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Worried About 2017? Make A F*ck It List

“Forever trusting who we are, and nothing else matters.” – Metallica, Nothing Else Matters

Another year is in the record books, and a new one is beginning. New Year’s brings an optimism and freshness that is hard to explain, but you know it when you feel it. Many of us start our New Year’s with a list of things that we would like to accomplish over the next 365 days. Some will actually attain these goals, but most will give up. Statistics say that most of these resolutions will be dead and gone by Valentines Day. What is it about New Year’s Day resolutions that brings out the BS in most of us? Why do so many fail to follow through?

Everyone is probably familiar with the term Bucket List. A Bucket List is a list of things that one simply has to to do before they die. In theory, there is an urgency with a bucket list, the idea being that a life would not be fulfilled without accomplishing these things. The idea is compelling in an almost spiritual way. Maybe all accomplishment doesn’t have to be this dramatic or drastic.

The year 2017 is the perfect time to change traditional New Year’s resolution lists. It promises to be an exciting year and, depending upon your political beliefs, it’s going to be a dawning of the new age for the United States or the end of Western civilization as we know it. Rather than work ourselves into a tizzy, we all should create a new list this year. Not things that we want to do, must do, or will do. A list of things that we won’t do. Not a to do list, not a bucket list, but a F*ck It List.

The idea behind your F*ck It List is pretty simple. You comprise a list of things that you will no longer do, tolerate, or put up with any longer. You are going to clean house, de-clutter your life, removing the people, places, and things that are dragging you down. Why would you do this? Consider the wisdom of this great American philosopher:

“The status quo sucks.” – George Carlin

Here are some suggestions of things that you may want to say F*ck It to in 2017:

⦁    Say F*ck It to negativity, whether it’s yours or anyone else’s. Consider the way you talk to yourself about yourself. When you look in the mirror in the morning what you say to yourself? Perhaps, even right now, you’re pondering those extra 7 pounds that you’ve gained from Thanksgiving to now, berating yourself for being a “fat slob,” a “pig,” or some other derisive term. Why? Why talk to yourself like that? F*ck It !
⦁    Say F*ck It to negative people. If you can, avoid them, then avoid them. Delete them from your speed dial, contacts list, or Facebook friends. If you can’t, or for some masochistic reason won’t, limit your contact with them. If they tend to piss you off with their rants about religion, politics, or anything else that upsets you, time to end the conversation with an, “I gotta go, talk to you later,” kind of attitude. When in doubt, avoid entirely.
⦁    Say F*ck It to worrying about what people think about you. Realize that you not a mind reader, the Great Karnak, Madame Cleo, or Nostradamus. You have no idea what they’re thinking. Remember that 90% of the time, 90% of people are not thinking about you, they’re thinking about themselves. You’re not so special that everybody’s thinking about you. You decide, what You think about You this year!
⦁    Say F*ck It to dieting. Dieting doesn’t usually work for people because it’s such a negative word, with all kinds of negative connotations. You deprive yourself of something that you truly enjoy so that you can impress people that you see briefly. The reward for all that sacrifice is they tell you how great you look. Well, Cupcake, they are going to say that anyway. When is the last time you ran into someone you hadn’t seen for a long time and they told you you look like crap? This year you’re not “going on a diet”, you are simply going to eat healthy instead. Consider eating poorly in the same manner that a moderate drinker uses alcohol. You may imbibe one night per week, a couple of times a month, or even less than that. You don’t grab that bottle of Jack Daniels the next morning, you go back to your normal and balanced routine. Do that with your nutrition. Everything in moderation, just be sure it’s really moderation. Say F*ck It to dieting in 2017.
⦁    Say F*ck It to the media overkill. No year in the history of the United States has been more divided because of the media. The current age of instant access, instant information, and instant journalism, makes the Yellow Journalism of the late 19th century look childish and primitive. How many friends have you lost this year because of political discussions punctuated by quotes from suspect news sources? How many friends that you thought you really knew and shared values with do you now considered to be total A holes because of what you read on their Facebook page? Don’t you kind of wish you didn’t know this about them? F*ck that this year.
⦁    Say F*ck It to an exercise routine doesn’t motivate you. How many people do you know that brag that they “go to the gym” look like crap? I’d guess more than half. The reason is they don’t really go, overestimate how often they go, or haven’t gone in ages. That Planet Fitness tag on their keychain is just a reminder that they will go… sometime…soon…when they can find the time. You may even be one of those no judgment zone refugees yourself. The reason you don’t go is because you don’t want to, because you don’t like it. F*ck It! Find some kind of routine that you truly enjoy and will stick to. It can be something as simple as a routine you do at home, walking your dog, shooting basketballs in your driveway, or gardening in your backyard. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something. It has to be, however, something that you truly enjoy doing. Find that, and do it often.

These half-dozen suggestions for your F*ck It is by no means meant to be inclusive, rather, it is meant to be stimulation for you to get some motivation for some New Year’s resolutions that you are likely to stick with. The beauty of a F*ck It list is that it is instantly reinforcing and the results are noticeable immediately, right from the very first F*ck It. And don’t feel bad about it, don’t announce it on your Facebook page, just begin to do it. A well thought out F*ck It List is a catalyst for a happier you in 2017. This year, decide what really matters to you, makes you truly happy and more available to those that you truly care about.

‘Never opened myself this way. Life is ours, we live it our way. All these words I don’t just say, and nothing else matters.” – Metallica, Nothing Else Matters

Have a happy 2017!


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org


Confirmation Bias : How To Avoid Those Uncomfortable Political Arguments

“How can I be sure in a world that’s constantly changing? How can I be sure?”-Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, The Young Rascals

This year is developing to be one of the most controversial political years of the past fifty. Americans are trying to select a president, political alliances are changing, gender roles are being redefined, the nature of social relationships are different than ever before, and BBWthe ways that humans interact are all in a state of flux. There is a ton of objective research out there on every topic in existence to be studied, processed, pondered, and considered before one makes an opinion on anything. It seems that virtually no one ever changes their mind once it’s made up. People are arguing with each other, ending long-lasting friendships, and I’m sure that more than a few family gatherings have gone silent when politics is introduced to the conversation. Misleading statistics, false accusations, and out of context conversations pervade the popular media, leaving us all in the dark about what’s really going on. Despite this misinformation, everyone seems to have an opinion that they are convinced of, drinking the Kool-Aid because of something that they read online or saw on TV. And, once convinced of that “truth” no one seems to ever change their mind or reconsider an opinion.

