Art Heals: Express Yourself and Reduce Stress with Art

Art Heals: Express Yourself and Reduce Stress with Art

by Debbie Lyn Toomey


Ever have a terrifying nightmare from childhood that sneaks up on you?

Similar to the usual “falling” dream that some people have, I have one that I call the “Tidal Wave” dream and it happened last weekend. Thanks to art, I was able to rise above the lingering feelings of dread. By drawing and coloring, I literally “drew” out the feelings of uncertainty that stayed with me all morning long.

Nightmare

I hadn’t had this type of nightmare in a long time. I was confused as to why it occurred again. Frankly, I thought I was over that type of dream a long time ago! The last time I had the “Tidal Wave” dream I woke up happy! I was so proud of myself because, instead of being swallowed up by the Statue of Liberty size wave, I was riding the wave with a big smile on my face boldly going where ever it took me.

Transformed

I woke up feeling transformed. That was about 5 years ago when I started to feel more confident and clear about my life’s work (the big “W” work/life purpose one). That was around the time when I started my company Ultimate Healing Journey, LLC, a company focused on motivating and coaching today’s busy people with happiness and mindfulness skills to fuel their success. It was an exciting time!

Wave

Why did the wave dream came back? That dream first occurred when I was much younger; when I didn’t feel strong or sure of myself. Back then, this tsunami size wave would come out of nowhere and swallow me up causing me to gasp for air and fight for my life. I hated that sinking feeling of fright that always stayed with me for days. Although, the Tidal Wave in my recent dream disappeared way before it got to me (thank God!), it still shook me up.

Morning

I thought I was done with this dream! I wondered what could have brought it on. At breakfast, I told me family about it. I always encouraged my family to share their nightmares because I feel it was a good way to chase the nightmares away. In other words, the dark always disappears in the light.

River

After breakfast, my family and I took advantage of an unusually dry and cool August morning and went for a walk down along the Neponset River. The nice day and the cool breeze made it a great day for boaters and fishermen to be out on the relaxing waters. It was such a beautiful scene to watch. I really enjoyed that walk.

Tsunami

Later that day, I found myself sitting at my desk with a blank white piece of paper and a pencil. I decided to draw. The image I started with was the Tidal Wave. It took up 95% of my paper! At the bottom of the page was a tiny stick figure of me as if looking up at the gigantic body of water. I was taken aback when I saw it right in front of me. As I colored this all-consuming wave with my light blue colored marker my breathing soon became fast and shallow. It brought up feelings of frustration and powerlessness and of being overwhelmed! It was strange (and interesting) how my kindergarten looking drawing reflected how I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks.

Stress

The last few weeks have been tiring and tough for me. I did my best to stay afloat of what was going on. I had self-imposed stress such as creating the coloring book companion for my book and trying to get my mindfulness study approved. I also had other stressors that were beyond my control which included dealing with a strange water leak that happened on my birthday and having to go without my car for 2 weeks, helping my 79-year-old mother after having total knee replacement surgery, coping with the fact that my oldest son was ready to move out of our house, and helping my nervous 12-year-old son get excited for his week-long boy scout camping.

Depressed

Thank goodness it wasn’t a typically month for me. Despite my self-care routine of yoga, mindfulness meditation, and gratitude practice, I still felt down and depressed. I hadn’t felt like this in a long time. This became clear as I looked at my finished drawing.

Peace

I decided to draw the image that I saw during my morning walk. On a separate piece of white paper, I drew the river and the boats that were on the water. I found peace in that piece. I outlined the bench that my husband and I sat on and added the shrubs and flowers that were at the river’s edge. As I colored, a deep and soothing breath filled my lungs. It made me smile. Although, my art work was far from being a Renoir filled with pastels and pretty color, it was a relaxing work of art! I noticed my breathing change. It was slower and deeper. There was nothing stressful about my drawing. Then, I took another step.

Feelings

I compared both pictures. I noticed how different they were and how they made me feel. Then, I wrote down on one side of the Tidal Wave picture how the image made me feel. I wrote down my stressors and what caused me sadness. As I listed them, I was surprised at how many I had. The more I wrote, the more my head nodded with agreement.

Balance

I did the same thing with my other drawing. In that one, I wrote down how it made me feel. I wrote that I wanted to have balance, fun, and time to relax and be with my family. Then, I wrote down I how I would like to feel. A couple of ideas came to mind. One was to simplify and slow down my calendar. I created a schedule that included activities and projects that I needed and wanted to do. I made sure I allowed for extra time to rest and have fun. Another idea was to invite my parents over for a homemade pizza dinner so we can see each other and catch up.

Tides

These two drawings were such an eye opener for me. While they were opposites, they gave me an important insight into my internal and downward turbulence. This visual expressive exercise healed me! It freed up so much of what I was feeling in such an innocent and tangible way. I highly recommend this exercise to anyone who is feeling stressed. While a nightmare was the motivator behind my experience, you can start doing this now to determine how you are feeling.

Express

Allow art to heal you from your pain and reduce your stress. All you have to do is express yourself. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art is a form of therapy that helps people “explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.” Don’t let the simplicity of this practice fool you. Art heals and you don’t have to have any artistic talent for it to help you. Any expressive medium can help you such as clay, paint, wood, music, dance, photography, etc.

Benefits

There are many studies that show the beneficial effects of art for healing, stress reduction, and personal growth. Art as form of therapy has helped people with ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Age management, Abuse, PTSD, Cancer, and so much more. Art as a form of therapy is found in many settings such as: hospitals, wellness studios, schools, and home. While it is becoming more widely used, it is always recommended for people with mental health problems to seek professional advice before undergoing any sort of treatment.

How?

For those of you who are not under the supervision and care of mental health professionals, there are simple ways to get started. Here’s how you can express yourself and reduce your stress with art.

1. Choose: Pick the expressive art medium that you like and start creating. Allow the medium to move you.

2. Compare: Do a comparison. Have a before and after version of how you are feeling. It could be a past vs. present or bad vs. good version.

3. Clarity: Accept the different feelings that come up and view them with no judgement. This will help you to avoid clouding your mind with any self-limiting or more negative thoughts.

4. Control: Notice how much a sense of calm, control and confidence comes to you with this exercise.

5. Create: Be creative in how you do this practice. Make this practice your own.

Happiness

Go forth and express yourself through art. You will be surprise at just how much better you will feel afterwards. A great way to get started is by coloring and to help you along, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring book will be available to you by the end of the summer. Coloring books have been proven to calm the mind and reduce stress. It’s a great way to combine art with mindfulness. To learn more about its companion book, The Happiness Result. More time, More health, More love, More success go to www.TheHappinessResult.com.

Class

Master trainer and coach Patrick Howell and I are going to be offering an introductory online course on this topic soon. Please stay tuned for more information on this unique and fascinating art therapy class.

Five Steps to Unleash Your Inner Superhero

Five Steps to Unleash Your Inner Superhero and
Defeat Work/Life Stress
by Debbie Lyn Toomey

Which super hero is your favorite?

Super Man?

Batman?

Wonder Woman?

My favorite is Wonder Woman. Besides being beautiful, brainy, and bold, she embodies so much of what I believe in. For my birthday this year, I asked my 12-year old son, Max, to give me a Lego Wonder Woman key chain. I was so excited the day he gave it to me because now I can carry around a little reminder of how I can unleash my inner superhero to help me defeat work/life stress.

Scratches

One week later, while Max and I were waiting in line at the grocery store, I happily pulled out my new key chain to show him. He examined it closely and immediately said,

“Oh no, it has scratches on it!”

Although, I was surprised that he noticed the tiny scratches on it, I was even more surprised with the reply I gave to him.

Honey, she wouldn’t be Wonder Woman if she didn’t have scratches on her.”

Scars

As we walked across the parking lot over to our car, I thought about what I had just said to him. It made me think about how the adversities that many of the comic-strip super heroes faced allowed them to fully discover their unique power. Then I reflected about my own internal scars that were caused by dealing with life. Some of them were a result of failures, rejections, and feelings of inadequacy.

Strengths

These permanent imprints have become my well-earned badges of honor. They came from moments in my life where I chose to persevere, forcing me to awaken my inner super allies; my inner strengths and talents. Without these negative obstacles and conflicts, I would have never had the chance to discover how strong I am. I wouldn’t have known what I was really made of. These were epic moments that made me resilient in dealing with life’s ups and downs.

Soar

As mortals, we may not wear capes but we can soar to the top of our game. Here are five ways to unleash your own inner superhero so that you can defeat work/life stress.

1. Reflect- Think about your life in the past year and reflect on your challenges. Determine what you did in all cases that helped you rise above the circumstance.

2. Recognize- Watch for patterns in what you did and how you did it. The more you recognize your strong and positive actions the more you can “own them” and be proud of them. You can consider these positive attributes as your strengths.

3. Remember- Have reminders of your strengths. Whether it’s a powerful quote, an image, or a Lego key chain of your favorite hero, use something that will align you to your best self.

4. Read- Once you know your strengths, read more about how you can strengthen them. If you haven’t already, take courses or learn from a coach or mentor about how you can make them your own super powers.

5. Reap– Ask people in your life to list your positive attributes. Reap the positive words that they use to describe you. Compare their list with yours. Notice the similarities and notice ones that you did not think about but agreed with. You can consider the similarities as your top strengths in this case and the others your lesser strengths.

Support

Use all of your strengths. They will help you deal with work/life stress. The more you learn how to unleash your super-hero-self, the more you can beat work/life stress and become your own hero. To gain support and learn more about how to become the best version of your super self, email me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com to see how we can work together.

Five Self-Care Tips for the Sandwich Generation & Caregivers

Five Self-Care Tips for the
Sandwich Generation & Caregivers
By Debbie Lyn Toomey


Do you remember your first job?

I do. My first job was working at a local sub and pizza shop. It was great! I gained so much from that job that if I didn’t work there, I wouldn’t have had a Junior prom date, met my future husband, or learned how to make a killer sausage, pepper and onion sub. The wide range of multitasking life skills that I learned from making subs prepared me for what lay ahead in life as a wife, mother, professional, and daughter of aging parents. It helped me accept being sandwiched. I am a part of the sandwich generation, a generation that has her own family and aging parents.

Sandwiched

The term “sandwich” generation was coined by social worker, Dorothy A. Miller MSSW. She described them as a generation of adults who are “sandwiched” between their own parents and their grown children and subjected to mental, emotional, or financial stress. The Pew Research Center states that, “one out of every eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 care directly for an aging parent while an additional seven to ten million Americans help their parents or other aging relatives even from a long distance.” This number is expected to increase due to the number of aging baby boomers.

Full

Don’t get me wrong! I am not complaining. In fact, I consider myself extremely lucky. My life is full. It’s wonderful to live close to my parents because we get to look out for each other. For example, my three boys help out with the garden, snow shoveling, and heavy lifting. At times, I make extra food to drop off to my parent’s house and vice a versa. It’s a win-win situation. I get to look after all the people that I love closely. I consider it an act of love, a duty, and a blessing; not a burden.

Burnt

Life is good when everyone is healthy. It’s not so good when someone gets sick or needs surgery. I remember getting a case of “walking pneumonia” after helping to take care of both my mother who had her first hip surgery and also my father who needed emotional support. The stress from worrying about my parents, working a full-time job and taking care of my own family made me get sick. It wasn’t until I saw the doctor weeks later, after feeling weak and short of breath, that I found out I had pneumonia!

Stress

The stress of it all made me sick. I felt worried about my parents. I didn’t sleep well from working different shifts at the hospital and also from being worried. I became impatient and irritable with my family about little things because I was tired. I would cry when no one was around because I didn’t want people to think I was weak or afraid. This negative spiral of stress and worry eventually made me ill. I will never forget that time because it was then that I realized how important self-care is for caregivers.

Five Tips

My bout with pneumonia gave me a self-protective and self-loving view of health for the caregiver. Here are five tips that can help the sandwich generation or caregivers become more stress resilient:

1. Positivity: See this time in your life as special because you are at the peak of your life. A time when you know better and can do better for those you love. The more you see the good in this situation the better. It will fuel your spirit instead of making you feel bitter and burdened. See all the good in your life.

2. Sleep: The more sleep you can get the more you will be effective and emotionally fit. Sleep is your best ally during these stressful times. Take naps when needed. Close your eyes and rest.

3. Savor: Open your eyes to all the love you have around you during this time in your life. Be grateful to have your kids, your spouse, and your parents around. Someday, someone will not be there and everything will change. Open your eyes and your heart.

