Every day I see beautiful, talented, smart women who are stressed out of their minds. They are suffering from panic attacks because they feel they're not good enough. They are developing irritable bowel syndrome because their bodies don't feel safe enough to relax (and therefore, digest their food). They are having more and more fights with loved ones because they are constantly on edge. Let's face it, operating from a state of stress has kind of become the norm in our culture. It's become acceptable because we put all of our focus on the external world and what we want to achieve, rather than building a strong foundation in our inner world of how we want to feel.
We can't keep going this way and the world can't handle the stress we are putting on ourselves and each other. Our health, our happiness, our family dynamics, our concept of neighbourhood and humanity are circling the drain - all because we focus more on self and ego achievement than we do about learning to love ourselves or each other.
All stress comes from a place of fear - a fear that we aren't enough, that we won't have enough or that the world won't be enough for us. The only way to combat fear is to actively choose to exit the current reality that we've created where stress is the norm and decide to create our lives from a place of love. When we choose to love ourselves then our health, our happiness and the quality of our relationships will skyrocket. When we love each other, we will see that we're not so different.....and war, racism and terrorism will cease to exist.
It's not naive or idealistic to believe these things. Obviously, we've done a lot of damage to our bodies, our psyche and the world in term of the energy we choose to bring into the world every day and I'm not saying these problems will disappear overnight, but the first and biggest step is to just make that choice....do you want to keep living in this stressed out way that doesn't serve you or the world? Or do you want to be part of the revolution and experience life from a place of really high frequency love and connection?
Here are a few things you can do to start decreasing stress in your body, mind and spirit. Remember: it starts with you, then ripples to your friends, your community, then the world.
De-stressing the body
Your body is usually in one of two states: the sympathetic nervous system or the parasympathetic nervous system. The first is your 'fight or flight' system or your state of stress. This is where most of us are operating from. Whether it's fear of not living up to our boss' expectations, the fear of being single forever or just not feeling good enough in general, we are constantly prepared for an attack. This perception of fear leads to weight gain, stress, IBS, depression and a whole host of other things that destroy your health and happiness.
The way your body knows it is actually safe is all cued by your breath so the first thing you can do to help love your body is to take time out to do some deep breathing. Place your hand on your belly, right up under your ribs and make sure when you breathe in your hand rises and when you breathe out your stomach contracts. Focus on not moving your shoulders at all and instead imagine a balloon in your stomach being inflated and deflated. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and help you start to get back into a 'rest and digest' mode.
De-stressing the mind
As Eckhart Tolle said, "You have a mind but you are not your mind." This is the game-changer between people that are emotionally happy and people that aren't. We all have an inner critic that lives in our heads and feeds us thoughts about what's "true" or "real" or "how life is"...but this voice is just that - a voice. It's a voice that is based on fear and survival and trying to protect you which is great....but it's not concerned with how happy you feel or how much love you're experiencing. Whenever you think something that makes you feel like crap, ask yourself "What is the fear around this?" and "What would love do in this situation?" You'll be amazed by how empowering this is and how much happier you will feel.
De-stressing the spirit
Spirit, heart, soul...whatever you want to call it, it doesn't really matter. The point is, that this part of you that holds all your unique passions, desires, dreams, preferences and interests is a part of you. When was the last time you checked in with her? If you feel like life isn't working, that you're disconnected or out of alignment then I guarantee you, that's true. That is your spirit telling you that you aren't living from your values or in accordance with what's true and important to you, Chances are you are doing what you think you 'should' do.
Meditation is a powerful tool to access your inner truth, as well as coaching or counselling. So much of the pain we feel comes from a place that we don't even know exists because we've never given ourselves a moment to hear what's really going on in our heart and soul. Starting with a coach can be a great way to uncover these feelings in a supportive environment where they won't overwhelm you. If you feel strong enough, simply sitting in stillness and bringing your attention to your heart space can be another great way to de-stress your spirit. Once you feel connected to your heart space, ask yourself "What do I need to do right now to feel happy?" and just as importantly, "What do I need to let go of?"
These are not just nice ideas. Practicing de-stressing your body, mind and spirit will change the way you see everything in your life and in the world - I guarantee it. All you need to do is be willing to see the world a different way and to open to the tools that help you to shift your perception from stress to love.
