Posts

How Can We Be Happy In a Hectic World?

Are you happy?

It’s such an important question – something we should be asking ourselves daily to make sure we’re taking care of our mental wellbeing. And yet, with our lives being extremely busy, and with our 24/7 availability, we forget to ask it. We find ourselves caught on a treadmill –  wake up, eat, work, back home, watch Netflix, go to sleep, repeat.

Is there any way to escape that routine and improve our lives? Sure there is – and what better time to talk about it than on International Day of Happiness!

Without further ado, here are six ways to find happiness in our busy world.

1. Find something that gets you in the state of flow

If you’re not familiar with this term, take a look at one of our previous articles. In short, the state of flow happens when you’re so interested in an activity, so invested in it, that the outside world ceases to exist and you lose track of time completely!

But when was the last time you caught yourself in such a blissful state?

Can dressed as Pennywise with a baloon

We all flow down here.

As adults, we tend to forget that life shouldn’t just be about work, our next paycheck, and all our to-do lists. If you loved drawing as a kid, take it up again! Maybe you love jogging, or simply listening to music with no other distractions.

The list of possibilities is endless. So find something that makes you forget about the outside world and don’t give it up!

2. Don’t steer away from life’s challenges

We all want to live happy lives, and it may seem counterintuitive to say that life’s challenges and even the pain that comes along are a necessary part of it.

If you’ve never faced any obstacle that you overcame after some serious struggle, how are you going to feel a real sense of accomplishment and self-esteem? Besides, only sticking to what we know we can do, we’re limiting ourselves from ever trying something new, and – who knows! – maybe even finding out it’s the most exciting thing we’ve ever done!

The bottom line is – don’t settle. Set goals for yourself even if they don’t seem easily achievable, and with every step along the way, you’ll be feeling prouder and more fulfilled.

3. Surround yourself with caring people

This should go without saying – even for us introverts who prefer staying indoors to going out, friends and family are an essential part of a full life. And though it’s easier to react to someone’s story or send them a message rather than agree on when you can meet and actually go through with it, the physical presence of others is extremely important for our mental health.

Studies have shown that in extreme instances, loneliness can be just as bad as smoking. Imagine that! And it’s no wonder, really – we live in cities with millions of people, we see hundreds of them daily, and yet, striking a chord with a certain person and becoming close is becoming increasingly difficult.

So don’t settle for social media. Call up your friends, or even those you don’t really know yet but who simply seem like great people, go out with them, and have fun! But keep in mind that your me-time is also very important. If you notice your social battery has been drained, it’s perfectly fine to go back home and recharge it for a while.

4. Don’t compare yourself with others

You know the drill – you go on social media to look at some funny pictures and cute cats. Next thing you know, you’re being bombarded with perfect-looking people dining at a 7-star hotel in the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen! They’re overlooking the beach, enjoying a fabulous meal and being so, so happy!

Does that ring a bell?

What we don’t understand is that we’re comparing ourselves to an illusion.You can’t possibly know what happens behind that photo. Just because someone is sitting at a beautiful beach resort doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy. That takes a lot more than a great view!

This woman faked an entire trip to Bali by careful posing at an IKEA – so that’s something to think about!

But what about people you know well – say, your sister? She’s married to a great guy, has lovely kids, lives in the most elegant house you’ve ever seen, and she even looks amazing! Not to mention she’s going on trips every two months! How can you not compare yourself to her?

For one, by comparing the two of you, you’re not getting any closer to achieving your own goals. Chances are you’re so stuck being unhappy about yourself that you don’t have the energy to change something. You can be happy for her, but it’s okay to still want something similar. Instead of thinking endlessly of everything she has and is and you aren’t, make a plan for yourself – or even a vision board!

You want to live abroad? Learn to play the piano? Shed some weight? Great, that’s already a goal – all you need now is a plan to stick to! If you’re struggling with doing that, here’s something that might help. Changing our perspective from envy to a motivation to change something is a huge step towards being happier and better about ourselves.

