52 Good Morning Meditations that Will Calm the Chaos in Your Life

52 Good Morning Meditations that Will Calm the Chaos in Your Life

It’s not what you say to everyone else that determines your life; it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the greatest power.

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.  The mind is indeed your battleground.  It’s the place where the greatest conflict resides.  It’s where half of the chaos you thought was real, never did happen.  But if you allow these thoughts to dwell in your mind, they will succeed in robbing you of peace, joy, and ultimately your sanity.  You will think yourself into a nervous breakdown, into bouts of depression, and into defeat.

There’s no escaping the fact that you are what you think – that you can’t change anything if you can’t change your thinking.

But are you ready for some really good news?

You CAN change your thinking.

And mornings are one of the simplest times for making this change gradually transpire in your life.

Each morning is enormously important.  It’s the foundation from which the day is built.  How you choose to spend your morning can be used to predict the kind of day you’re going to have.

So when you first wake up, (more…)

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The 5 Keys to Forming Any Habit

By Leo Babauta

We all struggle with our habits — sticking to them, staying motivated, getting started, dealing with disruptions, it can become a big struggle.

And yet, to change our habits is to change our lives. If we can’t make habit changes, we will be stuck in our current way of doing things, which might not be so helpful.

If you want to lose weight, beat procrastination, write a book, get fit, live mindfully … you have to develop habits.

Luckily, the process is simpler than most people realize. Simple, not easy: you have to be committed and really want to make the change. Otherwise you’ll just quit when things get difficult.

Here’s the first thing to keep in mind: just choose one habit for now. Yes, you’ll want to change a bunch of things. Don’t ignore my advice. Later, you can form more, but for now, focus on just one.

With that in mind, follow these simple steps:

  1. Start super small. I’ve said this a million times on this blog, so you might gloss over this one — but don’t. It’s the most important thing. Do one habit at a time, and do it super small. How small? Just meditate for 2 minutes. Just write for 5 minutes. Just do 5 pushups or 5 sun salutations. Just eat one vegetable a day. If you start small, you remove the resistance to starting, which is the hardest part. I used to tell myself, “Just put on your shoes and get out the door,” and that’s how I formed my running habit, and I ended up running several marathons and an ultramarathon because of this small habit. For meditation, I tell myself, “Just get your butt on the cushion.” For drawing, just get out your pad & pencil.
  2. Remove choice. Don’t think about it — make a decision ahead of time to do it every day at the same time for at least a month, then each day, don’t make it a decision. Just start. Have a trigger that’s already in your daily life (like waking up, or showering, brushing your teeth, starting the coffee maker, eating lunch, whatever) and use that as the trigger for an when/then statement: “When I wake up, I’ll meditate for 2 minutes.” Put written reminders near where the trigger happens. The main point is: make the decision to do it every day, and then just do it without thinking.
  3. Get some accountability. Have at least one person you report to — an accountability partner. Or a group of friends. Or a walking/running partner. It doesn’t matter how you set it up, but having someone to report to means you are much more likely to push yourself past resistance when it comes up.
  4. Make it fun, find gratitude. Don’t just do the habit as if it were a chore. See if you can enjoy it. How can you make it fun, play, joyous? Can you find gratitude in the middle of your workout? The habit is much more likely to stick if you focus on the parts you enjoy, rather than mindlessly try to check it off your to-do list.
  5. Be committed. Why are you doing this habit? Reflect on this during the first week, as you do the habit. What deeper reason do you have? Are you doing this habit to help others? As an act of self-love, so that you can be healthier or happier? If you’re just doing it because you think you should, or because it sounds cool, you won’t really push past the resistance.

You can start with just the first item above, but I would recommend adding as many of the other four as you can during your first week or two, because you’ll be increasing your odds of success with each one.

This is doable. You can change your old ways by consciously doing something new repeatedly, until it’s a habit. Take small steps to get started, remove choice so you don’t think about whether to start or not, get some accountability and understand your motivation so you push past resistance, and find gratitude in the midst of the action.

One habit, done daily. Small steps with intention, support and a smile. It can make all the difference in the world.

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4 Essential Ways to Thrive in a Fast-Changing World

I always like to see the big picture of something to understand it. Seeing the big picture helps me know the relationship between the elements. It also helps me see where I fit in. At the end, it helps me make informed decision or opinion. That’s why I like books such as Guns, Germs, and Steel that gives me the big picture of history.

Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman is a book that fits that category. It gives me the big picture of how the world works today. It explains how different forces shape the way we live.

It’s also a bit nostalgic for me. One of Friedman’s previous books, The World Is Flat, is what inspired me to start this website. It talks about the power of individuals in the 21st century and how those from the third-world can compete with those from the first-world. I was very excited when I learned that and decided to start this website!

In The World Is Flat, the key word is flat: people from different parts of the world are now on a level playing field. In Thank You for Being Late, the key word is fast: we now live in the age of acceleration. Things are moving faster than ever before. Because of that, what’s critical today is the ability to adapt.

How can we do that? How can we stay relevant in this fast-changing world?

Here are four ways to do that from the book along with my thoughts.

1. Embrace Lifelong Learning

In the past, people could stop their education after they graduated from college. That’s no longer true today. Skills are becoming obsolete faster than ever before, so you need to constantly upgrade yourself. You need to embrace lifelong learning.

The Economist did a special report on this a while back. Here is an excerpt:

In many occupations it has become essential to acquire new skills as established ones become obsolete… A college degree at the start of a working career does not answer the need for the continuous acquisition of new skills, especially as career spans are lengthening… To remain competitive, and to give low- and high-skilled workers alike the best chance of success, economies need to offer training and career-focused education throughout people’s working lives.

