How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all. By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it. This post will […]

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Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family. You know how this looks: Parents constantly comparing children. Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying. Domestic violence. Adultery… And […]

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8 Powerful Reasons to Love Your Enemies

We’ve all got our enemies; people who take pleasure in causing us pain and misery. Sometimes, the development of an enemy is due to certain differences in your characters and events have led to that. Other times, some people end up hating you for apparently no reason at all. Regardless of how you got this […]

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10 Takeout Menu Favorites to Make at Home

Take Out Favorites at Home

The allure of ordering your favorite takeout meal on a crazy weeknight can be almost impossible to resist, whether it’s Indian, Chinese, Thai, or the perennial favorite—pizza. It can feel like a necessary indulgence when life gets ahead of you.

However, sometimes it can be fun to cook your own takeout menu favorites at home!

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You Always Were and Always Will Be Whole and Complete

“Always engage in the quest for life’s meaning, which is inner peace.” ~Longchenpa

When is a person complete? When have they finally “made it”?

Is it when they find love? Success? When they prove themselves?

I must have asked myself these questions a thousand times growing up. As soon as I recognized that you could be deemed successful or not, accepted or not, loved or not, I wondered where I fit in.

I questioned whether I was on the right path and when I would finally arrive. I wanted to be a total package. You know, the real deal. A real catch. In a word, complete.

Of course, at the beginning, I didn’t have much to go on. Just the minor dramas and bothers of middle-class suburbia, but I put those pieces together as best I could and set off to become complete.

During adolescence, being complete meant getting the good grades, wearing the right sized jeans, and being “nice” or “sweet” or “cute.”

Later it was awards, relationships, and status.

Then came the Ivies, the ring, the house, the kids.

I wanted to be successful, so I did what I was supposed to. I followed rules, checked boxes, and really applied myself.

I wanted to be happy, so I planned out everything with precision as if my lasting happiness lay in getting the details just right.

I wanted connection, so I tried to please everyone. I figured it was easier that way and a small price to pay for being universally loved.

When all was said and done, I was good, but I could have been kinder.

I did everything I said I would, but I could have done more.

I was a real powerhouse, but I didn’t feel confident.

And I still wondered when I would feel complete.

At least half of me felt unsuitable to be seen by the rest of the world.

I was painfully shy. I gave myself a pep talk every day just to make it out of my room. I cried without warning. I worked out too much and didn’t eat enough. I wore too much makeup.

By adulthood, I’d become hurried and hardened.

I denied myself the simple pleasures, and I didn’t even remember what listening to myself felt like. And as much as I longed to be known, I avoided being seen.

There was no room in my life for sweet contentment or stillness. Living was about getting to tomorrow, not being right where I was.

Somehow, I must have confused complete with perfect.

Complete meant existing within a narrow scope of our human experience. It meant having all of the light and none of the dark. Having flaws or struggles made me less than. (I held my attachment to my ego against myself, too.)

So, round and round I’d go.

The more I held on to these beliefs, the more they let me down. I didn’t feel successful, happy, or connected, and I sure wasn’t confident. None of my planning and plotting stopped me from being hurt or rejected. None of the hardness made me stronger.

How can anyone feel complete when they only ever accept a fraction of themselves?

There were plenty of times I considered letting it all go and making a big change, but I feared that my empty hands wouldn’t find something else to hold on to. We need a way to understand how the world works and where we fit into it. Once we’ve got it, we’ll hold on—even if it hurts.

All I ever wanted was to feel secure, connected, and fulfilled, and you don’t just let go of that. But, I also felt misled, and I was ready to uncover the truth.

I started by asking different questions, like what gives a person meaning, how do you define success, and what makes a person whole?

Whole. It was an interesting thought. Whereas complete felt like finding the missing pieces and becoming something, wholeness felt like being what you already are.

Slowly, softly, things shifted.

I started looking at the whole of me, not just the shiniest parts. This wasn’t easy. We all have that side of us we’d rather not see, and I’d pushed mine far, far away.

Even with this desire for something deeper and more authentic, I worried that maybe I’d missed my chance. Maybe I really was incomplete.

Oddly, that’s when it clicked.

Those parts of me, even the one struggling with this whole being whole thing, are all part of my wholeness. Being whole means seeing perfection and imperfection, hurting and healing, fear and courage as one in the same. It’s the shadows that give the light away.

Okay, I thought. What if wholeness included all of me?

Like being a painfully shy child?

Or the years of abusing my body?

Or crying in the car outside work?

What if it included the dysfunctional relationships I stayed in too long and the healthy ones I ran away from?

Or the ways I allowed myself to be changed and the times I resisted authentic expansion?

This shift has been richer than being kinder to myself, though I have learned to be my own best friend. And it’s deeper than having confidence, though I feel bigger and stronger than ever before.

This shift toward wholeness is about loving the whole of me fully and openly. Not in spite of the flaws but including the flaws. It’s those parts of you that you probably don’t want to see, the ones that are struggling to keep up, that need your love the most.

I’m not perfect about this by any means. Sometimes I forget and slip into old patterns, sometimes on autopilot, and sometimes with full awareness of what I’m doing. But perfect has nothing to do with it anymore.

There’s nothing to hide or change when you’re focused on wholeness. Being whole is simply a matter of being.

Whole is complete in itself, and it’s always enough.

Right now, whether you’re standing in the shadows or basking in the light, you are whole.

You’ve hoped and dreamed, doubted and feared.

You’ve surprised yourself (for better and for worse).

You’ve done exactly what you set out to do.

You’ve fallen flat.

You’ve succeeded and failed, fallen and risen, hurt and healed.

You’ve loved, lost, and lived to love again.

You’ve stood in the shadows and danced in the light.

You’ve sung and cried, whispered and yelled.

You’ve been winter, and you’ve been spring.

In your lifetime, you’ve learned to crawl, to walk, to run, to soar.

You’ve said just the right thing at the right time and the things you didn’t mean.

You’ve been right and wrong, hard and soft, fearless and afraid.

You’ve felt pride, shame, joy, sorrow, serenity, distress.

And you will again.

All the things you’ve done and the things you’ve seen, the people you’ve known, the heartbreaks you’ve stitched back together, the plans you’ve made, and the plans you’ve had to let go, the celebrations and growing pains are part of your wholeness.

Maybe you’re feeling like you’re really not okay. You’re still whole.

The key to making this shift is trusting in the process of working it out as you go and picking up the little gems along the way. No part of this needs to be perfect.

So, take a step, any step in the direction that feels closer to whole.

If you can, give thanks to the shadows as much as you would to the sunlight.

Thank you falling for teaching me I won’t break.

Thank you sorrow for reminding me to care for my heart.

And learn to look at all of yourself from the most loving perspective. You are the exact right combination of experiences, insights, strengths, and imperfections that make a person whole.

You always were and always will be wholly beyond compare.

About Leslie Ralph

Leslie is writer and artist who hopes to leave the world a little brighter than she found it. Her people are soul-searchers, deep feelers, and big-hearted dreamers that crave inner peace and inner truth. Download her free ritual for receiving to bring true healing, inner peace, and lasting joy into your life.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post You Always Were and Always Will Be Whole and Complete appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Buffalo Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs with Blue Cheese

As a kid, I thought deviled eggs were quite possibly just that: Of the devil.

Not that I ever ate them. Even now that I have the gift of hindsight, I can’t say what governed my sensibilities around deviled eggs as a child. Or any other food for that matter, which is a common trial many parents face when feeding their children. I was no exception.

The fact that deviled eggs looked kind of gross—regardless of the fact that I actually loved eggs, mustard, and mayo—was reason enough.

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Why You Can End the Search for Your Purpose Now

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

For some of us, like me, the question, “What is my purpose?” creates a ton of anxiety and a feeling that our self-worth is being undermined.

It’s hard to escape this question because everywhere we turn, finding our purpose and living on a large scale seem to be the main themes of the day. The mounting pressure created by social media and the need to have it all figured out by a certain date exacerbate this search.

I used to succumb to that pressure, until I said enough and changed my entire outlook on life.

During my moments of deep reflection, I have found that the answer to this question is as fluid and as complex as life itself.

Our purpose isn’t really one thing. I think our purpose is multi layered, rich and yet simple, and it should not be pigeonholed into one career or grand master plan, though some of us commit ourselves to one purposeful path. I also believe that our purpose can change throughout our lives.

I believe that our deepest purpose is to discover our true nature, to cherish our true selves, to listen to the call of our soul, to heal the wounds that keep us in the shadow, to become more compassionate, to love the ordinary as well as the extraordinary, to serve, and to enjoy doing nothing from time to time.

When we discover ourselves, our purpose reveals itself naturally.

How do we discover ourselves? We experiment every single day. We become our own scientists. We start to pay attention to what brings us nourishment and joy. We pay attention to what feels natural. Purpose is not one thing; it’s everything.

I like to call myself a lawyer by day and spiritual warrior by night, but the truth is that I am a light warrior all day.

Despite the fact that my current career may not be the highest expression of my true calling, which is to teach, my current career has undoubtedly taught me many lessons about helping people, having integrity (go ahead with the lawyer jokes, I will laugh along with you!), becoming a great listener, and also counseling others.

These are all virtues of a teacher, so even though I am not a full-time spiritual teacher yet, I still get to bring the energy of a teacher to my everyday life—not only in my job, but also in my home and family life.

I am an aunt, niece, spiritual seeker, friend, sister, daughter, partner, and so much more. I am not just a lawyer. And I am living my purpose every day by bringing the qualities of a spiritual teacher to everything that I do and everything that I am.

Our default thinking leads us to believe that having a purpose involves something on a grand stage or having a large audience with whom to share ideas, but that may not be your calling or your day-to-day purpose. Your purpose can be manifested in so many different ways.

Take being a parent, for example. It’s the greatest job and blessing in the world. I am not a parent, but I have happily been involved in my nephew’s and niece’s life since the day they were born. I can appreciate the enormous responsibility one undertakes when they say yes to becoming a parent.

Recently, I had this very conversation with my sister-in-law. She has a yearning desire to share a great message with the world and help others heal, but at the moment her hands are full because she is a super full-time mom. We came to the conclusion that her purpose right now, meaning today, is to raise four beautiful angels, which she is doing so beautifully.

I told her I could not think of a greater purpose. Giving endlessly, serving, giving your heart, time, and energy to the well-being of precious souls. Perhaps a few years down the road that will change when she has more time on her hands. In the meantime, motherhood is teaching her many things that one day she may use to help spread her message.

So even if you’re doing something you don’t want to be doing and you’re in the middle of transitioning to something else like me, your purpose is to be present to whatever is happening in your life right now.  

Being present helps us learn about ourselves, because the truth is that we are always preparing for the next step, which is sometimes a mystery. So don’t take one second for granted. Every minute of your life means something.

Another great piece to add to this discussion about purpose is patience. I never really understood divine timing until this year. I believe life unfolds perfectly for each of us. If we can stay present, our purpose will never evade us.

I also believe that we do not arrive at one single destination. So, today, and only today, your purpose is to find as much joy and magic in the little moments as possible, even if you are having a tough day. This day is here to teach you something too. Your purpose is to find and honor the lesson. Your purpose is to allow your life’s plan to unfold perfectly for you.

There’s no need to put more pressure on ourselves to think about our purpose because we can’t get there by obsessing about it anyway.

Life is multi-faceted. You are a rich, dynamic, beautiful spark of life. You are not just one thing, and your life is not just about one thing or one career. You are so much more than that.

So find your purpose in being a friend, daughter, son, partner, activist, or in being your own best friend. Find your purpose in loving who you are. You are an original creation and, I believe, here for a reason. You are here to do all the beautiful things that I just described, and to do them with intention and consciousness.

The world needs you just because you’re here. Do not worry about the limitations in your head about time or age. You are here to contribute. You have your own unique expression, your own way of thinking, your own preferences, and your own feelings. Honor all of who you are. Walk down the street and smile. That may be your purpose for today. I assure you there are people that need you, and you them.

Enjoy the mundane—the drive to work, the meal preparation, the chores. Connect with yourself daily, honor your feelings, and follow your inner guidance, your nudges. Life is always sending us messages.

We do not need to look anymore or find anything. We came here to experience the gift of being alive and that is truly our purpose.

About Christine Rodriguez

Christine Rodriguez is a spiritual life coach dedicated to helping others transform beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that no longer serve them so they can create a life that’s aligned with their true desires and capabilities. To work with her, please visit miraculousshifts.com. You can find her on Instagram @Miraculousshifts.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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Is It Time for a Career Change? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps

Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance . Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to make it happen for a more fulfilling life.

Signs that you need a career change

The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

Physical signs

Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

Mental signs

One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

  • The tension in your neck
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • High anxiety
  • Depression

If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

Why a career change is good for you

I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

  • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
  • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
  • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

Common mistakes of people making a career change

Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. What is your situation?

  • Desire for an increase of salary: The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time. At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.
  • Overnight decision: Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.
  • Rejected for a promotion: I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.
  • Bored at work: Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

  • How long have you worked in your career?
  • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
  • Do you receive recognition?
  • Can you consider working in a new department?

The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization. Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

Now that you had a chance to review your work situation and none of these recommendations can help, it is time to take the next step.

How to make the change for a successful career (Step-by-step)

The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

1. Write a career plan

A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

You can learn how to set your career plan here.

2. Weigh your options

If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job, in the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

3. Be real about the pros and cons

It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that are impacting the current situation.

A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:

  • Economic factors
  • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
  • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
  • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
  • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

4. Find a mentor

A mentor that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

  • What is required to be successful in the role?
  • What certification or educational development is needed?
  • What are the challenges of the role?
  • Is there potential for career advancement?

A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: A Good Mentor Is Hard to Find: What to Look for in a Mentor

5. Research salary

Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

6. Be realistic

If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

7. Volunteer first

A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

8. Prepare your career tools

I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

  • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
  • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
  • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.

Final thoughts

It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will discover the role that is the best fit with your skillsets.

Master these action steps and changing careers will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

[1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
[2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan

The post Is It Time for a Career Change? Find Your Answer Here with These Steps appeared first on Lifehack.

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The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

Let me just start by saying, I’m not what you would consider a morning person. I’m not a terrible dragon by any means. But, with three kids, the dog, a job and an active life, I have to admit that I like my sleep.

My husband was reading a book recently about the power of a morning routine. I asked him to share the summary of what he learned. It all sounded great; but the idea of implementing a lengthy morning routine or getting up an hour early to do a variety of things makes me want to go right back to bed. We only have so much ‘bandwidth’ and willpower in a day, and personally, I don’t want to use it all up by 7am.

When I asked what he had done with this book’s great suggestions, the answer was nothing. He loved the ideas and concepts but hadn’t changed anything in his life.

This is the thing about most advice (on any topic really). It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s that it doesn’t work for everybody. Any habit you are trying to change or create needs to take into account your unique personality, lifestyle and challenges.

Have you ever set out with great intentions to do something – a new diet, exercise regimen or morning routine, only to fall flat on your face a few days or weeks later? Then what? You beat yourself up that you didn’t do it ‘right’, that you failed.

Here’s the thing, you haven’t failed, you have just found something that doesn’t work for you. And now, it’s time to find something that does. What works for a friend, colleague or spouse will not necessarily work for you.

There is a perfect morning routine that will make YOU happy and productive all day – you just have to find yours.

Which is why, rather than give you a specific, one-size-fits-all morning routine, I’m going to give you some options. Think of it like a menu. You get to choose what makes sense for your life, with your personality, motivations, goals, desires and circumstances.

The benefits of a morning routine

As Hal Elrod, author of “The Miracle Morning”, says,

“Focused, productive successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days – which inevitably create a successful life.”

A morning routine is said to boost happiness, increase productivity, reduce stress levels and get you grounded and settled for the day. It’s about getting started on the ‘right foot’.

A morning routine also allows you to start your morning with intention, rather than letting the day run away from you. You control the day; the day doesn’t control you. This positive feeling of being on top of things has results in a positive feeling and effect on your entire day.

As with many things in life, small changes lead to big results. It’s the compounding effect.

Tony Robbins’ morning routine “includes a nutritional supplement, meditation, workout, and sauna-to-cold-plunge combo.” You can check it out here. Arianna Huffington shares hers here.

In fact, most great entrepreneurs and leaders throughout history cite their morning routine as a large contributor to their success. But it’s not just entrepreneurs and leaders that benefit from a morning routine. We all can.

A good friend and colleague of mine just started a new morning routine and here’s what she had to say: “I love waking up before my family and having dedicated ‘me’ time. This means my kids aren’t the ones waking me up… if they’re the ones waking me up, it means I immediately have something to do. Waking up for me, early, gives me time to do what I need so when they wake up, I’m excited to greet them for the day.”

We’ve established a morning routine is important and valuable, are you ready to create yours?

How to create your ultimate morning routine:

As a coach and consultant with a diverse background, it’s important to me to look at this from a wholistic point of view. Let’s look at the morning routine through the lens of Integrative Wellness principles, which take into account the four aspects or ‘systems’ of you: Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual.

You can also think of this as Mind, Heart, Body and Spirit.

You’ll probably notice as we talk through examples that some activities or habits cover multiple systems of your body. Awesome! If you can leverage your time and get two, three or four system benefits for the price of one, even better!

Let’s look at each of these areas more specifically.

Mentally

Put simply, this has to do with your mind, including thoughts, beliefs, values, goals, hopes, dreams, desires and plans.

Some options to create a positive mental space in the morning include:

Set goals.

I have a friend that puts up three Post-it notes every morning. They include the three most important goals she has for the day. This gives her something to focus on – and make sure she achieves throughout her day.

And because it’s only three things, it still leaves room for other things that come up – so there’s built in flexibility too.

Make a list.

Get it off your mind. Sometimes in the night we worry, waking up thinking about what we need to accomplish. This means we wake up already feeling behind. Instead, if there’s something you know you need to do, write it down.

Make a list so you can free you mind for more important thinking.

Create a plan/schedule for the day.

When you know you’ve got a hectic day ahead, a little planning can go a long way. Have a look on your calendar and see what’s there – integrate your goals and your list of to-do’s so you have a plan of action.

Read something that feeds your mind.

My Dad loves reading the Wall Street Journal in the morning. It starts his day on the right foot.

A friend of mine reads for 10 minutes and this habit has brought her immense joy. The way she sees it, if she reads a page a minute, her 10 minutes a day will turn into 3,650 pages read by the end of the year or 12 300-page books! For someone who could never find time to read, she’s now finishing great books and feeling awesome about it.

Emotionally

This is all about your feelings, emotions and relationships. You can think of it as all things related to the heart.

Some things you can do in the morning to help your emotional well-being include:

Express gratitude.

New research continues to surface on the science and benefits of gratitude. Studies have now proven a multitude of benefits from expressing gratitude; ranging from how it improves relationships, physical and emotional health, sleep, mental stamina, energy and overall happiness. I have a simple practice; before I get out of bed in the morning, I think of two things I feel grateful for. In the “5 Minute Journal”, one of the first things you do in the morning is write down three things you are grateful for. You choose the number- but expressing gratitude for a great way to kick-start the day.

Hug your kid, spouse or pet.

Hugging boosts your oxytocin levels (the love hormone), increases serotonin (elevates mood and creates happiness), strengthens the immune system, boosts self-esteem, lowers blood pressure, balances the nervous system and releases tension. Put simply, hugging makes you feel good. Find someone – or something – to hug. It only takes a few seconds and it can put you in a positive mood for the day.

Connect with a friend, family member or anyone who makes you feel joyous, happy and connected.

When I wake up my kiddos, it would be easy to open the door and call for them to get up. Instead, I take a few extra moments to go up to each of them (not easy when they sleep in loft beds), kiss them good morning and take a moment to connect. My husband takes his morning commute time to call friends and family and connect with them. In both approaches, we’re not taking more time out of our day or adding something to our to-do list, we’re including it in something that already is happening in our daily routine.

Identify what makes you feel good.

What brings you happiness, joy or excitement for the day ahead? What makes you feel grounded or connected on a deeper level? Meditation, yoga, breathwork? Get more of that.

Physically

All those things we think about that we can do with our body or physical space. This might include what we eat or drink, how we move and anything that has to do with our physical selves.

Here are some options for increasing your physical well-being in the morning:

Get moving.

Get the blood flowing. We all know the benefits of exercise. This might be a run, hike, trip to the gym, yoga, stretching or finding your own short workout. Remember, what works for one person will not work for everyone.

For example, my husband and I thought it would be a great idea to get a trainer once a week. Every Thursday we woke up at 5:45am, got ready and worked out from 6-7am. This might have seemed like a good idea, but it really didn’t work for me. I really didn’t like getting up that early and forcing my body to work out before it was ready.

I tried it for several months, trying to convince myself it was good for me. But it didn’t feel good. I didn’t enjoy it and it didn’t help me have a more productive day. What does work? My husband gets up and takes the dog for a walk/run and I take my morning hike/do my exercise/yoga once the kids are off to school. Again, this is about what works for you – listen to your body.

Drink lemon water.

Before you reach for that first cup of coffee, reach first for something that hydrates you. I drink warm lemon water. I got this tip from a 94-year-old grandmother in Australia almost 20 years ago. She swore her health and her life benefited from this habit.

Need a few more reasons? Check these out here . I usually throw in a bag of ‘detox’ tea and drink this as I take the kiddos to school.

Eat a good breakfast.

What does that mean for you? A protein smoothie? Great. Avocado Toast? Awesome. Oatmeal? Fantastic. Eat a healthy, ‘real-food’ breakfast to get you going.

Ground yourself.

You can do this in many ways.

A few years back, I was going through a period of high anxiety. A bodyworker recommended I start each day by stepping out of bed and grounding my feet into the earth. I sit at the edge of my bed and feel the earth under my feet for a moment, picturing the roots of a tree. You can then feel this move through your whole spine and body.

While I don’t do this exercise every day, if I wake up feeling slightly anxious or stressed, I take the extra minute to ground and get connected. Another technique I use most days is to place one hand on my heart and one on my stomach and just breathe for a few minutes. This instantly calms and relaxes my entire body.

Clean your physical space.

When our physical space is cluttered, our minds often feel the same way.

What makes you feel settled? I have a client who feels better when she makes her bed. If she doesn’t, her day seems to go downhill.

What works for you? Tidy up your workspace. Get the clothes in the hamper. Whatever makes you feel more settled in your physical space, it is worth the effort.

Read this article if you aren’t sure how to declutter.

Spiritually

This can be anything related to you and a feeling of inspiration, which means, ‘in spirit’. While it doesn’t have to convey religion, it may for you. It’s more about what you need to feel connected to something deeper, bigger, higher – and what makes you feel most connected to yourself.

Here are a few examples:

Meditation.

While some of you may be reading this thinking, YES, I love my morning meditation practice, others might be feeling a sense of stress or trepidation reading yet another article about meditation.

If you’re feeling hesitant but want to try it out, there are a ton of great apps (The Mindfulness app, Headspace and Calm) and other resources out there for you. I found this guided morning mediation years ago and still use it when I need something short and sweet.

I also love the free 21-day guided meditations from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey Many clients and friends have found this an ‘easy entry’.

And, if you’re one of those people who feel they can’t meditate (I feel you, I WAS one of you!), guided meditations are your new best friend. Check out a few and see what works for you.

Be in nature.

Find a place you can sit or walk and just be. Notice the colors of the trees and the sky, the smells in the air. What do you hear if you listen closely? Take a moment to feel the earth beneath your feet or the breeze against your face.

Take a walk in nature and you’ve got physical and spiritual needs covered all in one go!

Interestingly, I was raised Jewish and went to temple growing up. Until at some point along the way, my Mom decided that the best way for her to connect with something greater than herself was to be outside. From that moment on, we spent all of our ‘high holidays’ outside in nature together.

Religious study.

My brother is an incredible example of this. Every morning, he gets up early and does his bible study. He sits at the kitchen table (or wherever he is at the time), reads a passage and writes notes. He then finishes by writing a note to his wife. Since he’s not a verbal person, it allows him to ensure that his wife knows he is thinking about her.

Incredible and romantic? Yes. This also covers his spiritual and emotional needs in one go. More importantly, it grounds him. It allows him to reflect on the day ahead. It connects him to something greater than himself and makes him feel calm going into the day, knowing that he has invested in his spiritual and personal relationships before anything else.

Connect to yourself.

Know what it means to be true to you and take a moment to get grounded in yourself. Here are 11 Ways to be true to you to get you started.

Additional tips for the ultimate morning routine

As you build your morning routine, there’re things you need to remember.

What to keep in mind

1. A healthy morning routine starts the night before.

Getting quality sleep is essential to starting your mornings off right. Make sure you get the recommended 7-9 hours (or whatever works for you). If you’re going to get up earlier for your morning routine, you need to go to bed earlier.

Here are some basic ways to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Get off your electronics at least an hour before bed (and set them to DND or leave them outside of your bedroom).
  • Make sure you have a comfortable pillow and mattress.
  • Set a consistent sleep routine, reduce outside noise and sleep in a well-darkened room or wear an eye mask.

You may want to take reference of Lifehack’s CEO Leon, who has a consistent night routine to keep him sleep well and wake up energetic.

2. Keep it simple.

Find one or two things (three max) that you feel will work for YOU to get you on a roll. Start with a quick win and work your way up from there.

I don’t recommend choosing eight things and then giving up – or beating yourself up because you couldn’t make it work. If you put too much on your plate, you won’t do anything. Eventually, you’ll want to have at least one activity from each of the four categories, but you can start small and work your way up.

3. Take a test drive.

Once you’ve settled on a few concepts that you think will work for you, try them for a few days before you decide if it does/doesn’t work. Like with any habit, you need at least 21 days to create something that sticks.

4. Set a reminder.

Put something in place that reminds you of your morning routine. Here are 24 habit tracking apps you could try.

Or if you’re more old-school like me, find a symbol to remind you – put a Post-it on your bathroom mirror, a note on the fridge or a physical symbol to remind you what you’re doing.

5. Integrate.

Find ways to integrate your morning routine into what you’re already doing, rather than adding more on your ‘to-do’ list. You can also double up, finding activities that covering a couple multiple ‘systems’ of your body.

What not to do

You now have some great options about what to do. But having a great morning routine that energizes you is also as much about what not to do in the morning!

Think about what doesn’t work for you. Are there things that happen or you do that get you started off on the wrong foot? That pull you off-track or out of stride?

Do you hate waking up to the sounds of the ‘alarm’ and need a better way to rise? Perhaps you are decimated by negativity and need to make sure you protect yourself from negative news or people early in the day?

For me, it’s my phone. I have my best mornings when I don’t check my phone or email. I find that when I check my email, it distracts me from my morning and starts me off in the wrong direction. My mind has gone down a rathole of everything I’ve just read, how I’m going to respond, what I need to do…. and I’m not longer present in my morning. I’ve made it a non-negotiable part of my morning routine to not check my emails before my kids go to school.

Time to build your ultimate morning routine!

You’ve had a look at the menu, now it’s time to decide what you’re going to have. It’s time to create your ultimate morning routine.

Remember, like with anything in life, there’s no one-size-fits all approach. If you’re:

  • Someone who thrives from positive energy, make sure whatever you do first gives you that burst of positivity.
  • Someone who needs to have a plan, then try the three Post-it strategy or create your plan for the day.
  • Someone who needs to physically exert yourself, go for that morning run or hike.
  • Someone who needs to think, find time for your reading, strategizing and journaling.
  • Someone whose mind races, try meditation.

Take a moment to think about what resonates with you the most. Do you need five minutes or an hour? What feels like it will ground you or energize you?

Maybe there are a couple ideas that stood out, or one in particular you just know you need to do. What can you commit to right now in your life, with your current circumstances and everything you know about you?

Then do it. Get started tomorrow morning.

You’ll be more happy, productive, energized and thankful you did.

Featured photo credit: Twenty20 via twenty20.com

The post The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day appeared first on Lifehack.

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How to Cook Pork Chops Sous Vide

Sous Vide Pork Chops

Pork chops—bone in or boneless—are so delicious and easy to cook. But that also means they are easy to overcook. And there’s nothing worse than a dry pork chop that is too tough to swallow.

Enter sous vide. It’s a cooking style that is known for its ability to keep cuts of meat, such as pork chops, moist and tender. It’s also a failsafe way to cook pork and guarantee it’s going to turn out spectacular. Every single time. Promise.

Continue reading “How to Cook Pork Chops Sous Vide” »

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Creativity Coloring Page for Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal

Hi friends! Since Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal launches in three weeks, I’ve recently been sharing some of the coloring pages, which all depict things we can do to minimize anxiety in our daily lives.

So far I’ve shared:

Today’s tip: Create something with your hands.

If you’ve ever immersed yourself in any type of creative activity, you know how meditative and calming it can be.

When we’re focused on the next brush stroke, bead, or stitch, we’re deeply immersed in the present moment—not caught up in our thoughts, fears, and worries.

This is why I decided to include doodling and coloring pages in this journal. Research has shown that coloring calms down our amygdala—the fear center of the brain—and it also activates the parts of the brain that are responsible for focus and concentration.

Beyond that, coloring and other creative activities bring us back to the ease of a simpler time—before we had to worry about bills, bosses, and other stresses of adulthood.

When we were kids, we didn’t need to make time for creativity; it was as natural as breathing and saying no to things we didn’t like. Whether we were pretending to be pirates, fairies, or superheroes, we were always eager to pick up some cardboard and markers to make our own accessories and props.

And for that brief flicker of time, all we saw was the fantasy in our head, projected onto our bedroom or yard.

For many of us, childhood wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but the time we spent creating was.

When I look back on my life up until now, I see that all the happiest and most defining moments involved some form of creativity.

Like the decade I spent working at an afterschool program for kids, where I directed them in plays, made some of their costumes, and often designed arts and crafts projects for us to try.

And the years I spent sketching in my book of shadows (during my teenage wiccan years), trying to create a guidebook for magic and light in the dark ages of my adolescence.

And the time I spent crocheting afghans for everyone I love—first during the three months I spent at a residential treatment center for eating disorders, and later while traveling across the US with assorted mobile marketing tours.

These days, I don’t create with my hands often enough. I’m more likely to create something digitally (like the many coloring posters in the fun & inspiring section). But whenever I disconnect from technology and focus on making something from nothing, it’s like the whole world stops—along with my thinking mind. And for a brief flicker in time there’s only heart. Just love, joy, and pure presence.

I know there are a lot of you out there who also enjoy creating, and I would love to connect with you. So please, take a minute or two and say hello. Introduce yourself if we’re not acquainted, and tell me about something you’ve recently created, or you’d like to create. You can even share a picture if you’d like. Whatever it is, it’s a piece of your heart, and I would love to see it.

From now until June 26th, you’ll get three bonus gifts, including a guided meditation series on letting go, when you pre-order Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal. All you need to do is order a copy here and forward your purchase confirmation email to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Creativity Coloring Page for Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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How to Get Past Blame and Shame and Strengthen Your Relationship

I used to think that if I told my wife exactly what’s wrong with her, her response would be, “Yes, I see it now! Thank you for showing me the errors of my ways.”

To my surprise, that never happened. Finally, I saw that I was going about things the wrong way. Complaining, blaming, and shaming were simply not an effective strategy for creating more love and harmony with my wife. Duh! Once I realized this, I went in search of what really did create more love and harmony. Fortunately, several great strategies—backed by actual research—helped show me what could work.

So why do so many couples continue to use the “blame and shame game” to try to get their mate to change? Because they don’t know of another alternative. In this culture, that’s what we’ve learned. Fortunately, there are three simple methods that can help you overcome blame and shame and get back to the love and connection you really desire.

Positive Intention

One way I learned to let go of blame and shame was to tune into my wife’s “positive intention.”

A positive intention is the ultimate positive reason your partner is pursuing a certain behavior.

For example, if your partner complains a lot, you probably don’t like that behavior. However, you can tune into the positive intention motivating it. The positive reason someone complains may be a desire for more comfort or pleasure, or to feel better. Those are all fine things to want. The problem is that your partner’s strategy for obtaining them may be counterproductive in the long term.

Trying to figure out what your partner ultimately wants from his or her “irritating” actions can be a major step in establishing empathy. As I started to understand my wife’s positive intention for behavior that irritated me, I was better able to respond with love and kindness.

Try it for yourself right now. Think of a behavior your partner does that you don’t like. Stop reading for a moment and really do this. Now ask yourself: “What could the positive intention be behind that behavior?”

If you can imagine your partner’s positive intention, it will help you let go of judgment and allow you to be more accepting. Such acceptance is often the first step in helping your partner find a more effective method for achieving what he or she really wants.

Knowing What You Really Want

Knowing your partner’s positive intention is a great way to let go of blame and shame, but so is knowing your own positive intention. What are you really after by trying to blame, shame, or change your partner? In other words, if your partner changed in all the ways you wanted them to, what would you have that you don’t have now?

Usually, we are ultimately trying to experience a different feeling with our lover, such as more love, safety, trust, intimacy, or belonging. Unfortunately, blaming and shaming one’s partner never leads to the feelings we really want. Therefore, it’s a good idea to come up with a new strategy for getting what you really want.

Ask yourself, “What is a new way I can interact with my partner that is likely to lead to the feelings I truly desire?” Try to answer this question as specifically as you can.

When I asked myself this question, the answers were painfully obvious. The simple act of refraining from blaming and shaming my wife was an obvious good start. Then as I thought about it more, I realized that if I wanted safety, love, and acceptance, that’s what I had to give to my wife.

Initially, as I tried to do this, I saw how often I failed at it. Yet, seeing my failures were part of the process of getting it right. Over a few short months, I was amazed at how much it seemed that my wife had changed—she seemed much more loving. When I mentioned this to her, she responded, “I thought it was you that had changed. I’m just reacting to how you’re different.” What goes around comes around…

Asking yourself, “How can I interact with my partner in a way that will lead to the feelings I desire?” is a good start. Of course, there is no single right answer to that question, yet if you ponder it for a bit, some answers will likely emerge.

For example, you might realize that if you do small acts of kindness for your partner, or frequently say what you appreciate about him or her, it could lead to more intimacy, safety, or trust.

Just the simple act of no longer blaming and shaming your partner is likely to lead to a positive change in the relationship. Yet, there are many other ways to create the connection you desire—as long as you focus on what you ultimately want and are willing to let go of old, unproductive habits.

Just Like Me

A final approach to overcoming the blame and shame game is to be able to quickly let go of the judgments we have about our partner.

When we judge our partners, we express a belief that they shouldn’t be the way they are. I confess that sometimes I get judgmental about my wife’s behavior. Occasionally, I see that her strategy for satisfying her desires is ineffective, or even opposed to her ultimate goal. Then, I fall into a feeling of self-righteousness and superiority.

At such times, I say three magical words to put a quick halt to my judgements. Those three magical words are: “Just like me.”

The words “just like me” are a very effective antidote to the blame and shame game. After all, I often behave in ways that don’t lead to the intimacy I desire, so when I see this behavior in others, it invokes a feeling of compassion.

We’re all human, and we all let our past conditioning influence our actions in detrimental ways from time to time. When you see something you don’t like in your mate and you want to let go of your judgments quickly, try thinking the words “just like me,” and notice how it makes you feel. For me, it often brings up a feeling of compassion—or, at the very least, it helps me to let go of my judgments quickly.

Blaming and shaming are like a cancer in a relationship. If they are allowed to live and spread, the entire relationship can slowly wither away and die. By focusing on the three ideas presented here, a whole new way of dealing with the inevitable frustrations in a partnership can be born.

Yet, it takes practice. Due to no fault of our own, we’ve been taught to blame and shame each other despite the fact that such behaviors don’t get us what we want. In this culture, that’s what we’ve learned. Fortunately, there are three simple methods that can help couples overcome blame and shame and get back to the love and connection they really desire.

Once you learn the key ways to get past blame and shame, your partner will likely reward you with a lot more love and a lot less conflict.

**Adapted excerpt from More Love, Less Conflict, reprinted with permission from Conari Press, Copyright © 2018 by Jonathan Robinson

About Jonathan Robinson

Jonathan Robinson is a psychotherapist, the author of More Love, Less Conflict, and has been a frequent guest on Oprah. You can download free methods and info at MoreLoveLessConflict.com.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post How to Get Past Blame and Shame and Strengthen Your Relationship appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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The Ultimate Guide to Make Saving Money Fast and Easy

We all know we should be saving money. The problem is that it usually isn’t that we don’t make enough money, it’s that we don’t have a system to manage our money.

With the right system in place, saving money is simple and you’ll be surprised just how fast your savings can grow.

In this ultimate guide to make saving money fast and easy, we’re going to look at simple ways to get started, what common mistakes to avoid AND some advanced steps that anyone can master to take their spending and saving habits to the next level!

The sad truth about saving money

Most people have a savings account. A few of them even have something in it. Unfortunately if you’re like the majority of Americans, you have less than $1,000 saved. According to a recent survey by GoBanking, upwards of 57% of Americans had less than $1,000 in their savings account.[1]

The good news is that percentage was down from 69% the year before. But it still illustrates that we have some work to do with saving money.

Thankfully, if you haven’t started saving money yet, our ultimate guide to saving money will get you on the right track.

If you’re already saving, then the guide will help you to take your finances to the next level.

Common mistakes people make when trying to save money

The most common mistakes people make when trying to save money are:

  • Not getting started
  • Not saving enough each month
  • Not taking advantage of employer matches on retirement savings
  • Living above their means (and thus limiting the potential for saving money)

Often when getting started, many people freeze in the face of terms like 401k, IRA, Roth, mutual funds, etc. That fear and lack of knowledge can cause what many refer to as analysis paralysis.

I would rather you get started and make some mistakes than not get started at all or wait 10 years to do it.

With the age of the internet, finding information and educating yourself has never been easier. Between YouTube and podcasts, you can learn how to do almost anything quickly and easily.

So take a deep breath, do some research but ultimately get started sooner rather than later.

Simple ways to start saving money (For beginners)

For retirement savings, most experts agree that about 15% of your gross annual income is about right.

If you waited until 45 to start, you may want to up that. Starting at 23? That’s awesome! You can get away with less if you need to.

Not sure where to start at all? Start with your employer and see if they offer a 401(K) retirement plan. Many do and often they will match a certain number of dollars that you put in. So make sure you put in at least what they will match.

If they don’t offer a retirement plan, then you’ll want to open a Roth IRA. You can do that quickly and easily online at places like Fidelity or E-Trade.

A Roth IRA is simply an investment account where you put money in (most often investing in mutual funds which are simply groups of company stocks). You put money in each month and the investment grows over time.

Ready to dive in deeper? Learn more about what’s different between a 401(k) and an IRA.

The key differences between a Roth and a regular IRA

In a word, taxes are the difference.

With a Roth, you add money to it that you have already paid taxes on (ie: it comes after you deposit your paycheck which typically has tax deducted already).

After you add the money, it grows tax-free and you withdraw some or all of it after you reach age 59 1/2. As long as you wait until retirement age to withdraw it, the money you take out is tax-free. This is a great option since it could grow considerably!

With a regular IRA, you add money before you pay taxes (often through a payroll deduction).

Then when you withdraw the money, you pay tax at that time. The primary benefit here is you can reduce your taxable income now and you might be in a lower tax bracket by the time you take your withdrawal.

There’s a lot more to say on retirement savings, so dive in deeper, check out How To Catch Up On Your Retirement Savings.

The limitations of the IRA

There are a few limitations to IRAs you should be aware of.

For starters, you can’t open a Roth if you make over $135,000/year for a single person or $199,000 for a married couple filing jointly. You can, however, open a regular IRA if your income exceeds those limits.

Either way you can only contribute a maximum of $5,500/year to either type. If you’re over 50, however, you can contribute up to $6,500/year. Married couples can each have an account with those limits for each one.

In many cases, to get to 15% of your income going into retirement, you may need multiple accounts (401k, Roth and regular IRA).

Of course, always check with the IRS as those figures can change from year to year.

How to select the right mutual funds

In a company 401(k), the company managing the fund (often someone like Vanguard) will give you a list of mutual funds to choose from. You determine which ones to put a certain percentage of your contribution in each month.

In an IRA, you have the ability to select any mutual fund to invest in.

There is a lot to know about saving money inside of mutual funds. To start with, simply look for funds with a 10 or more year track record where they have earned an average of 10% interest (or higher) over that period.

The stock market fluctuates a lot. If you see a company has averaged over 10% for a decade or more, while nothing is guaranteed, that’s a great predictor of how the fund will continue to perform.

As you gain experience, you can also start to consider things like expenses (different funds charge different fees) and whether you get charged the fees when you buy or when you sell. You can buy and sell funds within your IRA at any time.

Investment diversification and why it matters

Diversification is key.

One of the most common mistakes is just investing in 1 stock or mutual fund. If that one investment goes south, you don’t want all of your retirement savings to go with it. So don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Have your IRA or 401k invested in at least 4 different mutual funds. That way if one stops performing well, you still have the other 3.

Also, while you don’t want to knee-jerk react every time Wall Street takes a plunge, you do want to monitor your funds at least quarterly and make timely and thought out changes as needed.

Want to learn more? Check out these 6 Tips for Long-term Investment Success.

The importance of an emergency fund

Let’s face it. Life happens!

We’ve all been there. Your air conditioner breaks, your car gets hit by and uninsured driver or perhaps a medical expense out of pocket bill is over $1,000.

Without an emergency fund, almost everyone would panic and just reach for a credit card. But if we’re trying to improve saving money and plan for our financial future, adding extra debt is not how we want to go about doing that.

Thus an emergency fund (or lack thereof) can literally make or break your household budget. This is a simple savings account in your bank. It’s not an investment and you need to have easy access when you need it. It should be separated from your regular savings account and only used for true emergencies.

Ideally, you should have not 1 or 2, but 5 bank accounts.[2] Having a separate account for each purpose will help keep you on track with saving money in each individual category.

How much should you put in an emergency fund?

If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one today. Make your initial goal to be $1,000. As you get out of debt and get your financial ducks in a row, build that up to 3-6 months of your monthly expenses.

Note I said expenses and not income. I would also suggest that in a real financial emergency (job loss for example), radically cut expenses down to the essentials.

Why the 3-6 month range? In a word, it depends on job security. In a stable 2 income household where both bread-winners have been employed for 2 or more years, 3 months is fine. If you have 1 income or unstable or inconsistent income, go towards 6 months.

For most 2 person households with 2 or more kids, we’re talking a minimum of $8-10,000. Depending on your income and expenses though, it could be twice that.

Can’t quite figure out how to even save $1,000? Check out these Eight Simple Ways to Save for an Emergency.

Crucial steps to take for holiday spending

Almost everyone spends some kind of money around the November and December holiday season. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, chances are you buy gifts for your boss or do a gift exchange at work or host holiday parties.

Most folks fail to plan throughout the year for this spending. Then they hit November 1st, panic and reach for the credit cards. Thus it’s crucial, if we’re talking about saving money, that we have a plan for holiday spending.

The key to holiday spending success

The key to holiday spending success is to start saving money for the holidays in January. But even if you didn’t start in January, get started now.

Decide (in conjunction with your spouse or partner if you have one) how much you plan to spend. Make sure to include holiday travel and food expenses.

Then assume you’ll want to start spending that beginning in November. Divide that total by the number of months you have to save (11 if you’re starting in January). Transfer that amount of money into a separate savings account each month.

