Category Archives: Happiness

Positive Ripple

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If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. If you do that, you can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create.
— Chuck Palahniuk

Positive Ripple is a monthly post sharing an *uplifting resource link* to an article, podcast, video, inspiring story, book, and so forth, to cause a positive rippling effect, spreading the love and work of individuals and groups that encourage and lift us to optimise our brain, create neurogenesis, and sapere aude (dare to be wise).

Carl Jung wisely wrote that there are no solutions to our problems; they can only be outgrown by evolving our own consciousness.  Positive Ripple is about expanding and interconnecting our collective and individual consciousness; it is kindness and altruism that have kept the planet and human race alive and growing through learning and storytelling.  We weave a golden thread of gratitude that creates the tapestry of life connecting and supporting us all through conscious acts of kindness, love, compassion and by sharing and helping others *thrive*.

This month´s chosen uplifting resource is an interview with author and lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar (he taught the largest course at Harvard on positive psychology)  about the 101 on positive psychology brought to us by Entheos. Sign-up for free and join Brian Johnson, CEO of Entheos and creator of PhilosophersNotes, for 30 minute interviews with some of the world’s wisest teachers/leaders, inspiring, smart, super practical goodness for Optimal Living – 101 .

I´m sure since the emergence of positive psychology, you probably feel you have heard all there is on the topic, such as think positive, optimistic people live longer, smile more, keep a gratitude diary, repeat affirmations and so forth.  The interview with Tal Ben-Shahar may offer some additional advice on creating a happier you than is often heard.  Have a listen for tips like the following:

  • Happiness equation = pleasure + growth (present & future perspectives).
  • Create happiness rituals in order to manifest lasting change in your life.
  • Find out how sport and keeping fit helped Tal overcome his ADHD diagnosis since childhood and how exercise can be even more effective than medications; plus exercise comes with the added bonus of creating neurogenesis in the brain.
  • Why Tal encourages his students to *fail* more often? Research and law of averages shows that everyone has to fail sometimes and that the top scientists are all the ones that fail most often at complex and simple activities.
  • Recommends meditation as one of your happiness rituals in order to become more resilient to cope with life´s inevitable highs and lows.
  • Top key advice from Tal: *be realistic*; the world is paradoxically good and loving, as well as painful and suffering, but this is part of being human and makes us all perfectly imperfect.

Have you tried any of Tal´s tips for a happier you and how have they affected your life? Do you have any tips of your own that have helped you overcome challenges, create new habits or change your life in a more positive and life-affirming way?

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Positively Positive

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Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life. — Marcus Aurelius

Current psychological research shows that only 10% of our happiness and well-being is due to our circumstances (no matter how awful they might be) and that 50% is due to our set-point happiness (whether we are naturally more optimistic or pessimistic); however, epigenetics suggests that we can override our genes so we may be able to affect our happiness and well-being by more than the 40% left which we can control with intentional activity.

Whether you are full of the Christmas jollies or look like you are auditioning for the role of Scrooge, watch this short, sweet video on how to invite more joy into your life:

http://www.flickspire.com/m/LittleeInc/AttitudeIsEverything

Transmute Worry

Remember, what you focus on expands; results follow focus.
— Marcus Buckingham

Neuroscientific research is consistently showing us the multitude of benefits to mindfulness/meditation/getting still. Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroscientist who had a stroke, miraculously recovered and lived to tell the tale (a TED Talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyyjU8fzEYU  and wrote the book “A Stroke of Insight”), discovered in her recovery that our negative thoughts of worry, anxiety, anger etc. last only 90 seconds if we just observe without judgment; what keeps us in a constant mind chatter loop of rumination and negativity is that we continue the story and add to the story with each continuous negative thought as we don´t give our minds the space to observe and release the thought so we can go back to our natural happy state.

Research shows that when we are in a negative emotional state it shuts down our pre-frontal cortex and parietal lobe which inhibits conscious decision-making and creativity and shuts down parts of the brain where we experience joy, happiness, and compassion.  Instead, being in a negative emotional state activates our flight or fight system where we make reactive choices based on fear (or what can seem to be lack of choices, i.e. feeling stuck, continuing bad habits, hiding from life, denial as a defense mechanism), or we fight by being reactive to our circumstances through anger, violence, and abuse.  By keeping a cup half full attitude, counting blessings, and following our desires we can keep the portals open to our own happiness and well-being.

Regular periods of activating our fight or flight system causes stress; stress leads to other symptoms like anxiety and depression, thus entrapping us into a continuous feedback loop of negative thinking and habits which can seem impossible to break out off.  Believe it or not, research has shown that a very simple mindfulness technique can easily help us to release and relieve us of stress; thus changing our neurology from stressed to blessed.

Practice the following:

  • Sitting comfortably, back straight to help energy flow more easily through the body and to stop us from falling asleep (when we lie down, our body is conditioned to fall asleep but if for any reason you need to do this lying down you can). If you feel comfortable to do so, closing your eyes slowly and softly.
  • Focusing on our breath, breathing deep from the diaphragm, slowly inhaling from the nose, exhaling out from the mouth, imagining all the stress being released as you exhale and observing without judgement any thoughts that arise as you do so.
  • Being mindful to always bring our attention back to the breath if we feel our minds start to wander off with our thoughts; keep breathing (which will activate our parasympathetic nervous system which calms and relaxes both the mind and body as both are intrinsically interconnected) until you feel a sense of peace and calm within.
  • When you feel ready, inhale and exhale deeply and slowly from the diaphragm three times, becoming more aware of your body and mind becoming awake and alert and slowly and softly come into the room by opening your eyes.