I'm hosting a class in Christchurch on Wednesday 20 July in which we will cover all of these tools and many more. If you'd like to come along and learn how to "Relax and Re-Centre', check out the flyer on my Facebook page.
3 steps to adding more pleasure to your life
Does life feel like it's more about work than it is play? Sometimes, when we get sucked into the daily monotony of 'adulting' and everything that comes with it, pleasure goes out the window. Here's how to get it back!
Pleasure is a broad word that means different things to different people so the first step is to figure out what it means to you. For some people it's a walk in nature. For others (specifically those who were craving a break from work) it was a nap!
Now obviously, there are other things in life that bring me pleasure too, it's just that being a bit of a foodie, a chocolate addict and a movie nut this is what first comes to mind. So what comes up for you?
Knowing what brings you pleasure is important because in a world where we value achievement and getting things done, sometimes we forget to make time for the bliss and joy that pleasure brings with it. So here are 3 simple steps to injecting more pleasure into your life:
Step 1: Know what's pleasurable for you
Create a list to get your juices flowing, and if you're struggling to find out what it is for you, ask yourself these questions. "When do I feel happiest?" "When do I feel most alive?" "When does my soul feel most nourished?"
Step 2: ...actually do it!
Book it into your schedule and actually do it! After all, if we can make time for our boss' agendas, our friends needs and everything else we are trying to do, it's important to carve out time to connect with what brings us pleasure. Not only will you start doing more of what you love (which will make you a happier person in general) but planning your pleasure also has another great bonus, mentioned in step 3...
Step 3: Anticipation is half the pleasure!
Positive psychology studies the actions and behaviours that create happiness in people and it has been noted many times that it's not just what you do that makes you happy, it's looking forward to doing it that makes the difference. When you look back on anything you've done that's brought you great pleasure....wasn't the build up almost just as fun as the actual event? Think about when you were planning that amazing European holiday, or when you know you have a 90 minute full body massage booked in at the end of the week or you are going on a date with someone you've just met and are really in to....the anticipation puts you into that state of pleasure before the event even happens. Much like a gratitude list draws you into the energy of the abundance you want to create in your life, booking in pleasurable activities draws you into that energy of pleasure now, and makes your day to day life that little bit more exciting and inspiring!
The biggest aspect of experiencing pleasure is to be fully present in what you're doing. This is the part that many of us miss, because we spend so much time in our heads. Have you ever had that experience of meeting up with a friend for coffee and afterwards you realised that you actually missed out on the enjoyment because you weren't really present and 'in' it? Maybe you were worrying about something happening at home or thinking about all the things you had to do afterwards.
At the heart of it, pleasure is really about being totally present in the moment and connected to the flow and bliss of life.
So connect in to what brings you pleasure, book it in, start looking forward to it and show up completely present for it. Taken regularly, these steps are guaranteed to help build your happiness and self love muscles!
Is realising that you get to choose. You get to choose who you spend time with and the relationships you invest in. You get to choose how you spend your money and how you grow it. You get to choose whether you want to stay in this job, or pick another one. You get to choose how you're going to feel about this current situation.
The fastest way to happiness is to choose to be happy first and then take actions that bring you closer to that choice. The fastest way to feel unhappy is to feel like you're a victim of what life is throwing at you. The biggest shift you'll ever have is realising that the only person who is responsible for your happiness is you.
It's not his fault, her bitchiness, their high expectations or your parents lack of preparing you for the world. You are so much more powerful than those stories.
Wipe the slate clean, declutter, let shit go. Then get to work on getting happy.
It happens to all of us at some time or another. Maybe it's that feeling of groundhog day at work, maybe you can't seem to move forward on anything or perhaps life just isn't turning out the way you thought it would. Most of us have asked ourselves, at some point in our lives, "What's the point?! What am I here for?" or even... "Why bother?"
When you feel stuck, there are a few crucial things you can do to shift your energy and get back into momentum of feeling focused, happy and in charge of your own destiny.
1. Make a decision
My friend and mentor, Bex, likes to say that "powerful people make decisions." This mantra has stuck with me whenever I feel like life isn't flowing and it snaps me back into taking personal responsibility for my feelings and my own happiness. When you feel like life is happening to you, it's often easy to get caught up in victim mode. "My car's always breaking down" or "that guy didn't call back" or "my career is going nowhere" - all of these might be accurate assessments of what you feel life is like, but now that you've registered that it's up to you to make a decision: is that what you want your life to be like?