5. Acknowledge the negative feelings

Another consequence of focusing on those picture-perfect lives we see on social media is that we start thinking that, by feeling sad, angry, or even jealous we’re somehow betraying the sanctity of a #grateful life. It takes years of meditation at the top of a mountain to almost eradicate negative feelings – so how can you expect yourself, with all your daily struggles and stresses, to always feel happy and content?

It may sound like I’m defeating the very purpose of this article, but the bottom line is: only by acknowledging our negative feelings and understanding what lies behind them, can we solve the issues we have and move towards being happier.

This is something our Coaches can help you with – and the first consultation is free!

So if you’re sad about your friend moving away, it’s okay to sulk and cry for a bit! If you’re angry at your husband for forgetting your birthday, be angry! As long as you work through it by addressing the issue that caused a certain feeling, you’re on your way to a happier life and better relationships.

6. Live in the present

Not the future or the past! We spend most of our lives thinking about the mistakes we’ve made or the mistakes we might make, but that in itself is a mistake. By spending so much time in our own head, we often forget to enjoy the things we’re experiencing right now. 

Just think about all the things you could enjoy far more if you stop overthinking for just a second: beautiful sunsets, that new song you’ve been hearing on the radio, the food you’re eating… Not to mention that the time you spend with those you love will give you a lot more satisfaction if you’re mentally there, rather than at work.

It’s easier said than done, but some simple exercises in mindfulness can help you change the way you’re thinking.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share with our readers about what happiness is and how we can live happier, more fulfilled lives? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

10 Easy Ways to Be Mindful while Doing Everyday Tasks

Being mindful has many benefits, but it sounds complicated and demanding. Also, some people think that practicing mindfulness requires meditation or yoga, for example. But mindfulness doesn’t have to include much time or yoga mats. What if we say there are plenty of easy ways to practice mindfulness in your everyday life? And by doing so, you can de-stress and do your best. So, no more excuses – let’s start!

1. Drink more water.

Our bodies dehydrate overnight, so start the day with a glass of water at breakfast. Pay attention to how that gulp is going through your body. Also, try not to think about anything else. To stay energetic, don’t forget to drink lots of water all day. It doesn’t sound hard, does it?

2. Make your bed in the morning.

While making a fresh cup of coffee to start your day, make sure to make your bed. Slow down your breathing as you smooth your sheets and tuck in corners. This way, making bed is not a chore, but a mindful practice. Further, you will feel as if you have already completed a task and started your day productively. Starting the day with a habit will help you develop other useful habits. It has also been shown that, since you spend a large portion of your life in your bedroom, the way it looks can severely affect your mood, so making the bed equals better mood and less stress throughout the day!

3. Enjoy your meal.

Avoid multitasking while eating your lunch – take at least 15 minutes to focus completely on enjoying your meal, allowing it to re-energize you. Also, chew your food slowly. While eating, enjoy the texture and the taste. This is shown to boost your mood and register more satisfaction, which further curbs overeating.

4. Organize things.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re at work or home, being in chaos can cause stress and anxiety. Picking things and organizing them is a pretty simple way to reduce that stress. Also, while doing so pay attention to every bit and piece of objects and to each placement of the object. To practice mindfulness while organizing, you are called to turn your attention to what’s happening right now: what you are thinking, what you are feeling, and what your senses are telling you.

5. Stretch whenever you can.

Nowadays, we spend most of our time at the desk, working, studying or just surfing the internet. To say that that amount of sitting is bad for our health would be an understatement. Be aware of your body and take a rest from sitting. Get up for at least a few minutes every hour and walk around your room or office, or use that time to stretch. You will see that it not only helps your body but your mind as well!

6. Turn off your devices.

Mobile phone ringing and beeping every now and then can cause anxiety. Also, we usually constantly check emails and social networks on our devices. It distracts us from our primary activities and people around us. Therefore, every once in a while turn off your devices. This way you’ll be more productive and refresh yourself.