4. Outlet: Give yourself permission to feel angry, frustrated, or resentful. You are human and these are normal feelings to have when something is not right in your life. A great way to let go of these emotions is talking with someone who cares about you. Give yourself permission to be human.

5. Exercise: Physical activity is great outlet for stress. It is a great use of your energy and it will make you feel better about doing something proactive towards your health. Take walks or go for a run to clear your mind.

Privilege

Next time you are eating at the dinner table with those you love, think about how lucky you are because life can change in a single moment. It’s a privilege to be a part of the sandwich generation because it’s an opportunity for me to help out my parents and also a way for me to further demonstrate to my boys how families take care of each other. I hope you enjoyed these the five tips. If you need further support on how to take care of yourself during these difficult times, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com for coaching.

The Upside of Bad – How to Find the Silver Lining During the Bad Times

The Upside of Bad. How to Find the Silver Lining During the Bad Times.
By Debbie Lyn Toomey

 

Two weeks ago, I got sick. Sick enough that I had to stay on my couch for four days. I couldn’t do anything because I was achy, sweaty, and weak from the flu. I haven’t been ill like that in five years. Because of this, I got way behind with my work and came back to hundreds of emails in my inbox waiting for a reply.

Sick

During my awake times on the couch, I wondered if I willed this to happen. Because days earlier, I wished I had a day of rest with nothing to do. Then before you know it, I got sick!

Have you ever willed yourself sick so you can get rest?

What did you do?

Did you work despite the fact you had no energy or will to do anything?

A Break

Not me. When I am sick, I just don’t feel like doing anything. After a day of feeling badly about missing work, I decided to give myself a break. I gave myself self-compassion and self-care. I basically nursed myself back to health with rest, liquid, and medicine. Instead of forcing myself to work, I gave myself permission to be human and to trust the whole process. I realized that my immune system was low from overworking and worrying too much about my impending projects.

Let Go

Laying on my couch barely having energy to walk from one room to another, I was able to see things with better perspective. I realized that I had to slow down and let go of any extra burdens that I placed on myself. Despite the glassy-eyed look I had in my eyes from having the flu, I was able to see my life and work with clarity. I saw what was important and what was not. In other words, I found a silver lining in my sad moment. You can do it too.

Silver Lining

You don’t have to wait until you are bed-ridden and sick to see the silver lining of whatever it is you are experiencing in life. Here are three questions you can ask yourself to get started in finding the silver lining during bad times.

1. Ask yourself what has been working well in your situation?

Focus on the good. Taking time to reflect on the good things that have happened will make you feel happier about yourself.

2. Ask who has been helpful to you?

Who has your back? The more we recognize and appreciate the people who are on our side and help us the more we will feel supported and less alone.

3. Ask what successes you have accomplished recently?

Count your winnings. Celebrating all successes (big and small) will give you confidence and positivity.

Reflect

Life is so busy and can be discouraging if we don’t take the time to find the silver lining during the bad moments. Don’t wait for the situations to get worse. The best way to see the silver lining clearly is to stop and reflect upon who and what you have around you that is good and worth celebrating.

Support

If you or your organization needs more support in increasing positivity levels and finding the silver lining, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com for ways we can work together.

3 Super Simple Tips to Help You Succeed with Your Bucket List in 2017

3 Super Simple Tips to Help You Succeed with Your Bucket List in 2017
by Debbie Lyn Toomey

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Happy New Year to you and yours!

I love this time of the year because it is the time for new beginnings. It’s the time of the year when we can fill our clean New Year’s slate with our bucket list of goals. It’s a time for reflection and intention.

Questions for You

1. What do you want for yourself this year? Once you get an answer. Go to the next question.

2. What do you really, really, really want for yourself this year? Take your time and dig down to discern what you want. Once you get your answer, imagine what that will look like and how you will feel once you have it. Repeat questions 1 and 2 until you have your bucket list of goals for this year.

Regardless of what your goals are for this year, I have learned and experienced that there are 3 super simple ways to ensure that you not only reach your goals but also sustain them.
Like so many people in the world, I have my own New Year’s goals because I am passionate about growing into the best version of myself.

