Be More Childlike

“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.” ~Mencius

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I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions.

I already drink lots of water, eat healthy, and go to the gym, so those standard ones wouldn’t make good resolutions for me. But I know there’s always room for improvement, so let’s see…

I could resolve to:

Take my vitamins. Stop overreacting. Say less foul language. Practice more yoga. Meditate/pray more. Write more poetry. Drink more tea.

But most likely, I won’t do any of these as regularly as I would like. At some point in the year (like… yesterday), I’ll fall off the wagon. I’ll shout some profanity to a driver on the highway who won’t let me merge. Or I’ll take my Vitamin C but forget to take my fish oil, B-complex, Zinc, and all the others. I’ll commit to yoga every Sunday but decide to sleep in one weekend instead. I’ll drink a cup of tea and then down four cups of coffee as well.

So rather than beating myself up, I decide on an overarching intention when going into the New Year and try to fit little activities under the broader umbrella. My intention is a general idea of how I’d like to approach the duration of the year. If I fail to stick to it every day, I won’t feel too bad. When I succeed in accomplishing my intention, it’s a definite plus!

My intention this year? *drumroll please*

Be more childlike.

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There’s actually a blog floating around on the worldwide web that addresses this intention:

Be More Childlike: A Year of Growing, Without Growing Up

I love that concept. It sounds so inspiring and encompasses a million different ideas in one. In 2015, I hope to be curious, spontaneous, carefree, imaginative, and playful. I hope to look at each day through the awe-struck wonder of a child’s eyes.

The website, Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives, has an article that addresses ways to call on your inner child, “33 Ways to Be Childlike Today” by Lori Deschen.

Deschen groups her suggestions into seven inspirational categories: Learn, Play, Share, Connect, Create, Be, and Imagine.

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Some of my favorites include:

  • Read a book you loved as a kid.

Right now, I have Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read again. I remember loving it in 3rd grade, so I can’t wait to discover the magical forest kingdom of Terabithia again – 20+ years later.

  • Try a new look.

I already do this, and I hope I continue! I always go for different looks – from business professional to hippie to punk chic. I just throw outfits together; add some accessories, maybe wear my hot pink rain boots, and then I head out confidently into the world. I’m that little kid who dresses herself in all mismatched items, and it makes me feel awesome.

  • Tap into your innocence.

This suggestion falls under the “Connect” category and refers to giving people the benefit of the doubt and choosing not to be cynical. It can’t hurt to try!

  • Start a piggy bank

Let me tell you how wonderful this feels, even as a grown up! Last year, I started throwing my spare change into a mason jar. I never thought twice about. Any coins that I found on the floor of my car or the bottom of my purse went into the jar. Then over the holidays, I deposited the coins into a Coinstar machine and ended up with a $90 Starbucks gift card. Best.day.ever.

  • Forget what was tough about yesterday

Sometimes this one is really difficult. How do you literally FORGET the troubles from yesterday? Maybe you can’t, but I’m trying to use a gesture to mimic the action of forgetting. If something rough happens, I’ll use the ASL sign for “forget.” It’s a quick motion over your forehead, and it reminds me of a fleeting thought… something that just passes over you and moves on.

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Try it out: *Hold your hand just barely in front of your forehead (or go ahead and put your fingers on your forehead) and then pull your hand sideways across the front of your head as you change the handshape from a loose “B” handshape into an “A” handshape or a “loose” “A” handshape.

Tip: Think of wiping your mental memory bank clean.

Here’s to being more childlike in 2015!

love & peace,

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Keep It Simple

I love moving. I love change. Moving out of an old place and into a new place allows the opportunity to reevaluate everything I’ve accumulated over the years and ask myself the question, “Do I really need this?” It gives me permission to throw things away, donate items to charity, or give something to a friend. I know this isn’t easy for some people. I’m attached to a few photos, keepsakes, and nostalgic items, but the majority of my “stuff” is just “stuff.” I really can just let it go, and I’ll be okay. But you don’t need to be as extreme as me, and you don’t have to relocate in order to create a minimalist home.