7. Pay attention to your breathing.

Are you nervous before some big date? Take three slow and deep breaths from your belly before entering that room. Even if you’re not nervous, stop thinking about other stuff for a few seconds and just pay attention to your breathing. Try to feel how your stomach and chests move, how fast and deep is your breathing…

8. Walk mindfully.

You don’t have to sit and cross your legs to practice mindfulness. As you walk to the store or to work practice mindfulness. Focus on your breathing and each step you take. This way you’ll clear your mind of clutter, decrease stress, restore your sense of focus, and increases overall well-being.

9. Pause between actions.

Your to-do list is pretty long, right? Also, there are many things that you haven’t included there. But it is good to pause between your actions. Take a moment and be proud that you’ve done something. Let yourself to rest a bit. And don’t think about other stuff that is waiting to be done.

10. Do your routine activities mindfully.

Everything you do can be a way of practicing mindfulness, especially those activities that are not demanding. Try to pay more attention as you’re brushing your teeth before bed, for example. Try to be more aware – activate all of your senses. Maybe you’ll find those activities more interesting than you thought.

Mindfulness can easily be integrated into your daily routine. As we can conclude from above, there are so many tasks that we take for granted, but they are all primed for more mindfulness. However, nothing can be done in one day. Try practicing these tips for a few days and they will become even easier. Try practicing them for a few weeks and they will become habits!

References:

[1] Heaversedge, J., & Halliwell, E. (2012). The mindful manifesto: How doing less and noticing more can help us thrive in a stressed-out world. Hay House, Inc.

Mindfulness Practices for Study-Ready Mind

Mindfulness, the state of active consciousness and full, open attention, can be helpful for students in its various forms, as we explained in a previous article. There, we listed some of the mindfulness techniques you can use while studying when you need an instant fix. Yet, as we noted before, the state of mindfulness is best achieved if practiced regularly and studiously, consciously rethinking and reorganizing some of your everyday activities.

So now we’re suggesting some new techniques that can help you in studying. These should be practiced every day apart from your studying rituals, and can, in time, radically change your focus, concentration, memory, and openness to details.

Don’t worry! To achieve a study-ready mind you won’t have to radically change your lifestyle. Mindfulness practices and meditation can be done in around half an hour a day. The trick is not to give up and keep repeating them, even if the results are not instantly apparent.

Switching up your routines

Much of the mindfulness program concerns habit releasers. These are everyday tasks “meant to reveal and break open some of our most unaware life patterns of thought and behavior” [1], which means changing or breaking down habits that can trap you into negative ways of thinking. These techniques snap you out of your old timeworn rut and open up exciting new avenues to explore. Two habit releasers that books about mindfulness recommend can be especially beneficial when it comes to studying

Number 1The first one is waking up earlier. It doesn’t have to be two or three hours earlier – for starters, simply set your alarm 15 minutes before you usually do. This has nothing to do with having more time to study in a day; it’s about reorganizing your mind. The point is to relax and practice focus while enjoying the peace of the day’s beginning. In the morning, things are still and quiet and you can use these 15 minutes to lie in bed, relax and put your mind in order.

Visualise things you have to do that day, put them in order and focus your mind on them. You can also use this time to practice full consciousness – lie or sit in peace, let your thoughts and sensations flow, and try to notice as many things around you as possible. This way you’re practicing your focus, which is one of the key factors that will help you study, but you’re also clearing your mind and getting ready for the work day in front of you and all the information you’ll need to embrace.

Number 2The second habit releaser is valuing entertainment time. In today’s world and life of the student, a lot of entertainment time is spent online, either on social networks or the internet. This exercise will help you map what you’re spending your time on, limit your free time and use it more purposefully. The point is to learn not to take these pleasures for granted but to use them fully and consciously so that a break really feels like a genuine release and you’re able to return to your work fully focused. When you take a break with purpose you don’t need to do it as long to obtain the relaxation benefit. Plus, you’ll certainly be giving yourself more time to study and cutting out any distraction!

