Five Simple Steps for a Successful Day

Five Simple Steps for a Successful Day

Debbie Lyn Toomey RN, author of The Happiness Result

Whether you work from home or not, what you do before you tackle your day can either make you or break you. These five simple steps will keep you from drowning due to feelings of frustration and overwhelm.

Just as you would pack an umbrella or wear a raincoat due to predicted rain, there are also simple steps to take to prevent you from sinking like the Titanic. It is possible to stay afloat despite knowing that you will have a crazy busy day.

Below are five simple steps for a successful day. They are:

  1. List – Set yourself up for success by writing down what your to-do list is before going to bed. This is a fantastic way to empty your mind and help you begin the next day with a solid plan. While it’s tempting to create lists within your list, keep your to-do task items to five or less. Begin by asking yourself one question. This principle is based on Steven Covey’s time management system of focusing your time and energy on the quadrant that you deem as being non-urgent and important to you. The topics that fall under this quadrant are building relationships, reevaluating priorities, planning, and prevention. Ask yourself this question. 

“What are the three non-urgent but important tasks for me tomorrow?”

  1. Star – Once you’re done creating your list, take a deep breath and ask yourself which of the five items is one that will create the greatest ripple of opportunities for you. Put a star next to that item and do it as soon as you can the next day. Doing this will help you feel ahead of the game and set in motion a more focused, organized, and successful day.
  1. Time – Once you’ve made your short list and placed the allotted time you want to spend on them, gamify your to-do list by trying to beat the clock. After you put the amount of time you want to spend on each task and stick to it. Doing this will keep you from dragging your feet and getting distracted. Beat the clock and do the task as fast as you can. Your prize is time. Use your extra time for self-care during that day.

Feel like a winner the rest of the day by completing your task list and having extra time to slack. Having time for slack in your schedule is something that Herminia Ibarra, author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader talks about that every great leader does. Slack is time that you spend doing something that is purposely unstructured to help you gain a new and fresh perspective in what you are supposed to do. This well-earned free time will help you go back to work with greater clarity and productivity.

  1. Celebrate – Once you are done with all of your to-do items, give yourself a high-five, hug yourself or shout out a big “Woo-Hoo!” It’s important to celebrate successes throughout the day so that you are able to feel that your efforts have been effective. Don’t wait for others to recognize your great deeds. Do it yourself. The more you do this, the happier you will be.
  1. Gratitude – While there is always something to do, it’s also very important to practice gratitude by appreciating all the good that you have done. A wonderful gratitude practice to do at the end of a busy day is asking yourself what are the three good things that happened that day. This will help ensure that your day was not only productive but also positive.

The little time you invest in doing these five steps will pay off in the long run. The more you do them, the more you can feel victorious in being able to ride the waves of your busy work day. To learn how to work more effectively and successfully, contact me for 1:1 coaching support at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today.

Self-Compassion for Work / Life Success

Self-Compassion for Work / Life Success
by Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, CIPP

Have you ever quit on a project because of a mistake?

Did that mistake make you doubt your own ability to complete a task? 

Did your inner critic feast on your blunder and allow your old thought patterns and belief systems to hijack you?

Instead of persevering, did you throw in the towel and give up?

You are not alone.

I’ve been there and done that! Situations like these have knocked me down for months, leaving me feeling insecure and incompetent. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and thought I was the only one who could make such a blunder. They shook my self-confidence and faith. Fortunately, I learned about the practice of self-compassion. Self-compassion lifted me up and helped me shake off the lingering “I’m a loser and leave me alone” mentality.

From what I discovered this feeling is not uncommon. Many of us have experienced this and while some stopped their projects all together, others gave themselves permission to be human and press forward. The latter group used self-compassion which helped them continue through until completion.

What is self-compassion?

I define this powerful practice of self-compassion as a commitment to accepting, befriending, and loving yourself, despite what you think about yourself. Simply put, it is compassion that you would give to someone you care about, turned inwardly towards yourself. It’s accepting all aspect of who you are no matter how imperfect you see yourself.

 

Kristen Neff’s research on self-compassion has found that this practice leads to a happy life and helps us cope and become resilient.

Recently Tufts Medical Center’s interim CEO invited me to speak at the Tufts Medical Center 1st Nursing Grand Rounds. I spoke about self-compassion and how it can help with self-happiness, resilience, and wellbeing. During one part of my speech, I explained that self-compassion can help us become more resilient when doing a task because it can be a source of inner strength that fuels us instead of one that frustrates and stops us. The grit and willingness to forge forward comes from knowing that trial and error is part of the creative process. Further, it is within these instances that we gain the sense of mastery over the process.

On the other hand, when a project is tackled with perfection in mind, any mistakes or delays can quickly be conceived as incompetence, ignorance, and a waste of valuable time. In this instance, the pressure to perform flawlessly adds to the stress which increases the chances of a flood of unwanted negative emotions that can increase the chance of more mistakes to happen.

To gain more success instead of more stress, next time you begin a project, try the practice of self-compassion. Not only will you complete the task, you will also enjoy the process along the way. The practice of self-compassion has helped me tremendously by stopping the self-punitive dialogue that gets triggered when I fail or make mistakes.

One quick self-compassion technique that can help you is to notice how you soothe or comfort yourself when you are stressed. Do you like warmth, a soothing touch, or comforting voice? The more you recognize what you do for yourself during these situations the more you can do for yourself in the future. Because we are human beings, we respond to the mammalian care-giving process of warmth, touch, or soothing voice. Next time you are stressed and need extra tender-loving-care (TLC), try any one of these three interventions to give yourself the self-compassion that you need to be a success at work or in life.

For coaching support and to learn more about self-compassion and how you can use it to gain more success in both your work and life, contact me at Debbielyn@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today.

“I Get to” vs. “I Have to”: How to Add Meaning to What You Do

I recently met with a CEO of a hospital to discuss a program that I want to do for health care professionals for stress reduction and wellbeing. In the 30 minutes we spent together, I got a sense of how passionate he was about being a doctor and a hospital administrator.

As he reminisced about the past and how he learned about leadership, he said something that struck me. He said that no matter how busy the day may seem, he “gets to” make a difference by doing something that he loves. While I left the meeting excited knowing that he fully supports the program, I also felt inspired by his work ethic. He said something that I don’t hear many leaders or manager say and that is “I get to…”

Whether it is at work or at home, the idea of having to do something can be tiring and frustrating, right?

How many times do you say to yourself, “I have to…”? 

“It’s Monday and I have to go to work today.” This mindset feels heavy and sad which makes the rest of the day drag even more.

I have to go to a lot of meetings today.” There is powerlessness and frenzy in this way of thinking which will make you less effective when joining these meetings. 

“My room is a mess and I have to clean.” There is no sense of importance in this way of thinking. That is probably why many procrastinate doing this chore. 

Next time you feel like this, stop and think about the difference it will make in those instances to say “I get to.” No matter how big or small. Make a mental list of what can’t be done without you. Once you have your list add the words “I Get to” in front of it so that you will feel better about your role. Whether you are a farmer, a cashier, or a nurse, remember that what you do matters and without you, your community may not thrive.

Notice the difference in the sentences below.

“It’s Monday and I get to go to work today.” There are many unemployed people out there who would switch position with you in a second.

I get to go to a lot of meetings today.” When you shift from the “have to” to “get to” mindset, you will be at your game in all your meetings instead of feeling lost.

“My room is a mess and I get to clean it.” Cleaning and decluttering are physical activities that allow you to burn calories and create room for abundance.

I invite you to play with these three words this week and notice how happy and fulfilled you feel at the end of the day. This is a great exercise that can add more meaning to your life.

If you need coaching on how to add more happiness and meaning into your life contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com . Also, if you like to color, be sure to purchase a copy of my latest book, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book. It’s a great book for focusing, relaxing, and inspiration www.TheHappinessResult.com.

How to Use Gratitude for Stress Reduction and Resiliency


Next time, you find yourself in the middle of a project that is too stressful or tedious to do, think of gratitude. Gratitude can help you “hack” into your happiness so that you can reduce your stress and boost your productivity.

What exactly is gratitude?

Gratitude is not only a virtue, it is also a science, one of the 24 Character Strengths in the VIA Classification of Strengths, and a way of living a resilient life.

Researcher Robert Emmons, defines gratitude as a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”

Gratitude trains the brain to look for the good. This heart-felt practice reminds us that we are connected to something bigger and greater than ourselves. It helps us realize that there is also something to be “thankful” for in every moment of our life no matter what or how we are feeling.

Here are 5 simple gratitude steps that you can use for stress reduction and productivity.

  1. Take three big deep breaths.
  2. Look around you.
  3. Find three (big or small) things to be grateful for.
  4. State why you are grateful for them. *Hint *If you can’t find anything, you are not looking hard enough. Look for something that if you didn’t have it, your work would be 10 times harder and longer to do.
  5. Notice how much better you feel just after a few minutes of doing this gratitude exercise.
  6. Repeat steps 1 – 5 until you feel better.

If you haven’t guessed by now, this whole “thank you” process is a simple way for you to cultivate the practice of gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude builds optimism, reduces stress, and boosts happiness. Personally, my life was made even better from practicing gratitude. It’s enriched my relationships, helped me cope during my mother’s cancer journey, and also gave me a positive outlet when I felt overwhelmed. Gratitude is a practice that I enjoy teaching in my workshops and also in my coaching session with clients.

Great news!

I have opened up more slots to coach new clients. If you are looking for coaching to help you live the best version of your life, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com.

You will be thankful you did.

 

Mindfulness and Happiness Through Art Making

Mindfulness and Happiness Through Art Making
by Debbie Lyn Toomey

 

Are you a doodler or a dabbler of any arts?

As a visual learner and self-taught artist, I’ve always turned to some form of art making activity to help me quiet my mind and soothe my spirit. I love creating anything with my hands. I love to draw, paint, take pictures, etc. I remember many years ago, in nursing school, I used art to help me study. I used to draw what I learned in my science classes to help me remember what I was learning. For me, using art this way provided me with a positive outlet to help handle my stress. The mindfulness and happiness I experience through art has always been a game changer for me.

Flow

Any form of arts therapy based exercises put me in the state of flow. The concept of flow according to positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the secret to happiness. When you are in the state of flow, you are in “the zone.” The zone is where you are fully immersed in an activity and your whole being comes to life. It’s mindfulness in motion at its best! Being in flow, makes you lose track of time because of the combination of doing something you love and pushing yourself to the next level. Art making is one of my favorite mindfulness practices because it helps me get into the zone and makes me happier.

Participants

As a workshop leader and mindfulness educator, I introduce arts therapy based exercises to my participants. I use art making as another form of mindfulness to help people reduce stress. Mindfulness is being in the present moment purposely and with no judgment. And what better way to explain that definition than through art. I use art therapy based interventions as an avenue for people to add play to their day and to feel better.

Workshops

My signature workshops incorporate positive psychology, the science of happiness and mindfulness, for people of all ages. There is something magical about taking time for art that makes everyone excited. When I pull out the colored pencils and paper and explain the art making technique that I am about to cover, the room is silent and all eyes are on me. It’s a class that everyone absolutely loves! There is a general sense of relief when I explain that not only are they creating art but also experiencing a mindfulness state that reduces stress, increases focus, and boosts their sense of wellbeing.

Creative Process

Art making is not about having a perfect and professional looking master piece. It’s about the creative process that gives way to self-healing, personal transformation, and mindfulness. The process of creation is as important as the end product that reveals so much of what you are not able to put into words.

How to

Here’s how you can access mindfulness through art making and become happier.

1. Preference – Determine what form of expressive art you love. If you don’t have a preference, try doodling. Doodling is spontaneously drawing lines on a piece of paper. Doodling has been found to help with remembering and retaining information.

2. Supply– Have your supplies readily available and accessible. If it is out of sight, then it is out of mind. Keep it visible so that you will remember to do it when you need it most. Have extra supplies at work and in your bag. Set yourself up for success and keep your arts therapy based tools handy.

3. Exercise– When you are doing your arts therapy based exercise, notice the feelings and emotions that you have before, during, and after the practice. What did you learn about yourself and the situation that might have upset you.

4. Masterpiece– Study your art piece and non-judgmentally observe what you did. Are you getting any insights or inspirations? Are there any surprises from what you are seeing?

5. Write– Journal about your experiences to learn more about the art piece you have in front of you. You may start the journal by completing this sentence:

“This art piece is about…” Write for a few minutes until you feel you have flushed out as much hidden meaning as possible from what you just created.

6. Read– When you are done writing, read what you wrote. You will learn more from doing this.

Permission

If the pen is mightier than the sword then, next time you are stressed, pick up a pen (or colored pencil) and make your mark on a piece of paper and express yourself. Give yourself permission to take the time to do this. Pour your feelings and emotions in between the strokes. Notice how you feel during the whole process. The more you do this, the more you will gravitate to it as a stress reducing activity that makes you feel better and happier.

Great News!

If you love to color, my latest book is going to be ready soon! The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book – Express and Enjoy Yourself is going to be available on Amazon early next week – just in time for the holidays! Get one for yourself. It will be the perfect stocking stuffer for your friends and family.

For instant arts therapy ideas and inspiration, my online course that I created with master trainer, Patrick Howell is ready for you to access at a special price. It is called, Therapeutic Arts: Art Therapy Based Practice for Self-care, Stress-reduction, and Mindfulness. This comprehensive course will introduce you to more art therapy based practices. Here’s the link to help you get started https://www.udemy.com/artstherapycourse/?couponCode=NEWSLETTER .

I hope that you take advantage of the great resources that I provided for you to help you add more mindfulness and happiness to your day. See you in the class.

Appreciate the Good: Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice

Appreciate the Good: Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, CIPP

 

 

Next week in the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated. Thanksgiving symbolizes the start of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is a special day when Americans give thanks. This special holiday feeds the body with delicious food and the heart with sincerity. While it feels good to give thanks on that day, giving thanks daily will make us feel better in the long run. One of my favorite sayings when I was studying Positive Psychology was from professor and author, Tal Ben-Shahar: “when you appreciate the good, the good appreciates.”

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is more than an attitude or saying thanks. It’s a science that has been proven to have significant benefits. Robert Emmons, considered the father of the science of gratitude defines gratitude as, “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life.” This definition opens us to endless opportunities to be grateful. The challenge is remembering to do it every day, especially during the tough times.

Why is it important?

The best way to start the exercise is to know why it is important and how it can benefit you. Here are 5 reasons that caught my attention and inspired me to begin adding the gratitude practice into my life.

1. Resilience – Gratitude fosters resilience. A 2003 study found that gratitude was the main contributor to resilience following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.

2. Relationships – Gratitude is the antidote for failed non-abusive relationships. A studyfound that couples who express gratitude for each other are motivated to maintain their relationship with each other.

3. REM – Gratitude before bedtime helps with sleep. A study in the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being found that 15 minutes of writing in a gratitude journal before sleep promotes better sleep.

4. Rich – Gratitude cancels out envy. According to Robert Emmons, gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as envy, regret, and depression because gratitude makes you feel rich and feel you have more than enough.

5. Rejoice – Gratitude is linked to a happiness booster according to Harvard University study. If you need a quick way to cheer up, start listing some things you are grateful for to turn your emotions around.

I hope one or all of these reasons inspired you to begin a gratitude practice. If you have one already, thank you. If not, try any one of these techniques.

1. Journal – Start a gratitude journal. This was the first gratitude exercise that I did and it helped me during the good and the bad times of my life. This exercise trained my brain to look for the good in all situations. It was extremely helpful when I was coping with my mother’s three cancer journeys.

2. WWW? – What Went Well? Is a question that helped me teach my husband and three boys the practice of gratitude without being too “mushy”. This question has helped me and my family cultivate the practice of gratitude. Next time you are with your friend or family ask, “What went well?” and notice all the goodness that come out of this powerful question.

3. Walk – As you walk from one place to another, find as many objects to be grateful for. This helps increase my level of energy and happiness when I feel tired or anxious. It can definitely turn your “frown upside down.”

4. Jar – Collect moments of gratitude in a jar. This is a great practice for you and your group. This exercise is a positivity booster and it’s fun to watch as the gratitude fills the jar. Reading gratitude from the gratitude jar is another way to deepen relationships in the group and improve communication.

5. Letter – Writing a gratitude letter to someone you love and has greatly influenced you is a proven gratitude technique that has shown to create lasting positive emotions. Once you write your gratitude letter, deliver the letter in person and read the letter to that special someone.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope that it has inspired you enough to begin a gratitude practice. Try one of the gratitude practices that I shared with you for the next 30 days and watch your appreciation grow.

I am grateful for…

This year I have so much to be grateful for. Besides my awesome family and friends, I am grateful for publishing my coloring book, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book – Express & Enjoy Yourself. This book is going to be available next week on my website, www.TheHappinessResult.com.

Also, I am grateful for doing my first online course called, Therapeutic Arts: Art Therapy Based Practice for Self-care, Self- healing, and Mindfulness. This is terrific course that I created with master trainer and colleague, Patrick Howell. Here’s the link for you to get your special price and immediate access to the course https://www.udemy.com/artstherapycourse/?couponCode=NEWSLETTER.

Lastly, I am grateful for you and your continued support and interest in my health and happiness message.

Thank you!

Gimme Five

Part One: Powerful Reflection to Increase Happiness and Boost Success

“Who are they?”

By Debbie Lyn Toomey


I recently attended the National Speakers Association (NSA) Influence 2017 conference in Orlando. It’s a yearly conference that draws professional speakers and consultants from all over the world. Happy international professional speakers met up with old friends and mentors, networked, and celebrated the best of the best in the field. The convention was fantastic!

The event was held at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. The venue was buzzing with excitement with a children’s regional dance competition, the public speaker’s conference, and independent visitors from around the world. Everyone was dressed to the nines, especially the little dancers and their proud parents.

As a professional speaker myself, I was star struck because I met other speakers I had heard so much about. There were so many talented speakers at the conference. I was impressed by how many of them gave sincere appreciation and credit to speaker colleagues who had supported, inspired, and coached them.

The keynote speakers were amazing. Although they all had their own stories and style, they all had one thing in common—a powerful message. While some moved me to tears, others moved me to take action.

One message that Vinh Giang, a keynote speaker, stressed really stuck with me:

You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.

Giang said this as he shared his success story. Three years ago he was a novice speaker, and now he has fulfilled his dream of owning a successful business.

“Hmmm…” I didn’t know what to make of this statement at first until I repeated it to myself: “You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.”

All of a sudden, a light bulb went on. “Yes, of course!”

As I half listened to the captivating keynote speaker, my mind went off on a tangent and a mental quest to figure out who my five were.

“Do I hang around with people who are helping me shift to the next level of my business?” I asked myself. “Who are these five people? What if I don’t have five people right now?”

I started to reflect upon the people I hang around with most, either in person or by phone. While we might not have a choice about some people we either live or work with, there are those whom we purposely seek out to make us feel better and do better.

You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.

“Who are my five?” I asked myself.

Half-panicked that I may not have the “five” people, I started thinking about the people I really did spend the most time with consistently. I flipped my conference workbook over and pulled out my pen. I listed the numbers 1 through 5 down the left side of the blank back cover.

The first person on my list was my husband, Bill, who loves me and is a great supporter in my career. Second was my business and speaking mentor, Naomi, who has been a blessing to me both personally and professionally. Third was my nurse scientist mentor, Judi, who has guided me through the world of nursing research and helped me write a winning proposal to do mindfulness research. Fourth was my dear friend, Patrick, whom I met when I studied positive psychology and who has been a wonderful accountability buddy. Fifth was Linda, my NSA friend, whom I meet with regularly for masterminding.

Except for my husband, the other people had not been a part of my life when I started my business almost five years ago. I met these people as a result of networking, joining associations, taking classes, and being at the right place at the right time. I am fortunate to have a great circle of friends and mentors. Without these five people in my life, my career would not be in the upward trajectory of success that I have always wanted.

How about you? It’s your turn.

Who are the five people you hang around with most?

Who are the people that you look up to and to whom you can consistently go to for advice?

Who are the people who are impacting your life for the better?

You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.

You might ask, is it really necessary to do to this exercise? Absolutely!