  • If you haven’t worn that flannel shirt since the days of ‘90s grunge, then it’s time to let it go.
  • If you haven’t used that juicer since you bought it for your 30-day cleanse (last year), then it’s time to let it go.
  • If you haven’t sat in that antique chair in ages because it’s uncomfortable and really serves no purpose at all, then it’s time to let it go.

 
A minimalist home is calming and stress-free. It’s not chaotic. It’s simple.

In the blog post “A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home,” Leo Babauta identifies three benefits of minimalism:

  1. Less stressful. Clutter is a form of visual distraction, and everything in our vision pulls at our attention at least a little. The less clutter, the less visual stress we have. A minimalist home is calming.
  2. More appealing. Think about photos of homes that are cluttered, and photos of minimalist homes. The ones with almost nothing in them except some beautiful furniture, some nice artwork, and a very few pretty decorations, are the ones that appeal to most of us. You can make your home more appealing by making it more minimalist.
  3. Easier to clean. It’s hard to clean a whole bunch of objects, or to sweep or vacuum around a bunch of furniture. The more stuff you have, the more you have to keep clean, and the more complicated it is to clean around the stuff. Think about how easy it is to clean an empty room compared to one with 50 objects in it. That’s an extreme example, of course, as I wouldn’t recommend you have an empty room, but it’s just to illustrate the difference.

 

Less stressful!? That’s huge! We deal with stress all the time – at the office, in the classroom, in our relationships, while sitting in traffic. Why would we want to face “visual stress” at home, when there’s an easy and practical way to alleviate that stress?

Babauta also points out that unless you are moving into a new place, it’s extremely difficult to simplify an entire house (or apartment) at once. Instead, it’s okay to focus on one room at a time. Create a sense of peace and calm within that one space.

Joshua Becker, a minimalist and the blogger of “Becoming Minimalist,” gives a few ways to easily eliminate clutter and chaos in your home today:

  1. Place junk mail immediately into a recycling bin.
  2. Store kitchen appliances out of sight.
  3. Remove 10 articles of clothing from your closet.

 

Here are even more suggestions on how to make minimalism an easier process for you and your family: “15 Clutter Busting Routines For Any Family”

*Becker is featured on Tsh Oxenreider’s podcast, “The Art of Simple.” Check out episode #67 – “Freedom from Stuff” for more inspiration and tips to get you started.

love & peace,

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Get Your Doodle On

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With pen and paper in hand, I’ve doodled while talking on the phone, while in a meeting, or while stuck at the airport. I have a tendency to draw circles or infinity signs repeatedly, looping them together to form a border around the page. I leave my doodles on scraps of paper, Post-It notes, and napkins.

We’ve all doodled, right?

Doodling appeals to most people because it’s “absentminded art.” Drawing without rules produces an organic image, and you don’t have to be a natural artist to create simple scribbles.

In the classroom and at work though, doodling has a bad rap. It’s frowned upon because it’s assumed that the doodler can’t focus or pay attention. But wait! There are scientific studies to back up the benefits of doodling. Rather than viewing doodling as a distraction, perhaps it’s a way of helping our minds process information.

The National Doodle Day website explains, “Doodling helps relieve boredom and frustration, and the urge to doodle gets stronger as stress levels rise.” So in a sense, doodling is a natural stress-reliever. It helps to calm us down. Surprisingly, it also helps us concentrate on important topics. TIME magazine published an article, “Doodling Helps You Pay Attention,” about Professor Jackie Andrade’s 2009 study.

Andrade’s participants were asked to listen to a 2 ½-minute voicemail message that rambles on about a birthday party. According to the article, “…the party’s host talks about someone’s sick cat; she mentions her redecorated kitchen, the weather, someone’s new house in Colchester and a vacation in Edinburgh that involved museums and rain. In all, she mentions eight place names and eight people who are definitely coming to the party.”