First, think about what you really like to do online and limit yourself to only that. You can, for example, see what’s new on your Facebook feed and check Instagram notifications, and after you do, switch the internet off. You can set a time rule for yourself or limit yourself to one online activity. Do this consciously and, in the evening, write down how it felt, what you did, your thoughts, feelings, and impulses.  This way, while you’re online, you’ll be focused fully on that and only that, enjoying your valuable free time, and afterward, when you start studying, you’ll be able to clear your mind and fully focus on the task in front of you. [1]

Performing tasks mindfully

One of the best mindfulness practices won’t take a moment of your day because it involves performing the tasks you do every day – but mindfully. This, again, is an exercise in focus, one that will help you notice the details and information in your everyday life. You’ll find yourself noticing more while you study, finding all the details that you might otherwise miss, and really being conscious of what you’re reading.

So, take one of the routine activities we all perform daily (brushing teeth, walking from one room to another, washing dishes, showering, drinking tea or coffee…) and simply pay extra attention while doing it. Not slowly, but just while carefully observing all that you do and all that is happening. The example in the book Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World is Showering:

Showering: pay attention to the sensations of the water on your body, the temperature, and the pressure. Notice the movements of your hand as you wash and the movements of your body as you turn and bend, etc. If you decide to take some of your showering time to plan or reflect, do so intentionally, with the awareness that this is where you have decided to focus your attention.

Illustration of three people, one on a computer, one meditating and one enjoying chocolate

Practice your senses

We’ve already talked about how important it is to connect your body and brain. That is why a meditation walk is always beneficial and something you can try even if you’re not studying at the moment. The point is to practice your concentration and focus and become aware of things you have never noticed – or felt – before. These are all valuable in helping you in the study process – which is fully about focus, memory, and attention to detail.

Another exercise for this is practicing of the senses. This one is really delightful as it includes chocolate! The point is to eat the chocolate, but in a way you’ve never done before – mindfully, thinking about it, focusing on everything you can sense.

For this, follow these instructions:

  • Open the packet. Inhale the aroma. Let it sweep over you.
  • Break off a piece and look at it. Really let your eyes drink in what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny.
  • Pop it in your mouth. Try to hold it on your tongue and just let it melt, avoiding any tendency to move your mouth around it. Chocolate has over three hundred different flavors. See if you can sense some of them.
  • If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went, and gently bring it back to the present moment.
  • After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Let it trickle down your throat.
  • Repeat this with the next piece.  [2]

A calm mind is a study-ready mind

Again, we ought to remind you to be easy on yourself. If you don’t see results right away, take your time. Don’t get angry, nervous or irritated –  try to accept things as they are. There’s no point in rushing anything. You’re not facing a deadline, but practicing for your future self.

Do all these exercises slowly, enjoying them, learning things, not worrying about studying. But then, when the time for studying comes, your mind will be ready, focused, and fully awake.

 

If you need any kind of advice related to focus and studying, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING:

 

[1]   Penman, D. and Williams, M. 2011. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Pennsylvania: Rodale Books.

[2] Jon Kabat-Zinn. 2005. Wherever You Go, There You Are. New York: Hachette Book.

 

Mindfulness While Studying

As we have written before, there are plenty of proven benefits to mindfulness – that state of active consciousness and open attention, reached through the process of meditation – especially for students and learners.  Not only can meditation and meditative thinking help with stress reduction, but practicing being in the moment can greatly improve focus and productivity.

However, mindfulness is not just meditation – it’s a process to reach a state of present mind through an entire mindset that can include meditation, breathing practices, mind exercises, and habit-releasers (everyday tasks “meant to reveal and break open some of our most unaware life patterns of thought and behaviour” [1]).

Because of this complexity, you should not expect instant benefits from just a few mindfulness practices. In their book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, Danny Penman and Mark Williams suggest an eight-week program through which you change your day-to-day life and thoughts gradually over a course of two months for best mindfulness effect.

However, if this seems too much for you, if you’re not really sure it can help you, or you need an “instant fix” because your exams are almost upon you, we’ve chosen a few practices that will help you during studying itself. These small exercises, meditations, and habit-releasers are meant to improve focus, stop negative thoughts that interrupt your work, and help you stay in the moment, consciously going through the study material.

So, who knows – after these, maybe you’ll be convinced that the eight-week program is worth it!