By making this part of your daily mindful practice or every time you experience stress/worry/anxiety, you are allowing an open space to be created within your pre-frontal cortex and parietal lobe where infinite possibilities reside within your conscious creation.  By acknowledging and honouring our negative emotions which arise for a reason to communicate to us a part of us that needs to heal, change, and/or let go of a situation/relationship/belief, we are then able to create new situations/relationships/beliefs and at the same time keep our brain open to accessing and experiencing happiness, joy, and compassion which can make our healing and transitions through change and challenging circumstances easier and to do so in more conscious, creative, and healthy ways.

A shift in perspective through conscious deep breathing and bearing neutral witness to our thoughts when they arise can transmute worry into wisdom and creative solutions.

An Attitude of Gratitude

When you follow your bliss… doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.  -Joseph Campbell

Thankfully the same part of the brain where negative thoughts occur is where we can find gratitude which means we can´t simultaneously have a negative thought and a thought of gratitude.  Although important to acknowledge and listen to the wisdom of our pain and negative emotions (under the heading Transmute Worry above shows you how to do this effectively), when stuck in a pattern of negative ruminations or a low mood, focusing our mind on gratitude and our blessings immediately alters the brain chemistry and alleviates our mood and shift in thinking from one of pessimism to that of optimism and faith.

Taking the time to really feel in your heart and mind the things, people, situations, present moments that you are grateful for, activates the parasympathetic nervous system in the body which puts you in a calmer more relaxed state and releases and decreases levels of stress in the mind and body.  It also activates the electromagnetic frequency of the heart and puts it in a state of coherence and peace that communicates with the brain; thus creating this shift in thinking and perspective.  Gratitude is like a natural drug that can alter your mind and body state instantaneously whilst you hold thoughts and feelings of gratitude in your mind and heart.  If you can create an attitude of gratitude before going into difficult circumstances and conversations with others, you will find you see situations in a new light, from a different perspective and one where hopefully you can find a more peaceful and loving way to respond and react to what life and others throw at you.

Interestingly, research conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky and that she writes about in her book “The How of Happiness”, found that happiness levels increased in participants who practised counting their blessings by writing them down at the end of each week but happiness levels didn´t increase in participants who were asked to do the same task but this time to count their blessings three days per week.  Lyubomirsky suggests this is because the task of counting their blessings three times per week of a persistent duration of time makes the task seem boring and more like a chore than an intentional activity to increase happiness.   It is important to find variety in our habits and routines so that we don´t adapt to them to the extent that they start to become automated where we lose the conscious effect of their benefits.

Find new ways to practice gratitude to keep it fun, effective, and life changing.

Some ideas:

  • For every bad thing that happened to you that week, think about something that you can be grateful for from it; maybe you learnt a new nugget of wisdom or it alerted you to change an aspect of yourself or life.
  • Get kids involved in coming up with creative ways and games to express gratitude before bed or before meal times.
  • Write thank you notes to all the people that brightened up your week.
  • Draw or paint all the things you are grateful for.
  • Have thematic weeks/months where you look out for particular moments of gratitude in different areas of your life like love, career, parenting, friendships, health.
  • Sit in nature and just be grateful for what is, the beauty you are seeing in the moment.
  • Meditate when feeling stressed and overwhelmed and feel the feeling of gratitude in your heart radiating to every cell in your body until you feel calm and at peace and can think from a new perspective of gratitude.
  • If in doubt, you are alive, therefore you have a purpose; be grateful for your life and the opportunity to change yourself and circumstances by coming into conscious awareness and gratitude.

Health is your Wealth

Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. —Lao Tzu

Movement equals our psychology.  Take, for example, the fact that in 50% of people research has shown that yawning 10 times (even when you fake yawn) is as effective as meditation and relaxation techniques as it awakens the pre-frontal cortex and helps you focus more and be creative.  So the next time you feel stuck when making a decision or have writer´s block, start yawning and stretching to re-awaken your mind. It´s effective as it helps more blood flow get to parts of the brain associated with higher levels of consciousness that Buddhist monks reach when meditating which creates shifts in thinking. Teachers out there and managers allow your students and co-workers to come to class and meetings and yawn…it´s helping them to stay awake, alert and focus on learning and listening; it might even help them come up with some creative ideas!

Doing aerobic exercise for three minutes (and more) changes the neurology of the brain because the brain  after three minutes and more of blood flow oxygenating around the body and brain can´t hold anxious or negative thoughts at the same time providing a wonderful opportunity to create new beliefs about yourself/circumstances/life/relationships.  Start saying those affirmations and intentions you want to create in life whilst exercising and you will literally be re-programming your brain and creating new neural pathways which will help you take positive actions on these newly created thoughts and beliefs about yourself and life.  Now you can literally get a new brain and body at the same time!

Help Others to Heal Yourself

If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap. If you want happiness for a day — go fishing. If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else. Chinese Proverb

Try it.  Help a family member, a friend, a stranger, a charitable cause and you will see how much better you feel about yourself and about life in general.  Although life will always come with uncertainty of the unknown, helping others allows us to feel more resilient and gain self-control knowing that whatever comes our way or into the paths of others together we can find a way to thrive beyond these circumstances.  Helping others is often one of the recommendations given to people suffering from depression by their psychologist as it brings the focus away from the person´s problems and puts the focus on helping someone else; if you can help others and see their lives change, you will also be able to be a powerful instigator in your own life.  It also shows the world is also full of love, compassion, hope and kindness.

Create Sacred Space

Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes. – Eleanor Roosevelt

We all need boundaries in our life.  In order to create the right boundaries for us, we need to know what it is that we want to experience in each area of our life.  Once we know what we want, we will easily be able to recognize when things show up in our life, relationships and our own behaviour and actions that we don´t want; it alerts us to areas in our life that need to change.  The only thing we have control over is changing ourselves.

