Treat your mind like a garden

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

I recently came across a great metaphor for the mind in “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” by Robin Sharma. Sharma directs the reader to think of your mind like a garden. Negative thoughts are the weeds, positive thoughts are the flowers, and it’s our responsibility to care for our garden. If you want your mind to be efficient, sharp, and happy, you must tend to your mind like you would a beautiful garden, with intention. There’s the care of the soil, the watering, planting of seeds, and pulling of weeds on a regular basis. Too many people do zero maintenance on their minds, and then wonder why they’re so unhappy, why their garden has been overgrown with weeds. Weeds need to be pulled before they spread and overtake your flowers. Developing a consistent response to negative thoughts to prevent them from growing is how you manage the weeds. Developing positive thinking routines or habits is how you plant and tend the flowers. Practicing regular activities which nurture the mind, body and spirit is like watering your flowers. Finally, getting good sleep, keeping your body healthy so the mind can remain healthy is like the fertilizing of the soil. You must continue to tend your garden, to nurture and maintain the flowers, to pull the weeds, and to water and fertilize the soil. You can’t create a beautiful garden, stop pulling the weeds, and then expect the garden to remain beautiful. So too with the mind. Once you’ve found habits and routines that put you into a good emotional space, continue practicing these routines. Do regular maintenance on your mind, clean the stress on a weekly basis and continue to nurture positive thinking. Don’t let the weeds grow. Negative thoughts, much like weeds will grow faster than your flowers if you let them, so don’t.

For the pulling of the weeds:

Try This One Experience to Prevent a Bad Experience From Ruining Your Day

10 Ways to Reset Your Energy

How to Give Thanks When Gratitude is The Last Thing You Feel

For the Planting of the Flowers:

Morning Routine and How it Can Change Your Life

Affirmations for Happiness and Success

For the Watering of the Flowers:

Why Self-Care is Non-Negotiable and How to do it Part I

Self-Care Part II

Self-Care Part III

For the Fertilizing of the Soil:

Daily Rituals for Nurturing Mind Body & Spirit

Live Well: Diet Habits of Those Who Live Past 100

Harnessing the Energy of our Moon Cycle

10 signs You're off Balance

The better you get at recognizing when and responding to the signs you’re off balance, the more in harmony you’ll remain. Some of these signs are subtle, but if you can listen when the body is whispering to you, you’ll rarely have to experience its screams. Signs you’re off balance are really an opportunity to rebalance, and harmonize. Do extra self-care, get out into nature, take a restorative yoga class, or practice deep breathing/meditation techniques. Below are a few links to help you harmonize when things are out of balance:

Self-Care Part I

Self-Care Part II

Self-Care Part III

Daily Rituals for Nurturing Mind Body and Spirit

Feel first, do second: One more way to harness the law of attraction

Recently, I had a realization about myself. I realized I never allow myself to be proud of where I’m at, and what I’ve accomplished. I’m always too busy looking to the next goal, working on the next step, to stop, take pause, and celebrate how far I’ve come. The interesting thing is, we don’t attract what we want, we attract what we are, and more of what we feel. This is a major concept in the law of attraction (read more about it here), but it’s also been explained in different ways throughout history. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. both believed something similar, advocating that the means must meet the end. Peace movements are rooted in the belief that you can’t reach a peaceful end with violent means. You can’t find love by feeling hatred. You can’t expect a happy retirement if your means of getting there was unhappy, and you can’t expect to suddenly feel proud of yourself when you do accomplish something, if you’ve never allowed yourself to feel proud of your wins in the past. Again, the means must match the end result that your wanting. If I never allow myself to feel proud, accomplished, and secure, I am not in alignment with the goals I want to accomplish because those goals, for me, equal pride, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of security. When you’re feeling ‘hungry’ for something, you are in alignment with the feeling of not having that thing, and essentially then blocking it from coming into your life. Thus, celebrating your wins, cultivating positive feelings, practicing gratitude, and releasing yearning are all ways of breaking down your own internal barriers towards life goals. So, really, it may be about feeling first, and acting second. The choices you make and actions you take when you are feeling happy are going to be more likely to lead you to more happiness, whereas the choices you make and the actions you take when you’re feeling angry are more likely to lead you to more anger. If you want to feel happier, practice things that make you feel happy (e.g. hobbies, time with friends) and you will be more likely to attract relationships, jobs, and experiences that make you more happier. Below are 3 steps you can take to harness this concept for more happiness, success, and contentment:

  1. Identify the feelings associated with what you are wanting. Think about what you want to attract into your life, and then imagine how you will feel when you do get those things. Is it a sense of peace, security, pride, happiness, or love?