The human animal does not do well with uncertainty. This is an evolutionary trait, dating back to the time when humans had to make quick and decisive decisions in order to survive. Once primitive tribal culture made a decision, it was usually too late to go back. Decisions had to be made quickly and decisively, it was literally a matter of life or death. Over 200,000 years later, most of us still make important political decisions using this primitive tribal logic. “Here’s what I believe, now I have to find the facts to support it.”

“Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.”-Wikipedia

Cognitive and social sciences have studied confirmation bias since the 1960s. It occurs when a person has a long held belief that is usually accompanied with some emotional attachment. The stronger the emotional attachment, the more that a person becomes convinced of the belief. When challenged, rather than reconsidering the veracity of that belief, a person frantically searches for something that confirms it, rather than challenge it. If a person can quote or recall some out of context conversation, statistic or soundbite, then they can move on to other things, feeling secure that they are on the right side, have made an intelligent decision, and generally end up feeling pretty good about themselves and their beliefs. In many cases, confirmation bias is pretty harmless. In 2016, not so much. Pay attention to how many emotional arguments, political discussions gone bad, and friendships that are impacted this year. My hunch is that you won’t not to have to wait very long. We all know how it plays out. You’re at a social gathering, and some controversial idea such as politics or religion comes up. Two people, who would otherwise be friendly and respectful of each other, have different views. There is a brief, yet sharp, disagreement followed by a long and awkward silence as both realize what’s happening but just can’t stop themselves. Someone else will invariably break in to interrupt by changing subject. Interactions progress from there, but awkwardness will linger and perhaps ruin what otherwise could have been a great time for a lot of people who have a shared social history.

Confirmation bias has always existed, but it’s never been so easy to fall into. Before the Internet, social media, and 24 hour news stations, it was the exclusive domain of the intelligent, learned, and the philosopher. Through most of man’s history, confirmation biases held by a handful of political leaders led to war, misdirected efforts of whole civilizations, and mass executions. Even some well-known and respected historical figures were aware of it:

“For it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy.” -Thucydides, discussing The Peloponnesian War

“Opinion—hasty—often can incline to the wrong side, and then affection for one’s own opinion binds, confines the mind.”-Thomas Aquinas

“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion … draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects.”-Francis Bacon

When considering the seductive nature of confirmation bias, be sure to consider your own coupletendencies. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we know that this is something everybody does. It helps us rationalize long-held beliefs that range from complexities such as religion and the meaning of life, to what the best kind of diet for weight loss is, or what is the best form of exercise. Be careful what logic you apply to that person that you’re bound to encounter that holds a vastly different opinion than your own. Don’t be so quick to end a friendship or important relationship because of their view on the best candidate for the presidency, whether or not Great Britain should leave the European Union, or what their views on religion are. There used to be a saying that, in social situations, to “never discuss politics or religion.” Since that isn’t likely to happen, take an emotional step back when you find yourself, or someone else, in one of those awkward arguments that will inevitably flareup. If Thucydides, Thomas Aquinas, and Francis Bacon were subject to this all too human tendency, we’re all at risk, including your crazy uncle or your spouse’s best friend.

If you face confirmation bias this weekend, at work, or in conversation follow this three-step process:

⦁    Recognize it. If you understand what confirmation bias is, you may have that “ah ha” moment. “Here it is, confirmation bias.” Observe it as if it is some lake that you don’t have to jump into.
⦁    Accept it. Suddenly, it morphs from a heated and emotionally charged argument to a natural way that human beings process complicated and emotionally charged events. Remember, no one is ever going to change a strongly held political opinion because of something that you’ve posted on Facebook. Deal with it.
⦁    Let it go. By remaining focused on the relationship that you have with what you Boxingperceive to be a misguided and misinformed individual, you are avoiding the trap of your own biases. The winds of political and social change are likely to blow in a different direction soon enough. Allowing others to have their opinions, even if you think they are incorrect, is the healthiest for your sanity and sense of connectedness.

Confirmation bias has had a major influence in the areas of politics, religion, health, science, finances, and human history, often with dire consequences. Adopt a “wait and see” attitude in your personal life and in social situations.

It’s an election year, and you know it’s going to happen.

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”- Plato

Smart guy that Plato!


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Sympathy Is The Devil : How Other People’s Problems Can Make You Sick

“The mind can go either direction under stress—toward positive or toward negative, on or off. Think of it as a spectrum whose extremes are unconsciousness at the negative end and hyperconsciousness at the positive end. The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training.” – Frank Herbert

The human body is a miraculous machine designed to allow us to thrive and survive. We have abilities above and beyond other animals on the planet that allow us to not only be Father Kidprepared for the next challenge, but to anticipate multiple challenges, threats, and potentialities that could cause us harm. We thrive in environments where we can meet threats to our immediate survival and those of our loved ones. Our bodies have the capacity to generate incredible strength, speed, and physical prowess in order to protect us from danger. Our nervous system is designed to harness these attributes in a matter of moments. Our autonomic nervous system controls our body’s breathing, heartbeat, and digestive processes in order to allow us to function at an optimal level for survival. There has never been machine more efficient, adaptable, or intelligent than the human body.

In the modern era, our nervous systems may be too good for our own benefit. The autonomic nervous system consists of two synchronistic parts, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” part of our being, reacts to danger and threats, often rather quickly bringing up our heart rate, lung capacity, physical strength, and aggression. Our bodies were designed to respond almost instantly in the face of danger, something that served man well during much of human history. This evolutionary holdover is the reason that modern man suffers from anger outbursts, road rage, and other seemingly inexplicable acts of sudden violence. In the 21st century, a hair trigger sympathetic nervous system can get one killed, arrested, or jailed for a long time.