Creating a space within us through meditating, being mindful, focusing on our breathe where we can get still and create space between our thoughts to let go of whatever no longer serves us in life and invite in the experiences that help us to feel more love and flourish in our lives will help us to create the right boundaries for us.

It´s always helpful to write down what we want as it serves as a physical reminder and of course you can change and adapt what you have written as your wants and needs change too.  I recommend creating a list of categories such as: Love relationships, Family, Friends, Career, Life Purpose, Hobbies, Travel, Fun time, Education/Learning/Skills etc.  Under each category you have created, create the following sub-categories of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual (as these are the four main energies of how we experience the world and they are all interconnected and create our whole health and well-being) and describe in detail what you want to feel and experience in each category and sub-category.  Take the time to visualize and feel in your body how it would feel to be experiencing your dreams and intentions.  Take as long as you need to complete this activity and if you need to do it over a duration of days or weeks, it will be worth it to do it properly.  Once you have finished, take a look at your life, current circumstances and relationships and become consciously aware of people, habits, lifestyle changes that you need to change, adjust or simply let go of in order to make room for all the new and exciting experiences and people you now want to call and invite into your life.

If you don´t take charge of your life and become responsible for how you want to feel and how you want to experience and live your life, you will end up becoming a victim of other people´s agendas and motivations that in most cases will not serve you but serve their needs and experiences which in the end will suck out all your energy and life force.  Take back your life from others and limiting circumstances by looking within and making internal changes and choosing intentional activities that increase happiness, health, and well-being.  As Gandhi so wisely encouraged, “be the change you wish to see in the world”, and I would add in your life too!

Value Yourself

I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time. — Anna Freud

The neuroscientist Mark Waldman recommends the following technique based on research for guiding our life and conversations by what we value most in our life:

  • Sitting up straight, focusing on the breath, breathing deep from the diaphragm in order to get still, closing your eyes slowly and softly and if you feel comfortable to do this.
  • Focus your mind on your heart and ask yourself this question: What is your deepest innermost value?
  • What comes to mind first for you? Remember there are no right or wrong answers to this question.
  • Become neutral observer (without judgement  and replay past memories like a movie in your mind and just observe the thoughts and old beliefs that arise and as they arise release them without judgement and staying focused on your breath, breathing deeply and slowing, inhaling through the nose and exhaling out through the mouth.
  • By observing only, we are creating space between thoughts that arise which gives us creative license to create new beliefs for the person and life you want to become and live now. (Remember we are energy, fluid, and malleable so up-date your belief system with this technique as and when you need to and for all areas of your life).
  • This technique can complement the list of experiences and dreams you wrote down in the activity recommended in the section above.
  • To come out of your mindfulness practice, breathe deeply and slowing inhaling and exhaling three times and becoming conscious of your body and slowly and softly opening the eyes.

Inner wisdom is only ever a few breaths away.

Tribe of Positivity

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. — Charles William Eliot

Apparently readers of self-help books on average only read the first two chapters and this includes the New York Times Best Seller ones – yikes!!!  Wonder how many blog readers have scrolled down to read this 😉 Accordingly, self-help has garnered the nickname shelf-help where the books get left to collect dust.  It´s very common that people are initially excited and enthusiastic about self-help books, retreats, workshops that they sign-up to and buy every course and book going, only to forget the one crucial principle that will actually help change you and your life: TAKING ACTION!!!  No one can do that for you but you!

Yes, it´s important to collect and use many resources like books, courses and workshops to learn the skills and training you need to implement changes in your life, equally it is important to create a positive social support system around you that encourage you to take action and can also act as examples of what your life will look like when you do.  Seek out people that are already doing and living the different aspects of your life that you want to improve as well as meet up with like minded people like yourself who are trying to positively take action on their desires and dreams so you can support each other along the journey which will no doubt be full of surprises, challenges, joy, miracles and many blessings big and small.  By doing the written exercise recommended under the heading Creating Sacred Space will help you to know what you want to emulate in your life and by having an attitude of gratitude, as mentioned under the heading with the same name, will help you to remain positive and grateful even when challenges arise and will help you to create new solutions to problems instead of allowing negative emotions to control and take over your life.

Notice how the above information under all seven headings interlink and act as bridges of support in creating intentional ways of increasing happiness, health and well-being in you as a whole and in all aspects of your life.

Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

True Self

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When there is love in a marriage
, there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is contentment in the community; when there is contentment in the community, there is prosperity in the nation; when there is prosperity in the nation, there is peace in the world. Chinese Proverb

True happiness births and evolves from within ourselves despite our external circumstances and the stories, beliefs and ideals we attach to others and situations past, present and future in our lives.  The true test of who you are, how secure and resilient you are and the relationships you have in your life is when life circumstances change beyond your control or expectations.  Despite taking care of your health, you may still get ill; despite working hard in your job and accomplishing work goals, you may still get made redundant; your beautiful home may be destroyed in a natural disaster; your husband/wife may leave you suddenly through choice, or by death; you may lose a child or relative unexpectantly; or you may be suffering the consequences of your actions through poor health/relationship/money choices.  Either way, everything changes and there are no guarantees in life.  All we have is the present moment where we can change the past and future by how we choose to act and treat others in each given moment.  Instead of judging others by their external circumstances, material possessions, or bank balance, pay attention to how the people close to you and who you invite into your life choose to act when things are going wrong, when obstacles show up, when plans and projects fail, when they experience any type of loss or sudden change, this will enlighten you to the true character and qualities of that person and how their actions and behaviours could influence and impact your life for better or for worse.  The following is a poem to guide you and ask yourself how you and the people close to you are choosing to live and what is really important in your/their life:

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for,

And if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,

For your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.

