep in Mind That Conflict Resolution Isn’t Your Job

If a disagreement breaks out in spite of your best efforts, it can feel as though you have made a mistake or let your family down. This guilt might not impact your family but it will cause your holidays to be less enjoyable.

Though you should do your part to keep the peace, there are some situations and some family members that cannot be stopped. If you’re doing your best and the family is arguing anyway, you should be satisfied that you did all that you could and that this disagreement is not your fault.

The holidays are supposed to be fun and exciting. You’re supposed to catch up with friends and family and enjoy too much dessert. However, family conflict can turn this wonderful season into a war zone. There are many ways to reduce the likelihood of conflict, and each family is different. However you decide to do it, limiting your part in family disagreements will make you and your family’s holiday season better.

Constance Ray believes together with Recovery Well that battling addiction is a community project. The team would like to inspire people by sharing stories about overcoming addiction.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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My daughter and I often joke about people (usually men) telling women to “smile more.” We make sarcastic jabs about this slimy suggestion camouflaged as sage advice. It’s our way of trying to laugh off the subtle sexism – of trying to feel tough. I’m not feeling so tough today.

What do we tell our young adult daughters?

Here’s something that my mindfulness practice has taught me: When you most feel like curling up in the fetal position, don’t. The bully wants you isolated, the bully wants you feeling helpless. You are not.  Do the opposite of curling of up, and defending.  Reach out with compassion.  It cuts the fear in half.

This morning I reached out to my dear sister-in-law, someone whose spiritual practice and way of being in the world I deeply admire.

“Anne,” I said, “My poor children…. A pussy-grabber for president.”

You see, there I go again, trying to look smart and unafraid by being sarcastic. Not what you’re average Buddha would do. But I’m just a householder, trying to stay calm, doing the exact wrong thing, and forgetting about mindfulness.

Anne’s response, “Not for long if we can do anything about it. Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama.”

“I’ve been thinking about Warren a lot this morning,” I replied.  Anne cut my fear in half.

Inhale, take a longer exhale, repeat a few times.

There’s a subtle, positive internal shift that I must pay attention to “Go to Elizabeth Warren’s website,” I tell myself, “and focus on the grace and compassion of the Obamas, particularly Michelle, on this day.”

Now I know what I can say to my daughter, and it’s something constructive, compassionate if maybe a little vulnerable.  I can tell her to look to the compassionate people with pull (that would make a great website dear twenty-somethings!)  They’re still out there.

The snarky teenager inside me may still show up over the next few weeks.  There will be some eye rolling and some fake smiles – I guess it’s the girl version of locker room talk. But the snarky one needs some guidance from the older, wiser one.

Inhale, longer exhale, repeat a few times.  Take compassionate action.  

Don’t model locker room talk, model compassionate action. Now….what is Elizabeth Warren up to today? What are Michelle’s plans for 2017?

Donna Torney is a mind-body psychotherapist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the founder of mindfulhub.com, and author of the upcoming book, Center Points for Emerging Adults:  Finding balance, belonging, focus, and meaning in the digital age.  Contact Donna

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness, even today.

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Asian Lady Writing Notebook Diary Concept

Plan.  Come back to now.  Plan.  Come back to now.

focus on something pleasant.  One small, likable thing,

Before you once again plan, and again come back to now.

Why bother coming back to now?  Now, full of imperfection, distraction, uncertainty, worry?

Because now is the only place to heal.  The only place.

Plan, remember, come back to now.

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We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

Having trouble with the here and now?  Try Mindfulness Daily with Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.
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