Friday, July 31, 2015

July 31. The Big Look Over

At the beginning of each month, I make a short list of what I'd like to do by the end of the month. Sometimes I get all of them done, and other months, I finish only two or three. It can get discouraging looking at my list and feeling like the month has zipped by too quickly and there are the "undones," staring me in the face.

"But you had a whole month to do all  these things!" I tell myself.

Now, on the last day of the month, I do the Big Look Over. This means:
  1. Looking at the initial list I made at the start of the month
  2. Highlight (I use pink) what I managed to complete
  3. Look at my daily notes to see what I DID finish during the month (the Did List)
  4. Remember that my path will zigzag all over depending on circumstances and factors
  5. Be ok with the realization that I didn't finish everything
  6. Release any disappointment I might feel and remember, this is something others experience, too
  7. Create a list for the coming month, keeping it short
Today, allow yourself to recognize and appreciate your efforts for those things you did complete.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

July 30. Context Counts

Cooper being himself

I learn a lot by watching my cats. They go about their day, doing what cats do; eating, napping, playing, and nuzzling with us. Perfect examples, in my opinion, of living in the moment. They're not concerned with tomorrow or what happened yesterday. It seems like an almost carefree life. Sometimes I wish I were a cat.

We get preoccupied mulling over every possible topic. The search for meaning seems never ending. We look for it in everything from works of art to the behavior and interactions with others.
Painting Experiment this morning

Friends used to come to me asking what I thought so-and-so meant by such-and-such a comment. This always puzzled me. How on earth would I know what that person's intention was in saying what they said? I found that a lot of people spend a good deal of their day trying to figure out the meaning in whatever happened to cross their path.

When my kids would ask me the meaning of some new word they'd just seen, I suggested they look at the context for clues. That usually did the trick. If it didn't, I'd make up a new sentence using the word and they'd take it from there.

Context matters.

What appears one way, can become a whole new animal with a change in context.
Painting experiment this context

I found myself in a situation recently. There I was, caught up in something and too worked up to see a way out. A short while later, with a bit of distance, I was able to pull back and view it, like a movie, in miniature. There I was, once again,  looking for meaning. This time, it wasn't nearly as awful as I'd first believed. Creating a distance and putting it into a different context made it easier for me to see what it was really about.

Today, consider the context of whatever you encounter. It might change the way you see it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July 29. Perspective is Everything

Which End Up. Looking at my little painting experiment 4 ways
We see things the way we do. Our unique perspective is influenced by our experiences and beliefs over the course of a lifetime. Sometimes opportunities come along that allow us to look at things differently than we normally would.

The painting group I attend does a critique at the end of the session. Everyone does their own thing for a few hours (abstract work for the most part) and then one lady sets our work on easels, steps back and offers her observations. Often, she rotates the painting and it becomes a whole new work. She'll continue flipping the work until we've seen it four ways. Odd how the same piece can be so different, depending on how it's viewed. Once in a while, the "best" position turns out to be one other than the original one.

Today, while looking at something, either an actual object or a situation, see if you can flip it around somehow and view it from a different perspective. How can see something familiar in a new way?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28. Stealing as a Path to Inspiration

Blackout Poetry by Austin Kleon

I recently revisited Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist. The blackout poetry he writes resonates with millions of readers. He admits in his Ted talk the idea of blackout poetry has a very long history and he uses it as a way to express his own voice. 

His book is full of quotes from artists, writers, filmmakers and other creatives, that urge fellow makers to steal ideas and and use them as starting points in their own work.

Kleon reminds the reader nothing is original and it's a creative's job to collect good ideas and use them to make something authentic that speaks from the soul.

This morning I'm playing with something I saw a couple weeks ago. An artist had taken spilled coffee and added details with pencil to create little adventure scenes. I did my own version, dropping coffee splats on watercolor paper and adding details in ink.  A bit like a Rorschach Test but adding in the fun of doodling. 
Randall, mistaking termites for ants, takes a leap of faith to grab a snack, only to be challenged by Sheba, rare, armor plated poisonous spike fish who claims the termites for herself
Still thinking of a story to go with this image
Today, look around and see what you can swipe in the way of ideas and play with it. See where it goes.

