As the most wonderful time of year fast approaches, some of us aren’t feeling all that festive. It’s not that we particularly lack holiday spirit: we just can’t seem to get in that festive mood. [Read more…] about Are You Going Through the Holiday Blues, or Is It Something Else?
Meditation is often referred to as a practice, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that mindfulness is a way of life. It is a state of mind. It is something you can do while doing other things. There are many activities that shut off the noise and bring you to the present moment, but they might not all be for you. If you’re into complicated activities, that will turn off the mind. But so are simple, tedious activities. Below are the best things to do that quiet the mind. [Read more…] about The Best Activities to Quiet the Mind
In a world where we are constantly bombarded by a variety of stimuli, silence is getting harder and harder to find. Not everyone craves silence though because the sound of silence can be deafening as much as it can be a refuge from the storm.
The demands of daily life mean little time to ourselves. And even when we are alone, technology has all but ensured that we are truly able to experience peace and quiet. Non-stop notifications pop up on our phones telling us to answer an “urgent” email, that the product in our shopping cart is on sale, that people are liking and commenting on our posts and tweets, and that we basically need to have our phones on hand 24/7.
There’s the sound of arguing people, honking cars, music in the other room, the clicking of your keyboard, and barking dogs. The noise is incessant, and all of these contribute to what is called outer noise.
Outer noise, however, is not just what you hear. Outer noise refers to the stimuli you receive from your environment. This includes the flashing lights of an ambulance passing by, window displays and billboards that tempt you to buy whatever it is they are trying to sell, the smell of garbage in an alleyway, and even the muggy polluted air that makes it hard to breathe.
Noise is everywhere, leaving most of us over-stimulated.
Finding Quiet Time
Finding some quiet time to spend alone with your own thoughts and to recharge is vital to your well-being – not just your mental well-being but to your physical health as well. Our brain NEEDS more quiet time.
Finding peace and quiet can be tricky, especially if you have children or are extremely busy, but it is still doable. You can schedule quick pauses throughout the day to find some moments of silence. Simple things like shutting off your phone, doing yoga, meditating, or even just eating your breakfast in silence.
If you truly want some peace and quiet, it shouldn’t be a problem. As they say, when there’s a will, there’s a way. The bigger problem though is not in finding ways to escape outer noise but in keeping that scary inner noise at bay.
To shut off outer noise all you need to do is go to your bedroom, close the curtains, turn off the lights AND your phone, put on your comfiest clothes, and drift off. But as everyone knows, sleep can still elude you even in the quietest of rooms. It is almost impossible to get a good night’s rest when you are experiencing inner turmoil when you cannot turn off the inner noise.
Inner noise makes it difficult to be alone. It nags us, reminding us of our long to-do list. It is our thoughts and emotions sweeping over us, filling us with sadness, loneliness, anger, anxiety, and fear. It leaves our mind racing and drains us emotionally, physically, and mentally.
Inner noise is insidious because, unlike outer noise, it lives within us and with us everywhere we go. It is something that has started to prey on our minds from the moment we experienced our first hurt as a child and continues to grow with every negative thought and experience.
As hard as it may be to shut off outer noise, it is even harder to escape inner noise.
Finding Solace in Silence
The fear of having to listen to our inner voices, when the voices are filled with pain and fear, is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people embrace the noisiness of the world. Having people around us, doing things non-stop, and relying on instant and constant entertainment helps drown out the inner noise. Dealing with outer noise all the time can be irritating and exhausting, but facing our inner demons is much harder.
Sure, you can go on about your life ignoring the inner noise as much as you can. You can fill every waking moment with music, TV shows, going out with friends, running after your kids, working yourself to the bone, or even throwing yourself with passion into helping others. In fact, you can do much good in this world by being constantly on the go, but in the end, all the “outer noise” both good and bad, will not be enough to truly silence the inner noise.
The only way you can find true silence is by filtering out the outer noise and learning to listen to what your inner noise is trying to say. The internal turmoil you feel does not exist just to torture you; it is there to tell you something.
If you are to find solace in silence, the first thing you need to do is understand where all the inner conflict and negativity are coming from. You have to face yourself, spend time in silence, and learn from it. There will still be days when it will be hard to find peace but those are the days when you need to seek silence most. Just keep at it, and take the time to reflect and meditate. Sooner than later, you will find that moments of silence will turn into a source of comfort and encouragement instead of moments spent in unease with yourself.
“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”
― Chaim Potok, The Chosen
Let’s not kid ourselves, if you’re here for some last-minute Halloween prep ideas, then having a mindful Halloween was the last thing on your mind the past few days.
That’s ok. You’re in good company, with parents and kids all over the world scrambling to finish costumes and buy treats. Now is the time to let go of the shoulds and woulds. Stop beating yourself up and focus on the coulds. Mindfulness is about staying in the moment and that is what you can do right now.
Before you continue, take a couple of minutes to center yourself. Pause. Breathe. Meditate. The few minutes you take to compose yourself will go a long way in helping you calm down, think more clearly, and plan better. If you find that a couple minutes is not enough to help ease your anxiety, take a few more minutes. Believe me, you will get more done once your mind is clear.
Make a checklist
I don’t have time to make a checklist!
If that’s what you’re thinking, consider this, are there things you know you need to do even without them written down? Do you need to buy some treats? Do you need to find a bowl to put them in? Do you need to find the face paint you stored somewhere last year?
If you have a few things that need to be done before the trick or treating starts, then you already have a checklist, except that it isn’t written down. What you have is a mental checklist. True, you can always operate and get things done with a mental checklist, but writing down your checklist is very helpful, especially when you’re in a crunch.
Depending on a mental checklist is problematic because we are prone to forgetting things. This is especially true if you have a long list of things to do, and not necessarily all of them are related to your Halloween prep. Mental checklists, instead of being helpful, can be draining.
It won’t take you more than 10 minutes to write down your checklist, and what’s better is you can easily keep track of things with a quick glance. No need to wrack your brains out trying to remember everything that still needs to be done.
You can write your checklist on a piece of paper and post it in your fridge or type it on your phone so you can take it everywhere you go without losing it, the important thing is you have that visual reminder that you can easily refer to.
Prioritize AND Be Realistic
Be mindful as you prioritize and stick to what is important AND doable. The fact remains that you might not have time to do all the things you want to be done, so go over your list and pick out the top two to three things that NEED to be done, and that you know CAN be done given the limitations.
If you have children, then making their costumes trumps decorating your front porch. Figuring out logistics for little ones, like who goes out with them also comes first.
If you are going out to attend a party and no one will be home, aside from what to wear, you need to figure out how the neighborhood kids can get their treats and what kind of treats to give them.
Throwing a party? Now that’s a feat. Maybe you need to focus on food, drinks, and music. Or maybe you can put, GET HELP, as the first thing on your to-do list.
Ask for help
Getting help is always a good idea. Not only does it mean getting more things done, but it also means making the holiday prep a shared experience. In trying to get help remember to go about it in a mindful manner and…
Be grateful – Approach other people with gratefulness in your heart, even before they agree to help. Your attitude as you ask will show so that people will be more open to helping. Being unsure or demanding as you approach people will, on the other hand, give off negative energy that might turn others off.
Verbally ask for help – If you do not explicitly ask for help, you can’t expect people around you to just step up and suddenly help. Expecting help without asking for it verbally is being passive-aggressive, which leads to miscommunication and conflict. You might think that it’s obvious that you need help, but what is obvious to you isn’t always obvious to others.
Be specific – In communicating your need, you cannot just say, “I need help.” Being specific removes all ambiguity and ensures you get the help you need. If you have one thing you need for them to do, like looking bowl for the treats, then ask them to do just that. If you need help with more things, then a good way to go about it is by showing them your checklist and asking them which tasks they can do right away.
Give choices – As mentioned earlier, it is a good idea to have others pick out the tasks they want to do for you. This eases the burden of helping since they get to choose as opposed to being dictated on. Having others pick out what to do also has the benefit of having things done excellently because they actually want or like what they are doing.
Show your appreciation – This should go without saying, but a reminder never hurts, so remember to always show your appreciation for any help you receive.
Get on with it
Now that you have everything lined up, get cracking on that checklist. Cross things out and add to it as needed, while keeping your priorities straight all the time.
Always keep in mind that Halloween should be fun. If it has become a mere chore with no fun in sight, then maybe you should take a long pause and rethink your approach to holidays. In the meantime, take as many short breaks as you need to refocus and reenergize, try to stay in the moment, and have a happy Halloween.
Positive discipline, positive reinforcement, positive affirmations, positive thinking, positive living. Buzzwords you hear left and right that sometimes makes it seem like it is all that life is made of. And yes, positivity is good. It is more than just a buzzword.
Developing a positive mindset is important not only to live a happier life but to achieve long-term goals as well. People who have a positive outlook in life, the ones we call optimists, have been proven to be grittier. Unfortunately, it is a fact that people tend to pay more attention to and be affected by negativity than positivity.
Try to think back to what has happened in the last few weeks or even months.
When did your boss last commend you for doing your job well? When or how many times were you called out for a slip-up?
When was the last time anyone thanked you for doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom? When was the last time someone one of the kids whined about the food you prepared or got upset because you forgot to pick up something they needed for school?
As a child…
When was the last time your parents praised you for doing your homework independently or doing your chores? Now, when was the last time you got disciplined or scolded for not tidying up your room or getting home late?
If you are like most people, you probably counted that there are more instances where your unwanted behaviors were noticed compared to the number of times you were openly appreciated.
Now let’s flip the script. Think back to how many times you felt irritated or frustrated with a certain person in the last week. Next, think about how many times you felt like thanking that person for anything, be it something they do or the fact they are in your life.
While it may not be true for all, there is a good chance that you remembered more times when you distinctly felt negative emotions than you did positive ones. Why is this the case?
The Negativity Bias
The existence of negativity bias is well documented. What it means is that people have “the propensity to attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information.” Despite our best intentions, our brain is just hot-wired to remember and react more to negative things. Our brain literally uses “greater processing power” when it receives negative stimuli than when it does positive stimuli. This means that not only do we tend to pay more attention to negative things, but we also experience them with greater emotional intensity, AND remember them more than we do positive things.
The above exercise illustrates perfectly how negativity bias affects our perception of other people and thus, our relationships. Since people gravitate to negative information than positive information, we inadvertently overlook the good things others do.
In addition, negativity bias also affects the way we view ourselves. Remember all the niggling thoughts that result in self-doubt, self-criticism, low self-esteem, and self-directed anger? Negativity bias affects us greatly and has a huge role in the way formation of self-perception.
By now you are probably feeling a little bit down. If that is all true and we are built such that negativity trumps positivity, how can we ever find peace and happiness?
Living with joy in the world of negativity bias
1. Understand what negativity bias is and how it affects you and everyone else.
Congratulations! If you reached this part, then you have taken the first step in overcoming negativity bias.
Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. ~ Sun Tzu
2. Accept the entirety of your emotions
Knowing that negativity bias exists is not enough. It is crucial that you do some soul-searching to be aware of the negative thoughts that are on a constant loop in your head. This requires you to be honest with yourself and accept this side of yourself before you can do something about it.
Negative thoughts will invariably creep in. You will still feel a stronger knee-jerk reaction when negative situations arise compared to the high that you will get from most positive situations. That is just how it goes. It does not mean that you are losing the battle against negativity. It simply means that you are human. Accept this side of you and do not beat yourself up over it. Be kind to yourself. This is the time to develop more self-compassion as you recognize that there is much work to be done to be able to truly live a life of positivity.
3. Consciously choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
Accepting the different facets of your emotion does not mean giving in to negativity. Instead, you should also recognize the positivity that exists in you and choose to focus on that. Nurture the positive and starve the negative.
There are so many ways to nurture positivity in the midst of negativity, so don’t wait till you are feeling down before trying to combat the negative. Instead, get a jump on it and arm yourself by surrounding yourself with positivity. You can do this by reciting self-affirmations every day, listing down things you like about yourself and posting it somewhere you can always see, and keeping a gratefulness journal.
When it comes to protecting relationships, you need to reframe your thoughts by intentionally noticing the good in others and expressing your appreciation more often. Pet peeves and downright negative interactions will probably test your resolve, but after silently acknowledging how it made you feel do your best to distract yourself and focus on the other good experiences you’ve had that day.
