Do what makes you happy

How well do you know yourself?

How often do you take time out to reflect on your beliefs, values and ethics?

How often do you take the time to really understand what it means to be you?

If the answer is “not often” then you are not alone.

We are so busy with jobs, kids, partners, parents, dependents, friends, that we rarely, if ever, find time to get to know ourselves.

Well, there is now scientific evidence to suggest that it is time to take a time out.

A study conducted by the University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences has found that “Compared with external factors, such as a pay rise, getting married or finding employment, personality change is just as likely and contributes much more to improvements in personal well-being.”

The research also suggests that by “focusing on who we are and how we relate to the world around us [there is] potential to unlock vast improvements in our well-being. The findings have implications for well-being policy and how best to help individuals and nations improve their outlook on life.”

It is important to develop a good sense of who you are. Nurturing ourselves is one of the most selfless things we can do. When we are feeling stress-free, relaxed, spiritually full, not only do we feel balanced and loved but those around us benefit as well.

They key to this self-love is Permission.

We, and by we I mean Women, don’t give ourselves permission to take time out to really develop a relationship with ourselves.

We are constantly working on having it all, a good job, security, love, a family, an active social life, that we rarely stop and look within to see what we really want or need.

When we do, we are labeled selfish, needy, masculine, modern.

This is a load of bollocks! We can have ‘it all’ and take time out to nurture the Goddess within and it is perfectly OK to do so.

Ladies, it is time we give ourselves Permission. Permission to love ourselves for who we are, as we are. Permission to say “I am Worthy” and Permission to say “No”.

Once we do, we can open up to communicating honestly with ourselves and others about what makes us happy and how we want to achieve it.

When we give ourselves permission, we also set boundaries. When we have clear boundaries it establishes respect and commitment. Not just with ourselves but with those around us. We know what we will and won’t accept, and so does everyone else.

So, how do we begin to develop an understanding of ourselves?

The journey for everyone is different. I went on a reflective journey through meditation, journal writing and affirmations. For others it starts with a list, some write a letter.

I asked a client of mine, who was struggling with goal development, to write me a letter. The letter must be in present tense and will be written to me as if it was a year from now. Write to me and tell me where you are, what you are doing, how you got there and why it is making you happy.It took her 3 weeks to write, 2 drafts and a few glasses of wine.

Writing the journey down as if she had already made it, helped her plan the path forward. It can be a lot easier to write with hindsight that it can be looking forward.

Having written the letter, developed a plan and some small goals, she became a new woman. Her personality evolved because it was rick with an understanding of who she was and where she wanted to be.

Sometimes we have trouble getting in touch with our inner self because we are blocked by erroneous self image, thought patterns and negative self talk.

There is a simple little tool to break down these barriers and expel them from your life.

Affirmations.

With persistence and patients Affirmations can change how you relate to yourself and the world around you for the better.

Affirmations have been used for decades by Psychologists, although they went by a different name. Affirmations are positive statements, set in the present, that encapsulate your desired goal.

For example, I’m sure we are all familiar with these negative affirmations:”I will never find love”, “I’m ugly”, “I’ll never get that promotion. I’m not good enough”.

When we repeat these negative affirmations to ourselves we are programming our brains to accept these statements as truths. It is the same way we learnt to do things as a child. If we were naughty we were smacked until we didn’t do it any more. If we wanted to learn to ride a bike we had to practice. We repeat an action until it become automatic.

When we say negative things to ourselves often enough, eventually it become automatic. We stop believing we can do better, be better, find better.

If we use positive affirmations, we can re-program the brain to see our real potential, beauty and love.

To use affirmations you need to find some time to consider what you wish to achieve. Do you want to be successful in a particular job? Are you looking for love?Would you like better communication skills or to be heard by others? Do you want to change your eating habits or train for a particular event?

Once you know what your goal(s) are you can then develop a positive statement.

Here are some examples:

Improving communication – “I communicate with warmth and love” or “I communicate my needs with warmth and love”

To improve diet or improve your eating habits – “”My body is sacred. I nourish it with good foods, plenty of water and exercise”.

Or to develop your circle of friends or find love – “I attract kind, warm and loving people into my life”. Also “I am in a happy, healthy and loving relationship”.

The best thing about affirmations is that you can use them anywhere and anytime. You can develop them yourself and adapt them to your changing circumstances.

Other wonderful ways to nurture yourself could include:

Taking time to read a good book, having a bath, treating yourself to a cuppa with a friend or alone, curling up on the couch with some DVD’s, quality time talking to your partner or a friend about your hopes and dreams (You’ll be surprise at how energizing this is. Talking to someone about your inner most desires can really inspire you), go for a nice walk alone and reflect on all that is good in your life right now. Have a sleep in, write or meditation.

What ever you really enjoy doing, something that makes you smile.

Do what makes you happy. You deserve it.

If you’d like some more examples of affirmations or would like to try writing a letter,email me at calzorganics@gmail.com and I can send you through some affirmation or would be happy to receive your letters.

 

Body and Mind

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While meditation practice, or yoga can help you establish better health physically and mentally, it is still very important to live a balanced life.

There is a body of study that as highlighted a link, a physiological link, between the body and the mind. This link is more than the brain being contained within the body. There is a nerve that creates a direct link between the brain and the gut. This link is crucial in understanding how the mind and the body influence each other.

When we have negative thoughts, stresses or anxiety in our minds in can lead to digestive issues, ulcers, constipation, bloating, poor nutrient absorption and alike. Similarly, when we have low immunity, poor nutrient absorption, poor gut flora, constipation, irritable bowel or gut inflammation it can lead to headaches, low mood or depression, tiredness, confusion, dizziness and so on.

So when we look at a health issue, no matter how minor or major it is, it is wise to look at our internal environment as well as our external environment before we decide on any treatment method.

I am all for modern, western medicine. There are some wonderful treatments out there to support recovery from many illnesses. But they can be bolstered by including natural remedies that support the constitution of the body, mind and soul.

The body is the minds anchor. To maintain a healthy mind, we must maintain a healthy mind-body connection that allows us to remain in balance in times of illness.

eating a variety of nutritious foods and herbs is one way to maintain a healthy body and support a healthy mind.

You don’t have to become vegetarian, vegan or embark on a raw, minimalist diet to be healthy. Incorporating a few simple foods into your diet on a regular basis can be enough to support a wellness plan.

For example, Honey has been recommended by the World health Organisation as a natural remedy for some gastric infections because it has natural antibacterial properties. Having a pot of Manuka honey in the pantry is a great it. One pot, costing between AUS$8 and $15 will last you a few months. All you need is a teaspoon in the morning before breakfast and one in the evening.

Steaming foods, such as chicken, fish and vegies, is a great way to preserve all the nutrients so they end up in your belly and not cooked out. You can then cool the water used for steaming vegies and use it as the base for a stock later in the week.

Even the humble Aussie Banana has a part to play in maintaining good health. If yo have trouble getting to sleep at night, try a banana about an hour before bed instead of reaching for those pills. Bananas have an amino acid called tryptophan which is a natural sedative. It can also help with anxiety and low mood, and gives a kick start to the digestive system is you have it with breakfast.

You could try sliced banana with some porridge or on toast with a drizzle of honey to start your day. You will be packing your body with vital nutrients to start the day well, boost your brain activity and support a healthy immune system. This breakfast 3 times a week would surly help keep the body in balance.

Another humble health booster is spinach. This little leafy green is packed with Vitamins A and C, K and magnesium. If you feel tired all the time, add spinach to your salads, stir-fries and vegie juices. Spinach builds healthy red blood cells and cleanses the digestive system, it also helps relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and helps replenish the body after a bout of diarrhea.

One of my favourite juices is baby spinach leaves in a blender with beetroot slices and some lime juice. Whiz it up and pour over ice. Very refreshing and good for your body.

Another of my favourite juices is berry, lime juice. Some mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries) mixed with a good squeeze of lime juice, some water and ice cubes. It’s a little bitter, so if you want a sweeter juice, mix in some watermelon pieces. You could also throw in a mint leaf for two for extra freshness on a hot summers day.

If you want to work on weight loss, get a bag of fresh mushrooms. A serve of mushies 3 times a week provides 20% of the recommended dietary intake of Vitamin B (important for energy, absorption of nutrients, and mood balancing), selenium and cooper. Mushrooms also help to dampen appetite for subsequent meals, so if you have some mushrooms in a salad at lunch time, you won’t over eat at dinner.

Mushrooms can be eaten raw in salads, rolls, wraps or alone. They can be cook and thrown in with pasta, rice and meat dishes. If you chop them up really fine, you can even use them to cook meat loaf, spaghetti sauce or hide them in mash potato.

There is nothing out there that says everyone will benefit from any particular method of healthy living. Some people benefit from high impact cardio workouts, others benefit from water aerobics, walking or yoga.

There was a study in the UK that looked at the benefits of cardio exercise. They have preliminary results that show some people will not respond to cardio exercise. There will be no change in lung capacity. There are other studies that show simply being on your feet more than you sit down can help to keep you fit and healthy. Taking the stairs, walking around the room when on the phone (or simply standing up when taking or making a call) can improve muscle tone, cardiac health, core strength and bone density.

You don’t have to push yourself like on The Biggest Looser, or go to boot camp, early morning personal training sessions or restrictive diets and cleansing diets.

All that is required is a small shift here and there, that soon becomes a healthy habit, and you will be well on your way to better balance and good health.

If you do have serious health issues such as diabetes, cardiac or respiratory issues, knee or back injuries etc, it is always a great idea to approach your general practitioner to discuss some of the ways you can gradually and successfully work towards a better lifestyle without drugs or fads.

If they are not overly helpful seek the advice of a registered naturopath or dietitian, holistic counsellor or food coach.

According to ‘The Chair’ in Claudius Clear’s “Letters on Life”, Justice, truth and love are the chief ingredients of every happy life.

Jimmy Hendrix once said “When the power of love is greater than the love of power the world will know peace”.

We all know that a good heart, sound principles and an honest purpose, coupled with a positive outlook are great foundations for a happy life.

I find happiness in the common places, enjoying family and friends, giving love to others and being compassionate with myself. Great sex, a few squares of dark chocolate, a latte, conversations with strangers and breathing in the early morning air.

When I talk to people about meditation, compassion and healthy living, often they tell me I’m not sharing anything new with them. People know that to be happy they have to spend more time enjoying the simple things in life, be happy with who they are and give and receive love.

So why are so many of us still unhappy?

Instances of chronic stress related illness have increased drastically in the last 15 years. Recent figures out of the EU are indicating there has been a drastic reduction in the number of years, people in industrialized countries, spend disease free.

When I share this information with my friends and family they reply “Of course everyone is stressed, the economy is shot”, “People are losing their jobs, can’t pay the mortgage, I’d be stressed too”. “It’s the cost of living that is killing people, not stress”.

What if I told you, you could still be happy, and reduce stress levels despite the state of the economy, your employment status or the cost of your bills?

Crazy you say!

Stress is largely attributed to our social conditioning.

We are programed from a young age to believe our self-worth lies externally to us. We find happiness in our jobs, possessions, our social status, or relationship status and how often we receive rewards for our deeds.

For hundreds of years society has been geared towards the accumulation of wealth (land, development, gold, religion) and have moved away from cultivating a sense of self-worth that exists within.

When we really sit back and reflect on what we are taught through out our lives, even in childhood, it is a vast array of lesson focused on achieving financial security, getting good grades, being well behaved to receive a reward, work long hours to pay off a mortgage, car loan or school fees for the kids. There is little time dedicated to teaching us how to effectively negotiate life’s ups and downs, how to see the silver lining, how to find peace in times of chaos.

All our feelings are generated within. We create our own stress, our own sadness and our own happiness.

These feelings are not connected to how many TV’s we own, if our car is bought new or second hand. They are not dependent on the state of the economy, if interest rates rise or fall. By focusing our sense of worth out side of ourselves, we are destined to always feel worthless. Someone will always be better off then we are, have more, look nicer or be slimmer. We will go in and out of debt, the economy will fluctuate and the cost of living will continue to rise with the rate of consumerism.

I’m not saying that development, money, possessions or success are evils. They all have a place in the circle of life. Without desire we would all still be suck in the stone age.

There is no greater happiness, and this I can attest to, then finding within yourself the love and worth of just being. I am happy because I am here. I get to experience life and share it with others.

 If we can master the mind, we will find all the happiness we need.
The mind can be a place of untamed negativity that can cause undue stress in the body and in our lives. They way we think influences how we feel and in turn how we react to our environment.

By working on observing the mind through meditation we can begin to see the negative self talk we create and make changes to quiet the negativity and create a more positive internal state for ourselves. Once we do this, our external environment will begin to change for the better.

For one whole day, make a conscious effort to notice your thoughts. When you begin to feel stresses or frustrated, take a moment to notice the negative chatter in your mind.
Be gentle with yourself. There is no need to become upset or angry with yourself for having these thoughts. Simply notice them and maybe have a little giggle at how negative the mind can be. It may surprise you to notice just how many negative thoughts you have in one day.

At the end of the day, it may help to spend 10 minutes writing down what you noticed about your thoughts.

On the following day, when you notice a negative thought, gently try and change the perspective to a positive one.

See how this makes a difference to your day 🙂

 

 

 

Importance of persistence

Tomorrow is moving day. The last week has been full of packing, cleaning, organising and coordinating and action. 

Despite multiple lists, moving experience and proven ability to get the job done, I still find this time a very stressful and emotion charged time.

In the lead to up to moving, when all the action is taking place, I eat on the run (often bad food choices), my routine is non-existent and my sleep patterns are disturbed.

All of this leads to poor mood, negative thinking and bad skin!

And I add to my stress by stressing about missing my meditation and exercise time.

I am the sort of person who needs, craves time to myself to relax and do what I have to in my own time and in my own way. When in the middle of a big move, it is hard to find the time to do anything, let alone find time to meditation.

Or so I thought.

I recently read a book from the lifeflow institute in South Australia which talked about Spot Meditations.

These are mini meditations that can be done quickly, anywhere, anytime and provide the space to find balance in a hectic or stressful time.

So, faced with time pressures and interruptions of all sorts, I found myself practicing a few spot meditations.

I began practicing a little mindfulness each time I paused to have a sip of water. I would take a few minutes to notice the action of lifting the glass from the bench or table to my lips. I noticed the feel of the water in my mouth, the temperature difference and the feel of the water as I swallowed it. It’s journey into my stomach.

When I moved from one room to the next I would make a conscious effort to notice any difference in the temperature or smell of the room. If I was bare foot I would notice the change to the feel of the floor on the bottom of my feet. 

These may not sound like much of a meditation, but this small pause in thought opened up some space for me to reclaim my balance and reduce my stress or frustration.

Mindfulness is a great way to be compassionate and loving to yourself and your environment. Being more aware of your surroundings and not taking things for granted naturally created a sense of gratitude and acceptance of yourself and where you are in that moment. It is very grounding.

When embarking on this journey of wellness, I knew it would take time and practice, but I know understand the importance of persistence of practice and really making the effort to be innovative with practice.

What is your meditation story?

My Tree

My Tree

When I meditate I visualize this amazing tree in my mind. I often use this image when I am standing, working through my breathing warm up exercise pre-meditation. It helps me to feel grounded, calm and strong.
When meditating, it is important to feel connected to something outside of yourself as well as inside of yourself. My breathing links me with my internal self, while this amazing tree reminds me that I am also connected to the world around me.

Happiness. What is it?

The new year as taken off. I can’t believe we are already 5 days in to 2013.

Many of my friends has set new years resolutions or intentions. Some are looking to improve their sense of good health, others are looking to quit smoking, find love, find their dream job or just feel better than they did last year.

When I sat down to contemplate the year past and the year ahead, the resolutions of others and my own goals, I had a sense that what we are all looking for in 2013 is happiness.

So, what is happiness and where do we find it?

Everyone has a different idea of how to obtain happiness, where it can be found, how to maintain it and who holds the key to it. So too is the variety of definitions attached to it.

Professor Maslow suggests happiness is being motivated to participate in life, self-development and spirituality. Others say happiness is freedom from want and being able to obtain your desired object or goal without excessive effort. Many say happiness can-not be defined, it simply is and you know it when you feel it.

In western society, happiness is something to be accumulated and measured in terms of material wealth, hours spent working and effort applied to its accumulation. Many see happiness as something you earn or something that is attached to an easy lifestyle.

Dr. Timothy Sharp of the Happiness Institute defines happiness as “a positive state of wellbeing characterised by positive emotions”. He suggests that Happiness can be described as a spectrum of positive emotions experienced at different times, in different ways and due to differing situations/circumstances and can be categorised as low or high arousal emotions.
For example:
Low arousal emotions – Calm, contentment, satisfaction
High arousal emotions – Joy, excitement, jubilation

In 2012 I conducted a basic happiness survey, asking people I worked with, family and friends, to take some time and consider how they feel currently, how they would like to feel tomorrow and how they could get there. The study was made up of a mixed demographic, 6 male and 6 female participants ranging in age from 19 to 56 years old. Some were employed others were not. Some had families and others were single.
It became apparent to me from the responses that happiness has a very clear definition; it is the path to happiness that is misunderstood.
In the survey, participants described happiness as consisting of positive emotions like joy, contentment and satisfaction or freedom from negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, fear, and sadness. Rarely did people associate happiness with the absence of negative physical states or the presence of positive physical states. Happiness was not associated with good health, safety, access to clothes or shelter.

