Journaling techniques that are working for me right now

One of the best ways to get in touch with what you are feeling and how you are present in the world that I know of is journaling. Many studies have shown that it helps people become more aware, helps their moods and increases productivity. There is a very detailed and well researched outline of the benefits of journaling at

http://www.mytherapyjournal.com/whyjournal/

So what goes in my journal? A lot of times I sit down to journal and just spill what I am feeling and thinking about on the page. And this can be revealing at times. I can’t quite do them as morning pages the way Julia Cameron does, but often I will find a pocket during the day where I can free write for 20 minutes. I have found though that if I do do them in the morning, or while I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, I write from a more subconscious level.  This helps me realize things that I wouldn’t otherwise have written. I think because I don’t have the distraction of the day pulling me away yet. So why can’t I always do them in the morning -I dance and stay up too late. Getting enough sleep is my biggest challenge.

Recently I felt like I wasn’t keeping up with my journaling practice and I start feeling as if I can’t quite sort out my thoughts and feelings. When I was participating in the 7 day ProBlogger blogging challenge I was writing all the time and, as I was writing I would often journal in addition. But I have some quicky journaling techniques that I can fit in even if I don’t really feel I have the time to sit down and focus.

1. Gratitude list -I started writing down 3 things that are wonderful about my life and days right now. Simple things, big things and strange things. People in my life, my courage, the flexible schedule which allows me to go to the gym in the middle of the day, the fact that my knees didn’t hurt at the gym (because I have been doing my physical therapy), a great brunch spot on Saturday and the unexpected joy of having brunch with friends. I try to write these first thing in the morning and it sets the tone for my day.

2. Setting intentions -I set an intention as well as a focus at the beginning of the week. The intention is usually something personal, relating to a section of the wheel of life or one of my primary focus goals in my personal development.  The focus is business or work related and helps me put together my game changer for the week and the actions that need to go with it.

3. Wooping – This is really positive thinking taken to another level. I know it seems like it will be similar to the sounds that my workout instructors encourage us to make to maximize our enjoyment out of the class, but it’s even better than that. I heard about it recently on Hidden Brain -a podcast put out by NPR.  Here are the steps in this technique

  1. What is your wish? What would you like to have happen in this situation?
  2. Imagine the outcome.What is the most positive outcome? Fully imagine how you  would feel if you were to achieve this outcome
  3. Identify the Obstacles – What internal obstacles would get in your way? Emotions, habits, thought patterns or limiting beliefs
  4. Make a plan to over come the obstacle.

In the end the entire thing is constructed in a phrase like this

I want _____________ because _____________ and I will feel ________________

When __________________ then I will ___________________

One of the key components of this exercise is really visualizing the outcome and and the obstacles.

There is more information at http://woopmylife.org/woop-1/

4. A win log -It is easy to focus on what did not get done at the end of the day, but ultimately I need to focus on what did get done and what was productive about the day. And this log is also useful for seeing where you are getting sidetracked. Being sidetracked doesn’t mean that I am not being productive. Checking on the asset allocations in my retirement accounts is useful and important. But it was not Urgent! In fact the benefit of writing down what you did that day helps you to identify if you are spending time on unimportant things. I like thinking about how my wins fit into a Franklin Covey time quadrant.

5. Capturing an exquisite moment from my day – This is just about making sure that I remember to spot the joyous and beautiful moments. Like watching a Friday night movie with my besties.

An antidote to busy-ness and stress


There is the dream of how summers should be, and how they feel to me… Stressful. And right now, the back to school season is ramping up and with it, all the additional tasks that need to be accomplished. Getting school supplies and clothes is just one small thing. The forms, forms, forms and signing up for extracurricular activities. Physicals to be done and documentation to collect -Oh, and you didnt’ submit that form correctly, go back to the start, do not pass go and do not collect a check mark on your list. Dentist appointments too, because why not… As you can imagine, I feel my stress level ramping up.

The house has gotten progressively messier over the summer because there is more living being done in it. And I haven’t had time and energy to deal with it while I am driving kids around more and accommodating requests for attention and fun. It was summer after all, and I have always had a dream of summers spent poolside and going on road trips and outings.  And I packed those things into this summer. Well, the poolside lounging was only one day, but we went camping, to the beach, the city, the mountains and concerts. We did crafts and cooking and shopping and exploring. I did not play Pokemon Go, but I facilitated it.

But the messy house and full days have taken their toll. I like a regular routine and a relatively tidy environment and the feeling that I can remember what is going on and can attend to it. And right now I feel like there is too much to do and no time. I feel I am forgetting things and getting time for myself seems impossible. Exercise falls by the wayside and with it my stresslevel increases. The way I react is to check my calendar obsessively and to sit down and write lists again and again as if I can organize my stress away. I decided that rather than finding another productivity hack, I would look for ways to calm down.