Like it or not, lifelong learning has become a necessity. In fact, you might need to reinvent yourself every now and then.

Here are two questions you should ask yourself:

  • Have I made learning a habit?
  • What skill should I learn next?

2. Be Creative and Empathic

More and more jobs are being automated these days. This article explains that the main threat to jobs is not outsourcing but automation. Even jobs that seem safe, like accounting, are prone to automation.

There are two things that can’t be automated, though: creativity and empathy. Machines can’t do these two things. So aim to have more of these qualities in yourself. Be more creative at what you do. And try to put empathy into the mix.

3. Be a Part of a Healthy Community

Your life is like a tree. If you want to grow, you need to be planted on a good soil. That “good soil” is a healthy community. A healthy community gives you the support you need to face the challenges of this age. It also helps you find balance in your life.

So be a part of such a community. It could be a religious community, a club, a neighborhood, or even just a group of friends. The important thing is that you have some people who can support you.

4. Motivate Yourself

Thanks to the Internet, we now have an abundance of resources for learning and growing. So the problem is no longer the availability of resources; it’s the availability of motivation. What makes the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is their self-motivation.

Do you have the motivation to make the most of the resources available to you? The more motivated you are, the further you will go.

***

How good are you in doing the four things above? How can you improve yourself in each? Your answers can help you thrive in this fast-changing world.

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A Guide to Fear Mastery

By Leo Babauta

We normally think of fear as something that’s holding us back, or something to be avoided … but what if we could see it as a powerful tool?

What if we could master that tool? We’d become masters at life, able to push through fears of rejection, failure, ridicule, and more.

Fear is normally like a barrier for us, keeping us from doing awesome things in life. Or if we push up against that barrier, we see the fear as making the experience miserable, and cringe because of it.

But in truth, fear is a useful thing. Once upon a time, fear was a signal to run from a lion or some other danger, and that was pretty useful. These days, we don’t usually have much physical danger (the lions have more to fear from us), but the same fear signals still happen, even when it’s trying to pursue our dreams or becoming vulnerable to other people.

These days, the fears aren’t physical — they’re more about not being good enough. Here are the top fears in a survey I did earlier this year:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fear of being inadequate
  3. Fear of rejection
  4. Fear of not being prepared
  5. Fear of being a fraud
  6. Fear of ridicule

You might notice that they are all really the same fear. The fear of not being good enough — if we’re not good enough (inadequate), we might fail, we might get rejected, we might be ridiculed, we might be found a fraud, we might need preparation because without it we won’t be adequate. Our deepest and most common fear is that we’re not good enough. That’s not physical danger, it’s all internal.

So fear, then, is no longer a signal that we should run.

Instead, fear is a useful signal that we should go toward something.

Let’s find out how.

Freedom & the Wall of Fear

Whenever we feel fear, it means we’re up against some kind of wall … on the other side of the wall is some kind of freedom.

This is a freedom we desire, and that’s a healthy thing to want that kind of freedom. But we push up against the fear, and it can hold us back because our normal response is to avoid that wall of fear. By avoiding it, we remain on the side of the wall where we stay comfortable, where we know what we’re doing, where things are easy. We’re trapped by that wall of fear, as long as we keep avoiding it.

What would happen if we pushed through that wall? We’d have freedom: the freedom to connect with others in a vulnerable way, to put ourselves out there and pursue the life of meaning we really want, to publish books and websites and podcasts and poems, to explore the world or create a non-profit organization, to make friends and love with an open heart.

Freedom is on the other side of the wall of fear. So when we feel fear, it’s actually a signal that we should go toward the fear.

Yes, it’s difficult. But avoiding it doesn’t work. It just causes more difficulty. Instead, we can go inward, and see the turmoil that’s in there that the fear is signaling, go into our cave of darkness and process whatever’s in there. That means looking at how we think we’re not good enough, trying to learn to love ourselves, learning to trust ourselves to be OK even if we get rejected or if we fail.

And we can also courageously take action, in the presence of fear.

Acting in the Face of Fear

Just because fear is present, doesn’t mean we have to run. In fact, we can practice acting mindfully even with fear in our bodies.

The practice is to notice that there’s fear, and notice our habitual reaction. Stay with the fear, and notice how it feels as a physical sensation. Notice that it’s not so bad, that we can actually be OK in the middle of that physical sensation. It’s just hormones in our bodies, just an energy of excitement.

Being in the moment, we can take action: write a book, have a conversation, go to a social event, get on stage. We can immerse ourselves fully in the moment, feeling the fear in our bodies but still doing the action.

Fear is a worry about the future, which doesn’t exist. Noticing that, we can turn back to the present moment: what’s here in front of us. We can be grateful for what’s in front of us. We can smile at it, and take action.

This takes practice. Try it now. Practice it every day: go toward whatever scares you, repeatedly. Lean into the fear. Be courageous, pushing through the wall of fear into the freedom of openness

Listen to Me on the Rich Roll Podcast

I had the honor of sitting down with the awesome Rich Roll on his popular podcast … check it out:

Rich Roll Podcast: Leo Babauta’s Mission to End Human Struggle: Ruminations on Suffering, Simplicity & the Power of Mindfulness

It was an absolute joy, and Rich is such an incredible person. I hope you enjoy the podcast.

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3 Tough Truths About Our “Priorities” No One Wants to Admit

3 Tough Truths About Our Priorities No One Wants to Admit

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
― Annie Dillard

Fifteen years ago he walked into my dorm room on the verge of tears.

