5 Steps to a Healthier Mind – Getting to the Root Cause

Note: This post is written by Martin Hrnjak

“Painkillers might ease symptoms temporarily, but unless treated from the core the problem will keep returning.”

How often in life do we hide from whatever is bothering us?

Maybe we are irritated all the time and respond badly to people asking us questions, maybe we are constantly in despair and don’t understand why dates never seem to work out, maybe we have a hard time finding a job; and instead of addressing the problem and facing the discomfort of looking at it in the eyes – we run, and hide.

Shopping, partying, spending money we don’t have, lashing out at others, eating too much or too little – these are all forms of numbing the pain of whatever is currently bothering us. These ‘coping methods’ exist because they help offer temporary relief to a much deeper problem, a problem which most of us don’t recognize, and are afraid to identify because it means we would need to face reality.

This chronic situation of hiding from our “demons” has become so widespread in society that many people fall into serious slumps because of it. Never has there been an easier time to hide from our problems than the 21st century; the advent of technology and especially the internet means we are always plugged in and never allowing ourselves to reflect on what are the things which bother us.

I am willing to wager that some of you reading this dread going to bed before you’re about to pass out, simply because being alone with your own thoughts is too frightening a proposition. That creates a vicious cycle of not enough sleep, not enough alone time, not enough time unplugged and no time to reflect.

If you find yourself in a situation akin to the above, then perhaps it is time to take a step back and start peeling away the layers under which you have hidden the root cause of your problems.

Luckily there exist several steps which you can take, in order to:

  • Determine WHAT is happening
  • Determine WHY it is happening
  • Find out HOW to prevent it from happening again

The method for doing this is by using the RCA (Root Cause Analysis) tool. This is a method used by professionals worldwide to improve their businesses and has been proven time and time again to be successful in doing so. RCA has also been adapted and can be applied to individuals – offering a very simple and effective way of getting to the bottom of things and becoming self-aware.

The five steps are as follows:

  1. Define the problem.
    What is happening? What are your ‘symptoms’?
    Asking a close friend or family member can help you answer these questions. Symptoms can include: partying to hide from your problems, eating too much, etc.
  2. Analyze the situation.
    How long has your problem existed? What is the impact on your life and those around you?
    You need to have a full understanding of these things before you can find factors contributing to the problem – again, friends and family can be extremely helpful.
  3. Identify contributing factors.
    What events lead to the problem surfacing? What are problems which surround the central problem?
    Such as: before I start binge eating, I read about other people’s successes on social media.
  4. Identify the root.
    Why do the contributing factors exist? What is the REAL reason for my problem?
    Continuing from the example in step 3: I have low self-esteem and seeing people being successful makes me even more insecure. Self-esteem could be identified as the root problem in this case.
  5. Find and implement solutions to the root problem.
    What can you do to prevent the problem from returning? How will you implement this?
    Perhaps you have low self-esteem because you are overweight, and you enforce this by binge eating; begin watching your diet, spending less time on social media, and beginning an exercise regimen.
    You will hire a personal trainer, or ask a fitness-buff friend to make sure you stick to this until your problem is solved.

Above I used a fitness example, but this process can be applied to just about any issue you are facing – and is always worth a shot (the only thing you lose is a few minutes of time, and you stand to gain a lot more).

You will find that the more you know about yourself and why you behave the way you do, the calmer and happier person you will be. Budgeting time will become easier, forming healthy habits will become a breeze, you will be less irritable and in general, you will see your quality of life improve.

I recommend these steps to anybody, and hope I helped at least some of you reading this.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

– About the Writer –

My name is Martin Hrnjak, I am a marketing executive in a small company, and in my free time I am a fitness instructor. It is a passion of mine to spread my knowledge and help those around me – and to learn all I can on my journey of self-improvement.

– Related Resources –

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My New Video Course: Dealing with Struggles

By Leo Babauta

I’m really excited to tell you guys about my new video course, Dealing with Struggles, which I’m launching today.

It’s for anyone who is struggling with:

  • Frustration
  • Procrastination
  • Changing their habits
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Feeling down or unmotivated
  • Relationship problems
  • Unhappy with their direction in life
  • Feeling bad about themselves

In short, this is all of us, to some extent.

It can seem like there’s no way out of our difficulties, but there is. It just takes some practice and a bit of courage.

This course helps us to get to the root of these common struggles.

What’s beneath all of our anxieties about ourselves, our struggles with habits and procrastination?

How can we develop the tools and the mindfulness to work with the root of all of these problems?

We’ll dive into these ideas in this course.

What You Get

In this course, you will:

  1. Get two video lessons a week
  2. Get a mindfulness exercise for each lesson
  3. Be able to submit questions that I’ll answer
  4. Work with very powerful tools to unravel our old problems
  5. Learn to deal with difficulties and the resistance we often face
  6. Learn how to break old patterns and form new ones, to create the life we want
  7. Deal with each moment with mindfulness, equanimity & compassion

These tools have helped me to change my entire life — from changing all my habits, helping me to be more mindful and compassionate. I offer them to anyone who is struggling.