The more we are aware of the way people influence our thoughts, actions, and behavior, the more we gain control and clarity in who we are becoming and where we are going. This awareness is key in moving toward the direction of our best self. Once we recognize the positive influencers in our lives, we can appreciate the value these people add to our lives. Realizing this helps to increase our happiness and boost our success.

To gain the most out of this exercise, read the message one more time and then reflect on the following steps.

You are the sum of the five people you hang around with most.

1. Who — Who are they? Reflect on the people you purposely spend time with most.

2. What — What brings each of you together? What kind of a relationship do you have together?

3. Where — Where is each relationship taking you? Do you like where it’s going?

4. How — How is each relationship going for you? How do you maintain the connection?

5. Why — Why do you choose to spend time with each person? Why him or her instead of others?

The bottom line is, the clearer we are about who we spend our time with, the more likely we will be able to discern and wake up to the value they bring (or don’t bring) into our lives.

If you don’t have five, don’t worry! It’s really not about the quantity; rather, it is all about the quality and what you need currently. I haven’t had five all the time in my journey. If you are venturing into a new phase in your life and need extra support from experts or people going through a similar journey, then it may be time for you to start opening yourself up to more influencers who can help you enjoy the path. In part two, I will share with you simple steps to find and attract the people you need to help you gain more happiness and increase your success.

Until then, enjoy this exercise and share with us your top five and how they have helped you in your career. Also, if you are looking for a coach to help you reach your goals, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com. I would be happy to talk with you to see how we can work together.

 

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.

1440 Minutes Per Day

A Guilt-free Self-care Tool: Your Edge to Greater Health, Happiness, and Productivity.

By Debbie Lyn Toomey RN, CIPP

I am so busy that I don’t have time to enjoy the nice weather.

I am so busy that I don’t have time to read a good book.

I am so busy that I don’t have time to take a break.

I am so busy that I don’t have time to yadda, yadda, yadda.

If you are like so many others who are stressed from working hard and have little time to tend to your basic needs, then you are not alone. It’s important to take time throughout the day to take care of yourself so that you can become more positive, productive, and have greater peace of mind. It’s simpler than you think. Instead of removing yourself from work to take care of your needs, all you have to do is infuse micro-moments of guilt-free self-care so that you feel good and are able to do good.

1440 minutes/day

I hate to break it to you but no matter how busy you are, you
do have time for self-care. If you don’t claim it, nobody will do it for you. Did you know that you have exactly 1440 minutes a day? So, why not mindfully take a few minutes of self-time so that you can work smarter instead of harder.

Self-Care is “Self-Time”

Some hardworking people haven’t fully grasped the importance of self-care at work. They don’t understand that it is a key component of stress management. Some feel it’s a selfish act or that it’s a waste of time. I disagree. As a Health and Happiness Specialist, I believe that self-care is our edge to a greater health, happiness, and productivity. For those who have a difficult time understanding the significance of self-care, try viewing it as self-time to collect yourself mentally and physically and to take care of your basic needs so that you can be fully present and impactful for the rest of the day.

Self-Care Restores Health

While nobody has the ability to stretch time we do have the power to make time for ourselves. Whether it is 2 minutes of quiet time or one personal day, it’s important to take time to restore your mind-body health. Micro-moments of self-care quiet our busy minds and refuel our bodies.

Self-Care Makes Us Happy

A little bit of self-care can go a long way. It can shift our mentality from feelings of sadness to happiness. Think of the last time you heard your favorite workout tune while sitting in traffic. How did it make you feel? Although you weren’t working out, didn’t it make you happy and feel re-energized? The few minutes that you took listening to that song was self-care! Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It just needs to be claimed and appreciated every chance we can take it.

Self-Care & Productivity

My new tagline is “Happy Person. Healthy Workplace.” Positivity in the workplace is created by happy workers (leaders included). In order for happy workers to exist, the workplace must make it the expected culture of the workplace for its employees to take breaks and to take time for self-care. According to the Harvard Business Review (March, 2015) Positivity in the workplace leads to greater productivity in the company. Many companies like Google, Yahoo, and Proctor and Gamble are investing money to provide their employees with wellness programs for stress reduction because they understand the importance of having a healthy and happy employee and their impact on the company’s bottom line.