I Fell in Love

I reached many of the goals that I set for myself last year. One of them was having a regular yoga practice. My mind and body fell in love with yoga after just a few classes. I felt less stressed and my body became stronger and more flexible. I wanted it to become a part of my life, and I wanted to go to yoga classes more. Unfortunately, I found no sessions that fit my ever-changing schedule. My schedule was tight. I didn’t want to waste my time driving to and from classes in addition to committing to an hour yoga class. That’s when I got creative.

A Newbie

I realized that there was another way to add a yoga practice into my full day. It was doing it at home! I wanted to give it a try. “Why not? It was better than nothing,” I thought. I challenged myself to do a 30-day yoga challenge that I found on YouTube. I chose Yoga with Adriene. I liked her vibrant energy and her philosophy of yoga. What initially was an intimidating challenge for a newbie-yogini like me, eventually became something that I looked forward to every morning. When the 30 days finished, I started venturing out picking and choosing the yoga practice that worked for me and my schedule. Yoga has since become a part of my life.

KISS

Curious about how I was able to create a sustainable home yoga practice? It’s easy. I used the KISS principle of “keeping it super simple” to avoid setting myself up for failure. I wanted my practice to work for me and not the other way around. In order for it to support me, I had to anticipate and accept the fact that there would be days that I will miss due to unexpected life circumstances. Understanding this made the process nicer for me because I didn’t feel guilty when I did miss a morning ritual.

Here’s are my 3 Super Simple Tips to Help You Succeed in 2017:

1. 20-Second-Rule
Every evening, I placed my yoga clothes next to my bed so that when I woke up; it was the first thing, besides my husband, that I saw in the morning. This technique is based on the 20-second rule that Shawn Achor shared in his book, The Happiness Advantage. By taking a few seconds to put my yoga clothes by my bed the night before, this crucial step ensured that I would not miss my morning practice. Once I put on my yoga clothes right after getting up, there was only one thing to do, and it was…yoga. “Set yourself up for success. Prepare and take a small action the night before.”

2. Create Your Rules
After the 30-day yoga challenge, I decided to allow my mind and body to choose the best yoga practice it needed that day. If my neck and shoulders were tight, then I chose a practice that focused on those areas. I made sure that this home practice was practical for me. Because I work long hours on certain days and have other days off, I defined my yoga practice as “any purposeful stretching or movement” that I can do in the morning. I created the rules that worked for me. While sometimes it was a 60-minute practice, other times it was a 5-minute practice that involved a couple of forward bends, stretches, and a few deep breaths. “It’s your practice. Define it on your own terms!”

3. Self-Compassion
Life happens, and it derails us from our normal routine. I know that I am not alone in this. Every time I noticed myself getting side-tracked from my morning yoga ritual, I gave myself a break and practiced self-kindness. I gave myself self-compassion when I didn’t have the time to commit to my morning yoga practice. There were times last year where my personal practice needed to take the back seat because my family needed me such as when my father had his heart surgery, when my mother needed someone to talk with, or when my kids got sick. That is life. In order to make up for the lost day of practice, I made sure I did a yoga practice the following day and a longer practice on the weekend. “When you get thrown off the track, give yourself permission to be human then jump back on.”

Applicable to Anything

I hope these 3 Super Simple Tips are super simple enough for you to be successful at achieving the goals in your 2017 bucket list. These tips can be applied to anything that you want to manifest this year. Remember to keep it super simple so that it will be easier for you in the long run. My goal this year will be sleep. I want to add 30 more minutes to my sleeping hours a night. What is yours? Please share below.

Need Support?

If you need support in how to reach your goals this year, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today. I’m here for you. If you want an “awesome” journal to manifest with, get my new book, The Happiness Result- Goals, Gratitude, & Success Journal. This powerful journal will help you create more positive habits to train your mind and heart to dream big, expect goodness, and have fun! In the meantime, I wish you a happy and healthy 2017!

a-HAHS Tip #6 Bye Bye Loneliness

 

Do you ever feel lonely and need someone around to talk to or just be with?

Why not try doing something for someone.

When you do a random act of kindness or volunteer for a good cause you are doing something positive for more than one person.

Here’s what happens:

  1. You have a purpose that day.
  2. You make a difference in someone’s life.
  3. You connect with someone.

Next time you are feeling lonely just know that you can get out of rut by just getting out of the house and doing something kind for someone. This is a great way to say bye bye to your loneliness and hello to kindness.

If you are interested in learning more about ways to increase your level of happiness contact us at info@HealthandHappinesssSpecialist.com.