I started out with my mini retreat on Sunday evening, which I posted on Instagram. Then as I drank some tea and relaxed in bed I looked for ways to change my outlook and relieve my stress. Here is a roundup of some favorite advice I found:

First of all, It seems counterintuitive that stress may be beneficial, but mentally reframing it as a challenge is helpful. So the first thing to ask yourself is: What is the challenge in this situation? What are the benefits?

Stressed for Good: Surprising New Science about Stress

Second is prioritizing what you you really need to do, and letting go of what you don’t need to do. I create a let go of list as well as a list of things not to do. Marc and Angel have all kinds of life hacks just like this one.

3 Ways to Find Your Peace When Life Feels Overwhelming

This is another great article about mindset and not clinging to outcome. For me this is a work in progress.

Let Go of Stress: Nothing to Cling To

Similar to a mini retreat, putting together a set of stress relieving tactics and items can help you find relief for the moment.

Build Your Own Stress Relief Emergency Kit

Here is another article of someone who feels they are in the same situation.

http://ordtime.tumblr.com/post/148587213895/how-to-manage-stress-when-your-work-is-an

What is thriving?

I love watching people. In coffee shops, the community center, while waiting for my kids after their activities. Recently as I was watching people walking by I started to wonder how many people, if I asked them, would tell me they felt they were thriving? Of course that would be a moment in time, a snap shot, but if I asked about their day and their life in general, what would thriving be for them?

My question for you, dear reader, is

What constitutes thriving for you? Is access to thriving a privilege for the fortunate few or achievable to anyone?

Ripples in Mirror lake -a short story


I was hiking with a friend in Yosemite. Let’s call her Sara… It was a lovely morning, the weather was warm but not hot. There were a few clouds in the sky and we were both looking forward to a day on the trail. We were going to pass Mirror lake on the way to a more challenging trail. We were both looking forward to to the views we were likely to see that day, the fresh air and the sense of accomplishment of a great and challenging hike. The outdoors has a restorative effect and I was not disappointed. When we arrived at mirror lake we marveled at the crystal clear reflection. This was sure to be a great day!

As we were admiring the view a young boy, who was hiking with his family, skipped a rock onto the lake and soon his brothers were following suit. As the first skip hit the surface of the water the ripples on the lake radiated out. The rock skipped again and again. one, two, three.. I counted seven skips! Seven! That had to feel like an accomplishment. His brother was not quite as successful and only managed three. Like a golfer who had just made a great shot, the boy was encouraged to skip several more rocks trying again for a good run.

Sara was outraged. How could the parent even allow their son to throw rocks at this perfect reflection on this perfect day, she huffed. As the rock throwing continues she took it upon herself to address the parent and the boys. “Don’t you see that we are all trying to enjoy the view. The perfect reflection! Now it is all ruined!” As she was deliberating with the family I winked at the boys and pointed to the fish rushing to hide in the landscape under the surface. Rocks, logs, mud and plants formed a different landscape that is hidden under the reflection. Muddy, overgrown and full of algae, rocks and dirt -a fish haven. But as soon as I could take in the revealing of this hidden fish paradise the ripples were dissipating and the reflection returned.

As we started on the rest of our hike, I took a last look at the reflection and set my sights for the views ahead. It was sure to be a great day! Sara muttered under her breath about the inconsideration of people and common decency for a couple more miles. After a few miles through wooded areas and steep rocky trails, new perfection came into view and it seems as if the day was restored.

It seems as if it is always other people who cause the ripples and threaten the clarity and perfection of our surface. But in focusing on that, what do we miss about what can be learned and appreciated under the surface? The boy skipping stones is a story, and we all have stories for why things are not perfect or right or even going our way. Our own stories can be hard to see and as a coach I help my clients see their stories, look at what is underneath and transform through self love.

Disclaimer -This story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred. Except Yosemite and mirror lake are real places, and it’s fun to skip stones there too.

It starts with Toast

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art before breakfast -by Danny Gregory

I have been a fan of Danny Gregory for forever. His book “everyday matters” is a memoir of how creative journaling can be life changing and it fueled my own creative journaling habit. After a while my life had a different rhythm to it and my sketching and journaling habit went my the wayside. Then, browsing in a bookstore one day I was excited to see that he published a new book last year called “art before breakfast”.

He starts out his book with this:

“This book is for people who don’t have time to read it”

Wait-is he talking to me? I don’t have time to read this book! I have about 20 books on my desk, bedside table and on my countertop of doom!

I bought it anyway..