Many banks and credit unions have what’s called a “Christmas Club”. This is a savings account for holiday spending and they typically transfer it back into your checking account November 1st.

As an example, say your family of 4 plans to spend $1,000, divide $1,000 by 11 and we see that you need to transfer $90.90 into your holiday savings account each month starting in January.

How to plan for a better financial future

So we now have some of the basics of saving money in place. That means it’s time to look at our spending and expenses and make sure we’re living within our means.

After all, if expenses are out of line, saving money (at least enough of it), can be very hard, if not impossible.

How much should your mortgage or rent be?

Many experts agree that you should not be paying more than about 25% of your monthly take home pay on your mortgage or rent payment. When we’re talking mortgage, make sure to include taxes and insurance which are sometimes (but not always) included in your total monthly payment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary in 2017 was around $44,000.[3] Let’s assume that for a 2 person household, both people make about that. Thus for a combined annual salary of $88,000, we’re talking about $5,500 per month take home pay in a 25% tax bracket.

This couple should then not spend more than $1,375/month on rent or mortgage.

What if your rent or mortgage exceeds 25% of your income?

If you find yourself exceeding 25% for your rent or mortgage, it’s time for some tough questions. Ask yourself:

  • Is your income likely to increase in the next year?
  • If so, how does that impact the percentage of your housing expense?
  • If you own your home, do you love it?
  • If yes, can you add a side hustle or find other ways to boost your income?

If you are just a little over 25% and you love where you live, I would probably just stay there. Assuming you have a fixed rate mortgage, your income will likely increase faster than property tax and insurance.

If you don’t love your home or your payment greatly exceeds 25%, then it’s time to consider moving down in home. If you don’t, saving money and getting ahead financially can be very difficult.

The proven power of doing a monthly budget

Show me someone financially successful and unless it was all inherited, chances are this person does a monthly budget each and every month.

Many people are unintentional with their money and their spending. They buy what they want in the moment, often on a credit or debit card and then just pay the minimum monthly payments at the end of the month and keep going.

We’ve all been there, but there’s a better way.

While you can use paper or a spreadsheet, you might also want to check out the Best 15 Money Management Apps available so make budgeting and saving money even easier.

How to start your budget

To get started budgeting, sit down with your spouse or partner before the month begins. List your known income for the month at the top and then subtract all the known expenses you have for the month.

Ideally when you get to the bottom, it will be close to zero. That doesn’t mean you are broke. It means you were intentional with your money and had a solid plan for where every dollar went.

It’s totally okay if one of you (for those in a 2 person household) is more the budget nerd. What IS crucial is that you both agree on how your money gets spent.

For both financial success and relationship success, this is what most experts recommend:

  • Married couples (or long-term committed couples) should combine bank accounts
  • Combine all expenses and income (it’s no longer yours or mine but ours)
  • Make all financial decisions together
  • Have an agreement about how much 1 person can spend without consulting the other

When we are in sync with our spouse and have a solid plan and system, you’ll not only find great success in saving money but greater success in your relationship too.

Still not sure how to get started? Learn more about the budgeting here.

How to crush the debts

The average household in the US owes almost $16,000 on credit cards according to a recent study by NerdWallet.[4]
Add to that, an average of almost $30,000 in car loans and almost $50,000 in student loans and you can see why many people are in a debt crisis. Notice I didn’t even include mortgage debt in those figures.

If you find your household is among those with upwards of $100,000 in combined debts, not counting the mortgage, you owe it to yourself and your financial future to make a change.

Getting out of debt doesn’t require winning the lottery nor does it require an inheritance from that rich uncle. It just takes you and your spouse or partner being intentional with your decisions and your money.

Most of us weren’t taught good financial practices in school or growing up. But now is the time to learn those practices and put them in place until they stick.

10 years ago, my wife and I were $60,000 in debt. We drove cars that weren’t paid for and our house payment was well over 40% of our take home pay. We had to learn the importance of saving money and getting out of debt the hard way.

If you follow these proven steps in our ultimate guide to make saving money fast and easy, you’ll be far better off than I was.

How we find ourselves in debt

Most of us with debt didn’t get there overnight. Thus we won’t get out of debt overnight either.

The good news is that with a small emergency fund, a reasonable house payment, budgeting and planning for things like holiday expenses we should be well on our way to financial success.

Many of us got into debt by making decisions emotionally. We bought that new car or giant TV because we saw the neighbors with one or felt we deserved it after some drama or turmoil in our life. When we buy things like that incurring debt, the expense doesn’t seem real to us.

That’s especially true when we buy things using deals like “3 years no interest or payments”. This is because cash didn’t actually leave our wallet or bank account (yet).

If we can get to a place where we no longer use debt, the expenses and spending, choices become a lot more real. When that happens, we evaluate and scrutinize purchases much more closely. By doing so, we naturally spend less and saving money gets easier.

The best way to get out of debt (Quickly and easily)

Since getting into debt was emotional, we have to use emotions to our benefit to get out of debt.

By that I mean ignore things like interest rates and balance transfers. Those things are great in theory but we need to feel an emotional win to keep our motivation up.

The easiest way to do that is to do what financial guru Dave Ramsey calls a “debt snowball“.

With that system, we put all our debts (excluding mortgage) in order from smallest to largest. Pay minimum payments on all but the smallest and pay every extra dollar you can towards that smallest one. When the smallest gets paid off, attack the next one on the list in the same way.

By working our way up from smallest to largest and (hopefully) paying off those small ones quickly, we get traction early on. That helps keep us motivated to get to the finish line.

Things like the “stack method” of paying off debt sounds great but only really works if you are super disciplined and committed. If your resolve is rock solid, go for it!

Advanced steps to make money saving a life-long habit

Once you’re out of debt, budgeting, saving 15% for retirement and have solid plans for saving money for things like emergencies, holidays and your next car, it’s take your finances to the next level.

Congratulations! You are winning with money.

Now you’ll want to look at things like:

  1. Paying off your mortgage early
  2. Increasing charitable donations
  3. Adding even more to retirement funds

Why paying off your mortgage early is a great idea

Most of us have 30 year mortgages. The trouble is, not only do most of us move before we live in a house 30 years, we have a tendency to take out home equity loans and lines of credit.

Thus, even if we use those loans for things that bring value (like remodeling your house), it’s still just another debt.

Imagine what life would be like without a house payment!

While we still have to pay property tax and homeowner’s insurance, most of us can easily cut our monthly expenses by hundreds, if not $1,000 or more once we pay off our mortgage.

Think of what you do with an extra $1,000 each and every month. Spend more, give more or invest more (or ideally a combination of all 3).

How to pay off your mortgage early

The average American owes just over $200,000 on their mortgage according to a recent survey by Experian.[5]

Let’s say you still owe that amount and have 20 years left on your 30 year mortgage at 4% interest. Not counting taxes and insurance, you’ll end up paying almost $300,000 if you just make the minimum payment for 20 years.

Imagine what you could do with that extra $100,000!

Let’s say instead of making your normal payment of $1212, you up it each month to $1,500. In that scenario, you’ll knock 5 years off your loan and save almost $26,000 in interest! All that with just an extra $288/month payment. Imagine the savings if you went even higher!

Can’t scrape an extra $288 together? No problem! Any extra amount helps. As you get debt under control or your salary increases, you will be able to increase over time.

Do your own calculations using the Extra Payment Mortgage Calculator.

Well on your way to saving money!

Hopefully this ultimate guide to making saving money fast and easy gave you everything you need to know about how to get started or how to ramp up your savings.

We looked at some simple actionable tips and we broke down the areas where most people get stuck.

Most importantly, you now have a clear path of both where you are now and how to get to where you want to be.

Featured photo credit: Pexels.com via pexels.com

Reference

The post The Ultimate Guide to Make Saving Money Fast and Easy appeared first on Lifehack.

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How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful and Highly Fulfilling Life

Change begins with hope of what’s possible in your life. Hope leads to a sense of expectancy. Combine this with setting short term goals and the likelihood of being more happy and successful moves from possibility to reality.

Short term goals, when created with well-formed criteria, offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What is a short-term goal?

Short term goals are ‘short’, meaning the time frame can be as short as 10 minutes, a day or as long as a week or a few months. Well-formed short term goals begin with the end in mind.

Quick tip to start: Write down the specific result you’ll be achieving and the date when it will happen. Then work backwards from this date describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you have the first step you’ll take.

A short-term goal is the smallest step needed for you to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

‘Passionate desire’ is the key. As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.

Having passion when setting goals means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin oxytocin and/or endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters).

Ian Robertson, cognitive neuroscientist says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

How short term goals make your life more fulfilling

Regardless of the area in your life that you set short term goals, the good news is this will have a ripple effect across all your life domains:

  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity also shifts.
  • Improve your body shape through managing food intake and your energy improves in a way that’s noticeable at work and home.
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude changes around how you engage with others.
  • Improve your personal health and your desire for self improvement lifts.

How short term goals advance your career

Specifically, you will need short term goals to help with your career. This is also how many people want to utilize short term goals.

Start by planning your career visually

Walt Disney was sacked for lacking imagination. Oprah Winfrey was told she’d never make it in television. Careers are destroyed by naysayers intent on keeping you small. The successful person designs a career goal and then creates incremental steps to ‘ladder up’ with short term goals.

Justin Dry from VinoMofo, a successful Australian wine distribution company, always begins his goal setting process with visual planning. He says,

I need to see it all in front of me like a puzzle I’m putting together. It kind of looks like the workings of a madman with lots of weird and wonderful shapes and lines connecting the words.

Whether you use masses of post-it notes that cover a wall, large sheets of paper to spread your ideas on or a journal to map your path – messy planning gets your ideas out of your head so you see different possibilities and pathways available to you.

Begin this process by asking, “What are my best hopes for my career?” Write them down and place them somewhere you’ll notice them every day.

Make you think like a start-up entrepreneur

While successful career planning starts with a messy and random process to let those ‘idea gems’ – the embryos of well-formed short term goals rise, the next step is taking these nuggets and using them to set your direction.

Think of yourself (and your career) as if you’re the CEO of your own successful start-up – one with a clear vision of what you want and how you’ll get it. Rather than waiting for a boss to give you goals, be proactive and set your own.

Karen Lawson, CEO of Slingshot says,

Set a vision, and be focused on the intent of these goals. Create actions which not only build on those of yesterday, but improve what you do tomorrow. Your pathways will need to be flexible, challenged and accountable.

Begin by listing the bigger steps needed to achieve your goal. Then chunk these down into smaller steps with specific actions needed to achieve them. These action steps are the work horses of your short term goals. Create a specific time frame to complete them and maintain accountability – as if you’re reporting to your ‘higher up’.

Begin this process by asking yourself: “What difference will I notice when I take these steps?” Then ask: “What difference will my boss/es notice when I take these steps?”

Establish ‘triggers’ for your daily habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941) legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit.

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about. (The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp)

To do this list, create a trigger point – the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action like Twyla Tharp did. What will be your ritual of ‘getting in the cab’?

Get you to talk about the future

Melanie Perkins CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for ‘frequently talking about the future’.

Orienting your thoughts towards a future-focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily.
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them.
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life.
  • Whisper them to yourself throughout your day.

Future-focused conversations (both with yourself and others) establish a pattern of expectancy which continue fueling not only your desire, but an expectancy of achieving it.

Manage mental resistance

When you begin with ‘hope’, you activate a sense of ‘expectancy’. A belief that what you want is not only possible, it’s within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life. When you’re ‘moving forward‘ with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards a desired future. When ‘moving away from‘ something you perceive as painful you’re activating ‘fear’, which can also be a strong motivator helping you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Sarah, a manager at a busy merchandising company saw her doctor because she was feeling tired. After a thorough examination the doctor advised Sarah to lose 15 kilos as this was contributing to her tiredness. The news felt overwhelming as Sarah worked long hours and rarely found time to shop for fresh food, so relied on fast food to keep her going.

For Sarah, the doctor activated her fear by describing what could happen (heart attack and/or diabetes) if she didn’t manage her weight by shedding 15 kilos.

While ‘moving away from’ motivation can be successful, a way of amplifying positive motivators that will see Sarah begin ‘moving towards’ her goal is by talking about what outcomes Sarah would notice by losing 15 kilos. For example, managing her weight may see Sarah being more efficient at work, getting out more socially or feeling more able to manage work pressures and deadlines.

To do this with your own goal setting, think about what’s important to you about achieving your goals. Write down your answers. Ask: “What will you notice that will be different in your life when these changes happen?”

6 Easy steps to success with short term goals

Setting short terms goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but how to achieve that? Take the following steps and you will start achieving your dreams:[1]

Step 1: Defining your best hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area of your life you’d like to improve.

For example:

  • What are your best hopes for your finances?
  • What are your best hopes for your relationship?
  • What are your best hopes for your career?
  • What are your best hopes for your health?

This process involves ‘chunking up’ your ideas so you relate to the outcome. In this process, you go on to achieve not only the goal and the outcome it gives you, but also the transformation of your behavior and mindset that will happen as a result of achieving your goal.

Step 2: Noticing what’s different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from the way you usually did things?”

‘Noticing’ helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more ‘real’ your preferred future becomes.

Step 3: Continue asking: ‘What else?’

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often times, our ego gets a little defensive about it and protective of it; yet if we dig and resurface a truth, then a weight can be lifted, allowing you a freedom to move forward.

Step 4: Ask: ‘Who else will notice the difference?’

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues and a partner are important. Seeing the change they’ll notice helps put a third person perspective on the differences they notice about the changes they see in you.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know you are somehow different as a result of achieving this goal.

Step 5: Imagine a miracle happened tonight

Imagine that if you went to bed tonight and a miracle happened; and you were the very best version of yourself and that you had achieved your best hopes.

When you woke up tomorrow morning after the miracle happened, what would you notice that would tell you you’ve achieved the change you’re seeking?

Step 6: Describe your day as if the miracle had happened

Go through your day, moment by moment. Begin with what time you’d wake and then describe the differences you’d notice in every tiny action you do. Notice in detail what’s different about this day – a day when you are at your very best because you’re living your best hopes.

4 Proven tools to track your short term goal success

When you set a short term goal, establish a measurement system to track your progress:[2]

1. Create a running tally

One of the best devices to keep your short term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row that you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 kilos by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart either in your diary or somewhere visible and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short term goal. It won’t be long before your goal of losing 5 kilos is met.

2. Keep a journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things you’re noticing that are different because you’ve set a well-formed short term goal.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall in detail the things that you’re noticing. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in both your behavior and mindset.

3. Share your progress with a trusted friend or coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself move towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing. And you’ll be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters that are so important for bringing your confidence, motivation and positive changes to your brain to succeed.

4. Visualize your progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change. Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization and then ‘step into’ your day.

Summing it up

Change is possible. Short term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by ‘passionate desire’ so you achieve your desired outcomes.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

The post How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful and Highly Fulfilling Life appeared first on Lifehack.

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Understanding the Cycle of Pain: How to Transmute Anger into Empathy

“When we get angry, we suffer. If you really understand that, you also will be able to understand that when the other person is angry, it means that she is suffering. When someone insults you or behaves violently towards you, you have to be intelligent enough to see that the person suffers from his own violence and anger. But we tend to forget … When we see that our suffering and anger are no different from their suffering and anger, we will behave more compassionately.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

There is so much to be angry about every day because life is unfair.

My own situation right now is infuriating. I left my job and my home country in large part to return back to the US and help my mom care for my father. During that time, my mother’s frustration with her role as caregiver, along with the emotional stresses and practical limitations it placed on her, often boiled over into rage directed at me. This situation persisted for ten months.

Immediately after that, she herself became terminally ill, and now my role is caregiver. My whole life plan has had to change as a result, so my hopes of going back to my old life now need to take a backseat to my mother’s illness, which was brought about by her own behavior (smoking). For so many years I had asked her to quit, to which she reacted—you guessed it—angrily.

When it was clear she wasn’t doing well, I encouraged her to see a doctor. She got angry with me.

While in the hospital, she was frustrated at being confined to a bed. She took her anger and frustration out on me for that too.

Now, faced with difficult treatments and limitations on her lifestyle, she lashes out at me every day or two. Me—the only one at home with her, and the only one of her four children who has the will and/or ability to care for her in this way.

I’m not going to lie—it’s difficult to refrain from reacting in kind, and sometimes I do just that.

In my cancer caregiver support group, I found this is a common thread—people are angry, and they have difficulty directing and dealing with that anger.

One woman has a husband whose blasé attitude toward his cancer puts him in a lot of dangerous situations. This completely stresses her out because she is in a constant state of worry about his health and safety. But, rather than expressing these sentiments, she has internalized them, allowing anger to slowly fester.

It was a significant and therapeutic step for her to actually admit that she was angry. Her way of coping thereafter was to withdraw from her husband in order to preserve her own emotional well-being.

Another woman was angry because her husband, sick on-and-off with cancer for nearly twenty years, was also depressed through his illness, leaving her as the sole caregiver and breadwinner. Needless to say, her marriage was far from the storybook version she’d originally had in mind. Her way of dealing with her anger was to be productive—to be the best mother and caretaker she could be—and occasionally vent or break down to some trusted friends or our group.

There is nothing wrong or shameful about either of these two approaches. Both women have shown incredible fortitude in the face of difficult situations. Furthermore, their reactions were certainly much more constructive and peace-promoting than simply popping off and reacting temperamentally.

However, I have found it helps take me to an even more peaceful state to remind myself of the cycle of pain.

In this cycle, as succinctly described by Thich Nhat Hanh above, people act out in negative ways (e.g. aggressive, uncaring, etc.) as a result of inner pain. Even if that pain is difficult for us as outsiders to understand, it is there as a matter of fact.

Though it may help to intellectually understand the specific causes and dynamics of the individual’s pain, in most cases that isn’t possible because you cannot get inside someone else’s head. But we can still accept that the other person is in pain. Once we accept this, we can relate it to our own and therefore feel empathy.

This is very difficult to do in the moment. What helps me when I feel the flush of temper is to take a deep breath and close my eyes. When I take in that breath, I imagine myself “breathing in” the other person’s pain, which appears to me internally as smoke or pollution.

I then imagine in my head what they are going through. That is why it helps to understand what the pain is. In my mother’s case, it’s the fear of her disease as well as the discomfort with suddenly having to deal with the restrictions it places on her time and activities.

I imagine them dealing with that pain, and as the breath comes in I feel a sensation permeate my body. I then let out the breath, which I imagine to be a vapor of peace. I feel lighter and calmer.

I call this alchemy for the soul—transmuting anger into empathy.

When I expressed this in the group, I was met with crickets, except for the woman who was angry about her husband’s careless attitude about his condition. She had two comebacks.

First, she said although that was a “nice” sentiment, she needed to take care of herself at this point and not worry about her husband’s emotions. After all, as the cancer sufferer, he was receiving all kinds of sympathy from every corner. Fair enough.

Secondly, she said that it takes a lot of energy and effort to “suppress” your feelings when you’re already feeling exhausted from being the caregiver. I understand that too.

At that point, I dropped the matter, firstly, because I sensed her slight agitation and secondly, because I thought it might strain the dynamics of our safe place if I came across as a preachy teacher in a group of equals.

What I wanted to say was that this is not about her husband’s feelings. In fact, quite the opposite—doing this would be all about her emotions.

To hold onto anger and need to direct it somewhere, to me, is draining. I need to carry it around and find where to put it. I need to put effort into not blowing up at someone. To me, this exercise of alchemy for the soul feels like the opposite of “suppression,” whose Latin origin literally means to “press down.”

When I perform my little alchemy ritual, the feeling is much more of a lightening up or dissolving kind of sensation. Rather than doing someone else a favor, I feel like I am treating myself well, which allows me to treat others well too (and not begrudge them for it!).

Even when someone else is clearly the “cause” of your anger, it helps to remember that it isn’t really him or her—it’s his or her suffering that is at the root of the hurtful actions. Yes, they are responsible for what they do, but it helps to remember that it’s human to sometimes act out when you’re hurting.

If you feel that this thinking lets the person off the hook too easily, remember that however hurtful someone’s actions are, no one can “make” you feel a certain way. Ultimately, how you react internally to someone’s actions, what you choose to focus on and how you think about it, is your own responsibility. To blame another person for how you feel is to give him or her power over you.

To be clear, I’m not making excuses for bad behavior. If someone does something cruel or thoughtless or aggressive to you, it is his or her failing for doing so. But however hurt you may feel in the moment, that person does not have the power to make you carry that hurt with you in the form of anger.

Once again, this has nothing to do with you being a saint and deigning to give that person compassion or forgiveness; it’s about you taking care of yourself by stopping the angry chain reaction that can lead to all kinds of hurt and unfortunate behaviors.

Why not just allow yourself to just be angry and make up a sad story about what was done to you in which you are cast as the victim? In a sense, you’re totally justified in doing so, but where does that lead? How does that help you? The truth is, you very well might have been a victim of someone’s aggression in that moment, but only you can make yourself remain a victim by carrying around the negativity.

When you help yourself by letting go of your anger, you help everyone else around you too.

This is a practice that has very much helped me, but it’s not the only way to deal with anger. I’m always in search of new strategies myself, so please feel free to tell me what’s helped you cope.

About Joshua Kauffman

Joshua Kauffman is a recovering over-achiever and workaholic. Leaving behind a high-powered life in business, he has become a world traveler, aspiring coach, and entrepreneur of pretty things. Amateur author of a recent memoir Footprints Through The Desert, he is trying to find ways to share his awakening experience, particularly to those lost in the rat race like he was.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Understanding the Cycle of Pain: How to Transmute Anger into Empathy appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Meal Plan for June Week 1

June Week 1 Meal Plan

This month, we welcome back Marta Rivera for more of her meal plans. Marta is a trained chef, mom of twins, and Army wife – and she is also one of our Simply Recipes recipe testers!

One of the misconceptions some people have about homeschool families is that we have really lax schedules. Really, we’re all in the same chaotic boat as far as scheduling goes.

Thankfully, for most of us, summer vacation is nigh!

Continue reading “Meal Plan for June Week 1” »

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Top 10 Natural Probiotics for a Healthy Gut and Strong Immunity

How often have you heard the expression “you are what you eat”?

This is partially true. However it goes deeper than this and I’d say that you are what you absorb. All the great food in the world doesn’t mean a lot if your body is not digesting and absorbing it properly. Today we’re looking at how important gut health is not only for digestion but your overall health and immunity, and what natural probiotics you can include in your diet to have a healthy gut.

Probiotics and your gut health

Your gut or microbiome, is a collection of bacteria that are critically important for how your body functions. The majority of the DNA in your body is actually taken up by these gut bugs and by definition, you are technically more bacteria than you are human. These gut bugs are keeping you alive along with protecting you against germs, breaking down food to release energy, making vitamins and even controlling your mood.

When the balance of good to bad bacteria gets out of whack, then you can be looking at issues like:

  • Constipation
  • Excess internal gas
  • Chronic diahrhhea
  • Bad breath
  • Bloating and cramping
  • Development of food intolerance

Your immune system will also be suppressed leading to easier sickness. Your gut balance can be thrown off by things like sugar, antibiotics, alcohol, lack of physical activity, smoking and not getting enough sleep among a bunch of other things.

So, how to improve your gut health? Probiotics can help.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can improve your gut health when consumed in adequate amounts. There are a lot of different types and getting a wide range is very beneficial. They also promote a healthy digestive tract and immune system.

Top 10 Natural probiotics to include in your diet

Since you want as many good gut bacteria as possible, here are the best food sources to find them in:

1. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented beverage that is filled with probiotics. It’s made from sweetened black or green tea. Many brands now include other healthy ingredients in it such as ginger, chai, or a greens extract.

Kombucha is extremely popular right now and easy to find. It’s best to start with 4 oz a day and can be consumed on an empty stomach in the morning or at any other points in the day.

2. Kefir

Kefir is similar to kombucha in which it’s a fermented beverage but this time coming from milk. This does sound a bit weird but is very healthy. It’s made with ‘kefir grains’ which are strains of bacteria that give the milk its probiotic content and gives a light carbonation. It’s also full of a ton of nutrients, protein and looks to be a better probiotic source than yogurt.

You can use it as a marinade, salad dressing and even in baking.

3. Pickles

Yep, the Snooki favorite! You’re looking at cucumbers that get pickled in salt and water and left to ferment using their own lactic acid bacteria. Pickles made with vinegar don’t contain probiotics but traditional pickles do. They will also give you Vitamin K and are low in calories. Remember not to go with the deep fried variety though.

4. Miso

The Japanese sesasoning is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji. It’s turned into a paste and is popular for use in soups. Besides probiotics, miso is a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

5. Yogurt

This is probably the main go-to food choice for probiotics but you want to be sure of a few things first.

Many commercial varieties of yogurt are more deserts than a health food especially the ‘fruit on the bottom’ types. Most of these colorfully packaged yogurts contain so much sugar that you’re probably taking a few steps backward.

Go for natural, unflavored and make sure that it says on the package what it contains. If the package doesn’t indicate clearly its nutrients and ingredients, there’s a good chance that a lot of the good bacteria was destroyed during processing.

6. Sauerkraut

Don’t wait for Oktoberfest and a beer stein the size of a Buick, sauerkraut is good all the time! Similar to pickles, sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that is fermented by lactic acid and bacteria. It’s easy to make and can last for months in the fridge.

Along with probiotics, it contains vitamin C, vitamin B and antioxidants. It’s easy to use on said sausages or hot dogs, can be a side dish, in sandwiches and even in stews. (And no a hot dog is NOT a sandwich.)

7. Kimchi

Kimchi is like the Korean sauerkraut. It’s made from cabbage but can also include other vegetables and is seasoned with things like garlic, red chili flakes, ginger and salt etc. The lactic acid bacteria in kimchi helps make it great for digestion and contains vitamins, minerals and iron.

8. Dark chocolate

Yes, this is actually a probiotic source. Dark chocolate contains fiber and your gut bacteria is able to break down and ferment this and other compounds and also creates anti-inflammatory effects that boost your health.

You want to make sure that you’re consuming dark chocolate that has at least 70% cacao in it and not a Toblerone that’s the size of your head. A square or two a day can provide you with some great health benefits.

9. Green olives

Salt water brined olives undergo a natural fermentation. Since olives contain lactic acid bacteria, this helps give them a good probiotic content. There are two different strains of live cultures associated with olives that are helpful to combat bloating and helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome. (And no it’s doesn’t count if you get your olive content from happy hour martinis!)

10. Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented soy product that is made with a yeast starter which gives it a bit more of a meaty, tender bite to it. It’s why you find vegan meat and bacon alternatives made from it. It’s a great probiotic source that is very versatile to use but also contains a lot of protein. In a 3-ounce serving, you’ll get around 16 grams of protein.

Wrapping it up

We are learning more and more about how important it is to keep our microbiome as healthy as possible. Luckily it’s not hard to include great sources of probiotics that can help boost your gut health and with that your overall health with it.

Try the above suggested natural probiotics, include them in your daily meals and you’ll gradually see improvement in your gut health!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

The post Top 10 Natural Probiotics for a Healthy Gut and Strong Immunity appeared first on Lifehack.

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How I Lose Weight, Get to 9% Body Fat and Build Muscles with Vegan Diet

Wouldn’t it be great if you could finally lose weight or build muscle in a sustainable way? If this sounds far reaching to you, hear me out.

As a manager of a fitness center with over thousand members, hundreds of coaching hours delivered and with a well-built physique myself – I feel qualified to write about such topic.

I’ve came up with a unique approach to build muscle and lose weight in a sustainable way — a vegan diet for weight loss.

How I lost weight fast with the 50-Fiber Formula

Losing fat never came easy to me. On my quest to get a sixpack, I’ve tried out countless of methods. But there are two diets that were the most remarkable on my journeys:

Before I used the 50-Fiber Formula

I remember doing a diet with no previous experience nor knowledge about weight loss. It was my first dieting attempt, a no-carb diet (carbohydrates were less than 10grams!).

During the first weeks of the diet, I had absolutely no energy. I remember training in the gym and feeling gassed-out after the warm-up. People asked me if I was being sick.

Although I was losing weight – which turned out to be mostly water – I felt horrible. Dieting was not fun, exercising was not fun and I had to search for a reason to wake up in the morning. I stopped the diet after 2 weeks.

Yet, what I liked about this diet, was the focus on one metric — keeping my carbohydrates under 10 grams a day and tracking that rigorously made it (next to the side effects talked previously) rewarding to follow a diet.

Some time later, I tried another diet and it turned out to be more successful.

My goal was to get to a one-digit body fat percentage. While working in the fitness industry for about a year at that time and training for more than 3 years, I got the necessary knowledge to at least do a successful diet.

This time I wanted to be completely sure and learn from my mistakes: I tracked my entire calorie intake, every single thing that I ate and I planned at least 2 months to fully do the diet.

I indeed reached a one-digit body fat percentage, yet the effort I put into this diet was not worth the results. I dealt with a lot of cravings and one time ate a huge cheat meal of nearly 2,000 calories where I nearly puked afterwards.

How I created the 50-Fiber Formula

I concluded: This worked but was not the best approach. Yet I liked that I was seeing results in the gym. People noticed and told me that I was a ‘shredded beast’.

The experience of those 2 diets, plus me working with hundreds of clients led me to conclude that there had to be a different way. I realized that the combination of those two diet attempts would be the most sustainable and effective approach to weight loss.

The rewarding and simple method of the first diet focusing on one metric and the tangible results of the second diet inspired me to create a system that would make weight loss as simple and as effective as possible. Born was the 50-Fiber Formula.

Perks of the 50-Fiber Formula

With the 50-Fiber Formula diet, you will experience plenty of benefits that no other diets can give:

A simpler focus

You simply focus on eating 50 grams of high-quality fiber every single day. I realized that it was much easier to lose weight when you focus on what you can eat instead of what you can’t. This creates a mindset of abundance instead of scarcity. This makes dieting sustainable.

A healthier diet

Not only that, but this diet can actually be healthy. The two components that mostly differentiate healthy foods and unhealthy ones, are: Micronutrients (especially antioxidants) and Fiber.

Micronutrients are harder to quantify (as they usually work synergistically) and are more often than not synthetically added to a product. This makes it especially hard to track.

Your fiber intake, on the other hand, is easier to track and nonetheless very important in weight loss and a healthy diet.[1] The average American eats about 15g of fiber a day.[2] This is only about the half of the recommended intake.[3]

Fiber is the component in a food that plays a key role in satiety and is thought to play a factor in weight regulation.[4]

Help you save money

Eating fiber is so important that we could save 12.7+ billion dollars a year by reducing the medical costs of treating constipation alone.[5] So following the 50-Fiber Formula daily can therefore also save you money.

Get you to eat more healthy foods

Fiber has been shown to change your microbiome.[6] Your microbiome heavily influences your cravings.

The microbiome, meaning the good or bad bacteria in your body, lives off fiber. For a long time, people thought fiber was a waste product of our nutrition but just recently we realized that it serves as the building block for our helpful gut bacteria.

The more fiber you eat, the more healthy foods you will crave. Eating more fiber will leave you in a positive spiral to a healthier and fitter you. Who thought that getting fit can be so easy as to eat 50 grams of fiber every single day?

3 Immutable rules to consider in the diet

To make your attempt to lose weight as effective and easy as possible, we also have to know what not to do. Or as Steve Jobs said:

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.  — Steve Jobs

#1 Your meals shall be solid

Don’t eat blended meals unless you have to. This means avoid smoothies or meal replacement shakes.

A key aspect of how fiber works its wonder is by increasing your chewing time. Chewing is correlated with your perceived satiety.

Fun fact: Enforced chewing can decrease the enjoyment of your meal![7]

#2 No soft drinks

This is similar to rule #1. Calories should always come in solid form.

You can drink 5 apple juices and feel little to no satiety. But you cannot eat 10 apples (same caloric intake) and feel absolutely full.

Focusing on wholesome foods will leave you satiated and makes your diet sustainable.

#3 Keep it unprocessed

Your dietary fiber intake should come from natural and unprocessed sources.

Eating fiber-fortified foods is cheating, swallowing fiber pills too. The beneficial effects of fiber are mainly shown in the intake of natural foods.[8] Do yourself and your diet success a favor and focus on unprocessed foods.

50-Fiber Formula — The step-by-step guide

You will learn in this phase how you can implement the 50-Fiber Formula in a step-by-step process. All the steps are as simple as possible. Remember: If you need help, hire a professional coach.

1. Search for foods that are high in fiber

The first step that you can do to a slimmer waistline and a healthier lifestyle is to simply 1. Open a new tab. 2. Go on Google and 3. Search for foods that are high in fiber.

These foods should follow the 5 to 1 fiber rule. For every 5 grams of carbohydrates they should contain 1 gram of fiber.

Add the ones to your diet that you like the most and buy them in bulk. If you don’t like any of these foods, try each of them out and see which resonates with you the most. But also know that your taste buds can change.

2. Analyze your current fiber intake

The RDA for fiber is 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. Studies from the fossils of feces of our hunter and gatherer ancestors show that they have sometimes consumed more than 100 grams of fiber in a single day.[9]

In this step, which is still preparation, you write down what you eat in a single day and then search how much fiber you approximately eat during that period. This way you know how long your journey will be in the first place.

3. Increase your fiber intake by 5g every second day

A key aspect in a successful diet is sustainability. The only way your diet can be sustainable is by focusing on slow, long-lasting change.

Instead of eating 50 grams of fiber starting from today, focus on making a habit of eating healthy. Starting slowly makes your body able to adapt to the changed, healthier nutrition.

4. Get to 50 grams of fiber a day

The ultimate goal of the 50-Fiber Formula is to eat 50 grams of fiber every single day.

This makes sure that 1. you’re on the right path and 2. you get a small win every single day. Often people get caught up trying to lose a huge amount of fat. They see the destination but can’t grasp the journey. This formula allows you to simply focus on the next step in front of you.

The sustainable choice — vegan diet for weight loss

The 50-Fiber Formula allows you to lose weight in a sustainable way.

In comparison to other diet trends, it emphasizes subjective well-being, consistency and health – all important pillars regarding your diet success.

Make sure you follow the 3 immutable rules to achieve your tangible success. Consume your meals in solid forms, avoid soft drinks and keep it unprocessed.

Don’t get caught up in the big picture. Focus on the next step ahead of you.

Featured photo credit: QualityGains.com via qualitygains.com

Reference

The post How I Lose Weight, Get to 9% Body Fat and Build Muscles with Vegan Diet appeared first on Lifehack.

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Hugging Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal

“Sometimes in life all you need is a hug. No words, no advice, just a hug to make you feel better.” ~Unknown

Hi friends! Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been sharing coloring pages from the soon-to-be-launched Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which also includes doodle prompts, writing prompts, and questions to help you minimize anxiety in your daily life.

So far I’ve shared the music coloring page and the meditation coloring page.

Today’s page is one of my favorites. The tip: Hug someone to release the feel-good chemical oxytocin (a hormone that some have called an “antidote to depressive feelings”).

“Hugging is good medicine. It transfers energy and gives the person hugged an emotional lift. You need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth.” ~Unknown

As someone who works alone, I can sometimes feel a little starved for connection during my day—which is ironic, since I connect with so many people online. But you can’t look into someone’s eyes in a comment. You can’t hear their heartbeat in an email. And you can’t touch their hand in a Facebook exchange.

Whenever I’ve had a tough day, it’s tempting to want to talk it all out—more thoughts, more words, more analysis. And sometimes, this helps. But more often than not, I just need a hug.

I just need to feel close to someone I love and to melt into their arms.

Sure, it feels great to be heard. But sometimes I just need to be held so I can remind myself what it feels like to let go.

We all need this sometimes. We all need this connection, this comfort, this release.

Everything seems easier when we feel supported, and everything feels more manageable when we remember we’re not alone.

“Hugs are so underrated, especially those hugs that are so tight you can literally feel the other person’s heartbeat and for a moment everything feels so calm and safe and like nothing can hurt you.” ~Unknown

Hug someone today. Put down your phone, reach out your arms, and feel their heartbeat. It could help you more than you think, and the person you give it to could need it more than you know.

From now until June 26th, you’ll get three bonus gifts, including a guided meditation series on letting go, when you pre-order Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal. All you need to do is order a copy here and forward your purchase confirmation email to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Hugging Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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The Past May Have Shaped Us, But We Have the Power to Change

“If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.” ~Toni Morrison

Our very first relationship is the one we develop with ourselves. However, even that one is shaped by outside forces.

You may or may not believe that we choose our family. Regardless of your position regarding how your soul made it to your parents’ household, the truth is that the environment we are born into determines a great deal of the rest of our lives. This is especially true about the way we relate with ourselves and others.

We learn by observing and experiencing the dynamics in our home. Our brains absorb the discourses. The judgments passed over us and the stories told about us become a part of our personality. The words we hear from the voices around us become embedded into our inner voice.

We end up with a creation from the hands of Dr. Frankenstein: a patched up combination of voices that we later adopt as our own. That voice plays a huge role in how we develop a relationship with ourselves and, therefore, with those around us.

The outside world shaped the inner reality that, in turn, will facilitate how we relate to that outer world.

We learn from the way that our caregivers react to stress, from how they manage their anger, and how they engage in arguments.

We learn from how they treat themselves, us, and the rest of the world.

We learn about limitations and about fear.

We learn to worry and to lie.

We learn to yell out and to bottle it all in.

We learn to over-react and to act like leaves at the mercy of the wind.

We learn to micromanage and to be oblivious to life.

We can learn the extremes. However, we can also learn balance.

What is your vision for yourself? I’m talking about a real life vision, not about your annual income goal, or your income-to-debt ratio, or that degree you’ve been meaning to get. I’m not talking about the car you want or the trip you’ve dreamed of. Not that those things are bad or meaningless; they’re simply not a vision, they’re goals.

What I am asking is: What is your vision? What state of being do you wish to create for yourself? What kind of relationships to you want to nurture? How do you want to feel? 

My parents did their best to give me the best they had to give. I learned about hard work, being of service in the community, and believing in the divine. However, I did not develop anger management and conflict resolution skills, calming strategies, a healthy self-concept, or effective communication and decision-making skills.

In other words, I was a typical clueless adult who was able to make money and run the rat race functionally. But I knew very little of myself, or how to develop healthy relationships with myself and others.

As a matter of fact, I had no idea what healthy relationships looked and felt like. This led to a bumpy road that involved quite a few panic attacks, aggression, toxic relationships, isolation, and a social media and sugar addiction. The details of my journey are truly irrelevant. However, the lessons gained do have value.

It started with answering questions I had never asked myself. Also, tools such as meditation, counseling, spiritual work, a lot of reading, journaling, praying, and developing a support village assisted me in the journey.

Being open to the process is quintessential. So, I invite you to address the following questions with an open heart and observe your thoughts about yourself and others.

Take note of the things you visualize on a daily basis. Do your visualizations match your vision? Or are they hindering it?

What does a healthy relationship with yourself feel like?

How about the conversations you have with yourself? How did that voice form?

Where do these stories about yourself come from? Are you truly that person?

How is your relationship with yourself? Are you hyper-critical? Do you “bash” on yourself? Or do you make excuses for yourself?

What type of relationships do you envision for your journey?

What type of narratives do you create in your mind with those who surround you? Do you imagine arguments? Do you mentally practice “come back phrases”? Do you spend time rehearsing irrelevant hypothetical situations? Do you declare negative labels on the rest of the world?

Your early caregivers started the work of raising you, but you are the one responsible for continuing it. We are never done growing. You are not done. The universe is not done with you. Now it’s your turn to help yourself create the reality you envision for yourself.

About Oñi Adda

Oñi Adda is a Yoruba Iyalosha. She is also a teacher of children with special needs, a mother to a wonderful four-year-old walking piece of sunshine on Earth, and a legendary bathtub singer. She believes that our journey on the material plane has one purpose: to grow. That growth leads to Light and Light leads to unity in our communities.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post The Past May Have Shaped Us, But We Have the Power to Change appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Lean Muscle

When I graduated college, the freshman 15 that happens to so many graduates skipped me. I could still fit into my high school clothes and I was proud I didn’t put on extra weight.

But there was one problem about my body that I was unhappy with, I looked dreadfully skinny in my pictures. My sister said my body looked really gangly, a very unflattering term I hated since I already thought my arms was excessively long and skinny like a monkey.

I longed to fill out my jeans and have more definition in the arms so I started lifting weights but didn’t pay attention to my diet or to what I ate because I ate healthy. I had three well balanced meals a day based on my Asian culture: a bowl of rice, little bit of protein and lots of vegetables.

After a few years of lifting, I compared my side by side pictures of before and after and I was shocked. I looked almost exactly the same as if I never lifted weights! It was a sad wake up moment that triggered me to hire a strength coach to help me out. He completely revamped my diet and helped me put on pounds of muscles in a short period of time.

In this article I will share with you what I learned about the muscle building diet to build lean muscle while shedding fat.

A muscle building diet and workout

What do you think is more important to building a body you want, your diet or your workouts?

Many say it’s 80% diet and 20% working out. As an experienced personal trainer, I say it’s 100% each. To get the results you want, your diet must align with your workouts.

You cannot expect to get great results if you train hard in the gym but eat like crap. A bad diet will translate into a sub-par workout which will not give you the energy and intensity you need to get results. By eating a healthy diet, you can train hard in the gym and recover properly to build muscles.

Likewise, you can eat 100% clean and healthy but if you’re not training in the gym multiple times a week with enough intensity, then you won’t be stressing your muscles enough to get them to grow.

So diet and training are equally important for optimal muscle growth and fat loss.

Your calorie intake

The holy grail of body transformation is to be able to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. We are inspired by those amazing transformations we see on the internet and we think everyone achieved their results by transforming a fat cell into a muscle cell.

Successful body transformations start with understanding a little bit about how your body works.

For fat loss to occur, you must burn more calories than you eat. When your fat cells start shrinking, your body will metabolize the excess fat leaving you reduced body fat.

Building muscle happens when you eat excess calories. The extra calories will help to increase the size of your muscle fibers so that you gradually get stronger and increase your overall metabolism.

You may be asking how are you supposed to lose fat and build lean muscles at the same time? The honest truth is you cannot. They are opposing metabolic processes.

If you want to lose fat and build lean muscles, pick out which one start out with. My recommendation is that if you’re a woman with more than 30% body fat or a man with more than 20% body fat, your first goal should be lose fat.

Having a layer of fat will often times mask the muscle gains you reap from the gym. It’ll look like as if you’re just getting bigger and softer rather than leaner and more defined as you add muscle to your frame.

In addition, as you eat in caloric surplus to build muscle, you will inevitably also put on some fat. It’s just the nature of building muscles unless you are extremely meticulous about your calories.

To lose fat, calculate how many calories your body is burning and cut out between 10-15% of the calories so you start the fat loss process.

To build muscles, add an additional 10-15% of the calories of your current caloric burn to your diet. Monitor your weight and body fat to ensure you’re not packing on too much fat during this period.

Protein – your muscle building macronutrient

This missing macronutrient in my diet was the reason for my lack of results.

At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of protein till my strength coach had me eating 175 grams of protein every day in the last phase of my transformation. It was a huge struggle eating that much protein primarily because I ate so little of it in my meals. I had to really focus on planning my meals to meet those requirements every day.

In the long run, increasing my protein consumption paid off because I dropped from 30% body fat to 22% in a matter of months without starving or being hungry.