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27. Mind Travel into Bliss

Dream State

I felt myself smiling yesterday while writing a short entry in my journal. I was remembering the details of a dream I'd had last week. I stood smack in the middle of an acre sized swimming pool with knee deep water. Umbrella covered cafe' tables were scattered throughout the pool, with people sitting and enjoying snacks. Everyone looked happy.

Just writing about it briefly made me feel the same way I did in the dream, relaxed and happy.

In listening to recorded meditations, that soothing voice asks that you close your eyes, picturing yourself in a pleasing environment. The more details you create, the more intense and "real" the experience. The mind believes your suggestions. Reliving that peaceful time recreates the original feelings of relaxation.

Meditation is one of the 5 ways of increasing happiness, according to Harvard researcher Shawn Achor. For me, this type of meditation is like journaling without the paper. It can give you a break from daily stress.

Today, take a few minutes and mind travel to a place (real, imagined or a dream). Soak in the scenery and see how you feel on your return. Where will you travel today?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 26. Journaling Your Way to Happy

Journaling to Happy
There are a lot of articles out there on ways that help people live happier lives. Most people want ideas on how to eliminate stress and feel happier. I like the work of Harvard's Shawn Achor. In his TED talk, he describes a short list of activities that help create an optimistic mindset. The big benefits of a positive outlook include:
  1. Reduction in Stress
  2. Better Health
  3. Increased Productivity
  4. Positive Social Interaction
One activity on his list of ways to feel better was daily journal writing.  To make it easy on yourself, he recommends keeping it short and on one topic. The subject? Describing an event where you felt happy. Writing about it recreates the brain chemistry you had when the event first happened. Your brain, then, gets to keep reliving something enjoyable. Doing this daily gets your brain tuned in to more positive experiences. It also opens you up to opportunities for more of the same.

For the next 3 weeks, take 5 minutes of each day to write.  Describe a time where you felt happy. Feel yourself smile and see what a difference it makes in the way you see things.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

July 25. Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Wide Open

Yesterday at the supermarket, when I finished shopping, I scanned the shortest line. The store was busy but I only saw three lines open. Stepping up to the closest one, I looked at the tins of chocolate stacked a foot high. A minute later, a cashier approached offering to take my cart over to his register. That's when I saw there were three cashiers without customers. How could I have missed them?

My brain had been racing ahead, focusing on my next errand. Not being present shut off my ability to see the options available.

I realized I'd probably missed out on lots of other opportunities because I was too busy being elsewhere. It was easy not to "see" what was available.

Today, I'll choose to slow down and really see with eyes (and mind) wide open. What will you see today that you might ordinarily overlook?

Friday, July 24, 2015

July 24. Color of the Day

Friday Blue
I used to play a game with my kids when they were little. As we drove to our weekly activities, I asked them to tell me what they wanted to see. My then-3 year old said, "purple tar." Minutes later, a purple car drove by and all three kids pointed it out. Quick turnaround and an almost instantaneous manifestation. They thought it was magic so we did it weekly, manifesting all kinds of interesting and unusual things.

I've had all kinds of things show up. One of my biggest surprises came right after I told myself I'd see a peacock somewhere.

I drove through a neighboring village one day and had to stop on a small side street because a peacock was crossing the road. I later found out someone nearby had one for a pet and it roamed, stunning people on its daily travels.

Today I choose to see the color blue. I know it will show up everywhere I go and I'm curious where and how. Choose a color today and be open to how many ways it will cross your path.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 23. Freedom in Letting Go of the Outcome

How Fish Are

Do you ever make plans and then feel disappointed with the outcome? Later, you wondered if you could have done more to get a better result. When things come apart, it seems like the natural choice to step in, taking control. Sometimes I feel that's the only way to make it work.