I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow,

If you have been opened by life’s betrayals or

Have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain!

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own;

If you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you

To the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful,

Be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you’re telling me is true.

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself,

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

I want to know if you can see beauty

Even when it is not pretty every day,

And if you can source your life from God’s presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine,

And still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have,

I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,

Weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you are, how you came here,

I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the Fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away,

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, And if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder.

A Metaphor for Life

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Everything you try to avoid about yourself will keep playing out insidiously in your life. This creates the perfect opportunity for you to embrace, love and heal this part of yourself. – Melanie Tonia Evans

Life can throw us all many curve balls.  Often times life doesn´t play out in the exact way we planned; good opportunities can sometimes turn out to be negative experiences and often our low points and seeming failure can lead to our success and  outcomes beyond our wildest dreams.  Therefore, it´s important to have a nurturing practice in your life that can not only help support you during the hard times but also support in manifesting our heart´s desires, living from our joy path and feeling connected to the universal energy that resides in all of us.

Using the life process of the Chinese Bamboo Shoots as a metaphor for life, read my article in the latest issue of the online spiritual magazine Radiant to discover the art of patience, faith and self-love:

http://issuu.com/radiant-magazine/docs/radiant_issue2/55

You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one; each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle. —Paulo Coehlo

The online Radiant magazine is a spiritual magazine sharing tools, techniques, and wisdom from the realms of mind, body, spirit, and holistic living.  Check out their website here:  http://www.radiant-magazine.co.uk/

You can also interact with the magazine on Twitter @radiantmbs and on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/radiantmag

Though we can’t always see it at the time,if we look upon events with some perspective, we see things always happen for our best interests. We are always being guided in a way better than we know ourselves. – Swami Satchidananda

Shine your Light

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If I ask you to write a list of all your good attributes, skills, and accomplishments and a list of all your faults, regrets and mistakes, which would be easier for you to recall and write?  Often we are so quick to list our imperfections, we forget all the small and big ways we shine our light and share our gifts with the world and how important it is that we recognize and live that daily.

Ways we diminish our *light*:

Before you can do something that you’ve never done before, you have to imagine it’s possible. – Jean Shinoda Bolen

1. When our self-image doesn´t match what we feel is inside us, our real potential.

As children we are drawn to different activities and interests and some of us even know from an early age what we want to do with our lives when we are older; it feels instinctual, a part of us, our life purpose, our destiny.

However, as we grow older, our ego and experiences can affect how we view ourselves which can lead to fear of our own true power and gifts that lie within each of us.  Instead of shining our light, we limit ourselves with our thinking and perspective, thus creating cognitive dissonance and making our goals harder to achieve as they become incongruent with our self-image and often self-imposed limitations.  We may feel the call inside to be a singer, for example, but instead we are prevented from fulfilling our true destiny by negative self-talk that convinces us we are not good enough, talented enough, deserved enough, pretty enough, worthy enough to go after what lights up our heart and soul.

It is our passions that lead us to the unique gifts within that we have to offer and share with the world. 

Action steps towards our light: Visualisation technique.

v  Sit up straight (a straight posture instantly improves confidence and positivity; remember your mind and body are interconnected and they communicate and affect each other, i.e., body changes mind, mind changes body).

v  Breathe from your diaphragm, taking three deep breaths, inhaling through the nose – holding the breath for three counts, exhaling out of the mouth.  We do this to calm the nervous system and activate the parasympathetic system which brings you into a state of relaxation more conducive for visualization.  (If unfamiliar with how to breathe effectively, check out this short breathing technique video by Dr Nick Campos). http://www.nickcampos.com/2010/11/are-you-breathing-properly/

v  Close your eyes gently, and allow yourself to be guided by your imagination – remember there are no right or wrong ways to do this; just trust.  Imagine your authentic self, who is the real person inside of you that is bursting to come into the world?  Visualize exactly how you would look as your authentic self, your posture, your mannerisms, how you interact with others, how you would go about your day.  Keep running through these images until they feel right for you.

v  Step into the image so you are now seeing through the eyes of your authentic self.  Visualize what you see around you, how does your day go from morning to night, how do you handle challenges that may arise.  Imagine everything working out perfectly for your highest good with ease and grace; visualize how good it feels to live from your authentic self.

v  To finish, visualize yourself and see through your eyes, a current or future situation where you want to be your best, reach your potential or overcome any challenges.  Visualize the event from your authentic self that has always been there inside of you, and imagine everything going perfectly, for your highest good and all concerned.  Keep doing this until you feel satisfied with the outcome.  Gently open your eyes, taking three deep breaths as before, to awaken fully and become fully present and grounded.

Visualization techniques can be very powerful, especially when practiced regularly, as they help nurture and reshape neural pathways which affects how you think, creating new habits and behaviours that if practiced often enough will become automated processes in your subconscious; thus completing your metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, free to fly and radiate your light.

Research on visualization is conflicting, whether seeing yourself from an observer perspective or from stepping into your image and seeing from the eyes of yourself is more effective.  Personally, I prefer combining the two because as you are trying to imagine your authentic self and in new ways and scenarios, it is best to see from the observer perspective so you can make changes to your picture until you feel comfortable with how you look, feel, and act in the visualization, and then to step into your new self and live from that perspective as if it were happening so you can really feel how good it feels and all the emotions and confidence that goes with it.  Also, important to step into your image, as research does show that people with Post Traumatic Stress keep replaying the event in their head over and over again in vivid images and often from the eyes of themselves and not as an observer, thereby creating and reinforcing all the negative emotions they felt the first time it happened which gives the image and event all its power.  Visualization can be very powerful and helpful if used in the right way and to reaffirm positive emotions and things going well.