I’m opening my heart to anyone who joins this course.

It won’t necessarily be easy — you’ll have to put in some work — but it can be life-changing. And I’ll be there with you.

Bonus Ebooks

In addition to the course, which I believe is already very valuable … I’m offering five bonus ebooks that I’ve written:

  1. Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness
  2. Essential Zen Habits
  3. Little Book of Contentment
  4. The One Skill – How Mastering the Art of Letting Go Will Change Your Life
  5. Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction

I’ll also be answer questions submitted by course participants in articles and videos that I’ll publish during the course. And we’ll have a Facebook group for discussion of the course by participants.

I hope you’ll join me.

Check Out the Course

http://ift.tt/2ndudOR

4 Step Guide to Letting Go of the Past

By Leo Babauta

We’re constantly struggling with the past, in so many ways:

  • Mistakes we’ve made that we regret or that make us feel bad about ourselves
  • Anger about something someone did to us
  • Frustration about how things have progressed up until now
  • A wish that things turned out differently
  • Stories about what happened that make us sad, depressed, angry, hurt
  • An argument that we had that keeps spinning around in our heads
  • Something someone just did (a minute ago) that we’re still stuck on

What if we could just let go of things have have happened, and be present with the unfolding moment instead?

What if we could let the past remain in the past, and unburden ourselves?

What is we could see that our holding onto the past is actually hurting us right now … and look at letting go as a loving act of not hurting ourselves anymore?

It can be done, though it isn’t always easy. Here’s the practice I recommend, in four steps.

Step 1: See the Story That’s Hurting You

In the present moment, you have some kind of pain or difficulty: anger, frustration, disappointment, regret, sadness, hurt.

Notice this difficulty, and see that it’s all caused by whatever story you have in your head about what happened (either recently or in the more distant past). You might insist that the difficulty or pain is caused by what happened (not by the story in your head), but what happened isn’t happening right now. It’s gone. The pain is still happening right now, and it’s caused by whatever story you have about the situation.

Note that “story” doesn’t mean “false story.” It also doesn’t mean “true story.” The word “story” in this context doesn’t imply good or bad, false or true, or any other kind of judgment. It’s simply a process that’s happening inside your head:

  • You’re remembering what happened.
  • You have a perspective about what happened, a judgment, a way of seeing it that has you as the injured party.
  • This causes an emotion in you.

So just notice what story you have, without judgment of the story or of yourself. It’s natural to have a story, but just see that it’s there. And see that it’s causing you difficulty, frustration or pain.

Step 2: Stay with the Physical Feeling

Next, you want to turn from the story in your head … to the feeling that’s in your body. This is the physical feeling: it could be tightness in your chest, a hollowness, a shooting pain, an energy that radiates in all directions from your solar plexus, an ache in your heart, or many more variations.

The practice is to turn and face this physical feeling, dropping your attention out of the story your head and into your body.

Stay and face this feeling with courage — we usually try to avoid the feeling.

Stay and explore it with curiosity: what does it feel like? Where is it located? Does it change?

If this becomes unbearable, do it in small doses, in a way that feels manageable for you. It can get intense if the feelings have been intense.

But for most feelings, we see that it is not the end of the world, that we can bear it. In fact, it’s just a bit of unpleasantness, not all-consuming or anything to panic about.

Stay with it and be gentle, friendly, welcoming. Embrace the feeling like you would a good friend. You’re becoming comfortable with discomfort, and it is the path of bravery.

Step 3: Breathe Out, Letting Go

Breathe in your difficulty, and breathe out compassion.

It’s a Tibetan Buddhist practice called Tonglen: breathe in whatever difficult feeling you’re feeling, and breathe out the feeling of relief from that difficulty.

You breathe in not only your own pain, but the pain of others.

For example:

  • If you’re feeling frustration, breathe in all the frustration of the world … then breathe out peace.
  • If you’re feeling sadness, breathe in all the sadness of the world … then breathe out happiness.
  • If you’re feeling regret, breathe in all the regret of the world … then breathe out joy and gratitude.

Do this for a minute or so, imagining all the frustration of those around you coming in with each breath, and then a feeling of peace radiating out to all of those who are frustrated as you breathe out.

You can practice this every day, and it is amazing. Instead of running from your difficult feeling, you’re embracing it, letting yourself absorb it. And you’re doing it for others as well, which gets us out of a self-centered mode and into an other-focused mode.

As you do this, you’re starting to let go of your pain or difficulty.

Step 4: Turn with Gratitude Toward the Present

As you feel that you’ve let go, instead of getting caught up in your story again, turn and see what’s right here, right now.

What do you see?

Can you appreciate all or some of it? Can you be grateful for something in front of you right now?