In the absence of threats to our safety, the human mind will seek out perceived, possible, and potential threats and enter into an adrenalized state of readiness. Our sympathetic nervous system will do this without our directing it consciously. When there are no actual threats to be found, many people will seek out perceived threats by looking at what horrible, horrific, and life-threatening things are happening to other people and we inadvertently start preparing in a “what if” manner in the event that they would ever happen to us personally. People find themselves taking on a lot of anxiety and stress that’s not ours by surfing the Internet, watching television, and reading about life-threatening events happening to other people. Unfortunately, the media thrives on this and sells products through commercials attached to the stories that humans can’t get enough of, can’t take our eyes off of, and sometimes can’t stop thinking about. Our nervous systems literally become “sympathetic” to the life-threatening dangers that are happening to other people, not ourselves or our loved ones, but people who are thousands of miles away and sometimes even fictional characters.

The emotional and physical consequences of a sympathetic nervous system that has no Social-Media-Stress-Syndromedirection to place the stress is potentially life-threatening. Stress related illnesses make up over 70% of the reasons that an adult in the United States will visit their primary care physician. Modern life does not afford us the opportunity to channel  this stress into meaningful activity and this undiverted stress can lead to problems such as weight gain, hypertension, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and almost any other malady that you can imagine. In addition to physical and emotional issues, it can cause problems in interpersonal relationships as well. Here’s a little experiment that will prove the point. 2016 is a presidential election year in the United States. Bring up presidential politics at the next social gathering that you go to and watch what happens. See what I mean?

A threat to a human leads to an increase in adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones. These hormones have an adaptive and evolutionary purpose, designed to give us strength in physical capabilities above and beyond what we normally have. These levels can take quite some time after the threat is over to return to the baseline levels. Many hormones, such as cortisol, receive a bad rap from people who try to eliminate them entirely. Cortisol has an inverse relationship with melatonin, the sleep hormone needed for a sound night’s sleep. When cortisol is up, melatonin is down and vice versa. This not only impacts our ability to sleep, but also impacts our ability to relax, wind down, and make rational decisions. Too much cortisol and we spin out of control, too much melatonin and we are lethargic and sluggish. The human body is designed to work in a state of balance and performs at its best when there are opposite forces working in harmony.

The parasympathetic nervous system is our body’s counterbalance to the sympathetic nervous system. This part of us is designed to bring us quickly and safely down from the adrenalized high that the sympathetic nervous system can create. The parasympathetic nervous system is often referred to as the “rest and digest, breed and feed” part of our biological makeup. It recognizes that dangers are nonexistent, not directed at us, or have been efficiently dealt with. The faster the parasympathetic nervous system can do its thing, the less damage a person suffers to their physical, mental, and social being. The parasympathetic nervous system, if not functioning well in a person, needs to be consciously developed and trained. Unfortunately, we don’t have to do anything to excite the sympathetic nervous system, life does that automatically for us. Modern life and technology make developing a sound parasympathetic nervous system without work practically impossible.

A fine tuned parasympathetic nervous system can be developed through the following activities:

Physical exercise
Proper breathing
Spending time in nature
Sitting in silence
Unplugging from technology
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Sound nutrition
Meaningful interpersonal relationships
Having a pet

Some people are born with a relaxed and carefree attitude. The rest of us need to consciously work on developing and maintaining one. The good news is that developing one not only helps us physically and emotionally, but can make our lives more meaningful.

For more ideas on how to manage your stress and develop a nervous system that works for you, rather than against you, take a look at my book, “Stress Management Made 200387731-001Simple: Essays To Help Manage Your Life,” available on Amazon.com here:

“Brothers and sisters, come on now! That means everybody just cool out! We can cool out, everybody! Everybody be cool, now. Come on.” – Mick Jagger


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Analysis Paralysis, Decision Fatigue, And Diseases Of Choice

“A good plan, violently executed right now, is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – George Patton

To live in the 21st century, almost by definition, is to have a multitude of choices about Explode headvirtually everything. We start our day with hundreds of choices about the most basic of human needs. What kind of toothbrush and toothpaste to use, thousands of breakfast choices, clothing choices, ways to get to our jobs, and on, and on, and on. We grow up having to make so many decisions and choices that many people inadvertently learn to overthink things. We often overanalyze, overthink, and overcomplicate our lives as a result of this expectation that there is a perfect choice to be made. The result is a life that is overcomplicated, indecisive, and often disillusioned.

While choice is good, giving life variety and excitement, do we really need that many choices? The simple act of going to a supermarket to purchase food can be paralyzing at times. Walk into any modern food store and observe the number of choices you have for the most basic of items. For example, something as simple as a loaf of bread could be Decisionscomplicated by the 50+ choices you have on the shelves in front of you. A simple bar soap leads to a similar amount of choices. While most people don’t agonize too much over which ones to buy, being creatures of habit we tend to gravitate towards those that we have already tried, this illustrates the possible confusion and overanalyzing that has become a part of modern life. Think about it. How many channels do you have on your television? How many sources of information do you have at your fingertips? How many food choices, coffee choices, entertainment choices, and choices of jobs, partners, and living situations do you have? It can get overwhelming at times.

The result of all these choices becomes what is frequently referred to as analysis paralysis, a pattern of over analyzing and overthinking a situation so that an action or decision is not acted upon, in effect paralyzing the outcome. The decision becomes overcomplicated because the person gets bogged down in the details, other options and choices, and what has become known as “what if” thinking. What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s different than it’s supposed to be? What if I have made the wrong choice? What if I’m choosing this over a better option? In many cases this hesitation leads to an opportunity lost due to an option not being chosen at the appropriate time. Doubt, fear, and hesitation allows what may have been a golden opportunity to slip away.

Living in the information age gives us literally millions of choices for things that were far more simple as recently as a decade ago. Browse for an item on any of the online marketplaces for something simple, but don’t buy it immediately. For the next few weeks you will be inundated with pop-ups for that item from hundreds of other online marketplaces trying to entice you to buy that product from them at a better price, with better quality, and free shipping. You are literally stalked by a marketing strategy that capitalizes on the human tendency towards over analyzing. Many who browse the Internet for goods, services, or relationships are frozen, waiting for the perfect item, perfect price, or perfect partner, afraid to make a choice now because of fear of missing out on a perfect situation that may materialize later.