Recommended reading would be any of the Neuro Linguistic Programming books by Paul McKenna which all include a CD which helps to speak to the subconscious mind and the visualization techniques in his books help to affirm and support what you hear on the CD.  Try not to be put off by the cheesy titles he gives his books; there´s sure to be a book that meets your individual needs to help reshape and reprogram your subconscious mind.

http://www.mckenna.com/

Don’t let yourself be weighed down by what other people think, because in a few years, in a few decades, or in a few centuries, that way of thinking will have changed. Live now what others will only live in the future.

– Paulo Coelho

2. When we allow others´ jealousies and insecurities to overshadow our light.

They say that our closest family and friends are a reflection of who we are and what we represent.  So what happens when we want to change our habits, environment, relationships, lifestyle, and/or health and fitness?  Often this means coming out of alignment with our family and peers who may not want to adopt the same habits and lifestyle changes as us.  Now, you may be thinking, “I´m not asking anyone else to change or do the same as me”, but by changing ourselves, we automatically change the dynamics of our relationships.  Sometimes family and friends can be supportive of our changes, especially if we are making changes to help improve our health or recover from an illness, unless of course, our family and friends also share our health concerns and bad habits but are resistant to make any healthy changes in their life.  This in turn, only emphasizes their bad habits as you make all the necessary changes to your life and in time you reap all the new benefits of your new lifestyle.  This is where it can feel challenging to shine your light and reach your potential as this may mean feeling rejected by loved ones, being ridiculed for your new choices and way of being, receiving jealous comments or friends and family purposefully trying to sabotage what you are doing.  This may make you feel embarrassed or ashamed to shine your light in front of others who are not supportive or understanding of your choices.  It might even mean cutting ties and making new friends who do support the real and authentic you as you try to be the best you can be.

Only when we are true to ourselves, by loving ourselves enough to live fully from our hearts, our true desires, can we be free and happy within.

Action steps towards our light: Intentions

Research from the HeartMath Institute suggests that our intentions can affect our DNA. http://www.heartmath.org/free-services/articles-of-the-heart/you-can-change-your-dna.html  Also their research demonstrates the power of our hearts which communicates its intentions to our physical body and mind; when we tune in to our heart and lead from our heart-filled intentions, amazing things can manifest in our lives.

When we set clear intentions in our life, it not only sets our goals to be achieved, it also gives us the true whys as to why we want to live these specific intentions.  For example, it´s not enough to say I want to lose weight, quit smoking, earn more money, find a soul mate, exercise more, begin a meditation practice, etc., the importance of an intention is to set out in clear, concise present tense language using juicy adjectives to describe exactly what you want and the feeling that comes with it.

i.e., My intention for health: I am embodying a radiant and glowing body of health by running 5 miles a week in the countryside supported by nature; running because it makes me feel alive and I love listening to uplifting music and positive, life affirming podcasts whilst I run to feed my consciousness only that which serves me best.

It´s important when setting intentions that they resonate for you; remember, no one else is going to see them so you want your intentions to represent your truth and not what you think society expects of you or what your friends are doing.  It´s also vital that you write down your intentions in a journal or diary or on post-it notes or pieces of card/paper that you can place around your living space because a Harvard study found that Harvard graduates who had written down their goals during their time at Harvard university, were the ones that ten years later had achieved their goals compared to the graduates that didn´t write their goals down.  Harvard found that only 3% had written down their goals and that 3% ten years later had amassed a combined fortune more than the 97% of Harvard graduates combined that hadn´t written down their goals.  Write out those intentions and make sure they align with your heart and true desires; remember your passions are where your unique gifts lie.

The easiest way to start is to know your *life purpose*.  Your life purpose is what guides your existence, by knowing what this is, you will find it easier to align all other intentions and goals to fit and support your life purpose.  If you are having difficulty realizing your purpose, I suggest writing a list of all the activities, hobbies, subjects, places, books, etc., that brought you joy as a child, before society, parents, teachers, and peers starting to fill  your head with limitations and negative, discouraging talk.  You´ll know when you have found your joy and passion because it will sing to you in your heart and fill every cell in your body with joy and elation.  Think about when you would lose track of time doing this particular activity; what would you do for free?

Once you´ve set your life purpose intention, you can list your intentions for all facets and roles in your life and ensure that each intention supports your life purpose.  You could break your intentions up into physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or into different categories like friendship, family, work, hobbies, charity/volunteering, health and fitness, play etc.

Finally, remember how I said that research is showing that our intentions can affect our DNA, it´s important to also set daily intentions.  Although we can´t possibly control for everything in life (this is a good thing; remember how sometimes not having our prayers answered is the blessing in disguise even if it takes us until after the event to figure that out), the universe supports us when we take conscious action and helps guides us to where we need to be.  Setting an intention in positive present tense language to start your day or every important activity you have to do that day, can help you feel supported not only by your own consciousness but also by something far greater, wiser and powerful than all of us which has the power to bring synchronicity into our lives as little miraculous messages, guiding us to our heart-filled joy path.

i.e., My intention before sleeping: I am sleeping peacefully, being guided by my dreams, my cells are renewing themselves with love and light and healing anything that needs healing in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual body; I am awaking at the exact time I need to with ease and grace, refreshed, with new balanced energy, ready to manifest and create new realities, with gratitude for this new day and new opportunity.