“I can’t take it anymore!” he groaned.  “I’m just running in place!  I aim.  I sprint.  I leap.  I fall.  I get nowhere.  Nowhere!”

His desperate eyes stared into mine, hoping… searching for an answer.

His Story of Prioritization & Focus

He has dreamed of pursuing a career in software engineering since he was a kid.  “Businesses worldwide will rely on my code someday,” he used to tell his computer programming teacher in high school.  Now, as a junior enrolled in computer science at a reputable university, he finally has a clear shot at making his dream a reality.

He wakes up every morning filled with excitement and positive intentions.  Studying is actually the first thing that crosses his mind.  “I’ve got to get that chapter read,” he tells himself.  But first he needs to grab some Starbucks and a muffin.  “Okay, now I’m ready.”

He sits down at his desk and cracks open the Agile Software Development book for his class tomorrow.  The phone rings.  It’s Jen, a good friend he met in his sophomore English class.  “Lunch today?  Yeah, I could do that.  How’s noon sound?  Perfect.  See you then.”  Before he sits back down to read, he remembers that he skipped his workout yesterday.  “A quick workout will only take forty-five minutes and it will energize my mind for a few hours of diligent studying,” he thinks to himself.  He puts his sneakers on, grabs his earphones and heads over to the campus gym.

When he returns from the gym, he takes a shower and is once again ready to read.  “Chapter 1:  Welcome to the power of agile software development.  This book is divided into…”  “Ah, crap!  I forgot to email my mother those photos I promised her.  Heck, it will only take a second.”  He quickly (more…)

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The Perfect System

By Leo Babauta

Most of us are constantly looking for the Perfect System:

  • The perfect morning routine
  • The perfect system for dealing with email
  • The perfect system for productivity, to end procrastination
  • The perfect system for finances or building wealth
  • The perfect system for learning anything
  • The perfect system for being mindful, getting fit, losing weight, decluttering, building new habits, being a parent, building a new career, and on and on

Entire industries are built off of this desire to find the perfect system for anything that you have uncertainty about.

I know, because I’ve spent a good deal of my life looking for the Perfect System in so many areas. I’ve developed nearly perfect systems in many parts of my life.

But today, I’m going to share something I’ve worked years developing: my Perfect System.

Perfect System for what? For anything, my friend. Anything in life. All of it.

But first, let’s look at why other systems fail.

Why All Other Systems are Crushed

You can put your morning routine into the perfect order, but it won’t solve your problems. Why not? Because it doesn’t address your root problem. It’s only a surface solution.

The root problem is uncertainty.

Let me repeat that, because it’s the key to all of this: the root problem we’re trying to solve when we’re looking for the perfect system in any area of our life is uncertainty.

Does your day feel chaotic, overwhelming, uncontrolled? Then you try to address that chaos by finding a perfect system.

Are you entering a new, scary area in your life? Then you try to find out how others conquered the uncertainty of this area, what their perfect system was. You’d probably be willing to pay hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, for their perfect system.

Are you overwhelmed by email, social media, finances, habits, diet and exercise, clutter, and more? Then you try to deal with the chaos and uncertainty of all of that by buying a book, a program, a course that teaches you the perfect system. I have a few to sell you.

But the certainty you’re looking for doesn’t come, no matter how much you pay. No matter what system you try. It might seem like it at first, so you feel some temporary relief. But in the end, the uncertainty comes back, because you still don’t know what the hell you’re doing. The fear arises. You search some more.

Uncertainty, and the fear and discomfort that arises from uncertainty, will always be there, unless you’re doing something you absolutely know how to do (like watching TV, checking Facebook or playing games). And who wants to only do the easy stuff in life? You’ll never learn anything new, never push into greatness, always run from the fear.

Doing the easy stuff and running from the fear doesn’t work anyway. You still have uncertainty, but you try to ignore it, assuage it with the distractions.

All other systems but mine are crushed by uncertainty, fear, discomfort, and running from these difficulties.

The Perfect System to Crush All Others

OK, so now we see why the other systems are all weak, scrawny, laughable attempts at making our lives better. We scoff at them!

I have a system that will destroy all others, crush them like soft peaches. The Perfect System.

I am going to give it to you for free. Unfortunately, it won’t work for you unless you’re willing to push yourself a bit and do a bit of work. I realize that means it’s not perfect for most of you, who want something easy and certain. You are not worthy of my Perfect System, so don’t read it.

The rest of you (both of you), read on!

Here’s the system:

  1. Notice when you are looking for certainty from a system, course, book, and so on.
  2. Acknowledge that you are feeling uncertainty. That you are trying to find certainty.
  3. Say to yourself, “Certainty is the enemy of awesome. Uncertainty is the fuel for an amazing life.” Repeat it until you believe it. Say it with gusto, zest and verve! Yell it out loud until your neighbors look up from their phones in dismay!
  4. Resolve yourself to not run from uncertainty like a coward, but to face it like a warrior, like a goddess, like a Jedi Ninja Pirate Demigod.
  5. Stay with the feeling of fear and uncertainty. It is uncomfortable. You laugh at the discomfort in derision, laugh at its pathetic attempts at making you flee.
  6. Push further into uncertainty and fear by doing whatever you are afraid of. Feel the fear. Feel the uncertainty. Feel it transforming you into a powerful being, trembling with the discomfort of being amazing and delicious. Cry out from the pain of it all, the pain of being beautiful and alive, the pain of joining with the likes of Odysseus and Genghis Khan and Joan of Arc, the anguish of your divinity, the pangs and torment of becoming a celestial deity.

Repeat until whatever you’re doing becomes comfortable. Then push into new uncertain territory, feeling the groundlessness of growth and learning and fearlessness.