Cutting down the frustration and impatience

We all have those moments when we can’t seem to concentrate and our study progress seems minimal. The usual reaction is to get frustrated and get caught in a thought loop – being frustrated by lack of productivity, then being frustrated because we’re frustrated by it, therefore wasting more time and…. well, you get the point.

That’s why the point of this exercise is to let go of that anger and frustration and gain control over your emotions simply by realizing they are there and that they are normal. If you rationalize your emotions, chances are they aren’t going to stand in your way that much while studying, so you can concentrate better on the mental process.

When you find yourself tangled up in anger, do a quick check-up and ask yourself

  • What is going through my mind?
  • What sensations are there in my body?
  • What emotional reactions and impulses am I aware of?

Then, try to allow frustration to be present without trying to make it go away. Stand tall. Breathe. Allow yourself to feel. Accept that this, too, is a moment in your life.

You might not instantly stop being frustrated, but the point of mindfulness is not to ignore unpleasant feelings, rather to accept them. This way, you can stop obsessing over trying to change them and focus more on why you’re feeling that way, and getting on with the task at hand.

Body and brain connection

If you find your body restless and fidgety, showing signs of nervousness (twitching, legs jumping, heart racing…) it might be an indication that your mind’s stress is showing up physically and you need to concentrate on calming the body-brain connection.

With these few tricks you can focus on your physical processes, soothe your nervousness, and prepare your body for studying, by connecting it fully to the brain and mind processes, while being in the best possible physical position for concentrating.

There’s no point in continuing to study while you’re not focused, so take a short break. Before you say that you have no time for breaks, think if it’s more beneficial to do unproductive work and waste time, or to take a short 15-minute break, and then continue working with full focus.

The first thing you can do is “ground” yourself. This means doing a meditation that is designed to settle your body as well as your brain. One useful method is body-scan meditation, which pays attention to all the parts of your body, relaxing them and learning to let go. If your body relaxes, you’ll be in better posture to study and focus, relaxing your brain as well.

You can also try grounding yourself by changing your position to a more meditative one. Perhaps you can try moving into a yoga position and doing a short breathing exercise. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, and then, slowly, move your right foot to the left thigh. Do the same with the left foot. Try to move your feet as close to the base of the thighs as you can and do everything very slowly, thinking about each move [2]. When you’re in this posture, breathe slowly and focus on movements of the body. If it’s comfortable, you can even try reading in this position.

The second thing you can do is go for a meditative walk, lasting somewhere between fifteen and thirty minutes. You don’t have to go anywhere special, just walk around your neighborhood, paying extra attention to details you haven’t noticed before – small things, like the birds or leaves on the trees. The walk doesn’t even have to take place in nature – you can go out in the city to walk and just look up at the facades of the buildings you’ve never noticed before. The point is to be mindful of your surroundings, to focus on details and to see new things, or even familiar ones in a different light. Stop by that tree you always pass by and think about its texture, its colors and its scent. Are there any birds in it? Inwardly name every color you see on it, touch the texture of the wood and tell yourself how it feels. While you’re walking, pay attention to your whole body – how it moves whenever you take a step, what muscles do the work, and which stay still, what sensations you feel, how the floor feels, what your legs do, etc.

This whole exercise will help you move your muscles while walking, but also transfer your focus onto  your surroundings and away from your physical nervousness. The huge thing is that it is also good for practicing focus, so once you’re back at your books, you might notice that you look at the information in front of you in a new light.

Finally, doing a simple yoga routine can also help. There are plenty of videos with practices online, so you can try them out.

And remember…

Don’t be too harsh with yourself and accept your limits. Take a break if things are not working and exercise your focus whenever you can.

The key to meditation as well as the whole mindfulness program is not “not thinking” – it is simply being aware of your thoughts and channeling them properly. Guided meditation says that if you notice your thoughts flying away, don’t scold yourself; that is what minds do.

 

[1]   Penman, D. and Williams, M. 2011. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Pennsylvania: Rodale Books.

[2] Wills, P. and Gimbel, T. 1992. 16 Steps to Health and Energy: A Program of Color and Visual Meditation, Movement and Chakra Balance. Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications.

Jon Kabat-Zinn. 2005. Wherever You Go, There You Are. New York: Hachette Book.