Behavioral scientists have studied variations of analysis paralysis and come up with a number of ways that this phenomenon occurs. Here are some of them:

⦁ Hick’s Law. This describes the situation where the number of choices a person has available to them correlates to the time that it takes a person to make a decision. Put simply, too many choices leads to slower decision-making and thinking, resulting in an opportunity lost due to the passage of too much time.
⦁ Decision Fatigue. This describes the deterioration in the quality of decisions made over a period of time where numerous decisions have been made. For example, studies show that judges in court rooms make less favorable decisions as the day goes on. They are more lenient and considerate in the morning and more abrupt and make less favorable decisions later in the day. As an individual mentally or physically fatigues, they make ill thought out decisions simply to be done with it.
⦁ Impulse Buying. Supermarkets know that people in checkout lines will frequently make quick decisions at the last minute about items that they don’t need or even want. Marketing strategists take advantage of their customer’s mental state, low blood sugar, and boredom while waiting in checkout lines by the candy rack and those crazy headlines on newspapers such as the National Inquirer or the Globe. How many times have you grabbed something on the way out of the store, thrown it on the counter and impulsively bought it at the last minute?

How a person makes decisions is a complicated matter, influenced by personality, upbringing, previous experiences, and opportunity. Making choices is a basic human freedom that we all enjoy as a result of being thinking mammals. Unlike other mammals, we can’t merely go with our basic instincts and genetic determinism. However, unlike other mammals, we may be spending and inordinate amount of time worrying about if we will make or have made the right decision. We all have the ability to adjust, adapt, and modify most decisions that we make. To be flexible in our thinking, we need to be willing to take risks and be less than perfect. Sometimes “good enough” can turn out to be far better than you ever expected.

“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.” – Kurt Vonnegut

To delay a decision is to make a decision. Sometimes you have to make a choice, breakrearview off that rearview mirror, and drive.


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

A Stoic Solution For “What If” Thinking

“If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.”- Seneca

The human ability to anticipate and prepare for the future is perhaps our most important and useful survival skill. One of the things that separates the mind of a child or Basic-First-Aid-and-Survival-Skillsadolescent from that of an adult is this ability to realize the consequences of our actions before we act. This, “if I do x, then y or z may happen,” logic is often the most productive kind of thought process a person engages in. Sometimes this ability gets a little out of control and we anticipate, worry about, and often inadvertently create the very things that we fear.

Life events and prior experience creates resilience, enabling a person to survive, and sometimes thrive through, events that they never thought they could cope with. We have the ability to build immunity to life stressors in the same manner that we become immune to diseases and illnesses. When we are exposed to any stressor and survive it, we tend to adapt to similar situations, developing a resilience and strength from this exposure. This adaptation is biological, psychological, and spiritual. As one progresses through life, this becomes a human being’s true strength. There comes a point in life when a person realizes that strength, real strength, is far more than physical.

“He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.” – Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, known simply as Seneca, was a Roman Stoic philosopher of the Senecafirst century A.D. He was an influential adviser, tutor, and speech writer for the Roman Emperor Nero. As a practicing Stoic, Seneca was concerned with trying to get the maximum enjoyment from life from the minimum creature comforts, wealth, and technology. Ironically, his own life was anything but minimalist. He was at that time one of Rome’s most influential and wealthy personalities, interacting in society at the highest level of power and influence. Much of his worry, like most humans in an advanced society involves the what if thinking that most of us are familiar with. What if I lost all this? What if I run out of money? What if the roof leaks? What if the stock market crashes? What if I got fired from my job? What if I can’t afford it? These would all be thoughts familiar to Seneca despite his affluence and social standing. In fact, these worries are universal to humans everywhere in the world, despite the wealth, influence, or power that they may have.

Because humans are adaptable, life forces us to adjust to stressors and events that we initially never would believe we could survive. As we age, we overcome illness, losses, pain and suffering. We often lose sight of the fact that to live is to survive. The challenge humans face is to survive these painful life events while thriving.

Seneca spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about the loss of his wealth, wondering how we would survive without the lavish lifestyle that his influence provided him. He decided to practice poverty to prepare himself just in case he lost everything and had to adjust. He explained it to a young student named Lucilius in Letters from a Stoic:

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?” It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress, and it is while Fortune is kind that it should fortify itself against her violence. In days of peace the soldier performs maneuvers, throws up earthworks with no enemy in sight, and wearies himself by gratuitous toil, in order that he may be equal to unavoidable toil. If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.

Let the pallet be a real one, and the coarse cloak; let the bread be hard and grimy. Endure all this for three or four days at a time, sometimes for more, so that it may be a test of yourself instead of a mere hobby. Then, I assure you, my dear Lucilius, you will leap for joy when filled with a pennyworth of food, and you will understand that a man’s peace of mind does not depend upon Fortune; for, even when angry she grants enough for our needs.

There is no reason, however, why you should think that you are doing anything great; for you will merely be doing what many thousands of slaves and many thousands of poor men are doing every day. But you may credit yourself with this item, — that you will not be doing it under compulsion, and that it will be as easy for you to endure it permanently as to make the experiment from time to time. Let us practice our strokes on the “dummy”; let us become intimate with poverty, so that Fortune may not catch us off our guard. We shall be rich with all the more comfort, if we once learn how far poverty is from being a burden.

So begin, my dear Lucilius, to set apart certain days on which you shall withdraw from GEREyour business and make yourself at home with the scantiest fare. Establish business relations with poverty.”

Everyone, even the poorest of any society, worry about what they would do “if.” Taking a good look at the very things that we fear need not increase our fear, rather it may allow us to appreciate what is really important to us. To live is to survive. The challenge of life is to thrive while surviving.

“Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.” – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

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P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

The If-Then Happiness Paradox: Why Happiness Is A Choice

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination. For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.” – Daniel Souza

Last month millions of Americans played the multistate lottery, Powerball. People stood in line, sometimes for hours, in an attempt to gain happiness through a huge financial windfallLottery-Winners resulting from matching the five white balls and one red “Powerball.” You probably heard, or even uttered yourself, some variation of an if-then statement: “If I hit the lottery, then I’d be happy.” Everyone who plays has some kind of story that they tell about how wonderful it would be if they won and how they would appropriately use that money to purchase happiness for themselves, their friends, and unknown destitute individuals that they would help in a philanthropic manner. As they say in many states, “Play the lottery, the game dreams are made of.”