When you take 100% responsibility for how you feel in every moment you take back your power and can begin to get unstuck. Firstly, ask yourself "How do I want to feel right now? Do I want to feel angry / pissed off / depressed.... or do I want to feel hopeful, happy or positive?" By the way, it's totally fine if you decide that "no, actually I'm pretty upset and I want to wallow right now", but even by making that decision, you'll notice that something really interesting will happen. For one thing, you'll start feeling a bit better because you realise that feeling that way is a choice that you've made, not something happening to you. Secondly, when you let yourself claim your feelings rather than be annoyed that they're happening they tend to move on much faster. You'll probably find that after an hour or two of said wallowing, you actually think "Ok, I'm a bit tired of this now. Where can I go to next?"
2. Create an inspiring vision
Once you've decided that you want to feel happy, it's time to create an inspiring vision for your life because it's hard to feel like you're growing or you have momentum if you're not sure what you're moving towards. Your vision for your life is what will pull everything together and make decision making that much easier. When you can ask yourself "Does this decision bring me closer to my vision or take me further away from it?" you can usually get a pretty clear answer straight away. Oh, and by the way, a big part of your vision is feeling happy and fulfilled, not just doing what looks good on paper.
As an employee at lululemon athletica, we are asked to create goals that spur us on and excite us. The way we do this is by creating a 10 year vision of what we want our life to be like and working back from there. The reason this is so powerful is that 10 years seems far enough away that it allows us to create some pretty powerful and audacious goals. Once you have this vision, it's then pretty easy to drill backwards and see what you'll need to be doing in 5 years time, 3 years time or 6 months time to bring this dream to life. (There is a free version of this worksheet as well as some inspiring videos over at the lululemon website - you can check it out under their Vision and Goals section here)
That's where the inner work like meditation, personal growth and vision and goals becomes so effective; its essentially uncovering the awesome blueprint you already have in place for how to feel happy, healthy and abundant. Without something compelling to pull us forward, most of us feel a sense of being left behind or missing out on something in life.
3. Take action
After choosing how you want to feel and creating a compelling vision for your life, take inspired action. Again, just make a decision and take action from that place. So many times we feel stuck because we are waiting for the "right" decision to come along before we get moving and guess what? There probably isn't one. I've learnt that any decision is better for your happiness and self esteem than sitting on the fence and letting months or even years pass by because you're too afraid to fail. Confidence is built not by knowing the right answer, but by taking action and trusting that no matter what happens, you'll survive. There is no right decision - there is the best decision you can make at the time which will always lead you to the next part of the journey. If you want to get unstuck, free yourself from the fear that you'll never get it 'right'. Make the best decision you can and get moving.
4. Pick what feels high and light
On that note, you want to be moving towards a life that feels vibrant and energising to you, so with every decision you make, lean into the question "Does this feel high and light? Or does it feel low and heavy?" Your intuition always has a better gauge on what will make you happy than anyone else does. Have fun with it, and see what it would feel like in 3 months time if you say 'yes' to this opportunity now. 6 months.... 5 years.... you get the idea.
When you feel like crap, it's tempting to look at these types of exercises and feel like they won't work for you but I guarantee that if you take action, you will always see results...and actually you are already seeing the results of the actions you have been taking! If you don't like the result then change the action. It's all in your hands :)
A lot of the practice of getting healthy is really a practice of getting honest.
We waste a lot of energy pretending to be someone other than ourselves. Saying what we think we 'should' say at work to gain approval. Participating in things that will make friends or loved ones happy but that we actually find physically draining. Living according to the status quo.
I love this clip from Lady Gaga talking about what she feels stifles her creativity and speaking up about what really matters to her. I saw a lot of people resonate with this video when it came out, mostly I think because honesty can be so rare that when we see a glimpse of it we feel relieved. My prediction is that honesty is going to be the new black; instead of 'reality' tv we are going to have more inspirational people just saying what they really mean and a collective sigh of relief as people start expressing their true selves.
How incredible is that going to be?! Imagine how much energy you'd have if you weren't spending it trying to fit in or paddle desperately upstream.
Awareness and clarity are always the first step towards healing, so even if you're not willing to consider changing anything yet, are you willing to get honest (even just with yourself) about what's not working in your life?