 

If you need any kind of advice related to focus and studying, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING:

The Mindful Student – Benefits of The Mindfulness Practice

In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of hype around the term “mindfulness”. Everybody from yoga teachers to Silicon Valley engineers are talking about being mindful and practicing mindfulness. Of course, there are others who think all the hype is nonsense and that mindfulness is just another new-age fad. It’s easy to get lost in the many articles and videos discussing the term without actually realizing what it means, so let’s start with that: mindfulness is a form of meditation in which people learn how to be in the moment, or more precisely how to stay focused and acknowledge all their sensations and feelings without passing any judgment. This concept has roots in Buddhism [5] but nowadays is more frequently secular and, best of all, can be practiced by anyone, anywhere.

Why would we practice mindfulness?

In today’s world where we are all very busy all the time, it’s getting easier and easier to lose focus on the present and get caught up doing our daily tasks automatically, thinking only about what we should be doing next and thus missing out on valuable insights and experiences. Mindfulness can prevent this from happening and help us learn how to stay aware without getting too active or overwhelmed.

Lately, there has been a lot of research into the benefits of this practice and it is getting harder and harder for skeptics to dismiss it as yet another hoax. Aside from being available to everyone and not requiring anything other than some time and a lot of patience (since being in the moment without passing judgment is easier said than done), mindfulness has a positive impact on both our physical and mental health [7].

One of the most cited benefits of mindfulness is stress reduction, which has a positive effect on sleep patterns and the overall well-being of the practitioner. As we teach ourselves to stay present, we get to know ourselves better, our memory improves, we don’t have emotional outbursts, and we even get more satisfied with our relationships as we learn how to deal with stress effectively and to communicate our feelings to our partners [3].

Benefits of mindfulness to students

The case for mindful meditation is strong and it would be almost silly not to try it out after reading about all the benefits you can reap by practicing it. However, mindfulness can be specifically beneficial to students, and its practice has begun to be incorporated into schools to teach very young children how to stay mindful of their experience in the moment without judgment.

  • It is clear that learning how to stay focused is particularly useful for students as it can prevent daydreaming and procrastination, and helps students learn more effectively. Mindfulness has also be shown to be great for attention and is even used as a technique in the treatment of ADHD [1].
  • As it helps deal with stress, mindfulness is a great tool to relieve test anxiety many students experience and helps reduce stress levels related to school in general (http://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/research/#reference-17).
  • The practice is also shown to be related to better grades, as it improves cognitive function and enhances our working memory [2]. It has even been shown that after a course of mindfulness practices, our prefrontal cortex thickens. This is the part of the brain responsible for high-order functions such as decision-making and awareness [6].
  • Last but not least, mindfulness has a great impact on students’ social skills. Through practice, students learn self-control and respect for others [5] and get better at solving interpersonal problems [4].

All in all, the potential benefits of mindfulness are far more persuasive than the opinions of a couple of skeptics and, as a practice that is relatively accessible and easy to introduce, it is a great tool of self-improvement for adults and their children alike. If you are interested in knowing more about it and going through mindfulness training as part of overcoming some learning difficulties, don’t hesitate to contact us.

References:

  1. Brancatisano, E. (October 24, 2016). The Benefits Of Bringing Mindfulness In To The Classroom.
  2. Chan, A. L. (August 4, 2013). Mindfulness Meditation Benefits: 20 Reasons Why It’s Good For Your Mental And Physical Health.
  3. Davis, D. M. & Hayes, J. A. (July/August 2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness? Monitor on Psychology, 43 (7), 64.
  4. Gouda, S., Luong, M. T., Schmidt, S., & Bauer, J. (2016). Students and Teachers Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a School-Embedded Pilot Study.
  5. Holland, E. (Feb 16, 2015). Can ‘Mindfulness’ Help Students Do Better in School?
  6. Ireland, T. (June 12, 2014). What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?
  7. Research on Mindfulness. Mindful Schools.
  8. Weare, K. (April 2012). Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People.

If you need any kind of advice related to the emotional development of your teen children, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING: