writing

Three Ways to Deepen Your Gratitude Practice

The art and science of happiness has begun to get a lot of attention in the media lately. At the same time, practice of gratitude is now recognized as an important path to happiness. Research has begun to show us what we all intuitively understand, which is that the practice of gratitude improves our moods, our relationships, makes us more optimistic, and even helps us take better care of our health.
I'm sure you understand the basic concept of a gratitude journal as part of gratitude practice - just set aside few minutes every day to write down what you're grateful for. By placing some focused attention on gratitude, you practice the art of being grateful and gradually it becomes a habit. Remember, the way we focus our attention profoundly affects our experience of daily life and our relationship with ourselves. Why not have a more grateful and positive experience in life?
Gratitude is helpful in any form. However, if you're finding it hard to generate ideas (or you're a whiz at gratitude and are ready to take it to a deeper level), here are some exercises that can help you dig in:
1. Be grateful for the different kinds of people in your life.
Try following the following cycle, spending a few minutes contemplating gratitude for these categories of people: yourself, a benefactor or someone who has always been a source of goodness and wisdom in your life, a friend, a neutral person (i.e. someone who you have neither positive nor negative feelings toward, this could be a stranger), and someone irritating or you simply don't like (in the Buddhist tradition, this is sometimes called an enemy).
Start with yourself because loving and being grateful for yourself allows you to have a strong core from which you can be grateful for others. Then continue the cycle, starting with people for whom it is easy to be grateful and progressing to more challenging people.
Why would you be grateful for an irritating person? Sometimes people and situations that we don't like, while unpleasant, offer us lessons and possibilities for self-development that we could not get in any other way. For example, irritating people teach you how to be patient, give you an opportunity to ask yourself if you do some of the same behaviors, or give you insight into others when they are frustrated with people in their life. It's also a great opportunity to practice compassion. You had situations in your life that allowed you to become you are and we rarely know the path and challenges that led other people to become who they are.
If you are familiar with loving kindness meditation, you will recognize this cycle. If you'd like to learn more about lovingkindness, read the book "Loving-kindness the Revolutionary Art of Happiness" by Sharon Salzberg.
2. Be thankful for your past, your present, and your future. Go through a cycle of contemplating these three phases of your life, noting the gifts that people and situations have brought to you. Many of us have experienced challenges in our life and even face difficult situations in our current life, but it's possible to look for lessons and understand how our life situations brought us to be who we are. For example, in life coaching I've seen that sometimes people who face the greatest challenge in their lives are capable of the greatest compassion and self reflection.
3. Be thankful for what you do not have. Sometimes what we do not have, such as dreams or even material things, become important sources of inspiration to create a great life. On the other hand, sometimes what we do not have offers as an opportunity to learn about ourselves, to be patient, or to develop greater depth of character.
Good luck with these gratitude tools. If you'd like any support of pursuing your gratitude practice or just want someone to celebrate your new insights, you're invited to contact me anytime. Enjoy your beautiful life!

journal

15 Tips for Sticking With Your Exercise Program

You've decided to start an exercise program and that's great. Unfortunately, more than half of all people who begin an exercise regimen quit within the first six months. It's not easy to develop a successful exercise program that you will stick with for the rest of your life. However, there are steps we can take to boost our enthusiasm and to facilitate long-term program adherence. Specifically, these 15 behaviors will help you stick with an exercise program for years to come:
1. Set realistic goals. Make sure your expectations regarding your exercise program are reasonable.
2. Write your goals and post them in a visible area. This provides you with a constant reminder of why you are exercising.
3. Share your goals with others. This allows your friends and family members to encourage you.
4. Consistently monitor your progress. Steady improvement is a tremendous motivator.
5. Choose a convenient time and place for your workouts. You are much more likely to stick with your exercise program if it is convenient for you.
6. Start easy and slowly build your effort. Simply stated, don't overdo it!
7. Keep your exercise sessions brief. 30 minutes is enough in most instances.
8. Choose a variety of exercises and activities to avoid boredom. Boredom is a common reason for quitting an exercise program.
9. Combine family and exercise time. For example, walking, hiking, skating and bike riding all offer an opportunity to combine exercise with family time.
10. Learn how to do your exercises safely. Injury and soreness are common reasons for quitting an exercise program.
11. Work out at the same time every day. This will allow you to get in the habit of exercising at a particular time of day.
12. Keep an exercise journal. This provides you with a picture of your progress, which can be a great motivator.
13. Schedule activities around your exercise sessions. Once you have identified the days and times you will exercise each week, schedule your other activities around these times. This demonstrates the importance of your exercise program in your life.
14. Don't stress out if you miss a workout. Missing an occasional workout is not a problem. In fact, it's to be expected. Just get back to work the next day.
15. Make sure you have fun. No one sticks with exercise unless they enjoy it. You can make sure you have fun by selecting activities you really enjoy and by working out with others.

education

The Benefits of Keeping a Daily Journal

Journals are nothing new, they have been around for centuries. Everyone knows about Anne Frank of course, and the two years she spent hiding from the Nazis, and historians can never forget about Samuel Pepys, whose diary provided us a glimpse of what life was like back in 17th Century London. But why did these people keep an account of their daily lives? Why does anyone? It's certainly not for preserving history.
Truth is, there are many reasons and benefits people write about the day-to-day happenings of their lives. Some of them are:
1). It can improve the quality of your writing. Keeping a daily journal ensures that you will get some much-needed practice frequently, which is good if you ever intend on making a successful career out of your writing.
2). It provides hindsight to your problems. If you write about all the various issues you face, and keep up to date with how you handle them, then you might be able to pick up patterns in the behavior of yourself or others. From them, you can learn, grow, and ensure you can handle problems much better in the future, if not keep them from happening ever again.
3). Writing can reduce stress. We all have bad days. Sometimes we just want to scream at somebody, throw something around, or beat the living snot out of whatever we come across. all work, sure, but they're destructive and hurtful of both yourself and others. Ranting in your journal about all of the things that tick you off while you are in a nasty mood is in many ways a better way to relieve that anger. There are fewer hurt feelings, fewer bruises, fewer regrets, and fewer chances to get arrested.
4). It can improve you memory. A lot can happen to us over the course of a year, or even a month, whether we realize it or not. It's not hard to imagine how the days just seem to blur together after a while. And worse, sometimes, we can forget some very important things, like scheduled meetings and deadlines. For many people, writing is a good way to better commit things to memory. At the very least, a journal can also act as a makeshift planner of sorts.
5). You can better understand yourself. One would expect that we should know all about ourselves, but alas, even we can come across as alien at times. But more than that, sometimes, we just don't know what makes us tick. We don't know why we have the opinions we do, or how we ever developed them. With a journal, you can always examine your past thoughts, and mull over them again.

writing

The Easiest Weight Loss Trick

One of the best things I have ever done to help myself eat healthy is keeping a food journal. I struggled for many years with eating too much, eating too little, and eating junk. You can't survive eating this way. It is not good for your body as there is no way you are getting the proper nutrition. I found keeping track made me so much more aware of what I was eating, it causes you to think twice about what you put in your mouth.
Keeping your journal is very easy. It does not have to be elaborate. Get yourself a little pocket notebook and start right away! Put down everything you put in your mouth. Even if it is one grape, write it down! I think you will be very surprised how much you eat that you were not aware of.
If you are struggling with weight gain this is a wonderful tool to figure out where those extra calories are coming from. Calories add up so fast, especially if you drink beverages with high sugar content. Water is always best! You should be drinking half your body weight in water. If you are 100 pounds you should be drinking 50 ounce of water.
You do not have to keep a journal for ever. I think you will notice that just by doing it your habits will start to change. I know for me I did not want to write down that I ate 6 cookies, so I didn't eat them. It caused me to make better food choices.
Good luck, and remember food is needed for nutrients so try to make healthy choices. I take supplements because I find it hard to get all the nutrients I need from food. If you keep the journal you will be on your way to better eating!

journal

Envy Eats Away at My Heart

At the end of 2009, I purchased a small journal from Target. This little notebook serves the purpose of collecting random ideas that hit me at random times. It fits neatly in my purse so it goes with me everywhere. Assuming I actually have a pen in my purse (and not only eyeliner or lipstick to write with, which has happened on more than one occasion), it's a nifty little tool to have.
I was waiting for an appointment last week, and began thinking of topics to blog about and I kept writing the word "envy."
Envy is an odd duck.
Since having a book (and now almost two books) release, I have had a few people mention they were envious of my life. And by "my life," they confessed they were envious of what they perceived about "my life" because of my blog, or my books. A few days ago, a wonderful author named Rachel vulnerably shared about how she resented me (it's a very lovely and honest post).
When these conversations pop up, even as seldom as they do, they confuse me.
Why? Because my life is well - just life. It's nothing to be jealous of and find it interesting while people are wishing they may "be me" in some ways...
...I'm wishing I was someone else.
Don't get me wrong: I feel incredibly lucky that during this season I can write books for a modest living and travel a bit to share a little hope here and there. I have also eaten enough humble pie to know this has little to do with me, if anything at all. As much as writing and speaking is not a "normal job" it's still work. It's still frustrating. There are things I hate about my work sometimes. It's easy to get lonely and lazy. Questions of "am I good enough?" or "am I as good as..." or even "am I better than..." cycle in my mind day in and day out.
And truth be told, envy plays a large part in that cycle.
I see other bloggers and authors and speakers who seem to float from one puffy white cloud of God's blessed goodness to another, whose marriages are picture perfect and friendships are solid and complete. They never seem to fight loneliness, or writers block, or carbs, or bad hair days. They don't say "um" forty-seven times in a thirty minute talk and their words flow seamlessly from one noun to one verb. They are never "too passionate" and write thoughtfully instead of from a place of raw, immature emotion. They're wise. Stable. And go to great parties or dinners and tweet about it and it seems like everyone else is there but, well, me. They'll get credit for something and I won't. They'll get more money than I'll get. Someone will review or endorse their book that won't return my emails.
And I get envious. (Obviously. And very whiny, too).
It's scary to admit that perhaps I've even allowed myself to become so envious that my heart is becoming bitter. I've forgotten to celebrate the good things others do and to mourn (and not silently rejoice) their falls.
(Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this little mental happy dance when someone perfect makes a mistake...)
Envy eats away at my heart, slowly, and quietly, and daily.
And is it tragically ironic that I hate it when people perceive me in certain ways, and yet I do the exact same thing and place those exact same perceptions on others?
Comparison. Perception. Assumption. Envy.
This life thing can be messy and ugly sometimes.
I'm so glad there's grace. Aren't you?

education

Creating a Victory Journal

One of the things that I find most amusing as I reflect back on my life is that the times that were the hardest, are also the times in which I learned the most about myself. I'm grateful for those lessons, but I don't like to go through the hard times. No one does.
Yet, they occur in each of our lives, and we are forced to figure out solutions to problems that we never wanted to encounter. Problems or challenges like these push us to new discoveries, and while we've heard that a thousand times, we've also forgotten it a thousand and one times.
Think about the athletes who've done great things that no one thought the human body could do. Or the scientists who made new discoveries out of great human suffering and adversity. Or the average folks who have gone beyond their natural skills and found out that they can do more than they thought. Maybe you've experienced this, too.
The question becomes, then, why do we forget these lessons so easily? We can all relate to being in the middle of a challenge and feeling the heaviness of heart, the fatigue, the sadness, or even the depression that comes from not seeing an immediate answer. But rather than remembering our previous successes, we tend to see each new crisis as a new obstacle.
Here's a suggestion to overcome this habit, because in many respects, that what this is. We have developed a habit of selective forgetfulness. Instead of letting yourself get wiped out, physically, mentally, or spiritually by a new challenge, try creating a victory journal. You can actually call it anything you like, but the idea is to recap each of the major obstacles that you've encountered in your life, and how you overcame them.
In a journal or notebook, write down one "challenge" per page. Describe the situation, and if you can remember, how you were feeling at the time that you went through it. Then, detail what you learned through this event or how the situation was resolved. This "victory" portion must be positive. Look for the upside of what happened, and while there may still be some residual discomfort, if you focus on the positives, with particular attention to what you learned about your own resiliency, then you will begin crafting a journal that speaks to your strengths. This journal will be a reminder for the next time you face a challenge. Going into any new challenge with a history of your proven track record makes the challenge far less daunting!
As a Christian, I am reminded often that, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13) That doesn't mean that I can do whatever I want, but it means that through Christ, I can do what I need to do when it's time to do more than I think I can, because He helps me. It's because of Him that I can do more.
In my victory journal, the evidence to that is clear. I can see God's hand upon my previous challenges, and therefore I know He is right here with me for any new ones. This becomes my living testimony, my victory (in Christ) journal, and that's a journal worth remembering.

writing

Expressive Writing Can Reduce Anxiety

"Writing down your feelings helps you stop dwelling on past events, which reduces stress and allows for better sleep," says James W. Pennebaker, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, in Austin.
Much research has been done to prove that writing is extremely beneficial to your health, mainly because it reduces stress and anxiety. But the key to maximizing this stress reduction is to write about your personal and emotional experiences.
Expressive writing (in a secret diary or personal journal) let's your thoughts out of your head where they magnify and become exacerbated. Negative memories and thoughts are insidious and unless they are released, will cause more stress and anxiety.
As they mention in the Penzu Health Benefits section, some questions might be able to get you started:
THE PAST:
o Is there something that has been on your mind lately?
o What are some of your greatest memories?
o What are some of your worst memories?
o Is there anything in your past that you still think about?
o Describe a memorable event and how it made you feel
o Does that memory bring you joy or pain?
o If you could rewrite the past, how might you change how that event occurred?
o Did you learn anything from that memorable event?
o If so, how can that learning be applied to your future?
THE FUTURE:
o What are some of your dreams for the future?
o What does your ideal life look like in 5, 10, 15 years?
o Is your future a positive or negative one?
o If negative, what can you do to make it positive?
o How can you change your thinking today to make for a positive future?
o If there are things about your past you want to change, what then can you carry forward?
o Is there anyone you admire and strive to emulate?
o How different is your future self from your current self?
o What do you have to do to become your ideal self?
Hopefully these questions will ignite some inspiration. Try writing on a pad of paper or in an online diary such as Penzu .
Start writing and feel better!

journal

Conscious Parenting – Children and Gratitude

Gratitude is an amazing thing. It does something inside of us, that very few things can do. Many times, parents wish their children would be more grateful.
Ask yourself: Is it about not giving your children everything? Is it about making them work for what they want? What about making sure they see what others do not have? Or, teaching them to share? These are some of the strategies I have seen parents use in order to teach gratitude.
As I was giving this some thought, the answer, in my opinion, became quite simple: the experience of feeling grateful is what creates gratitude.
Gratitude is about having a true and authentic experience of being grateful.
Here are three ideas that you can use with your children to nurture gratitude:
#1: In the morning, start your day with sharing what you are grateful for. It could be a good night sleep, sunshine, rain, friends we get to see, a favorite cartoon, our favorite teacher, the home we live in, food to eat, health, family, a pet, a game, a book, the weekend, sleeping in, etc. Each person can share 1-3 things to start creating the habit of looking for things to feel grateful for.
#2: At dinner, have everyone share what their gratitudes or appreciations are for the day. We do that every night in our home, and it is a great way to see what is important to your children, as well as to nurture gratitude in their hearts. They also get to see what happens in your day, and what is important to you as well. Again, it is about getting into the habit of looking for, and expressing, gratitude. What we focus on expands.
#3: At bedtime, invite your children to share three things they were grateful for today. You share too. If your children enjoy writing, offer for them to keep a gratitude journal. Writing things down (especially what you are grateful for) is very powerful.
Pick one of these activities and just make it fun. You also want to make it informal. Do not press your children for gratitudes; it defeats the whole purpose. And, feel free to give them ideas if they are struggling to think of something. New habits take practice. The habit of gratitude, when nurtured daily, grows pretty quickly. You are planting seeds and fertilizing the soil with consistency and love.
Enjoy creating a grateful family.