It was a complete bore, to say the least.

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Before the voicemail began, half of the participants were instructed to shade in some small squares and circles on a piece of paper while listening. The other participants were not instructed to doodle. All of the participants were asked to write the names of the people and places mentioned in the message. For the doodlers, this would mean switching between shading in the shapes to writing down a list.

Afterward, when asked to recall the people and places (orally), the doodlers were able to recall 29% more information than the control group.

The conclusion was found that doodling actually aids memory. Andrade suggests that doodling isn’t anything like daydreaming. Daydreaming requires more cognitive effort (aka brain power) because you start to plan for the future and explore endless options. While she explains, “Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don’t pay attention.”

So let it happen!

When listening to your English professor lecture about comma splices, just doodle. When involved in a conference call with your co-workers and supervisor, just doodle.

But take diligent notes too.

Are you interested in deciphering what your doodles reveal about your personality? For more information on doodling interpretation, check out this article.

love & peace,

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Diving with Sharks: How to Deal with Difficult Supervisors

Thank you to the student who was honest about her experience and suggested this blog post                    

to help others overcome similar situations.

I am about to dive into uncharted territory with this blog post, and the surrounding shark-infested waters are a bit treacherous. Nonetheless, it’s my job to drudge up the tough topics from the depths of the murky sea, bring them to the surface, and shed some light on the issues.

The topic?

Bad bosses.
Difficult supervisors.
Narcissistic managers.
CEOs with superiority complexes.
In other words, SHARKS.

According to a Gallup report, a bad relationship with a boss is the number one reason people quit their jobs; the report states: “Employees leave supervisors, not companies.”

For the most part, we all have a war story related to a bad boss, and we all have battle wounds to show for it. Maybe that big, bad boss bully put you down in front of the entire staff. They do whatever they can to belittle you and demonstrate their “power over” mentality, rather than the more effective “power with.”

“Power with” works through collaboration, collective strength, and mutual support. Everyone’s a part of the team, and we’re all equal players. But bosses who work in a “power over” capacity must always remind their subordinates of where exactly they rank on the totem pole — all the way at the bottom. In the end, it’s difficult to exercise “power over” for a long period of time. It’s draining and ineffective. It’s also an easy way for a boss to lose credibility.

So why are they bullies? Why do they exert their power and control, when it doesn’t necessarily mean good business or happy employees?

  • Studies show that aggression or “power over” tactics in the workplace sometimes occur when a boss feels threatened.
  • In other cases, some people tend to act superior in order to disguise their inferior feelings and low self-esteem.
  • Gina Abudi, author of “The 5 Types of Power in Leadership,” explains: “Coercive power is conveyed through fear of losing one’s job, being demoted, receiving a poor performance review, having prime projects taken away, etc.”

When you find yourself in a power struggle with someone “at the top,” who constantly asserts his/her authority over you, how do you deal with it? What tools are presently in our resiliency toolkits that we can use to “beat the boss blues?”

Forbes magazine recently ran the article, “Smart Ways to Deal When Your Boss Is a Bully,” which explains how to handle an “Oscar the Grouch,” who is typically unhappy about his/her life and wants to make everyone equally as miserable.

  • Resist the urge to organize the troops with torches and pitchforks and go straight to Human Resources—this is usually counter-productive. HR will probably just issue a “warning,” and your boss will return to the office like an animal that’s been poked at—pissed off and ready to pounce.
  • Try taking a less aggressive approach. If your boss likes to get in your face and yell, create some physical space. When you’re standing so close you can smell what he had for breakfast, it feels like you’re in the eye of the storm, and that can make you feel even more anxious than you already do. But if you back away, it’s easier to take a deep breath and see the situation for what it is—your boss freaking out for no reason.
  • Then, you can choose to tune out, or you can force a smile and kill him with kindness. Try not to be sarcastic or passive-aggressive—it’ll only throw fuel on the fire. Tell yourself that his bullying has nothing to do with you, feel sorry for him because his blood pressure must be at dangerous levels, and then give him a genuine smile and agree to fix whatever “disaster” he’s bemoaning.