The Secret Sauce to Savoring the Holidays for Busy People

by Debbie Lyn Toomey Speaker, Author, Trainer

2 Key Ingredients (2)-53277

 

How many times have you heard yourself or others say any of these statements recently?

“I cannot believe the holidays are here already!”

“What can I do this year so that I can enjoy myself for a change?”

“How am I going to get all my work done and still have time to shop for presents?”

Yes, folks it’s true! It’s the middle of November and it’s officially the holiday season. While it may seem like Father Time sprinted through 2015 (instead of marching), there are ways to have him slow down so we can relax, reflect, and rest and enjoy the end of the year before the new one begins.  My “secret sauce” will help you can gain more time to cherish this wonderful season. 

Bitter-Sweet

If you’re like many busy people, you’re probably still trying to remember what you did last month! Realizing the fact that the holidays are suddenly upon us can be enough to make some people cringe and even cry. Although traditionally this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” some people find it difficult to be happy for various reasons such as:  having too much on their plate from work- life responsibilities, lack of financial stability, and lack of support from others. Unfortunately, the holidays can be a bitter sweet time of the year where it can feel like salt has been added to deep unresolved wounds.

Too much!

Time does have a way of escaping us because of our busy work and life schedules. It’s becoming more and more difficult to stop and slow down.  I’ve coached many busy people who fall into the same old trap of doing and planning. The mere thought of sitting and reflecting takes a back seat because it seems like an unproductive use of our time. As mentioned in my forthcoming book on living a productive and positive life, “Our time management skills are constantly being challenged because of the compounding distractions that are coming from all directions as well as our shortening attention span. Our lives are filled with so many distractions both external and internal multi-sensorial stimuli. The external stimuli come from two main sources: technology and team. Our techie toys are so distracting that even the mere presence of them on our desk tempts us to touch them and use them when we don’t need to.  The teams of people in our personal and professional lives can be a source of support or stress.  As if those distractions are not enough, we also get internal distractions that bombard and overload us with negative thoughts that ruminate and keep us from feeling good and proud of ourselves. These inner distractions add to self- sabotage, keeping us from producing easily and effectively.”  We have so much to contend with in our daily lives that for some the holidays can become more of a burden instead of a blessing.

Special for Everyone

Yes, the holidays are upon us and with them come their own sets of stressors such as shopping for “that perfect gift,” having a reasonable financial holiday budget, decorating, and going to parties. While some love this time of the year, studies have shown that there is an increase in depression, suicide attempts, and drug and alcohol use for others. No one is safe from the stress that happens during this time of the year.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), women experience a higher level of stress than men during the holidays. It is because women tend to take on the work burden to ensure the best possible holiday traditions are celebrated.

The Secret Sauce for a Health & Happy Holiday Season- Gratitude & Mindfulness (6)-11180

 

What’s in that Sauce?

Although stress is unavoidable, there are two ways of adding sweetness to the holiday season that will get even the busiest CEO whistling his favorite holiday tune as he greets his team. These two ingredients create such a rich combination that they can’t help but awaken all the senses. The two special ingredients that make up the secret sauce are: gratitude and mindfulness. When added together they can: turn bitterness into sweet, make the tough into tender, and heavy into something light. This secret sauce combination is the easiest and most practical way for today’s busy professionals to relish and savor the holiday season so that they have more time to celebrate, communicate, and connect with those they care about.

 Yummy moments

Gratitude and Mindfulness are great ways to bring purposeful awareness, attention, and appreciation to your holiday experience. Together they will give you: more time to be productive, an increased sense of purpose in your actions, and greater positivity in your day. Practicing gratitude is a heart-centered practice that can make you feel connected, blessed, and special.  Practicing mindfulness can make you feel more alive, awake, and allowing. Both of these two techniques combined have hundreds of studies that prove their ability to improve health, boost happiness, enhance relationships, and increase productivity during the holiday season. The beauty of these two practices happens during the millions of micro-moments throughout the day. The “practice” happens when we purposely remember what is happening within us and around us—without judgment. Exercising these new habits will deepen your neural pathways and ensure sustainable success in creating positive experiences in your life.