education

Printable Food Diary

Diet affects every aspect of health, from your energy level to how quickly you recover from illness (or sometimes even whether or not you get sick). If you're desperate to lose weight, diet is crucial. The right diet choices ensure that you maintain muscle while losing fat and that you don't increase your risk of preventable diseases. So what does this have to do with using a printable food diary?
Despite the importance of daily food choices, very few people can answer questions about calories, grams of fat, fiber, carbs and other important information about their diet and meal choices. The biggest reason for this is probably that they just don't know where to find the information in the first place or how to keep track of it in an easy way.
One excellent choice is to use a printable food diary. While there are food diaries online, it's important to have one that you can print out since you may not eat every meal where you have easy access to the Internet. It's also easy to transfer information from your printable food diary to one online.
Trends that you want to look for include total calorie consumption, intake of different types of fats and the various nutrients that you get from each meal. As you see the trends start to emerge, keep two things in mind. First you want to limit your intake of the unhealthy stuff, like saturated fat and cholesterol. Second, you want to make sure you're getting plenty of the good stuff, like iron, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, etc.
Tracking your diet with a printable food diary is only the first step. Don't forget that good diet choices should be combined with regular exercise. Give your body and your heart something to do with all that metabolized food. The combination good diet and regular exercise will be sure to boost your energy level and stave off the diseases that have been shown to follow poor diet choices.
The biggest challenge to getting benefit from a printable food diary is probably just printing one out and getting started. Here's the easiest way to get started. Create a new document and at the top of the page put the following headings
Date
Meal (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner, S=snack)
Food description
Calories
Fat (grams)
Carbs
Fiber (grams)
Then add blank lines below for each entry in your daily food diary. Remember, the key is simplicity, not complexity. The easier it is to do, the more likely you are to do it. Not to mention that just tracking those details about each meal gives you a ton of information to use when making changes to your diet. Print it out and start tracking with your next meal.

writing

Heal the Soul With a Personal Writing Journal

Keeping a personal writing journal has a powerful way of healing the soul. When writing about what troubles you and all your immediate thoughts on the subject it creates space for solutions to enter your life. When you write down things that excite you it creates an opportunity to reflect back to that feeling and experience with happiness and bliss. Your greatest teacher will become your personal writing journal as you write down your inner thoughts, special events, future plans, successes, difficult challenges, dark thoughts, bright thoughts, major frustrations and life's loves in your journal. You will discover more and more about who you are in the world and why your life is the way that it is.
Your personal journal can be the hidden key to self-discovery and personal growth. This is your own story told in your own words. Find some personal space and write down anything and everything that is going on in your head and your heart and let it flow on paper. Personally for me as I battled deep depression and felt I could never talk to anyone about this darkness I found solace in my journal. I chose a beautiful leather bound journal.
This is not to say that everything you write will be remarkable, but occasionally you will surprise yourself. Personally for me, as I began to attempt to unravel my mind, answers slowly came to me. More importantly it gave me a sense of peace and was a great release of negative energy. My journal was the destination where I got to unburden myself of my troubles by writing them down. It is never good or healthy to "bottle" up your emotions especially if they are serious and negative. These feelings and the energy that surrounds them has to be released. If you feel you cannot talk to anyone about these feelings, write them down. You will surprise yourself! This unlocks doors to solutions and healing.
Writing and keeping a personal journal can put you in control of your life and destiny as it gives you the clearest insight into where you are going and where you have come from, and gives you the opportunity to change the path you are on if you don't like what you see. What you have at this moment will not be what you will ever have for eternity. You can discover what is truly important and rid what is poisonous and useless in your life and put you on that path to happiness and bliss. The three most important words I ever heard.. "Follow Your Bliss"