Remember you can always choose to turn your back on negative thoughts and situations. Positivity is not magic. Like most things in life, it is a choice you have to make with each passing moment.
Mindful living. Slowing down. Power of the Pause.
What ever you call it, the idea of taking a pause – a break or time off – to renew oneself is not new. However, interest in the topic saw a boom in the last decade with the publishing of the book, The Power of the Pause: Becoming More by Doing Less, in 2011. It is so popular that you will find resources on it everywhere. You can find Harvard Business Review articles to TEDx videos that explain how it can help you in various aspects of your life, from career change to connecting with your inner self. This is not surprising given how we all need to take time to pause, whether it be for a few seconds of deep breathing or a two-year sabbatical.
Meditation and the power of the pause
Mindful living encompasses all aspects of our lives. It is a way of being.
The power of the pause, on the other hand, is a tool that can help us live in a more mindful manner. It is central to the practice of mindfulness, because it is the first thing we need to do each time we meditate – stop.
In practicing mindfulness through meditation, we try to focus our attention or awareness to the present moment. However, to be able to be fully present on the now requires that we stop and let go of everything. This means letting go of the past, even that past that was just five minutes ago; the future, from our to-do-list to aspirations; and anything else that ties us beyond what we are experiencing at that very moment. It is the ultimate pause.
Of course, anyone who has ever meditated knows that thoughts and feelings that do not belong in the present invariably creep in. They distract us from focusing on our breath, the droning sound of the fan, and the feeling of peace that has just started to settle in our being. At that very moment though, mindfulness still prevails if we acknowledge those feelings and thoughts without judgement, learn to accept that they are a part of us, and let them go so that we can move on with our meditation practice. With every second that passes, we need to stop to be able to take stock of what is to truly be in a state of mindfulness.
Harnessing the power of the pause beyond meditation
The power of the pause, as in mindful living, goes beyond the practice of meditation. You need to take a pause regularly to avoid burn out, be more effective in the different roles you take on, and live in a manner that nurtures your whole wellbeing.
Taking a pause for self-care
In trying to live more mindfully, harnessing the power of the pause for self-care is essential. You can incorporate little breaks throughout your day, and in your weekly and monthly routine. Little breaks can mean getting up from your desk and stretching your back for a few counts, spending a minute for quick mindfulness exercises, or taking a power nap after lunch. It can mean having a cup of coffee while everyone is still in bed, putting on headphones to tune the world out while doing your bedtime routine, or going out for a walk with your dog.
Pauses can also come in the form of what others may see as self-indulgence. It is more than just taking a short break to keep your sanity. It is much needed self-care, and it does not matter what the activity is, as long as you get away from the hectic pace of daily life and spend some time with yourself enjoying something you love to do. Things you can do for your special alone time can be anything from scheduling a weekly massage and trip to the nail salon, a monthly museum or fishing trip, or even a dinner date with yourself.
Taking a pause for self-growth
Taking a pause does not always mean doing nothing. Instead, one way to harness the power of the pause though is by doing something else that will help you grow.
Take time off from what you do on a day-to-day basis and push yourself out of your comfort zone. As the saying goes…
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.“
Remember though that one of the key things in pursuing personal growth is that pushing yourself to do more and be more all the time is not the healthy way to go about it. No one can do everything all at once. You have to be mindful of what truly matters to you.
Take a pause from the things that drain you physically, mentally, and emotionally and then focus your time and energy on those that take you another step closer towards your personal goals. You need to stop doing things that do not add value to your life and invest your time in those that you will help you achieve your goals.
Take a pause from binge-watching and sign up for daily yoga/art/cooking/language classes – whether offline or online.
Take a pause from tumultuous relationships and go on a journey of self-discovery “Eat, Pray, Love” style.
Take a pause from excessive online shopping and start investing your money in something more meaningful.
Take a sabbatical and pick up where you left off on that passion project that you thought you have given up on.
Take a pause from social media and take time to nurture relationships face-to-face, one-on-one, in real time.
Remember, pauses may be quick or long, temporary or permanent, but in the end pause is a must if you want to get where you want to be.