Unfortunately for most people. even the winners, becoming an instant millionaire not only does not result in happiness but, in many cases, actually creates even more misery than they had before.  44% of those who have ever won large lottery prizes were broke within five years, according to a 2015 Camelot Group study. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards says nearly a third declared bankruptcy – meaning they were worse off than before they became rich. Other studies show that lottery winners frequently become estranged from family and friends, and incur a greater incidence of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, and suicide than the average American.

This phenomenon is not unique to lottery winners alone. Celebrities and professional athletes often succumb to the same temptation that comes with overnight wealth. 78% of NFL players file bankruptcy or are in other financial trouble within two years of retirement, according to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article. A representative of the NBA players’ association said in 2008 that 60 % of NBA players declare bankruptcy within five years of leaving the league. It could be assumed that athletes, because they work so hard to attain their wealth, would be more likely to use it responsibly. Not always the case. Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson burned through $400 million that he earned during his career, pro football quarterback Michael Vick burned through over $100 million, and former NBA star Allen Iverson burned through $150 million during his career. These stars are not the exception, but the norm. Those that retain their wealth and find happiness are the exception.

Why does this happen? Why are most of those hard-working Americans waiting in line for Powerball tickets going to be prone to the same problems if they pick the right numbers? Why is the if-then happiness paradox proved correct so often?

Researchers may be able to provide an answer. The setpoint theory of happiness, which explains why this paradox exists, resulted from a 1978 study which showed that lottery winners eventually end up being no happier than people who suffer from spinal cord injuries! After the initial euphoria wears off, they ended up at their baseline level of happiness, a level determined by factors such as temperament, mood, and emotional maturity. They found that personality also plays a role, with happiness potential being determined by as much as 50% from inherited and acquired characteristics. These characteristics, become ingrained from parental messages, life events, and circumstances of our upbringing. Most of us will act both consciously and subconsciously in ways that confirm beliefs about wealth and happiness that we already have. Most of these lottery winners and athletes become victims of self sabotage and end up believing that outside forces are responsible for the loss of their relatively instant millions. The reality is that most of them engage in behaviors that are consistent with their beliefs about happiness, acting in ways that confirm their beliefs about wealth and happiness.

For example, Mike Tyson’s substance abuse, exotic animals, cars, and partying, were all attempts at making himself happy. Money alone is never enough for a person with a low happiness set point. Money is seen as a way to become happy, rather than enhancing happiness that already exists. More, more, more is seen as the way to happiness. For those with a low happiness set point, it seldom is.

So where does true happiness come from? Research consistently shows that the happiest thrd wrldpeople are those that engage in altruistic, other oriented activities. Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey, a collection of statistics representing the largest and longest-standing series of studies on happiness, indicates that this is the most primary correlate to life satisfaction. It also turns out that Americans are not as happy as we would think. The 2013 World Happiness Report, issued by a United Nations committee, ranked the United States 78th among world nations when it comes to happiness, with the top five being Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Brazil. Think about that for a moment. People in Iceland are significantly happier when people in the United States!

There are ways that all of us can be happier. Here are some suggestions that are backed by science:

⦁    Enjoy the journey. Ultimately happiness is an internal state created by your beliefs and actions, rather than something that comes from outside of you. Learning to derive happiness from little things that are consistently part of your world is the critical reason why people in less developed nations are happy. Be grateful for clean water, food, fresh air, and close family and friends. Gratitude for things that are necessary for living-you don’t need a Rolex watch, a Lexus, or a 60 inch flatscreen TV to remain alive-will make you happier over the long run.
⦁    Notice ways that your self talk and internal dialogue are contributing to your state of unhappiness. Pay close attention to the if-then thoughts that you instinctively create. Becoming aware of the if-then paradox is important if you are not going to fall victim to it.
⦁    Ask yourself better questions when the if-then logic pop send to your thinking. “Would I really be more happy if I had $1 million?” It’s okay to dream, but don’t assume that your happiness is something that you can purchase, drive, or pour from of a bottle. Realizing that you have the capacity to make yourself happy already can be an empowering and liberating realization.
⦁    Stay connected to, and grateful for, basic human necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, water, and meaningful social connections. Noticing these and being grateful for them on a consistent basis is the best way to generate that internal state of bliss which we call happiness.

Science indicates that we, and we alone, are the reason for our happiness. Money, fame, HAPPINESS-facebookand a Charlie Sheen lifestyle are simply not going to create it. Happiness is something that we are, not something we are going to get if. Happiness, like life, is all about the journey not the destination. Next time you find yourself envious of some wealthy celebrity or lottery winner reconsider, reassess, and maybe even be careful what you wish for.

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” – Sigmund Freud


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Finding Mindful Moments In An ADD World

“We better stop, now, what’s that sound? Everybody look – what’s going down?” – For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield

We live in an extremely fast and ever-changing world. Life comes at us virtually at the speed of sound. We have multiple distractions constantly pulling us in different directions.information-overload-2 Almost everything we intellectually consume is fragmented into brief, yet intense, sensory inputs. We live in an instant, soundbite, world. Television and radio programs are strategically broken into commercials every 10 minutes, the Internet barrages us with pop-ups, background programs, and distracting advertising every time we open a new screen. We carry phones that buzz, beep, and remind us of all those things we have to do every day. If there’s anything out of the ordinary that occurs anywhere in the world, we can view a synopsis of it in a 30 second segment on YouTube. And, if any reporter gets an interesting interview with a presidential candidate or politician, you know you’ll hear snippets of it at least 20 times somewhere during the next 24 hours.

All this information and instant access creates a life that is overstimulating, hectic, too distracting, and downright annoying. The cost to society for all this excitement, information, and overstimulation is the belief that we all “have ADD.” Do we really, or, does the modern technological lifestyle and this age of TMI make it difficult, if not impossible for us to slow our minds down?

There is a huge downside to all this mental overstimulation. We tend as a culture to stress out over everybody else’s problems. We are moved to tears, anger, and outrage over things we have virtually no control over. Many of us are rats on treadmills of our own making, navigating an endless maze that is our daily schedule, one that we are reminded of by multiple buzzing and beeping electronic devices that we own. We need, for are a variety of legitimate reasons, to stay connected to some of these electronic devices and reminders. We have jobs, families, and appointments that we must be aware of and tend to as part of keeping our life in order. Like a lot of things, we need to figure out what to leave in and what to leave out. That has to be some way to slow down, and sort through, this insanity.

Many people find it virtually impossible to slow down in quiet their minds. A new trend in mental health is a return to some of the contemplative practices of ancient world. Meditation and movement practices such as yoga, tai chi, and dance are all old school ways of slowing down the pace of life. I find that most of my clients struggle with any mindfulness based practice that asks them to sit still. They simply can’t do it, at least initially, and many do not have the patience to even give it a legitimate effort. They come up with a very quick “I can’t do that, it’s not me,” excuse. They may even give it a half-baked effort, but sitting still and getting mentally quiet is not something they are willing to work toward. If you’re of that mindset, there is a mindful solution that works with your body and mind’s natural tendency toward being comfortable with distraction.

Here’s a mindfulness practice that will work for virtually everyone, even those ADD prone individuals. Like all meditative practices, it’s based on slowing down and noticing something. You will simply take a few moments to notice various things in your field of perception.

1. Allow yourself a few deep breaths that originate from deep down in your abdomen. BreathingClose your eyes and just listen to what’s going on in your environment at that moment. Notice the sounds, identifying up to five separate sounds. When you get to five, notice them again, one at a time. Take some time into this slowly. Which is the loudest? Which is the softest? Are there any other sounds that you hadn’t noticed? Are you able to hear any sounds that are internal to you, such as the sound of your breathing, the gentle rhythm of your heartbeat, or maybe that pulsing sensation that you hadn’t noticed on the side of your head? Allow yourself to gently take in a few relaxing, deep breaths while you simply notice the sounds of your world.

2. Scan your body for sensations and feelings. This can be done with eyes open or closed. You will get in touch, no pun intended, with your body’s internal sensations, aches, pains, and areas of relaxation, as well as areas where you body contacts the outside world. Feel your body against the chair, floor, or wherever you are situated at that moment. This practice can be even deeper if you stop and notice the sensation of where your body meets various articles of clothing that you are wearing. Can you feel your socks or shoes? Are you wearing a belt, T-shirt, or some other obscure article that you hadn’t noticed as yet?

Do you have any aches and pains at the moment? Are you able to relax and breathe in such a way that you can lessen the pain without movement? Are you able to relax to the extent that you can dissociate from a particular body part, practically making it invisible or nonexistent? This is not only a great mindfulness practice, but it is also a great way to manage minor aches and pains in areas of your body that carry stress and tension. This type of mindfulness practice is called a body scan and works very well for people who need to be doing something constantly, distracting, and then lulling them into a state of relaxation.

3. Take a moment and notice obscure aspects of your visual field. Look around and notice 3 to 5 things that are the same color, for example find three things in your immediate field of vision that share the same color. Don’t stress over this, it’s not a competition. Just give yourself an opportunity to notice what’s there, slowing things down and just noticing.

Are there objects in spaces that you occupy every day that you have noticed yet? Sit quietly you familiarize yourself with as many new objects in your immediate field of vision as you can. Be sure to relax, breathe deeply, and just notice.

4. Use your senses of taste and smell in the same manner. Get still for a moment and notice the smells of your environment, the taste of your foods and drink, and try to describe them to yourself. The goal is to allow your brain to notice one thing, then another, and then another, that is in your immediate environment. Just notice in a nonjudgmental way what is in front of you.

The goal of these mindfulness practices is to work with your natural tendency towards distraction. You decide what’s going to be distracting you. Sites, sounds, body sensation, smells etc. using your mind’s natural tendency to jump from one thought to another except you direct where your mind goes.

You’ll probably find that one of these sensory modalities is the one that you prefer, for example, sounds over things that are in your visual field. A body scan practice is something that everyone should develop, as it is a great way of managing the aches and pains that one accumulates over a lifetime The beauty of these activities are that they can give you your own internal reset button as a way of coping with the velocitized pace of modern life. Take a few moments, multiple times a day, and practice these activities without expectation. You just might find that you don’t have ADD after all.

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” -Thich Nhat Hanh


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Deal With It! : Six Ways To Cope With Winter

“Winter’s not the problem, not being prepared for it is.”- Chip Hailstone, Life Below Zero

We are in the middle of winter, the East Coast of the United States has been hit with a record snowfall. Initially, most people’s reaction is one of wonder, and excitement. For CABINmany, the excitement will soon wear off as people find themselves housebound, confined, and having to make adjustments to their everyday lifestyle because of a curveball dealt them by mother nature. In the 21st century, we’re almost always aware that the storm is coming. Meteorologists are constantly giving us up-to-the-minute reports, and the average person has access to accurate weather reports and radar images anywhere on the planet. We know when a storm is coming, we buy the necessary supplies, stores run out of bread and milk very quickly, shovels become very hard to find, and where the heck did I put that scraper for my windshield?

If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, then you know the drill. Early December you make sure you know where your snow shovel is, you buy salt and sand for your walkway, you tune up the snowblower, and you make sure that the family vehicles all have ice scrapers for the windows. If you enjoy winter recreational pursuits, you make sure the equipment is in good working condition and you purchase necessary gloves, mittens and warm caps. Your prepared in every way except mentally. Somewhere in late January to mid February you, and millions of others, began saying things like “I’ve had it with this, this sucks, and I can’t wait till it’s over.”

I was born and raised in the greater Boston area and currently live in the state of New Hampshire. Those of us who live in areas where snow was not merely a possibility, it is a guarantee, shouldn’t be shocked, bored, or suffer from what in these climates is frequently known as “cabin fever.” We know winter is coming, it’s going to be rough at times, and it’s going to leave when it’s good and damn ready. Why is it that we are prepared in every way except mentally and why do so many of us get emotionally worn down, suffer from seasonal depression, and an increase in psychosomatic illnesses?

These same winter days will be remembered fondly somewhere around 4th of July. One of the beauties of living in New England and in parts of the country that get snow is we have a full range of seasons, and all types of weather. That same area of your yard where you could suffer from sunstroke in August is that same spot where you could get frostbitten on Groundhog Day. Well, here’s the good news – there are things that you can do to mitigate the physical and emotional challenges of one of mother nature’s most beautiful seasons.

Here’s some ways to not only prevent going stir crazy, but to actually enjoy the wonders of winter:

1. Embrace the season and all it has to offer. Too often people are in denial that winter is going to be challenging. Accept that mother nature is going to do whatever she wants, whether you have plans for the weekend, are prepared or get caught completely offguard. EXRSIZAcceptance of this and learning to roll with it is the most important factor. Mental attitude and outlook is virtually everything in life, and winter highlights this point perhaps more than anything.