You no longer need to run. You can stay in courage and awesomeness.

You no longer need to find certainty or answers or systems. You have all you need inside you, bursting with light and goodness, shining your powers into the vast and tremulous universe.

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How to Overcome Shyness: 90 Remarkably Fresh Strategies

Note: This post is written by Dan Stelter

Terrified in social situations?

Feel everyone’s eyes on you? Like they can’t wait for you to screw up so they can criticize you?

You may feel it’s impossible to overcome your fear.

Will you be reserved to the corner of the room, or maybe your own home, for your entire life?

Nope.

You can be confident and comfortable in social situations that have haunted you your entire life.

Well, you can if you follow these 90 strategies for overcoming shyness:

  1. Your anxious thoughts lie to you. They always tell you you’ll mess up and someone will reject you. A rare few people do. Most don’t.
  2. Open your mind to interpreting people’s actions differently. Usually, your anxiety looks for visual confirmation you “screwed up.” Your shyness aims to see this in someone’s face. Or words. Or actions. Assign new meanings to the way other people act. Perhaps, they’re equally afraid of you.
  3. Ask your friend for their understanding of the situation. People comfortable in social situations have a realistic or optimistic understanding of other’s behavior. Ask someone you trust what they thought of the other person’s actions. Work on accepting their insight as reality.
  4. Disrupt the ritual before you enter the anxiety-provoking situation. Your mind starts spinning anxious thoughts well before you enter the feared social situation. Disrupt that process by sharing your fears with someone you trust. Or journal them. Or sit down, relax, and let those thoughts pass by.
  5. Don’t fight your fears. When you fight your fears, you lose every time. I do. Everyone does. So, don’t try to hide them. See them. Acknowledge them. Let them pass through your mind. Just like you’re standing and watching traffic.
  6. Focus on what you can do for others. When you get anxious, you become gravely concerned everyone’s obsessed with criticizing you or perceiving you negatively. So, turn that process around by placing the focus on others. Ask them about their lives. Pull up a chair for them. Give them a compliment. It gets you out of yourself.
  7. Eat more probiotics. Commonly found in yogurt, tempeh, and other fermented foods, new research published by Psychology Today shows eating probiotics reduces social anxiety.
  8. Reduce your contact with negative people. Many people only make your shyness worse, and they don’t care about ways they can help you. Limit or eliminate your time with these people.
  9. Do something healthy for yourself. This activity can be whatever makes you feel good about you. Perhaps you like to work with your hands. Or, you want to read a book. Do something you love simply because you love it.
  10. Take care of your spiritual life. This fourth dimension of human nature, noted by Stephen Covey, often gets overlooked.
  11. Never stop learning and growing. Most people stop learning after high school or college. Settle in your ways and change becomes hard. Never stop. Your social anxiety will have a difficult time catching up.
  12. Share your anxious thoughts with someone you trust. Ideally, this would be another shy person. Try to meet someone online. Take the relationship offline. Discussing your anxious fears cuts them down to size.
  13. Laugh at your shyness. Usually, you’re more scared of your own anxiety than anything else, right? Laugh at it. A couple times, I asked two other people at stores for help. Turns out, they weren’t even employees. Whoops!
  14. Let go of outcomes. If you don’t hit it off with someone socially, remember you’re not responsible for that. The final outcome, whether things go your way or not, isn’t your responsibility.
  15. …But taking action is. Directly entering those situations which make you anxious takes their power away. Taking action is your responsibility. But anything beyond that isn’t.
  16. Let go of the pressure you put on yourself. As a shy person, you put intense pressure on yourself to not make perceived mistakes. You believe that you get more outcomes to go your way when you don’t. That only builds the pressure social anxiety puts on you. So let that thinking go too. It gives you more freedom to be yourself.
  17. It’s totally okay for you not to be perfect. Do you know a “perfect” person? If you do, you don’t truly know them. If someone has to be perfect, they’re really deeply insecure with who they are. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.
  18. Live your life one moment at a time. Shyness always pushes you waaaaaay into the future, or past. Instead, focus on this moment. Be here. Now. When your mind drifts, let the thinking go and refocus on now. Easy to say. Challenging to do.
  19. Admit you don’t know what will happen. How many times have you been extremely anxious…only to find out what you feared never happened? Keep admitting to yourself you don’t know what comes next.
  20. Watch less TV. Nielsen says the average 35-49 year old American watches nearly 34 hours of TV per week. TV itself doesn’t affect your social anxiety. But, it takes away time you could spend reducing your anxiety, like exercising, helping someone else, or spending time with friends.
  21. Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is currently the most effective therapy for social anxiety disorder. If you really want to find freedom from social anxiety, use CBT with guidance from a therapist.
  22. Change your job. You’ll spend 35-50 hours per week at work for 30-40 years. You spend more hours working than time with your family. Might as well work a job you enjoy, right? Keep changing until you find one you love.
  23. Take medication. I’m not a big fan of medication, but I do take it. It reduces your symptoms. That makes it easier for you to challenge your shyness and gain social skills.
  24. Cut yourself, and everyone else, a break. You’re not perfect. No one else is, either. Give everyone some slack.
  25. Let go of resentment. Social anxiety sometimes robs you of important life milestones (graduating school, dating, marriage, friends etc…). It’s easy to become consumed with resentment when life doesn’t go your way. Let go of it. It only separates you from others even more.
  26. Let go of judging others. Your shyness criticizes you intensely. You often treat others the way you treat yourself. So, it’s easy to criticize and judge others. Whenever you want to do it, pray for the other person or wish them well.
  27. Watch out for other personal struggles. Shy/socially anxious people often turn to addictions like alcohol and drugs for relief. Others develop depression. ADHD and bipolar also co-occur with shyness. Watch for these and work on them too. Left unchecked, they skyrocket your shyness.
  28. Get enough sleep. Test what amount of sleep leads to you feeling rested. Get that every night. When you’re tired, anxiety grows.
  29. …But don’t drink energy drinks. Most contain large amounts of caffeine. Not only does that disrupt your sleep, but it naturally agitates your social anxiety too.
  30. Count your blessings. Sometimes, your shyness makes you feel like life has robbed or cheated you. Let go of the negative. Focus on the good things about your life and watch your anxiety melt away.
  31. Get a pet. Pets require you to get outside of your mind. They require a fair amount of care. Plus, they love you. A nice little boost to your life.
  32. List your strengths. Everyone has strengths. Including you. Make a list of what you do well. Spend more time doing that. Don’t think you have strengths? Time to get out there and try new things.