Recipe for a Sweet Holiday Season

Directions:

  1. Ask yourself what you want this holiday season to look and feel like for you. Just like with any recipe that you’ve never made before you might first have to look at the picture so that you will have an idea of what the dish will look like.
  2. “Prepave” your holiday festivities with the feeling and images of what you would like it to be for yourself. “Prepaving” is a way of creating and attracting what you want through visualization and positive emotions. Feel as if it is happening now. Have fun using your imagination to visualize and tune into what your holiday celebration is going to be like. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Picture yourself purposefully being aware and appreciative of what’s going on around you so that you will experience the beauty of the season so much more.
  3. Practice and play with the secret sauce ingredients throughout your days and nights.
  4. Enjoy adding other quality ingredients to this special sauce such as: creativity, courage, and self-compassion.

Key Ingredients:

1. Gratitude:

According to gratitude expert, Robert Emmons, gratitude is defined as a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” In other words, it’s more than just saying “thanks.”   This year instead of sitting in traffic just to shop from place to place, save yourself some time and lots of misery by staying at home.  Instead of shopping for gifts why not make them in a form of a gratitude letter to those you care about. This practice has been proven to boost levels of happiness for a weeks and weeks for both the writer and the recipient.

Here’s how to get started. Think of that special someone in your life that you need to get a gift for. Get a piece of paper (preferably a nice stationary) and write down how they have impacted your life in a positive way. Write from your heart and elaborate as much as you can. When you are done put it in an envelope and personally deliver it to that person and ask them to read it in front of you. Notice their expression. Notice yours. Notice how this loving practice can turn your holiday into a magical one. Try to do this to for as many people as you can. Schedule a time every evening during this holiday season to write out one letter to deliver in person. If you allow yourself to do one letter at a time, you’ll notice what may seem like a burden in the beginning will become a blessing in the end.  The practice of gratitude will make you feel blessed and blissful. Once you get into your gratitude letter writing routine this holiday season notice how you look forward to doing it each day or night. This delicious ritual will gift you the special time to relax, reflect, and remember so many golden moments that you’ve shared with your loved ones. You’ll thank yourself for doing this!

2. Mindfulness:

According to mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Any activity when done purposely and with a beginners mind is considered a mindfulness activity. In other words, activities such as washing the dishes, walking, or watching can be a mindfulness activity as long as the person purposely aims to notice and experience that particular activity fully and without judgment.

Here’s how to begin this practice. During this holiday season, purposely gift yourself about 20 minutes of mindfulness by focusing on one of the five senses at a time. Start with mindfulness seeing and purposely notice all the shapes and colors that you see around you. Once you see something that catches your eye, look even closer. What do you see? Do you see any intricate patterns that make up that particular object? Notice the different shades of colors that meld together to make the colors that you see. Is that object manmade? If so, think about how that particular item made it there in front of you. Look with a beginner’s eye and notice as much as you can in that period of time. The next time you plan your mindful sit, try another sense like taste. Practice savoring when you are eating all the delicious food during your holiday festivities. Imagine as though it was the first time you’ve tasted that food. Notice how long it took you to chew it and swallow it. Try to figure out the flavors that were used in that particular dish. Notice how slowing down and savoring your food helps you stay on track with your diet because you are appreciating each bite and notice when your stomach is full. Practicing mindfulness during this holiday season might just be one of the easiest ways to keep the extra pounds off by mindfully noticing what goes in to your body. Imagine going into the New Year without having to add “lose holiday weight” in your New Year’s Resolution!

Adding gratitude and mindfulness will surely add more richness to your holidays.  This delicious combination of ingredients will kick up your festivities a notch so that you can have your cake and eat it too– without guilt. Once you begin practicing these techniques, you will notice that you have more time for more important things and people in your life. Cultivating gratitude and mindfulness in your busy life will not only make you healthier and happier but also add more harmony to your life.  Begin today and look around you. Challenge yourself to find something new that you haven’t seen before. Have fun and have yourself a healthy and happy holiday season!

Do you have a way of making this holiday season fun and stress-free? Please share your suggestions with me below. Thank you in advance!

 

It’s all about the “Thanks!”

Are you interested in increasing your levels of abundance, attention, and appreciation?

Are you looking for ways to add more beauty and bliss in your life?

Are you willing to try a 30-day challenge that can change your life for the better?

