Mindful Minute: Mindful Music

I love music. There's something special about it. It speaks to our emotions. I lead a group at the hospital about using music as a tool to change or enhance mood because it is so powerful at evoking feeling. For this mindful minute exercise put on a song, close your eyes, possibly laying down or at least sitting somewhere comfortable. Tune into every detail of that song. Tune into the words, every tone you hear. Tune into the pauses between notes, the portions of silence. Focus on how you feel when you listen to this song, the thoughts that arise, the emotions, how your body responds as the beats move through it. So often we listen to music, but rarely do we do so with full awareness of the entirety of the experience. Happy listening : ) 

Happy Weekend

I'm just beginning to learn this. Freedom is not in the getting, it's in the letting go. It's in the letting go of resentment, the letting go of fear. Freedom is in the letting go of our need to control things, to do something in order to...How often I do things in order to get something in return. Majority of our energy is spent in the getting, in the working for, in the working towards goals; in the accomplishing, doing, producing. And when our emotions are involved, the letting go seems to be extra difficult. It's so hard to let go of negative feelings. It's so hard to forgive when we've been hurt. When we hold onto resentment, or anger, or bitterness, those negative feelings have power over us. Letting go releases that power, giving us freedom from. And, so this week I'm trying to remember that freedom comes from the letting go, not from the getting. Happy Weekend!

How to Use Hygge to Beat the Winter Blues

I know I get a little blue during the winter season. Every year I lament over the time change, over the shorter days, over the fact that the sun has set by the time I get off work. I lament the cold weather. I lament the fact that I feel less motivated in the cold dark middle of winter. This year I'm taking a fresh perspective to beat the winter blues. Hygge, (pronounced Hue-guh) is the Danish word which encapsulates coziness, comfort, and enjoying the simple pleasures. Think Scandinavian coziness in the simplest, most romantic form. Hygge is a feeling, I would like to feel. Winter is the best time for hygge, and cold weather beckons for cozy. I'm using the concept of hygge this year to beat the winter blues and to transform winter into something to be celebrated. Below are my 4 tips for using hygge to beat the winter blues:

  1. Candles. There's nothing dreamier than candlelight. Use candles whenever possible to make the mundane feel special. If you're going to miss the daylight, you might as well take advantage of the dark. Shower, have dinner, read by candlelight and you just might find yourself looking forward to the shorter days. 
  2. Cozy Layers. I received the best cozy socks in my stocking for Christmas last year. I mean, they were extra premium, and definitely an investment pair of socks, but they make the winters so much more hygge. There's nothing better than cozy socks on a rainy day. There's nothing better than a plush soft robe on a cold morning. There's nothing better than an oversized sweatshirt as you lounge around the house. 
  3. Tea. Truly take time out for a hot cup of tea throughout the day, and it will make all the difference. Tea is one thing you can't really enjoy when it's warm outside so take advantage of the ability to enjoy this special treat. I have been making multiple cups of tea throughout the days, and it's been such a winter treat. Bonus if you get the tea with the inspiring quotes on them. 
  4. Blankets. I am obsessed with blankets. They make everything feel cozier. Invest in a couple soft, warm blankets and snuggle up in them all day. An electric blanket, flannel sheets, or heated mattress pad are all great ways to hygge all winter long. 

So those are my tips for using hygge to beat the winter blues. It's really about embracing winter. Making your home, or room, or space a cocoon against the cold, and enjoying the simple pleasures all around. Happy Winter everyone!

Simple Pleasure of the Week: Together

Most things are better together. Yes, I'm a proponent for solitude, but I must say, most things in my life are enhanced by someone I love. This doesn't have to be a romantic significant other, it could simply mean your best friend, dog, daughter, mother. A funny movie, a meal, a sunset or sunrise, even a terribly tragic event are made at least a little better with someone there by your side. Sometimes I forget this, and take for granted that fact that I have so many amazing relationships in my life to experience together with. Don't. Take advantage of this week's simple pleasure and find someone you love with which you can experience life. Happy Weekend!