The book is filled with his fun little illustrations of everyday things as well as a thousand ideas for things to draw and ways to make time to draw them. It reminds us that we don’t have to make good drawings, just drawings. And the point of drawing is this: It helps us to slow down and see the wonderful world around us. It starts with toast, or rather, drawing your toast. Before you eat it, for breakfast.

As a person who has a hard time slowing down this feels doable. The coloring book craze is in full force right now, and there are tons of other books out there about meditative drawing, mindfulness and similar practices. They are important and useful, but none of them seem to stick with me.  One day I will commit to a meditation practice and keep it up, but in the mean time I have many starts of this practice and I will get back to my sketching habit. Slowing down while I do that, observing the voices in my head that are talking, telling them I will get back to them as soon as I can but right now… I am drawing.

 

How do you have time to dance?

It’s no secret to my friends that I dance a lot. I dance all the time. I love practicing dance, social dancing and I love performing. But when people I dance with or my friends find out the other things I do -take care of two teenage girls, clean, volunteer at school, help with school funding agencies, participate in a bookclub, work out, cook all the meals from scratch, work for myself as a coach and for Weight Watchers, Nature journaling, completing a life coach certification, participate in running small dance club in my town, and help with the admin of my dance team, I get asked -How do you have time for all that?

It probably seem like I am about to write a time management article. And I do manage my time but I think the secret to having time for those things is because I WANT to do those things more than anything else. And it is not prioritization either. I believe it is a mindset. I become more focused on the practical things that I have to do because I know I will spend my evening doing something I love more than anything else.

In my weight loss coaching I ask my clients what they do for ME time, and it is often very hard to get a straightforward answer. The answer I get most regularly is that they just don’t have time. And it seems hard to make time for something that doesn’t have a tangible return on your time investment. The things that feel like they need to get done first are work, and taking care of the kids and family, and cleaning messes or dusting (actually I can let that go, much to my moms bewilderment, but I can), and laundry, errands and cooking. After all that, it seems like a rest in front of the TV is well deserved. Me time seems to be secondary to that. Is that really true though?

I dance solely because I love it. I don’t get paid, I am not now and probably never will be a professional dancer. It doesn’t advance my career. It doesn’t take care of my kids and they don’t do it with me so it is not a way for us to spend time together. Dance definitely doesn’t make dinner either. What I get out of it is some physical activity and reason for getting more regular activity -to go to the gym and to pay attention to my physical therapy. It is the reason why I take care of my body the way I do. What I get out of dance is social connection, connection to my body and an almost meditative experience connecting to the music.

I think that experience is called flow. The experience of being in the zone of doing something where time stands still and I am focused solely on that one thing -connection. Connection to my partner, my body, the floor and the music.  It is connection to my soul. So how is it that I have time to dance? I would argue that I don’t have time not to spend dance. Of course I only find that zone once in a while but when I find it, I feel restored afterwards. And tackling all the other stuff that is in my life feels doable again.

The thing is that I have to accept that I will experience some level of discomfort and stress over dancing. Sometimes I give up social events, cleaning, sleeping, shopping in a leisurely way. I have to be creative in the way I am efficient and sometimes I am working in between rehearsal and classes. But even with the days being full and hectic at times, maybe the place I find rest is in dancing.

So what is it that you love doing so much that you are willing to do anything for, give up anything for it? I believe that if you make time for that, you will have more time leftover!  The important stuff will still get done!

 

 

7 steps to a body positive day


I think one of the most important ways to live a healthy life is to make great choices all day. How does your attitude towards your body affect the choices you make?

 

  1. Dress in clothes that let you feel good. You know which ones they are, the top that you bought on vacation that swings in a way you love. A scarf that brings out the color of your eyes. And earrings or a little adornment because you deserve to feel good. And you get bonus points if you find one little thing you can appreciate about yourself this morning.
  2. Put on lotion with sunscreen. I admit that I don’t slather my entire body in lotion or sunscreen, but I put it on my face at least.
  3. Put on lipstick – I always put a little Burt’s bees tinted lip shimmer on first thing. Later in the day I am inclined to put on more serious lipstick but first things first.
  4. set your intention for the day. How do you want to feel today? How do you want to think about yourself today? What positive habit do you want to focus on today? What is one thing you would like to focus on today that will help you move a step closer to how you want to feel about yourself, your time, and your health?
  5. Write down your Why?!  Why you are making the changes you want to make? Are they changes in how you approach the time/space continuum? The way you eat? Working out more? Getting in touch with the reason you are doing this first thing can help you stay committed thoughout the day
  6. Drink a glass of water. And I mean water, not coffee, which I also drink first thing in the morning. This can be a hard habit to get into because I don’t really like it
  7. Decide what is for lunch. I work from home, so I don’t have to pack a lunch although I do at times so it is ready when I want it. Deciding what I am eating before I start my day helps me stay committed to