Why is this step important? Because when we’re stuck on something that happened in the past, we’re not paying attention to right now. We’re not appreciating the moment in front of us. We can’t — our minds are filled up with the past.

So when we start to let go of the past, we have emptied our cups and allowed them to be filled up with the present.

We should then turn to the present and find gratitude for what’s here, instead of worrying about what isn’t.

As we do that, we’ve transformed our struggle into a moment of joy.

My Upcoming Course: Dealing with Struggles

I wanted to let you guys know about an upcoming video course that I’m launching next week — it’s called Dealing with Struggles, and I’m very excited about it!

This course is aimed at anyone who has struggles:

  • Anxiety about life or social situations
  • Frustrations with themselves or other people
  • Difficulty with procrastination
  • Trouble forming new habits or quitting old habits
  • A feeling of unhappiness with ourselves
  • Struggles with finances, clutter, productivity, health issues
  • Stress about work, life, relationships

As it turns out, we all have struggles.

This video course will aim to get to the root of our struggles, and learn how to apply mindfulness practices to work with them.

It’s a four-week course, with two video lessons and two mindfulness practices a week … and it will start in April. More next week!

http://ift.tt/2nAE7Iq

How to Stay Calm: 17 Tips for Stressful and Frustrating Situations

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
Sydney J. Harris

The stress is rising. You’re starting to feel frustrated with situation you’re in. Or angry. Or maybe sad and like you just want to pack up and go home.

But at the same time you also know that you need to keep calm.

To be able to think clearly. To not overreact, make the wrong decision or to not say the wrong thing in a moment of anger, overwhelm or confusion.

I’m sure you – just like me – have been in situations like these many times.

So this week I’d like to share 17 habits and strategies that have helped me to keep calm and to keep moving forward.

1. Just breathe.

This is pretty much always step one for me.

Just take a few deep breaths and focus fully on them to calm down a bit. If you have the time in the situation you’re in then I recommend sitting down for 1-2 minutes to do this. Only focus on the air slowly going and out and nothing else.

2. Then think of the consequences.

If you’re in a situation where you need to reply to what someone just said then follow up your few deep breaths with thinking about the consequences if you reply with overly tough words or if you back down instead of calmly standing your ground.

If you have an email or a phone message you need to reply to then consider taking more time to cool down – anywhere between 10 minutes to the next day – to get yourself into the right headspace before you reply.

3. Remember: It’s not always about you.

If someone attacks you with harsh words in a conversation or via email or phone then remind yourself that this may not even be about you.

He might be going overboard or overreacting because he’s having a bad day with a sick child or just a lot of things going wrong. Or she may lash out because she’s unhappy with her job, marriage or haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a while.

This reminder helps me to not take everything so personally and to think for a minute and calm down instead of being reactive and escalating the situation.

4. Take it just one small – or tiny – step at a time.

If you feel overwhelmed and stressed out then don’t make the classic mistake of thinking you have to do everything at once to solve this situation.

Just focus on making a start. On one small step or even just a tiny one you can take to move forward.

I find that when I approach a situation like this then I rarely get stuck in analysis paralysis and my mind calms down when I know I only have to do one small thing at a time.

5. Question your perspective.

If you feel that you’re starting to get really frustrated, angry or sad about a situation then question your perspective before it goes any further.

Ask yourself:

  • How would I think and feel it if I were in his or her shoes? This one can help you to go from negative emotions to empathy and understanding. And that tends to help to both calm down and to find a solution for the both of you.
  • Will this matter in 5 years? Or even in 5 weeks? This one grounds me and helps me to stop sweating all the small stuff and to not make mountains out molehills in everyday life. And it helps me to once again focus my time and energy on what truly matters in my life.

6. What would someone else do?

Another way to change your perspective in a tough situation is to get outside of your own head a bit.

Do that by asking yourself: what would X do in this situation?

Some good people or characters that you could use for the X and this question are:

  • Winnie the Pooh.
  • Mom or dad.
  • Your calm and wise friend.

Find a person in your life or someone from a book, movie etc. that you truly like and ask yourself what he or she would do to find a new perspective.

7. Cycle fully focused work with 100% rest.

This could be a solution if you’re stressed today.

But it is more importantly a long term solution to reduce stress levels and to consistently put yourself in a better headspace to handle the inevitable setbacks and crises that will happen at work.

You need to clear boundaries for this to work though.

Here are three such boundaries I use in my own life.

  • A start time and stop time for my work day. And that’s 8 o clock in the morning and 7 o clock in the evening.
  • A break every 45 minutes. Usually, after about 45 minutes of work I take a 10-15 minute break. If I have trouble with following that guideline and work too much then I use the alarm function on my smart phone to stick to my work/rest cycle.
  • No work on weekends. I stay away from the work computer except for doing one quick check of my inbox. And I only reply to emails there that are urgent. The rest can wait until Monday. If you use a work phone then leave it at your job. Or at least keep it off and only check the messages 1-2 times per weekend.

8. Remember to keep things extremely simple.

Here’s a reminder that I’ve used more time than I can count: “Keep things extremely simple”.

It used to be at the top of my white board for over a year to remind me to not overcomplicate and to think of situations and solutions in the simplest way I could. Overthinking is a big contributor to stress and to spending too much time and energy on things that aren’t really that complicated.

I quite often sandwich this reminder between first focusing on my breathing and then following it up with focusing on one small or tiny step forward.

9. Ask instead of guessing.

Trying to mindread someone can quickly amplify stress and frustration. Because it’s pretty much impossible to do.

Plus, it can easily lead to a much worse scenario in your mind than what is actually going on in the other person’s head.

So communicate and ask what you want to ask.

10. Be 10 minutes early.

Not much help when you’re already in stressful situation. But a good reminder for tomorrow and next week.

Plan a bit ahead so that you can – as often as possible – let transportation time between meetings and destinations during your day become a small window where you can fully relax and rejuvenate so that you’ll be able to do fully focused work or be truly engaged when you arrive.

11. Reduce your to-do list.

A big or seemingly endless to-do list can cause a ton of overwhelm and stress.

To calm down simply ask yourself: what would I work on if I only had 2 hours for work today?

Then work on that task one step at a time.

This one helps me to quickly find my focus and to get started with doing one of truly most important things when I’m stressed. And it helps me to be selective with what I put on my to-do list for the day and week in the first place.

12. Go for a 5-15 minute laugh break.

When you feel overwhelmed and it’s hard to think then you can take this somewhat odd but effective kind of break.

For maybe 5-15 minutes focus on having fun, smiling and laughing.

Laughing and finding some fun breaks stress and tension. It helps your mind to relax.

You can do this by just spending a bit of time with someone at work, in school or at home that you know you’ll have fun with.

But I also recommend having a small mental or physical folder of things that you know will make you laugh.

For me it’s for example episodes of the Simpsons or comics by The Oatmeal and Jim Benton.

After that break you can return to your work or the situation that you’re trying to figure out with a lighter mind.

13. Take some time for yourself in nature.

A more conventional alternative to laugh breaks is to take a break where you go out in nature and spend some time in silence there to recharge yourself.

I usually take these breaks by going out for a slow walk in our nearby forest where I take in all the sounds, sights and smells for a little while.

14. Ask for help.

You don’t always have to go it alone in these situations. You can ask a friend, family member or even someone you may not know that well for a bit of help.

You might not always get it but you may be surprised at how helpful people can be if you just ask.

15. Just take care of today.

It’s hard to keep calm if you look at all the things you may have to get to done to solve a situation or to overcome a challenge.

That’s why I’ve already shared a few tips that help you to concentrate on a much smaller part of the situation. Such as when you focus on just one small or tiny step or when you ask yourself the question about what you’d work on if you only had 2 hours for work today.

Here’s another one of those tips and habits that help me.

What you do is simply to tell yourself: just take care of today.

Concentrate only on that. Forget about all the tomorrows for now. Narrow your focus and take care of only today.

Tomorrow will come in time and you can take care of it then.

16. Had a setback? Then be your own best friend.

Don’t let a temporary setback drag you down into a thought spiral of defeatism and negativity.

Instead, ask yourself this to keep going on a healthier track even if you don’t feel so good at the moment:

How would my best friend or my parent support me and help me in this situation?

Then do things and talk to yourself like he or she would.

17. Listen to yourself.

If you feel you’re having more trouble than usual with staying calm in several situations and you’re really frustrated in general and drained of energy then listen to yourself.

Step back before you run right into a brick wall and do or say something you really wouldn’t usually do.

Schedule more time to just take care of yourself.

Spend one evening – or a few – in bed and just watch your favorite TV-shows or movies. Take a trip over the weekend and just focus on relaxing and doing what you think is fun or fulfilling. Spend more time out in nature for a few days or a week.

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3 Ways to Overcome Adversity and Transform It Into Success

Note: This post is written by Zak Khan

Imagine waking up every morning for a month and not being able to function as a normal human being because the joints throughout your body were being attacked by your immune system. Imagine going from a fit 22-year-old law student and writer to an almost bed-ridden fatigued young adult who feels like almost 95 years old.

That’s what happened to me in 2015 and it changed my entire outlook on life. This was the greatest adversity I’ve had to overcome and in doing so, I learned many valuable lessons that I wish to share with you today.

It has been over 18 months since my diagnoses of psoriatic arthritis and I have completely overcome this life-altering autoimmune disease! Not only have I regained my life back but I’ve accomplished more in the last 18 months than I have ever before.

Here are three ways I did it.

1. Look Beyond the Problem

When things fall apart, the only factor that holds a person together is hope. I like being in control of my environment and the way my life transitions from phase to phase but the unfortunate reality I faced was that everything in life is susceptible to unexpected change.