One more tip: Treat work as just that — work. If you’re struggling with a difficult boss, try not to take is so personally. Clock in. Work hard. Do your absolute best. Punch out. Leave your place of business knowing you did everything you could to make it a better situation for yourself.

In Michael Hyatt’s article, “The Value of Working for a Bad Boss,” he mentions 20 lessons learned from the worst bosses he has ever had the pleasure of working for. If you have dreams of leading an organization one day, take a note of these.

  1. Everyone on the team matters. No one deserves to be treated poorly.
  2. Bosses create an emotional climate with their attitudes and behaviors.
  3. The higher up you are, the more people “read into” everything you say and do. Stuff gets amplified as it moves downstream.
  4. A word of encouragement can literally make someone’s week. Conversely, a harsh word can ruin it.
  5. Hire the right people then trust them to do their job.
  6. Don’t ever intentionally embarrass people in front of their boss, their peers, or their direct reports.
  7. Don’t attack people personally. Instead, focus on their performance.
  8. Get both sides of the story before you take action.
  9. Tell the truth; then you don’t have to remember what you said.
  10. Give people room to fail, and don’t rub their noses in it when they do.
  11. Be quick to forgive and give the benefit of the doubt.
  12. Measure twice, cut once.
  13. Don’t ever ask your people to do something you are unwilling to do yourself.
  14. Respect other people’s time, especially those under you.
  15. Don’t believe all the nice things people say about you.
  16. Follow-through on your commitments, even when it is inconvenient or expensive.
  17. Don’t be ambitious to get promoted. Instead, focus on serving and doing a great job.
  18. Be responsive to everyone at every level. You never know who may be your next boss.
  19. Keep confidences. Make no exceptions.
  20. Do not complain about your boss to anyone who is not part of the solution. If you can’t keep from complaining, then have the integrity to quit.

 

Write a comment: Which of Hyatt’s 20 lessons resonates most with you? Post in the comments below.

love & peace,

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A Tribute to Fallen Stars

Aaliyah
Selena
Michael Jackson
Whitney Houston
Amy Winehouse
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
Princess Diana
Maya Angelou
Heath Ledger
Robin Williams
Brittany Murphy
Cory Monteith

Recently, we all faced the shocking news of Robin Williams’ death. I’m not ashamed to admit that I actually cried when I found out. I didn’t know him though, so why did his death impact me the way it did? Is it okay to mourn the loss of a stranger – a celebrity we have never even met before?

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With Hollywood stars, it’s all too common to get wrapped up in their on-screen personas. We tend to live vicariously through all of their Blockbuster triumphs. As Obama said, “Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between.” He represents our childhood memories and special moments. To so many of us, he felt like the uncle we knew and loved but never saw.

So why do we mourn one of these “intimate strangers” when they pass away, even when we never maintained a true relationship in real life? Dr. Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, explains: “When a celebrity passes, the loss is personal — not because we knew the celebrity but because they were with us as we grew up…”

The same goes for famous authors, singers, musicians (even British royalty). We buy into the emotions behind their bestselling books, #1 hit singles, platinum albums, their weddings and birthdays. Each song, movie, or moment relates to a meaningful time in our own lives. These are connections to our past. It’s the movie we saw on our first date or the song from our junior prom.

In some sense, when a celebrity dies, in the case of Robin Williams, it feels like a piece of our childhood died right along with him. Those memories watching Hook (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), and Flubber (1997) somehow seem a little dimmer.

Celebrity deaths also represent a shared moment amongst humanity. In 2009, nearly 31 million people tuned into Michael Jackson’s memorial service, one of the most watched funerals in the world, second only to that of Princess Diana’s funeral in ’97, which captured an audience of 33 million viewers. We all came together to grieve, and we all have a story to accompany our experience. Can you remember where you were when Princess Di’s death was announced? What aspect of the King of Pop’s funeral sticks out most in your mind? How did everyone in your neighborhood react when Selena was killed? Which songs did you listen to while mourning the loss of Whitney?