4 Tips for making New Year's Resolutions that Honor and Uplift You

There's a lot of controversy over New Year's Resolutions. I personally feel positively towards them if done a specific way. However, not all resolutions are created equal. A lot of people set themselves up for failure by setting unachievable resolutions perpetuating the negative self-image cycle never to realize a few adjustments would have made their positive intent more productive. Set goals, set resolutions that build you up, don't break you down. Set resolutions that honor you and your true needs. Below are my tips for creating goals or resolutions which honor you and set you up for success rather than failure:

  1. Set the bar low. Set small, simple goals so you don't overwhelm yourself. For instance, if your resolution is to get fit, just make to goal to walk around the block everyday. Chances are once you put your shoes on, get out of the house, and press play on your favorite song, you'll hit a flow and want to keep going. But that's not the point. Most people fail because their goals are too big, too overwhelming, or not realistic. Make it really really easy for yourself to begin the shift you want to create, and allow yourself to count it as a 'win' every time you practice it.
  2. Focus on what you have control over. This is always a big tip. After you've set the bar low, focus on what you can control. For example, I would like to create more this year but I don't necessarily have control over writer's block, moods, or inspiration. What I do have control over is creating a morning routine which puts me into alignment to be creative. I can check out inspiring books from the library and read a few pages each morning, journal, listen to inspiring music first thing in the morning. See my point? Focus on what you do have control over. you may want to reduce your anxiety this year but the only thing you have control over is the present moment, so what can you 'do' to decrease anxiety. You may make a goal to practice a stress reduction exercise every day, or make changes to your daily life/relationships in effort to minimize anxiety. Focus on what you do have control over, steps that could get you to your goal.
  3. Be intentional about the 'why'. The 'why' behind your goal or resolution is so important. If you make a resolution to exercise more because you feel like you don't look the way you're supposed to, that goal and the energy you put into it will be very different than if you want to exercise more because it makes you feel good, or serves as a way to nurture your body. The 'why' behind your goal can grow positive things or negative things within you. Don't perpetuate low self-esteem by setting goals which reinforce you're not good enough, and need to change. Set goals that serve you, shift the way you think about them so you instead perpetuate self-love, confidence, a sense of deserving more not less. 
  4. Detach from the result. This is a difficult one. It's a concept that's simple but not easy. When I set a goal or resolution for myself I try to follow the above guidelines. I think about what I have control over, I make the goal small so it feels doable everyday, and then I detach from the result. What I mean is that my goal becomes the action in the present moment, not the result of those actions. If I want to reduce anxiety and gain focus and I make the goal to meditate everyday, I focus on the meditation every day and don't worry about the ultimate goal of anxiety management. It may be helpful to evaluate 6 months down the line to see if your present actions are taking effect, but don't worry about it until that evaluation deadline hits. Want to do a complicated yoga pose? Look up prep postures/exercises and just make a point to practice those everyday or a few times/week. Don't worry about being able to do the complicated yoga pose, just worry about the preparatory exercises. The rest will come. Too many people become discouraged when they don't see 'progress' but progress happens slowly, or sometimes all at once after consistent effort. Letting go of the result can allow you to prevent quitting right before you are about to reach your goal. 

Happy goal-setting. Hope these tips were helpful and Happy New Year!

Happy Weekend!

These are some of my favorite things. Simple pleasures. It's my plan to experience all of them this weekend as we say "thank you" and "farewell" to 2017, and "welcome" to 2018 into our lives. These are the things I live for (okay the wine I can take or leave but don't tell my friends that). Happy Weekend, and Happy New Year! I hope 2018 it's a beautiful year for all of you!

Try this one trick to prevent a bad experience from ruining your day

The other morning I woke up at 4:30am (insert scream face emoji). I laid in bed for about 20 minutes hoping to fall back asleep, and it just wasn't happening. To be honest, I was not happy about the entire experience, and in the past I would have had an entire array of negative thoughts waiting in line to run through my head. On this particular morning, because I've been making an effort to be intentional about how I start the day, I decided to use the extra hour and a half to my advantage. I read an inspirational book, and by the time Matt got up, I was in the best mood, inspired, ready for the day. Rarely, do I have the entire house to myself to read quietly without distractions, but that morning was the perfect opportunity. I made the decision to use the time to do something positive, intentional, to change the meaning of that early morning in my mind. Instead of assigning my early waking with a negative meaning, I was able to assign it a positive meaning based on how I chose to spend that time. I may have been a bit sleepy that day but I was in the best place mentally and emotionally, and it turned out to be a great day. 

We assign meaning to every event in our life. The meaning we assign to events, experiences, interactions, and relationships, positively or negatively affect how we feel. Fascinatingly, we can control the meaning we assign, with mindfulness, intention, and action. If you're stuck in traffic, listening to an inspiring podcast or book on tape can completely transform the meaning of that experience for you because traffic now equals time spent listening, learning. When you're feeling alone, take yourself to a movie, or spend a day pampering yourself with an at-home mani/pedi and transform the meaning of that day from alone to self-care. You might even pack yourself a lunch, and go for a hike, making an effort to connect with nature, notice the smells of the fresh air, taking time to luxuriate in solitude rather than wallow in loneliness. Someone flips you off while driving and you flip them off in return equals yucky negative experience. Someone flips you off while driving and you smile, wave, or give them a thumbs up could equal an opportunity to show compassion, to give someone love or understanding when they need it most. You have the power to change the meaning of that event through your thoughts and reactions. 