Try a 30-day gratitude journal challenge, in honor of World Gratitude Day that was Monday, September 21, 2015. Gratitude is not only the mother of all virtues but also gives birth to so many wonderful emotions.

I love the practice of gratitude because it is totally free and it will make you feel so rich, blessed, and lucky! How great is that! This amazingly simple gratitude practice when done consistently can do so much for you and those around you. Keeping a gratitude journal does the following:

– Enhances concentration
– Deepens relationships
– Boosts happiness
– Increases appreciation
– Improves success
– Enhances sleep
– Boosts attention
– Increases awareness
– Decreases depression
– Improves connections
– Enhances communications
– Builds community
– Boosts compassion
– Cancels envy
– And so much more!

Still not convinced? Why not give it a go for the next 30 days? You’ve got nothing to lose but EVERYTHING to gain!

Here’s how to start your 30-Day Gratitude Journal Challenge:

1. Pick a date to begin.
2. Decide on the time of day you’ll write
3. Remind yourself to look for good things to write about.
4. Notice everything and everyone around you worth writing about.
5. Journal on 3 (or more) good things that you experienced each day.
6. Explain reason why you were grateful for them.
7. Use reminders such as quotes and images to inspire and motivate you.
8. Let family and friend know what you are doing.
9. Invite them to participate.
10. Share your goods with each other.

Remember, there is always something to be grateful for.

This practice has been a game-changer for me and many of my clients. Begin this simple practice today and reap the abundance all around you.

*** Special bonus: Join hundreds of grateful people from around the globe in my 30-Day Greatness through Gratitude Challenge group on Facebook. Check in with your 3 ‘goods’ everyday and enjoy reading about everyone else’s too!

Many thanks!

New Normal

I don’t know about you but this summer has been a roller coaster of incredible and intense emotions. It has been filled with some endings and wonderful beginnings. Between my wedding anniversary, my two oldest sons’ graduations, birthdays, and new opportunities, this has been an unforgettable summer. It’s a summer that emphasizes having appreciation for those you love and how much they have impacted your life.

New-Normal
There’s a “new-normal” that’s unfolded for me. I learned about this description after spending an afternoon with a friend just days after losing his 84 year old father from cancer. As I sat with him in the park, he told me that now that his father has passed, both he and his mother had to get use to a “new normal” way of living.

Bittersweet
As for me and my family our “new-normal” takes on many bittersweet forms. Our “new normal” consists of adjusting to my oldest son living at home and working in Boston with a prospect of being relocated to Chicago. Another “new normal” change is getting used to not having my middle son home. This week kicks off his 1st week of living at college and away from home. Lastly, my other “new normal” is supporting my youngest as he starts a new school. In the grand scheme of things, my “new-normals” are all great news and certainly something that my husband and I are both proud of. It still does not help with the feelings of longing for the good-old-days of having everyone at home, all together, safe and sound, and silly-at-times. No matter what you call it – separation anxiety, the “new-normal” or simply life, is still painful. It hurts when you no longer have the person that you love near you to talk with and sit with like before.

Life
As a Health & Happiness Specialist™, I often share my own experiences in my programs. Happiness is nothing without pain or sadness. Life will deliver each of us good and not-so-good times. This is what makes life very interesting. Nothing good lasts forever and nothing bad lasts forever too. There a dynamic motion that propels us forward to become better than before if we allow it. The secret is to feel the negative emotions and allow them to surface so that we can move on. It’s when we hold on to our negative emotions that we start suffering in many ways that can manifest as severe depression, insomnia, gastro-esophageal reflux, chest pain, anger, over eating, and so much more.

3 Ways to Feel Better
Fortunately, with the increase in positive psychology research there are so many effective ways to help people cope with life’s challenges. The science of happiness has many solutions that help people grow and thrive so that they can be the best version of themselves.

Here are 3 ways to feel better:
1. Do something kind for others. When you think outside of your own situation and do kind deeds for others, you begin to feel happier.
2. Physical activity. Doing any type of physical activity is a positive way of releasing your sadness and stress.
3. Contact someone. Whether it is going to church to pray or calling up a friend. Connecting with others enhances relationships which often lead to greater happiness.

How about You?
If you are struggling with life’s ups and downs right now, trust that where there is darkness there also is light. If you need a coach to help you reach your personal or professional goals please contact Debbie Lyn at healthandhappinessspecialist@gmail.com