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Photo courtesy of Asterio Tecson‘s Flickr

According to Tracy Marks, M.D., “Research shows that celebrities fill a need for social connectedness in a world grown increasingly isolated.”

Today, we surround ourselves with reality TV shows featuring the elite, which make it seem like we’re an integral part of their glamorous lifestyles. Social media creates an even closer proximity between us and the rich-and-famous. We follow celebrity Twitter and Instagram accounts. Their victories become our victories. Their downfalls, our downfalls.

Social media makes us feel closer to these strangers, and when a celebrity dies, Facebook and other social media outlets also tend to mend the wound for a moment, offering us therapy for a lot less than the cost of a psychologist.

After the news of Robin Williams’ death, emotion spread through social media almost instantaneously. Celebrities and regular folk alike began tweeting their grief in 140 characters or less, shown in this HuffingtonPost article. Newsfeeds displayed favorite movie clips, quotes, and remembrances of the beloved comedian.

On one hand, we all want to feel connected to this loss. We all want to state claim in even the smallest of ways.

My first thought: I can’t believe he’s gone. I just finished watching his stand-up this weekend.

Someone else’s thought: He’s really gone. The Birdcage is my all-time favorite movie.

A celebrity’s thought: I met him on several occasions. He was wonderful. He will be missed.

No matter how far removed we are from the situation or how absent we were in his life, we felt connected to him upon death. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram only added to the collective mourning process, and that’s okay. This New York Times article explains how tweeting or posting a status update about a celebrity death can be cathartic for people.

Psychcentral.com’s #1 tip for dealing with the loss of a loved one (and a celebrity falls under this category as well) is to seek help, whether it’s from family and friends or from a professional grief counselor. Chiming in on social media is a great first step to talking about the sadness everyone seems to be feeling.

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse though. Try to protect yourself. If it does become too overwhelming and no longer helpful, take a break from all of the hype.

love & peace,

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Strike a Pose

Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, discusses the differences between powerful and powerless people in her TED talk: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” She also suggests that our bodies can change our thought process over time, if we learn to practice “power poses.”

Think Wonder Woman! Try it out. Just stand up, and put your hands on your hips. Practice that a few times a day or during situations where you don’t feel very confident. Your body language can change your mindset, and Amy Cuddy sets out to prove it.

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We see these high and low-power poses in nature. Here I go again with the monkeys… The animals who are dominant and assertive assume “bigger,” more powerful poses (left photo). They open themselves up more. They raise their hands in triumph. While animals in danger, or those who feel threatened, tend to collapse and close in on themselves, thus becoming powerless. Their posture seems to suggest, if I just make myself smaller, no one will see me (right photo).

high-power  low-power

In a scientific study, men and women were put into two groups – one group assumed high-power poses and the other group assumed low-power poses for two minutes. Then scientists studied their body chemistry, and the results were astounding. After only two minutes, their chemistry had undergone a significant shift. Testosterone and cortisol levels changed dramatically. Ideally, in difficult situations, a powerful, confident leader undergoes the following changes:

    • Testosterone levels rise
    • Cortisol levels drop

For those who assumed high-power poses, that is, indeed, what happened. We can’t say the same for the low-power posers.

Amy Cuddy then cites another study where men and women were asked to practice high-power poses before a job interview. Another group practiced low-power poses. Then a panel of non-partial judges rated each candidate based on who they would rather hire. The individuals who practiced high-power poses were unanimously rated the highest. They had more of a “presence” during the interview. They looked confident and comfortable. They spoke with passion, authenticity, and enthusiasm. They captivated their audience.

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Professor Cuddy’s practical tip is to assume a high-power pose of your choice right before an interview. Try leaning back in the driver’s seat of your car with your hands behind your head. Or assume the Wonder Woman position in the bathroom before you’re called into meet with the interviewer. It can’t hurt to try! Feign it ’til you feel it!