Adding more protein in your diet can benefit you in multiple ways as listed below:

  • Increase satiety. A big reason why people fall off the diet wagon and quit their diets is because they’re hungry ALL THE TIME. With food restrictions and calorie restrictions, the mentality of feeling deprived every day leads to an increase in hunger. Adding a substantial amount of protein to every meal will leave you feeling satisfied and keep hunger at bay.
  • Boost your metabolism. Yes, you read that right! Out of all three macronutrients — protein, fat and carbs, protein has the highest thermogenic effect. Everything you eat takes energy to digest, store and absorb the nutrients, and discard whatever is left. The digestion of protein takes the most energy out of all three, so about 30% of the protein you eat gets burned off in the digestion process. How awesome is that?
  • Build and retain muscle mass. Muscle itself is metabolically expensive to maintain. It costs a lot of energy and calories not just to build muscle but also to maintain it because it’s active tissue. Protein is a macronutrient that your body cannot store. This is why it is vital that you eat protein around the clock to support muscle growth and repair. Without protein, your body will be unable to build new muscles that you are breaking down in the gym.

How much protein should you eat?

The recommended dietary requirements (RDA) for protein is at a modest 0.8 g/kg of bodyweight per day. This means if you weigh 130lbs, it would translate to eating a minimum of 47g of protein or about a 2 small chicken breasts a day.

This RDA requirement is the bare minimum of protein consumption and is based on the average sedentary individual. If you don’t exercise and sit for 8+ hours a day, then the RDA recommendation is perfect for you and there’s no reason why you need to eat more protein.

I have found from training clients that a higher protein intake translates to faster fat loss and a higher metabolism versus a lower protein intake even if you don’t strength train. Just by adding more protein to your diet causes you to eat less which results in weight loss.

For building muscle and fat loss, I would recommend about 40% of your total calories come from protein or about 1 gram of protein per bodyweight in pounds.

If you are new to eating that much protein, start by adding about 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal and work yourself up to including protein snacks or even proteins shakes to meet your daily requirements outside of your meals.

What are good sources of protein?

You can start making a dent in your protein intake by eating a big breakfast. Most people eat lots of carbs for breakfast like oatmeal, a bagel, a smoothie or a muffin of some sort and find themselves hungry well before lunch.

Instead, swap out your breakfast with high protein choices like whole eggs, Greek yogurt, smoked salmon or throw in a scoop of protein powder in your smoothie or oatmeal.

Animal protein sources are complete protein sources and will be the best quality protein for your diet because they contain high sources of lysine which is the essential amino acid to build muscles. Make sure to get your protein from different sources so you’re getting different micronutrients and minerals.

For someone who is vegan or lean towards the more vegetarian diet, there are still plenty of options but it will be more challenging because most plants are not complete sources of protein. Soy and its products like tofu, tempeh and edamame are examples of a complete plant protein. Other examples of vegetarian sources of protein are quinoa, beans and nuts. Again, you want to vary your sources of protein so you get different vitamins and minerals from your food.

To supplement or not to supplement?

The most popular question that comes up when people think of building muscles is what type of protein supplement to buy.

My recommendation is to try your best to get protein from food sources first because they are a natural source of amino acids, minerals and micronutrients. Eating the protein versus drinking the protein will help to keep you full longer because your body needs to break down the food versus a protein shake just passes through.

But there are times where you’re on the go and you simply do not have time to sit down and eat. In that case, a protein shake would be a good option.

Do your research on a protein supplement before you buy so you get the best one for your needs. Below are recommendations of what you should look for in a healthy and clean protein powder:

1. It is 3rd party inspected.

The first thing you should research is to check if the protein supplement you are considering has been inspected by an independent third party company. This will tell you if the protein per serving on the nutrition label is accurate.

At the same time the inspection will also check for contaminants and heavy metals that could be present and harmful to your health.

2. Amount of protein (g) per serving is close serving size (g).

You also want to make sure that you’re paying for a protein supplement and not a meal replacement that is full of carbs and minimal protein. You can check by looking at the nutrition label.

Often times the grams in a serving size are much bigger than the grams of protein in the serving size. This happens when there is excess filler in the form of coloring, flavors and sugar additives.

For example, one serving may be 30 grams but in it only has 23 grams of protein with the other 7 grams of miscellaneous filler. This means with each scoop of protein powder, 25% of your money is going towards paying for filler ingredients.

It’s also important that you want to make sure a serving size actually has a gram amount listed, otherwise you will have no idea how much protein you’re drinking in each serving which is deceptive marketing.

3. Very minimal to no fillers.

Extracting pure quality protein is an expensive process. To reduce costs, companies will add fillers such as natural and artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners and other components to make the powder mix nicely with whatever you blend it with.

If you’re consuming a protein shake or two everyday, it also means you’re drinking these artificial fillers which are unhealthy for you and do nothing to benefit your muscles. Do your best to look for a high quality protein and use your dollars to pay for protein versus fillers and flavoring.

Summing it up

Body transformation journeys are exciting life changing moments to really showcase your health and body potential. They are wonderful challenging moments that bring out the best in you.

Pairing the right workout with a healthy diet and macronutrient ratios will help you get results in a shorter time.

By following the recommendations in this article, you will be well on your way to building muscles and losing fat.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

The post Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Lean Muscle appeared first on Lifehack.

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15 Benefits of Probiotics (And How to Find One That Actually Suits You)

We all know probiotics from yogurt commercials and packaging. We’ve heard it’s good for digestion. We might have complained to a friend about bloating and gotten her wide-eyed recommendation, “Oh, you should try taking probiotics!” Beyond that, what do probiotics really do for us? How much should we get? Is yogurt the only way to get them?

Let’s talk about what probiotics actually are, what benefits they might give us, and how to choose the right one for you and your family.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are bacteria that live in your digestive tract that are good for your health.

Your digestive tract is home to a large population of various types of bacteria and yeasts, each with their own function. The community of various microbiota is sometimes called your gut flora. This community works well together when all of the strains of bacteria and yeasts are in balance.

If the population of good bacteria gets too low, the bad forms of bacteria and yeasts in your digestive tract can multiply unchecked, just like weeds taking over a yard.

There’s also something called prebiotics, which are types of non-digestible fibers and resistant starches that feed the good bacteria. Prebiotics are food for the probiotics and help them flourish. It happens that most prebiotic foods are ones that are super healthy for you in general – like garlic, asparagus, wheat bran and bananas – so they’re a win-win.

15 benefits of probiotics that you didn’t know

1. Balance digestive flora

The main benefit of probiotics is in keeping the population of good bacterias in balance so that the bad bacterias and yeasts don’t take over.

Your levels of good flora can be decreased because of antibiotics, stress, antibacterial soaps or hand washes, chlorinated drinking water, foods treated with pesticides and herbicides, colonoscopies or colonics (colon hydrotherapy), or having surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

Those are times when it’s important to take a probiotic supplement to repopulate your digestive tract with the good bacteria that keep you healthy.

2. Help relieve infectious diarrhea

If you find yourself with a sudden onset of diarrhea (any time it’s brought on by a virus, bacteria or parasite), get yourself some probiotics. They’ve been shown to reduce the severity and duration of infectious diarrhea. For anyone who has experienced it, every minute you could reduce this experience by is worth its weight in gold.[1]

3. Prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea

After a course of antibiotics, a common reaction is diarrhea. Studies show that taking probiotics directly after can reduce the chances. This makes sense as the probiotics will help repopulate your digestive tract with the good bacteria that promote healthy digestion before the bad bacteria have a chance to flourish.[2]

4. Alleviate symptoms of ulcerative colitis

Since the benefits of probiotics are primarily in digestive health, there’s been research on how they can impact various types of inflammatory bowel disease. So far, they’ve seen a positive effect on symptoms of ulcerative colitis.[3]

5. Ease bloating and gas in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

There’s also been some research into the benefits of probiotics on irritable bowel syndrome. Again, some of the symptoms (bloating and gas in particular) seem to ease when taking probiotics. This seems promising and hopefully there will be more studies to find out which have the most effects to provide relief.[4]

6. Prevent urinary tract infections

A study on urinary tract infections found that women taking a supplement of Lactobacillus crispatus daily for 5 days, then weekly for 10 weeks, had a lower rate of getting a recurrent UTI in that time.[5]

7. Produce vitamins

The bacteria in your gut have a role in creating certain vitamins like vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.[6]

8. Reduce inflammation

Inflammation is the root cause of lots of different diseases, allergic reactions and immune response as well as linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

As probiotics are studied for their health benefits, researchers are also looking for the way in which they help us. One of those seems to be in reducing inflammation, by reducing the cause or reaction that triggers inflammation in several ways.[7]

9. Help with lactose tolerance

Lactose intolerance is very common because so many of us stop producing the enzyme lactase that we would need to break down the lactose in milk and dairy products. The probiotics in fermented diary products like yogurt break down lactose before it reaches our colon – and the bacteria used to make yogurt help us digest lactose better.[8]

Probiotics might also reduce the allergic reaction to dairy in adults but studies haven’t shown for sure yet.

10. Enhance the immune function

Getting the right community of microbes in our gut is an important part of early development for infants. It also affects the proper development of their immune system.[9]

For adults, probiotics can boost the function of your immune system by promoting the production of natural antibodies and stimulating activity of certain immune cells like dendritic cells and T-cells.[10]

11. Help regulate the blood pressure

Probiotics are being studied for their effect on heart health and might have some impact in lowering blood pressure. So far they’ve only found a slight effect though.[11]

12. Lower the blood cholesterol

Probiotics seem to have some beneficial effects on blood cholesterol as well, specifically lowering total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.[12]

13. Promote skin health (get rid of acne, rosacea and eczema)

There’s been some research showing the benefits of probiotics for acne, rosacea and eczema. Study also shows that probiotic supplements (of Lactobacillus GG) by mothers prenatally, and then by infants for 6 months after birth, can reduce the child’s chances of developing eczema.[13]

14. Reduce anxiety and depression

The benefits of probiotics may extend to anxiety and depression by reducing those symptoms of stress.[14] Any mental health issues should of course be treated primarily by a qualified professional, but probiotics may add a risk-free addition to a whole life approach to stress management.

15. Prevent allergy development

Probiotics could be helpful in preventing the development of allergies in children, especially if the mother takes probiotics during pregnancy.[15]

Note:

The research into the benefits of probiotics is fairly new, so there isn’t a lot of conclusive evidence yet. But what has been done is promising so far. Many of the results seem to depend on which strain of probiotic is helpful for specific health issues, so there’s a lot of potential to find new results.

Hopefully the more they find, the more research will be done in future to help us understand all the ways in which probiotics keep us healthy.

How to find the probiotics that are suitable for you

Most people think of yogurt when they think of getting probiotics, and there are some excellent non-dairy yogurts that are made with properly cultured probiotics. You could also try kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and other naturally-fermented foods.

One thing to watch out for is that many yogurts (especially the dairy ones) that are sold commercially need to be pasteurized, which involves heat that will often kill the probiotic bacteria. Look on the package to see whether the yogurt has been pasteurized or not.

There are also probiotic supplements that are wonderful for getting a more concentrated source of probiotics. You’ll want to take a dose of 1 billion or more per day, and the exact strains aren’t as important as having a variety of strains. There are even gummy versions for kids, or anyone who doesn’t like taking capsules.

Although probiotics are most often associated with dairy products, there are plenty of vegan probiotic supplements and non-dairy products. Probiotics are bacteria which feed and grow on sugars, and there’s no need for any animal products in their life cycle.

Most people don’t need to take probiotic supplements every day indefinitely, think of them as a boost every so often. If you notice that your digestion is off or if you had to take a course of antibiotics, take them for a few weeks until your digestion is normal, and then take a break.

Although most supplements are best taken with food for proper absorption, probiotic supplements are best taken on an empty stomach so that the probiotics can get in your digestive system quickly. The best time is first thing in the morning, before having breakfast.

Probiotics recommendations

Some high quality and effective probiotic supplements to try:

The bottom line

Probiotics have a lot of potential benefits, from improving digestion to heart health to immune function. While some of the benefits listed here may not be fully researched yet, what we do know is that probiotics are generally safe and have no side effects for most people. If they can’t hurt, why not give them a try?

Probiotics should always be thought of as a complementary supplement to your regular health care, and of course never go against professional medical advice. Before taking any supplement, you should always consult with your medical doctor.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: Probiotics for treating acute infectious diarrhoea.
[2] NCBI: Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
[3] NCBI: The role of probiotic lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and other related diseases: a systematic review of randomized human clinical trials.
[4] NCBI: The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review.
[5] NCBI: Randomized, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial of a Lactobacillus crispatus probiotic given intravaginally for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection.
[6] NCBI: Randomized, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial of a Lactobacillus crispatus probiotic given intravaginally for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection.
[7] NCBI: Gut Microbiota-Derived Short-Chain Fatty Acids, T Cells, and Inflammation
[8] NCBI: Probiotic bacteria down-regulate the milk-induced inflammatory response in milk-hypersensitive subjects but have an immunostimulatory effect in healthy subjects.
[9] NCBI: Importance of microbial colonization of the gut in early life to the development of immunity.
[10] NCBI: Gut Microbiota-Derived Short-Chain Fatty Acids, T Cells, and Inflammation
[11] NCBI: Effect of probiotics on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials.
[12] NCBI: Cholesterol-lowering probiotics as potential biotherapeutics for metabolic diseases.
[13] Science Direct: Probiotics and prebiotics in dermatology
[14] NCBI: The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers.
[15] NCBI: Probiotics for Prevention of Atopy and Food Hypersensitivity in Early Childhood: A PRISMA-Compliant Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

The post 15 Benefits of Probiotics (And How to Find One That Actually Suits You) appeared first on Lifehack.

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Life Is in the Little Things: Finding the Extra in the Ordinary

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.“ ~Jimmy Johnson

“Write about what we did today,” my daughter said. She knows I often write once she is asleep.

Dully I thought, “What we did today wasn’t that exciting.” Yet, for her, it obviously was.

She gets lost in her experiences, deeply entrenched in the realms of her imagination that continue to weave each experience she is having.

From my perspective, I took the kids and their friends to a nature reserve so they could get muddy and play. I needed them outside, away from the house where cabin fever sets in quickly and the mess builds up even more quickly along with my stress levels.

Instead, we had a nice walk, first to see a waterfall, then for them to play in a stream and slide in the mud. After that, we had a picnic and I watched them all get lost in game after game led by their imaginations.

When we got home my daughter set about making a Lego creation; there is a national competition going on and she wants to enter. She created a platform with a throne for the queen to sit upon after she climbs the magical rainbow-colored staircase. She had been reflecting upon that staircase the night before long after she should have been asleep.

To the side of the queen was her courtier, and they overlooked a courtyard where many of her subjects had gathered so they could have a conversation. The courtyard was filled with beautiful flowers and another large plant that stands in the corner.

The nuances of this creation I am sure to have missed, but I glimpsed beyond the plastic bricks that my mind wanted to adjust here and there, resisting the urge to ‘fix’ them. It was a thing of beauty.

As is her habit every day, she also drew several pictures, each with its own story, ever evolving with lots of princesses and fairies. Then there was the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory audio book that she finished listening to, and the story of the Unicorn Riders we read at bedtime, each with their own stories and life lessons to untangle and reflect on.

Not to speak, of course, of the majestic bun she has insisted upon having in her hair these holidays, with four braids that I carefully reproduce every few weeks (after a trip to Fiji last year). My hair dressing skills seem to have unwittingly evolved in all these requests.

For me, I was just getting through another day of the school holidays. For her, though, she was a princess dreamily going about her day.

After the kids were asleep, I pulled out the journal I keep to record all the things to be grateful for, or that were uplifting. Here is the sad effort I wrote:

“The sun shining through the leaves at the reserve warmed my soul.” That was it, other than noting with thanks that my partner had gone to work all day long to provide us with money.

Yet when I’ve sat down to fill my cup with a little writing, another voice speaks from within. One that sees much more in the day than I obviously had at first glance; it sees the ‘extra’ in the ordinary.

When my daughter said to me a few days ago “It seems like I’ll have more fun when I’m young than when I’m old, Mum,” I understood why she thought that, but it also made me a bit sad.

I lamely told her adults experience fun in a different way, then I realized I was just kidding myself. While that in itself is true, I knew there was no kidding the kids; they know when you are having fun or not.

It’s time for an attitude shift. Sure, when I took the kids to the pools the other day, I did it to get it over with, since they have been nagging me for months to go. It’s an indoor pool, noisy, busy, and it stinks of chlorine. When I was a kid, I would have loved it too. Even as an adult, if I had peace to swim in the large pool it could be enjoyable.

But being responsible for the lives of two little kids who are not yet able to swim properly yet go hurtling into the depths when the wave machine comes on, and in separate directions, it’s not so relaxing.

Today, however, was more relaxing. No chlorine smell, only the smell of freshly cut grass. No loud echoing background noise, just the sound of kids laughing and playing.

Come to think of it, we passed a really tall tree with fruits scattered all over the ground underneath; they looked like lemons. Except this tree was about twenty meters tall, so it was a bit of a mystery to me, and it was quite nice just to notice it and wonder what it was.

It was also quite lovely to see the various dogs going past with their owners, clearly loving being out running around just as much as the kids were.

After our picnic I even joined in the fun by doing a pretend tap dance while all the kids sat on a bench watching and giggling.

When we got back to the house, the kids had all enjoyed their time in the fresh air and sat quietly drawing while I was able to hose down the clothes caked in mud. I have to admit to some satisfaction in seeing the colors of those clothes emerge again from the mud-brown-grey they had turned.

I enjoyed listening to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as much as the kids did, and it was interesting to connect the dots on a recurring dream I used to have, any time my life got a bit out of control, about the lift that went sideward and upside down.

And when I came to read them their bedtime story, the Unicorn Riders pulled me in to their mythical world and left me on a cliffhanger as it was time to turn out the lights.

Now, here I am, sitting contentedly tapping away on the keyboard. My cat is curled up next to me purring away. I am now reflecting on what a joy it is to have these kids that I waited for so long to come.

Even though they drive me nuts at times, and life can be pretty intense, it is worth it to glimpse life through their lenses.

I’ve also just realized that my long awaited new pillow arrived today, contoured to cater for exactly the way I sleep; this is not just great news, it is sheer bliss. How could I have left this and all these other snippets out my journal?

All these years spent longing for things, recording my dreams, and yet once they are here somewhere in my psyche they turn to hum drum, stressful even. “This is what it is to be human,” I remind myself. “To always want something more.”

It’s the age-old paradox of noticing what about my experiences I would like to change, while still appreciating in the moment the things that I do have. Instead, I seem to have slunk down into just taking for granted what I am experiencing and getting frustrated that what I want isn’t here yet.

This is dumb, I know. It would be healthier to celebrate the sheer miracle that this life I am leading has been entirely of my own making. There is so much power in that. I remember a few years back, when my partner complained to his godparent about how hard it was to look after the kids, she reminded him that this was his dream.

It’s true, it was our dream to have a family, and we spent years trying to make that happen. My partner even wanted two girls; he had names for them and everything. After we realized we needed to stop trying so hard, our wish came true.

But it’s not just about kids; it’s about the place we live, the life we lead, the people around us—it’s all of our own making. And it’s actually pretty spectacular.

I’m reminded of a little exercise of Marisa Peer’s I did one day, where I had to imagine seven-year-old me turning up at the front door of our house in my mind’s eye. I had to invite young me in and show her around. It was quite an emotional exercise. Looking at my life today through young me’s lenses was pretty gratifying.

Thanks to my daughter, the dull response to her initial thought that I should write about today has turned to a sparkle. It wasn’t so unspectacular after all, I realize. In fact it was quite extraordinary and really quite fun.

So often we focus on what’s lacking, or what didn’t meet our expectations, but we’re a lot happier when we appreciate the little things and recognize the beauty in the ordinary.

About Shona Keachie

Shona teaches by the power of example how to find our inner truth among the often harried day-to-day practicalities of life. She regularly provides people from all walks of life with a fresh perspective on anything they feel stuck with and is happy for you to get in touch. To follow her blog click here.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Life Is in the Little Things: Finding the Extra in the Ordinary appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

16. Talk about bullying.

It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

Depression in children is curable

Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
[2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
[3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

The post Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It) appeared first on Lifehack.

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15 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Brain Power and Your Mood

These days, you feel like a robot.

You drag your feet into work and you have to deal with your boss. You’re hustling this year yet again to try and make more money than last year.

You come home to kids who always need something from you and all the things that need to be done around the house barely gives you any time to connect with your spouse.

You don’t even have a moment to yourself and it’s beginning to stress you out to the point of burnout.

But life doesn’t have to be this way.

What if there was a simple solution that’s been scientifically proven to decrease your stress levels? Something that will clear your mind of all the clutter and help you feel refreshed each morning with more focus and energy? Like you’re ready to take on the world?

This is exactly what meditation does.

In fact, over 50 years of scientific research has unearthed a whole bunch of evidence of all the different life changing meditation benefits. Here are 15 ways meditating regularly has been shown to significantly improve your brain function and mood.

1. You get fluent at making good decisions.

If you’re stressed out often, you’ve probably had those moments in your life where you made bad decisions as a result. Whether it’s details you missed for an important project or a big mistake you made that negatively affected other people, you know what it’s like when you’re not at your best.

What’s being impaired in moments like this is a skill called executive function.[1] Simply put, executive function is the part of your brain that helps you get results for goals you are trying to achieve. It’s what helps you do things like manage your time, pay attention, plan, organize and remember details.

Studies have shown compelling evidence that it helps people who have impaired executive functioning skills from conditions such as Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).[2] A study run by Dr. Lidia Zylowska showed 78% of adult participants with ADHD experienced a reduction of overall ADHD symptoms when they regularly used meditation practices.[3]

2. You become an expert at handling stress.

Moments of stress triggers your amygdala, also known as your “lizard brain”. It’s the primal part of your brain which is associated with fear and emotion and its primary function is to help you survive.

High levels of stress can make you enter into lizard brain mode where it is dominated by the amygdala. It can be described when one “flips his lid” and is controlled by overwhelming emotion such as fear or anger. Think about it as times you’ve been in a heated argument or deathly afraid of something that might hurt you.

When you are in this mode, other important parts of your brain like the pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that is capable of higher level thinking such as decision-making, self-awareness, empathy and morality, are turned off

Because the amygdala isn’t as great at logical thinking for the less straightforward situations of daily life, meditation can help decrease your stress levels by first getting you out of your lizard brain and back to being in the present moment, which then empowers you to respond to stress in a much better way.

For example, you might be in lizard brain mode thinking all the time about how to survive by making more money, but through meditation, you connect with what’s most important despite all the stress. You realize before it’s too late that you’ve been ignoring the more important things like connecting with your kids and maintaining intimacy with your spouse.

MRI scans have shown that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the amygdala appears to shrink. And as the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex becomes thicker.[4]

Basically, science has shown that meditation can help you become better at handling your stress by activating the part of your brain that makes better decisions.

3. You naturally remember useful information.

Imagine a time where you told yourself a list of items you wanted to buy at the grocery store without physically writing it down. By the time you get to the store, you’ve forgotten what some of those items were.

This is when your working memory capacity has fallen short. You use your working memory when you need to place a sticky note in your mind so that you can use it in the near future. The problem is sometimes those sticky notes fall off by the time you need it.

If your working memory is the information that goes on these mental sticky notes, then your working memory capacity is how long you can have these sticky notes stay on before it falls off. The longer time you have to hold information, the more time you have for reasoning and comprehension to occur.

Meditation has been shown to improve your working memory capacity.

One study had about 200 teenagers assigned to either a mindfulness meditation practice, yoga, or were wait-listed as a control group.[5] Results showed that the teenagers participating in the meditation group had significantly better working memory capacity than those participating in the other groups.

4. You become an amazing smooth talker.

If you’ve ever had a time when you were talking with someone and you had trouble finding the right words to express what you were trying to say, you’ve had a moment where your verbal fluency wasn’t at it’s best.

​Verbal fluency as defined by verbal skill expert, Min Liu, is the “ability to find the right words at the right time or in the right situation.”[6]

When sixty-three University of North Carolina, Charlotte students with no meditation experience volunteered for an experiment that studied the effects of meditation on their verbal fluency, results showed that there was a significant improvement in verbal fluency in those who engaged in mindfulness meditation versus those who did not.[7] And to add to these impressive results, the group who meditated only did it for 20 minutes a day over four day period.

5. You develop laser-like focus.

With all the information at our fingertips in this digital age, it’s easy to get distracted. We are exposed to an average of 10,000 marketing advertisements a day and it’s hard to discern what the important things we should focus on are. The artificial A.D.D. culture we’ve created has made us have significantly shorter attention spans due to information overload.

Taking as little as 20 minutes a day for five days to engage in meditate has improved one’s attention, which shows the power of simply making a subtle shift and spending a tiny fraction of your day simply being present.[8]

6. You superpower your brain.

All the signature folds you see on the outer surface on the brain that look like windy roads have been formed to help increase the speed of brain cell communication. The formation of these folds is known as gyrification. Since your brain doesn’t have any space inside your skull to get bigger, it undergoes gyrification to increase the capacity of your brain function.

Long-term meditators have been shown to have a larger amount of gyrifcation compared to those who don’t practice meditation.[9] More interestingly, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, which is proof of the capability of our brain to continue growing even as adults.

This means the more you meditate, the faster and more efficient your brain becomes at processing information, which can be especially useful in moments where you need to think fast.

7. You are better at problem solving.

When your brain is solving a challenging problem, it requires the skill to focus attention on what’s most important amongst a large amount of information.

A simple example of your brain at work engaging in such conflict resolution is when you’re at a loud party talking to a friend. If your brain didn’t detect and resolve all the conflicting stimulation around you by helping you ignore all the noise around you and focus on your friend, you’d probably have a sensory overload.

The same principal applies when you run into larger conflict resolution challenges. You need to be able to determine what’s most important and focus your attention on it.

Multiple studies have shown that participants in groups who partook in meditation practices had performed higher on evaluations that tested conflict resolution skills compared to groups that didn’t.[10]

This goes to show why those who meditate generally have a lower stress level. Their brains are more adept at conflict resolution.

8. Your creativity starts to flourish.

The Harvard Business Review has conducted experiments that have shown that 10-12 minutes of mindful meditation practices were enough to boost creativity.[11] The majority of participants who were part of the meditation arm of the study reported that it helped them “clear their minds, focus more on the task at hand, and come up with original solutions.”

Mindfulness meditation gets ideas flowing directly to your neocortex, which is where all of your creative thinking takes place. It’s no surprise why some of the most leading companies have introduced meditation in the workplace as a result:[12]

“The Walt Disney Company was an early adopter of meditation in the workplace, as they noticed a dramatic increase in creativity after employees meditated on creative solutions. General Mills is another company which reports improved innovation as a result of sitting in stillness and has meditation rooms available to their staff. Google has an in house mindfulness program called ‘Search inside Yourself’ and has built a labyrinth for mindful walking meditations.”

9. You kill your anxiety and experience more peace.

About 6.8 million Americans suffer from General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and even if you’re not one of them, chances are you at least worry about something on most days.

When worrying becomes a normal part of your daily life, it can take its toll on you and you find yourself losing sleep, being tense and have a racing mind that won’t sit still.

Meditation has been long established as an antidote for anxiety. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist recruited fifteen healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety to test out this theory.[13] The participants had no previous meditation experience. After engaging in four 20-minute mindfulness meditation classes, it was reported that anxiety was noticeably reduced in every session that they meditated.

The brain imaging scans taken of these individual revealed that meditation was providing anxiety relief by activating the anterior cingulate cortex which is one part of the brain that helps with the control of worry. Scans also revealed decreases in the grey matter of the amygdala which is the part of the brain that plays an important role in anxiety and stress.

10. Your brain stays young forever.

Most of the neurons in your brain are contained within a portion known as grey matter. It’s within the grey matter where essential things such as memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control take place.

After you reach 30-years-old, your brain begins to slowly shrink.[14] But evidence shows that those who keep their brain in shape by engaging in regular meditation practices can prevent the shrinking altogether.

One study from UCLA showed that in long-term meditators, age-related grey matter loss was less pronounced compared to those who didn’t meditate.[15] Brain scans of the participants who had been meditating for an average of 20 years even showed more grey matter volume throughout their brain than expected.

11. You become great at adapting to changes.

Cognitive flexibility is the vital function that’s been described as the ability to adapt behaviors in response to changes occurred in the environment.

Imagine if you started to live in a new country, your level of cognitive flexibility will determine how fast you can adjust to all the changes to your environment such as having the steering wheel on the opposite side of the car, learning the local language and figuring out the nuances of the new culture.

Meditators performed significantly better than non-meditators as examined in a study which brought participants through exercises that tested cognitive flexibility.[16] The study indicated that mindfulness is closely linked to improvements to cognitive flexibility.

So if you’re ever having trouble adjusting to a new situation, maybe a little meditation will solve your problem.

12. You begin to win your battle with the blues.

A research review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of Internal Medicine in January 2014 showed meditation was about as effective as an antidepressant.[17]

Another study on mindfulness meditation published by psychologists from the University of Exeter found it to be better than drugs or counseling for depression.[18] They found that after four months of meditating, about 75% of patients felt well enough to stop taking antidepressants.

Even if you aren’t suffering from clinical depression, meditation will uplift your mood if you’re feeling down.

13. You grow stronger and experience less pain.

Mindfulness meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent and that seasoned meditators can reduce it by over 90 percent.[19] Brain scan studies show that meditation can physically alter the structure of the brain so that it no longer feels pain at the same level of intensity.

Hospital pain clinics now prescribe mindfulness meditation to help patients suffering from all kinds of diseases such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease.

Just like many other studies researching meditation benefits, you can see the results of meditation within a short time frame even if you’ve never done it before.

Wake Forest University conducted a study that took 15 healthy participants and performed brain scans while inducing pain. A certified instructor took them through mindfulness meditation over the next four days and by the fifth day, there was about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity ratings while they were meditating compared to when they weren’t.[20]

14. Your ability of self-control goes up another level.

If you’ve ever found yourself giving into the temptations of eating that tub of ice cream when you’re on diet or lighting up that cigarette when you’re trying to quit, meditation might be the exact thing you need to give you that extra push of self-control.

In fact, meditation can even help people recover from various types of addictions. Meditation activates the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex which are the parts of your brain related to self-control.

One study showed that smokers who were assigned to do 5 hours of meditation spread over two weeks showed a 60% reduction in smoking compared to the smokers who didn’t meditate.[21]

15. You gain an overall sense of happiness up another level.

If you’ve ever experienced the pleasurable experience of the “runners high,” then you know what it feels like to have a release of endorphins in your brain. While endorphins are neurotransmitters that your body uses as a natural painkiller, it’s also responsible for the overall sense of happiness you sometimes feel.

When a study compared 11 elite runners and 12 highly trained meditators, results showed that both groups had noticeably elevated levels of endorphins after running and meditation. More interestingly, the pleasurable effects of endorphin release were measured in these groups and the meditation group scored higher.[22]

The easiest way to start meditating

On top of all these amazing meditation benefits, meditation is easy to do and you can actually do it right now.

Here’s a very straightforward and simple step-by step instructions that you can immediately implement to start experiencing the benefits of meditation:

  1. Set aside 5-10 minutes
  2. Find a safe space with little distractions.
  3. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your back straight.
  4. Take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
  5. Close your eyes or focus your gaze on the object you’ve chosen.
  6. Breathe normally and gently bring your focus to the breath.
  7. If your mind wanders, gently steer it back to focus on the breath.
  8. When finished, just take a moment to let the effects of your meditation feeling sink in before going about your day.

If you want some more live guidance or would love to learn more about meditation, Headspace is an amazing app that I use regularly. They do an amazing job of explaining what meditation is and walk you through how to do it even if you’re totally new to the concept.

The road to your best self

The ultimate solution to being happier in life isn’t to try and make things easier, but to make yourself stronger. Meditation will develop the mental strength you need and lift your mood.

Imagine yourself starting your day feeling ready and prepared to take on what comes. Stress keeps knocking on your door but you let it right in and send it right back on its way out.

You’re able to stay focused on what matters to you most and you feel intimately connected with yourself again. You feel like you’re in your prime. You’re no longer a mindless zombie who’s going through life in a daze. You’re finally living instead of just existing.

So take a moment, practice being present and soak it all in. You’ve now just figured out how to keep your life beautiful.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Web MD: What Is Executive Function?
[2] NCBI: Meditation, mindfulness and executive control: the importance of emotional acceptance and brain-based performance monitoring
[3] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation Training for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adulthood: Current Empirical Support, Treatment Overview, and Future Directions
[4] Scientific American: What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?
[5] NCBI: A Randomized Controlled Trial Examining the Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Working Memory Capacity in Adolescents.
[6] Min Liu: How To Increase Your Verbal Fluency
[7] Science Direct: Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training
[8] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation
[9] Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: The unique brain anatomy of meditation practitioners: alterations in cortical gyrification
[10] NCBI: Focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation: effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity – A review
[11] The Harvard Business Review: Can 10 Minutes of Meditation Make You More Creative?
[12] Huffington Post: “How Mindful Meditation Boosts Creativity and Innovation”
[13] Psychology Today: How Does Meditation Reduce Anxiety at a Neural Level?
[14] Brainscape: 25 Facts About Your Gray Matter You Should Know
[15] Frontiers in Psychology: Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy
[16] Science Direct: Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility
[17] Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of Internal Medicine: Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being
[18] Psychology Today: Curing Depression with Mindfulness Meditation
[19] Psychology Today: Can Mindfulness Meditation Really Reduce Pain and Suffering?
[20] The Atlantic: Treating Chronic Pain With Meditation
[21] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction
[22] EOC Institute: How Meditation Boosts Melatonin, Serotonin, GABA, DHEA, Endorphins, Growth Hormone, & More

The post 15 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Brain Power and Your Mood appeared first on Lifehack.

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In Search of the Sacred: Escaping Facebook’s Sticky Web

“You leave the present moment every time you check your phone.” ~Deirdre Jayko

Facebook was driving me to distraction! One late-winter evening, I prepped for a mood-saving hike in the snow. Magic happened on the trails in the moonlight. I decided to check Facebook for a friend’s answer to a message.

Who knows what caught my attention, but I ended up skipping from post to post. Once I emerged from my Facebook haze, I realized it was too late to walk safely. What had I accomplished in place of my hike? What did I even read about?

As I put away my warm clothes and went to bed, I promised myself I was going to change my Facebook usage. It was eating away at my life. I was driving myself to distraction.

Social media usage bothers people for a variety of reasons. Drilling down on those reasons reveals a larger theme of loss of control. In spite of ourselves, we spend way too much time scrolling through mindless content. Seemingly against our best intentions (sometimes, against our will), we waste countless hours on the site.

My frustration level only escalated once I made the decision to torch my Facebook profile. Getting off the site seemed impossibly complex! What about people I only had contact with through Facebook? What about seeing photos of relatives and friends? What about the writings and photos I loved to share? Each time I planned on hitting “delete,” I would give up and decide it was too complicated.

Every morning, I would roll out of bed and check Facebook. The silly thing was: I didn’t want to check Facebook. It was a subconscious habit. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

A red notification of some type would fuel my addictive response. Someone liked my post. Someone commented on a post. A close friend posted something new or had messaged me! That little red symbol is addicting, especially if your life is stressful. It gives your monkey mind an unsatisfying play date with the inane.

One of my passions has always been escaping to the woods for a solo hike. One cold, crisp February morning, I chucked my smart phone into the trunk and set off down the trail into the woods. I was the only human on the prowl, and it felt great.

Clambering along, I took a hard look at my Facebook addiction. I was bothered by the unhealthy anxiety reliever and the gambling-like satisfaction of the red-symbol jackpot. Yet, it seemed something deeper was bothering me about my Facebook use. I wanted to explore this feeling in more detail.

I sat watching squirrels scampering through the tree heights. I reflected on that slightly sick feeling accompanying social media usage. We become caricatures of ourselves on Facebook. The nature of the beast is such that experiences are condensed into soundbites for public broadcast—an exaggerated and polished version of a moment. My real-time sharing with family and friends was much different than this public sharing.  Online interactions lacked substance and depth. On some level, they are not authentic.

Thesaurus.com shares some synonyms for caricature: cartoon, parody. distortion… mockery? And (ouch): travesty and sham. Maybe too harsh in some situations, but, honestly, these words reflect my feelings about posting.

Instead of chilling with my squirrel friends, I would scroll mindlessly as time slipped away, as my life slipped away. I made a pact with myself to delete my Facebook account. I created a statement of intent in my journal, signed and dated it.

I still didn’t get off of Facebook.

A few weeks later, I cruised to work, jamming to my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs. The open road and dreamy music made me feel young, wild, and free. Suddenly, texts from my kids began interrupting the music. I had notifications coming in on Messenger.

As a result of some of those messages, I began fighting the urge to check my work email before I arrived. I cursed silently that I had not taken the time to learn how to disconnect the damn phone, so I could just hear my music. Constant bombardment of stimuli. Not only irritating but also unsafe.

I turned my phone off and threw it in the back seat. SILENCE. As I watched the trees and fields skimming by, I thought about my life before all this technology. I was beyond revolted with perpetual connectivity. I drifted back to my resolve to delete Facebook.

I practice my spirituality in the woods. My nature time is sacred time, my interface with the Great Mystery. As I added gadgets, my secret, unique, sacred relationship with the earth had seemed harder to access. Would I ever feel that connection again? A hypothesis began shaping in my mind. Would I feel more spiritual and be able to access a deeper level of awareness if I got off of Facebook?

I thought about the sticky web that is Facebook. Not only did I have over 200 “friends” of varying levels of intimacy, I had hundreds of photos and memories all neatly time-lined for my reminiscence. I felt the stress of giving up a potential audience for my creative works.

I was stuck in an uncomfortable spot for several weeks. I wanted to get off Facebook to test my hypothesis, but I inexplicably felt trapped on the social media. I began to realize how I was being manipulated in an unhealthy way.

I couldn’t torch my Facebook despite my great desire to plunge deeply into my spirituality. I was hooked. I hate being hooked or controlled by anything. So, I redoubled my efforts.  I developed a plan to get off Facebook in steps.

In the first step, I deleted people I really didn’t know. I quickly deleted about thirty people. It felt good to finally start on my goal. I focused on being more in tune, being more aware, being more spiritual.

As I whittled down my friends, the people became more intimate. People that mattered in my “real” life. I started getting confused about who to delete next and how to delete them. Should I send them a note? Would that be strange? Should I make a public post?

I stalled for another couple of weeks. I was acutely aware that social media traps people and creates a labyrinth of complexities, a maze of prisons. I didn’t like how that made me feel.

A few weeks later, I opened my journal to write. My signed pact stared back at me, forcing me to address this disturbing phenomenon of being trapped on Facebook.

That evening, I curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee. My sole intent was to reduce my social media presence. I sent a private message to select people, explaining I was leaving Facebook and providing my contact information.

A few wrote back, asking, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” My ego raised up a bit. Wow, they think something has gone wrong in my life. I should stay on Facebook to prove nothing is wrong. I slayed that ego dragon and pressed on with my quest.

As I mass deleted my friends, Facebook acted like a real creature, bombarding me with more “people I may know” than ever before. It made me wonder if the site is programmed to recognize when someone starts deleting friends. Maybe not…but the new potential friends were very intriguing.

How did they manage to target my profile with these people? I was tempted to click on some of the new profiles but moved on towards the goal. At times, the process of deleting friends felt great, but mostly I felt a sense of loneliness.

Eventually, I had no friends. I experienced a mix of relief, sadness, and anxiety.

Even the shell without friends proved a sticky trap. I belonged to groups that only posted on Facebook. I also had “liked” very entertaining pages. Could I give up Randy Rainbow videos, and adorable pictures of cows and elephants from the Gentle Barn and the Elephant Sanctuary? Yes, I can access their websites when I need a fix. I ‘unliked’ all my awesome pages.

The hardest sacrifice was abandoning all my kids’ pictures and my life experiences neatly time-ordered. I pressed on because I wanted a deeper, more authentic life.

I was ready for the final step—deletion! I couldn’t find the deletion button. Deactivation is not the same as deletion. All your info is stored and ready to be resurrected. I didn’t like this privacy issue, and I didn’t want the option to reactivate! I found it easier to google “delete Facebook account” and follow a link from a separate website, than try to find the instructions on Facebook.

Finally, I found the delete account button and smelled freedom. Like a creepy, ex-partner who decides he isn’t going to be rejected, Facebook notified me deletion would take two weeks, and I could hop back on anytime in that two weeks.

Thinking back on all the sticky traps of Facebook and the recent media attention on privacy breaches, I thought, “Why do we allow this? Why are we okay with this?” It is not authentic or satisfying to live this way.

The first afternoon free of Facebook felt super!  A few days later, I felt similar to when I left home for a new job in a new city. Kinda lonely and lost, but ready for a new adventure. I definitely missed my friends back in Facebookland. I wondered if I would ever talk to some of them again.

I jokingly asked my kids, “Do I still exist?” Sometimes, I caught myself clicking through news sites more often, simply out of habit. I realized some of my clicking provided a method of anxiety relief. The other sites just didn’t have the addictive quality of Facebook, and I eventually quit the mindless clicking.

As the days move on, I notice subtle differences in my thinking. I feel a soft, calm sensation as I drive to work or create projects. I notice light patterns as the day shifts to dusk. I am more present in my own life. I feel a novel sense of boredom from time to time. Surprisingly, I really like feeling bored. It has stimulated my creativity and my humor. You have to work a little harder when there is nothing to do.

One morning, I was goofing around with my dogs on the couch, playing with their paws, scratching their ears. I had not really connected with them in that manner in a long time. A kind of bored goofiness came over me that had been destroyed by the constant clicking. I felt like a little kid, lazing on Saturday afternoon. Boredom is not a bad thing.

I also became really aware when my loved ones were ‘hooked up.’ It seemed weird that they would be so intent on staring at screens. It should seem weird, shouldn’t it? We’ve been deconditioned to this insanity.

Occasionally I have moments of discomfort about my exodus. What about when my son graduates? Or, I have an article published? Or I travel to an exotic location? What if I take a killer photograph or observe a rare animal in the woods? Who will know?

I guess I’ll share these experiences, successes, and photographs during lunch with my close friends and around the table with my family. At this point in my life, that feels so right to me. My smoother, more relaxed, unplugged mind is savoring the days I have left.

I went to the woods today. I walked quietly and softly on the earth. I left my iPhone at home. The perfect scene for a photo and an unexpected animal sighting went uncaptured. With no phone to grab, these snapshots won’t be shared with the masses. How refreshingly beautiful.

A little squirrel scampered on a tree, chattering to me. It was so quiet, so calm in the woods. I became lost in the moment. I felt that deep, sacred connection with nature that is so precious to me. I transcended into that other world, the world that remains hidden from a noisy mind. A place void of anxiety, of ego, of caricature. A place rich with connectedness, with earthiness, with authenticity.

About Amy Funk

Amy has degrees in psychology, gerontology, and nursing. She loves to hike, bike and canoe. Her passion is empowering others by presenting on the topics of aging, grief and nature. She writes a quarterly post on authentic living. You can sign up for the newsletter here and learn more at agingwithamy.com.