I could roll over and ‘die’ (so to say) or I could accept that I can’t control everything in life and I have to work around circumstances and situations. What I can most certainly control are the actions I take on a daily basis to redefine my future.

By developing grit and mental strength, no amount of unexpected adversities will break you down. When I could barely walk a few feet without experiencing ridiculous pain, the hope and vision of one day being able to run and drive a car again held me together.

Over time, I started to envision a version of myself who is stronger, smarter and healthier than even before falling ill. I sought many sources of inspiration and drew hope from the stories of others who overcame similar adversities in life and went on to accomplish extraordinary feats. It pushed me to try new things, make radical changes in my lifestyle and stick to good choices every single day.

Regardless of what you face right now, picture a future in which you thrive, succeed and live with pure joy.

2. Take Controlled Action

As mentioned above, life is unpredictable and things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes, you may find yourself paired with circumstances that are not to your benefit. Rather than obsess over what went wrong and what you cannot do, redirect your attention and focus to actions within your control.

The joints in my hands were inflamed and damaged. It prevented me from writing and I could have easily used that as an excuse to quit my dreams of being a full-time writer and author. However, because I was fixating on a brighter future and discovered an undying belief within me that things will get better, I searched thoroughly and discovered alternate ways of writing.

For a couple of months, I used dictation software to speak my articles and books. There were many learning hurdles to overcome but I was determined to find a way to take action on my goals even in such a bad state.

In time, I adjusted and continued writing through this new approach until I recovered.

There’s always a detour route to any destination. It may not be ideal and it may take you a longer time to reach the finish line but at the end of the day, the results of your actions will determine the kind of rewards you reap.

You can accept defeat or find a solution to your problems. The latter offers a possibility for great success and happiness whereas the former guarantees failure and depression. I truly hope you make the correct decision.

3. Commit to Change and Experimentation Over Time

Taking an alternative route may seem uncomfortable and scary at first. However, it’s an undeniable truth that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Change is a necessary part of life and when you commit to finding comfort in the uncomfortable, doors of opportunity swing wide open!

You may not see many results when you try new things at first.

Often, the actions you take bring about results that are invisible. I came across the concept of ‘invisible benefits/results’ in the book called The Slight Edge. I highly recommend this read to anyone and everyone. Essentially, the cumulative effect applies to most actions taken. The results are invisible to the naked eye but accumulate over time until it creates a visible result.

If you exercise once, the likelihood of witnessing a decrease in weight or size is slim. However, if you exercise consistently for a longer period of time, the small results will add up and bring about weight loss and a reduction in fat.

Keep that in the back of your mind when trying to overcome adversity.

It may take multiple attempts to create visible results but don’t quit before you’ve given it a proper chance to manifest.

When healing from psoriatic arthritis, I adopted a holistic and lifestyle approach. I changed my entire diet, sleep and routine in hopes of healing naturally. At first, I hadn’t noticed any change in my condition but as time progressed, I felt better. Month after month, I felt stronger and less in pain. About a year into my new lifestyle, I completely healed.

From not being able to walk much to being a cross fit trainee again, that’s the kind of progress I’ve made since 2015!

I wanted to quit many times and the frustration of not experiencing drastic results quickly made me angry, but I refused to quit because this was a long term plan and I was prepared to keep trying until the results were enough to make me happy.

As of now, March 2017, I’ve never been happier!

– About the Writer –

Zak Khan is a full-time writer and author who shares his insights on productivity, self-development and writing over at Zakwrites.com

– Related Resources –

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The Practice of One Thing at a Time

By Leo Babauta

There’s a Japanese term, “ichigyo-zammai,” that basically means full concentration on a single act.

Sunryu Suzuki described this practice in his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and said this practice of being fully in the moment with the activity is enlightened activity.

“So instead of having some object of worship, we just concentrate on the activity which we do in each moment,” Suzuki Roshi wrote. “When you bow, you should just bow; when you sit, you should just sit; when you eat, you should just eat.”

He said when we just do that one activity, we express our true nature.

What a beautiful idea, that when we aren’t present, our true nature cannot fully express itself … but when we are truly just doing whatever we’re doing, we start to express our true selves.

But it’s easier said than done. How often are we not in the moment?

Think about times when we are:

  • Jumping between tasks in a browser
  • Checking our phones while doing other things throughout the day
  • In a rush to do the next thing while still doing the current thing
  • Thinking about other things when someone is talking to us
  • Irritated by someone when they interrupt whatever we’re doing
  • Taking whatever we’re doing for granted, because it’s dull or routine

It turns out, we are very rarely fully in the moment with any single activity. How can we try this enlightened activity of full concentration on one act?