  33. Spend time with people who appreciate you for who you are. Some people think you have something wrong with you. Others think you’re great. Spend more time with those who like you because you’re…you! If you don’t know people like this, keep joining groups and trying new stuff until you find your fit. Everyone fits somewhere.
  34. Listen to others. What do most people love to talk about? Themselves! So, focus your conversation on them. Ask them questions about their life. Most never run out of things to say.
  35. Go totally crazy. This one’s not for everyone. But, you could do goofy things in public, like asking every woman you see for her phone number. Burp obnoxiously while standing in line at your grocery store. It’s a crazy way to do CBT. For some, it works.
  36. Stand up for yourself. Other people will sometimes try to run over you and have their way. So, stop them. Tell them, ”No.” You can be diplomatic, and tell them “no” in a longer way like, ”Sorry. I’m busy this weekend.” Scary at first. But you’ll feel great afterwards.
  37. Stand up for someone else. See someone getting bullied? Is someone going out of their way to be a jerk? Stand up for the person they’re attacking. That person will be thankful for you. And you’ll again feel great about your growing confidence.
  38. Admit everyone has a role in the world. The world wasn’t made just for gregarious extroverts. Socially anxious people have skills too. You may make a good listener, project manager, mentor, entrepreneur, friend, or even customer service rep. You have a spot. Find where you belong.
  39. Let go of your need for affirmation. Everyone likes to have people admire them. But that’s dangerous. Because, then you continue to behave in ways to get it. Instead, let that thinking go. Realize you know people who love you. Trust them over strangers you just met.
  40. Eat foods rich in vitamin B. Vitamins B1 and B12 have a lot to do with your mood. Consume them as supplements or get plenty of beef, pork, chicken, leafy greens, fruits, rice, nuts, and eggs in your diet.
  41. Avoid sugar. Yeah, candy tastes great. But, sugar only creates a quick surge of energy. Then, you crash and feel tired and anxious again. Stay away from sugar where possible.
  42. Take a hot bath or shower. Ever notice how cold and tight your body feels from anxiety? Relax your muscles (and mind) with hot water.
  43. Burn pleasing aromas. Lavender, rose geranium, chamomile, clary sage, bergamot, jasmine, sandalwood, sweet marjoram, and ylang-ylang all relax your nerves.
  44. Watch your favorite comedy. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America uses laughter to help treat cancer. No joke! You may also live longer if you laugh more. If you’re the shy/anxious type, you just can’t get enough of it.
  45. Emotional freedom technique (EFT). Warning: this one sounds stupid at first. All you do is tap different “meridian points” around your body, while saying,”Even though I feel anxious, I deeply love and accept myself.” Theoretically, this releases energy blockages in your body. Works for some people.
  46. Practice social skills. Sometimes, you don’t know what to say because you haven’t practiced your social skills enough. So, before a social engagement, strategize three ways you can start conversations. Compliment someone on what they’re wearing. Ask adults about their kids or pets. Discuss current events everyone knows about.
  47. Find a therapist you feel comfortable with. Anxious people mistakenly believe simply finding a professional will cure them. Nope. You must feel comfortable with them. It’s totally possible to get a therapist that doesn’t work out. Change therapists if you need to.
  48. Make getting out of your head a moment-by-moment practice. You can’t control what thoughts enter your head. But you can control what you do with them. The moment your mind spins anxious thoughts, stand up and do something for someone else. Take care of the dishes. Go on a walk. Train your brain to focus on anything but anxious thoughts.
  49. Remember, your head is a dangerous place to go on your own. Actually, everyone’s head creates some kind of self-destructive thinking. So, you don’t need to feel ashamed about your head creating anxious thoughts. Don’t allow yourself to isolate. Check your thoughts with someone you love and who understands you. Don’t have someone? Seek relationships out online. The more, the better.
  50. Let go of judging your feelings. Being shy in social situations doesn’t make you “bad.” It just makes you…shy in social situations. Nothing wrong with it. Accept it. Embrace it. Realize you have strengths others don’t because of your anxious personality (stronger emotional perception, for example). And, some caution can be good.
  51. Listen to soothing music. Much of my life consisted of listening to loud and angry heavy metal music. That didn’t do anything to reduce my anxiety! Find calm, peaceful, and soothing music that makes you feel at home. That’s why I love Spotify. I like to listen to “Discover Weekly.” Spotify chooses songs just for you based on what you’ve listened to. And they update it every Monday. Then, I create the perfect playlists that help me relax and enjoy the day.
  52. Remember famous anxious people turned out okay. Gandhi was so extremely anxious he initially failed as a lawyer. Richard Branson hid behind his mother as a child. Johnny Depp has said he can’t stand being famous. Actor Will Farrell was extremely shy during his college years. You may not end up famous. But, you can certainly do well in life.
  53. Accept a life with no limits. Your mind caps where you can or can’t go in life. If you don’t think you can, you certainly won’t. Let go of that barrier. Accept you can be as relaxed and comfortable as you want in social situations.
  54. Take breaks. Working on a personal challenge like shyness takes extensive energy. You’ll feel worn out at times. Take a break. You need it and deserve it just as much as anyone else.
  55. Your social anxiety exists as a part of your life…or not. Avoid action, and you’ll feel shy/anxious. Take action, and your anxiety increases briefly. But, it calms down in the long-run.
  56. You are your own worst enemy. Other people may not make being shy easy. But your feelings aren’t their fault. Only you can do something about your shyness. When tempted to blame others, let go of that thinking and don’t trust it. It only keeps you stuck in your fear.
  57. Everyone’s anxious. In most social situations, nearly everyone has some anxiety. Take comfort in that. Everyone’s a little unsure. They’re slightly afraid. Worried what others might think. You can relate.
  58. You’re not “terminally unique.” When your shyness gets bad, you start to believe you’re the only one with the problem. Untrue. It really means your anxiety is high and you’d benefit from taking action.
  59. Learn to love yourself. At its core, shyness means you feel ashamed of who you are. Healthy self-love does not include shame. Let go of that feeling every time it comes up. Instead, accept yourself. Take an accurate inventory of your strengths and weaknesses.
  60. Forgive others. No one else will treat you perfectly. Everyone makes mistakes. Forgive others when they harm you, whether they’re aware or not. For some people who’ve caused you greater harms, this can take months or years.
  61. …But don’t take their abuse. If someone repeatedly harms you despite knowing the harm they cause, you can set further boundaries. That may include telling the other person you won’t speak to them.
  62. Forgive yourself. You make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. But everyone does! Social anxiety wants you to ruminate on your mistakes forever. It’s a horrible form of self-torture. Forgive yourself, regardless of the size of the mistake you make.