  2. Cultivate the feelings associated with your goals. If you want to be aligned with your goals, cultivate the feelings associated with those goals. For example, if I want to be financially successful and the feelings associated with success include, a sense of security, happiness, and contentment, I may find alternative ways to gain these feelings such as yoga classes, practicing reassuring or empowering affirmations, and meditating.

  3. Practice gratitude. Gratitude is a cure for negative emotions. Practicing gratitude allows you to attract more gratitude into your life. Practicing gratitude helps to decrease that sense of yearning for that which you don’t have, so you can re-gain your sense of power and feel empowered to make positive choices in your life. When in doubt, practice gratitude, because chances are gratitude is aligned with whatever it is that you are wanting.

One common misconception is that practicing the law of attraction means you don’t take any action. That is simply not true. The best way to utilize these techniques is to feel good, and then take action. Again, choices made with positive feelings are going to be more aligned with what you’re wanting. If you’re feeling like a failure, you’re less likely to make the sale you’ve been working towards, or to nail that job interview. Get into alignment with what you’re wanting, then take the steps to work towards your goals. Work hard, but feel good doing it.

Fall 2018 Playlist

I can’t believe I haven’t posted a playlist for 2018! Music is something I love! I’m always looking for new songs, new artists, and truly believe in the power of music to influence emotions. We have discovered so many new songs in the past few months, but I selected my absolute favorites to share with you all. Below is my current fall 2018 playlist. Let me know which song is your favorite and I hope you discover at least one song that you love!

HAPPINESS | COLLECTIVE FALL 2018 PLAYLIST

If you want to stay up to date on what I’m listening to, follow me on spotify!

4 life-changing books everyone should read

I’ve recently read some amazing books and I thought I’d share them with you. I recommend all of these books for different reasons. I’ll give you my take on each one below:

  • The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success : This book was an easy read, and definitely gave my husband and I food for thought. The seven spiritual laws of success are Depak Chopra’s 7 laws for happy, abundant living. This book was simple and concise, but inspiring and thought provoking. It’s an easy read but definitely provides some counterintuitive advice. If you’re interested in the law of attraction, this book is a must-read. While Chopra never mentions the law of attraction in the book, these principles are definitely in alignment with it.

  • Creating Affluence: Another one of Deepak Chopra’s works. This book is similar to the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, but even more concise. Each page addresses a different concept for attracting abundance into your life. This is a perfect book for a morning routine as you can read one page everyday in very little time, and each concept is an inspiring, thought-provoking idea you can practice putting into action throughout the rest of your day. I checked this one out from the library but am considering purchasing to have for future reference. This book is also in alignment with Law of Attraction principles.

  • Bringing Yoga to Life: This book will always have a special place in my heart, as I read it throughout our Bali trip. If you are a yogi, this is a must read. Donna Farhi has so much wisdom, and truly understands what it means to practice yoga. This book does not address yoga postures one bit, but rather discusses the yoga philosophy with real-life examples from Donna’s life that make the concepts easy to understand. Again, a guide for living life, and practicing yoga. As I read, I underlined important or poignant statements and I still flip through it to re-read those ideas. I can honestly say that I’m a better person because I read this book.

  • The War of Art: This is another must read, for everyone. The War of Art is a book about resistance, all the ways it shows up in one’s life, and how to overcome it. Resistance shows up anytime we attempt to make a positive change in our lives. Everyone experiences resistance, and therefore everyone can benefit from this book. This was such a simple read, each page packed full of inspiration and wisdom. Every page addresses another aspect of resistance and thus can be read all at once, or used as a 1-page-per-day type of book. I purchased this book after returning it to the library to have and reference when needed. You will feel so pumped up and unstoppable after reading this. If you need that extra push to make a change in your life, this is the book for you.

I am always on the hunt for new reads so let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions! Happy reading, and I hope you found some new book ideas above.

Affirmations for Happiness and Success

With so much talk about morning routine, I wanted to share some of my favorite affirmations. Affirmations work on the subconscious. The idea is that after saying something in your mind enough times, the subconscious begins to believe it. Affirmations can be a powerful practice all on their own, or a wonderful addition to any self-care routine. They can be read, said aloud, and/or written down. My advice would be to practice using affirmations in all three ways on a consistent basis. They can also be a nice way to reassure oneself. For instance, whenever I get focused on the future, afraid I’ll never get what I’m wanting, or achieve the goals I have, I like to remind myself that I’m right where I need to be. This feels good in the moment, and helps to stop my mind from going down the negativity rabbit hole. Affirmations should really be personalized to what you’re needing, and practiced consistently for at least 2 months before you can expect to notice changes. They don’t require a lot of time, so an affirmation practice is accessible to everyone. I hope at least one of my favorites resonates with you.

Morning Routine and how it can change your life

Mornings are important. They define the way you begin the day, set the tone, and determine the trajectory of your mood, thoughts, and energy. Just as the first meal of the day is the most important, the first activities, thoughts, and habits of the day are equally important. The husband and I have been slowly placing more emphasis on our morning routine for the past year, and recently committed to a consistent, solid 60-minute routine.

What changed the game for us, was the book "The Miracle Morning" by Hal Elrod. Elrod writes about creating a morning routine of any length (but preferably an hour) which includes the 6 personal development practices proven to have the biggest impact on personal growth. The concept is designed upon the concept that mornings are the rudder for your day. Just as a rudder steers a ship, the way you spend your morning, determines the rest of your day. If you begin your day with intention, with positive thoughts, and personal development, chances are, the rest of your day will be more positive and intentional. If you begin your day by hitting the snooze, resisting the day, rushing through your morning, chances are, the rest of your day will be spent resisting and reacting to life, rather than living with intention. The other main concept guiding The Miracle Morning, is the idea by Jim Rohn that "Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become." Elrod explains "Our outer world will always be a reflection of our inner world. Our level of success is always going to parallel our level of personal development. Until we dedicate time each day to developing ourselves into the person we need to be to create the life we want, success is always going to be a struggle to attain". Below are the 6 practices Elrod recommends to practice each morning if you want to maximize personal development:

  • Silence. this could include meditation, breathwork, mindfulness, or gratitude practice
  • Affirmations. Affirmations are messages you want to train your subconscious to believe so you repeat and/or write them over and over, feeling them as true in your mind. Pick 1 or a few to repeat every morning consistently over time. Revise as needed if values change or affirmations are achieved and no longer needed.
  • Visualization. Visualize the life you want, the person you are, and how you will feel living this life of your dreams. Be as specific as possible in your visualization of your life, including all the details you can think of, and again, try to 'feel' this visualization. 
  • Exercise. It's important to connect with your body and get your heart rate up every day, even if it's only 1 minute of jumping jacks, sit ups, pushups, or L-sits. We go to yoga after work, so instead of the exercise piece, the hubbs and I have been doing breathwork instead. 
  • Reading. I'm going to be cheesy here and say that knowledge is power. Matt and I have been reading something from the personal growth/self-help section every morning, and it's a beautiful way to feed your mind and soul. 
  • Writing. This could be writing of any sort including journaling, gratitude lists, writing a book, writing your affirmations. I usually stick with a mix of journaling, gratitude lists, and writing my affirmations down. Journaling was something I've been wanting to do for years, and now I have the time and structure created to make it possible. Writing gives words and thoughts extra power, so be intentional about what you write down. I try to keep mine positive and focus on writing only the thoughts, desires, and emotions I want to grow. 

So that's the miracle morning. I've actually enjoyed my mornings despite the fact that I'm waking up 30 minutes earlier. I have been more focused, inspired, and having consistently better moods since starting this routine. Matt has also enjoyed it, and it's been nice to do the practice together. If you only have 30 minutes in the morning, you could practice each activity for 5 minutes. Our morning routine is below in the order that we practice each activity:

  • Silence - 10 min
  • Affirmations - 5 min
  • Visualization - 5 min
  • Reading - 20 min
  • Writing - 10 min
  • Breathwork (to replace exercise) -10 min

5 Hidden things that could be cluttering your mind

It's hard enough to get the space we need to think clearly and effectively with the constant stimulation that electronics, and to-do lists provide. It's also completely crucial to create space for mental and emotional processing, relaxation, and recharging and it's our own responsibility to clear the mental and emotional clutter so we can feel truly relaxed when we do have the time to unwind. Below are 4 hidden things that may be cluttering your mind and preventing you from truly relaxing:

  1. An unclean home: We can't not be effected by our environment. It's almost impossible to feel truly clean mentally, if we are living in a home that is unclean physically. Dirty dishes in the sink, dusty tables, crumbs on the floor or mold in the shower all take up mental and emotional space. Make it a point to keep your space clean in order to keep your mind clean.
  2. Excess clutter: Things take up mental energy. Every item your eye falls upon as you scan your home, occupies space in your mind. Even if your items are clean, and dust free, removing excess "stuff" from your home frees up mental and emotional real estate. 
  3. Procrastinated projects: Procrastinating feels good in the moment, but simply prolongs the stress of the looming deadline or project. Every "to do" we have hanging out in the back of our mind produces an amount of stress. Some produce more stress than others, but every time you're reminded of that thing you haven't completed, it's a feeling that takes emotional and mental energy. 
  4. Unclean bedsheets: The bed is literally the place where we recharge. It's difficult to feel completely relaxed in a bed that doesn't feel fresh and clean. I always recommend keeping your bed energetically 'clean' as well, meaning you reserve that space solely for rest. Watching movies, working from home, basically anything that doesn't feel restful, should be banned from the bed.
  5. Unpaid bills or debt: I know debt is more and more common nowadays with the increase in education costs, but do everything you can to pay off debt as quickly as possible. Even if you have to live in a studio apartment to pay your bills quicker, I believe it's worth it. Make your studio cozy, and beautiful. Enjoy living in simplicity for a few years and celebrate the simple pleasures, all the while knowing you're working to clear away the mental/emotional stress debt places on you. 

Limiting Thought Patterns Part I

We humans are funny creatures. Our minds are always thinking and sometimes they fall into patterns that hinder rather than help us. There are definitely some general thought patterns which I've found to be unhelpful, ineffective, and disempowering. We all have limiting thoughts, it's part of being human, but when we can recognize those patterns and change them, we begin the process of mastering our own minds rather than being victim to them. I've noticed most, if not all of these thought patterns in my own life, and the more I bring awareness to them, the quicker I'm able to catch and redirect my thoughts so I don't get caught up in a negative loop. With practice, you can catch these negative thought patterns early before they ruin your mood or decrease the quality of your day. Below is part I of my Limiting Thought Patterns Series:

  1. Comparing and then self-criticizing. Simply comparing yourself to others isn't necessarily a bad thing, if you can use the comparing as more of an inspiration, an example of what's possible. Comparing takes a dark turn when it leads to self-criticism, either for not being "as good" or for using it as a way to invalidate vulnerability. The first example is when you compare yourself to someone else and determine that they are better, more worthy, prettier, funnier, etc. than you. This, in turn acts as a put-down, and leaves you feeling like crap. The second is when you are feeling vulnerable, compare your situation or self to someone else's, and perceiving that others have it worse, berate yourself for the negative feelings because you should be grateful for what you have. There's no right or wrong way to feel, so honor your feelings and then see if you can shift your focus to that which is good in your life without the self-criticism and judgement. Some personalities do the comparing more naturally than others, so when you catch your comparing turning into self-criticism respond with self-compassion rather than judgement, and redirect your thoughts (below will be some specific strategies for changing your thought patterns so read on). 
  2. Lamenting over what you can't control. There's so much we don't have control over and that's just a fact of life. When we turn our energy towards focusing on what we don't have control over, however, we miss the opportunity to create change, to put our energy into what we do have control over. Furthermore, the more you focus on what you don't have control over, the more you reinforce the feelings of helplessness, thereby disempowering yourself. We can't control other people, the past, certain situations. What we can control is our reaction to events/situations, the thoughts we choose to think, our habits and routines. 
  3. Focusing on how things/people "should" be. This thought pattern can be directed at situations, other people, and even ourselves. So often, I hear people spending time complaining about how things/people are different than they "should" be, and it prevents them from enjoying what is. Having goals is important, so thinking about how you want things to be and then figuring out what you can do to get there is productive. This thought pattern becomes de-energizing or destructive, however, when the thinker isn't able, or isn't willing to do anything to change things. It may be something you have no control over, or it may be something that really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but your mind wants to complain about it anyways. We can also fall into the trap of thinking we know it all, that our way is the "right" way, or of trying to find something or someone to blame for our own discomfort. Again, this thought patterns isn't bad if it leads to action that improves your life, but when it simply leaves us feeling angry, sad, or frustrated, it's probably not serving you.

If you're reading this post, identifying with some (or all) of these thought patters, don't go to self-judgement or self-criticism (refer back to thought pattern #1). I have thought and still catch myself thinking all of these. It's human. First step towards changing these patterns is to be aware of them when you're thinking them. Practice observing your thoughts. Get acquainted with your thought patterns for a while before moving on to changing them. We can't change what we're not aware of. Next, step is changing these thought patterns. Just simply recognizing them as ineffective can change your relationship to them, but there are also some techniques for changing thought patterns that can be helpful. Change the content of your thinking. For example, shifting your focus from what you can't control to what you can control can transform your entire mood. Visualizing a stop sign can be a signal to stop the negative thought pattern in its tracks, practicing gratitude, focusing on the positive can all be effective strategies as well. For full posts on techniques that may be helpful in shifting your thinking check out my posts on metta meditation and 5 ways it can improve your life, and daily rituals for nurturing mind body & spirit. Hope this helps, and be on the lookout for subsequent posts to this series.

 

The Power of Reframing Negative feelings or behaviors

Fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, addiction, grief, all have bad reputations. Maybe it's because those feelings don't feel particularly pleasurable. Most often we can't change the stressors, or the feelings, but we can change the way we relate to them, the stories we tell ourselves about the feelings, and the responses we choose. Negative feelings can have positive messages. Fear is validation that you matter, that you're important, that the thing you're worried about matters and holds meaning. Fear and anxiety can be signs of importance. Anger is also often a sign that you matter, that your boundaries have been crossed. It's often your inner self sticking up for yourself. Grief or sadness is often a sign of how much a person or a thing meant to you. It also signifies importance, and love. Discomfort is evidence of personal growth, of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, of opportunity for evolution. Addiction is often the sign of the desire to find some way of living a better life, of finding tools to decrease suffering. Donna Farhi reminds us that addiction often comes from the same desires which spark a spiritual journey. It stems from the underlying belief that there's some better way of living life, or some tools to be discovered to ease the suffering of the untrained human mind. So often we condemn our destructive behaviors or negative feelings before we've had the chance to listen to them. We miss the opportunity to acknowledge the beauty in them, or to redirect the impulses towards something more positive. It's in the listening, the investigating, the responding with curious observation where we gain the power to redirect, or to change, grow and evolve. Taking the time to stop and truly observe yourself with non-judgmental awareness provides the opportunities to grow from these 'negative' emotions or behaviors. If we can respond in this way, we can react from a place of power. Negative emotions no longer have power over us, but are instead transformed into valuable information, into treasure maps that lead to a connection with ourselves. This feels like a more beautiful world to live in. Don't miss these opportunities.