I found out that things can go a lot better when I let go of focusing on controlling the outcome.
This week I had the chance to let go when another artist invited me to her studio. There, I spent a few hours playing with new painting techniques. I usually make rough sketches, filling in the color with tiny brushes. I felt a little envious watching her experiment and take risks. She looked over and told me to do the same. I wasn't able to control the materials. It was a scary way for me to paint.
Paint Experiment #1

I have to say I liked using the new painting techniques. It was a slow process and forced me to let the paint travel on its own. It's changed the way I look at painting. 
Paint Experiment #2
                                                       Letting go can create surprising results. Leo Babauta describes this well in his Zenhabits:

Consider the fish. A fish swims in a chaotic sea that it cannot possibly control — much as we all do. The fish, unlike us, is under no illusion that it controls the sea, or other fish in the sea. The fish doesn’t even try to control where it ends up — it just swims, either going with the flow or dealing with the flow as it comes. It eats, and hides, and mates, but does not try to control a thing.
Fish Being Fish

How can you free yourself from the habit of needing to control the outcome of something?



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

July 22. Shortcut to Peacefulness

Shortcut to peacefulness
Shortcuts can be great in a lot of ways. I love using them as they can make life a lot easier. As I showered one morning, my daily list replayed in my head. Things I left off the list pushed their way to the front. I knew they'd be gone before turning off the water.

I used one of my favorite shortcuts to feel calmer.

I counted backward from 50.

Free yourself from racing brain syndrome. Breathe deeply and slowly while counting backward. It's like hitting a reset button in your brain.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

July 21. Enjoying the Little Things

Daily Reminders
Someone showed me a photo of a gratitude jar she'd seen at a friend's home. The jar sat beside the coffee machine and was filled halfway with colored papers. She wasn't a big fan of keeping journals, but liked the idea of keeping track of the little things that made her day special (that great cup of coffee, seeing a hummingbird, watching the sunset). Her plan was to note 3 things each day and write all of them on one slip of paper. On Sunday, she stapled the week's stack, read them, and returned them to the jar. 

The jar is a good visual reminder for me so I swiped her idea  and set one up in my studio space. Depending on what kind of day I'm having, I can manage to squeeze about 6 items on a 3x3 post it note. If it's been a challenging week, the jar is a gentle reminder to keep an eye out for the good things as they appear.

Consider setting up something (a jar, journal or other method) to keep of all the good that comes your way every day. By the time the end of the week rolls around, you may be surprised at how much shows up.

Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20. Freedom in Funnification

Fun Meals

Recently, I saw how one woman "funnified" her life by adding more delightful things to her daily routine. Creating more fun is something we put on the back burner because of our perceived need to focus on being responsible. The idea that the realm of fun and play belongs only to children is something many of us are taught by well meaning adults. Someone told me once to really have fun and enjoy myself (right then) because once I grew up, there wouldn't be much time for it and I'd have a lot of "responsibility." Add to that, other adults telling me they wish they could be a kid again so they could go back to playing instead of working so hard, feeling tired, frustrated, etc. I suddenly felt I had to squeeze in as much fun as possible before my time to have any ran out. Approaching adulthood looked grim.

Do you remember having a favorite food as a kid? The dishes you loved and wanted to eat every day if you could? When my guys were little, I occasionally offered to make magical combo meals, meaning they could choose all their faves to have at one sitting. That turned into some very odd meals, but created a lot of excitement, fun, and fond memories. Those meals were eagerly anticipated and became a tradition.

With busy schedules, we're often fixing whatever time allows or anything quick and easy. To add a little fun to a Monday, why not create a meal of your childhood favorites? Maybe it's pancakes for dinner or a plate of mac and cheese with mashed potatoes on the side (a kid's choice). Free yourself from the routine of making the same old standby dishes. It may not be the healthiest meal, but doing this occasionally might be fun and reconnect you with some of your old favorites.

What would you choose as the perfect dinner combination?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 19. Freedom to Explore

Artist's Date Exploration

When I first read Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, I liked all the activities she recommended for reconnecting with the creative self, except for one. Artist's Dates. This meant going out on a SOLO expedition. Exploring was something I did with others, definitely not by myself. I dreaded the idea of heading out by myself to visit unexplored territory and was afraid I'd end up talking to myself, out loud, or that I'd feel awkward and not have fun. This one activity was too far outside my comfort zone and I couldn't see how it would help me develop my creative abilities. If it turned out horribly, I'd just skip doing it in the future.