  63. Let go of your expectations. Your shyness often pushes your expectations sky-high, setting you up for perceived failure. For example, it expects everyone to think you’re awesome, a real superstar. Or, you should be this way…or that way. Whatever it is, you’re not good enough. Don’t dwell on those. Let them go as soon as they enter your mind.
  64. Yoga and Tai Chi particularly help with anxiety and shyness. I prefer intense aerobic exercise – running or basketball. Get it at least three times during the week. Ideally, you’ll get 30 minutes per day.
  65. Find other people standing alone. Someone’s always standing by themselves at social gatherings. Their fear may even be more intense than yours. Start a conversation with them.
  66. Identify and relate. One of the best ways to have productive conversations is to simply meet the other person where they’re at (but only if you honestly can). For example, they share a personal story about being in a bike accident. Say,”Yep. I’ve been there too…” and then share your own story.
  67. Join an anxiety treatment group. They cost less than individual treatment. And, sharing your experiences with other social anxiety sufferers is powerful.
  68. Take a deep breath using the 4/2/6 method. Social anxiety causes you to tense up. When you notice yourself doing that, take deep breaths instead. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 2 seconds. Exhale slowly out your mouth for 6 seconds, and push out as much air as you can.
  69. Understand social anxiety’s tricks. With social anxiety, you get what you oppose. Social anxiety says,”No. It’s happening again. Your hands are sweating. Everyone will see!” And that leads to your hands sweating. Let your anxiety pass, rather than trying to oppose it. Feel the feelings. Let them be. And move on to the next right action.
  70. Consume a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to Joseph R. Hibbeln of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, omega-3 affects your serotonin levels. Serotonin plays a large role in depression and anxiety. Salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, seaweed, flaxseed, walnuts, or natural supplements are abundant in omega-3.
  71. Quit smoking. Nicotine only temporarily relieves your anxiety. Smoking actually leads to higher levels of anxiety.
  72. Rely less on technology for your social life. Technology works awesomely well for starting a relationship that would otherwise never happen. As much as possible, take your online relationships offline. If that only means you can chat with your friend via phone, that’s more effective than merely talking online.
  73. Don’t keep any secrets. Social phobia constantly wants you to hide from others. You do have to exercise good judgment in what you say to whom. But you should have at least one person who knows everything about you – good and bad.
  74. Accept the flaws in others. Most people return to you exactly what you give them. If you accept their flaws, they’ll accept yours. So, do your best to accept the other person exactly as they are. Sometimes, it’s a challenge. But that’s okay. No one’s perfect.
  75. Read personal stories of hope. Social anxiety constantly focuses you on the negative. Seemingly, things will never get better. To pull your mind out of that negative loop, read stories where people share how they’ve let go of their social anxiety.
  76. Focus on the small, positive progress you make. Rarely does anyone get cured from social anxiety in an “overnight” experience. Some have claimed it. But I’m skeptical about their claim. To grow and let go of shyness, you must focus on each positive step you make. At first, they’re small. For example, you simply go to a social function and say nothing (rather than avoiding it entirely). But each seemingly small victory is actually an enormous one. Focus on each win to the best of your ability.
  77. Do progressive muscle relaxation (PGR). When anxious, you notice how tense your muscles get. PGR helps you relieve that tension. Here’s a guide for doing it.
  78. Get a biofeedback device. Biofeedback devices connect electrical sensors to your body. They connect to software, which gives you exercises showing you how to relax. Biofeedback can be quite useful in helping you regulate your body to reduce your anxiety.
  79. Use your empathy to help others. Research proves that people with high social anxiety “…demonstrate a unique social-cognitive abilities profile with elevated cognitive empathy tendencies and high accuracy in affective mental state attributions.” Read the full study.
  80. Question your own thoughts. Send anxiety running the other way with these three questions: 1) “Am I 100% sure __________ will happen?” 2) “Am I responsible for the entire conversation?” 3) “What would I say to my best friend if they had this thought?”
  81. Practice by role-playing. What better way to learn skills for overcoming your social anxiety than by practicing them with another person? You may need to join a treatment group for this. But, you could also do it with a trusted friend or family member.
  82. Consciously focus on positive social emotions. It’s so easy to consume yourself with the one scowl you see at a social gathering. Your socially anxious mind instinctually searches for negative feedback so it can drive you back into anxiety. Let go of that. Look for positive feedback. And focus on that instead.
  83. Let go of defining yourself as “socially awkward.” When you say,”I’m just an awkward person. I don’t belong. I’m too different,” you define yourself for the rest of your life. Change becomes nearly impossible. Everyone with social anxiety can change. You can too… no matter how much it affects your life. Change is one of the defining characteristics of being human.
  84. Moderate social anxiety helps you. Your social anxiety may help you prepare for a challenging situation. For example, you decide to confront a family member on their behavior. Social anxiety helps you because you’re bracing to deal with a situation where the other person might not like what you say. Or, you may practice a speech several times so you perform well.
  85. Find a workplace culture that fits your personality. Workplaces vary in what they value. Find employers who let you work independently and value individual contributions.
  86. Initiate conversations with your employer to reduce your stress. You may need more frequent breaks to keep your stress levels low. Talk with your supervisor about modifying your employment, and keep the focus on how these changes will help you provide the company with more benefits (like increased productivity).
  87. Arrive at social functions early. When you show up late, a crowd’s gathered and everyone’s engaged in conversation. If you go early, you have a high chance of meeting people one-on-one, which will be easier on your nerves.
  88. Other people don’t pick up on your social anxiety as much as you think. Yes, your social anxiety tells you everyone has their eyes on you. But even if you are speaking in public, others likely don’t have the ability to pick up on your shyness like you do. A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology proves this.
  89. This one might irk your social anxiety. But, you’ll find people actually support and encourage you, while also drawing inspiration from you. An occasionally insane and rude person may leave a nasty comment. But that’s rare. Brittany at The Shyness Project publicly stated her goals, trials, and what she learned. And she got an outpouring of support.
  90. Take responsibility for your anxiety. It’s easy to blame other people or situations for your social anxiety. I’ve done it. A lot. But it only keeps you stuck in your social anxiety. You can’t do anything about other people. You can only take action on your own social anxiety.