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Ultimate Guide to Persuasive Speech (Hook and Influence Any Audience)

Everyone is blessed with a certain level of persuasive skills. Whether it’s a salesperson convincing a customer why they should buy a product or a mother convincing her child why he needs to sleep early – persuading is something that revolves around our lives whether we realise it or not.

This applies to persuasive speeches as well. These are speeches made with the intention of selling an idea, message, service or product to the audience. Some forms of persuasive speeches include sales pitches, legal proceedings and debates.

Here is a definitive step by step guide on how to frame and execute an excellent persuasive speech:

1. Selecting a topic

People are naturally interested in stories that have a hook. For a speech, this is none other than a topic. Every speaker wants their audience to be engaged and hence, the first step to achieving this is to select a good topic that will capture the attention of their audience.

Here are ways you can identify a good topic for your persuasive speech:

a) Brainstorm

A well-chosen topic is key to the success of a good speech. Brainstorming is a method that helps you generate topic ideas. It also should feel less stressful than other methods. Once you’ve come up with a list of potential topics, it all boils down to identifying what you think is good, depending on several factors such as who your listeners are and what their interests are.

Once done, start the process of elimination and remove the topics one by one till you find the perfect topic to speak about. Brainstorming is a creative process. If you don’t put in the effort to be creative, your presentation will never touch the minds and hearts of your audience.

b) Tailor the content of your presentation to your audience’s needs

Understanding who you are speaking to can help you sound much more persuasive. This helps determine how you can make your tone suitable for them and the content much more relevant and relatable to your audience.

For example, if you are speaking to a young audience, you should find out how they speak and their capacity of understanding. If you will be speaking about difficult topics like insurance, it doesn’t make sense to use a lot of technical terms or jargons especially since they definitely wouldn’t understand what you’re saying most of the time.

Furthermore, if you come in to the talk without any effort to adapt to your listeners, it will be a surefire way to lose their interest. And if they do not see a need to listen to their show, how are you going to sell your idea in the first place? Make an effort to show that the speech was tailored especially to them. This will increase your credibility as a result and show you’ve done your homework.

Questions to get yourself started:

  • Who will be attending your presentation?
  • What are their goals?
  • What motivates them?
  • What values do they most care about?
  • What are some examples that are relevant to them?
  • How can I customize the slide images to resonate with their industry or line of work?
  • What are the words I can use that are relevant to them or are used daily in their conversations?

c) Make It Personal

In order to change the minds of your audience, you need to win their hearts first. To do that, it’s important to add a personal touch for your topic.

One way to incorporate this is to pick a topic you are extremely knowledgeable and passionate for. It shows how much effort and time was spent on understanding and learning the topic. You live and breathe this topic. This passion for the topic will naturally make it easier for you to add your own personal experiences, research and stories. This will help your topic resonate with other people as much as it resonates with you.

For Most TED talk speakers, their talk is their life’s work. One example is Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” where she spent years studying the human connection. In her talk, you can see she has incorporated touches of personal experiences and stories that make the talk heartwarming and persuasive:

2. Organize content

There’s no point in having a great topic with the best content and ideas if it’s not organized in a coherent manner. All it entails is a very confused audience at the end of your speech which means that you did not convey your key message successfully.

One way to organize your content is to create an outline first – it restructures your speech so that it’s clear and concise. After you’ve decided the points you’d like to bring up, start organizing them in a way where it can smoothly transition from one main point to the other. Similar to how one might structure a video,[1] a speech is not that much different.

Another method is to insert the important parts at the beginning or end of your speech. According to a study done by Murdock, people recall information better in the beginning and the end of a presentation. This helps create an edge for your persuasive presentation.

3. Know your content inside and out

One of the worst sins you can commit as a speaker is to read your script off a cue card or worse – look at your slides throughout as you speak. Not only do you sound rigid, monotonous and boring, you’ll definitely lose your audience’s interest as a result.

If you cannot engage your audience to listen to you, how are you going to persuade them into buying whatever you’re speaking about? Make sure to practice and understand your speech thoroughly without reading your slides.

With that being said, however, many tend to memorize their script word for word in an attempt to ‘know their stuff’ which is just a huge recipe for disaster. What if you you get stage fright and your mind turns blank? Or you simply cannot remember? Any hesitation on your part could sprout doubts from the minds of the audience.

Instead, focus on memorizing the flow of your key points as well as the overall arching message of your speech. According to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This allows you to speak with conviction and allow your personality to shine through, thereby convincing your audience as well.

4. Storytelling techniques (Hero’s journey)

You want to capture the attention of your audience with your very first words. To do that, start by telling a story. It’s important you do not bombard them with facts and data as it has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to hard facts.

This technique is one of the most effective approaches when it comes to persuading your audience to buy your idea, message, service or product. This is due to its ability to stimulate interest, increase engagement and help the audience understand what’s being said.

So when you start your speech, try telling a short story to provide them with the vision of the goal. It also helps if you can make the story relatable to everyone involved so they are able to resonate with your speech.

Storytelling is also extremely useful when it comes to escalating the situation in a room full of people who may not be too keen on your ideas.

There are many ways to tell a persuasive story but one of the most effective and foolproof stories is ‘The Hero’s Journey’ approach.[2] This is because it has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. This can result in an impactful speech that can inspire your audience to action.

Described by Joseph Campbell as the The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters.

The tale of these heroes all boil down to three points– the problem, the solution and the reward. You’ll notice that these three elements are always or mostly used in every hero’s journey approach and it never fails to attract the audience. Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.

5. Make use of ‘you’ and ‘because’

There are words that hold more power in swaying our decision making than others. If we can learn how to utilize them, it’ll be easier to persuade our audience.

a) “You”

When you’re speaking or even writing or pitching to persuade, use first-person language. That means making use of the word ‘you’. This word not only gets your audience’s attention, it also makes them feel special – like they are a part of something.

Using “you” makes you sound much more conversational and friendly which makes it easier to establish a connection with your audience. Instantly, you’ll notice the word holds your audience accountable for what you’re saying and makes them feel personally involved.

b) “Because”

A study found that using the word ‘because’ would make people the inclined to allow someone else to do something.

Here is a proven scenario:

Person A: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

Person B: “I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I need to make copies?

Look at both of these sentences. Are you more inclined to allow Person A to cut the line or Person B? Studies find that only 60% would allow Person A to cut the line while a staggering 93% will do so for Person B even if the reasons are ridiculous. This is all because they simply heard the word ‘because’ accompanied by a reason.

6. Reinforce your message

a) Power of repetition

A study of managers in the workplace by Professors Tsedal Neely of Harvard and Paul Leonardi of Northwestern found that,

“Managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”

Knowing this, try to apply the power of repetition in your speech to drive home your message. Don’t rush trying to get your point across but rather, try to convey the message as many times as you can.

However, be creative in repeating your message. Do not say the exact same thing over and over again or you’ll just sound annoying. Instead, find other creative and effective ways to get the same idea across to your audience.

b) Visuals

Visual aids like presentation slides or images not only provide the opportunity to reinforce and drive your message home, it also provides 43% added recall according to Prezi.[3]

To stimulate emotions amongst your audience, make use of evocative images. It doesn’t steal your audience’s attention but reinforces your key message instead. All this while evoking a certain feelings in your audience which helps in persuading them to believe in your idea.

c) Colours

Just like imagery, colours can evoke emotions in your audience as well. Colours signify different emotions and associations. Look at this video to help you understand how humans react to different color stimuli:

d) Interactive Content

A study found that interactive ads were found to be twice as memorable as compared to static ads. Knowing this, you should find ways to create interactive content to further engage and persuade your audience. This can be done with the use of PowerPoint as you can add animations, transitions or even embed videos to spice up your speech.

According to experts, the most recent statistics show that video content isn’t just effective, it’s also on the rise. Furthermore, 64% are willing to watch a video if it’s interactive. If you find that your speech may be boring or full of data, try to present it in a form of an interactive video.

Here’s a video of Hans Rosling, one of the few speakers who knows how to present data in a fun and engaging manner:

7. Adopt the Golden Circle Approach

In order to convince others to buy your idea, message, service or product, find out the purpose for what you’re doing. Before speaking to your audience, find your purpose and/or belief in giving the talk in the first place.

Here’s a video of Simon Sinek, explaining how the Golden Circle approach is effective in making others buy your idea, message, service or product:

In the video, Simon Sinek mentions that many of us communicate from the outside in. This means we always start with What, How and then Why. He explains that persuasive speakers do the exact opposite. They start from the inside out. This is also known as the ‘Golden Circle’ Approach:

  • Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
  • How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
  • What: What is the result?

One example of a company who makes use of this approach is Apple Inc.

  • Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
    Their purpose is to challenge the status quo. They believe in thinking differently.
  • How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
    By making their products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.
  • What: What is the result?
    They happen to make great computers.

As Simon Sinek says,

“People don’t buy what you do but why you do it.”

Find what you believe in and you’ll realize it’s easier to persuade your audience into buying your message and taking action upon them.

8. Provide solutions to the problem

As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates action.

Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action because of what you’ve said.

Furthermore, if your audience does take action, this means you’ve successfully persuaded them since they are motivated by your message.

“That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember and retell.” — Nancy Duarte

Hence, you should be prepared to provide solutions to overcome any obstacles or challenges your idea may face/anticipate.

Summing it up

And there you have it. Make use of all three elements to help your audience buy into your message.

  1. Select a good topic
  2. Research on your audience and content thoroughly
  3. Reinforce your message and make your content engaging
  4. Know the purpose of your speech
  5. Provide solutions

With my step-by-step guide, you will be able to write up a persuasive speech and influence your audience successfully.

Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

The post Ultimate Guide to Persuasive Speech (Hook and Influence Any Audience) appeared first on Lifehack.

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13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life

Achieving work-life balance can be really tough. More and more people are reporting that managing their personal and professional lives has become more difficult.

Longer working hours, more pressure to get things done quickly, more pressure to succeed and less personal time. Added together this combination of things creates more stress and plenty of daily struggles.

But working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most.

“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles” — Zig Ziglar

The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control. Here are 13 work life balance tips you can implement right now to start living a more stress free and joyful life:

1. Take more rejuvenation days

When was the last time you took some time out from work to completely rejuvenate?

One of the best ways to create an environment for future high productivity and creativity is to take yourself outside of the day to day and remove yourself completely from work-related activities.

By taking time out for yourself, you will gain clarity on what’s most important, both now and in the future, and you will come back refreshed, energized and motivated. By taking more rejuvenation days, you are investing in yourself which naturally means you are creating more balance.

If you can take this day to yourself every month or two you will start seeing immediate results on all levels of your business and life.

Now get your calendar out and mark down your rejuvenation days!

2. Let go of fear

Many people, be they entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders or managers worry that if they’re not working, or seen to be working every day, they may miss out on something important. The business may fail or they may not get that promotion or something. There’s always something. There is a sense that something bad could happen if not enough time was invested or “I could always be working on something else”.

But, what if you believed you were good enough, you were achieving and doing something meaningful, and that you mattered?

Once you have that belief and confidence, you can let go of the fear that there is ‘always more’. You will feel more joyful, productive, abundant and know that what you accomplished was good enough.

This guide will help you get over your most irrational fears: How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

3. Prioritize your day

If you took a step back and looked at what’s on your to-do list, how many things are critical? How many things MUST be done that day?

It all starts with a clear understanding of what your bigger and better future looks like. Are you planning a year ahead? Three years? Ten years? What are you working to achieve?

Once you understand that, you can work back and create plans and goals that help you achieve your bigger objectives.

You may build 90 day outcome goals, the things you really want to achieve in the next quarter and then lay out the process for getting there. From this plan you will understand your priorities and where your focused time should be.

Don’t have 10 things on your list to complete that day. Focus on achieving just 3 or 5 important things every day. Achieve them and your motivation will go through the roof. Have too many and don’t complete them and your energy levels will drop.

Lifehack’s CEO Leon has his unique way on how to prioritize: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Express gratitude for what you have

Sometimes we are so busy working through and dealing with the day to day and having our mind in the future that we forget about the here and now, this present moment. I believe it’s essential to include proactive gratitude as part of everyday life, to actually look at everything in our lives and appreciate what we have.

Many of us think of gratitude as reacting. Something happens or someone does something and you feel grateful. You say thank you, maybe send an email.

But a far more proactive strategy for creating and living an abundant life is to actively find things you appreciate. This affects your own personal state of mind but also impacts others. You could send a handwritten card to the people you love or someone that means a lot to you.

Try giving thanks for three things at the end of every day and see how this shifts your mood and mind-set.

5. Learn to say no

It’s important to decide what you want to do, who you want to build relationships with and where you want to spend your time. We have so many requests made of us and so many opportunities to do different things that we end up saying yes to things that we really don’t want to do but feel we should do.

Have the self-respect, confidence and courage to live life on your own terms and say yes only to the things that really matter. For everything else, start saying no.

When you are clear on who matters most and what matters most, you gain clarity on what and who is essential and who isn’t.

Your time is scarce. When you start saying no to most things, you will become more focused and be completely present in everything you’ve said yes to.

Learn how to say no more often with these tips: How to Say No When You Feel You Can Only Say Yes

6. Have more fun

If you looked back at the last week, how much time did you spend just having fun? If it wasn’t much, then it’s time to change things up.

Think about what gets you excited, think about the people you love spending time with. Jump into new things and new relationships. Take some risks, try something new, learn a new skill and start laying the groundwork for a big project you’ve always been putting off.

If you need to get out of your comfort zone to have more fun, just do it. However, you want to change your life, having more fun keeps you energized and motivated.

7. Start to journal

One of the biggest things that has helped me in my own personal growth and goal achievement is using my journal every day.

This is the place to house my dreams. It is home to my creative thoughts and my thinking tools. It’s a place to escape to. It’s also a place to write down thoughts and notes on where I am right now — my thinking, my mind-set and my belief system.

The habit of writing in my journal felt like a small step but has been transformative. It has become a routine that has affected other parts of my life.

So, start keeping a journal. Commit to writing every day, even if it’s just for five minutes and see where your imagination takes you. If you need to know more benefits about journal writing to get started, here’re 5 Smart Reasons Why You Should Start Journal Writing TODAY

8. Create one hour a day to think and relax

It’s amazing what we actually have time for, especially when we decide to really make time. I hear the phrase “I don’t have time” constantly. How about you change that mind-set and start dedicating one hour a day to yourself?

One hour to work on yourself. One hour for reading. One hour to learn a new skill.

The truth is we can all find time if it’s important to us. This one hour a day could help us become more creative and increase your energy and focus. Plus, you’ll increase your capabilities.

9. Do one thing you love to do every day

As we get sucked into the whirlwind of the everyday, it’s all we can do just to get by. We often forget to do or enjoy the things that actually bring us the biggest amount of joy.

One of the best ways to bring more balance back into your life is to recommit to do the things that give you the most pleasure. If you don’t have anything, I suggest you find something you’re passionate about. This could be reading, walking, meditating, learning an instrument or a language, or becoming a better cook or gardener.

It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you get joy from the experience. Try carving out time every day to do this one thing. Do it for 30 days and it will become a habit. Plus, it will help you reconnect with what you really care about.

10. Create more family time

This is an area that means a lot to me and was one of the reasons I set up my coaching business in the first place.

I have two young children and I wanted to see more of them and to spend more time with my family. I get to take them to school sometimes and am often home for ‘family dinner’ and bedtime stories. Having the freedom to do this is essential in how I run my business and how I help other entrepreneurs run their business.

If you can create a bit of space to spend more time with the people that matter you will see a massive difference. Here’s a guide on How to Maximize Family Time with plenty of ways you can try immediately.

11. Set clear goals

Successful people are always guided by a vision of their future. To keep them on course and motivated setting clear goals, both long-term and short-term, allows them to achieve their biggest dreams.

Setting specific and measurable goals gives you the best chance to transform how you work and live. They help you move forward and build momentum every single day. As Dan Sullivan says,

“Your future is your property. If you don’t take ownership of it, others will be happy to do it for you.”

Learn how to set clear goals with this step-by-step guide: How to Set Goals: 10 Steps to Stay Focused

12. Focus on results, not time spent

Rather than thinking about working harder, focus your time and energy on achieving bigger results. By simplifying your areas of focus, you free up more time to live a more joyful and balanced life.

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of doing countless activities that drain your energy and take you away from building momentum in moving your business forward. You are being pulled in multiple directions and don’t have enough time and often take on too many projects. This can often leave you drained, worried and uncommunicative at the end of the day.

Remember, getting more things done means nothing when nothing great is done.

By focusing on a smaller number of projects and delivering maximum impact, you have a bigger sense of achievement, confidence and motivation. Plus, you may have more time to stop work early and spend time with the people that matter.

13. Commit to a bigger future

You have the power and control to decide what bigger and better future you want for yourself right now, in this present moment. How far into the future you want to ‘vision’ is up to you. It could be 3 years, 5 years, 10 years or 25 years. This future is yours to create but it only comes from investing time now to think about where you are and where you want to go.

Try this: Look into your ‘future you’ and be clear where you want to go, who you want to be and how you want to live your life. Then bring yourself back to the present day and create an action plan on how you’re going to create and ‘walk to’ this bigger future.

You will feel a higher sense of energy, engagement, motivation, creativity and productivity because you have a clear vision and clarity on exactly where you want to go and the steps you need to take to get there.

Think differently and live differently

Some of these strategies and tips will allow you to think differently and work differently immediately whilst others will take a little longer to implement but will be key to your long-term success.

Creating a balance between how you think, how you work and how you spend your time is essential to your long-term health and mental wellbeing. The desire to create that change only comes from within. Hopefully these strategies and tips will set you on the right path!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Meditation Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal

Hi friends! As I mentioned last week when I shared the music coloring page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, I’m planning to share some of the other pages, twice weekly, until the journal launches on June 26th.

Each page depicts one simple thing we can do to help ease our worries.

Today’s tip: Make time for meditation.

Of all the healthy habits I’ve adopted, meditation has been, by far, the most transformative.

It’s enabled me to observe my negative, obsessive thoughts instead of getting caught up in them, and it’s helped me create space between my thoughts and my response, so I’m less apt to do and say things I’ll later regret.

The beautiful thing about meditation is that there are many ways to do it, to suit your schedule and needs.

You can use guided meditations (I’ve included four in the pre-order bonus package!); you can learn any number of different techniques for seated meditation; you can practice deep breathing; you can try a movement-based practice, such as yoga, qigong, and meditative walking; or you can simply practice mindfulness in your daily life—while eating or doing the dishes for example.

And even if you only have five minutes, you’ll experience the benefits.

Research has shown that anxiety can change the structure of your brain, increasing the size of the amygdala (the part responsible for your fear response), causing you to become even more anxious.

A regular meditation practice can reverse this. It can literally change how your brain works and, consequently, how you respond to the events in your life.

My preferred forms of meditation include:

-Yoga (Vinyasa, hot yoga, and yin yoga—which a teacher recently described as “basically a nap with light stretching”)

-Guided meditations (I’ve found tons of free options on YouTube)

-Deep breathing (alternative nostril breathing being my favorite)

If I have the time, I’ll go to an hour-long yoga class at a studio down the street (which also allows me to clear my mind a little on the walk) or find a thirty-minute guided meditation online.

If I have less time available, I’ll do five to ten minutes of poses, a five-minute guided meditation, or a few minutes of deep breathing. No matter what I choose, I always feel calmer and more centered after.

Do you have a regular meditation practice? If so, what’s your practice of choice, and how has it changed your life for the better? Your experience could help other readers find peace, calm, and healing, so please share the good!

From now until June 26th, you’ll get three bonus gifts, including a guided meditation series on letting go, when you pre-order Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal. All you need to do is order a copy here and forward your purchase confirmation email to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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Goals vs Objectives: How to Use Them to Become Successful in Life?

You’re at home with your family and you’re planning a vacation for the upcoming summer time. The family sits down and you start discussing options and after an hour, you decide you will rent a modern trailer and drive from your current location (New York) to Miami for vacation. Miami is your goal and all the necessary steps to getting there are your objectives.

Throughout the article, I will refer to the above-mentioned metaphor to explain goals, objectives and the relationship and differences between those two. So buckle up and prepare for this ride because we will cover:

What are goals and objectives?

The easiest way I can explain what goals are is to tell that they are your final destination. It’s the place where you want to be– mentally, physically, spiritually, intellectually.

A goal represents a future we desire to happen and it serves as a focal point to where we want to go in life (Miami in the case above).

Objectives, on the other hand, are the ways of you getting to your goal. For any single goal, you could have many objectives. An objective in the case above would be renting a trailer (way of getting to Miami) but as I said, you can and should have many objectives for a single goal.

You could add additional objectives to the goal of reaching Miami by stating that you will drive every day for 6 hours (one objective). Also, objectives can serve as indicators that tell you that you are on the right way of achieving your goal.

If you take the road from New York to Miami, along the way you should pass through cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond and Jacksonville. All of these serve as indicators that you are on the right way and that you should be continuing your way.

But is there a systematic difference which will help to differ goals and objectives? Yes, there is and the following chapter is all about that.

Goals vs Objectives

Goals answer the question of what.
“What do you want to do?”
“I want to take my family on a vacation to Miami”

Objectives, on the other hand, answer the questions of how.
“How are you getting to Miami”
“We are renting a trailer and driving all the way”

Goals can be vague, qualitative statements that are hard to measure. Sometimes they can be binary where you measure them by either done/not done. An example is a goal Napoleon had: “I want to conquer Russia.”  It can be easily measured by done/not done. In his case, it was not done.

But then, there are those goals which are completely unquantifiable. For example, “I want to be the best clarinet player in the world,” or “I want to be successful,” or “I want to find the love of my life.” These goals are unquantifiable because they are based mostly on feelings and feelings are impossible to measure.

Goals are mostly vague and impossible to measure, yet we need them as they provide direction. So we need something which is measurable and quantifiable and that is why objectives exist.

Objectives are completely measurable, specific things we do to achieve our goal.

In the family vacation example mentioned, where the goal is to get to Miami, objectives provide checkpoints that can be measured. These provide the much necessary objectives measurements that tell us if we are on the right path or we need to change something.

Goal: Drive to Miami from New York in 3 days

Objectives:

  • Reach Richmond by 7 p.m. the first day,
  • Reach Jacksonville by 7 p.m. the second day
  • Drive in Miami at 7 p.m. the third day

If we don’t hit the objectives above, we need to change something. Otherwise, we won’t achieve our goal.

If we get late to Richmond on the second day, that means that we either need to adjust our speed (drive faster), adjust our driving time (drive more hours in the day) or make fewer stops (less resting time). There are multiple different ways we can adjust our approach to get to our goal.

But then, there is the question of importance. What is more important, goals or objectives?

Is one more important than the other?

Goals and objectives are two sides of the same coin. There is no value in having just one or the other side- only when we combine them do they serve the purpose.

Goals are there to provide direction- future- of where we want to go. Without a goal, there is no bigger picture and no motivation of pursuit.

Without objectives, a goal is just something that lives in our heads. Objectives provide the waypoint for us to achieve our goals.

Simply having objectives without a goal is mindless action. I could tell you to practice math for 7 hours a day but for what reason? If you don’t want to be the best mathematician in the world, there is no point in you doing that.

The same thing would be with the family vacation example.

If you know that you need to pass through Richmond and Jacksonville but have no idea what your goal is, how will you know when you get there (whatever “there” is).

“A man without a goal is like a ship that set sail to nowhere – always getting nowhere and never getting ‘there’ “

A goal without objectives is simply daydreaming – it’s a fantasy. In the family vacation example, it would mean for us to know that we want to go to Miami but we have no idea of getting there. The signposts that say Chicago, Houston, or Boston mean nothing to us when we have no idea how to get to Miami nor what is a good road to there.

“A goal without a plan is merely a dream…”

Okay, but what will I do with all of this information? The last chapter of this guide will tell you what.

How to utilize goals and objectives to succeed in life (step-by-step guide)

So far I have shown you examples of goals and objectives, the difference between the two and importance of having both. Let’s see now how we can use these to achieve our dreams.

There is a simple framework I use for all my dreams, goals and objectives and it’s called the Hawkeye-Wormeye framework.[1]

The Hawkeye-Wormeye Perspective

Step 1: The Hawkeye

Imagine that you’re a hawk and that you fly high above the forest which represents your life. When you’re a hawk, you see endlessly beyond and know where the mountains, rivers and hills are. You see where you need to go and you get clear on the bigger picture.

“I want to get to the hills beyond the murky swamps.”

The hawkeye is the first thing you do because it provides the goal, the bigger picture or whatever you call it.

When you get clear on where you need to go from a hawkeye perspective, now it’s time to get down in the dirt by becoming a worm.

Step 2: The Wormeye

Okay, so we know where we are headed right now – it’s the “hills beyond the murky swamps.” But to get there, we need to become a worm now. Why a worm?

Because a worm can see just 2-3 steps in front of him. This ensures that even though you know your final destination, you are just focusing on the 2-3 steps that are right in front of you.

As Will Smith said in an interview

“You are building a wall. But you are not, in fact, building a wall. You are laying brick by brick as perfect as possible and one day, if you lay your bricks perfectly, they will become a wall.”

The same thing is with the wormeye. You know where your destination is but you decide to focus only on what is in front of you. This way you ensure that you “lay the perfect bricks which will one day become a wall.”

The transition from Wormeye to Hawkeye to Wormeye

Every 3 or 6 months, you should spend a couple of days only in the Hawkeye perspective. You do this because you need to make sure that you are heading in the right direction and to see if you need to change/iterate anything in your worms path. You take as Bill Gates calls it – a “Think Week”.[2]

The rest of the time (over 95% of it), you spend it in the wormeye perspective. You are on the ground, doing work, getting new skills or getting better at old ones. You step out from the wormeye to hawkeye only to see if you are still on the right way.

But what do you actually do in wormeye perspective?

Chunking goals into objectives

You have the bigger picture, the goal you want to achieve. Let’s say that goal is to become the best non-fiction writer in the world. So how do you become that?

First of all, you take apart what writing actually is. And there, you realize that writing isn’t just writing – that writing consists of four different parts:

  1. Generating ideas
  2. Researching
  3. Writing
  4. Editing

Okay, we now know what we actually need to work on to become the best writer. The four above are the skills we need to master to become the best writer in the world.

By putting big, vague goals/dreams into smaller compartments which can be easily practiced (daily habits), we are, in fact, chunking our work to something that can be done.

The hawkeye perspective of becoming the best writer is focused down on the wormeye perspective of working on four different parts of writing.

But what do we do with chunks in the end? This is where we get to the actions and behaviors (objectives) you do daily and the last part of our big puzzle – daily habits.

Daily habits

So we chunked the “become the best writer in the world” to “practice generating ideas, researching, writing, and editing.” So what do we actually do with that?

We form daily habits.

This isn’t something big we need to do – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. We take small actions every single day and those actions accumulate over time to get us to our goal. We take it one step at a time, slow and steady, and as Eric Edmeades would say it “I do less today to do more in a year.[3]

In the writing example, a simple and easy daily habit would be “Write 500 words a day.” This way, you have a daily habit which takes care of the “writing” part of you becoming the best writer in the world.

For generating ideas, you start leading a journal (3 things that happened to you today), for researching you start reading books (20 pages a day) and for editing you create a list of forbidden words you simply delete from your writing (“like”,”very”, “thing” etc.).[4]

You don’t need to start doing all of these- actually I advise you not to. I advise you to start with one of these and then, when it becomes a habit, add up another one. That is what I did.

I started with reading habit (20 pages a day). After 150 days, I added a writing habit (writer 500 words a day). The next one coming is generating ideas habit and at the end, the editing habit.

If I started with all of them immediately, none would stick. As the saying goes “Do less in a day to do more in a year.”

Learn more about how to build good habits and make them stick in this guide: How to Build Good Habits (Step-by-Step Guide)

Conclusion

We started with an explanation of goals and objectives, went over the difference of those two, understood that one can’t go without the other one. Then, we saw how to use goals and objectives in our daily lives.

For that, we used the hawkeye and wormeye perspective where we saw that we need the bigger picture of the hawkeye but the focus of the wormeye- the steps that are right in front of us.

In the end, we chunked down the big goals we had into the smallest possible actions and made daily habits out of these.

Now, we know what we need to do every single day to achieve our goals and dreams. Everything standing between us and the goal we want to achieve is a small daily habit – so just start doing it.

Featured photo credit: Skitter Photo via skitterphoto.com

Reference

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How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve More and Become Successful

Risk is something we all have to face in our lives but appreciating its value and impact on our lives is not always easy.

I asked my social media friends on a survey whether they felt risk was a good thing and 100’s said yes and yet I know from my clients that this doesn’t equate to 100% of people taken every risky action they could to achieve more and live a life that fulfils them.

Take the client that needed a coaching session to get them to take the jump into self employment. They knew in their heads that with over 20 years at the pinnacle of their career, they could do it. But they needed their coach to be the one that took the training wheels off and said “let’s do this!”

We don’t all take the risks we should in life. What makes a risk feel too big? What external impactors change our perception of risk and what’s the difference between good risk and bad? When should we be risk adverse? And how can we work out the difference and step up to take the risks that could change our lives (for the better)?

What is calculated risk?

Let me ask you:

“Would you cross a 3 lane road of fast moving traffic?” The answer is likely to be “no” right?

What about if I asked “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic at night?” Still a “No?”

What about if I said “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic that had a pedestrian crossing?”

Look how the risk changes. It is the same road with the same cars, but we’ve gone from a risk that we are unprepared to take to one that has an element of control and expected outcomes. That is what a calculated risk is.

Would you quit your job right now and set up in business on the street corner in an hour’s time? No of course not. However, would you quit with a plan of action in a set period of time? Possibly?

The thing about calculated risk is that humans have to deal with their perceptions or reality, their emotions, feelings and even beliefs to be able to take on risk. And that is why you may see 100% of people saying “Take the risk”. However if questioned further, I could probably find at least one occasion where every single person should have taken the risk and they didn’t.

I’ve seen people turn down contracts, delay travelling, delay saying “yes” to marriage, delay quitting their job and even delay having their hair chopped off because they’ve not been able to calculate the risk with an outcome that they deem will be satisfactory.

Is all risk calculated?

In a speaking engagement, I once re-enacted the moment when the hero of the film is hanging on for dear life to the side of a mountain. There’s no hand places left going up. They can’t go down and there’s no way out, the baddies are shooting at them from every angle and you think “there is no way out of this!” and then miraculously they let go tumbling through the air, landing in a helicopter that flies into view being flown by the gorgeous incredibly clever side kick.

Risk is a bit like that.

The first time James Bond, Jack Reacher or Lara Croft let go and went in a new direction, they were probably experiencing massive levels of fear. However, by overriding that fear, they were able to create a new definition of what is possible. It’s not called mission impossible for nothing.

But how can we know it’s a good idea to jump and when it’s going to lead to impending doom?

Interestingly, children seem to be risk blind for a while. It is adults that stand behind them shouting “don’t do that, you will fall and break your neck!” Do children stop doing stupid things? A and E departments would argue no.

But if we didn’t take on risk we’d never learn to walk. The first time you pulled yourself up on to your legs and stood there jumping up and down with a grin that says “Look what I can do” was sheer joy, not so much fun the next time you tried it and nearly removed your nose. Most parents will have a story of how their child made their hearts leap with absolute terror as they did something stupid, but risk needs us to test its limits or we will all be still sat in baby gyms unable to reach the cool toys.

The reason some people achieve great things is because they are prepared to test their risk limitations.

How to grow your risk tolerance to achieve more?

Here I’ve aimed to break down what you need to keep your eyes peeled for, how to fix what you find and what you need to do so that you can calculate risk and achieve more with the following methods:

The RRIS method

R – Research everything you aim to achieve.

But also know when to stop researching and get on with it. The amount of clients I’ve worked with who are so ready they could be the most intellectual person on the planet on their area of expertise.

It’s easy to get in the trap of “doing just a bit more research” to get you out of taking action. So do your research and use the other tips to help you to take action on your knowledge.

R – Rationalize your reality.

I often hear clients say things that once said back to them they can quickly (and often embarrassingly) see that it’s just not true. They’ve twisted reality to enable them to stay safe.

Question what you believe to be true and the results you perceive to be impossible to avoid. Do you have evidence to prove your reality or are your thoughts just enabling your comfort zone to stay the same size?

Comfort zones are like big thick duvets. Glorious in the middle of winter with the rain battering the windows and you are curled up safe and warm, but hideous in summer, when the same duvet can wrap itself around you becoming a sweaty trap for your legs to get caught in.

If you know that a comfort zone is twisting your reality, you can be like two versions of my clients:

  1. They like to get so far out of their comfort zone that they can’t see it any more. They do big actions putting into action the right support to achieve them. Learn and move on.
  2. They would literally feel stuck in fear if you offered them option 1, therefore they like to do things in small tiny morsel sized bites. If this is you, arrange to challenge your beliefs around anything in your life (not just related to the calculated risk to achieve more).

If you like structure, start the day in a way you wouldn’t. Get dressed before you brush your teeth, listen to a different radio station, choose a different route to work.

Silly things that make you think about what you are doing can help you see that different is not bad. Different can be exciting, new, rewarding and so much else. And tiny steps can be right for some.

I – Ideas can reduce or inflame our capability for calculated risk.

Before you do anything, somewhere in your head it was a thought. When you really appreciate this, you are able to see that before you take on any risk, you have to have the ideas behind it to achieve.

Ideas like this will be exciting, life changing, and will work and make my career. What phrases would you create to describe the result of your idea?

If you notice they are negative, where’s your evidence? Clients often tell me that I make them take risks. As a coach, that’s impossible. My job is to enable them to see what they really want and overcome the beliefs and obstacles towards going for it.

Once we are faced with our facts on our skills, past successes and capabilities, we can’t help but ask “what is stopping you?” By doing this, you are creating solid foundation to get great results because your ideas are positive and not made up of illogical untruths like “it won’t work”, “what if I fail”, “it’s not done like that”, “I will end up looking stupid”.

S – Success over scares

It is a calculated risk and therefore something that is worth investing in and going for when our level of fear is reduced and our belief about success is raised. Where do you stand on this scale?

Scared! vs Success!

Now add in the following words to the above scale. Where would they sit?

  • Staying safe
  • Stuck
  • Self esteem
  • Stopping myself

Can you start to see how there is a big gap between scared and success? And between the two there will always be elements of feeling safe or stuck and worrying about whether you can do it. The important thing to remember is that you will never completely bridge the gap between scared and successful. A little fear is really good for you.

I’ve never had a speaking engagement where I don’t feel a little nervous. 9 years ago that wasn’t nervousness that was absolute terror. And I once read “it’s not stage fright, it’s performance energy.”

What description would you like to use do describe your calculated risk? If you were to say it out loud, would it be a positive sentence or one that reduce you to fear? Your words and finding your place on the scared to success scale could define your likelihood of success.

The know-it kit

Taking the risk is scary, from the client that wanted to confront their boss of 10 years and make a suggestion that they knew flew in the opposite opinion of their boss, to the singer who is too scared to stand in front of an audience. The important thing is to remember that you are in control of the risks you take and a know it kit can help.

Know the times you’ve been successful.

Lot’s of clients will tell me that their fear is overriding their beliefs about what can be achieved. At times like that it’s no good to think something different and expect it to magically make it seem easy.

Get the facts on your side. As much as you heart will fill your head with negativity, hanging on to the facts of what you’ve already done in life is something you can’t argue with.

Know the skills you have.

As above, when we take on a risk, we need to know we’ve got what we need to get the results we want.

Know that mistakes are good.

No exceptional rise to success didn’t have set backs, no great inventions didn’t have failures (with many of those becoming inventions in their own right) knowing that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and good for the end results can ensure you take action even when the fear is raising its ugly head.

International Vocal Coach Gemma Milburne shared,

“I think many of the greatest singers are the most willing to take risks. You have to risk going out of tune, making mistakes, sounding awful, in order to get REALLY good at singing. As a vocal coach a lot of what I’m doing is helping singers to face that ‘mental’ risk that’s in a person’s head.”

Know the people you can trust.

When everything is in place, you’ve got the evidence, you’ve done your research, you are accountable, focused and ready for action, sometimes just a chat with the right person can be all you need.

Who is in your Know it Kit? You can trust them to say what you need them to say. And not just “you will be great dear, go for it.” Having the right people there that will challenge, empower and ensure you’ve ready in every capacity to make it happen.

Before a petrified public speaker has taken to the stage or a client has walked into a room to go for their big dream, I’m often the one they text as they walk in for that last minute reminder that they’ve got this.

Know the way you have to feel.

And lastly, don’t forget that even with the right words from the right people, it is still down to you.

Sometimes cultural beliefs and feelings can slip into our mindset, other people in the same industry can tell us “it’s never been done like that” and it can knock our focus and derail our thoughts.

How do you need to feel to get the results you want? If I told a person from 200 years ago that they could fly anywhere on this planet in the same day, I’d likely have been locked up. Our beliefs change with time and experience. Do you want to be the person that creates the thoughts and beliefs of the future? Or wait for someone else to have taken the risk (and the glory!) and to leave you wishing “I wish I’d taken that risk”?

Face your fear and take risks

Looking back to myself years ago, Mrs. Nervous Wreck lacking in confidence…

She looked up at the chandelier that was taller than her house and tried to focus her thoughts. No amount of “thinking positive” was working and she just wanted her spleen to burst so she could end up in hospital safely away from this extravagant room and all these people. How could she ever have thought it would be a clever idea to speak to a room full of her peers?

Less than 5 months prior to this moment, she’d stood in front of just 25 business owners and faffed, and fumbled through her words, feeling like a complete fake wishing to never see any of these people ever again. Heck even a career in a local fast food place would be better! She’d made a memorable impression but for all the wrong reasons and one of the audience had taken great delight in reminding her of her epic fail, so what had driven her to do it again?

That was me but for some reason, I’d decided to take the risk and speak on another stage in front of more people.

In many ways, I was hardly recognizable from 9 years ago to today when I’m described as “one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard” and “changed my life in one hour.” Clearly my ability and attitude to speaking to an audience changed but what else?

It was how I faced my fear and how I grew my risk tolerance to achieve more.

By taking my advice on how to take calculated risks, you will gradually find yourself becoming braver and embracing more opportunities. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

The post How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve More and Become Successful appeared first on Lifehack.

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25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School

If your kids are picky eaters, you know that every meal can be a battle. Their growing bodies are in need of vitamins and nutrients, yet all they crave are unhealthy foods with no nutritional content. What you need are creative meal ideas they can eat for lunch at home or at school, designed to appeal to their palate.

The recipes listed here contain lots of vegetables, minimal or no processed ingredients, and most importantly, flavors that even the pickiest kids will love! The ingredients for each meal are listed below. Click on the name of the dish to see the full recipe!

Finger Foods

1. Asian-Style Fish Cakes with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

Do you have a finicky eater that refuses to eat fish? This is a great way to make this omega-3 fatty acid rich protein appealing and fun to eat. And it’s much better for you than frozen fish sticks.

Just so you know, these fish cakes freeze amazingly well! To save time, make a big batch and freeze them for whenever you need a quick meal or snack.

View recipe here.

2. Chicken Zucchini Poppers

Some kids don’t like the texture of zucchini, but in this recipe, they add moisture and the zucchini is barely detectable. Make sure to squeeze out the excess water in the zucchini so that the poppers stay together and don’t fall apart. They can be pan-fried or baked! The poppers pair perfectly with the citrus avocado dressing.

View recipe here.

3. Baked Crispy Chicken Fingers with Apple Fries

If your kid asks for chicken fingers, you don’t have to say no. This version is made with white meat chicken and baked. Substituting fries with apple fries makes this an appetizing lunch that both you and your kids will approve of. Turkey breast can be used instead of chicken.

View recipe here.

4. Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets (Vegetarian)

Broccoli is notorious for being a hard sell. Who knows why kids don’t like eating these miniature trees? But when mixed with cheese and formed into a fun shape for easy dipping, kids may give these broccoli-filled nuggets another try. Another positive is that they are baked, not fried.

View recipe here.

The Salad Bar

5. Chicken Taco Salad

Kids love tacos, so why not make them a healthy taco salad? This one is packed full of leafy greens, tomatoes, corn, avocado and grilled chicken. Adding crushed chips on top gives it the perfect amount of texture and appeal for your young kids to enjoy without a single complaint.

View recipe here.

6. Chicken Salad with Grapes

A colorful chicken salad with crunchy roasted nuts, dried cherries, grapes and celery, it can be served alone, in a sandwich, or on a bed of lettuce. Apples can be used in place of the cherries or in addition. Greek yogurt can also be used in place of the mayonnaise to up the healthy factor even more!

View recipe here.

7. Salad Stuffed Pepper Bowls with Creamy Avocado Dressing (Vegan)

As many of you moms know, a huge part of the appeal of a meal is the presentation. These pepper bowls are such a clever idea for a kid-friendly lunch. The salad AND bowl are made from a plethora of colorful, nutritious veggies. How often do you get to tell your kids to eat their bowl? You can add a protein to the salad if you prefer, such as grilled chicken.

View recipe here.

Soup of the Day

8. Vegan Chili

This vegan chili recipe contains primarily of vegetables and beans, making it very healthy and filling. Making a flavorful and rich tasting chili doesn’t have to take all day. By blending a small portion and adding it back in, the chili will be thick and satisfying, and no one will be able to taste the difference! Make a big batch because the leftovers keep very well.

View recipe here.

9. Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Get all the flavors of chicken pot pie in half the time with this chicken pot pie soup recipe. This is such a comfort food, but also contains a lot of nutritionally dense ingredients, such as carrots, celery, peas, corn and green beans. The crust and filling are cooked separately, which is a major time saver for busy moms.

View recipe here.

10. Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Another spin on the beloved taco, a fan favorite of young kids. This recipe is slow cooker friendly, so you can prep all of the ingredients in the morning, throw it in the slow cooker and come back to a house smelling of aromatic taco soup. Serve with tortilla chips or over a baked potato.

View recipe here.

Oodles of Noodles

11. Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne

Swap out typical Chicken Parmesan with healthier but just as tasty eggplant, which is sauteed instead of deep fried. But you don’t have to sacrifice the crunch from the breading by adding panko on top. You can also use whole wheat pasta to cut calories and add fiber, minerals, and protein.

View recipe here.

12. Roasted Chicken and Tomato Pesto Spaghetti Florentine

This recipe incorporates roasted grape tomatoes, baby spinach leaves and rotisserie chicken breast for a light and easy lunchtime pasta. You can make your own homemade pesto if you have the ingredients on hand. Store-bought also works just as well.

View recipe here.

13. Thai Noodle Salad (Vegan)

Filling your meals with plants of different colors will ensure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. This recipe alone covers four colors! You can use any type of noodle (wheat, rice, soba, etc.) to make this dish, and customize the veggies to your heart’s content.

View recipe here.

14. Southwest Pasta Salad (Vegetarian)

This pasta salad is bursting with flavor — with tons of spices, lime juice and chipotle peppers. Don’t worry about making too much because the leftovers will be even more flavorful, after marinating in all of the seasonings overnight. And there is no heating needed! Use a lentil and quinoa pasta to make this dish gluten free.

View recipe here.