Wanting all the benefits of her program, I reluctantly went out on my own one weekend morning. Here's what I did before heading out:
  1. Recognized the fear of going out by myself. 
  2. Decided to be curious
  3. Asked myself, "What's the best thing that could happen?"
  4. Did it anyway
  5. Enjoyed the unfolding. Improvisation can be a good thing and the brain says yahoo to novelty
  6. On returning,  jotted some notes about what I liked
That outing was fun. I went wearing my magic jeans a friend had given me (ripped to bits, with all kinds of patches and fun little what nots all over) and visited a local antiques shop I had passed in my travels. I ended up in a conversation with the owner, a delightful woman who commented on my unusual pants.  She was wearing a remarkable bracelet made of fused glass and when I commented on it, told me the artist who created it had a studio next door. She insisted on introducing us.  I met the artist, toured her studio and then signed up for classes. After doing the class, she recommended I submit my work to an upcoming art exhibition. I did, got into the show and won an award.

Going on an Artist Date resulted in:
  • Making new friends
  • Expanding my creative work
  • Entering a show and winning a prize
  • Realizing how stepping out of old routines added some unique and fun experiences
All because of one little outing and a lot of curiosity. And I am introvert.

Allow yourself the freedom to go exploring, step outside the comfort zone, have fun and discover what can come your way.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

July 18. Free Yourself by using the Reset Button

The Reset Button
How many times have you heard a kid say they wanted a do-over? They're telling you their new joke, demonstrating a cartwheel, or performing a magic trick when part way through, it turns out differently than expected.

We smile and wait as they prepare to do a second run, knowing this time it will turn out better. Sometimes it takes several attempts before all the kinks are worked out, but kids are persistent and will keep at it until they are happy with the end result.

Why is it that as adults we do not allow ourselves to hit the reset button and start over? The idea of a Reset Button has been around for a while and the other day when things were not coming together as I had planned, I pressed the third eye spot between my eyebrows, took a few deep breaths and let go. Just sat there for a minute and then told myself I was starting over. What a relief. It created a space and freed me to go in a new direction. Sometimes solutions come when we let go.

Maybe you've begun a new habit recently and today you slipped back into an old pattern (not exercising, eating junky snacks, postponing writing because you feel stuck, etc). Cut yourself some slack, hit your personal Reset Button and start over. Right now. Feel the freedom in allowing yourself the chance for a fresh start.


Friday, July 17, 2015

JulyFish 17. The 3 Benefits of Micro-cising

The Owls take a Micro-cising Break
There I was standing in a classroom collecting test papers from a weary bunch of 9 year olds. They had been grinding their way through yet another torturous math test. Why teachers leave sub plans that include Friday afternoon exams is beyond me. Anyway, they survived, looking rather beaten and worn out. Time for a break and they needed to move, but how to do it in a crowded room with 29 desks?

Air swimming.

The previous afternoon, I was out running errands and drove past a newly cut field covered with birds. Since the large tractor I was following was slogging along at slow speed, I was able to have a good look around. Several large birds were standing in the grass, wings outstretched, sunning themselvs.

Back to the classroom. To get the kids all moving and loosened up again, we did Air Swimming. I had them start like the field birds, arms outstretched. Next, we moved our arms up and down, as if flying. After that, we went through a series of swim moves with our arms, doing the breast stroke, crawl, butterfly, and backstroke. I repeated all of these a total of 5 minutes, scrambling the order. Just enough to do the trick, upping the energy and relaxing a lot of tense little people.

Next time you need a quick wake up, do the Air Swimming micro-cise, a mini version to get you back on track. The benefits of doing this?
  1. Quick
  2. Easy
  3. Effective

Thursday, July 16, 2015

July 16. Freedom from Excuse-itis

I recently looked at a list of the most common excuses for not making Creative Ideas happen. It's easy to find reasons for not taking action. We can talk ourselves out of just about anything, validating it with some excuse we feel is legitimate and gives us the ok to drop that creative venture.