I would suggest even trying out these poses in class. Take your pick! Assume the position right before a test or exam. Spread out. Make yourself bigger than you actually feel, and see if you feel more confidence when bubbling in the right answers.

Check out Amy Cuddy’s 20-minute TED talk for an in-depth look at the science behind body language.

*All Photos Courtesy of Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk

love & peace,

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A Snapshot of Happiness

Facebook always has a new trend or online challenge to take part in –#100daysofhappiness is the latest craze. 100 days though? That’s a big commitment. If you’re not ready to dive into so much joy, I have another idea.

#6picsofhappy

Okay, I made that hashtag up, but hopefully, you get the idea. Choose six (or more) photos that bring you joy.

Surround yourself with those photos. Share them on Facebook or Instagram. Or pin them on a Pinterest board.

Create a collage of the photos, and use it as your phone’s background.

Remember back to Polaroids? It used to be so easy to develop a photo, instantaneously. But if you have some time, try to put your photos on a flashdrive or send them to Walgreens or CVS via Kicksend (or another photo app). Receive 4x4s, 5x7s, or 8x10s, and plaster your happy images all over everything. In my case, I printed out my 4×4 Instagram favorites and taped them all over my desktop. I have 11 happy images plastered all over my computer, but do whatever makes you … happy 🙂

Here are some photo ideas:

*Friends and family – a photo of a fun gathering or a celebration

*Natural landscapes – forest, beach, mountains, or your favorite flower

*Animals – your cat or dog… or a random little monkey with cute, beady eyes (see below)

*Places – somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or somewhere you’ve already been

*Hobbies – paint supplies, running shoes, a stack of your favorite books, etc.

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Photo (top left) courtesy of Shawn Allen’s flickr, (top right) Rob’s flickr, and Lozseex.

I could look at baby monkeys all day. They make me so happy. Aside from happiness, baby animals give us another resilient trait. A Japanese study called “The Power of Kawaii” (aka The Power of Cuteness) recently documented the benefits of looking at “cute” photos. A team of scientists at Hiroshima University conducted three experiments and concluded that people developed higher levels of concentration after looking at pictures of puppies or kittens. In my expert (*ahem*) analysis, I’d have to say that baby monkeys should also make the cuteness list. For more details about the study, check out the article, “Study Shows Power of Cute Improves Concentration”  from The Wall Street Journal.

It may be a bit silly, but you can find more cute, happy photos on Viral Nova’s website. These 28 photos will cheer you up in no time and bring a smile to your face.

If you want more concrete facts, here’s another study to look forward to in the future. Twitter recently awarded a #DataGrant to a team of researchers to study Twitter’s datasets and tackle the question: Can happiness be measured using images shared on Twitter? The goal is to find out the happiest metropolitan areas based on happy images. Interesting!

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, it probably won’t be New York City, which was recently ranked the least happy city in America in the “Unhappiest Cities” study. Five different cities in Louisiana ranked top on the happiness chart.

ny  happiness

Photo (left) courtesy of Ralph Hockens’ flickr    //   Photo (right) courtesy of IJReview

love & peace,

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Thankfulness & Gratitude

Saying Thank You

Jimmy Fallon brings a dose of humor into the act of thankfulness. In his Late Night show, he has a segment called “Thank You Notes,” where he thanks people, places, and things using a sarcastic tone and an ironic twist.

Like this note from June 2013: Thank you, pita bread, for being a great combination between wheat and envelopes.

Watch part of the episode from last week where he thanks everything from flip-flops to cookie dough. It might not be gratitude in its truest state, but it’s a great way to make light of slight annoyances or point out the wonder in the mundane.

 

Leah Dieterich, author of thxthxthx: thank goodness for everything, uses her humor as well but tends to find a redeeming quality in every aspect of her life. She earnestly sends praise to everything from headaches to heavy eyelids. Check out her website thxthxthx.com to access Leah’s daily exercise in gratitude.

thxthxthx_Thank_Goodness_for_Everything_cover-original-640x791 thx-thx-thx Tupac Changes

Below are excerpts from Diane Wakoski’s beautiful poem “Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons.” The entire poem can be read at poetryfoundation.org.

Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons by Diane Wakoski b. 1937

I want to thank

my mother for working and always paying for

my piano lessons

before she paid the Bank of America loan

or bought the groceries

or had our old rattling Ford repaired…

I want to thank my mother

for letting me wake her up sometimes at 6 in the morning

when I practiced my lessons

and for making sure I had a piano

to lay my school books down on, every afternoon…

 

In this short, 3-minute TED talk, Dr. Laura Trice, a counselor and life coach, discusses the power of a simple “thank you.” In some cases, those two words are the magical cure to deepen a relationship, repair a friendship, or acknowledge someone else for their contributions. Dr. Trice encourages us to ask our loved ones what they need to hear and being honest with ourselves about what we need praise for.

 

For the mom/dad: Try thanking your children for doing their chores without complaint.

For the son/daughter: Try thanking your mom for raising you as a single parent.

For the professor: Try thanking your students for just showing up to class.

Maybe it’s something they know instinctively, but the words “thank you” would make it that more real.

 

Practicing Gratefulness

Today. Right now. In this moment. What are you grateful for? Who are you grateful for?

Maybe you’re grateful for a person — a best friend, a spouse, your mom, a helpful coworker.

Maybe it’s less tangible but very real – a dog’s unconditional love, your child’s laughter, a piece of advice someone gave you.

Maybe it’s the beautiful summer weather, your favorite pair of jeans, clean laundry, a friendly smile, excellent customer service, or a working car, a little extra cash in your wallet.

It’s such a simple concept. Be grateful.

Ways to Practice

*Flash back to your past. Remember a difficult situation that you’ve been through in the past but have now overcome. Contrast your life now to what it was before, and be appreciative of how far you’ve come.

*Phrase it differently. Being grateful or thankful is the same as “counting your blessings” or “feeling fortunate.” Try to find a new way to look at it.

*Fake it ‘til you make it. If you’re not feeling very grateful, just try to go through the motions. Eventually, it will stick.

 

In this 10-minute TED talk, photographer Louie Schwartzberg uses his camera to capture the beauty of nature with his stunning time-lapse photography. The photography is accompanied by Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast’s words, which encourage us to open our hearts to the many blessings around us.

“Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing, and then, it will really be a good day.” — Brother David Steindl-Rast

 

External events often cloud our thoughts. It’s difficult to be grateful for something when nothing seems to be going right or getting better. But maybe, just maybe, things aren’t getting better because we aren’t in tune to the right frequency. So if we just focus on one thing we’re grateful for, we will begin to cultivate a positive mindset.

When you’re put in a bad situation or a negative circumstance, it’s okay to not be grateful for that. It’s more about feeling grateful for other aspects of your life, while you’re facing that trouble head on.

Awhile back, I was in a car accident that totaled my car. In the moment, I wasn’t grateful for the accident. And I wasn’t grateful that I now had a worthless vehicle. Instead, I was grateful for the friends and family who came to my rescue. I was grateful for insurance that covered the cost of my car. I was grateful no one was hurt. I was grateful for people reassuring me and telling me everything would work out.

Over the course of a normal week, any number of burdensome moments may play out in your life – paying bills, worrying about deadlines, having a root canal. What if we tried to be grateful for everything else in the midst of that chaos? Gratefulness helps to keep us grounded.

When in the bad situation, try to ask yourself: “What can I learn from this?” “When I’m not so full of emotion, what might I be thankful for later?”

Methods of Recording Gratitude

1)     Talk it out. With your spouse/partner, share three things aloud that you’re grateful for.

2)     Write it down. Choose a journal, and stick to good ol’ fashioned pen and paper.

3)     Be Smart about it. Download a Gratitude app on your Smartphone, and set a gentle reminder to record your gratitude at a certain time each day.