Recommended reading: check out the research and books by Dr Bruce Lipton on epigenetics as well as keep abreast of the latest research being born in this emerging field of science. http://www.brucelipton.com/

 

If you want a trait, act as if you already have the trait.-William James

3. When we lack the confidence to shine our light brightly.

We´ve all heard of fear of failure, but some may be less familiar with the term fear of success; partly because it sounds ridiculous, “don´t we all want to be successful, why would we fear it?”  We don´t often hear people complaining, “I´m too afraid to be pretty”, “I´m worried about being a multi-millionaire”, “having my dream job and getting praised and promoted is my worst nightmare.”  Because of this, many people assume their fear must be related to a fear of failing.  Failure is often a fear most associated with perfectionists, as they can´t bear to make mistakes and leave anything less than perfect, so they work diligently and persistently until perfection is achieved.  For this reason, perfectionists are at high risk of clinical depression – far from being an illness for the weak or people who just can´t cope with life´s ups and downs, the clinically depressed have often worked the hardest and achieved the most, until one day something unexpected happens in their life to throw them for six.  The operative word being unexpected or rather expectations not being fulfilled; in other words despite working long hours and being successful at work, your business still fails or you still get made redundant; your marriage breaks up even though you followed all the love advice possible, were caring and loving but still he/she left; despite all the hours of studying and reading, you still didn´t get 100% on the exam.

Fear of success is more about being comfortable with the familiar, with the failures we have already etched under our belts, our limitations and limiting beliefs becoming a welcome blanket of expectation.  Fear of success is fear of the unknown, fear of getting our hopes up, fear of our potential and all the trappings, hard work and envy from others that it can bring; really it is our mind´s immune system, its default setting of finding all the possible negative scenarios to be aware of in shining our light.  Being successful is like the paradox of life, beautiful and fragile, failure and success being the same sides of a coin, being vulnerable in order to be courageous. It interrelates with the above two points of having our self-worth be in alignment with our true potential and desires and also having the courage to shine our light and liberate others who resonate with us whilst accepting and acknowledging that not everyone is going to support our light and gifts and with this may come jealousy and criticism from others.

Shining our light makes us feel vulnerable, but it´s only by getting to this place of vulnerability that we can find our courage and grow.  There is never a right time, or a time when you are ready; we only become ready with experience, and we only gain experience by trying before we are ready.

Confidence Formula:

Vulnerability + Courage = Love and Light for Self + Liberates others = Connects all to Joy.

Action steps towards our light: Expect the Unexpected

This is not meant to scare you, whether we like it or not, we all live with uncertainty everyday of our lives, never knowing when it will be our last, and no matter what we expect or try to control for that day, unexpected good and not so good things will happen.

Tips for expecting the unexpected:

v  Firstly, learn to breathe properly (see Dr Nick Campos´ video http://www.nickcampos.com/2010/11/are-you-breathing-properly/ ), whenever experiencing self-doubt, fear, vulnerability, just breathe into the feeling, calm your nervous system and gently move through to the other side of the emotion, knowing the universe fully supports you and that there is wisdom in all your emotions and you just need to surf the emotional wave out, where you come out the other end, more balanced and centred.

v  Reflect on times throughout your life when things didn´t go according to plan or when your prayers weren´t answered.  Think about what you learned from those experiences and what blessings came from them.  As the Dalai Lama says, not having all our prayers answered can be a blessing in disguise.

v  Reflect on times throughout your life where things went well, miracles happened, your dreams came true, everything went perfectly, better than expected.  Notice how these manifestations were partly due to your actions, sometimes due to others´ actions and a lot to do with a helping hand from the universe.  Notice how sometimes, it was the universe guiding you to where you needed to be.  You´ll find often, even our imaginations can´t dream up the wonderful miracles that play out in our lives every day; that the universe can dream up far better scenarios, people, and events to come into our lives.

v  Like the William James quote above states, to have the confidence to shine our light and share our authentic and unique gifts with the world, we need to act as if we already have the trait.  That means, doing things before we feel ready, opening us up to vulnerability which we need in order to find our courage which ultimately leads us to our joy.  We can invoke this by utilizing visualisation techniques, meditation, hypnotherapy, neuro linguistic programming, as well as eating a healthy, balanced diet and keeping active which looks after our well-being placing us in a better position to remain resilient and strong within ourselves.

v  Find the wisdom in any mistakes, attempts, failures etc.  Our minds our programmed to a negative default setting to protect us.  Instead of ruminating on these negative thoughts, look for the guidance and wisdom it could be alerting you to and then take small daily positive action steps.  For example, if you are anxious about an up-coming presentation and your mind is creating all sorts of worst case scenarios and embarrassment happening to you, take note and turn it into a positive.  Negative scenario: power point fails and no one gets to see your slides and you forget the presentation you spent all last week memorising – the positive message: make a paper copy hand-out for everyone in the meeting in case of technical failures and write your presentation out on small pieces of card so if you do forget what you wanted to say, you could just refer to your notes or read off the card (better than standing their silent and red-faced).

v  Lastly, sit with gratitude.  Realize how lucky you are and privileged to even have the luxury to fear success.  That means you are living in a part of the world that has freedom, rights, education, wealth, opportunity.  Instead of fearing all your gifts and chances for success and growth, feel gratitude that you even have this opportunity to try and do and be something that you desire so strongly in your heart.  Your presence on this earth has a purpose and not just one purpose, many purposes that may change and evolve throughout your life and experiences – honour your presence and all that have walked and lived before you as each generation has opened new doors for you to walk through.  Now it´s your turn to walk through those doors and create new ones for your children and future generations to come, just by simply being you!