2. Be prepared. Make sure that you have adequate winter clothing-clothes, boots, shovels, salt sand etc. Nothing is worse than being wet, cold, and miserable. If you don’t adequately prepare for winter, then you have no right to complain about.

3. Make sure you get as much sunlight as possible. One of the biggest factors in seasonal depression is a lack of sunlight. If you can, bundle up and get outside every day. If you can’t for some reason than make sure you keep window shades open to allow exposure to light. This seems like a minor point, but research indicates it is one of the major factors that contributes to seasonal depression.

4. Try to wake up earlier in the morning. Modern man allows the clock and our concept of time to rule our lives, and thus our emotions. If it’s possible to follow the sunset and sunrise with your daily schedule, then do so. This maximizes your exposure to sunlight and allows you to work with, rather than against, the rhythms of the season. Work with nature as much as you can.

5. Exercise regularly. If you can, get some exercise outdoors. For too many people exercise has become a sterile, controlled, indoor activity that they do closed off in gyms on machines under artificial lighting. Certainly this is not bad, but it is not what nature intended when the human body was designed. The body was made for work so that humans would be able to adapt and survive. Shoveling snow and winter hiking, and outdoor winter activities can be a great way to stay in shape and train the way nature intended you to train. Being in shape enables us to cope with environmental stressors that nature provides. Embrace, and even welcome, winter as one of these stressors. Use the challenges of winter to give a little variety to your exercise regimen.

6. Watch your weight and maintain adequate caloric intake. Recent research shows that any more than a 5 pound weight gain is excessive, regardless of how cold it is where you live. While you may change the foods that you eat, soups and stews for example instead of lighter fare, you shouldn’t take in any more calories than are needed. The myth of weight gain being necessary comes from our identifying with animals that put weight on during the winter. Those animals hibernate, we do not. Be active and eat accordingly.

Maintaining a positive attitude, being prepared, and embracing the beauty of nature and FIREthe season is the key to surviving and thriving during the winter. A lot of us bitch about the weather in make excuses as to why we can’t live somewhere else. Don’t be that guy! Adapt, adjust, and enjoy being a part of nature yourself.

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

‘Tis The Season: How To Avoid Holiday Depression

” ‘Tis the season to be jolly.” – from Deck the Halls, by John Thomas, 1862

Remember this time of year when you were a child? Shortly after Thanksgiving you realized that Christmas was the next thing that your family would be making a big deal out SANTAof. Maybe it was because your grade school teacher changed the decorations on the classroom bulletin board from pilgrims and pumpkins to Santa Claus and holly. You sang carols in school, TV commercials showed you objects of your desire – batteries not included – and you compiled a wish list that you hoped you’d receive because, after all, you really weren’t that bad over the past year. At some point your extended family got together, you got to go wild with a lot of cousins you saw four or five times a year, the adults in your tribe were a little more tolerant than usual, and you had a great time. What happend to those thrilling days of yesteryear, and why does the holiday season make so many adults feel sad, depressed, and alienated?

For a while, the holiday season remained a great time of year. When you’re a young adult, it is a time when your high school friends return home from college, the military, or where ever they’ve been since you saw them last. You’d meet them for a few drinks- which always turned out to be a lot more than a few- update them on the goings on in your life, with a few slight exaggerations, and have a great time. Somewhere during your walk of life however, you began a career, got married and started a family, and the meaning of the season changed. You became obligated to do a lot of things that you never envisioned when you were that little kid whose biggest holiday disappointment was that somebody forgot to buy batteries. It all starts innocently enough with visits to your boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents that turned into an obligation to spend some the holidays with your in-laws. That becomes a tradition and before you know it you’re obligated, year after year, to a routine that you really don’t look forward to any longer. You find yourself buying presents for a lot of acquaintances and feel guilty if these acquaintances have bought you something more expensive than you got them.

I don’t know how you feel reading this, but as I write this I’m finding myself getting depressed just thinking about all this. What happened wide-eyed joy that the holiday season once gave us? Too many people succumb to the commercialization of Christmas, get on that holiday roller coaster of doing everything for everyone else, and rationalize what they are doing. They have some cliché such as, “Well, holidays are for children anyway,” and bear with the overwhelm, chaos, and eventual depression that the season brings. Is it possible that an adult can enjoy the season and actually emerge on January 2 rested and ready for a new year?

Yes Virginia, there is a sanity clause. There are a number of things that a grown-up can do to make this season not only bearable, but enjoyable, meaningful, and something you look forward to. Here’s some simple suggestions:

1. Lower your expectations. Most of us go into the holiday season way too optimistic about how the season is going to go down. We have images in our minds, thoughts, and expectations that are frequently way too optimistic. We tend to visualize, imagine, and anticipate feelings that are unrealistic. We often focus on how things are supposed to be during the season. This is a set up a let down. Don’t decide in advance how you’re going to feel. Being mindful of what’s going on moment to moment and accepting feelings as they are, rather than how you think they should be, makes for less disappointment. Be flexible and remind yourself that you’ll just have to wait and see how things go.

2. Accept what experience tells you is going to happen. Yeah, your mother-in-law is going to give you one of those sloppy hugs that you receive once a year from her, you’ll have to eat some of your sister-in-law’s famous onion dip that you’re not too crazy about, one of the younger family members is bound to have a significant other that their parents aren’t too thrilled with, and it’s not Christmas if there isn’t some younger kid that’s crying and whining a bit because it’s well past their bedtime. So what? If you know these things are going to happen every year, why be disappointed when they do happen? Go with the flow and make a conscious decision to enjoy yourself.

3. Be aware of where you focus your attention. There are a lot of negative things that a person can focus on that can completely ruin the whole season for them. You could PASTfocus on the commercialism, the political correctness, and the religious and cultural arguments surrounding the season. You could also get caught up in the ghosts of Christmas past by recalling other Christmas seasons and dwelling on the pain, suffering, and loss of loved ones that are no longer here to share it with you. Allow people to have what ever beliefs they choose. Don’t be competitive over whether or not it’s a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or a Festivus for the Rest of Us. Remind yourself that it’s all good and don’t let your ego try to control the way that other people feel about the season.