The Edge

Even though you may not be working for companies like Google or Yahoo, here is a quick tip that many of my clients enjoy. I like it because they can do it anywhere and anytime. You can do this technique while getting ready for the day, waiting in traffic, or sipping from your first cup of coffee. All you have to do is to remember to do it. You can begin right now by asking yourself this question.

“What does self-care look like for me today?”

Once you answer the question, allow it to be your self-care promise to yourself that day. Every day may be different depending on what you are doing and who you are with. Self-care for you might be going outside for a 5-minute walk to clear your mind and get some fresh air or it could be closing your office door and turning off all electronics for 5-10minutes for quiet time. Or it could be taking deep breathes on your way to your next meeting. Trust in the answer that comes to you and notice how much better you feel during the day.

Just Ask

Asking this question is simple yet powerful and it can make a huge difference in your day. Try this guilt-free self-care tool for the next week and notice how much better you feel. If you are interested in learning more ways to boost your health, happiness, and success visit www.HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com to learn how we can work together.

 

 

Mindfulness: Decrease Your Stress with Mindful Listening –

Mindfulness: Decrease Your Stress with Mindful Listening

Learn Seven Steps for Better Communication

by Debbie Lyn Toomey

 

In college, many moons ago, I had an English professor who challenged me and said, “listen to your listening.” He said this on the first day of class wearing his summer straw hat and Hawaiian shirt. Professor Nelson was witty, authentic, and a lover of life. He captivated the class as he stood up on top a desk and recited his favorite butterfly poem. When he spoke, everyone listened. It was he who talked to us about the importance of effective communication. To my surprise, listening was the most important part of communication. I didn’t understand what he meant until years later.

Exchange of Energy

As I grew older, I realized he was right! Communication is not just about talking. It’s more than that. It has to do with the exchange of energy and words (said and unsaid) between the parties involved. When the mind, body, and spirit are engaged and when the parties involved are fully present for the other, mindful communication happens. Languages such as verbal, body, and intuition are part of our expression. The more we pay attention and listen to all these aspects of expression, the better.

Difficulties

With so many forms of languages available to us, why is it so difficult to communicate? Perhaps it’s because we have gotten into the habit of thinking we are too busy and feel that we can multitask while someone is talking to us. Maybe it’s because our attention span has dwindled to a mere
8 seconds. Or maybe, we are just so stressed that although we are hearing what the other is saying, we are not comprehending or remembering what was just said. Is being an irritating “squeaky wheel” the only way to be seen and heard these days? I hope not.

On the Go

Although our lives were supposed to be made easier by modern technology, it hasn’t happened. The level of stress that Americans live with has sky rocketed. We are constantly on the go and when we are not busy, we feel guilty. We feel like we always have to be doing something worthwhile with our time.

Source of Stress

Professionals in my corporate wellness training programs complain that communication is one of their sources of frustration and stress. This problem has caused feelings of resentment, staff-splitting, wasted time on valuable projects, and costly mistakes. Poor communication is confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a contributor of workplace stress.

Invest a Few Minutes

One of the best ways to take care of the communication problem is to invest in a few minutes of mindful communication. Here are four ways mindful communication can benefit us.

1. Show appreciation to the other person by fully allowing the other to speak

2. Prevent misunderstanding that can lead to errors or hard feelings

3. Save time by knowing what is being said so that the right action can be taken

4. Foster positivity by modeling respect for each other

Seven Steps

Although communication has become a big problem during our lifetime there are ways to improve it by listen to your listening. Here’s are the seven steps for better communication:

1. STOP: Create the intention of fully listening to the individual

2. LOOK: Be curious and watch his/her body language

3. LISTEN: Listen to what is being said and unsaid. Listen to what your gut instinct is telling you

4. WAIT: Allow the individual to finish his/her thought or sentence before you answer

5. SENSE: Notice your body language. Adjust yourself so that you are fully face-to-face with the individual

6. SUMMARIZE: Repeat what you just heard to make sure you heard correctly

7. REPEAT: Repeat 1-6 as necessary until the message has been fully accepted and received

A Skill

Mindful communication is a skill that is worth cultivating to be successful in life. The more you practice it the easier it gets. To learn more about mindful communication and ways it can enhance your work and life, contact me at debbielyn@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com.