4)     Use color. Keep a blank notebook and some colored pencils nearby, and draw the things you’re grateful for.

love & peace,

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De-clutter

Do you feel like your life is in disarray? Try to tackle the physical spaces first. It’s time to de-clutter. Less clutter means more room for peace. If you need a breath of fresh air, start with shaking it out, giving it away, donating it, throwing it away, sprucing it up, wiping it off, or filing it away.

It may be too overwhelming to think about clearing out your entire house. Even conducting a yard sale requires shifting through contents in the cold, dank basement, the stuffy attic, or the walk-in closet that leads to Narnia. That’s a lot. You can tackle that project some other time.

Let’s talk about the little things…

Your junk drawer.

You know the one. It’s a catch-all for random items like ketchup and soy sauce packets that you’ll never need or those four bottle openers, when only one would suffice. Can you find a home for each of those items? Start to ditch the excess, or purchase a simple drawer organizer to separate the mish-mash.

Your keys.

We all know someone who has a ridiculous set of keys. It’s heavy. It’s bulky. It’s excessive. It has unidentifiable keys, a fuzzy keychain, a photo keychain, and way too many plastic loyalty cards on it. It’s a hot mess. First, try sorting the keys. Which ones do you need every day? Which ones can you not even recognize anymore? Put the frequently-used keys on the main key ring. Settle for just one key chain. Stash the “unknown” keys and extra keys somewhere else (like that junk drawer you just cleaned out). If you’re having separation anxiety about leaving behind some keys or throwing away a rewards card that you may (or may not need), just try going without it for a day, and see how much you miss it.

Your purse (or wallet).

Next, try shaking out your purse or wallet. I recently decided that I only needed two types of handbags – a satchel and shoulder bag. So I gave away ten other purses that I didn’t need and hadn’t used in the past year. Then, with the two I would be using on a regular basis, I dumped out all the contents. I found places to put the dozens of hair ties, bobby pins, and pennies found in the bottomless black hole of each bag. And I trashed the old receipts, crumpled pieces of paper, grocery lists, old business cards, used gift certificates, and gum wrappers.

Your desktop.

Sometimes, I get so busy that I don’t have time to organize the files on my computer. Everything starts piling up on my desktop… photos, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, shortcuts to folders. Take 5-10 minutes to label all of the files and folders on your desktop correctly and put everything in its proper place. Find a new background or screensaver, or use a nifty desktop organizer template like these from Moritz Fine Designs.

Good luck cleaning up and clearing up! I hope it helps you feel more in control of your space.

love & peace,

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Namaste

Yoga has become my new favorite activity. It’s calming. It’s peaceful. It’s relaxing. Afterward, I feel strong, centered, and balanced (literally and figuratively).

For the complete beginner, try experimenting with a YouTube video like this one, which shows you the basics and gets you started. I like the helpful cues that Adriene uses in this clip.

Or try checking out Forte Yoga or Yoga Basics. Choose one simple pose, follow the step-by-step instructions, and practice it at home.

Some of my favorite poses include Eagle, Warrior II, and Warrior III. I love balance poses. They’re challenging but make me feel so accomplished.

24-Eagle-Pose Warrior-II-Yoga-Pose Warrior-III-Yoga-Pose

I’m working on this new addition to my practice, which a dear friend introduced me to. Bird of Paradise is a beautiful pose! The name alone says it all. I need to attempt it with more fluidity and grace.

Bird-of-Paradise-Yoga-Pose

My least favorite pose is Pidgeon (or One-Legged King Pidgeon). It’s a very simple pose, but it gives me problems. My yoga instructor encourages us to continue breathing through the discomfort. Easier said than done.

One-Legged-King-Pigeon-Yoga-Pose-II

With yoga, don’t push yourself too hard. Everything can be modified and adjusted to fit your body. Practice yoga with a purpose: to become more flexible, to practice mindfulness, to find peace. Whatever it is, make it yours. Namaste.

love & peace,

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