15. Avocado Hummus Pasta (Vegan)

This recipe is one that I created when I had no clue what to do with the vegetables, ripe avocados and leftover hummus I had to use up in my fridge. The textures and flavors of each ingredient somehow just works magically together. The creaminess from the avocado and hummus ties it all together. This accidental discovery is a huge hit with my husband and son!

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

A 30-minute creamy vegan pasta loaded with veggies and tossed in a creamy sauce made from ripe avocados and hummus.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb rotini pasta (substitute as needed)
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
  • 8 oz sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, chopped
  • 3 oz sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 2-3 ripe avocados, chunks
  • 10 oz hummus, any flavor
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • salt, pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook noodles according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
  2. Chop veggies and set aside.
  3. Add olive oil to a large saucepan. Saute minced garlic until aromatic. Add mushrooms, asparagus, cucumber, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute until tender.
  4. Add pasta, avocado, and hummus to the pan and mix gently.
  5. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  6. Serve warm. Store leftovers in the fridge for a few days.

Some Assembly Required

16. French Bread Pizza

This is one of the most versatile recipes I’ve ever come across. Not only can you completely customize the toppings on the pizza, you don’t even have to use French bread. Deli rolls, Italian rolls or hoagie rolls work just as well! The possibilities of toppings that you can add are endless. Have your kids customize their own individual pizzas with their favorite toppings to ensure they will create a meal they love.

View recipe here.

17. Rainbow Pizza

Look at the colors on this pizza! Not only is this pizza visually appealing, it’s also extremely healthy and delicious. The combination of bell peppers, broccoli, red cabbage and beets add a variety of complementary textures and flavors to this creative pizza recipe.

View recipe here.

18. Asian Lettuce Wraps

Chicken lettuce wraps are a crowd-pleaser at P.F. Chang’s, but there’s no reason you can’t make a just as good if not better version at home. Requiring only 15 minutes, these lettuce wraps are scrumptious and fun to eat. Your kids will love assembling their own lettuce wraps and devouring this healthy lunch.

View recipe here.

19. Fish Tacos

Another way to get kids to eat fish is to serve them into tacos! These flaky pieces of fish are topped with a tangy, crunchy slaw loaded with veggies. The fish can be pan-fried or grilled and served in a flour or corn tortilla. Your kids will be requesting this dish over and over again.

View recipe here.

20. Skirt Steak Fajitas

This tortilla friendly recipe that incorporates skirt steak, onions and bell peppers has decided to go the fajita route. All of these ingredients can be combined on one baking sheet. That means fewer dishes and easier clean-up! You can serve with your favorite toppings such as avocado, sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese.

View recipe here.

No Utensils Needed

21. Avocado Egg Salad Wraps

Eggs are a great ingredient to include in a nutrient-dense lunch for growing kids. Egg salad is one of the best ways to serve it, but the large amounts of mayonnaise introduces a lot of unnecessary saturated fats. This recipe cuts out a lot of the mayo and uses nature’s mayo — avocados, for creaminess.

View recipe here.

22. Spicy Tuna Avocado Wrap

Canned tuna is such a convenient ingredient and is also a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and potassium. This wrap contains lots of hearty vegetables and uses avocado and Dijon mustard to flavor the tuna. Sriracha is used for added spice if your kids can handle spicy food! These wraps can be packed easily in a lunch box to take to school.

View recipe here.

23. Chicken and Avocado Roll-Ups

These easy roll-ups take only 10 minutes to make! And they’re packed with great veggies like avocados, tomatoes and onions. You can pack it with even more veggies like spinach, cucumber, or whatever you might have in your fridge.

View recipe here.

24. White Bean Veggie Burgers (Vegan)

Do you have kids that love eating burgers? These 100% vegan burgers with plant-based bacon and cheese will be so delicious that they won’t even realize they’re not eating meat. Beans contain lots of vitamins and fiber and are a great source of protein. You can bake or grill these delectable burger patties.

View recipe here.

25. Turkey Spinach Slider

One of the problems with turkey burgers is that they can be flavorless and unappetizing when prepared incorrectly. This recipe incorporates ingredients that pack a punch like cumin and garlic. There’s also spinach leaves blended right into the patty, but your kids will be too busy chowing down to even notice!

View recipe here.

Making healthy lunches for home or school doesn’t have to be daunting task. Armed with these recipes, you have all the tools you need to find meals that the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.

By incorporating nutritional but less appealing ingredients into forms your kids recognize and love, you can introduce them to new flavors and hopefully, open their minds to trying new things.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

The post 25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School appeared first on Lifehack.

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Why You Keep Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (And How to Fix It)

Why is a good night of sleep so hard to achieve?

A bad night of sleep is cumulative. The side effects of a poor night of sleep carry over into the entire day leaving your brain running off fumes feeling fatigued, unable to focus and unproductive. It’s frustrating trying to get tasks done when your brain is screaming at you to just fall flat onto your desk and just “take 5.”

If you’re someone who finds themselves waking up at odd hours of the night with difficulty getting back to sleep or waking up not feeling refreshed and energized, then listen up because these next sections are for you.

In this article, we’re going to dive into some of the most common reasons why you’re not getting a good night of sleep and what you can start doing about it.

Is it normal to wake up in the middle of the night?

Shouldn’t we always sleep eight hours straight through the night?

It’s actually not uncommon for someone to wake up in the middle of the night, even 3-4 times a night. The normal human cycle of sleep is roughly every 90-120 minutes. According to Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep expert, most people will go through three to four “cycles” of sleep per night.

Towards the end of each cycle, sleep is less deep and you have a higher likelihood of being woken up. Sometimes we are unaware that we are even awake because we just fall right back to sleep, which is normal. This may be the main reason why many people rarely have true uninterrupted eight hours of sleep.

This becomes a problem when we have difficulty getting back to sleep. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep, it could be a sign of an issue that may need to be addressed.

Waking up at the same time every night?

If you find yourself waking up at nearly the same time every single night, don’t panic. This may actually be a sign of a healthy and dependable sleep cycle. Many people tend to find they most commonly wake up in between cycles roughly 4-6 hours from when they went to bed.

This infographic illustrates what parts of your body maybe unhealthy based on the time you wake up at night:[1]

If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with consistent difficulty getting back to sleep, this could be a warning signal that you may need to make a change to your sleep habits using some of the strategies below.

Why am I waking up in the middle of the night? (And ways to tackle it)

There are several reasons that may be the cause of why you are waking up in the middle of the night. Let’s take a look at the top 5 most common reasons why:

1. You’re taking your stress to bed

Maybe you had a rough day at the office or have other form of stress. Stress doesn’t take a rest when you do. Often times, stress travels with you back to your home and eventually into your sleep unless you deal with it. If you don’t properly handle your stress, you end up lying in bed mulling over your stress for hours, whether you are consciously aware of this happening or not.

Have you ever found yourself in bed trying to sleep, only to be still thinking about the argument you had or the meeting that you wish went better?

Our brain tends to ruminate over our stress and it can end up keeping us from deep sleep because of it or it wakes us up in the middle of the night. When you mull over your stress, you are subtly keeping your brains in a state of “fight-or-flight”. When your brain is in a fight-or-flight mode, it has an extremely tough time falling asleep.

What to do?

If you find yourself taking your stress to bed or waking up in the middle of the night stressed, a simple strategy to practice is box-breathing. Box-breathing is a powerful strategy that helps calm the stress signals in your brain so that it can begin to fall asleep and stay asleep.

It’s a modern spin on “counting sheep.” With box breathing, you will count the same time on your inhale, hold at the top, exhale and hold at the bottom. It will look something like this: (you will be in bed for this)

  • Inhale for 4 seconds
  • Hold at the top of the inhale for 4 seconds
  • Exhale for 4 seconds
  • Hold at the bottom of the exhale for 4 seconds.

This simple strategy can help you release stress from the day so that you can step into a great night of deep sleep.

2. Bad sleep foods

A critical hormone in regulating sleep that you may be familiar with is a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin levels rise in your body roughly 2 hours before bedtime, triggering tiredness and sleepiness, then lowers throughout the night until you wake up.

It’s important to know that melatonin is conversely related to cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. So as melatonin goes up, cortisol goes down and we sleep. As melatonin goes down and cortisol goes up, we wake up.

Having too much cortisol in our body, especially as we get towards the end of the day, can have a negative impact on our sleep and can keep us waking up in the middle of the night when we really should be sleeping.

You may be surprised to find there are many everyday foods that we are eating that are triggering a stress response in our brain by creating inflammation. Our brain is extremely sensitive to inflammation and inflammation will leave the brain more sensitive to stress.

Some of the tops foods that may be wrecking your sleep could be:

  • Trans-Fat – Trans-Fat is a highly processed and highly inflammatory fat source that you should avoid at all costs if you want a good night sleep.
  • Highly processed vegetable oils – Oils like Safflower, Palm, and Canola oil have a few issues. First, they typically oxidize extremely quickly. Oxiditation is a form of “rusting” in fats. When these oils get heated, they “rust” very quickly which creates an inflammatory response in the body. Second, these oils are typically loaded with toxins from their processing which also makes them very inflammatory.
  • Fruit juices and yogurts – These are typically marketed as healthy foods but in reality, they are full of sugar which can disrupt healthy sleep.
  • Alcohol  – Alcohol has been seen as a way to calm down after a long day and many believe it helps them get a good night sleep. It turns out that alcohol actually does more harm than good. Alcohol has been shown to increase wakefulness during the second half of sleep and also increases cortisol levels.[2]

What to do?

Make sure to get rid of these foods especially before bed to avoid any interruptions in your sleep.

3. Electronics before bed

Our modern technology has made accessing our favorite social media, movies and T.V. episodes available at arms reach 24 hours a day. It turns out that this advancement in technology may be negatively impacting our brain’s ability to sleep optimally.

Light from LED screens like your smartphone, computer and television has a high density of blue spectrum light.

Your brain is very familiar with blue light. It’s most familiar with blue light around noon when the sun emits the most amount of blue light. Blue light is an important spectrum of light that helps our brains determine what time of day it is.

When blue light is highest around noon, it helps the brain calibrate it’s circadian rhythm to the correct time of day so that we’ll be ready for bed at the appropriate time in the evening.

Getting blue light from your smartphones or T.V. before bed can unknowingly be triggering your brain to think it’s actually earlier in the day than it truly is, which can inadvertently be affecting your circadian rhythm and optimal sleep.

What to do?

Avoid all electronics use at least an hour before bedtime to avoid unnatural blue light and allow your brain to start to calm down so you can get great sleep.

4. Working until bedtime

You only have 24 hours in a day so you want to maximize it. Sometimes that means working late into the night. As soon as you shut down your computer or finish the call, you hop into bed, hoping to get some reprieve and recovery from the day.

When the brain is actively engaged in mental activities or work, the brain is typically generating “beta” brain waves. Brain waves are what keep us focused and alert to the task at hand, but unfortunately being alert and focused does not lead to great sleep. It takes time for the brain to transition from an alert phase to the rest phase.

What to do?

The key is to give the brain a “cue” that work is over and it’s time to make a switch to a relaxed state so that we can begin the process to unwind and eventually sleep.

Some cues you can use to tell your brain it’s time to unwind are:

  • Shut everything off and begin to take 20 slow deep breathes.
  • Read a fiction book.
  • Take a hot shower.
  • Watch an episode of your favorite show, just make sure it’s at least an hour until you go to bed.
  • Play some relaxing music

Use whatever works best for you but the key is to stay consistent. The more consistent you are with your cues, the better the brain gets at making the transition from work to relaxation.

5. Not making a sleep routine

Your brain loves routine. There’s a saying in neuroscience that says “The Brain Wires The Way It Fires,” meaning the more the brain engages in the same activity or habit, the more wiring the brain lays down make it easier and simpler for the brain to accomplish.

When it comes to getting great sleep, having a “sleep routine” is crucial to helping the brain relax from the day and begin to set the stage for a great night sleep.

Think about the last time you went to workout, did you arrive at the gym and immediately start throwing weights around or start running? Of course not. You warmed up (hopefully) and got your body prepared to workout.

Think of your sleep routine as a warm-up for your brain to get ready for sleep. The only difference is that the more you “warm-up” with your sleep routine, the better the brain gets.

What to do?

The best way to get started is to set a specific time every night, typically an hour before bedtime, where you’ll commit to shutting down work and electronics to transition into your sleep routine. Whatever routine you chose, make sure to stick to it for a few weeks to give your brain time to adapt to the new schedule.

If you’re looking for a good night routine to follow, here it is: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

Your blueprint for “lights out” sleep

If you want to be able to stay productive and have incredible amounts of energy, you’re going to need great quality sleep.

Not sure where to get started?

Here’s your blueprint to help you get an amazing night of sleep and keep you from waking up in the middle of the night.

  1. Create a great sleep routine and stick to it.
  2. Write down everything you need to do the next day so you can get it off your mind and let your brain relax.
  3. Avoid the sleep trouble foods, especially before bedtime.
  4. Turn your TV, phone and computer off before bed.
  5. Stop working at least an hour before bedtime to allow your brain to make the transition to get ready for bed.
  6. Get to bed at a good time.

These strategies will help you not only get a great night of sleep but will also help keep you from waking up in the middle of the night restless and unable to get back to sleep.

Sleep well, my friends!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

The post Why You Keep Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (And How to Fix It) appeared first on Lifehack.

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A Definitive Guide to Healthy Aging (For Older Adults)

There’s living longer, and there’s living better. Healthy aging is about living better for longer.

The biggest challenge we face is not adding years to our life, it’s making those years count by being able to be fully active, independent and happy. We want to travel, dance, date, learn, laugh and have fun as we age. We want to be energetic and vibrant.

By reading this guide, you’ll learn the latest habits for healthy aging and well-being. Research has shown that there are specific strategies for your diet, sleep, exercise, relationships and preventative care that can dramatically improve your quality of life well into your Golden years – helping you avoid chronic disease, while living longer and healthier.

Why healthy aging matters

Old age can be fraught with challenges to your health. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1 in 4 Americans live with multiple chronic health conditions like arthritis, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and chronic respiratory conditions.[1]

Each of these chronic conditions can interfere with your ability to remain independent and perform activities of daily living on your own. Not only that, chronic health conditions can cause significant financial strain as you might face additional out of pocket expenses for medical treatments, caregiving and higher prescription drug costs.

The good news is, there are positive steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of injury and disease. These steps will make your body stronger, your mind sharper and your immune system a protective fortress.

Healthy aging basics

Nutrition and diet

Choosing healthy foods is critical to your health and well-being, especially as you age! Your body goes through significant changes in your 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Your diet arms your body with the energy and nutrients it needs as you age. These tips are scientifically proven to help you choose the right foods to improve your health at each stage of life.

Drink lots of liquids

As we age, we tend to drink less than we need to because we lose our sense of thirst,[2] get urinary tract infections and tend to be a little more incontinent. However, medications can make it more important than ever to stay well hydrated.

To help yourself get in the habit of drinking more throughout the day, take a sip of your drink between bites during mealtime, drink a glass of water when you take your pills and have a glass of water before and after you exercise, especially on hot days.

Choose liquids low in sugar, sodium and fat. Good choices include water, skim milk, 100% juices (apple, cranberry, orange) and low-fat soups.

Know what to eat

Eat a variety of foods every day to get the nutrients you need. Eat a rainbow of bright colored foods[3] to get anti-inflamatory, cancer-fighting, immune-boosting nutrients into your system. Here’s what the nutrition rainbow of foods look like:

Healthy meals include:

  • Lean protein (chicken, pork, lean meat, seafood, eggs, legumes)
  • Fruits and vegetables (think red, green, orange, blue, purple)
  • Whole grains (oatmeal, wild rice, whole heat toast)
  • Low-fat dairy (skim milks, low-fat cheese)

Also try eating foods that are high in Vitamin D (essential as we age) and fiber and low in fat and sodium.

Know how much to eat

The Dietary Guidelines suggest people aged 50 and older choose from the following foods each day. This is a great starting point to help you get a sense for what and how much you ought to eat each day:[4]

  • Fruits—1½ to 2½ cups
  • Vegetables—2 to 3½ cups
  • Grains—5 to 10 ounces
  • Protein foods—5 to 7 ounces
  • Dairy foods—3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Oils—5 to 8 teaspoons
  • Solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS) and sodium (salt)—keep the amount of SoFAS and sodium small.

Here are some very useful visual aids from the National Institute of Health to help you get a sense of how big a portion is:

Read labels

Eating fresh is best, but if you do buy packaged, canned or bottled foods, read the labels. Avoid foods with high sugar, sodium or saturated fat levels:

  • For sugar, try not to have more than 6-9 teaspoons of added sugar a day (25-36 grams).
  • For sodium, people over 50 should limit themselves to no more than 1,500 mg per day.
  • For fat, target somewhere between 18 and 25 grams of saturated fats per day – no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats.

Sleep and age

According to the National Sleep Foundation, older adults, aged 50-65 need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night and those aged over 65 need between 7-8 hours of sleep per night.[5]

However, a full night’s sleep becomes increasingly challenging for many older adults. We tend to fall asleep less deeply and wake up more throughout the night resulting in chronic sleep deprivation.

Often times, medical conditions such as sleep apnea, arthirtis, acid reflux, congestive heart failure and depression are the cause. Other times, conditions like restless leg syndrome or periodic leg movements make staying asleep difficult. The good news is, treating the underlying medical condition often leads to significantly improved sleep.

Poor sleep can have profound negative effects on your physical and mental well-being. There is a significant amount of research that has conclusively linked lack of sleep to poorer memory, disease and shortened life spans.[6] Here’s a list of just a few of the consequences:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease & Hypertension
  • Mood Disorders
  • Immune Disfunction
  • Shortened Life Expectancy

Although a good sleep may seem difficult, if not impossible to find, there are actually many things we can do to drastically increase the odds of a good night’s sleep:

  1. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other stimulants that get in the way of sleep.
  2. Have a light supper or snack before bedtime – avoid heavy meals late in the day.
  3. Don’t drink too much before bed. Drink just enough to avoid waking up to go pee in the middle of the night.
  4. Don’t nap too late in the day. If you miss your day time nap, don’t nap at all. Take your naps earlier in the day, maybe before 3PM. Napping too late will keep you up later, causing a vicious cycle of a poor nights sleep, resulting in a need for a nap.
  5. Exercise early in the day as opposed to after dinner. Exercising early will actually help you sleep. However, doing so late will stimulate your body and keep you up.
  6. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will make it easier for your body to establish a sleep rythm. It’s even more important that you wake up at the same time each morning – it will force your body to sleep at night.
  7. Don’t check your watch, clock or phone if you wake-up at night. If you can’t resist, remove them from your night table.
  8. Create a sleep friendly environment in your bedroom. Keep it dark, quiet and cool. Get a comfortable mattress, pillow, sheets, blanket, black out blinds, eye mask, ear plugs or white noise if necessary.
  9. Create a consistent and conducive pre-sleep routine: Take a bath, have an herbal tea and consider getting into bed with a book 30-60 minutes before you want to fall asleep; avoid screens, especially phones and iPads 30 minutes before bed.

Exercise

It’s no secret that daily exercise, combined with a healthy diet, is like a tonic for the body. It is the Holy Grail.

Exercise helps seniors stay active, independent and mobile longer, while helping stave off disease. But even more importantly, seniors with good fitness levels show better decision making, critical thinking and planning skills than their peers, while keeping cognitive decline, memory loss and dementia at bay.[7]

You don’t have to turn yourself into an Olympian to get the benefits of exercise either. As we covered in our previous article on exercise for seniors, a recent study from Harvard University suggested seniors get the following amount of exercise:

  • At least 150 minutes of walking or other aerobic exercise per week
  • Strength training 2-3 times per week, but never 2 days in a row
  • Stretch and balance exercises every day

Check out what exercises are best for seniors here: Exercise for Seniors: How to Improve Strength and Balance (And Stay Fit)

Daily habits

There’s a lot of advice out there regarding what’s good and bad for you, and it changes every year. One day wine is good for you, the next it’s bad. One day eggs are bad for you, the next day they’re a superfood.

So I’ve put together a list of 5 habits that have a wide consensus when it comes to their benefit for you. These habits will make a big difference in your life. Here you go:

  • Move daily: The more you move the better. Walk, swim, play tennis, it doesn’t matter as long as you get moving and do it daily. Research shows that sustained physical activity improves your odds of healthy aging by seven times![8]
  • Do something to make yourself smile – a lot: People who smile live longer and are typically happier and healthier than those who smile less.[9] Forcing a smile won’t magically add years to your life, but doing things that make you smile will.
  • Turn off the TV: Every hour of TV watching reduces life expectancy by 22 minutes! So if you sit in front of the TV for six hours a day, you’ll live 5 years less according to a study by the University of Queensland.[10] Fill your time getting together with friends, cooking, gardening, walking, painting, writing and reading etc.
  • Spend time with friends and family: Having a strong social network with family, friends and colleagues makes you healthier and extends your life according to studies from Brigham Young University.[11] In fact, according to a study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a wide social network is as important as exercise and diet in maintaining our health.
  • Be mindful and meditate: It may sound like hocus pocus to you, but mindfulness and meditation are going mainstream. Even researchers at Harvard are touting the benefits of meditation for seniors.[12] Only 15 minutes a day can improve your mind, health and mood while reducing stress, pain and depression.

Preventive care

It’s always better to stay one step ahead, especially when it comes to your health. If you’re willing to take your car into the shop for a tune up every year, there’s no excuse not to do the same for yourself.

As a senior, the frequency with which you should visit your doctors, get vaccinations and screen for any issues to ensure you prevent and nip any problems in the bud can make a significant difference to your health.

Here’s a list of preventive care measures recommended by the U.S. Health Department (please discuss with your doctor):[13]

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm one-time screening for men of specified ages who have ever smoked
  • Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease for men and women of certain ages (Talk with your doctor about taking aspirin every day)
  • Blood pressure screening for all adults
  • Breast cancer screening every 2 years between ages 55-74
  • Cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages or at higher risk
  • Colorectal cancer screening annually to at least age 65
  • Diabetes (type 2) screening for adults with high blood pressure
  • Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease
  • Hepatitis C screening for adults at increased risk and one-time screening for everyone born between 1945 and 1965
  • HIV screening for everyone ages 15 to 65, and other ages at increased risk
  • Immunization vaccines for adults (doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary):
    – Hepatitis A
    – Hepatitis B
    – Herpes Zoster (Shingles)
    – Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
    – Influenza (Flu)
    – Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
    – Meningococcal
    – Pneumococcal
    – Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
    – Varicella (Chickenpox)
  • Lung cancer screening for adults ages 55 to 80 who are at high risk because they are heavy smokers or have quit in the past 15 years
  • Obesity screening and counseling for all adults
  • Get tested for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis screening for all adults at higher risk
  • Tobacco use screening for all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users

I also recommend you get an annual wellness check-up, an eye exam every year for adults over 60 years of age and a teeth cleaning once a year if your teeth are in good condition.

Visiting your doctor once a year is not only essential to spot check your health and take the appropriate tests, it’s also a good opportunity to discuss and review medications with your doctor – a key determinant of your health.

Social relationships (And sex)

Staying socially engaged helps seniors in everything from staying in shape to staying mentally fit and extending your lifespan.

According to the National Institute on Aging, research indicates that:[14]

  • Deep social relationships are associated with positive health bio-markers;
  • Social well-being is associated with lower inflammation that causes Alzheimers, osteoporosis, arthritis and cardiovadcular disease;
  • Social isolation is a strong risk factor for morbidity and mortality, especially among older adults;
  • Loneliness is correlated to high blood pressure;
  • Loneliness is a risk factor for depression.

So create and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and colleagues. If you feel isolated, try volunteering, joining a gym with fitness classes, playing cards, going for coffees with friends and doing dinners with family.

But if you really want to add some spice to your life and improve your health, you should have more sex! Yes, it’s doctors’ orders and here’s why:

  • Sex improves your sleep. Orgasms increase the hormone oxytocin and decrease cortisol, reducing stress and anxiety.[15]
  • Sex keeps you looking younger. According to a study by Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital, older couples who have sex at least 3 times a week look up to 7 years younger than their peers.[16]
  • Sex makes you happy. We know happy is important to our overall health. According to one study , couples having sex once a week were 44 percent happier than those who had no sex in the past year.[17]

Long-term care

As seniors lose the ability to perform activities of daily living on their own (bathing, cooking, dressing, toileting, cleaning, driving, etc.), it becomes essential to find long-term care solutions while helping them live as independently and safely as possible.

It’s important you start planning, saving and sharing your preferences with your family members before you need the care. These decisions are often expensive, complex and will have a significant impact on you and your loved ones as you age.

Long-term care comes in many forms. The National Institute of Aging describes them as follows:[18]

  • Home health careHome health care is usually related to medical services provided in a home setting. These services might include physical, occupational or speech therapy.
  • Homemaker servicesHomemaker services usually describe care involving assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, toileting and food preparation.
  • Friendly visitor / Companion services: Companion services are offered by private agencies or volunteers who pay visits to seniors who are frail or living alone.
  • Transportation services: Transportation services help seniors get to and from medical appointments, senior centers, the shopping mall and more. With reduced mobility, transportation is essential to help seniors manage their lives and stay involved and connected within their communities.
  • Emergency response systems: This is especially useful for seniors living alone or at risk of falling, medical alert systems allow users to press a help button on their wrist or around their neck in the event of an emergency.
  • Adult day care: Adult day care is a daytime center that offers activities for seniors throughout the day, offering a social environment, meals and activities without the expense of boarding.
  • Residential facilities: Residential care facilities or boarding homes offer residents private or shared rooms, personal care, medication dispensing and meals. Staff are available at all times. However, there is limited help with activities of daily living and no medical care provided.
  • Assisted living communities: Assisted living communities are for seniors who also need assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, toileting and cooking. There are typically organized activities and common areas to encourage sociability as well.
  • Nursing homes: Nursing homes offer patients skilled nursing assistance, medical treatment, 24 hour care and physical therapy in addition to meals and assistance with activities of daily living.

Healthy aging begins with you

Aging healthily doesn’t happen by chance. Sure there’s the luck of the genetic draw but barring luck, there’s a lot we can do to improve our chances of living well into our golden years with health, happiness, vigor and purpose.

Following the approach set out in this guide will help you establish the diet, sleep, exercise, social and preventative care habits that will not only help you live longer, but better!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] United States Department of Health and Human Services: Multiple Chronic Conditions: A Strategic Framework
[2] National Institute on Aging: Getting Enough Fluids
[3] The Cancer Project.org: The Nutrition Rainbow
[4] USDA: Dietary Guidelines
[5] National sleep foundation: Recommended new sleep times
[6] Healthy Sleep: Sleep and Disease Risk
[7] TIME: How Exercise May Help Protect Your Brain From Cognitive Decline and Dementia
[8] Psychology Today: What Daily Habit Can Boost “Healthy Aging” Odds Sevenfold?
[9] Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling
[10] The Telegraph: Every hour of TV watching shortens life by 22 minutes
[11] BYU News: Stayin’ alive: That’s what friends are for
[12] Harvard Medical School: Now and Zen: How mindfulness can change your brain and improve your health
[13] USA Health Care Department: Preventive care benefits for adults
[14] National Institute on Aging: Research Suggests a Positive Correlation between Social Interaction and Health
[15] NCBI: Influence of sex on sleep regulatory mechanisms.
[16] Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital: Sex is the secret to looking younger, claims researcher
[17] University of Colorado Boulder: In sex, happiness hinges on keeping up with the Joneses
[18] National Institute of Aging: What Is Long-Term Care?

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5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Time and time again, we’re told what a powerful tool breathing exercises can be for reducing anxiety and more specifically, the physical effects anxiety has on our body.

Yet how often have you gone hunting to find suitable breathing exercises for anxiety only to bump into a string of complex yoga jargon and techniques that take so long to master that they’re just not fit for purpose?

After all, when you’re in the grip of crippling anxiety or -worse- a full-blown panic attack, you simply don’t have the time to assume the lotus position and start worrying pranayama, whatever that is.

What you need is quick, simple solutions you can apply right there on the spot to relax your breathing and return to feeling calm and in control within seconds.

Today, we’ll look at five of the best breathing techniques for doing just that, ranging from powerful techniques you can use to curtail anxiety before it escalates, to quick-fixes you can use in an emergency whenever a panic attack strikes.

Why do breathing exercises for anxiety work?

Stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath. Doesn’t it just feel better?

In that moment, you’re focused only on that breath. Your mind isn’t occupied with reading this article, listening to background noise or getting lost in the thousand and one thoughts rushing through your mind. Instead, it’s tuned only to that breath, on the slow, deep inhale and calm, relaxing exhale.

Take another deep breath and this time, pay attention to how you feel. This time, you’ll notice that not only is your mind clearer because of the reason mentioned above but also that you feel physically different, even if only for a moment.

This is because, as you focus on those slow, deep breaths, you’re sending a message to your brain that it’s time for calm. Your brain, in turn, sends messages throughout your body that result in that feeling of calm washing gently over you.

Now, compare this to what happens when you’re in the grip of anxiety.

When you get anxious, you tend to do what’s called thoracic -or chest- breathing, releasing quick, shallow breaths in rapid succession.

Often, instead of slowing down your breathing, you get caught up in how those rapid breaths make you feel as though you’re not getting enough oxygen, thus escalating the level of panic. This sends all kinds of confusing signals to the brain which, in response, sends its own signals back through the body, negatively affecting your levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. As a result, your blood isn’t sufficiently oxygenated and thus you end up with all the classic symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks such as a thumping heart, dizziness and muscle tension.

When you finally take note of our breathing and consciously return it to slow, even diaphragmatic breathing (breathing using your diaphragm), you signal to your brain that it’s time to correct the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, alleviating those symptoms and making you feel calm and relaxed in the process.

So, that’s the science stuff out of the way, but how do you actually use breathing exercises for anxiety?

Quick and effective breathing exercises for anxiety

Here are five quick and effective techniques you can use right now, or whenever you need them, to return yourself to a peaceful state of calm.

1. Easy abdominal breathing technique

Let’s start with one of the simplest and most effective techniques available.

You might have seen this referred to as “belly breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing techniques.” Whatever name you see it by, the technique is essentially the same.

Here’s a video to help you go through the technique:

Abdominal breathing technique in action:

  1. Sitting or lying in a comfortable position, close your eyes, relax your shoulders and allow any tension in your muscles to disappear if at all possible.
  2. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. Your bellow should expand whilst your chest rises very little. If it helps, you can put your hand on your bellow and feel the inhaled breath pushing that hand up.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Keeping your jaw relaxed, purse your lips as you blow, though remember to keep the exhale nice and gentle. Again, you can keep your hand on your stomach and very lightly push down as you exhale.
  4. Repeat for several minutes until you feel calm again.

Like most of these exercises, you may find it helpful to practice this one even when you’re feeling anxious. That way, you’ll know just what to do when the time comes that you do need to use it.

2. Buteyko breathing method

One common symptom of an anxiety or panic attach is hyperventilating. This involves breathing so rapidly that it almost feels that you just can’t get enough oxygen into your lungs no matter what you do.

In actual fact, the very opposite is happening. Hyperventilation is caused by too much oxygen getting in, upsetting the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance and inducing those feelings of panic. The Buteyko method readdresses that balance, proving itself to be highly effective in stopping hyperventilation.

Here’s a video to help you go through the technique:

Buteyko breathing method in action:

  1. Sit comfortably, take a gentle breathe in through the nose.
  2. Just as gently, breathe out, again through the nose.
  3. Immediately following the exhale, pinch your nose with your fingers and hold your breath.
  4. Continue to hold your breath for as long as you can.
  5. When you feel a natural urge to breathe again, let go of the nose and breathe out.
  6. Resume breathing as normally as possible.
  7. Wait for 30 – 60 seconds and repeat until you feel calm and relaxed.

3. 1:4:2 Power breaths

Fans of best-selling author and performance coach Tony Robbins may already be familiar with this one.

Featured in Robbins’ groundbreaking 2001 book Unlimited Power, this powerful technique can help you quickly move from the short, shallow thoracic breathing that creates panic attacks to the deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing that leaves us calm and relaxed:

Like all the breathing exercises we’re looking at today, this one has the added benefit that by focussing on it and it alone, we’re able to take our thoughts away from the anxiety trigger, putting our minds in a clear, calm state from which we can better tackle what’s in front of us.

It’s called 1:4:2 because that’s the ratio used to determine how long to inhale, hold and exhale a breath. Using that ratio for an initial count of five, for example, the technique would look like this:

1:4:2 in action:

  1. Inhale for five seconds
  2. Hold the breath in for 20 seconds
  3. Exhale for 10 seconds.

If you find that this is too much, you can always adjust the number of seconds providing you stick to the same ratio.

You could, for example, do the following:

  1. Inhale for three seconds
  2. Hold the breath for 12 seconds
  3. Exhale for six seconds.

Tony Robbins recommends doing 10 “power breaths” three times a day, though even if you don’t remember to do it throughout your day, repeating this exercise ten times when you’re struggling with anxiety can really help with alleviating the symptoms you’re dealing with.

4. Equal breathing

If all that talk of numbers and ratios causes you more anxiety than it solves, here’s a much simpler version. This one focuses on breathing in and our for an equal number of breaths:

Equal breathing in action:

  1. Breathe in slow and steady through the nose for a count of four.
  2. Relax and exhale for the same count of four.
  3. Repeat until feeling calm and relaxed.

You might also find it helpful to use this one before bed if your anxiety is causing you sleep problems.

5. Alternate nostril breathing

Finally, we come to one of the trickier breathing exercises for anxiety, albeit one that can prove hugely beneficial in helping us move from thoracic to diaphragmatic breathing, as well as regaining focus when anxiety sends your thoughts into a spin.

Here’s a video to help you go through the technique:

Alternate nostril technique in action:

  1. Place your right thumb over your right nostril.
  2. Breathe in through your left nostril.
  3. Put your finger over your left nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
  4. Alternate breathing in through one nostril and out through the other, blocking whichever nostril you’re not using.

Choose the best breathing exercises for your anxiety

Whilst some of these techniques are best used in specific circumstances (such as Buteyko for hyperventilation), each one ultimately achieves the same result — Getting us out of those fast, shallow breaths that cause our anxiety symptoms and back into the deep, relaxing breaths that leave us feeling calm.

To determine which one is best for you, you might want to take some time to practice each one and decide for yourself which is the most effective in alleviating your anxiety.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Is Building Muscle Possible in Your 40s? (Build Muscle the Batman Way)

Ben Affleck just recently got in bodybuilding-shape for the movie Batman vs. Superman. What few people know is that Ben Affleck is 45 years old at the moment. Yet Ben Affleck looks like a monster in his role as Batman. On top of that he’s 6’3” – being tall makes it even harder to look muscular. Yet Batman completely nailed it.

While a lot of the look as Batman may be due to his costume and the lighting, Ben Affleck nonetheless is a key example for building muscle if you’re over the age of 40. Mainly because he follows these 3 rules:

Rule #1: Stick to the basics

Ben Affleck doesn’t like working out, that’s where most people begin. Even me as a trainer, I don’t wake up in the morning and think: “Hell yeah, time to do a workout session”.

It was torture. […] I hate to exercise. — Ben Affleck

Training is nothing fancy, it should simply be part of your routine. Yet a lot of the people that start training after the age of 40 think they need a specific, fancy workout schedule. This is not true.

While your recovery periods may truly be longer, you don’t need to train any different than a 20 year old unless you have major physical limitations such as a herniated disc.

The most important thing in every workout schedule should be to get into a routine. This can be harder because as an adult, you have more responsibilities such as a demanding job or a family.

In the beginning, you need to juggle multiple aspects of your life. That’s why you need support from your environment. Also, try to make friends at the gym or join groups on Facebook and Whatsapp. This will also help you with number #2.

Rule #2: Keep going

Most people that sign up for a gym membership quit after 3 months. I’m a huge supporter in making your workout and diet sustainable, yet this is much harder if you are 40+ years old.

That’s also a reason why most of the actors are not able to keep their bodies in the long-term. For example, Ben Affleck only has a great body until he has to be on the scene. The movie holds him accountable.

If Ben would step on set, looking like a Spongebob instead of a Superhero, no one would take him seriously and he would risk his career. You have to hold yourself accountable to your workout schedule.

Realize that most worthwile things in life are hard first before they get easier.

Write down your realistic goals for yourself or even publish it on your facebook wall and post your training pictures. This will create social pressure to help you keep going.

Plan your workout sessions ahead of the week and treat them as a priority. What works with most of my clients is setting a specific workout time in the morning. as the kids are often still asleep at that time. Make those early morning hours the ‘You-time’. Training early in the morning can also help with rule #3.

Building muscles will take longer if you’re 40 due to the wear and tear over the years. Be persistent.

For extra accountability: Train with a friend or hire a coach. A coach holds you accountable and gives you the necessary guidance.

Rule #3 Enjoy the process

Ben Affleck told an interviewer that he noticed that once he went for a workout, other things started to improve in his life. He increased his discipline and had more energy at the movie shoot.

This is a phenomena I can see on a daily basis. While we’ve seen in rule #1 that training is usually not that enjoyable, the other effects in your life are absolutely great.

Your workout schedule can be a Trojan Horse. You start the schedule wanting to improve your physique but you end up improving every aspect of your life.

Getting a workout can be a huge win for your day. Even if your whole day was awfully bad, at least you got a workout in.

Admiral William McRaven, the retired United States Navy Admiral talks about making your bed to start your day right. Going for a workout is making your bed on steroids. It takes discipline and willpower to do it, but training has many positive side effects.

Instead of always focusing on your goal you have to enjoy and trust the process.

You can build muscles after 40

Ben Affleck is a monster. He’s a great example for a person that build a great amount of muscles even while being older and fairly tall.

He managed to build such an impressive physique by following three basic rules:

  1. Sticking to the basics.
  2. Finding reasons to keep going.
  3. Enjoying the process. Realize that exercising is a Trojan Horse.

Here’s a video about how Ben Affleck transformed his body:

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How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind

As humans, we typically operate on cognitive autopilot. We rarely stop and reflect on how we interpret information and create mental models which replicate our perception of reality.

But when our mental models fail to match reality, we simply ignore reality and operate throughout the day on implicit assumptions. These are not conscious choices. Our mental models allow us a simple way to cope with reality, yet we fail to confront reality when it is different than our mental model. Essentially, we have unknowingly created a ready-made default mechanism. [1]

So, what can we do?

We must first take time to reflect on our critical thinking skills. By simply understanding how you interpret and perceive information differently than everyone else is a great first step. To truly upgrade your critical thinking skills, you must examine how thoughts arise in your mind and how they got there.

Critical thinking is about asking yourself how you make choices. We can choose to believe something we hear or see; however, why do we choose to believe something we hear or see?

As a Red Team Member in the U.S. Army, I will explain how I upgrade my critical thinking skills using Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop as a framework for critical thinking. I will then demonstrate practical ways to upgrade your critical thinking skills for a sharper mind using tools and techniques from the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) Center for Applied Critical Thinking (also known as the Red Team school) and The Applied Critical Thinking Handbook (also known as The Red Team Handbook).[2]

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking can be explained in a number of ways. Let’s quickly examine a few definitions:

  • “Critical thinking is a process, the goal of which is to make reasonable decisions about what to believe and what to do.” – Robert Enis
  • “Critical thinking means developing an ever better worldview and using it well in all aspects of your life. The essence of critical thinking is questioning and arguing logically.” – Gary Jason
  • “Critical thinking is searching for hidden assumptions, noticing various facets, unraveling different strands, and evaluating what is most significant. It implies conscious, deliberate inquiry, and especially it implies adopting a skeptical state of mind.” – Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau

To me, critical thinking is as follows:

“Critical thinking is observing the world with an open and skeptical mindset with the goal of exploring all alternatives objectively (as much as possible). It is our ability to orient our mental models to view reality through an emotionless lens seeking the truth by questioning our own assumptions and deconstructing arguments logically. It is our ability to identify gaps and uncover what is missing to improve our quality of decisions. Finally, it is our ability to unravel different strands of significant information through a continuous stream of feedback so that we continuously destroy and create new mental models allowing us to act closer to reality.” – Dr. Jamie Schwandt

Critical thinking framework: OODA Loop

I use John Boyd’s OODA Loop as a framework for critical thinking. It is similar to Swarm Intelligence, where we use simple rules to allow the collective intelligence to emerge. The simple rules are Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

The OODA Loop is a high-speed decision making and feedback process in four stages: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.[3] The OODA Loop is a continuous feedback loop where the objective is to go through the loop faster than your opponent.

I use simple rules provided within the OODA Loop to assist me in speeding up my critical and creative thinking abilities. However, do not confuse the word “simple” with “simplistic” as the OODA Loop uses simple rules within a complex system (which is exactly what the OODA Loop is).

The key to the loop is feedback. The OODA Loop is similar to Double-Loop Learning, where the goal is to modify decision-making in light of new experience.

Double-Loop Learning is the first loop uses goals or decision making rules, the second loop enables their modification… hence, double-loop.[4]

Chris Argyris writes about Double-Loop Learning in Teaching Smart People How To Learn,

“A thermostat that automatically turns on the heat whenever the temperature in a room drops below 68 degree is a good example of single-loop learning. A thermostat that could ask why am I set to 68 degree? and then explore whether or not some other temperature might more economically achieve the goal of heating the room would be engaged in double-loop learning.

The overarching guide for my use of the OODA Loop is as follows:

Scout Mindset

I will talk about this more in the How-To Guide: Tools to Apply the Critical Thinker’s OODA Loop section below.

Objectivity

It’s about seeking truth. Here we should seek to follow a concept introduced by Immanuel Kant as a way of evaluating motivations for actions – called the Categorical Imperative. Kant defines a categorical imperative as an absolute or an unconditional requirement that must be obeyed in all circumstances and is justified as an end in itself. For example, “Act only according to the maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” For more information, visit the Categorical Imperative.

Avoid emotion

Imagine you can physically remove yourself from your body and objectively view how you make decisions. It’s like pulling your mind from your body.

Reasoning backwards

This is essentially solving problems by working backwards. A simple example of this method is working backwards to solve a math problem.

For example, solve the following problem: “I think of a number and add three to it, multiply the result by 2, subtract 4 and divide by 7. The number I end up with is 2. What was the number I first thought of?” To solve, read the problem backwards. You start with: 2 x 7 = 14. Then take 14 + 4 = 18. From there take 18 / 2 = 9. Then take 9 – 3 = 6. Finally, the number you first thought of was 6.

Moreover, Reasoning Backwards can be viewed through the lens of deduction. I prefer deduction over induction and here is why:

An example of Inductive Reasoning is: this raven is black, that raven is black, all ravens are black.

Deductive Reasoning is: All ravens are black, that raven is black, therefore it is black.

We make deductions from laws to see what should happen and then experiment to see if our prediction was right. Think about it this way… to test whether a burner is hot, we must touch the burner first using Inductive Reasoning; however, if we were to use Deductive Reasoning, we would first predict the burner to be hot and would realize there is not need to touch it.

One last benefit of Reasoning Backwards is that it forces our linear and logical mind to catch things we wouldn’t normally catch. For example, read the following sentence:

After reading this sentence, you will realize that the the brain doesn’t recognize a second ‘the’.

Now read the sentence again, this time read it backwards. Did you notice that you missed the second ‘the’?