Alanis Morissette's Excuses has quite a list of reasons for opting out of doing something and I've used many of these for stalling on some of my own creative projects.

When the excuses come rolling around, I now go through this process to get myself past the reasons I "can't" do it:
  • Recognize I am making excuses
  • Identify this as a pattern I create for myself because change seems risky
  • Invalidate the excuse(s) and tell myself it is ok to move ahead
  • Create momentum by beginning with small, achievable goals. Breaking the process down into micro steps can help
  • Take action on the micro steps
What has been your go-to excuse for not acting on your creative impulses? Free yourself from the limits that excuses create.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July 15. Getting Back on Track

Off Track
On the first day of the month, I make a list of 3 or 4 things I'd like to complete by the end of that month. These have included items like writing up a clay course for kids, designing an adult coloring book, creating a line of greeting cards, and setting up a vege garden. Some of these were large and very time consuming so I broke them down into micro steps, making them easier to finish.

Sometimes I get off track for different reasons and feel frustrated at the delays, doubtful I'll get it all done. I've taken a few steps to get myself back on track:
  1. Realize I've gotten off track
  2. Let go of worries I won't get it done by the month's end. Know that getting derailed is temporary and I'll get going in the right direction again soon.
  3. Break the process down into micro steps that are doable, even when major distractions disrupt the momentum.
  4. Move through the micro steps. Appreciate the positive movement in the direction I want to go
What small steps can you make today to get things done?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

July 14. Freedom from Impulse Spending

Big (Impulse) Spender

Have you had the feeling of your heart nearly leaping out of your chest with excitement when faced with the possibility of buying something new and exciting? Anything from new shoes, things for the home, a car or vacations? Even online programs designed to help us achieve more, be successful, look better, and manifest the life of our dreams are coming at us from all directions. Products and services are presented in such tantalizing ways, it can seem nearly almost impossible to look the other way. Language is used so skillfully, we're left feeling like we're missing out if we pass on purchasing that thing.

We are promised that our lives will be made better, richer, and more wonderful if we just plunk down the money (even in tiny installments) and make it happen. Often, we later discover that we've lost interest in whatever we bought, only to focus on the next bigger, better thing.

I've found myself nearly swept away by these provocative offers, swayed by their words and tempted to whip out that credit card to "buy it now." I've felt buyer's remorse the next day and was relieved to find out that most of the sellers allow the buyer a few days to change their mind. Whew.

Here's one way I've stepped away from the phenomenon of Impulse Spending.
  1. Recognize I've just been "wowed" by something very tempting. If being offered a service, realize they are attempting to seduce me into buying by convincing me I need to have it. Feel the rush of excitement.
  2. Realize I have the power to decide whether to purchase it or not.
  3. Allow myself some time and distance, at least 24 hours to think about it. Choose to be ok with that temporary scared feeling where the one selling the item/service threatens to pull the offer or raise the price immediately, creating a sense of urgency. Focus on something else.
  4. Take a full 24 hours to make your decision.
  5.  Ask yourself if what you are considering buying is something you really need.
  6. Make the final decision whether or not to get it.
Stepping back releases that sense of urgency and can allow you to view the situation with more clarity. Free yourself from the  pressure of impulse spending.

Do you have a story about something you bought but later wish you hadn't?

Monday, July 13, 2015

July 13. The Benefits of Creating Mini Honey-Do Lists

The Honey Do List
While I was buying tires for my car recently, I noticed the guy behind the counter had that weary, tired, "I'm ready for the weekend" look. Except it was Tuesday. He grumbled something about the Honey Do list his girlfriend had left for him that morning. Wednesday, his only day off, he was expected to do everything on the list, which he added, was very long. It filled him with dread knowing he'd have little time for any fun.

How many of us create long honey-do lists, either for someone else or ourselves? It feels good to get it on paper, but it quickly gets unmanageable, due to its length. This creates stress and a sense of urgency.  