How to Do One Thing at a Time

These are as much reminders to myself as they are reminders for you, but here’s what I’ve been practicing with:

  1. When you start an activity, turn to it with your full attention and set an intention to be present with the act, to do nothing but this activity. You might think, “Just walk” or “Just read” or “Just drink tea.”
  2. You might open up a wide-open, sky-like panoramic awareness as you do the activity, being fully engaged with the entire moment.
  3. When you notice yourself thinking about something else, or getting your attention pulled elsewhere, or starting down a pattern of judgment, resentment, etc. … just notice. Then return to being fully present with the activity.
  4. Empty your mind of preconceived ideas about the activity, and just be curious about what the activity is actually like, right now, as it unfolds. Allow yourself to be surprised.
  5. Treat every object with reverence, as if it were your own eyesight.
  6. See the brilliance of each moment, of each activity, that underlies everything around us.

Just write. Just shower. Just give someone your full attention.

As we give each activity our full loving attention, we start to appreciate each person, each object, everything around us as something worthy of respect, love, and gratitude.

We start to take life up on the opportunity to fully engage with it, with a smile and a bow.

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The Moment You’ve Been Waiting For

By Leo Babauta

Our lives are spent building up to more important moments, later, the moments when we’ll be happy.

But when those moments come, we’re not happier. In fact, we’re already looking ahead to the next big moments: an upcoming trip, a big project being completed, meeting up with friends, getting that great thing you ordered online, finding your next favorite book, meal, drink, experience.

What if that wonderful moment we’ve been waiting for is this one, right now?

What if this very moment is the most important moment of our lives?

What if we stopped working for something later, and instead started paying full attention to right now?

What if we stopped thinking happiness is coming soon, and tried to see what was in front of us, and find happiness in that?

What if this were the moment we’ve been waiting for all along?

How to Appreciate This Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

If this is the most important moment of your life, some ways you could appreciate it:

  • Stop right now and notice what is right in front of you. Find a way to be grateful for this particular moment.
  • If you are looking forward to something in the future (or anticipating anything in the future), turn instead to what’s right here, and see this as your big moment, filled with wonder and the brilliance of life.
  • If you are rushing (like I often am), instead give yourself the gift of full attention to right now.
  • If you have to hurry for some reason … you can move quickly and still appreciate this moment, appreciate your motion, appreciate how your body feels in the middle of this.
  • If your life seems “blah” right now, compared to how you would like it to be … take this as a beautiful opportunity to examine your ideals about life (why does it need to be exciting or entertaining?), to practice letting them go, and to see the incredible richness of the life around you, if you pay close attention and find curiosity inside you. This is a gorgeous opportunity, to be appreciated.
  • If you are going through difficulty or pain … see this as a good opportunity to turn towards your pain or difficult feelings (anger, depression, frustration) … to be present with it, to stay with it, to be curious about it, to be kind towards it … maybe this moment isn’t filled with joy, but it’s still the most important moment of your life, because in this moment, you find the mindfulness and courage to open your heart to your actual experience, to see it as a path for learning, growth, and open-heartedness, to use it as a touching point into the goodness that’s inside of you.
  • If this moment is filled with fear, uncertainty, immense change, or anxiety … see this as a powerfully important moment to turn towards these feelings, to see that you’re reacting to the great groundlessness of your life at the moment, and to start to learn to embrace this groundlessness, not as something to run from or push away or be reactive towards … but to get comfortable with. If you can find peace in the middle of groundlessness, you open up to the ever-changing nature of life, and can be at peace no matter what life throws at you.
  • If there is someone with you right now, you can turn towards them and open up to who they are right now, and see them as a manifestation of life’s incredible beauty. How can you appreciate this human being, and see that your time with them is limited and precious?
  • No matter what you’re doing, you can turn inward and see the innate goodness in your heart. This is always there, always accessible to us, and something not to be taken for granted. Also appreciate your body, your eyes that can see flowers and the sky, your ears that can hear laughter and music, your feet that can walk the Earth, your breath.

These are just a few ideas — let yourself explore a thousand other ways to appreciate this most important of moments, in the most loving way you can — with your full attention.

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5 Techniques to Stay Focused and Productive When Working From Home

Note: This post is written by Remy Bernard

Working from home, for some, can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you have a freedom that many cubicle dwellers dream of. No early morning commute to the office, no workplace drama (hopefully), and your schedule becomes much more flexible. When your office is your living room, oversleeping that extra 20 minutes because you had trouble falling asleep the night before becomes less of a problem. Even if you aren’t your own boss and are working for someone else remotely, logging your hours from the comfort of your bedroom or kitchen if you want to is a liberating experience.

However, the working from home arrangement is not without it’s very real challenges. Some of this depends on your personality, but in the conversations that I’ve had with people that work from home, retaining your focus and motivation throughout the day can be difficult. After all, your home is your refuge away from the rest of the world, and it becomes easy to make it your refuge away from work without even realizing it. Until you’ve done it, you don’t realize how easily distracted from your work you can become by a seemingly harmless household side task. If you have kids in the house, this can be ever more difficult and managing those boundaries is another article entirely.