Recommended reading: To learn about leaning into your vulnerability and finding your courage, read Dr Brené Brown´s new book Daring Greatlyhttp://www.brenebrown.com/books/

In case you think confidence is only for extroverts and show-offs, find your inner-strength with Susan Cain´s book Quiet, which shows how some of the greatest leaders and people of social change and influence were introverts like Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Abraham Lincoln.  http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/

Richard Wiseman´s book Rip it up, based on William James´ advice act as if you already have the trait you want.  http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/

For confidence, try Paul McKenna´s books Change your Life in Seven Days and Instant Confidence, both are accompanied with a CD to help activate all the ideas and techniques in his book, so worth buying.  http://www.mckenna.com/default.htm

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.—Steven Furtick

4. When we feel our light is never enough.

With today´s technology and social networking sites, we can up-date our friends, family, and strangers with all our latest highlights and new status.  Ask yourself, how many of your friends/acquaintances are actually there for you, supporting you when times are rough and celebrating your successes with genuine happiness for you?  Most people just want to hear the gory details of your personal problems then disappear, or get jealous when they feel you´ve achieved something they haven´t already. The constant comparison of beauty, intelligence, grades, finances, job status, relationship status, and materialism just leaves everyone empty and wanting more.  It can leave many feeling inadequate as we assume the grass is always greener in someone else´s life; we never get to see their struggles or failures, or hear their self-doubts and negative self-talk.  It can leave us feeling like we are never good enough, never doing enough which leaves us not appreciating all the wonderful small and big gifts and blessings we have to offer the world.  It can lead to chasing a happiness out there in the external world that simply doesn´t exist and forget to be more grateful for all the blessings we do have and have worked hard to obtain and maintain.

Not feeling good enough relates to vulnerability that we discussed in point three.  Shame researcher Dr Brené Brown, shows how many of us are experiencing shame for not being smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough, happy enough which creates emotions of fear, anxiety, anger which can lead to destructive patterns of thinking (like Dr Amen´s ANTs – Automatic Negative Thinking http://www.amenclinics.com/ ) and behaviours like addictions, abuse, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise or activity.  When we numb our pain and try and hide who we are, we are also numbing our joy, happiness, gratitude, our unique gifts, love and compassion for ourselves and for others.

We are all on our unique path in life which needs to be honoured and respected through the good and bad times. Everything in life like nature is cyclical; the tough times will lead to opportunity and blessings just as much as the good times will lead to obstacles calling on us to expand and grow through the process.

Remember you are the gift, your presence is all we need; your vulnerability connects us together and connects us to our truth, our love, our joy, our compassion – it connects humanity as one.

Action steps towards our light: Empower

v  Whatever your situation, take the advice of Carl Jung, “the greatest & most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved, only outgrown”. This is empowering to view our problems as wisdom and part of evolution guiding us to grow and expand in ways that are authentic to our unique truth.  We´re all teachers and students, start to see your life experiences as lessons you are supposed to master in order to teach others and help progress the evolution of the planet.  The way we live now is all thanks to previous generations outgrowing their problems and progressing the world further through their experiences and wisdom.  See your evolution and transformation through problems and difficult emotions as part of something bigger than you and your life.

v  The easiest way to shine your light is help others to shine theirs.  When you see someone with a problem, instead of pitying them or putting your fear and insecurities onto that person, empower them by recognizing the person´s strengths, turning a problem into a project and outgrowing it from new creative ways of thinking and doing.  Albert Einstein was right when he said you can´t solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.  By helping and guiding others to rise above their circumstances, you lift yourself higher too.  By seeing another human being succeed and thrive against the odds, overcome old pains, make miracles happen, gives you courage to do the same in your life and comfort that whatever future problems lie ahead for you, you know problems can be outgrown and new seeds of opportunity and blessings planted far greater than even the imagination can create.  Seeing others thrive in spite of obstacles, puts a wet blanket on the fears we hold inside about life and encourages us to embrace uncertainty with a smile and joyful determination to outgrow our current level of consciousness.

v  Practice mindfulness training/meditation, whereby we practice the art of non-judgement and observer of our thoughts and existence, connecting to inner wisdom and life force for resilience and vitality.  How we treat others is a reflection of how we view and treat ourselves; the more judgemental we are of other people´s lives, the more judgemental we are of ourselves. Most of our behaviours and actions are motivated by unconscious desires that we are rarely even aware of ourselves, combined with the biological and chemical reactions of exchanges between the mind and body and the mystery of the energy life forces of which we are a part of in the universe, makes for an infinity of possible explanations as to why we do and say the things we do.  Instead of judging ourselves and others, we benefit far more from becoming compassionate through a meditative practice which releases stress and guides us to our true nature of love and light.

v  Practice gratitude.  Every day, recognize your gifts no matter how big or small.  The fact that you chose to get out of bed and face the new day and give life a try – that is your light, that is your gift, that not only empowers you, but empowers your family and friends.  No point being a CEO if you bully all your co-workers and con the public out of their money; no point being a parent who never sees their children or doesn´t have a close relationship with them; no point being married if you make your spouse’s life a misery; no point having qualifications if you don´t use them for good, we can all memorize information to pass exams, but can you put that knowledge into action that has a positive effect in the world, or see the gaps in that information to progress our consciousness forward and outgrow old modes of thinking that don´t serve the world anymore?  Recognize that your smile, does more good in the world than your salary, job title, relationship status, and possessions; it´s how you treat yourself with love and kindness that will manifest love and kindness into your family and friends´ lives and the world at large that plays a far more vital role in the evolution of the planet than any external quality or possession can.  You are the gift; your presence is all we need, so please share your light with us all.