Think-Write-Share

The UFMCS uses this as the single most important idea to enable critical thinking. For example, prior to taking on an issue, we should first think independently and reflectively, then write down our thoughts (which assists us in shaping and refining them), then share them in a disciplined manner. This takes us from divergence to convergence.

Dialectical method

Boyd described a thought experiment in a presentation called Strategic Game of ? and ?. Through the process of Destructive Deduction (analyze and pull apart mental concepts into discrete parts) and Creative Induction (using these elements to form new mental concepts) we can create a new mental model that more closely aligns with reality.

Part 1 of his question:

“Imagine that you are on a ski slope with other skiers…that you are in Florida riding in an outboard motorboat, maybe even towing water-skiers. Imagine that you are riding a bicycle on a nice spring day. Imagine that you are a parent taking your son to a department store and that you notice he is fascinated by the toy tractors or tanks with rubber caterpillar treads.”

Part 2:

“Now imagine that you pull the skis off but you are still on the ski slope. Imagine also that you remove the outboard motor from the motorboat, and you are no longer in Florida. And from the bicycle you remove the handle-bar and discard the rest of the bike. Finally, you take off the rubber treads from the toy tractor or tanks. This leaves only the following separate pieces: skis, outboard motor, handlebars and rubber treads.”

What do you imagine could be created using the remaining parts? A Snowmobile

Let’s now turn our attention to the four simple rules within the OODA Loop.

The critical thinker’s OODA Loop: Simple rules to guide you

Observe

Think of how we use sensors and gather information. In an ant colony, this is where ants shoot pheromones to signal others when they have found food.

Here we are detecting events within our environment and identifying change (or lack thereof). This could also be identified as Locate or Perceive (think swarming tactics or artificial intelligence).

Steps:

  • Find out what is really there.
  • Observe first and gather data.
  • Identify the uncommon and common things. As Sherlock Holmes famously said, “What is out of common is a guide.” A great video on this point is The most unlikely threat from the hit movie Men in Black – watch the following video:
  • Begin with a blank and open mind.
  • Remember that there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

Key questions to ask:

  • What happened?
  • What are we being asked?
  • What do we know?

Key tools to use:

  • 6 Words. This is simply writing a short and precise phrase summarizing your thinking into a set number of words.
  • Think-Write-Share (see above)
  • Outside-in thinking
  • Key assumptions check. We all start with assumptions and it is extremely important to be aware of our own. Understanding this will allow us to explain the logic of an argument and expose faulty logic. It will also help us simulate thinking about a problem and uncover hidden links between factors. Let’s examine some key questions to ask here: 1) How much confidence do you have with this assumption?; 2) What explains your confidence with this assumption?; 3) What must exist for this assumption to be valid?; and 4) If this assumption proves wrong, will this change your line of thinking about the issue?
  • Complex Grammatical Structures

Orient

Think of a construction site where destruction (analysis) and creation (synthesis) take place.

John Boyd identified orientation as our way to survive and grow within a complex and ever changing world. This could also be identified as Converge or Understand.

Steps:

  • Identify your biases and know how they impact decision making.
  • Be aware of your worldview and how it shapes the world you see.
  • Be aware of multiple perspectives and not just your own.
  • Place new observations in context with older observations.
  • Reason carefully. Find out what others cannot.
  • Determine what is vital (think of the Pareto Principle).
  • Seek out what’s NOT right in front of you (determine what’s missing).
  • Remember what Sherlock Holmes said, “Never make exceptions. An exception disproves the rule.”
  • Think in terms of metaphors and analogies.

Key questions to ask:

  • Where are the pattern of bullet holes NOT located?
  • Why?
  • What are we missing?
  • Where are the gaps?
  • What are the relationships?
  • What are the different perspectives?

Key tools to use:

  • Argument Deconstruction (see below).
  • 4 Ways of Seeing. This is a powerful tool for looking at multiple perspectives.
  • Dialectical Method (thesis, antithesis, synthesis)
  • Analysis + Synthesis. By breaking a concept or problem apart (analysis) we develop knowledge; yet, it’s when we piece the parts back together (synthesis) and create something new that we develop understanding or wisdom.
  • Onion Model. Hofstede’s Onion Model is a great tool to find values at the core. It is a great way to prompt better questions, look at something or someone or some group from multiple perspectives, and expose ignorance.
  • neXt – Innovative Framework. Professor Ramesh Raskar, head of MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Research Group, created an easy-to-use framework for inventing the future – right now. Watch the following video:

Decide

Think of a hypothesis like you would when putting a puzzle together, where you are making predictions then testing those predictions.

Here we are to decide among alternatives generated in the orientation phase. This could be identified as Attack or Predict.

Steps:

  • Identify and select your next action based on orientation and local knowledge.
  • Find the dog who isn’t barking (see below in the How-to guide: Tools to apply the critical thinker’s OODA Loop section).
  • Determine what would have to exist for something to be true.
  • Think like Sherlock Holmes – eliminate the impossible so that what remains (however improbable) is the truth.
  • Think like a detective – piece out what is key evidence verses artifact (not important).
  • Try to prove the opposite (Devil’s Advocacy Red Team tool).

Key questions to ask:

  • What evidence is not being seen for the hypothesis to be true?
  • Where are the pattern of bullet holes not located?
  • What is vital evidence and what is simply an artifact (which will get you stuck in the wrong rabbit hole)?
  • Where is the dog who isn’t barking?

Key tools to use:

  • Algorithmic Thinking (IF – AND – THEN).
  • Cynefin Framework
  • Lean Six Sigma
  • Devils Advocacy. Here you are trying to prove the opposite and disprove the hypothesis. Essentially, you are trying to prove the limitations.
  • Alternative Futures Analysis
  • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) (see below)
  • The Value of Possible. Here is a logical system incorporating elements of language. In this method, we have three truth values: False, True, and Possible. Logical connective rules: True is p, Possible is q, and False has no value. This allows for something to be fuzzy (not clearly black or white… true or false) but could still be true.

Act

Think of testing and retesting a hypothesis.

According to Boyd, actions should be rapid, surprising, ambiguous, and ever changing. This could be identified as Disperse or Learn.

Steps:

  • Carry out your decision (or selected action) while the opponent is still observing the last action.[5]
  • Present your information in simple ways. For example, use SEE-I and What? – So What? – Now What? to describe your situation/problem/scenario.
  • As Sherlock Holmes said, “Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.”
  • Develop quick “fly-like” reactions.
  • Use simple rules to guide your actions or the actions of a group.
  • Find the desired path. For example, watch how routes on a college campus naturally form. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we allowed these to naturally form then simply pave those locations. For more on this idea, watch the following video Find and Pave the Desired Path:

Key questions to ask:

  • What did I learn?
  • What type of feedback did I receive?
  • What type of feedback am I still receiving (we are continuously receiving feedback)?
  • What can I do with this new information as my OODA Loop begins again?

Key tools to use:

How-to guide: Tools to apply the critical thinker’s OODA Loop

Argument deconstruction

The UFMCS provides a powerful framework for deconstructing an argument.

The method:

  • What is the argument? Here the argument = problem (or premise) + reasons + conclusion
  • Check to make sure the right problem is identified and examine the point of view of the other person.
  • Search for and ask for clarification of ambiguous words.
  • Look for value conflicts and check key assumptions. More specifically, look for prescriptive assumptions (statement made on the way things should be) and descriptive assumptions (statement made on the way things are).
  • Look for logical fallacies.
  • Is the person using a heuristic or rule of thumb?
  • Check the evidence provided. Does the person use personal experience, potentially deceptive statistics (use numbers without percentages – percentages without numbers), appeal to authorities, faulty analogies, intuition, etc.
  • Is there another plausible hypotheses which might explain the situation?
  • Are there any other conclusions you can draw from the argument?
  • What implications does accepting the argument pose?

The 4 Agreements

Another great way the U.S. Army Red Team community upgrades their critical thinking ability is through the following four agreements:

  1. Don’t make assumptions.
  2. Don’t take anything personal.
  3. Be impeccable with your words.
  4. Always do your best.

Finally, I recommend using the following mnemonic. I created this tool to assist me as I move through the Critical Thinker’s OODA Loop. Additionally, I recommend writing this down on a note-card and keeping a copy with you at all times.

SDWFAP

Scouting

Think like a Scout – the drive to see what’s really there.

In the following video Why you think you’re right-even if you’re wrong, Julia Galef examines the motivation between two mindsets (Scout mindset vs Soldier mindset) and how they shape the way we interpret information:

Galef explains that Scouts are curious and are more likely to feel pleasure when they learn new information. She says it’s like an itch to solve a puzzle. We should strive to develop a Scout Mindset. Let’s examine qualities Scout’s possess:

  • The Scout’s job is not to attack or defend, but to understand – to go out, map the terrain and identify potential obstacles.
  • Scout’s are intrigued when they encounter something that contradicts their expectations.
  • More likely to think it’s virtuous to test your own beliefs.
  • They do not say someone is weak for simply changing their mind.
  • They are grounded; meaning their self-worth isn’t tied to how right or wrong they are about an argument.
  • They are proud (and not ashamed) when they notice they might be wrong about something.
  • They are intrigued (and not defensive) when they encounter information that contradicts their beliefs.
  • They yearn not to defend their beliefs, but to see the world as clearly as they possibly can.
  • Above all, the Scout seeks to know what’s really there.

Dog

Find the Dog who isn’t barking.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze, we are presented with a mystery of the disappearance of a famous racehorse the night prior to a race and the murder of the horse’s trainer. Mike Skotnicki describes the story about The Dog that Didn’t Bark:

“The dog that didn’t bark. What we can learn from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about using the absence of expected facts.” – Mike Skotnicki

Sherlock Holmes solves the mystery in part by recognizing that no one he spoke to in his investigation remarked that they had heard barking from the watchdog during the night.

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective), “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Sherlock Holmes, “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Sherlock Holmes, “That was the curious incident.”

The fact that the dog did not bark when we would have expected it to while the horse was stolen led Holmes to the conclusion that the criminal was not a stranger to the dog, but someone the dog recognized; thus, would not cause the dog to bark.

Was

What would have to exist for something to be true?

Here we can use a UFMCS Red Team tool called What If? Analysis. This tool assumes an event has already happened with potential impact (positive or negative) and explains how it might play out. This is a powerful technique for challenging a closed mindset by shifting the focus from whether an event could occur to how it might happen.

The method:

  • Clearly state the conventional line assuming the event has happened, then step back and consider what alternative outcomes are too important to dismiss, even if unlikely.
  • Select triggering events that allowed the event to happen.
  • Develop a chain of argumentation.
  • Reason backwards from the event in concrete ways (specify what must occur at each stage).
  • Choose one or more plausible pathways.
  • Develop and monitor a list of indicators or observables for each scenario that would assist in detecting the beginning of the event.

Another technique you can use here is The Reductio ad Absurdum. This is a simple yet powerful tool.

The method:

  • Assume a statement to be true and see what conclusions you can discern from it. If you find you get a contradiction, you know the initial statement is false as contradictions are always false.
  • It allows you to determine if a statement is false by showing the contradiction.

For more on this technique, I recommend reading Logic: A Graphic Guide.

Frightened

What’s not right in Front of us?

Here we can use a combination of tools and techniques.

For example, if you have a team or group of people, you could use what’s called a Premortem and/or Postmortem Analysis. This is an application of mental stimulation and is a great tool for Group Think Mitigation. We could use the 5-Why technique after we have asked what happened. We could also use Algorithmic Thinking where we perform an If-And-Then series of questions.

Let’s combine the three and see how this can be used:

  • Assume an event has happened or after an event has happened – use 5-Why to identify causes as to why this event happened.
  • Generate a list of reasons for the event with the following simple rules: 1) The more ideas the better; 2) Build on other peoples ideas using them as prompts for your own; 3) Wacky ideas are fine (and sometimes preferred).
  • Ask a series of If-And-Then questions:
  • IF an Active Shooter is spotted AND appropriate signals are in place THEN we should be able to act/respond quicker.
  • This can also be used with Propositional Calculus. For example, “If you are a bird, then you have wings,” could be rephrased as, “You cannot be a bird and not have wings.” It is a proposition using one connective such as: IF-Then. It can then be transformed into an expression using the other connectives “and” and “not” without changing the validity of the statement.

At

Ask what evidence is not being seen, but would be expected for a hypothesis to be true.

Conduct an Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH). The objective is to identify alternative explanations (hypotheses) and evaluate the evidence that will disconfirm rather than confirm the hypotheses. This is how I reason backwards.

The method:

  • Brainstorm and list all possible hypotheses (no matter how improbable they may seem). List the hypotheses first then the evidence (think deductive reasoning). You can list the evidence first, then the hypotheses if you prefer (think inductive reasoning).
  • List all significant evidence and arguments relevant to each hypotheses.
  • Reason backwards by creating a divergent systems diagram with each hypotheses from right to left (to mimic backwards reasoning)
  • Start to converge by preparing a matrix listing the hypotheses across the top with each piece of evidence down the side.
  • Determine if each piece of evidence is consistent, inconsistent, or non applicable.
  • Refine the matrix by reconsidering each hypotheses. Here you can even add new information if applicable.
  • Focus on disproving each hypotheses rather than proving one. Tally your evidence that are inconsistent and consistent to see which hypotheses are the weakest and strongest (you can also identify this using your systems diagram… +/- for strong and weak connections).
  • Ask what evidence is not being seen, but would be expected for a given hypotheses to be true. Ask if denial and/or deception is a possibility.
  • Identify and monitor indicators that would be consistent and inconsistent with each hypotheses.

A good example of ACH can be found at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Patterns

Where are the Pattern (or location) of bullet holes NOT located?

Statistician Abraham Wald was tasked with helping the Allies decide where to add armor to bombers during World War II.[6] The Allies hoped extra protection would help minimize bomber losses due to enemy anti-aircraft fire. They thought the answer was obvious and the bombers returning from missions showed them where to put the extra armor. However, Wald disagreed. He explained the damage actually revealed the locations that needed the least additional armor. In essence, it’s where the bombers could be hit and still survive the flight home.

This is an example of selection or survivorship bias, where we typically only consider information that’s presented to us and ignore information that is absent, yet might just be significantly relevant. For example, the locations on the bombers without bullet holes might just be the location to reinforce.

Finally, we should be extremely carefully of what we remove from a system or process. We have to be aware of the second and third order effects.

I will leave you with one final video: How Wolves Change Rivers:

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies: The Applied Critical Thinking Handbook
[2] USA Army: The Applied Critical Thinking Handbook
[3] Frans P.B. Osinga: Science, Strategy and War
[4] Wikipedia: Double-loop learning
[5] Ahmad Shehabat and Teodor Mitew: Distributed Swarming and Stigmergic Effects on ISIS Networks OODA Loop Model
[6] Seeking Alpha: How Survivorship Bias Distorts Reality

The post How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind appeared first on Lifehack.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Bars

Crumble Bars with Rhubarb and Strawberry

The appearance of rhubarb at the market is the first sign of spring for me! I look forward to seeing bright red stalks of this celery look-alike every year—it’s one of my favorite ingredients.

Perhaps I love the fleeting nature of the produce, available for a few short months (or less, depending on the season or where you live). Or maybe it’s the vibrant red color of the stalks, which I just adore.

Either way, I can’t wait to get my hands on it, and when it finally shows up, I buy it by the bagful.

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Meal Plan for May Week 3

Meal Plan for May Week 3

This month, Megan Gordon is back with us sharing her weekly meal plans! Megan is a writer and recipe developer living in Seattle, WA, the author of Whole Grain Mornings, and mom to a 2-year-old. Please welcome Megan!

This week is all about simplicity!

I’ll be out of the house for a handful of evenings this week teaching cooking classes, so I want to plan to have a few meals all set and ready for my husband to assemble while I’m gone. (He cooks too, for the record, but is much more of an impromptu ‘what’s in the cupboard’ kind of cook!)

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Don’t Forget to Appreciate How Far You’ve Come

“Remember how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.” ~Rick Warren

We’re always talking about how we should live in the now and “be present.” We shame ourselves for looking back at the past or into the future, thinking that we shouldn’t look too far ahead or worry about what’s to come, and we shouldn’t get too caught up in events that have already happened. We want to be focused on being the best person we can be right now.

We often forget, though, that it’s possible to look at our past with love, not ruminating in it but appreciating it. We’re often so focused on living in the present that we forget to be mindful of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.

You could say that I’m a bit of a productivity addict. I love doing things that are beneficial to me in some way. I love the feeling of doing something positive or productive for myself, whether it’s squeezing in that extra thirty-minute yoga practice or ten-minute meditation, or listening to podcasts or reading the news instead of watching TV. I get so caught up with being a “better version of me” that I forget to appreciate my current version.

Last week when I was walking to work, listening to lines to practice for an audition, I felt this sense of pride.

I had always wanted to be an actress growing up. It was my dream to be able to transform into a different character and tell a story through film or television. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my career, but how cool was it that I was actually doing it? I was going to auditions and training with teachers and acting—something that I had dreamed of since I was a kid.

This realization then snowballed into this moment where I looked at my life and said to myself, “Wow, I’ve done all these things and I’m living a life I’ve always wanted.”

I began to list in my mind the things I have accomplished: I moved away from my home city, a place I hated; I’ve traveled to many different countries and even seen the pyramids; I went back to school and pursued a career in the arts; I continue to work toward making my childhood dreams come true…

I realized that I sometimes get so caught up with my big dreams, like being a published author or working actress that I forget to recognize all the little dreams I’ve made come true!

Even writing this I feel a bit embarrassed. A lot of the times it can feel like we’re bragging or that we don’t have a right to be proud of the things we’ve done. Maybe we have this feeling that we shouldn’t be proud of the things we’ve accomplished because we aren’t where we want to be.

But for a daughter of a single mother who moved to Canada as a Vietnamese refugee, I’ve come far, and it’s important to recognize that.

I recently said this out loud to my therapist, but it was different from how it felt in my mind. I had said it to myself with pride, but it didn’t really settle in how big that feeling was, to recognize my own journey and how far I’ve come.

When I said to my therapist, I was also speaking it to my deeper self. I felt it in my soul.

I said it to my younger self—the preteen, bullied girl who rode the train back and forth to avoid school. I said it to my early twenties, addicted self, and I said it to my current self: look at the things you’ve made happen.

When we speak to our deeper selves and feel this connection with our past, this recognition of our journey, it can be groundbreaking. I had never felt that proud of myself, or that impressed with myself before. I cried and felt this amazing gratitude for my life, my own resilience, and most of all, myself.

And again, it can feel so weird to go there, to try to find something to be proud of or to just be proud of where we are. So, how about we do that check-in with ourselves?

How about we look at the past to appreciate it? How about we appreciate our own journeys? Our own resilience? How about we look at the places we’ve been, the relationships we’ve formed, the things we’ve achieved, not with regret or the longing of “if only” or “what ifs” or “I wish I was still there,” but “Wow, I did that? That’s where I used to be? That’s pretty cool.”

We can get so caught up looking at where we should be, where we aren’t, and where others are in comparison that we forget to appreciate where we’ve been and where we’ve come from.

This was the first time it really hit me how big this is, and how important it is to celebrate my progress. I felt like I had a true sense of perspective on life as a whole, from the triumphs to the failures, from obstacles to mistakes to perfect coincidences.

It’s amazing that we’re all living and growing, trying to be the best we can be and moving forward every day. It’s a beautiful thing to be mindful of the present, but don’t forget to honor yourself, your past, and how far you’ve come. Odds are, it’s further than you think.

About Rose Nguyen

Rose Nguyen grew up with her head always in the clouds. She is a writer and actress who currently resides in Toronto. She started SexandVegetables.com a feminist and mindfulness blog. She is currently completing her Creative Writing degree and working on her first novel.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Don’t Forget to Appreciate How Far You’ve Come appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Cherry Almond Granola with Vanilla Crumbles

Homemade Granola with Cherries and Almonds

Granola is a morning staple for my family. It graces our smoothie bowls and tops our yogurt cups. We even eat it by the bowlful, drenched in milk.

Over the years, I’ve sampled plenty of store-bought and homemade varieties. While I have many favorites, this Cherry Almond Granola with Vanilla Crumbles is at the top of my list.

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The Little Things in Life Are the Ones That Matter Most

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” ~Muhammad Ali

I followed a little boy in Walmart today. He didn’t look like my son and yet I trailed him and his mother all over the store. I curled my fingers around the shopping cart so I wouldn’t be tempted to reach out and touch him.

He didn’t walk with Brendan’s bounce or jerk his head back, trying to slide his glasses back onto his nose. He didn’t have his sarcastic smile or those tiny freckles scattered across his cheeks.

But he had the same cowlick sprouting from the back of his head. I wheeled my cart around and followed this little boy who looked nothing like my son. I itched to brush this boy’s hair, just like I did before Brendan grew too old and wiggled away.

I used to smooth his spikes down and then laugh when they sprang back up, no matter how much gel I used. By the time he became a teenager, he gave up trying to tame them and left it messy and wild.

And now, I’ll never get a chance to touch his hair again. My son died in an accident a week before his first day of high school.

I followed this little boy through the aisles, zigzagging across the store. He spent a long time debating which Lego set to buy. I knew the perfect one, the Star Wars battleship, but I said nothing.

A few minutes later, he and his mother walked out of the store while I stood there, that hollow feeling gnawing me from the inside. I’d learned to steel myself when I saw Brendan’s friends at the high school or celebrated his cousin’s sixteenth birthday, but I didn’t expect something so small as a wisp of hair to make me stumble.

That boy’s hair was my pebble.

You’re never sure what tiny thing will make you stumble. A few months after Brendan died, my husband went to a funeral. It was for his friend’s grandmother, a sad passing, but not tragic like losing a fifteen year old son.

We both feared it would be too much for him. He prepared himself to see the coffin, to hear the sobs, to smell the roses and carnations in the room.

“None of that bothered me,” he told me later. “I was fine. But then I went into the bathroom.”

He stopped and shook his head. “I dried my hands on the air dryer and all I could see was that first time Brendan used one of them. I think he was four and he loved it. Again, he said, over and over. He kept washing his hands just so he could dry them again.”

It wasn’t the tears of the mourners or the wooden casket covered in flowers that made him break down. It was the memory of Brendan laughing while watching the skin on his hand bubble and dance. Michael had steeled himself against the mountain, but it was the pebble that brought him down.

A tiny pebble will forever make us stumble.

And yet, it’s that same pebble that fills us with the sound of Brendan’s laughter. There will be days when I follow a little boy and his hair, limping in pain. But there will also be days when I’ll smile, my fingers warm with the memory of smoothing down Brendan’s wild and messy hair.

Life is made up of these moments. Joy and heartache are woven into a tapestry of love. There are day when I want to pull on the threads of pain, but I know I risk unraveling it all.

After Brendan’s accident, icy shock seeped inside me and froze my memories. I couldn’t remember his favorite foods or the nickname he called our dog. I couldn’t even say what we’d had for dinner on our last night together.

But my daughter Lizzie remembered the special nachos he’d made after dinner that night. “He called them victory nachos,” she said and I smiled, picturing him slicing salami into perfect strips. He’d sprinkled them on top and dove into the pile, eating only one chip at a time.

And Zack remembered the way he and his brother would lie on their backs on the trampoline, waiting until the sky grew dark. They’d search for the first star to twinkle in the sky and then close their eyes and wish that pigs could fly.

We shared our memories in a notebook we left on the kitchen counter. The pages filled up, but not with big highlights like our vacation to Disney World. We wrote about the ordinary moments that are so easy to take for granted.

Like the marathon Monopoly games in our basement and how Brendan always tried to get Park Avenue, even if he bankrupted himself. And the hours Brendan and Michael spent sitting by the firepit they’d built out of bricks. Or the coupon he made me when he was fourteen, inviting me on a bookstore date.

I still have the slip of paper with his messy words scrawled on it, but what I cherish more is the memory of him hovering by my side, his eyes watching mine as I read his invitation. He’d seen me cry that morning and was desperate to make me smile again.

This is how love endures. We gather tiny moments and string them together, like beads in a never-ending necklace. And yet, it took the loss of my son to make me realize the little things in life are the ones that matter the most.

Our family life was a whirlwind of track meets and baseball practice and business meetings. In the chaos, it was far too easy to let those moments slip away. We carved out time for big vacations, but forgot to treasure the tickle fights late at night.

Don’t wait for a loss to make you realize what you’re missing right now. Push away the distractions that will always be there and hold onto your loved ones and the everyday memories you make together.

I still keep a notebook on my counter. I write down the piano song Zack played on my birthday or the way my daughter giggles when I touch her knee.

And I pick up pebbles on my walks. I slip them into my pocket, its gentle weight a reminder to cherish the smallest moments in life.

About Linda Broder

Linda Broder is a writer and musician living in Northern New Jersey. She is currently working on a memoir about faith, mystery and the healing magic of playing the harp. Her blog is at LindaBroder.com.

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The Biggest Myth About Losing Belly Fat: Can You Lose Belly Fat Only?

There’s a guy in the fitness center I manage that is struggling with losing belly fat. To battle that issue, he chooses to wear a ‘fat-losing belt’ and he rubs his belly with a special ‘fat-burning ointment’. He tries to lose his belly fat for over a year now, with little to no success.

Most people think that they can spot-reduce their body fat. They want to lose weight on the belly or on the thighs only. This is called spot-reducing fat, but this is mostly a stubborn myth. Although there could still be some truth behind it. I will look into the reason why and how you can actually lose your belly fat in this article.

  • How fat reduction works

    In biochemistry class, you learn that fat is energy dense, but a pain in the rear for your body to metabolize. Fat is stored as triglycerides in fat cells.

    Fat is so hard to break down because it’s stored as triglycerides. To use the fatty acids, your body first has to cut the glycerol molecule from the fatty acids. Then put the fatty acids in the blood stream to the muscle cell, where it gets turned into energy inside the mitochondria.

    You don’t have to explain every single step of this process. The key takeaway here is that using your fat as energy is what your body doesn’t necessarily want to do.

    The truth behind the myth

    Scientists established long ago that targeting specific areas of fat was impossible. The myth has persisted largely because of dubious infomercials that play non-stop at 3am in the morning.

    But this myth actually has some truth behind it. If you touch your body part with the most fat stored, you will notice that this part is cooler than the other parts of your body. That’s because in this area there’s minimized blood flow.

    Most spot-reducing gimmicks try to increase the blood flow to a certain area of your body, such as your belly or your thighs. In theory, this works; but practically, the effect is so minuscule that you won’t see any real difference.

    Don’t believe the hype. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

    How to lose body fat instead

    All living organisms must obey the first law of thermodynamics. The balance between energy intake and energy expenditure determines energy storage. Your body stores energy in the form of fat cells.

    To lose body fat, you have to burn more energy than that you consume. It’s simple actually. Here are three ways how you can do this:

    1. Pump up your muscles

    While you may not be able to decrease the fat size on a certain body part by training in the gym, you will better your proportions. If you struggle with belly fat, training your back muscles will get you a better look in the long-term. Your body will look more proportional.

    A great exercise if you want to spot reduce belly fat on your thighs is to do the squats or the leg press. These exercises train your whole body and help strengthen the muscles underneath. This creates a toned look in the long-term. Ask a competent friend or hire a coach for professional workout advice.

    2. Hit that treadmill

    Due to your genetics, you can’t decide where you will lose fat in the first place, but your actions will decide if you lose fat in the first place.

    A great way to lose fat is cardiovascular training. While most people hate doing cardio (I’ve been there too), it nonetheless is important for your heart health. If you simply can’t manage to step on a treadmill, you can sign up for martial arts classes or do a team sport, where you exert yourself on a regular basis. A friend of mine has lost over 20 lbs by doing martial arts 2 times a week.

    3. Eat like an adult

    We all know which foods are good for us. Yet our actions don’t matches our understanding most of the time. Sometimes we eat like we are 5 years old.

    The best advice I can give you in the case of nutrition is to eat like a freaking adult. Eating cereals for dinner or twinkies as a snack? To be blunt here: Take a look in the mirror. This is not how you are supposed to eat.

    Start with simply eating more of the good stuff on a daily basis. Eat a little bit more vegetables than you are usually eating and you’re already making a great decision.

    For more weight loss guidance regarding nutrition, you can watch this video:

    Don’t believe the hype

    Spot reducing doesn’t work. Don’t believe the media hype and scrupulous advertisers.

    Ointments and specific belts may help you but it’s in a very minuscule way. Stick to the basics: Train your muscles, do cardio regularly and eat like an adult. The results will come, be patient and enjoy the process.

    The post The Biggest Myth About Losing Belly Fat: Can You Lose Belly Fat Only? appeared first on Lifehack.

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    What’s in Season in May?

    May Produce Guide

    Hello May and welcome to month 5 of our Monthly Seasonal Produce Guides!

    May means peak spring mode at the market. We are still awash in spring vegetables like asparagus, artichokes, leeks, favas, radishes, carrots, and peas. But now we also welcome fruit, including pineapple and the first berries of the year—strawberries.

    Rhubarb is still going strong, and in many places we’ll see it carry through the summer. Rhubarb loves strawberries so use them together in pies and crisps!

    Continue reading “What’s in Season in May?” »

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    Sautéed Asparagus with Morels

    Sauteed Asparagus and Morel Mushrooms

    A spring trifecta—Morels, asparagus, and green garlic

    This week I picked up some morels at the market and decided to sauté them with some asparagus and green garlic in a little olive oil and butter.

    So good! Like seriously good. My sweetheart took one tentative bite and then devoured the rest. I’ve made it 3 times already this week.

    Continue reading “Sautéed Asparagus with Morels” »

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    You Aren’t Stuck in Life: Commit to Change and Get Started

    “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ~Mark Twain

    We all have big dreams, big goals, and big ideas on what we think our life should look like, or how we think life will end up.

    Some of us meticulously plan out our lives, envisioning and letting ourselves daydream as we think about all the stuff we’d love to accomplish. I’d wager that our plans include some pretty big things in life that would make us feel pretty proud.

    The problem is, a lot of us have trouble reaching the potential we’ve set for ourselves. Time kind of flies by, and we end up looking back and wondering what went wrong.

    Well, one reason stands out like a sore thumb: We never really get started doing the things we truly want to do. We’re all guilty of it, and that includes me.

    I’ve cooked up dozens (literally dozens) of ideas or things I wanted to try over the years. How many did I actually try? Far less than dozens; let’s just say the ratio isn’t exactly working in my favor.

    Now, as time has gone by, I’ve been able to explore more of them. But as you know, some of them got shelved for good. I probably don’t even remember half of the things I wanted to try and never did.

    Why did I not try? What was the reasoning behind it? Why did I lack the forward motion necessary to at least attempt something and see if it sticks? I, like you, are fully aware that not everything we do will end up being a calling in life. But you won’t know until you give it a shot.

    To help you better understand this idea pertaining to a lack of motion, one must take a step back and realize that life, in a very big nutshell, is a series of decisions and actions. These two components are crucial for our self-growth and success in life and unfortunately are not mutually exclusive.

    Without making a decision and following it up with action, we could spend our entire lives stuck in the exact same place.

    If you make a decision but don’t take any action, not much will happen. On the other hand, if you take a bunch of actions without any decisions driving them, you’ll aimlessly float around.

    Being stuck in the same place or floating around aimlessly sounds torturous, doesn’t it? It is, and a lot of people must be living real-life nightmares. I had to wake up from my own years ago.

    Good or bad, where you are in life at this very moment is a reflection of all the past choices you’ve made. Some of us will read that and smile, maybe even give ourselves a little nod of appreciation if it’s good. On the other hand, a fair number of us will probably have a hard time digesting it.

    If you aren’t quite where you thought you’d be, I’d like to start by just saying that it’s perfectly okay. Most of us aren’t really where we thought we’d be, and we’re still giving it our best shot.

    There are generally two reasons you aren’t at your “ideal” place. A small chance is that life gave you an obstacle course with things completely out of your control; in other words, life got in the way temporarily. But there’s a bigger possibility you aren’t where you thought you’d be: you just flat out didn’t pursue something. And it was likely out of fear.

    In other words, you didn’t really ever get started.

    The Good And The Bad News

    Let’s start with the bad news: You never got started, and now you’ve wasted some valuable time moving toward your goals. Your life isn’t really playing out like you thought it would, and you feel somewhat stuck with your current habits, lifestyle, relationships, career, and other things.

    Pause for a moment and take a deep breath, as this might have hit closer to home than you’d prefer.

    Good, you’re still with me.

    Now let’s transition to the good news, because it’s actually really good:

    You’re never stuck, and while the best time to start something was yesterday, the next best time is now.

    You, yes you, have the ability to create the life you want, but it requires you to make moves. And while you may have fallen short previously, it doesn’t mean you will fall short going forward.

    Here’s the bottom line: your past does not dictate your future. Your past habits and lifestyle do not have to determine your lot in life.

    The Idea Behind Starting

    You’ve probably heard the quote “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Well, it sure is true. Because really, is anything built in a day?

    Was your house fully built on top of a piece of land in a day? Was that skyscraper completely erected in a day? Did you apply for, interview, and start working at your job in the span of twenty-four hours?

    Things take time to build. Let’s say you’ve been wanting to switch careers because your soul has been sucked completely dry. You planted the career switching seed a while ago, and you’ve been letting it marinate for far too long.

    Yet you haven’t made any moves, and in the meantime, nothing has changed. Does this sound familiar? I found myself in this exact position years ago. I was miserable at a job I didn’t enjoy. I wanted to change, but I got scared of the unknown and didn’t make any changes.

    Years passed by before I got a kick in the pants and decided to take a change. It took getting laid off, but it was the best thing that happened to me. I decided enough was enough. It was time to ultimately change my entire career, and also start exploring other smaller avenues on the side.

    But unfortunately, I didn’t really know the one thing I needed to do professionally in order to be more fulfilled. I knew what I didn’t want to do (hello old career), but I also didn’t know what I wanted to do.

    I began formulating. Writing goals. Crafting some business plans. Attending meetups and networking around areas I found interesting. It was through this meetup that I came across a three-month program being offered in a particular field that I had once tinkered with in high school, but walked away from.

    And voila, I am now in my new career. You can put the pieces together, but I took a leap and joined the program. Fear and all. I was scared, but now I am in a field that is 180 degrees from my previous one. And all it took was attending a meetup. Funny how life works.

    Self-doubt and fear are the two biggest barriers in our quest to make moves. A third, and less talked about one, is pure overwhelm: seeing where you are and looking where you want to go leaves you exasperated.

    This is where movement comes into play. You take steps, however small, toward your visions and goals. You make sure you’re moving forward.

    And here’s the cool thing: The force that you apply, in other words the actions you take, can be extremely small and still produce positive results. This is the idea of micro-movement.

    What does this mean? If you’re scared to make a move because you’re overwhelmed by the end result of where you think you need to go, it’s really important to realize one big thing: your collection of small steps equals big results.

    No one takes a leap of faith and accomplishes life’s biggest goals in the same breath. Life rewards those who take consistent, measurable action, while enjoying a dose of patience and commitment.

    Putting All The Pieces Together

    Most people have an idea of some higher-level goals they’d love to accomplish in their lives. Be it personal, health, finances, career, relationships, or all five, every single one of us has fallen victim to overwhelm and the paralyzing nature of fear.

    But a few things are happening in your favor.

    Namely, the universe is here to aid you in your dreams and desires if you let it.

    It just requires a few things:

    • A decision made internally to change
    • A desire to take the steps required
    • A realization that micro-movements forward are perfectly normal
    • Actually making moves
    • A dose of patience and commitment

    Then, the laws of motion will help you take care of the rest because you’ll have built movement and momentum.

    You aren’t stuck in life. You are capable of making a lot of power moves.

    The key is just getting started.

    About Adam Bergen

    Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a site aimed at showing others how they can reach their potential through focusing on themselves and staying authentic. Generally most people don’t enjoy Mondays, but it’s not Mondays that are the problem; it’s your mindset. Change that, and you can change your views. You can find Adam at mondayviews.com and instagram.com/mondayviews.

    Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

    The post You Aren’t Stuck in Life: Commit to Change and Get Started appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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    18 Work at Home Jobs for Moms (Well-Paid, Flexible and Fun)

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could have it all – be with your kids as much as you want but still have a fulfilling job that you enjoy? It sounds a little too good to be true.

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, approximately 21% of employees work from home on an average day. I’m sure a significant proportion of these people are mothers who are taking care of their children simultaneously. It can be hard to juggle so many responsibilities, but the key to making it work is finding a job with the perfect fit – one that has built-in flexibility, reasonable compensation and engages all of your greatest strengths.

    There are many offers of jobs that promise easy money for little to no work. Those actually are too good to be true. The following work at home jobs for moms are legitimate but do require time and effort. Find the category that best suits your abilities and interests.

  • For moms who are a people person

    1. Social media consultant

    All of those hours spent on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can finally be put to good use. Social media has become a vital component of advertising and PR for companies in many different industries. If you are a savvy social media user, you can use your skills to manage social media accounts for a business and get paid for it.

    Get the job here: Mashable, Appen, $99 Social

    2. Home daycare

    Do you wish you could get paid for staying home and taking care of your kids? Opening your own at home daycare is the next best thing! With the outrageous cost of childcare, there are many working parents seeking a trustworthy and budget-friendly alternative.

    Look up what your state’s laws are regarding an at-home daycare at Daycare.com and figure out if it would be a good route for you to take. Let your mom friends know about your business and post to local sites to find potential customers.

    Get the job here: Care.com, Sitter.com, Childcare Center

    3. Virtual assistant

    If you are looking for an office job that doesn’t require you to go into an office, becoming a virtual assistant could be a great fit. Tasks will vary depending on the company but can include things like scheduling appointments, data entry, organizing records, email management, social media management and editing. Contacting bloggers, online companies and websites directly can be a great way of finding job opportunities, in addition to advertising in and responding to job boards.

    Get the job here: Fancy Hands, Red Butler, Persist, Assistant Match

    For moms who love helping people

    4. Dog walking/sitting

    Do you love being around dogs but can’t commit to having one of your own? There is a big demand for dog walking for people who work long hours away from the home as well as dog sitting for when dog owners go out of town. This would give you and your kids the perfect opportunity to have fun with a four-legged friend without having to adopt one of your own.

    Get the job here: Rover, Fetch!, Petsitters

    5. Rent out baby gear

    If there’s one thing that moms have a lot of, it’s baby gear. When families with young children go on vacation, they don’t have the ability to bring all of their gear along. Items like cribs, strollers, car seats, high chairs and swings are not very portable but can make or break a vacation experience.

    Set up an account, list all of the gear you have available for rent, and decide on the prices and delivery area to get started.

    Get the job here: Babierge , Baby’s Away, goBaby

    6. Errands/Odd Jobs

    If you’re a mom that likes to be out and about and don’t mind picking up a few extra errands, this option can become a considerable source of income for you. Sites like TaskRabbit connect you with local users who are looking for a variety of tasks they need help with. These tasks can vary from furniture assembly to grocery shopping. Pick the tasks that fit your abilities and your schedule.

    Get the job here: TaskRabbit, Zaarly, Gigwalk

    7. Online stylist

    Do you have a flair for fashion? Do your friends always compliment you on your amazing sense of style? If so, becoming an online stylist could be your calling. Many upscale fashion subscription boxes are offering the services of a personal stylist to help them create individualized and professionally curated boxes. Use your skills for profit and help others improve their wardrobe at the same time.

    Get the job here: Stitchfix, Bombfell, Rocksbox

    For moms who are natural-born teachers

    8. Tutor

    Moms are fairly gifted in helping their own children learn new concepts and ideas, and this skill is easily transferrable to being an online tutor. The higher level of education you have in a certain subject, the more money you can make. Ages of students that need tutors range from elementary all the way to college. You can use websites to connect you with students, post an ad, or let people know about the services you are offering by word of mouth.

    Get the job here: Tutor.com, Chegg Tutors, TutorMe

    9. Teaching English as a second language

    Since you are reading this article, that means you have a skill that many people around the world are seeking – knowing the English language. Learning to read, write, and speak English has become an invaluable asset in industries based in the U.S. or that are global. Specialty websites and local resources can connect you with people looking for an English teacher to learn from and converse with.

    Resources: italki, Lingoda, VIPKID

    For moms who are excellent writers

    10. Freelance writer

    For those moms who are talented writers, there are many opportunities to get paid for contributing quality content. Blogs, websites and magazines are always looking for experts in their particular niche who have a way with words. The topics you can write about are endless, and you will be able to utilize your creativity and writing ability to generate substantial earnings whenever you have time to write.

    Get the job here: Wizzley, Contena, Freelance Writing Jobs

    11. Blogger

    As blogs continue to gain popularity as a go-to resource for recipes, fashion, parenting, current events and more, the number of blogs out there are higher than ever. Blogging is the perfect job for moms because of the flexibility, lack of deadlines and freedom of content. Many moms use their mothering knowledge and experiences as a basis for their blog content.

    It is possible to make a steady income from blogging but it takes time, dedication, and promotion to successfully monetize a blog. It can be a great platform for creativity and unfiltered expression through writing.

    Get the job here: WordPress, Blogger, Medium

    12. Translator

    If you are proficient in a second language, becoming a document translator is an option you should definitely consider. Not only would this job pay more because of your unique qualifications, it will also help you to maintain and improve your language skills. There are job opportunities in a wide variety of industries that require document translation into other languages, and this is a job that can be easily done at home.

    Get the job here: Gengo, Unbabel, ProZ

    For the creative moms

    13. Graphic designer

    Every website on the Internet needs a graphic designer in order to look professional and unique. Whether you have graphic design experience or you’re just starting out, there are opportunities available for you to demonstrate and hone your design skills. Create your own website and use it as a platform to showcase your work. You can also look for work on freelance websites to get additional work experience on your resume.

    Get the job here: Coroflot, Behance, Krop

    14. Photographer

    Even though most people have access to a high quality camera through their smart phones, photographers are still very much in demand. Professional photographers are required for special occasions (weddings, portraits, maternity) and are compensated well for their services. Taking stock photos offers another opportunity for a photographer to earn money. Stock photos are in constant need by websites, blogs and online publications.

    Get the job here: Alamy, Shutterstock, Getty Images

    15. Homemade crafts

    I’m sure you’ve heard of or even purchased items from Etsy, the most well-known website for buying and selling homemade items. If you are crafty and can create products that people would be interested in buying, this can be a very lucrative work from home opportunity. The categories of items that are the most popular include: home decor, jewelry, clothing, toys, craft supplies, and kids/babies.

    Get the job here: Etsy , Artfire, Handmade at Amazon, Cargoh

    For moms with a degree

    16. IT support

    If you have a degree and training in technical support, repair, installation, networking, software debugging, and other IT-related disciplines, you are in a great position to work remotely and get compensated well. Many companies rely on remote technician support via the telephone or online, and this is one of the highest paying work from home jobs out there.

    Get the job here: Apple, Computer Assistant, Dell

    17. Consultant

    Companies are constantly seeking consultants with a knowledge base in a variety of different areas including medicine, social work, administration, finance, marketing, IT, human resources and more. You can use your college degree and prior work experience to find a consulting job that you can work at from home. Both short-term and long-term assignments are typically available, which offer a great deal of flexibility.

    Get the job here: Guru, FlexJobs, Upwork

    18. Actuary

    Have you ever heard of an actuary? In the past, it was used to describe a person who analyzes statistics in order to calculate risks and premiums for insurance companies. However, the job title has expanded to include many more industries that can benefit from data mining and economic forecasting. If you have a degree in mathematics, finance or statistics, look into getting your license through Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or Society of Actuaries (SOA).