My lists tended to be ridiculously long (I only write these lists for myself) and not what I could actually achieve in one day. Very frustrating. I tweaked my list making into something more doable and discovered The 3 Big Benefits of Making Mini Honey-Do Lists:
  1. Reduction of stress
  2. Recognition and appreciation of all I do 
  3. Clarity, due to focusing on fewer things
The process I used:
  • Create the long list of what you want/need to do, including everything your brain spits out
  • Set that list aside. Breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Choose 1-4 things that must be done today. Put these items on a short list.
  • Attend to the short list.
  • Create another list- the "I Have Done this Today" list and add what you've finished today. It is easy to overlook all that we have done and focus on things not yet completed.
  • Anything not done can be added to the next day.
Free yourself from the need to overdo and acknowledge all you have done.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

July 12. Freedom from Clutter Shame

All My Stuff I Think I Need

Do you suffer from clutter shame? I do. As someone who enjoys dabbling in creative ventures, I tend to gather materials, bits, odds and ends that I am sure will be useful in my projects at some point. Gathering stuff comes in quite handy, but can get out of control very quickly.

The opportunity for letting go of the need to have so much stuff came when I moved overseas. It took three months for the shipping container to arrive and at first, I wasn't sure how long I'd last without all my stuff. It didn't take long to find out life without all my stuff was simpler, easier and more enjoyable. I felt lighter, the space looked peaceful and it was quite liberating. When the container finally did arrive, I was faced with figuring out what to do with it all and wondering why I had ever shipped it there in the first place.

Clutter shame would hit as I'd visit someone else's home, noting their places were organized, minimal and felt good to be in. They knew where everything was, and unlike me, didn't end up purchasing multiples of the same item because the item had gone missing. All the money I could have saved if I had been a tad more organized.

I'm convinced that living simpler with far less stuff is the way to go. It's been a long journey, but I've taken micro steps to free myself from the burden of clutter and it's sibling, clutter shame. This is how I'm moving in a new direction....
  •  Realize you have a clutter situation (far more positive than naming it a "problem")
  • Ask yourself WHY you are holding onto all the stuff (biggest challenge for me so far). Some reasons might include things like: fear of missing out by releasing it; fear you might need it RIGHT AFTER you let it go; procrastination; lack of energy and inspiration to move it or clean it up; not sure where to start; it's too hard or overwhelming; lack of time; and another important one for me, it is not fun to clean it.
  • Be gentle on yourself. It didn't get like that overnight and it won't go away overnight, either.
  • Select a (very) small area. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Work on that space, clearing it, moving stuff, let-gos into a bag to donate. Wipe off the surface. Take a deep breath. For some people, it is helpful to have a friend support you when you do this step.
  • Rinse and repeat if you feel like it. Each micro step will get you closer.
  • Appreciate how you're on your way to freeing yourself from clutter.
 What area can you straighten out today?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

July 11. Freedom from the Rabbit Hole

The Pity Party, complete with Decorations

Do you sometimes have one of those days where things seem to wrong, one after the other? You're dealing with one issue, and another pops up. Then another and soon you feel like you're juggling fireballs and wondering when the stream of unfortunate events will stop.

One evening I sat bewildered as the runaway train of dreadful thoughts came roaring through, again. That voice kept reminding me of things or events I didn't like and then proceeded to give me even more examples of other times I felt the same way (law of attraction in action). Suddenly, I felt I was at the bottom of a rabbit hole (an image from my friend Trish). I was actually in my studio at the time and saw a small inflated balloon, a candidate for a future papier mache creation, I'd left on the shelf.

With a sharpie, I added a sad face thinking it was appropriate decoration for the pity party I was about to give myself. I added several more balloons and gave them all devastated expressions.            
Party Balloon sketch

One unhappy thought led to another. At one point, growing weary of my un-fun party, I said, "What are you doing? Are you about done with this celebration? You are actually ok. How about remembering it's good to let it out. Now you can choose something else to think and feel better about." 