Luckily, the situation is not doomed and there are some great techniques that I’ve discovered along the way through my own experience and in talking with others in a similar situation.

1. Assign All Important Tasks a Start & End Time

Even though we all only have 24 hours to make it happen every day, working from home tends to skew this perspective. Common thought patterns like “This can wait until later” start to emerge. Before you know it, you’ve skipped this, spent too long on that, and now the three things you were supposed to do today have to wait until tomorrow. I can’t begin to tell you how far the unfocused mind can extend this cycle.

My tip here is to not only structure out your day, but also assign each part of that structure a definitive time limit.

There is something about establishing ahead of time what I will be doing and for how long that enhances my focus. As humans, our minds thrive on structure (even if we don’t like to admit it), and planning out the day can go a long way.

2. Don’t Show Up to Work in Your Pajamas (A.K.A Dress Like You Were Going Into Work)

I picked this tip up from a colleague who was an attorney and also worked from his home office. Every morning he would wake up, shower, and get dressed in a suit and tie, only to settle into a day’s work three steps from his bedroom.

Personally, I don’t wear dress clothes while at home, but I do make sure that I transition out of the clothes I slept in. When I don’t, I carry with me a different energy that doesn’t translate to a solid, focused day of work ahead. Some people might be different, but I have found the mindset this creates to make all the difference in the word.

3. Have Established Working Hours

Part of the beauty of working from home is escaping the 9-5 lifestyle, but this should not be an excuse to procrastinate and prioritizing non-work related activities during working hours. The solution is simple: set clear working hours and don’t deviate from them.

Figure out at what time of the day you are most productive and make that the time you work. The trick here is sticking to it. Establish boundaries with people and things that might encroach upon that time and watch your productivity skyrocket.

4. Take Planned Breaks to Reset Throughout the Day

This one is important, as it’s easy to get carried away and spend hours heads down in a project without resetting. While this is sometimes necessary, doing this all day every day is a sure way to lead to burnout. Even if you can keep this pace up for a month, eventually it will catch up to you. 

Instead of crashing and burning, I like to take breaks every two hours or so. You don’t even have to leave the house necessarily, although a brisk 10-20 minute walk is a great way to break up the day. This is the time where you are giving yourself permission to lose focus and let your mind wander. This can look like a quick power nap, going out to grab lunch, or even a short workout. Just do something that pulls you away from the desk and out of work mode. When you come back to your scheduled task, you’ll see it with fresh eyes and renewed focus.

5. Listen to the Right Music

I can’t stand most music when I’m trying to work, but I have found that the right kind of music really helps me focus in on the task at hand. I believe this works because music can help stimulate parts of your brain that would otherwise be open for distraction. There are playlists on Spotify and YouTube that are meant for focus and working. These tend to be made up of songs without lyrics that have a subtle, driving beat. If this isn’t your cup of tea, jazz or piano music also works great.

What have you discovered that help you maintain focus at home? Please let us know in the comments.

– About the Writer –

Remy Bernard – Owner and Editor at Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes

A baker, chef and writer, Remy started missmamiescupcakes.com as a way to deepen and spread her passion for making delicious food. She can also be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

– Related Resources –

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10 Things You Can Do When You Think Life Sucks

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
William Shakespeare

“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.”
E. Joseph Cossman

Life is not always great or an exciting journey.

At times it may not even feel OK.

When you’ve had several setbacks in a row, bad luck or things aren’t going your way – even though you do your best – then it may feel like life simply and honestly sucks.

I think most of us have had days and likely longer periods like weeks or months when we’ve thought about life like this and felt pretty glum and like there’s a personal little rain cloud over your head.

What can you do when that happens?

In this article I’d like to share 10 things that have helped me when I’ve been in that situation.

I hope you find something here that’ll help you out.

1. It’s OK to feel frustrated (but know how to handle it so you don’t get stuck).

When things aren’t going your way then you sometimes get frustrated. That’s natural and OK. So instead of trying to push these emotions away accept and process them.

But also know how to not get stuck in them because then they’ll just suck a lot of energy and time from your week.

One thing that helps me to reduce that frustration so I can move forward once again is to stop my thoughts from bouncing around in the past or a possible future by reconnecting with this moment.

Two of my favorite ways for doing that are to:

  • Focus on my breathing. I sit down with closed eyes and then just focus on the air going in and out of my nose. I do that for 1-2 minutes while making sure that I take calm and slightly deep breathes than I usually do and I breathe with my belly (and not my chest).
  • Focus on what is around me for 1-2 minutes. The people going by out on the street. The slight draft from one of the windows. The warmth from the radiator. The snow slowly falling outside my window and the soft clothes on my skin. This brings my attention fully back to what is here right now.

By doing one of these things for just that tiny amount of time I calm down and it becomes easier to focus and to think clearly again.

I then follow that up with the next habit in this article…

2. Tap into gratitude for the simplest of things.

This is usually my next step when I want to reduce frustration. But it works well on its own too when you feel like life sucks.