Yep. So that’s what I came up with. How about you? What do you do to let go of your shyness?

Bio: Love this? You’ll also enjoy this free 11-part email series (with strategies not found in this post) that helps you overcome your shyness and boost your confidence, happiness, serenity, and connection: 11 Breakthrough (And Proven) Strategies to Keep You Forever Free from Social Anxiety

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The Antidote to Self-Harshness & Resentment

By Leo Babauta

There are two poisons that have hurt me so much over the years:

  1. Self-harshness — I have so often been critical of myself, harsh on myself, about all my little failures, that this harshness has become one of the biggest things holding me back.
  2. Resentment – I’ve increasingly become aware of how I have a mental pattern of resentment that hurts my relationships, especially with my loved ones. They don’t behave the way I want, so I notice myself feeling resentful that they couldn’t do things differently.

The truth is, these are the biggest problems for most of us. We don’t love ourselves the way we are. We don’t love others the way they are. And the harshness that results is painful and harmful to us and the people we love most.

How do we deal with these two poisons?

There’s a simple antidote. It’s not easy, but it’s pretty simple.

It’s a habit of loving that which we normally dislike.

In fact, this small habit can transform all of our problems.

Imagine for a moment that you’ve been procrastinating (I know, a stretch, just go with it). You’re running from something that makes you uncomfortable, and you go to your favorite distraction instead. What if, instead of running from the discomfort and uncertainty — you gave them some love? You wouldn’t have to run. You’d face the uncertainty with love, and just work in the midst of it. (Btw, I have a course on reprogramming procrastination going on right now, join my Sea Change Program to practice with me.)

Imagine that you have anxiety about something coming up (let’s say a presentation). You’re afraid of the presentation, because you have uncertainty about how you’ll do. You want to get away from this uncertainty. What if you practice loving this uncertainty? You might not feel so anxious. What if you gave some of that good love to your feelings of anxiety as well? You wouldn’t be harsh on yourself about being anxious.

It’s easier said than done, of course. So how do you get better at it? Practice.

Antidote Practice

Here’s how to work with this practice:

  1. Imagine a good friend or loved one, someone who you can love whole-heartedly with ease. Send this person some love right now. Wish for them to be happy. Love them just as they are, in all their wonder. Now here’s the important part: notice where in your body you feel this love. This is your Love Muscle (it’s not dirty, get your mind out of the gutter). Practice some more, so that you can call up this feeling of love, from your Love Muscle, at will.
  2. Now turn your Love Muscle onto something about yourself. Notice something about yourself that you like. Work the Love Muscle, and love this thing about yourself.
  3. Practice on something you don’t like. Now try turning the Love Muscle onto something about yourself that you’re usually not fond of. You know how to use the Love Muscle by now, so give it a shot. How can you love this thing about yourself just as it is? Imagine a good friend who is having a hard time, who is flawed … can you love that good friend? Can you produce the same feeling of love about this part of yourself? Try it with different parts of yourself, both physical parts and mental/emotional parts of you.
  4. Practice on other people. Notice things about other people that you like. Send love to these things. Now notice things that you don’t like. Send love to these things as well. Practice on people all day long.
  5. Practice when you feel resentment. When you notice yourself resenting something about another person, or resenting their behavior … send love to this part of the person. Love them as they are. Exercise your Love Muscle. Send love to the part of you that was feeling frustration or resentment.
  6. Practice when you’re feeling harsh on yourself. Whenever you notice yourself disliking something about yourself, send love to this thing about yourself. Send love to the part of you that dislikes the other part.