    Get the job here: Be an Actuary, SOA Job Center

    Find the opportunity that fits you

    As you can see, there are a multitude of options for moms who want to have a career they can be proud of while still spending time at home with their kids.

    Whether you prefer a job you can do at your desk, with your hands or out and about, there is an opportunity that is perfect for you. All you have to do is get out there and find it!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    The post 18 Work at Home Jobs for Moms (Well-Paid, Flexible and Fun) appeared first on Lifehack.

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    11 Characteristics of a Happy and Healthy Relationship

    Each and every day as a therapist, I talk to couples who are having issues. Issues serious enough that they have reached out for help. My job is to help them come to a decision about whether to move forward together or separately, which can be difficult. Sometimes, I have found, love and communication are not enough to stay together.

    This article will help you understand what IS enough to stay together — what’s required to create and maintain happy and healthy relationships.

    1. Get back on track with communication

    No relationship, romantic or other, is going to proceed without conflict. What ends up getting the relationship back on track is good communication. Communication, therefore, is the single most important factor in the health of a relationship because it represents the relationship’s ability to self-correct. But what makes for good communication? Entire books could be written on this, but for now let’s keep it simple:

    • Preemptive: Easier to be upfront because then problems can be spoken about instead of experienced.
    • Consistent: No point in communicating some of the time, or only on certain issues; it only works if it’s always happening.
    • Honest: Good communication is a trust-building act, bringing you and the other person closer (see below). Dishonesty has the opposite effect.

    2. Start with trust

    A relationship must have a foundation of trust to succeed. I could make a logical argument for why this must be the case, but instead, imagine what it would be like to have a relationship with someone you fundamentally mistrusted. Not enjoyable, am I right?

    A lack of trust often initiates a vicious cycle. The one who is distrustful often causes the other partner to become secretive, even about things he or she does not need to hide, just to secure some privacy and control. This gives the suspicious person more to suspect.

    Overall, a lack of trust or a breach of trust is one of the most difficult situations to overcome in a relationship.

    Learn how to build trust from this article: 5 Things You Can Do To Build Trust Quickly

    3. Align on core values

    Core values can be defined simply as those you cannot tolerate a partner NOT to share. Most relationships can have healthy disagreements about a wide variety of subjects, but each person has their “non-negotiable” beliefs. For some, this might be politics; for others, it might be whether to have children; between friends, it might be a matter of ethics.

    Whatever your non-negotiables, it is important that your partner share them; otherwise you will constantly feel as if you are compromising on a deeply personal level.

    However, keep in mind that not all beliefs are set in stone. If both people are willing to hear each other out, they might be surprised at the compromises they discover.

    Check out these tips if you think you and your partner are slightly different from each other: How to Stay Together When You Are Different From Each Other

    4. Use intimacy as a gauge

    Although intimacy often stands in for sex in the psychological community, it can mean much more than that. I would define intimacy as an ability to communicate in a uniquely interpersonal level with another person, which can certainly happen between friends and family members as well as romantic partners. One subset of intimacy is sex, though, and in a romantic relationship this is one of the major readings of its health and happiness.

    Sex in a relationship is similar to flossing, in that people who floss tend to live longer. It is not that flossing increases your life expectancy directly, but rather that those who tend to floss also tend to care for themselves in other ways, all of which lead to a longer life. Same thing with sex: a healthy sex life does not equal a healthy relationship, but it is an indication of many other positive things going on in addition to the benefit it brings by itself.

    If your sex life is not where you’d want it to be, use it as a starting point to figure out what part of your relationship could change for the better.

    5. Nurture vulnerability

    One of the cherished things about being in a close relationship is that you can share things with another person that you do not share with anyone else. As a therapist, I am acutely aware of how much this contributes to our mental health. Simply being able to confide in someone about all the small and big things of your life is of enormous value — and the major reason why we enter into relationships in the first place.

    Being able to share intimate details relies on a willingness to be vulnerable. This is a two-way street. Both you and your partner must develop an ability to be open as well as accept, nurture and respect the other’s openness. Vulnerability depends on this positive, reciprocal cycle.

    You can find more benefits of being vulnerable here: Accept Yourself (Flaws and All): 7 Benefits of Being Vulnerable

    6. Discuss the future: Children

    Surprisingly, sharing a common past does not necessarily result in better relationships across the board. But sharing a vision of the future is essential in certain key areas: children, finances, and lifestyle. All of these are intertwined, of course, but it is important to understand your partner’s vision for each of these things.

    One of the most common scenarios is a married couple who cannot agree on whether to have children. As you can imagine, both people feel very strongly about having or not having children. The heartbreaking thing is that there may be love, good communication, trust and shared values, but over time the couple cannot find a compromise for this extremely important life decision.

    7. Discuss the future: Finances

    At first, it is difficult to see how finances have anything to do with a relationship, but among couples and even among friends, differences in attitude toward money can create a serious rift.

    Two friends who have two very different attitudes toward spending, for example, will have a hard time deciding what to do together. A couple in this situation will have a constant stressor on their hands, especially if finances become tight.

    While it is not absolutely necessary to have identical attitudes toward money and spending, it is an important topic to discuss.

    8. Discuss the future: Lifestyle

    Lifestyle is sort of a catch-all phrase that includes aspects of life outside of children and finances that a couple will have to negotiate. This includes big things like how to spend leisure time or whether to be exclusive sexually as well as seemingly little things like diet or sleep. The point is that we all have preferences and needs, and when another person enters the picture with their own preferences and needs, we are forced to compromise.

    When it comes to lifestyle, I have found in my practice that those who meet in their younger years have a harder time adjusting to their partner’s lifestyle. This is probably because our preferences and needs crystallize as we age. Couples who meet when they are older have a greater knowledge of their likes and dislikes, and tend to factor this into whether they would be compatible with each other.

    9. Find a balance between dependence and independence

    As mentioned in the trust section, the ability to rely on each other is a sign of strength. In fact, a relationship will stagnate without it. But as with everything, there must be a balance.

    Too much dependence is just as tiring as too much independence. Without any dependence, neither partner feels as if he or she is part of a team, whereas with too much dependence, one or both partners is likely to feel overwhelmed.

    In short, each member of the relationship has the responsibility to maintain a balance between relying too much on the other person and not relying on the other person at all.

    10. Remember friends and family

    This is an often-overlooked feature of a happy relationship because much of the beginning part of the relationship does not involve family and friends. Two people get to know each other by themselves and find they are beginning to form a strong relationship. But then comes the next stage when that person meets the other important people in their lives.

    Couples tend to forget that how they fit into each other’s friends and family groups is important. As with core values, the important thing here is tolerance. Even if the person does not get along perfectly with your family and friends, is it tolerable? Can everyone basically get along?

    Of course, the more seamlessly they fit into your circles the better, but this only really becomes a problem when the fit is so bad that you hesitate to bring them around.

    11. Maintain commitment

    In the beginning of most relationships, very little commitment is needed. Everything is rosy and you cannot imagine anything going wrong. I see many couples who are just coming down from their dating or marriage highs and are lacking one key component: a commitment to each other.

    Commitment may be defined as a willingness to stay with the other person through times where it is no longer fun or easy to do so. Successful long-term relationships weather many such periods. Here are some other things to keep in mind about commitment:

    • Commitment is easier when we appreciate qualities in a person that do not change with circumstance — when we appreciate their sense of humor, for example, instead of their salary.
    • Too much commitment can be harmful. It can cause many people to stay in abusive relationships far too long. Healthy commitment is keeping a perspective on the qualities of the person that you love, whereas unhealthy commitment is elevating commitment itself above your happiness.
    • Commitment is also a two-way street: it is more sustainable to stay committed to someone who is staying committed to us.

    Hopefully you have recognized each item on this list as at least a factor in your relationship. Problems are especially troublesome when you or your partner are not even aware of them.

    If an item or two on the list jumps out as being problematic in your relationship(s), return to item #1: Use communication to get back on track. Communication or the relationship’s ability to self-correct is always the starting point for change.

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    The post 11 Characteristics of a Happy and Healthy Relationship appeared first on Lifehack.

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    Why Some People Have a Lack of Empathy (And How to Deal with Them)

    We all have interacted with some people that seem to have a lack of empathy, at some point of our lives. I know that those experiences can leave us feeling frustrated, unsettled, angry, disappointed, and even betrayed, mainly when we need support.

    It gets even harder and more painful if you are in a relationship with someone who is unable to put themselves in your shoes, or when we consider some of these people our friends, or maybe even worse, when those people are family members and we have to be in contact with them frequently.

    In this article, I will share with you the signs when someone is lacking empathy, why some people seem to lack it, and how to deal with them, so you don’t feel so frustrated and disappointed, and you can lead a happier life.

  • What exactly is empathy

    According to Dictionary.com, Empathy is:

    the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

    The word originates from the Greek word “empatheia”, meaning physical affection or passion.

    PsychologyToday.com defines Empathy as:

    the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You try to imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing.

    They go on to say that Empathy facilitates prosocial (helping) behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that we behave in a more compassionate manner.

    In other words, empathy is when you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s position, both at an emotional and intellectual level.

    Additionally, Empathy is one of the defining characteristics and foundational pieces of emotional intelligence.

    True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it ~ Daniel Goleman

    Signs that someone lacks empathy

    Even though human beings are social creatures by nature, empathy doesn’t come naturally to all of us. Some people are more empathetic than others. In more extreme cases, some people suffer from Empathy Deficit Disorder (EDD).

    As Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and the Director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, DC. said,

    Empathy Deficit Disorder is a pervasive but overlooked condition. In fact, our increasingly polarized social and political culture of the past few years reveals that EDD is more severe than ever. It has profound consequences for the mental health of both individuals and society.

    He explains that when you suffer EDD, you are unable to step outside yourself and tune in to what other people experience, especially those who feel, think and believe differently from yourself. That makes it a source of personal conflicts of communication breakdown in intimate relationships and of adversarial attitudes – including hatred – towards groups of people who differ in their beliefs, traditions or ways of life from your own.

    Here are some signs that will help you identify if someone around you lacks empathy:

    • They jump fast into criticizing others without putting themselves in other people’s shoes.
    • They seem to be cold or just out of touch for people that are suffering or are less fortunate.
    • They believe 100% in the rightness of their own ideas and/or beliefs, and judge anyone who does not hold their beliefs as wrong, ignorant or stupid.
    • They have trouble feeling happy for others.
    • They have trouble making or keeping friends.
    • They have trouble getting along with family members.
    • They feel entitled to receiving favors and use you to serve their needs without showing appreciation. They will even get offended if they don’t get their way.
    • In a group setting, they will talk a lot about themselves and their lives without really caring about what other people share.
    • They do or say something that hurts a friend or a loved one, and tend to blame his/her actions on them. They truly believe that the fault is in the person receiving the hurt because they reacted poorly, were rude or were oversensitive.

    The truth is that without empathy, it is hard to create deep emotional connections with others.

    Why some people lack empathy

    Empathy is an innate and a learned skill that is shaped by how we are wired when we are born, and our own environment and life experiences. To experience empathy to some extent, it means that we have to get in touch with our emotions.

    People who lack empathy were probably raised in families who were avoiding to get in touch with their feelings and even condemned others for feeling their emotions. Some people have learned to shut down their feelings early in their lives to such a degree that they closed off their hearts and can’t even feel their own feelings – they certainly can’t relate or feel other people’s feelings.

    As a result, these people end up lacking self-compassion, self-love and are disconnected from their authentic self and divine connection to source. They are probably not even aware that such disconnection is like a defense mechanism from their ego because if they empathize, they need to relate, get in touch with their feelings and feel the pain.

    In most cases, developing and cultivating empathy is possible only if the individuals are willing to change how they relate with others, and consciously choose to retrain their brains. Due to our brain’s neuroplasticity, we can create new brain patterns.

    However, there are other cases in which lack of empathy is associated to severe disorders such as narcissism, anti-social personality disorders, and psychopathy. In these cases, these individuals need to get professional help if they are open to it.

    How to deal with people who lack empathy

    I know how difficult it can be to deal with people who lack empathy being a sensitive and caring person. When you try to express your feelings, instead of compassion and understanding, you get anger or judgment back.

    It’s painful because sometimes we can get stuck in a vicious cycle where the more they don’t understand you, the more you feel hurt, and the more you want them to understand your feelings. It’s almost like pleading for validation.

    Here’s the thing: Most of the times, talking with these people will lead you nowhere, and will leave you feeling completely depleted.

    Here are some easy-to-follow steps, so you can deal with people who lack empathy:

    1. Don’t take their anger or judgments personal.

    By doing this, you can get off the emotional roller coaster. It’s not about you. Remind yourself that they are the ones that have a problem connecting emotionally with others at a deeper level. There’s nothing wrong with you!

    2. Don’t try to make them understand your feelings.

    Trying to instill empathy or insights in them is a waste of your time and energy. This will only increase their anger and judgement.

    3. Talk about facts with them.

    Instead of talking to them about how you feel, or how something they did or said made you feel, talk about facts and what you think. It’s easier to communicate this way because they won’t feel blamed or shamed.

    4. If you don’t live with this person, try to distance yourself from their company.

    You don’t have to end the friendship or stop visiting your family member, but you need to set some boundaries and be mindful of your interaction with them. Keep the connection superficial to avoid arguments and don’t expect depth and understanding.

    5. Cultivate or nurture relationships with people who you trust.

    Spend time with people who you trust and make you feel safe to share your inner world and your feelings with. Those who might have shown signs of empathy in the past.

    6. Know that your value and worth does not depend on their validation and opinion of you.

    Our self-worth should never be based on approval or validation from others. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you realize your true value: How to Build Self Esteem (A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power)

    7. Take loving actions towards yourself.

    Offer yourself kindness and practice doing things that reflect self-love – eat healthy, get enough rest, pursue your dreams, work on yourself, develop a spiritual life, surround yourself with loving and positive people.

    To give you more ideas, here’s a list of 50 Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Really Love Yourself

    8. Ultimately, if you feel too overwhelmed, get professional help.

    Find a caring and compassionate therapist or coach who can be there for you and offer guidance during painful times. Unfortunately, our friends and family can’t always provide all of the emotional support that we need at times.

    If the person that you’re dealing with shows a willingness to be more open to change and become more empathetic and caring, then you have a real opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them.

    Summing it up

    There are many reasons why some people lack empathy. Dealing with these people is not easy and may leave you feeling frustrated and disappointed. But with my advice, you learn that you can’t change someone, however you can change your attitude towards them.

    Remember that you can’t save everyone but you can love yourself enough to not let people who lack empathy to overpower you. Set boundaries and do what makes you happy. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to get professional help when you are overwhelmed.

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

    The post Why Some People Have a Lack of Empathy (And How to Deal with Them) appeared first on Lifehack.

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    How to Make Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

    Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes from Scratch

    We make pancakes weekly in our house. Most of the time, I substitute half of the all-purpose flour with spelt or whole wheat pastry flour and top our pancakes with fruit, but sometimes it’s nice to go with a classic like Buttermilk Pancakes.

    For this recipe, I wanted to make fluffy, light, and airy buttermilk pancakes with crisp edges, and a slightly sweet, buttery flavor. Forty pancakes later, I was happy with my results: I finally figured out how to avoid the common pitfalls of dense, chewy, eggy, or rubbery pancakes.

    Continue reading “How to Make Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes” »

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    Meal Plan for May Week 2

    May Week 2 Meal Plan

    This month, Megan Gordon is back with us sharing her weekly meal plans! Megan is a writer and recipe developer living in Seattle, WA, the author of Whole Grain Mornings, and mom to a 2-year-old. Please welcome Megan!

    I spent some time last week stocking up on spring produce — nothing gets me feeling more inspired to step into the kitchen than new, seasonal veggies!

    Continue reading “Meal Plan for May Week 2” »

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    5 Journal Prompts to Help You Let Go of Anxiety and Find Peace

    “You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” ~Dan Millman

    There was a time when my mind was completely consumed by worries, and I lived in a perpetual state of panic.

    I worried about things I’d said and whether people were judging me, things I should be doing and whether I was using my time well, the state of my life, the state of the world, and just about anything else one could worry about.

    Life always felt scary and uncertain, so I always felt unsafe, and worrying gave me the illusion of gaining some semblance of control.

    Well-intentioned people advised me to just be positive—then I’d feel a lot better about life. But I’ve always found the concept of positive thinking somewhat frustrating.

    First, it made me feel guilty, since no matter how hard I tried to avoid negative thoughts, they’d inevitably pop into my head. Secondly, it was exhausting. To constantly monitor your mind takes monumental effort, and it seemed contrary to my goal—to be less burdened by my brain.

    Still, there’s no denying that our thoughts influence our feelings. When we sit around dwelling on everything that could go wrong, or everything we think we did wrong, we end up feeling drained and depressed.

    So what’s the solution, then? How can we allow ourselves to be human and simultaneously ensure we don’t drown in our fearful thoughts?

    For me, journaling has been key.

    Journaling has helped me find solutions to my problems, identify and let go of things I can’t control, and change my perspective on the things I want to change but can’t.

    It’s also helped me recognize my own strength so that I can worry less about what’s coming and trust more in my ability to handle it, whatever it may be.

    If you’re looking for a little mental relief this week, I recommend starting each weekday with one of these five journal prompts from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal: A Creative Way to Let Go of Anxiety and Find Peace

    The beauty of these particular prompts is that they help us focus on the moment, be kind to ourselves, and have faith in ourselves and our journey, wherever it may lead.

    5 Journal Prompts to Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind

    1. Today, I choose to let go of the things I can’t control, including…

    2. I recognize that I don’t need to have all the answers right now. Today, I give myself permission not to know…

    3. Dear inner critic: You always focus on everything I’m doing wrong, but I know I’m doing a lot right, including…

    4. I know I’m strong enough to handle whatever comes at me, because I’ve survived a lot, including…

    5. Instead of worrying about making the “wrong” choices, I trust that no matter what I choose…

    You don’t need to write anything specific or lengthy, though you can take all the time you have and need. The important thing is that you get in the habit of thinking about yourself and your problems in a new way.

    It’s not about suppressing thoughts or replacing them with positive ones. It’s about directing your mind to useful thoughts so you can spend less of your life feeling worried and overwhelmed.

    Just like gratitude journaling can help us feel happier and more optimistic, keeping a worry journal can help us feel calmer and more at peace.

    If you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy of Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which officially launches on June 26th, you can reserve a copy here.

    Once you receive your purchase confirmation email, forward it to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com and you’ll receive access to the following free bonus items:

    • Four guided meditations on letting go (of control, the need for approval, stresses/pressure, and self-judgment)
    • Three colorful desktop wallpapers with cute Buddhas and calming quotes
    • An exclusive interview with me and Ehren Prudhel, founder of the soon-to-be-launched podcast Next Creator Up, in which I discuss how I’ve overcome worries related to writing my first feature film

    I hope these prompts (and the other activities in the journal) help you as much as they’ve helped me!

    About Lori Deschene

    Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

    Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

    The post 5 Journal Prompts to Help You Let Go of Anxiety and Find Peace appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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    5 Benefits of BCAAs for Strength and Recovery

    Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are now one of the most popular supplements around, earning a place in millions of homes and gyms, worldwide. Numerous studies show a direct link between BCAA intake and improved strength and recovery, fuelling sales growth which shows no sign of slowing.

    Whether you are a keen runner, professional tennis player, amateur weightlifter or an Olympic gold medallist, you could certainly benefit from adding more BCAAs to your diet.

    Evidence supports the use of BCAA supplementation for strength and recovery during exercise but also recognizes their role in some diseases, such as cancer. Other studies have also linked bloodstream levels of BCAAs to insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.

    In this article, we’ll go over the main benefits of BCAAs for strength and recovery and why you should consider adding them to your diet.

  • What are BCAAs?

    When we talk about protein, we are referring to amino acid residue – which is what protein is made from. BCAAs are essential amino acids because the body is unable to synthesize them on its own, therefore, they must be consumed in our diet. Of the nine essential amino acids, three of them fall into the BCAA category. They are:

    • Leucine – boosts protein synthesis, helping build and repair muscle. It also assists with insulin to regulate blood sugars and is one of only two amino acids which cannot be converted into sugar.
    • Isoleucine – enables energy to be stored in muscle cells rather than fat cells by regulating glucose uptake.
    • Valine – improves mental functioning, reduces fatigue and prevents muscle breakdown.

    Other essential amino acids are oxidized (broken down to release energy) in the liver, however, BCAAs are unique in that they can be metabolized in muscle. Why is this important? Well, the body needs BCAAs in the bloodstream to maintain normal bodily functions. If none are available, the body will break down muscle cells to release them. [1] [1]

    Food Sources

    The supplement industry does a great job convincing us to invest in BCAA supplements to get optimal results. However, for the most part, you will get all you need from everyday foods.

    The recommended intake of BCAAs is around 15-20 grams per day, so getting enough from your diet is not all that difficult. You should aim for around five grams per meal (assuming three square meals per day).

    Here are some common foods with examples of their BCAA content, per 3oz serving, cooked.

    • Cheddar Cheese – 4.7g
    • Ground turkey – 4.2g
    • Ground Beef (95% lean) – 4.0g
    • Peanuts – 3.1g
    • Cashew Nuts – 2.8g
    • Whole eggs – 2.2g
    • Chicken breast – 2.1g
    • Lentils – 1.3g
    • Black Beans – 1.3g

    Lentils, black beans and kidney beans contain all three branched-chain amino acids; however, some plant-based foods are not “complete” proteins. For a food to be a complete protein source, it must contain all nine essential amino acids. While kidney beans and black beans are complete, lentils lack enough methionine.

    You can overcome this problem by combining lentils with other foods high in methionine (such as rice) to form complete proteins. Peanuts suffer a similar problem because they lack the essential amino acid, lysine. To make it complete, simply spread it on bread or toast.

    If you’re unsure what foods contain complete proteins, head over to nutritiondata.self.com. This fantastic site lists the protein and nutritional profiles of thousands of foods. If a protein is not complete, simply click the “find foods with complementary profile” link to find sources containing the missing essential amino acids.

    The 2:1:1 Ratio

    When you look at BCAA supplement packaging, you will nearly always find reference to the BCAA ratio. The most common is 2:1:1, made up of two-parts leucine, one-part isoleucine, and one-part valine. While 2:1:1 is the most common, you will sometimes see products with ratios of 4:1:1, 8:1:1 and even 10:1:1.

    These higher ratio BCAA supplements all contain more leucine. If you take time to read the packaging or the manufacturer’s marketing materials, they usually reference the muscle-building power of leucine. In reality, they are just cheaper to produce, so you will rarely find them citing existing research to back up their claims.

    Scientists have used the 2:1:1 ratio in studies based on the levels found in natural food sources. Historically, there has been little need to investigate other ratios. Nevertheless, the role of leucine in protein synthesis has caught some interest. While current evidence is limited, a ratio of 4:1:1 has shown promise in one study, where results found it to increase protein synthesis by over 30%.

    Benefits of BCAAs

    1. You’ll Build Major Muscle Mass

    When looking to improve strength, or to build muscle (hypertrophy), you need to activate protein synthesis. For this to happen, leucine is the single most important dietary requirement. Chemical signals tell your body to build and repair muscle, and leucine effectively amplifies that signal – especially following resistance exercise. [2]

    As leucine is the main amino associated with muscle growth, you might be wondering why this is not recommended as a standalone supplement for muscle growth. As it happens, studies have been conducted to investigate. One such study compared three groups: one took a placebo, the other a leucine supplement, while the third group consumed a regular BCAA drink with a ratio of 2:1:1. While leucine performed better than the placebo, it did not do as well as BCAA group.

    The reason for this is simple: all amino acids are required for muscle growth. So, while leucine stimulates the process, other forms of protein are needed to build muscle. Without the other amino acids, leucine is like a motivational building site manager with no workers to do the job. [3]

    2. You’ll Be Far Less Exhausted

    Getting tired during a workout can be a real drag. You will be glad to hear that branched-chain amino acids – particularly valine – can help with this.

    When you exercise, the level of tryptophan (another essential amino acid) rises. When tryptophan reaches the brain, it is used to make serotonin – a hormone been linked to our feeling of fatigue. All amino acids are transported to the brain on the same bus, yet not all are allowed entry to the brain. With limited accommodation available, valine competes with tryptophan and overpowers it. Less tryptophan in the brain means less serotonin, and less serotonin means lower fatigue. [4]

    3. You’ll Recover Way Quicker

    The body can take a real beating during intensive exercise. Recovering after such a session can take a few days or more.

    One study, looking into the effects of BCAA supplementation in experienced resistance-trained athletes, showed positive results. The rate of recovery improved for strength, countermovement jump height and muscle soreness.[5] BCAAs can also speed up recovery time following endurance sports and intensive cardio sessions.4. No More Muscle Catabolism

    Our priority, when exercising – whether it’s to lose weight, tone up, or get healthier in general – is usually to improve our body composition; after all, better body composition makes you look more toned, and the health benefits are well documented.

    While exercising, we need more BCAAs to function properly. [11] [6]

    When bloodstream levels are too low, the body looks for somewhere to get them. At this stage, it begins breaking down (catabolizing) muscle tissue to access the branched-chain amino acids it needs.

    Consuming BCAAs ensures an adequate level is available in the bloodstream, reducing the chances of muscle breakdown. During and following intensive exercise sessions, it is important to consume slightly higher levels. This is the reason why some athletes will sip on a BCAA supplement drink during a workout.

    Intermittent fasting has risen in popularity in recent years, with millions of people finding success with this form of dieting. As you can imagine, while in the fasted state, the bloodstream is low on BCAAs. Knocking back a very low-calorie BCAA drink during the fasted helps combat this.

    Following a workout, a meal or meal replacement high in protein is typically consumed to further replenish BCAA levels. If the aim of the workout was to build muscle, this is the best time to give protein synthesis a boost with some muscle-building leucine. Fast acting carbs are also a good idea at this time, as the energy can be stored in the muscles as glycogen.

    5. Massive Muscle Energy Storage

    When you eat, the energy you consume is either used or stored. You could be forgiven for thinking that excess energy is stored in fat cells, but it’s not.

    Once digested, carbohydrates are converted to glucose, which supplies your cells with energy. The hormone, insulin, helps regulate blood sugar. One of the ways it does this is by helping glucose move through cell walls to be stored.

    Unused glucose is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscle tissue. Any excess glucose which cannot be deposited as glycogen is finally stored in fat cells.

    The fantastic thing about glycogen stored in muscle cells is this: once stored in the muscle, it cannot return to the bloodstream to be used anywhere else. It can be used only by the muscle. For this reason, encouraging glucose to be stored in muscle cells is preferable to it being stored as fat.

    Glycogen stored in muscles is a readily available energy source. So, when blood sugars are too low, contracting muscles will use the fuel stored within them to get the job done. This is where the branched-chain amino acid, isoleucine, shines by promoting glucose uptake by muscles. Greater uptake means less energy is stored as fat resulting in quicker energy access for the muscle. [7]

    Dangers, Side Effects & Toxicity

    Is There a Risk of Toxicity

    It is safe to say that consuming high levels of BCAAs is not toxic. Studies looked at toxicity in mice and rats, concluding there to be no observed-adverse-effect level. [8]

    However, if you’re looking to maximize your training efforts, research shows that excessive levels of BCAAs can actually hinder performance.[14] [9]

    Inclusive Ties to Type-2 Diabetes

    Maybe the largest concern for some people is that there is a direct link between high levels of BCAAs in the blood and type-2 diabetes. [15] On initial inspection, this looks to be bad news for branched-chain amino acids. However, further research suggests it is poor insulin sensitivity which drives higher circulating BCAA levels.[10] [11]

    Negative Effects on Insulin Sensitivity in Vegans

    During a 2017 study, when supplementing with BCAAs, vegans became more resistant to insulin. [12]

    During this study, they consumed an extra 20 grams of branched-chain amino acids per day for three months. Considering the lack of research on the subject, it is difficult to ascertain why this happened. Evidence shows that switching to a plant-based diet lowers the BCAA plasma levels associated with insulin resistance. [13]

    The vegan subjects also had much better insulin sensitivity at the start of the study.

    Increased Spread of Cancer & Disease

    Inside our cells, a series of chemical reactions are constantly taking place. This series of events, known as a biological pathway, is what we refer to as our metabolism. These interactions produce new molecules such as fat or protein and can trigger changes in our cells.

    The mTOR pathway forms part of this process. In simple terms, the mTOR pathway regulates cell growth. The branched-chain amino acid, leucine, stimulates the mTOR pathway, which is great for muscle growth, but not so great for some forms of cancer. Many cancers rely on mTOR activity for the growth and spread of cancerous cells. For this reason, much research is taking place regarding BCAAs and their link with diseases. [14]

    Take Home Advice: Take BCAAs

    It’s easy to see, given the evidence, why BCAAs are such a popular supplement for people engaging in exercise. Faster recovery, increased muscle growth, and reduced fatigue benefit all kinds of athletes, from beginners through to seasoned Olympians.

    For those lifting weights, BCAAs will help you get bigger and stronger; marathon runners might delay hitting the wall, and if you’re playing competitive football week in week out, you can recover faster. In contrast, if you are not exercising regularly, there really is no need: just ensure you’re eating enough complete, plant-based proteins such as lentils, black beans, nuts and grains, some fish and meat a few times per week and you’ll be fine.

    However, if you are vegan, your family has a history of diabetes, or have been recently diagnosed with a disease such as cancer, you should certainly consult with your doctor before adding BCAA supplements to your diet.

    Featured photo credit: Brad Neathery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    The post 5 Benefits of BCAAs for Strength and Recovery appeared first on Lifehack.

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    24 Fun Things to Do with Kids (From Indoor Activities to Outdoor Fun)

    You’re at home with the kids, your spouse is at work and it’s a beautiful day outside but you have no clue what to do with the kids. You’ve already taken them to the park 4 times this week (and it’s only Wednesday) and you and the kids are both getting sick of it.

    Or you’re home with the kids, your spouse is at work and it’s pouring rain outside and now the park isn’t even an option, so now what do you do?

    Allow us to hopefully spark some new ideas to entertain your kids and you with in this list of fun things to do with kids:

    Indoor ideas

    1. Romp it up

    Where I live, my city has a great kids program called Tot Romp. It’s a space at a local community centre where they set up toys, slides, games, and activities for the kids to play with. It’s a great way to get out of the house, play with new toys and meet new families. It costs a couple bucks each time you go so it’s a relatively low cost option.

    Check your local community guide for times and locations.

    2. Go for a stroll

    While it’s super easy to go for a walk to the park, what about when it rains?

    One of my favourite places to go in that case is the mall. It’s a great way to burn off some energy and do a little window shopping. Chances are it won’t be super busy if you go midday so you will probably feel more comfortable letting the kids just go.

    As an added bonus, a lot of malls now have a children’s play space for your kids to climb around on.

    3. MasterChef your house

    You know there’s a Junior version for MasterChef? Well, why not involve your juniors in making a meal.

    Lunches and dinners can seem like an endless task and a challenging one with the kids stuck inside. What better way to combat those problems than having your kids help? Sure it might get a little messy but it’s bound to create some great memories.

    Thinking about what to make with your kids? Check out 40 Easy Recipes To Cook With Kids

    4. Bake away

    A great way to get your kids involved in the snacks they eat or help you with is any baking you need to do.

    Added bonus – this can help with math skills as you measure out ingredients.

    5. Get lost at the blue and yellow

    IKEA is one of those places that can easily take up a whole day depending on how you do it. (And how many times you get lost).

    If your kids are old enough, they can be dropped off in the kids play area and you can shop (or have a coffee and snack for an hour or so). And even if they aren’t old enough, they can still run around the showroom with you and then you can all grab a cheap bite to eat at the end of the day.

    6. Make a me- I mean, paint

    Put down an old table cloth (or one from the dollar store) and put your little one in the highchair, give them some child friendly paints and let them go!

    Whether you use paper or not, sure it’d be a good time!

    7. Future Olympian in training

    Many communities are so great at providing things to do for families with kids that we often forget to use them as a resource.

    Gymnastics is one of the best ways for kids to burn off A LOT of energy. It’s safe and fun for them to run and run for an hour or two. It’s often cheap – or free – so it’s worth seeing what your community has to offer.

    8. Switch it up

    With my kids, I’ve noticed that they often are so bored of seeing the same toys, same spaces and same games, so why not switch it up?

    Take your kids to a friend’s place. This will give the kids new surroundings, new toys and new games to play with that will entertain them for a while.

    You can even swap with friends so that one person isn’t always hosting. It gets your child out of the house and provides great social interaction, and hopefully a new friendship or two.

    9. To grandmother’s house we go

    Besides you, chances are that nobody loves your kids as much as their grandparents. We’ve heard it said that being a grandparent is all the fun of being a parent with none of the responsibility. While that’s mostly true, they’re still responsible for the kids when they have them, the fun part is definitely true.

    My kids love their grandparents and they always have a blast with them so why not let them spend more time with them?

    10. Go on a date

    If you have multiple kids, it can be really hard to get one on one time with them.

    A great idea is to go on a date with one kid each week. One week mom takes a kid out, next week dad takes a kid out until each parents has had a date with each kid, then start all over again.

    This is a great way to slow things down or speed them up while getting to focus all your attention on just one kid.

    Here’s a sweet video about a dad taking his daughter on the first date:

    11. Kids cafe

    This one is similar to the one above but I know in my area, there is a couple of cafes that have a designated play space for kids and great snacks for parents. They often run different events such as music classes which can be a great day out.

    12. Train your little Michael Phelps

    This one can be indoor or out, but the pool is a great option to burn off that excess energy and it’s super fun for everyone. Just don’t forget sunscreen if you’re outdoors.

    And after, the kids will drop like a rock for a fantastic nap!

    13. Treat yo self

    This one is for those of you with girls. The spa is always a good time whether it’s just getting your nails done or going for a full spa day with massage and everything.

    Either plan an at home spa day or treat your kiddo and go get the pros to do it. Personally, we like the home one better, you can make up facial scrubs or pick up masks from the dollar store, paint each other’s nails and eat yummy treats!

    Outdoor ideas

    14. Take me out to the ball game

    Chances are it’s getting close to baseball season where you live. If you’re lucky, like I am in Vancouver, you may even have a professional or semi-professional team close by.

    Take the family out to a ball game for the night. If you’re on a budget, go to the local park one evening and watch the kids play.

    15. Catch some rays

    Take the kids to the beach. With summer fast approaching, go visit it! It doesn’t even need to be summer for this, cloudy days mean it’s going to be less busy and give your kid more space to run and explore! Pack a picnic lunch and you’re basically set.

    You can even check out these beach hacks before you head out to the beach with your kids.

    16. Take a ride

    One thing I love to do is go for local drives and find new places to explore. Doing this with the kids can be awesome!

    Ask them what they see out the window, just make sure your destination has some space for kids to get their energy out!

    17. Search out a new park

    Do you have errands to run in a different part of the city? Google up the top playgrounds in the area and make that a pit stop after running your errands.

    Who knows, it might just become a new favorite!

    18. Farmers’ markets

    You don’t need to be a farmer to attend a farmer’s market. Often times there are farmers markets or festivals that are free to attend and will have music and different performances. It’s a great way to check out different interests and businesses in your community!

    And for your reference, take a look at America’s best farmers’ markets here.

    19. Chalk it up

    Chalk is great for a few reasons, it’s super cheap, fun for the kids and harmless on clothing.

    You can pick it up from the dollar store (or make it yourself if you’re really ambitious, another thing to do with the kids) and head out your front door for some cheap fun!

    You can have drawing contests, draw roads or play hop scotch. Don’t forget to bring out the kids toys to play on after or simply sit and play endless games of X’s & O’s. You can find even more ways to play with chalk here.

    20. Go for a scavenger hunt

    Scavenger hunts are great for kids. It gives them a task that they have to complete. If your kids are as determined as mine are, they will love it.

    There are lots of free lists online or simply make your own before you leave. Head out for a walk and have your kids either gather the items on a list, take a picture or point them out to you. It puts a new spin on your ordinary walks.

    21. Zoo-m off

    If you have a zoo in your area, go spend the day there. If you don’t have a big zoo, maybe there’s a petting zoo close by. Pack a lunch for the day and head out!

    Kids love animals and being able to walk around so much, this is a win-win situation.

    22. Go chasing airplanes

    One of the best dates I ever took my wife on was a trip to the airport late at night. We took a pickup truck, lots of blankets and pillow and laid in the bed watching airplanes land.

    Chances are good that there is an airport near you, go spend an afternoon there. The kids can run around while you wait for any planes and then help count them, what colour are they, guess where they came from etc.

    Tip – make sure you have ear protection for children that are really young!

    23. Head to the great outdoors

    Whether it’s in your backyard or out in the back country, camping was always a favourite memory of mine.

    Getting out the tent and sleeping bags, and roasting marshmallows is a guaranteed good time for parents and kids!

    Don’t miss these family camping tips to make camping safe and fun for everyone.

    24. Fight the kids

    Have a water fight! Kids love competition, especially if it’s against their parents. Find your inner child, get out your water gun and set teams, maybe even set up barriers and have a good old fashioned water fight.

    We hope this list has given you a few new ideas to entertain both you and the kids.

    This week choose one item from the list that you haven’t done before. No more using weather as an excuse either because we gave you indoor and outdoor ideas.

    After you’ve done it, come back here and pick another one for the next week!

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    The post 24 Fun Things to Do with Kids (From Indoor Activities to Outdoor Fun) appeared first on Lifehack.

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    The Power of Waiting (When You Don’t Know What to Do)

    “Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal.” ~I Ching 

    Waiting has a bad rap in modern Western society. It’s not surprising that I had to look to an ancient Chinese text (the I Ching) in order to find a suitable quote to begin this article. We don’t like to wait! It’s far easier to find quotes on the Internet about “seizing the day” and making something happen.

    I’ve been an impatient person for much of my life. I wanted things to happen to me! I had a definite agenda in my twenties: finish college, start my career, get married, and have a family. So I declared a major and started knocking off my goals. When it was “time” to get married, I picked the most suitable person available and got on with it.

    I really didn’t know much about waiting. I thought it was something you did if you didn’t have courage or conviction. It was just an excuse not to take action. I know better now.

    What I’ve learned since then is that waiting is one of the most powerful tools we have for creating the life we want.  

    The ego, or mind, is very uncomfortable with waiting. This is the part of you that fairly screams, “Do something! Anything is better than nothing!” And, because we are a very ego-driven society, you’ll find plenty of external voices that back up that message.

    The mind hates uncertainty, and would rather make a mistake than simply live in a state of “not knowing” while the right course unfolds.

    There’s a term I love that describes this place of uncertainty: liminal. A liminal space is at the border or threshold between possibilities. It’s a place of pure potential: we could go any direction from here. There are no bright lights and obvious signs saying “Walk this way.”

    Liminal spaces can be deeply uncomfortable, and most of us tend to rush through them as quickly as possible.

    If we can slow down instead, the landscape gradually becomes clearer, the way it does when your eyes adjust to a darkened room. We start to use all of our senses. The ego wants a brightly lit super-highway to the future, but real life is more like a maze. We take one or two steps in a certain direction, and then face another turning point. Making our way forward requires an entirely different set of skills, and waiting is one of the most important!

    There’s a proper timing to all things, and it’s often not the timing we want (now—or maybe even yesterday). There are things that happen on a subconscious level, in ourselves and in others, that prepare us for the next step. Oddly, when the time to act does come, there’s often a sense of inevitability about it, as if it was always meant to be this way.

    Look back over your life and you’ll see this pattern. First, look at the decisions that you forced: how did those turn out? Then look for times when you just “knew” what to do, without even thinking about it. What happened then?

    The key to the second kind of decision is waiting for that deep sense of inner knowing.

    That doesn’t mean you’re certain that everything will turn out exactly the way you want it. Or that you don’t feel fear. But there is a sense of “yes, now’s the time” in your body that I liken to the urge that migratory birds get when it’s time to leave town. They don’t stand around debating whether to go, consulting maps and calendars. They just go when the time is right.

    We’re animals too—we have and can cultivate that inner sensitiveness that lets us simply know what to do when the time is right. But to do that we have to unhook from the mind. Thinking is useful up to a point, but we usually take it far beyond the point of usefulness!

    We go over and over various options, trying to predict the future based solely on our hopes and fears.

    We talk endlessly with others about what we should do, hoping that they have the answers for us (and, ideally, trying to get everyone to agree).

    We think about what we “should” do, based on any number of external measures: common sense, morality, religion, family values, finances, and so on.

    And then usually we add this all up and just take our best shot.

    A better way is to take stock of what you know (and, even more importantly, what you don’t know) and then… wait.

    If there’s some action that calls to you, even if it’s seemingly unrelated to the question at hand, do it! Then wait again for another urge to move. Wait actively rather than passively. That means: keep your inner senses tuned to urges or intuitions. Expect that an answer will come. As the I Ching says, wait with the “inner certainty of reaching the goal.”

    This is not the same kind of dithering and procrastination that come when we want to try something new but are afraid to step out into the unknown. If your intuition is pulling you in a certain direction and your mind is screaming at you to “Stop!” by all means ignore your mind.

    There’s a subtle but very real difference between the feeling of fear (which holds you back from doing something you long to do) and misgivings (which warn you that a decision that looks good on the surface is not right for you).

    In both cases, look for and trust that deep sense of inner knowing, even if your thoughts are telling you different. A friend once told me that her father’s best piece of advice to her was: “Deciding to get married should be the easiest decision of your life.” How I wish I had known that when I made my own (highly ambivalent) decision!

    My head was telling me that this was the sensible thing to do, and he was a good man. My gut, however, was far from on board. I still vividly recall the many inward debates I held about whether to marry him, and even the dreams I had that revealed my inner reluctance. Unfortunately, I went with my thoughts over my instincts.

    Now I know this: If you have to talk yourself into something, try waiting instead. More will be revealed, if you give it some time.

    Ignore that voice in your head that says you need to make a decision now. Don’t rush through life. Linger in the liminal spaces and see what becomes clear as you sit with uncertainty. Learn to trust your gut more than your head. Have faith that the right course will unfold at the perfect time. And then, when the time comes, just do it, as simply and naturally as the birds take flight.

    About Amaya Pryce

    Amaya Pryce is a life coach and writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Her books, 5 Simple Practices for a Lifetime of Joy and How to Grow Your Soul are available on Amazon. For coaching or to follow her blog, please visit www.amayapryce.com.

    Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

    The post The Power of Waiting (When You Don’t Know What to Do) appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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    15 Lessons on How to Surround Yourself With Good Friends (and Less Enemies)

    Be honest: how many good friends do you have?

    If you are a man, the chances are slim that you have a tribe of good friends. As men New York Times article we tend to become isolated. [1]

    Women, in spite of their natural ability to connect to other women, in our tech age are also losing deep friendships. “The number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades,” [2].

    You may have hundreds of social media friends. But how many of them can you call at 2 AM to help you in a crisis?

    In this article, I’m going to tackle, step by step, how to gain more solid friendships and how to ditch your enemies. If you’ve always wanted to be surrounded by people who bring you up rather than pull you down, then read on.