While at family gatherings, office parties, or running around your local mall shopping looking for that must have item, try to focus on some positives. Noticing the joy the season brings children, enjoying a cup of cocoa with a loved one, or watching the look in the eyes of happy loved one can help remind you of what the season is all about. And before you harshly judge that whining five-year-old, or that teenage nephew with the bizarre haircut, remind yourself that you were once in the their shoes.

4. Try not to be a people pleaser. Simply do the best you can for the important people in your life. Remember that you can’t be perfect, the season can’t be perfect, and you are doing the best you can. Don’t feel guilty about including yourself on the list of people you are trying to make happy this season.

5. Accept the loss of loved ones who are no longer here to share the celebration. Deaths of important people in our lives tend to be more painful over the holidays, as we remember our times with them during this season of family and friends. Try to find some spiritual way to honor them and keep them close to your heart in a meaningful way. The spirit of the holidays is shared experience with family, friends, and loved ones. This is probably what Charles Dickens meant in his novel A Christmas Carol when Scrooge said he would “keep the spirit of Christmas in his heart throughout the year.” Loved ones who are gone would want you to enjoy the season. Remember them fondly and enjoy the season.

6. Don’t forget to take care of your own physical and emotional needs during this season. Keep your wellness plan in place, eat sensibly, don’t skimp on exercise, mindfulness, or your own spirituality. This is the season for you as well as everyone else in your life. Don’t feel guilty about this. Without a solid sense of self you won’t be much use to anyone else regardless of what time of year it is.

Enjoy yourself, family, and friends this season. Happy and joyous whatever you celebrate.12-happy-children-on-christmas Just be sure that you also include yourself.

“God rest ye merry, gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay.” – author unknown


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Mindful Moments : Finding Mindfulness In Everyday Life

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” – Andy Bernard

Mindfulness is a contemplative practice that is the basis of most of the world’s great WomanInCentralParkWithCoffeeMeditation-850x400-2philosophical and religious traditions. It is also one of the most misunderstood and underutilized tools to maintain mental and emotional wellness. There are many definitions, most too esoteric and  philosophical for the majority of people to digest and understand. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:

Mindfulness 1.  the quality or state of being mindful. 2. the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also : such a state of awareness.

There are many other self-help experts, schools of meditation, and philosophical traditions that have their own spin on what mindfulness is. There are so many different perspectives that the average person gives up on practicing this basic skill out of misunderstanding and frustration that comes from trying to figure out something that cannot be explained, but must be experienced. The simplest and best definition that I know of comes from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, who describes mindfulness this way:

“Be here now.”- Thích Nhất Hạnh

Most people associate the practice of mindfulness with the practice of meditation, as if one cannot coexist without the other. Meditation, also an ancient tool for mental health and wellness, is greatly misunderstood as well. Most 21st-century humans don’t have the patience or self-discipline to engage in a meditation practice. Most, however, can practice mindfulness by incorporating a few basic skills into their every day life. Modern life is a whirlwind of sensory stimulation, distractions, and shiny, pretty things that pull us away from what life is all about. For example, the number of people who think they have ADHD, as opposed to the number of people who actually have is a very wide gap. The American Psychiatric Association puts the number at 5%. Think about how often you hear people tell you that they have ADHD. You yourself may believe that you have this disorder. Do you really, or do you merely have a problem staying focused in the present moment? More importantly, does it even matter?

Contemporary life has never been more stimulating. We are living in the most distractible people-texting-600x399-600x337time of any society at any period of human history. Most of us carry, on a routine basis, more computer power than was available to Neil Armstrong when he walked on the moon in 1969, and carry it in our pocket. From this device we can speak face to face with virtually anybody on the planet, watch more video than existed on television 10 years ago, and get as much information in seconds as it would’ve taken you hours to gather in the public library when you were in the seventh grade. Is it any wonder that were all walking around distracted and missing the life that is right in front of us right now? No wonder we’re all missing the good old days.

In my counseling and coaching practice, I try to get my clients to appreciate the benefits of a mindfulness practice of some sort. I frequently find myself having to sell clients on the idea that slowing down and noticing things will increase their productivity, happiness, and sense of well-being. Those that buy what I’m selling are usually amazed at how quickly their awareness, attention, and focus become. Like many things human, the tendency to overthink, intellectualize, and analyze tends to get away of optimal performance.

There are a number of ways to be mindful in every day life. Taking a deep breath and asking yourself the following questions can increase your awareness of those micro-moments that are the fabric of life and will be the good old days that you someday reflect upon. Here are some basic questions that can focus you on the here and now:

1. Where am I right now? This question is not one of confusion, but one of awareness and literalness. Ask yourself, physically, where am I now? Who’s with me? Where am I sitting, standing, and being right now? A deep breath, inhaled thoughtfully, can help you zero in.

2. What am I doing right now? What’s the task at hand, if any? This can be a physical or mental task. It can also be that what you are doing now is nothing. Realizing that sometimes doing nothing and merely zoning out is okay can be truly liberating.

3. Why am I doing what I’m doing in this moment? This can help you focus and zero in on tasks that must be accomplished, or can help you to realize that, in that moment doing nothing is perfectly okay. This can give you an appreciation of those micro-moments that will someday be those good old days that you look back on. For example, realizing that you are spending time at a family holiday party in order to commune with people that are important to you can more fully bring you into the present moment and make you appreciate what you have.

These first three questions can more fully bring you into the present moment. If there is a doing task that you must perform, then being mindful can make you more aware, capable, and effective. When going into a task, ask yourself these questions:

1. What’s my attitude? Am I bringing a positive, negative, or neutral attitude into this? Remember that neutral is sometimes ok.

2. What’s my energy right now? How’s my physical energy? Can I feel it? What’s my mental energy? Pause to notice and identity your energy resources.

3. Where’s my focus? What am I thinking about, looking at, ruminating over, saying to myself? How does this help or hurt the situation I am in right now, if at all?

Being mindful has the two-part benefit of making us more efficient and aware of what’s mindfulness-istock-prvgoing on in our lives. It makes us more capable of making better decisions and choices, while giving us the ability to notice and savor those day-to-day little things that we might not notice or appreciate for years. Living life more mindfully can help you realize that the good old days are now.

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

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