Because during those times it’s easy to go from feeling sorry for yourself for a while into full on victim thinking that lasts for too long and drags you down.

I find that zooming out a bit during these times helps.

So I ask myself: what are 3 simple things that I can still be grateful for having in my life?

A handful of answers that I tend to come back to often are at least partly things that are basic for me but many out there in the world still don’t have access to. Like for example:

  • A roof over my head and a warm home.
  • Plenty of drinkable water.
  • I don’t have to go hungry.
  • The simple pleasures of life like a sunset or a relaxing walk in the woods.
  • My family and friends.

3. Focus more on the small how-tos and less on the whys.

Processing what happened and what you feel is certainly important. But instead of taking the common route of dwelling on the whys of the negative situation 80% of the time and looking for solutions 20% of the time switch those numbers around.

Spend more of your time on finding the small and practical steps you can take to make things better (even if it’s just a little better at this time).

By doing so you’ll start to feel more confident and less suffocated and paralyzed as you are moving forward once again.

4. Reminder: This is temporary. And there is a brand new day tomorrow.

Just because this day or the last week didn’t go well doesn’t mean that there is not a brand new day tomorrow.

A day when you can start anew.

With taking action to move towards what you want, likely having a bit more luck and when it will be easier to see that this difficult time is only temporary and not permanent (even if it might feel that way right now).

5. Ask yourself: What is going well in my life though?

It is very easy to get stuck in focusing on the negative things when you start thinking that life or your week or month isn’t going well.

But don’t forget that there are still things that are going well in your life. It may be small things.

When I had several setbacks last year I asked myself this question and it helped me to open up my mind and to not get too focused on only the things that weren’t going so well. By opening my mind I could see that many vital things like my small business, my exercise habit and flossing habit were indeed going well and that several fun things had happened recently too.

6. Setbacks can be very valuable if I let them.

I know this may sound like a cliche. And when I’m having a tough time then it’s not what I usually like to hear. But at the same time I must admit that it’s often true.

And it’s an important thing for me to reminder myself of because it reduces the pain I feel from a setback since I know that this shall pass and that I will usually get something good out of it in the end.

Now, a common way of looking at failures, mistakes and obstacles on your journey is of course as something negative and as things that should be avoided.

But trying to actively avoid them at any price usually leads to analysis paralysis and a lack of taking any significant action at all.

And the setbacks and mistakes in life can indeed be very helpful. If you let them. So before you start moving on from one of them ask yourself:

  • What is one thing I can learn from this situation?
  • How can I adjust my course to avoid this trap/making the same mistake and to likely do better the next time?

These questions have helped me to improve a lot about how I do things in life and to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.

7. Reminder: It’s OK to have a bad day.

Sometimes a bad day will just be a bad day. Even if you use a couple of the previous tips and strategies.

Because no matter what you do, life will never be perfect, awesome or peaceful all the time.

It will still have natural valleys even if you adopt many new and positive habits.

And that’s OK.

But here’s the upside…

If you actually accept that this is how life is from time to time – and you stop clinging to a dream of perfection – then your life will become lighter and simpler and you’ll be less stressed out and able to more constructively handle that bad day when it does show up on your doorstep.

8. Let it out.

Keeping things bottled up and not letting them out makes it – in my experience – easier to start making mountains out of molehills. And unbeatable nightmares out of things that do genuinely suck.

So let what is weighing on you out.

You can do it by:

  • Talking it over with someone close to you. Maybe you just need to vent and to figure things out for yourself as he or she listens. Or maybe the two of you can talk it through to ground the situation in reality. And to come up with the start of a plan for what you can do.
  • Writing about it in a journal. Just letting your thoughts, worries and emotions out on paper or a computer screen can be a relief. And it can help you to start structuring things, to think things through and to start seeing possible solutions or small steps you can take.

9. Work it out.

When things are bad and you cannot think yourself out of the state of mind that it leads you to then take another route.

Stop using your head and start using your body.

  • Go for a walk in the wintery landscape.
  • Play badminton or soccer with friends.
  • Head to the gym and work out in some way.

Will the situation perhaps still suck when you get back? Yes. But maybe less so than you first thought.

Because now you have less inner tensions and renewed mental clarity and energy. I have found in my own life that this makes a huge difference to change my perspective and to start working myself out of a negative situation.

10. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

This thought helped me to hold on when things looked bleak for many months and to keep going when my social skills and dating life was just plain bad.

It helped me to keep going when things looked like they would never pick up for my own small online business.

Why? Because I have found it to be true.

When things seemed to be at the lowest point something always happened. Often because being at that low point forced me to change something in how I did things.

But maybe also because life seems to have some kind of balance if I just keep going. If I keep taking action instead of giving up and doing nothing then something good always happens.

Seeing this repeat itself year after year strengthened my belief in taking action and to keep going even on rough days or weeks.

And it brings some comfort even when things look pretty dark.

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