So I suppose my number one, biggest trick for preventing a negative experience from ruining your day would be to change the meaning. Below are my tips for putting this concept into action:

  • Practice mindfulness. Observe your initial thoughts and urges to react and take a pause to decide if that's what you want to think and/or how you want to react. Notice how those thoughts affect your emotions, energy and body (e.g. tension, anger, sadness). You can't change what you're not aware of, so building awareness of your own internal process is crucial and the first step towards changing meaning in your life. 
  • Set an intention. Set an intention to feel good, or to be inspired, or to use your time wisely, or to love yourself, or to be open, or to feel peaceful, etc. 
  • React. Based on the information gathered in your mindfulness practice, keeping your intention in mind, decide how to best respond so you're most likely to get the results you want. Is there a more positive response, a more positive story you can tell yourself about what just happened? Is there a different way to look at the situation? Any opportunities within this seemingly negative situation? 

This process takes practice, so do have compassion for yourself when you're working on meaning making. I don't even like using the word 'negative' because that implies the event has a meaning already. If you aren't able to change the meaning of a potentially negative event, and it ruins your day, please don't make that in and of itself negative. Lastly, try to have some tools stashed away in your bag or on your phone like inspiring quotes or music to put you into a positive vibe should a potentially negative event happen. This will make it easier to get into the headspace necessary for changing old reaction patterns. Every potentially negative experience brings with it the opportunity to practice taking the power back, changing destructive thought patterns, and realizing our true potential to take control of our thoughts and emotions so be gentle with yourself and act with an loving heart. 

Simple Pleasure of the Week: Giving

Giving feels good. There's even a term to explain this: the "helper's high" because altruism releases feel good chemicals in the brain. This is the season of giving, but sometimes the pressure and obligation of giving takes the joy out of the entire experience. Try not to let the joy of giving slip away from you. If you need to, pair back, simplify, make an agreement to give small gifts instead of large ones and use this season as an opportunity to enjoy this week's simple pleasure of giving. 

35 Self-Care Activities to get you through the holidays

Holidays are just so busy. When we get busy, self-care is often the first to get cut from our daily routines. It's one week away from Christmas and I've noticed that already the yoga classes are significantly smaller. Suicide rates increase around the holidays along with stress levels. So interestingly, the holiday season is a time when we need our self-care the most, and as a society practice it the least. Holidays bring up emotional stuff related to family issues, relationship conflicts, financial insecurities, you name it. Holidays and weddings intensify everything that is good and bad. I know you're all short on time but do care for yourself mind body & spirit! Below I've compiled a list of self-care activities to get you through the holiday season:

  1. Brew some tea and take time out to savor it
  2. Light some incense
  3. Shower by candlelight
  4. Take a night off from electronics
  5. Get out in nature
  6. Smudge your home
  7. Send yourself love with eyes closed and hands on heart
  8. Put on your favorite song and sing along in the car
  9. Dance in your livingroom
  10. Do a self massage atop a tennis or lacrosse ball
  11. Read inspiring quotes
  12. Watch inspiring YouTube videos
  13. Make a gratitude list
  14. Deep Breathing for 3 minutes (or longer but c'mon everyone has 3 min)
  15. Wheatgrass shots, or ginger juice shots, or turmeric juice shots. 
  16. Journal
  17. Go to a yoga class
  18. Meditate (insight timer is my fav app to use)
  19. Literally just stand up, forward fold hold your elbows. Breathe.
  20. Diffuse essential oils in your home. Lavender is always a good idea
  21. Bubble bath with candles
  22. Tell someone how much you love them
  23. Go on a long walk
  24. Beachcombing
  25. Sit by a fire without electronic devices
  26. Get creative (art, diy, crafts)
  27. Do a face mask (you know, the clay, kind)
  28. Mani/Pedi
  29. Meet a friend for lunch or a green juice, or a yoga class, or coffee, or all of the above
  30. Put your PJ's in the dryer for a few minutes before changing into them
  31. Child's pose
  32. Cloud gazing 
  33. Stargazing
  34. Make a mantra for the day and say it to yourself every hour
  35. Step away from it all. Keep it simple. Holidays are about love not things.