Basically, you can practice all the time. Over and over, reminding yourself and practicing.

You can practice on everything:

  • When you have been lazy or procrastinated, notice the feeling of harshness or disappointment that comes up in yourself. Give this feeling your full attention, and all of your love.
  • When you eat too much, or eat junk food, notice the feeling of pleasure but also guilt. Give both these feelings your love.
  • When you are interacting with someone and they annoy you, notice the annoyance. Give some loving to this feeling of annoyance, and to the person who is annoying you.
  • When you’ve been distracted all day, maybe feeling a bit anxious … notice the feelings of being distracted, of rushing, of anxiety. Love these feelings with all your heart.
  • When you notice your heart shutting down to someone, or to some experience, notice what it feels like when your heart starts to shut down. Love this feeling of shutting down, and love the thing you’re shutting down to.
  • When you’re meditating and feeling like you’re not good at it, notice what not being good at it feels like. Turn to that experience and give it some love. Love the part of you that is attempting this at all.

And so on. Every experience, every feeling, every person, every aspect of life … you can love it as the Dalai Lama would, as Jesus would, as the biggest-hearted Goddess of Love would. You are practicing loving life itself. And that’s something worth falling in love with.

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An Open Letter to Those Who Are Trying to Make the Best of a Bad Situation

An Open Letter to Those Who Are Trying to Make the Best of a Bad Situation

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.”
― Iain Thomas

This article was inspired by a short email we received this morning from a new course student:

Dear Marc and Angel,

There’s so much meaning and value I want to foster in my present life, and yet a tragic past continues to drag me down.  I feel like I have weights tied to my ankles.  It’s the heaviness of grief that still sneaks up on me.  Truly, I’ve been through a lot – the toughest and most heartbreaking of which was losing my husband in a car accident when he was only 35-years-old.  And right now, six years later, I’m at a point where I’m trying to make the best of a bad situation, but I wake up on some mornings and just can’t seem to let go of the way things were “supposed to be” in my life.

Anyway, I know you can’t solve all my problems, but I was hoping you could shine some light on my situation.  I could use a little perspective today.  Do you have any wisdom you could share?

Sincerely,
A Struggling Student

Our reply (an open reply to all who are trying to make the best of a bad situation):

Dear Struggling Student,

Angel and I just finished reading your email, together, and we sincerely wish we could start by giving you two of the biggest, longest hugs imaginable.  But since that’s not possible at this very moment, let me tell you about an unexpected phone call I received in the middle of the night last night.

My phone rang just before midnight.  I didn’t answer.  Then it rang again a minute later.  I rolled over, grabbed it off the nightstand, and (more…)

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Three Practices for the Overwhelmed, Stressed, Anxious

By Leo Babauta

Many of us feel overwhelmed by all we need to do, and it can be downright stressful.

I’d like to share three practices to take you from overwhelmed to just whelmed.

You can’t eliminate stress, anxiety or the feeling of being overwhelmed from your life, nor would you want to. However, you can see them as wonderful places to practice some amazing things that will help in all areas of your life.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious … you can do one or more of these three practices:

  1. The Practice of Training in Uncertainty. When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it comes from a feeling of uncertainty. We don’t know how things are going to go, we worry that we can’t do it all, we don’t know how we’re going to do with any of it, we’re uncertain that we’re good enough to handle all of this. Uncertainty. Our minds don’t like that feeling, and we want stable ground under our feet, something solid, certain, or reassuring. Unfortunately life never gives us that reassuring certainty. So we’re always running, always trying to cope with the uncertainty by doing as much as we can, making lists, finding the perfect software or system, running to distractions. Instead, we can train our minds to stay with the uncertainty, and gradually become more comfortable in this state. And then we can be at peace in the middle of chaos. Read more about this practice.
  2. The Practice of Letting Go. When we’re stressed out, it’s because we’re attached to something — attached to doing everything, attached to how people see us, attached to meeting a goal or deadline or reaching some outcome, attached to our self-image. What if we could let go of these attachments, and just be in the moment? Things would suddenly become easier. Luckily letting go is something that’s within our power. Read more about this practice.
  3. The Practice of Doing Just One Activity. Our minds are stressed and overwhelmed because we’re thinking about our uncertain future … but what if we learned to trust the present moment? What if, instead, we just fully immersed ourselves in the activity before us? This is actually a letting go practice, and it’s also a being-fully-present practice. Just fully be in the activity you’re doing, just one activity. Just read this post. Just answer this single email. Just wash this one dish. As if it were the only activity and the most important activity in the world. Because it is. Read more about this practice.

These are all transformative practices, and you can practice them one at a time or one after the other (in the order above, most likely).

Each only takes a moment, but they can transform your world. Try them, with love in your heart, and see a deep trust in yourself start to grow.

Join Me for a Mindfulness Retreat

Would you like to train with me in these practices? I’d love for you to join me in my Zen Habits Mindfulness Retreat, from April 21-23, 2017 in San Francisco. It’s going to be amazing, and I’m really excited about it.

Read more here, and join me!

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