    How to Thrive in Friendships Using the ROC Formula

    I started out in a small Vermont town. Everyone knew everyone… and each others’ business. There were not many places to hide, and I felt secure in knowing others were watching out for me.

    I can remember years ago living in Phoenix sobbing as I read a Vermont Life magazine article. A town rebuilds a farmer’s barn because the previous week it burnt down to the ground. In that moment I longed for community and close friends.

    Not having close friends since high school, I created a plan to develop them.

    I cheated. I started a men’s group. What we discovered with our Sandpoint Men’s Group is going international. We are helping other men start groups and develop deep friendships.

    The core of what we learned was the ROC formula: Relax, Open and Connect. They are the first three strategies to generating close friends.

    Step #1: Relax

    We live in a world that continues to run faster with more to do. Your nervous system starts to habituate to that pace along with all those around you. You don’t realize how fast your body or mind are going or their effects on you.

    Once you begin to accept and experience your pace you can start to relax. In relaxing, you may feel anxious. That is OK. That is your body feeling what it couldn’t feel when it was on its treadmill.

    This is a lifelong process. You don’t need to be a master at it. You need to start to see results. Mindfulness is a great tool to speed the development of this skill. By slowing down, you are more able to do the next skill.

    Step #2: Open

    Once you begin to accept your body, mind and emotional experiences you have more room to open up to being vulnerable to others. This is THE KEY to close friendships. Without vulnerability you don’t have a relationship, you have interaction.

    Brene’ Brown, the champion of vulnerability, describes how all close relationships–be them romantic or friendship–start with vulnerability.

    It’s scary. You may be rejected, hurt or shamed.

    Without vulnerability, another person has nothing to connect with other than your external mask.

    With vulnerability you are real, you are human. Sure, some will not like you. Though, many more will and they’ll want to be vulnerable with you.

    Step #3: Connect

    Once you relax and open, you are ready to reach out to connect to another. If vulnerability is the key, connecting is the door. When you step through your fears to reach out to another while being present and vulnerable, you upped your game.

    Shifting from being passive to active by moving forward to connect has you give up some control. Sure you can connect from your hyper-persona, but you know what that will get you. If you want more friends sooner, apply these three steps tomorrow.

    The Key Points of ROC

    Creating a Safe Space

    This is critical to the ROC formula and friendships. To the extent you feel unsafe your physiology will shift into its survival state. When your body believes it’s at risk, you aren’t naturally oriented to friendship.

    If you feel unsafe, there is a good chance the other person feels unsafe. You can push your way through by denying your physical and emotional feelings. Or you could slow down to allow yourself to feel the lack of safety AS your risk to move forward towards connecting.

    When you speak to what’s happened, so it’s not hidden or denied, others can relax. When you say “I’m nervous”, others relax because you admitted to a vulnerable experience. A safe space is the fertile soil for friendship.

    Clarify What You Want

    When you slow down to connect to the kinds of friends you want you are more likely to create them. Rather than hoping, you get clear so you can create a plan.

    If you want friends that enjoy nature, hanging in bars may not be the place to meet them. Joining a hiking club would set you up to meet nature lovers.

    Say No to What You Don’t Want

    With clarity comes taking a stand for what you want. That often means saying no to friends that aren’t giving you energy. Sure, a good friend is there for another when he or she is not receiving from the other.

    You know what I mean. It’s the friend that always call in a crisis, not willing to listen or do what it takes to shift his or her life. When you see his caller ID, you hesitate to pick up.

    If you fill your life with relationships that suck you dry you will have no room for those that can nourish you. Start speaking up. Start saying what you truly feel and want. Sometimes the truth will set one of these people free.

    Others speak of having good boundaries. I say fill your boundaries with all of your feelings and wants. Be courageously authentic and the need to work on strong boundaries will be irrelevant. The people you don’t want as friends will avoid you. Those that you would want will be attracted to you.

    Go for Something Bigger Than Yourself

    We are attracted to people who have a purpose in life. We read books and see movies about people who stand up for something that puts them at risk.

    Go for more than finding your passion. Explore what you want to live and die for. Go for it. It’s less that you are achieving it and more you are going for it that will draw people to you.

    Enjoy Your Solitude

    The more you enjoy your own company, the more others will. When you don’t need others, they will be more attractive to you. We’ve all met that needy person who you don’t want to hang with.

    The more you enjoy being by yourself the less you have misplaced needs. We instinctually and biologically, let alone psychologically, need others. I’m not talking about being the isolated hermit. I am speaking about being OK with your own company.

    Connection Can Be Critical

    • We are trained to understand, diagnosis and fix a problem. That’s a great strategy for fixing code. It doesn’t work well for developing friendships. We are social animals; we are hungry for connection. We want to be heard and witnessed, not analyzed and lectured to.

    The next time you find yourself not being heard or see yourself go into problem-solving mode, slow down. Use the ROC formula to reorient. Back away from seeing the person as a problem. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What did it feel like when your boss told you that?”

    Listen less for understanding and more for connection. Encourage the person to express vulnerable feelings with your actions and words. If it feels right, you may touch the person. Research proved that touch is a powerful connector that can immediately tell someone they are OK.

    • Shared moments of heighten connection. When a situation has intensity and possibly perceived danger we will move beyond our hesitations to reach out for help. Studies were down during the bombing of London in the Second World War. Rather than people fighting each other for the limited resources they bonded together to share.

    Going on a strenuous hike with another can cement a friendship. Maybe you got lost. Once you rediscover the trail, you start laughing at all the mistakes you both made. Those mistakes become your shorthand to remind each other about the experience and how good it felt.

    Plan special moments to catalyze a friendship.

    • Creating connection rituals can be repeated shared moments. We need predictability in our lives. When the predictable is planned it’s a ritual. In lieu of no positive rituals, our unconscious will use negative rituals.

    A couple may have a date night every week. Through the week each person, rather than daydream about the last argument, can reflect on their weekly date that will be relaxing and connecting.

    Plan activities with friends that bring you closer. In our weekly men’s group, men look forward to spending four hours together. Most would not have thought hanging with other men would be fun. It is because these men aren’t hanging, they are being vulnerable and connecting every week. They know if something tough happens, they have their group.

    • Listening may be the best quality of a deep friendship. Your ability to listen allows another to go deep into their experience. But how many people do you have that can sit with you for an hour and listen?

    When you look at listening as a mental task, it looks boring. When you look at listening as emotional intimacy, it can be scary or exciting.

    As the person speaks, feel your response. Notice how your body responds. Notice how you are opening up. You can reflect back to the person the impact what they are saying is having on you.

    When is the last time you were truly heard? When is the last time you got someone else’s world?

    • Fun is the magnet that draws others to you. Laughter a social phenomenon opens us up. To have fun, you need to relax and express.

    For many of us, we don’t know how to generate fun or laughter. I was one of them. It was when I started being like a kid that I started having fun. When I teased people in a loving way and laughed at myself that I started having fun.

    We are drawn to those who are fun. To be one of those people you need to risk making a fool of yourself. You will at first do or say something that is not fun. Write it off as learning. Keep putting yourself out there. Your failures will feel worse for you than others. Others will appreciate the risk-taking.

    • Be your own friend first. Practice the above behaviors with yourself. Have a weekly fun activity. Use the ROC formula with yourself.

    If you are doing a lot of negative self-talk, go to the underlying emotions. Feel them so you can release them. Shift your state, get your body moving. It’s less talking yourself out of a negative state and more accepting your experience.

    Often as kids when we had no one to console us, we did it for ourselves. Now as an adult you have more choices. Choose to feel and express as you move through life. Give yourself the voice you didn’t have as a kid. Stand up for yourself, as you would for a good friend.

    Others will sense how you take care of yourself which sets them up to believe you could do it for them. They will naturally trust you more.

    • Give—to others knowing you may not get anything in return. Give the most precious gift, gift of yourself in vulnerable ways. Reveal not to get attention. Reveal to be the first to take the emotional risk.

    Give a compliment when it doesn’t benefit you. Tell the woman at the checkout she looks good in her dress. The more giving becomes a habit, the more you will be the person others want to be around.

    You want to have good friends in your life, first be a good friend to others. Take risks when others don’t. Be real, be vulnerable when others aren’t.

    Be willing not to have others like you. Like in business when they say a product for everyone is a product for no one. So is trying to be everyone’s friend can turn people off. Have your focus be less on making friends and more on relaxing, opening and connecting.

    Take on one of these skills every day. Play with them. As Bucky Fuller used to say, you’re not learning unless you are making mistakes. Go out of your comfort zone. Put yourself in new, possibly mildly scary, situations to expand your repertoire of friendship skills.

    If I can do this, a guy who grew up with Asperger’s Syndrome, dyslexia, and a speech impediment, you can do it. Have fun.

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] New York Times: The Challenges of Male Friendships
    [2] Time Magazine: How Many Friends Do I Need?

    The post 15 Lessons on How to Surround Yourself With Good Friends (and Less Enemies) appeared first on Lifehack.

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    Showing Signs of a Nervous Breakdown? 15 Quick Fixes to Help You Re-Center

    Emotional breakdown can present itself in the form of crises when you have reached peak stress in your life.

    Signs of a nervous breakdown can present themselves as anxiety attacks, depression or full-blown panic. These emotional disruptions can take you down the wrong road and have you regretting the consequences after it is too late.

    At the very least, they will be some of the most unpleasant moments in your life.

    The good thing is, you can avoid running off the cliff, because today you will learn 15 quick fixes that will help you re-center in these moments.

    Recenter Your Thoughts to Combat Excess Stress

    Choose Your Own Thoughts

    You don’t have to agree to every thought that crosses your mind, especially when you are having an emotional breakdown. Many of these thoughts can be pretty tough to swallow.

    Maybe nobody has told you this, but you can actually choose your thoughts.

    How?

    Start by being mindful of all the ideas you are having. Do not get involved with them, simply observe them.

    While you’re at it, learn to distinguish good thoughts from bad ones.

    Good thoughts will lead you to something better.

    Bad thoughts are mostly hurtful or they only lead to other undesirable thoughts or emotions.

    When you are facing emotional breakdown, most of the thoughts that will cross your mind will be hurtful and detrimental. These are the kind of thoughts you want to get rid of.

    So, how do you do this?

    You refuse to interact with the bad thoughts.

    There is not much that can be done once you have “thought a thought”. In the end it’s already there, in your mind. But you can refuse to participate with the consequences of having that thought.

    You will notice how these thoughts arrive at your mind. But, after you realize that they have no grip on you, they will simply go away; and. you will quickly regain emotional stability.

    Get Off the Treadmill

    Life is like a treadmill, and sometimes it goes faster than we can handle.

    Emotional breakdown is the indicator that tells you the treadmill is just going too fast. And since we cannot use a dial to lower the speed, you must do the next best thing:

    Get off the damn treadmill.

    Whenever you start feeling things are just “too much to handle” simply interrupt whatever it is you are doing. Take 5 minutes for yourself, and for those 5 minutes do nothing but be with yourself. Ignore everything around you and focus on you.

    Taking a small break from tension has never hurt anyone, and it’s a great way to break the downward spiral.

    Don’t get too attached to “getting off the treadmill”, because that would be evasion.

    Take a Step Back

    A nervous breakdown is a consequence of being far too immersed in your problems.

    We get too attached to our issues and our circumstances; and, that’s understandable, because they do affect us. We end up believing they define us; but, it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Everything changes when you practice detachment.

    How do you do this? Breathe deeply, mentally take a step back, and refuse to see your problems as something that defines you or as part of yourself.

    With a relaxed attitude take a new look at your problems and you will notice a few things:

    • Because of the accumulated tension, you are having an unrealistic view of your problems.
    • Such problems are simpler than you thought, and there is an answer to everything that you are feeling.
    • If you don’t yet see the answer don’t get attached to the feeling of despair; instead, refuse to take no for an answer and keep looking.
    • The trick is to take a step out of your emotions, because they will cloud your judgment.

    Practice Pranayama

    Maybe you haven’t noticed it, but your breathing changes according to your mood.

    It happens to all of us, and it becomes especially shallow when we are going through an emotional breakdown.

    Practicing Pranayama (breathing techniques in Yoga) will have an immediate and positive impact on your mind and your emotions.

    Although there are many techniques you only have to remember a very simple exercise:

    1. To interrupt your thinking pattern, quickly exhale until your lungs are “empty” without feeling any strain.
    2. Take 6 seconds to inhale, making sure you expand your belly to allow your lungs to take in as much air as possible.
    3. Hold your breath for 3 seconds.
    4. Then take 6 seconds to exhale as much as possible without straining yourself.
    5. Repeat from step 2.

    It’s that simple.

    Exhale, 6 seconds to inhale, hold for 3 seconds, 6 seconds to exhale and then repeat.

    Keep doing this for at least 5 minutes, and both your mind and your emotions will be in a completely different state.

    Pro tip: Try increasing the length of your inhalations and exhalations. You will easily do 10 in and 10 out, but how about trying 15 or 20? Experiment with this and leave a comment about how you felt!

    The beauty of Pranayama is that you don’t have to simply believe it works, because you will immediately feel the results. Try it out now!

    Write It Out

    If you feel the tension accumulating, the thoughts running faster and faster, and a nervous breakdown hovering just around the corner… stop everything you are doing, take out a notebook and write.

    But that is just one part of the solution. Now you’ll need to understand what you will write about.

    First write down everything you want about the way you feel. Take it out, everything. Then write the reason why you are overwhelmed, but not without a proper structure. Write down a list of problems that are currently afflicting you.

    By this point you will be feeling much better, but go the extra mile and to finish the exercise by adding a possible solution to each problem in your list.

    Most likely, this will take you around five minutes, and it makes a real difference.

    Talk it Out

    Human beings are like pressure cookers.

    The more you hold in your tension the stronger the explosion will be.

    Talking to someone will not only provide you a valuable extra point of view, by verbalizing how you feel you will also be taking pressure off yourself and acquiring a new angle on things.

    Moreover, sometimes we only need to say it out loud in order to understand the issue and feel better.

    Talk about the things that bother you. Talk about your fears and frustrations. And, most importantly, talk about what you plan to do about it all.

    Talk To Yourself

    Self-talk can really get you over the hump if you know how to do it the right way.

    Why do we fall into the downward spiral? We do this because we are conducting an uncontrolled ‘mental dialogue’. This is self-talk, and it can be positive or negative.

    Take a moment to analyze what your self-talk is like when you are facing an nervous breakdown.

    If it is chaotic, it will continue to be chaotic if you don’t do something about it.

    Whenever you are facing a crisis, pay attention to your mental dialogue and put order where there is none.

    Instead of allowing your mind to wander into terrible places and destructive “what-if’s”, take control and guide yourself to a better place.

    Talk to yourself aloud if you need to.

    Treat yourself as a friend and study all the possibilities. Talk about the things that bother you, and then, as a friend, propose something that will help you.

    For some this will be unusual, but it’s very common in creative people such as inventors and artists.

    Just remember: you are your own friend; so, give yourself a hand if you need it!

    Do Now, Feel Tomorrow

    Taking It One Step at a Time

    Take a deep breath and take your emotions out of the equation.

    Resolve that tomorrow you will have as much emotion as you want, but today you need only mind and action.

    This is especially helpful when you are overwhelmed. During this time, you will have many things to do, but you will be also faced with a lot of emotions.

    What do you do? Resolve that you don’t need an emotional side for now and approach the nervous breakdown with a logical perspective only.

    Carefully take a look at your issues, and tackle them one by one until you are out of the crisis.

    It’s not that you are forcing yourself not to feel; instead, you are just assigning a certain time slot to deal with the other side of the coin: your emotions.

    It’s all about prioritizing. Thinking this way will trick your mind into a completely productive and effective attitude.

    In most cases, the trick will work just as expected and you will feel all the tension afterwards, just diminished by the way you handled things.

    Get Your Adrenaline Pumping

    Want an easy fix? Take a walk.

    The most illustrious characters in history have been hit by inspiration when talking a walk.

    And it’s not only historically proven. A study conducted by the American Psychology Association found out that people got more creative after taking a walk. [1]

    Walking and physical activity will help you break the negative emotional cycle and will reframe your reality.

    You don’t even have to go outside if you don’t have the time for it, just walk around in circles indoors and it will have the same effect.

    Combine this with the proper self-talk and your emotions will settle down.

    Engaging in more rigorous exercise takes things to an entirely new level. Aim to exercise regularly so that you can keep yourself centered as many emotions can be released through exercise.

    And you don’t really need a gym to work out, you will be fine with doing squats and pushups at home.

    The important thing is to allow emotions to flow out along with the exercise. With each movement, breathe in and out mindfully, and allow the exercise to help you release negative emotions.

    Bring It Back to the Present

    A nervous breakdown is often a product of catastrophic thinking. It can be a product of intense episodes that become crises or by prolonged intervals of replaying depressing scenarios in our heads.

    Whatever the case, you must remain mindful of the present.

    Thinking about how the past has affected you belongs in the past. Thinking about how worrisome the future might be belongs in the future.

    So, stop rehashing the same old issues and stop the what-if thinking. Remind yourself that the only moment you can do anything in is the present moment.

    Ask yourself: “What are the things I can do right now to make my situation better?”

    It doesn’t have to be the ultimate solution to all your problems, but every little improvement that you can do in the present will help you get through a moment of crisis.

    Accept your past and embrace it.

    Recognize there is nothing you can do about the past. The longer you take to accept that you cannot change the past, the longer the past will have power over you.

    If the uncertainty of the future is giving you trouble, be aware that fortunately you have the power to influence your outcomes.

    Don’t think about the future, think about your present best self and the future will play out the way you want it.

    The past is gone, and the future you want will never come unless you act in the present.

    Divide and Conquer

    Being overwhelmed can play an important role in whether or not you will be facing a nervous breakdown. When overwhelmed, our problems become a huge, formless mass of burden. Eventually this mass becomes invincible.

    Often, this mass can make us feel buried under a pile of rubble–too heavy for us to even breathe. This is because we are seeing our problems as a whole.

    So, if you are overwhelmed, refuse to face the many “monsters” at once and instead focus on just one.

    Take one issue, just one. You don’t even have to select it very carefully; tackle the first one that comes to your mind.

    It is much simpler to divide your issues one by one than to have think about them all at once and be crushed by their weight alone. And while you are at it, don’t allow the other problems to affect you simultaneously. You will have to deal with issue B later, but right now make it only about solving issue A.

    Unleash Your Emotions

    Sometimes we just need that moment of raw emotion to guide us.

    Why? Because too often our negative emotions end up swept under the rug, slowly accumulating and becoming a subconscious burden. That is, until you burst!

    So go ahead and scream, curse, kick a punching bag, cry or whatever… do everything you need in order to release the tension and stress.

    As long as nobody gets hurt you will be doing yourself a favor. Your negative emotions also need expression and release.

    When you unleash your emotions a lot of things will start coming to the surface. Those are the issues that you really need to be working on.

    Prioritize Positivity

    Activate Affirmations

    For many, affirmations are just pipe dreams with magical overtones. If you have used them before, though, you know they work.

    But, you know what?  You don’t need to believe in them in order to reap the benefits.

    Simply repeat the affirmations either aloud or in your head and most importantly, become aware of what you feel when reciting the affirmations.

    Notice I said feel, not believe. Just embrace what it feels like. Be aware at the emotional level during the moment you are repeating your affirmations… you will simply be blown away. But don’t just take my word for it; try it out. In fact, try it out right now.

    Take a deep breath and repeat this:

    “I will overcome all my problems and find every answer need.”

    Now please read it again, close your eyes and pay close attention to your feelings.

    Not your mind, not your thoughts, not your doubt… be mindful of your feelings, that’s all.

    How does it feel?

    Now take three deep breaths and repeat:

    “Everything is possible for me, my potential is limitless.”

    Create your own affirmations according to your own situation and repeat them to yourself when you are feeling down.

    Forget Vulnerabilities, Focus on Your Powers

    You might be having a very hard time and potentially facing a nervous breakdown, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.

    In fact, you have everything it takes to defeat it. But you won’t be able to defeat these issues if you focus only on the things that keep you down.

    I can’t do this” will surely defeat anyone, no matter how strong and capable.

    This is a dead end! Therefore, it makes no sense to stay there.

    Instead, you must focus on everything you can do, not the things you cannot change.

    Think of at least 10 things you can do to make your situation better. 10 may seem like a lot, but you can actually come up with many more–10 is actually quite conservative.

    You have a lot of potential, don’t let it be eclipsed by your current situation, because there is no point of comparison.

    Stop thinking in terms of your shortcomings, think in terms of your capacity.

    Everything Has an Expiration Date

    Remind yourself that this feeling is temporary. Holding on to this principle has helped me through the most intense anxiety attacks. Because it is absolute truth.

    When we are immersed in emotional breakdown our vision of the future is distorted… and pretty painful.

    And the emotional overload makes us think that “this is it”.

    But it is only a byproduct of the emotions bringing us down, not reality itself.

    So, next time anxiety draws you a picture of your future, simply refuse to take it as a real vision.

    Recognize how distorted it is. Also recognize that the nervous breakdown is only a temporary state. And like everything else, this too, shall pass.

    This quick-fix may as well be called “wait for the storm to pass”, because that’s what you can do.

    Take every thought and emotion you have as something fictitious. Painful, yes, but only temporary.

    You are only going through a very bad time, but you will soon return to your baseline, and then up to a better state of mind.

    It will pass. So be still and know it will only be temporary.

    Recenter With Visualization

    What good can visualization do if you are having an emotional breakdown!?

    Actually, it can do a lot.

    Visualization takes you out of the emotional state that is holding you down.

    Visualization is not just wishful thinking, but a clear vision of the exact goal you are aiming for–even when you don’t yet know it.

    Maybe you can’t quite see where you are heading because you are swamped by emotions right now. But, this is precisely when visualization comes in handy. In visualization there are no barriers. It’s just you, your desire and the constructive use of imagination.

    How do you do it and how to make it work?

    First, when I say visualize I don’t necessarily mean that you have to create a crisp, crystal clear vision in your mind.

    Just thinking about what you want is enough.

    Some people are more visual than others, but this doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you start immersing yourself in the visualization and start feeling the effects of this positive thinking.

    Putting It Into Practice

    Close your eyes and imagine a moment in the future where every worry is gone. You handled all the adversity like a pro and now you are living that moment.

    What would it feel like? Is there anybody by your side? What are you doing? Why do you feel so happy? What happened to the things that were worrying you so much?

    Take a couple minutes to register in detail how everything feels in that vision.

    And after you are done it’s time to make it work.

    What solutions were implemented immediately before your visualization? That is, what led to that moment of joy in your life?

    What caused it all to culminate on that visualization? Did someone new come into your life? Or maybe somebody left?

    Did you finally learn how to deal with that difficult confrontation? What decisions did you make?

    Tone Down the Tension

    You see what we’re doing? We are reverse-engineering your visualization.

    You know where you want to be. Now walk backwards and observe everything that needs to happen so that you can get there. Do it in as much detail as possible until you get to the present moment.

    This process of visualization takes the tension off and works the other way around. Don’t focus on your problems, but on the desired outcome.

    Visualization plus action will help you defeat a nervous breakdown.

    Practice Makes Perfect

    These quick-fixes are only the first step to get you over your hump. As you can see, they help you at these difficult moments, but they are not the solution in itself.

    Generally speaking, you must face a nervous breakdown with emotional detachment and practice stillness to avoid being shaken.

    Nobody likes to be thrown around by emotions, and that’s why you must develop a more stoic approach when it comes to your emotional breakdowns.

    Always keep in mind that these periods of intense stress are only temporary states, and that they do not hold absolute power over you.

    The more you practice these quick-fixes, the easier you will handle crises in the future.

    In the end, it’s not about trying to avoid pain, but to learn how to be bigger than your suffering. Putting these tactics above to use will help you regain control over your emotions.

    Featured photo credit: Imani Clovis via unsplash.com

    Reference

    The post Showing Signs of a Nervous Breakdown? 15 Quick Fixes to Help You Re-Center appeared first on Lifehack.

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    Where My Social Awkwardness Came From and How I’m Getting Past It

    “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known…” – Brene Brown

    I’ve recently become increasingly aware of my social awkwardness. In fact, my awareness of it sharpened quite suddenly one day as I was innocently talking to a colleague about work-related matters. When I managed to provide a possible solution to her dilemma, she was full of praise for me.

    To make matters worse, she looked me in the eye and told me, “You’re simply wonderful!” Then she remembered a previous comment I’d made about feeling that I did not quite fit in to my workplace, and she added, “I just want to let you know that we all value you in our team. We love you.”

    The effect on me was immediate. I went into a panicky and self-conscious flap and fired back with one self-deprecation after another to deflect such exposing attention on me. I could tell that my colleague looked surprised at my reaction, so I managed to stammer out my thanks.

    At another time, I was speaking to another colleague about a project I was doing when he suddenly revealed that his marriage was struggling. Again, I had the same cold, panicked feeling, only it was much more intense than the first encounter. I think I froze then.

    These encounters brought up other memories in my personal and professional life where I had a similar felt sense of cold panic that foreshadowed a socially awkward interaction. Now that I was doing an actual tally of how many times I’d felt this social awkwardness, I was aghast at how frequently these occurred for me.

    So why was I beset by it? Surely I was not born with it. My young niece and nephew are testament to that, as they lack any social awkwardness or self-consciousness whatsoever. Or as my brother observed, “Look at them! They’re shameless!”

    Could this mean that I picked up my social awkwardness (and self-consciousness) somewhere along the way? If that were true, then I have hope of becoming more comfortable in my own skin, because it is not hardwired into me. I might even someday achieve shamelessness.

    Getting Under My Own Skin

    I’ve since set out to learn more about my social awkwardness because I sensed deeply that merely plastering it over with manufactured shamelessness would not work. Shamelessness had to come naturally, and I sensed that social awkwardness was in its way.

    I started by exploring how my body carried (and still carries) social awkwardness and self-consciousness. Looking back, I see that my responses to people happened like a bodily reflex, without conscious thought. So I looked out for those times when I was interacting with people that brought up the bodily reflex.

    This is what I discovered over time: The body-feeling of my social awkwardness had layers. In my journal I described it as a cold panic on the surface with a slippery feeling underneath.  It feels like a melon seed, hard to grasp. Why slippery? The words “I slip away” fit this feeling. Why was there a necessity for me to slip away?

    Yes, because I was overwhelmed by the sheer raw and undisguised nature of these personal encounters. Social awkwardness is, at heart, the fear of being vulnerable in the face of unmasked intimacy.

    When my colleague praised me, it brought me into focus, without my masks or facades or roles. When my other colleague talked about his marriage, it brought his humanity into focus. It also put me in a place where I had to be purely me, uncovered, to meet his humanity.

    All this was way too intense for me, and I didn’t know how to respond to it. What would have happened if I showed myself fully to the other person and it was shameful? What if the other person became too needy?

    These encounters are not in themselves overwhelming. Rather I am the one being overwhelmed. I feel that I do not have what it takes to be exposed, like I am paper-thin and will burn out in the intense heat of the raw human connection. It is a child-like feeling, like something very young in me has to handle the serious adult-ness of these kinds of connections.

    As I focus on this feeling, memories connect. Some of them include the intense and dramatic fights I used to have with my family, and also the nerve-wreaking shouting matches I witnessed among them. Thinking about these episodes even now makes me feel kind of repulsed. The unbridled emotions and the ugly way they are expressed make me recoil.

    More so, when I recall myself being emotional, I feel repulsed with myself—more embarrassment and shame. I remember further that for the most part in my younger years, my clumsy attempts to express my strong feelings, or to express myself in general, were usually disregarded at best or met with scorn at worst.

    There was a big pervasive sense that these feelings and being “true to oneself” was a bad thing, whether applied to myself or others. No wonder I closed myself off and slipped away.

    And straight on the heels of this notion comes a question: What happens if I show myself and my feelings to someone who responds in the exact opposite way? Someone who would welcome my feelings instead of rejecting them? Take them seriously without making a big deal out of them? Would I become more comfortable in opening myself up?

    The possibility of this fills me with excitement, although there is also a sense of caution. It says, “Not now, not yet, it’s too much to risk.” I leave it because, for now, this knowledge is enough in itself.

    Strangely enough, making these discoveries brought about a series of small releases within me. It was as if I had made a real-time connection to the truth behind my social awkwardness and self-consciousness, and the connection alone allowed these feelings to loosen a little. I felt like I’d opened up a tiny bit more.

    What I’ve Learned So Far

    I have only begun what I sense to be a fairly long journey of self-discovery, and I would be lying to say that I am now happily shameless. However, I feel empowered by what I’ve learned about the process of self-discovery. I also feel hopeful that I could one day become shameless, because I can find out what I need to get there.

    I’ve found that if I interact in a curious way with the real-time feeling of social awkwardness, I can learn fresh information from it. It is the quality of interaction with my feeling, one coming from a position of not-knowing and wanting to discover more, that allows the feeling to change. From its not-knowing stance, the discovery process is pretty scientific.

    In fact, I find that this kind of interaction is identical to times when we meet someone new and we interact with them to find out more about them. We are trying in these cases to get underneath the initial encounter with this person, to learn about who they are inside. Just watch children. They do it all the time.

    I also feel that these kinds of internal interactions are very crucial in those of us laboring with social awkwardness and self-consciousness. After all, these feelings happen in the context of human interactions, and I believe that the very first of these human interactions is with ourselves. When we are able to be open to ourselves (which is a less risky option than being open with others), we regain the capacity to open up with others.

    Try This Out—Interacting with Yourself

    If you too have always felt a visceral barrier between yourself and others, and even with your own true feelings, try having these kinds of interactions with the feeling parts of yourself. In this case, it is the parts of yourself that feel socially awkward.

    Take a moment to sense how they feel in your body. Then start interacting with them with the attitude of “I wonder what I can discover at this moment.”

    I’ve found that it helps to address these feeling parts as “you,” although this is more a matter of personal style. I’ve also found that it helps to be welcoming of all notions, no matter how illogical they might seem. After all, feelings do not need to be logical to make sense.

    Here is a list of useful guiding questions you can ask your socially awkward feeling part:

    • What do you feel like? How can I describe you?
    • What are you connected to? (Gather as many connections as you can.)
    • When else have I felt you? What is it about these situations that bring you up?
    • What more can I learn from and about you?
    • What would make a difference for you?

    Take your time, revisit this feeling part often, and learn as much as you can from it. It will start to soften and change then.

    Happy self-discovery!

    About Dr. Eric Tan

    Dr. Eric Tan is an Australian-Based clinical psychologist who is interested in helping people transform their emotions deeply. His own way of doing Focusing (the Snowflake Method) is distilled in his book (with Dr. Sam Tan) A Little Book on Being Naturally Joyful. Their other book is Dying to Connect But Scared to Death: Moving Beyond Social Anxiety.

    Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

    The post Where My Social Awkwardness Came From and How I’m Getting Past It appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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    How I’ve Learned to Fully Appreciate the Little Time I Have on Earth

    “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ~Norman Cousins

    Recently, my grandfather passed away. His departure was difficult for me but it has also left me with something I’ll keep for the rest of my life—an unlikely lesson about life and gratitude.

    I hadn’t seen my grandfather often before he died because I’ve been living abroad for the last couple of years. But I was still fond of him and I warmly remembered the days we had spent together when I was young. So his passing was a shock and a tragedy for me. I felt the grief of losing someone close for the first time.

    Yet, amid all the pain, some other feeling started to come up: a sense of gratitude. I began to feel grateful that I got the chance to say goodbye to him in person. I felt grateful for having known him and having shared so many good moments with him. And I felt grateful that he was able to live his life and even die the way he wanted.

    At first I couldn’t figure out what to make of this weird mix of feelings. I did feel sadness and grief, no doubt. But how could I also experience gratitude? How was I supposed to react? Was it okay for me to feel gratitude or should I only feel sadness?

    It took me a little while to give myself permission to just feel the way I felt. And then I realized that I could take this as a parting gift from him. I began to experience, firsthand, that even in the midst of tragedy, there is still hope. And there are things that I could still be grateful for.

    Gradually, all those good things that are so easily overlooked became more obvious. The people we love, those daily moments of joy that we let go by unnoticed, the little things that make life easier. I began to appreciate all those things as I turned my attention to what I already had instead of what I thought I needed to become happier.

    For my own sake and for the sake of my grandfather, I decided to keep this gratefulness alive and nurture it. Here are the four steps that I’ve been taking since.

    1. Starting the day with gratitude

    At first, the feeling of grief kept reminding me of my desire to be grateful. As long as my grief was fresh, it was easy to stick to this new intention. But I knew I needed something to keep me going when those strong feelings eventually subside.

    That’s why I began to form a daily gratitude routine. It’s the simplest gratitude exercise imaginable and based on an idea that originally came from a positive psychology intervention (a scientifically validated exercise to increase one’s happiness) named three good things.

    Every morning before starting my work, I now write down three things I’m grateful for. I usually think of someone or something that makes my life better until a feeling of gratitude arises. And I stay with this feeling for a little while, maybe a minute or two.

    At times, it can be hard to connect with this feeling. That’s when I use a little trick that psychologists call mental subtraction. That means I’m not simply thinking about what is good in my life but I’m deliberately imagining it wasn’t there. This makes it much easier to feel grateful.

    When we think about how great it is to be able to walk, it can be hard to appreciate. On the other hand, when we think of how much worse life would be if we were paralyzed, it’s easier to experience a sense of gratefulness.

    I’m not suggesting we compare ourselves to people who have it worse than us. I don’t think gratitude is the appropriate response to other people’s misery. I’m simply saying that if we imagine our own life without something, we can help our brain see and appreciate it more.

    2. Enjoying the present

    A blow like the death of a loved one often makes people reflect on their lives. This was also true for me. I couldn’t help but notice how many of my life’s moments I have wasted.

    There were so many evenings I spent alone instead of calling a friend to grab dinner. So many conversations when I didn’t listen properly in order to get to what I wanted to say. And so many unused opportunities to say I love you to my family.

    But the past is gone, what’s left is to enjoy this very moment. Right now, I am grateful. I’m not in pain and I’m safe, I have enough to eat and a roof over my head. And I don’t have to fear any of this will be taken away from me any time soon. So this moment really offers everything to be enjoyed. It’s a fact that’s true for most moments.

    Of course, being fully present for every moment is an impossible ideal (unless you’re an enlightened person, I guess). But aspiring toward more presence is something that we all can do.

    To help me bring more awareness to my moments, I started to use an app that rings a mindfulness bell once every hour. It serves as a reminder to pause for a few seconds and simply enjoy life as it is. Every time the bell rings is an opportunity to be present.

    3. Saying thank you

    Not just moments of joy go by unnoticed; so do opportunities to say thank you. We overlook the kindness of the people closest to us because we take it for granted. Yet there are so many small acts of kindness that we could be grateful for.

    In my case, it had never occurred to me to express my gratitude toward my grandfather. In fact, I haven’t really felt much gratitude toward him at all, because I never truly thought about all the sacrifices he’d made to provide for his children and grandchildren. It only dawned on me recently as I’ve thought (and read) about his life.

    It’s likely that all of us have a person like this in our lives, or several people who have influenced our lives in a positive way who we’ve never properly thanked. There’s another positive psychology intervention that aims to remedy this situation. It’s writing a gratitude letter.

    The exercise goes like this: You think of a person who’s had a positive impact in your life and then write a letter that tells them what they did and how it has affected you for the better. The letter can take any form, but the basic idea is to write as if you’d deliver it at the end.

    Even though we don’t necessarily need science to tell us whether or not we’re happier after writing a gratitude letter, it’s good to know that research shows that this is one of the most powerful happiness exercises out there. I have to admit that I haven’t yet written a gratitude letter myself. But it’s next on my list. I don’t want to miss another opportunity to say thank you to the people I love.

    4. Savoring good memories

    There’s one more ingredient for gratefulness and it is hidden in our past. It’s those wonderful memories of joy and love that we carry around with us. Some of those memories might even seem forgotten, but that’s exactly why it’s so important to bring them back to life.

    Looking through old photo albums and reminiscing with childhood friends about growing up are great ways to do that. Similarly, I’m glad that I’ve heard so many stories about my grandfather. They provide something to remember him by, and they’ve brought me closer to him and the rest of my family. Besides, it’s comforting to be able to keep him alive in my memories.

    I now keep a picture of him at my desk, and he’s smiling back at me as I’m writing this post. And occasionally, when I feel bad, I remember those long gone days together—driving around in his car, walking in the woods, visiting his friends. Because sometimes, especially when life is difficult,  it can seem that all we have left are some good memories of the past.

    I believe doing these four things regularly helps us appreciate how precious our little time on earth is. Of course, gratitude doesn’t inoculate us against feeling bad at all times, and it sure as hell doesn’t take away the grief. But it can be a powerful practice to help us live life fully while we have the chance—and to keep those alive who we have lost.

    About Manuel Kraus

    Manuel Kraus is the founder of Pocketcoach. It’s a chat bot that guides you through a program to manage stress and anxiety—step by step and one day at a time. You can try it for free here.

    Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

    The post How I’ve Learned to Fully Appreciate the Little Time I Have on Earth appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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    Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

    Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp

    Rhubarb season is here, and I’m excited to make anything and everything with it!

    For most folks, strawberry rhubarb pie is the immediate go-to dessert. Although I adore that classic pie, making a crisp is not only significantly easier, but it allows you to serve it to a larger group of people—everyone can scoop out as much as they want!

    Continue reading “Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp” »

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    Relationship Anxiety: The Reason Why You Have Unhappy Relationships

    Relationship anxiety is probably something you’re already struggling with but you don’t know much about it. It is a type of anxiety that gets in the way of having a healthy and fulfilling bond with another person.

    If you suffer from relationship anxiety, it’s important to become aware of it. Without self-awareness, you will fail to commit to someone and your relationships will be short-lived.

    In this article, we will look into the reasons why relationship anxiety occurs and how you can begin addressing this issue. It is your responsibility to deal with your anxiety and make sure you don’t start building a family on negative emotions like fear or lack.

    What is relationship anxiety

    If someone’s parents did not provide them with the love and care they needed as a child, they grew up confused and insecure.

    Moreover, if both parents were dealing with their own mental health issues and were not able to met their children’s needs, these children took on the false belief that they were undeserving of love, support and care.

    In addition to feeling undeserving and insecure, they might also struggle with trusting people. They grow up expecting others to hurt them or break their boundaries like their own parents did.

    If these people avoid conflict and distance themselves from their loved one when they should be intimate, they are probably anxious in a relationship.

    The cause of relationship anxiety: Your attachment style

    This anxiety manifests itself through attachment behaviors. According to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, there are four types of attachment behaviors.[1]

    Knowing some things about each attachment style might shed a light on your fears and relationship phobias. Here is a attachment style matrix illustrated by Riskology:[2]

    Let’s look at each of the attachment styles in details:

    Secure attachment

    People who were safe and comforted by their mother as a child would have a secure attachment with others. These people’s needs were met as soon as they expressed them. They felt acknowledgment from their parents for who they were growing up. This acknowledgment created an inner safety and comfort about who they are.

    In romantic relationships, they feel safe and trust the other person to be there for them in times of need. They acknowledge their partner’s individuality and independence but, at the same time, are able to say ‘I need you to pick me up from work’ or ‘I feel so sad about your cat dying. This reminds me of a dog I had growing up who got sick. I miss her a lot.’

    Anxious preoccupied attachment

    In this case, people were made to believe that their needs as a child were not important. Perhaps, whenever they were angry or hurt, their mother walked away from them instead of comforting them.[3]

    This made them feel unsafe growing up. They weren’t showed how to cope with emotions. Which threw them in the cycle of fight or flight. When they are taught that emotions do not matter, they become fearful of them.

    Thus, when these people get hit by a wave of anger and they don’t know how to express it or communicate it to others, they stuff it. That leads to an overwhelming sense of anxiety because the mind thinks that they are trying to escape a very dangerous emotion.

    Dismissive avoidant attachment

    A person who has a dismissive avoidant attachment style might be emotionally unavailable. Folks in this category deny the importance of their loved ones and make them feel unloved by ignoring them.

    They also brush conflicts off like they were not essential to the relationship’s growth.[4]

    Fearful avoidant attachment

    Those who have a fearful avoidant attachment style are stuck with ambivalent feelings: they crave for love and attention from their beaux but are afraid to let him/her get too close.

    They certainly want their partner but they are scared of getting too close to the core of the intimacy. They think that the core will burn them and they will end up disappointed and hurt. They try to avoid this disappointment by ‘running away’ from the person they love. Avoiding feelings, thoughts and relationship problems is what they do.

    If you’re this type, you’re not alone. I too am sometimes fearful of getting attached to people, especially men. The idea that I will be disappointed by them like my own mother disappointed me is heartbreaking. However, you should know that there are ways to manage these crushing feelings.

    How to get over relationship anxiety (and create happy relationships)

    Even if you do get disappointed by someone you love and trust, you can get over this. It is not the end of the world if your partner does something hurtful. You will live!

    You can follow the tips below to get better at keeping your relationship anxiety at bay and even cultivating happiness and fulfillment.

    1. Know that you have a problem.

    You have relationship anxiety and, by acknowledging this fact, you will shed the confusion you have been carrying around for years. You will no longer be asking yourself Why am I so bad at relationships?

    2. Find out what your attachment style is.

    If you are a fearful avoidant, you might want to think of ways of confronting your relationship fears.

    Go back mentally to your childhood time and remember how your relationship with your mom was. Were you excited to be with her? Did you play a lot with her? Did she care for you when you were angry, fearful or sad or punished you for showing natural, human emotions? Keep a journal to document these memories.

    3. Challenge yourself.

    If you are brave enough, challenge your attachment style by seeking emotionally healthy partners and friends.

    Go where these folks usually hang out and try to connect with them. Can you do that? Why? Why not? How did you feel during this challenge?

    4. Practice mindfulness.

    When you have relationship anxiety, you shift your focus from your body, needs and emotions to your partner’s needs, thoughts and emotions. You worry about what he/she might think of you or you try to not upset them so they will not leave you for someone else.

    Instead of being codependent, spend more time alone to become independent. Seek out support groups that deal with unhealthy behaviors like codependency (if you have relationship anxiety, you are probably a codependent)[5] and toxic or narcissistic relationships.[6]

    Learn how to practice mindfulness from this guide: A Simple Guide to Mindfulness for Beginners

    5. Make a habit of asking yourself daily ‘How am I feeling today?’

    Are you angry, excited or sad about a current event in your life? If you are in a toxic relationship, ask yourself how does the body react to your partner? What is your intuition telling you about him/her? Are you happy with him? Would you feel better if you were alone?

    Use your journal to mark down your feelings and build a more positive relationship with your thoughts. You can also incorporate meditation in your daily schedule to get more comfortable with difficult feelings.

    6. Even better, seek help from a therapist

    Seek help from a therapist who is experienced in family relationships and trauma. He/she will know the best way to move forward from where you are now.

    Muster your courage to face relationship anxiety

    It’s not easy to deal with relationship anxiety each time you find yourself dating someone new. But knowing that you learned this anxiety from your connection with your parents or caretakers will take a load off your chest. You can turn your life around by starting a healthy relationship with your own self so you can be in healthier, happier relationships with others.

    Don’t be afraid to seek professional help for your worries. Everyone struggles with personal issues when it comes to relationships. Getting help is a sign that you take your issues seriously and want to improve the quality of your life.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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