The main responses was happiness meant being connected to others, appreciated by others and giving and receiving love.

This has lead me to conclude that the human condition, while requiring basic physical needs to sustain life and activity, depends on basic emotional and mental needs to be met for happiness to be realised. While I believe that physical health is important to mental and emotional health, happiness is not dependant on the physical condition.

The survey highlighted that by and large people were more concerned with the quality of relationships, with themselves and with others, than with physiological needs such as shelter, food, water, or physical safety.

These finding are reflective of the circumstances in which the developed society finds itself. There is little threat to physical safety and most people have access to shelter, clothes, food and water. There is a correlation, though, between safety, in relation to familiarity, and insecurity when feeling challenged by unfamiliarity as Maslow suggests. This is evident in today’s changing economic climate. People are forced to leave the security of their jobs and faced with the unfamiliar challenge of unemployment, find it hard to meet the needs higher up Maslow’s hierarchy. Relationships suffer, esteem becomes low and there is concern for physiological needs being met.

Stress seems to be the biggest inhibitor to happiness. Each need in Maslow’s hierarchy uses stress, or discomfort as one becomes familiar or aware of their identity and place in the world, as a motivator or a stimulus for the individual to find solutions to meet the needs and progress. The hierarchy is perhaps circular as too is the cycle of happiness.

To this end, Happiness is intrinsically linked to self and ones perception, understanding and acceptance of what or who that is.

I also believe that an acceptance of the cycle of emotions is important for happiness.
Have you ever heard the saying “This too shall pass”?
The origin of the saying “this too shall pass” appears to date back to a story told about King Solomon. It is said that the King, feeling blue, asked his advisors to find him a ring he had seen in a dream. “When I feel satisfied I’m afraid that it won’t last. And when I don’t, I am afraid my sorrow will go on forever. Find me the ring that will ease my suffering.” Eventually an advisor met an old jeweler who carved into a simple gold band the Hebrew inscription “gam zeh ya’avor” – “this too shall pass.” When the king received his ring and read the inscription his sorrows turned to joy and his joy to sorrows, and then both gave way to equanimity.
Just as sadness, stress, anxiety, fear and suffering will pass, so too will joy, excitement and ecstasy. Nothing is permanent and realizing this is truly freeing.

Dr. Timothy Sharp suggests happiness simply is a choice. As highly evolved and intelligent life forms the key to long lasting happiness is choosing to be happy and practicing a few techniques daily will keep us close to happiness most of the time.

The number one technique suggested by Dr. Sharp is a self-inventory. This again reinforces the importance of understanding self in the maintenance of happiness.

The self-inventory includes:
Clarifying goals
Evaluation of life-style and making changes so you are living a healthy life-style
Don’t tolerate negative thoughts
Plant optimistic or positive thoughts
Develop meaningful relationships
Live in and enjoy the moment

Personally, the road to happiness has been a long and often obstructed one. I see value in Maslow’s hierarchy because as I established security or safety in my basic needs I then gave myself space to address other needs. My happiness didn’t seem achievable until I developed a better understanding of who I was, what I was capable of and how I wanted to contribute to my global and local community.

So, how do we achieve happiness?

I suggest Dr. Sharps self-inventory. Be familiar with yourself; get to know who you are, or who you’d like to be. Shift focus, place more value on non-material, qualitative qualities rather than quantitative, external, material objects and possessions. Do things you enjoy and that bring joy to others and if you find yourself using words like can’t, don’t, shouldn’t or won’t, try replacing them with can, do, could and will.

I am reminded now of my favourite quote: Life is such that is requires constant care and attention. No one can live your life for you. Only you and you alone can give it a meaning.

I use gratitude journaling to help me stay close to all this is good in my life and to stimulate my positive thoughts about myself and my situation. Every night for 5 minutes before I go to bed, I sit and write down 5 things I am grateful for. Some days this is a simple list:

I am grateful for the good weather today
I am grateful for the delicious food I devoured today
I am grateful for the chat with my sister
I am grateful for clean drinking water
I am grateful for today’s meditation

And this allows me to go to sleep in a positive state of mind. Over time, writing what I am grateful for each day helps me to see more positive things than negative things in my life.

In being present in our lives, instead of focused on consuming more, having more than one and being seen as more than we are, we will find happiness. This is by no means a permanent state, all things are transient, but when it is there we can enjoy it to the full and maybe, just maybe for longer.