Recommended reading: Dr Brené Brown´s book The Gift of Imperfection – learn to love and accept your authentic self and start living a whole-hearted approach to life.  http://www.brenebrown.com/books/2010/8/8/the-gifts-of-imperfection.html

Links to Dr Brené Brown´s three TED talks about shame and vulnerability:

The Power of Vulnerability http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o

The Price of Invulnerability http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UoMXF73j0c

Listening to Shame http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0

Meditative practice: Jon Zabat Zinn has numerous books on meditation to get you started. http://www.umassmed.edu/Content.aspx?id=43102

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman. http://franticworld.com/

Now, I want you to forget all you have read above, trust that whatever resonates for you will have found its way into your subconscious and allow yourself to be guided by this little gem of wisdom by Marianne Williamson.  I highly recommend writing out this passage and reading it to yourself every day to remind yourself that you already are the light and that the world needs you to shine it bright where ever you go.  By reading her words each day or whenever you need the extra reminder, it´s setting your true intentions and speaking to the universe which will reply back in kind with little messages of synchronicity, guiding you to your light´s potential.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It´s our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves; who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of the universe.

Your playing small doesn´t serve the world.

There is nothing enlightening about shrinking,

So that other people won´t feel insecure around you.

We are born to make manifest the glory of the universe that is within us.  It´s not just in some of us: it is in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,

We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

And as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON

Dream Big

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No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.
― Walt Disney

Watch this video of a veteran called Arthur who had been given the prognosis of never being able to walk again, as he defies this limiting belief and circumstance and begins to heal himself and his life with yoga: http://omtimes.com/2012/05/inspirational-video-of-how-yoga-can-heal-your-life/

We can learn from Arthur to live in courage and keep going no matter how difficult the mountain is to climb; every time we stumble or take a couple steps back, we just need to pick ourselves up and keep trying.

This is a great opportunity to take  a look at an area of our life right now where we are not getting the results we want and ask how can we turn this into a positive?  Remember all success is built on the stepping stones of failure: the more successful you are, the more you have failed.

Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States. Wall Street Journal

Whatever dreams you have, keep believing, then take small incremental steps each day towards your goal.  Most important of all, enjoy the process, have fun and laughter along the way.  It´s the journey, not the destination that counts.  It´s how you choose to react and take action about a particular circumstance that shapes who you are, not the actual circumstance or situation.

Have fun dreaming and creating big!!!

I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.  – Thomas A. Edison

Be the Change…

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The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.
— Dan Dennett

A great website http://freerice.com/ allows us to help be part of the change we want to see in the world by feeding the hungry in third world countries.  All we have to do is play some word games and other quizzes for free and for every correct answer the UN donates 10mg of rice to help feed those in need. For language enthusiasts the games come in different languages English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Korean. It´s easy to do and all from the comfort of our computer.

It´s also an opportune moment for us to ask ourselves how do we want to experience the world, our communities, our home environment and ask are we living in this way, are we being the change we want to see in the world and in our personal lives?

We all like to think of ourselves as decent, kind, generous human beings, but I urge us all to take a serious moment to be silent and still with ourselves and reflect on how we are living, treating others and most importantly treating ourselves.

If we want to see, for example, more kindness in our lives and around the world, we first have to manifest kindness within.  That means looking in the mirror and thinking kind, beautiful words about your reflection; being self-compassionate even when you make mistakes knowing that we are trying our best and will make amends and grow from the experience; doing and being joyful on a daily and moment to moment basis.  Only then will we truly be able to offer genuine kindness without needing or wanting anything in return and living in kindness knowing that it will all somehow be paid forward by the universe.

Writing a list of the changes you want to see in the world and then keeping a journal to see how you are manifesting these changes in yourself will help us all to become more self-aware and make tweaks where necessary in how we act and behave in our lives.  Once we have made the changes within, watch the rippling effect it has on your family, friends and how far reaching it can spread in the world; the more people we affect with positive consequences, the more people they affect in return.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead, Anthropologist      

http://freerice.com/

Inner Wisdom

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Happiness depends upon ourselves. —Aristotle

Life is a paradox.  Carl Jung highlighted this in his work saying the very things that bring us happiness like family, relationships, friends, work are paradoxically the very things that can cause our pain and suffering.  For this reason Buddhism teaches us the art of detachment, living in the present moment in peace and harmony with whatever is.  A difficult task for many when our culture and society rewards and encourages a certain linear set of successes to be achieved at certain points throughout life and anything less than perfect will just not do.

An interesting article by Alex Lickerman on the Psychology Today blog writes that our lives are constantly revolving around whatever person/goal/situation we are obsessed about or are devoting our life to in that moment which when it is not going well is the cause of all our suffering and affects all aspects of our life.  To remedy this, Lickerman looks to Buddhism which teaches us to nurture and practice using our inner wisdom.  Choosing to devote ourselves to being the best we can be by growing our inner wisdom and learning from our experiences instead of staying attached to ideas/goals/people that may not be for our best interests.  By choosing to cultivate wisdom in ourselves on a daily basis, it will help all areas of our life grow and expand and with clarity make better informed decisions that not only benefit ourselves but are for the highest good of all concerned.

When we decide to reclaim our inner power, we make a definite shift in our lives that helps us to constantly create new realities for ourselves as we begin to realize that nothing in life is fixed or for forever,  that moment by moment we are all malleable; thus we take better control of our own happiness and no matter what happens, we can make the best of a situation and apply our own inner wisdom to overcome anything.

Here is the link to Alex Lickerman´s article:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201206/choosing-the-object-your-devotion

It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis. —Margaret Bonanno