Stuffing emotion is a common practice many of us use to get past things that don't feel that great. That emotion is still sitting in the body and at some point, will choose to resurface and let its presence be known.

To get through this party I had arranged for myself, I did the following:
  • Identified the emotion I was feeling
  • Allowed myself to feel it
  • Remembered it's good to feel it and then let it go
  • Took 5 very deep breaths, and on the exhale, imagined red (choose your own color) smoke swirling out, releasing all that emotion with it. 
  • Felt more relaxed as freeing that emotion made me feel lighter
What can you free yourself from today?

Friday, July 10, 2015

July 10. Freedom From Loose Lips Commentary

On the lookout for all things flawed

Seems like an evolutionary thing. We look around, observe and then make some kind of assessment about what we've just witnessed or experienced, labeling it as good or otherwise.
  • Looks like bad weather
  • This death-by-chocolate monster cake with ice cream is amazing. I am in heaven
  • Her hair looks like she dyed it herself
  • Did he get dressed in the dark? Look at what he's wearing
  • What a horrible driver she is. How did she ever get a license?
  • What an irresponsible pet owner! She should get a dog trainer. Today.
Once caught in Loose Lips Commentary, the challenge is to change the momentum of that negative stream of judgements. It's easy to look at something or someone and once we've headed in the direction of criticism, it can be tough to slow down or stop the momentum. Looking at the world through a lense which sees only what is interpreted as incorrect, wrong, bad, or flawed for some reason, can leave everyone involved feeling less than optimally happy....or just plain crappy.

Putting so much energy into seeking flaws will only turn up more of the same. All this non-acceptance of what IS contributes to suffering. It's bad enough when we say it to ourselves, but we magnify the intensity by "sharing" it with others.

Here are some steps I've taken after I've ridden on the loose lips roller coaster of pain and wanted some relief:

  1. Identify you are on the train. Realize you are looking for mistakes, flaws, flubs and other negative stuff. Notice how awful it feels.
  2. Take 3 deep breaths. Remove the lenses of negative viewing and remember that most people engage in critical remark-making occasionally
  3. Decide you want to feel better.
  4. Remember you have the power to change your thinking, one thought at a time (this one is especially challenging for me at times).
  5. Use the Self Talk method Ethan Kross discusses here.
Example: Oscar (insert your name), you are on the train, but  can get out right now. You are able to let it go and think about something that helps you feel a bit better
This is about taking small, doable steps. Start today and create more freedom for yourself by releasing the need to criticize. What will you let go of today?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

July 9. Freedom from Running Late

Are you finding yourself feeling short on time, needing to race everywhere and still getting there late? Do you show up after the meeting has started? Being late can easily become a habit. It did for me. One reason I found myself repeatedly being late was due to my  underestimating the travel time and on many occasions, I ended up feeling anxious, looking at the clock wondering if I'd make it. 

Here's what I did to reduce stress and begin releasing my habit of arriving late to events:
  • Making the decision to create a more peaceful way to get to places I needed to go
  • Preparing everything (myself and everything I'd need) ahead of time. Allowing more time than I anticipate I will need and going at a pace that suits
  • Adding some extra travel time by departing earlier. Arrange for arrival time to be 5 or 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
  • Feeling more relaxed knowing I will arrive on time.
  • Savoring that feeling of freedom from anxiety and panic that used to accompany arriving late. 
What things do you do which get you where you want to go in a timely way?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

July 8. Freedom From Oversnacking

Snacking is big business. Companies rely on us to become regular consumers of the products they create. Because they see great competition for our snack dollars, they are constantly experimenting to design new products that will capture our attention, loyalty and our hearts (stomachs). I imagine test kitchens where exotic and unusual flavor combinations are assembled to tantalize hungry snack shoppers with the promise of high quality, health benefits and pleasure.

At one point, I saw somewhere that snacking was bad, caused weight gain and all kinds of  other undesirable situations. Health news urged us to stick to meals and avoid snacking. Later, other news came out, describing the benefits of snacks, such as stabilizing blood sugar and maintaining optimal energy levels. All day grazing and snacking was the thing to do. What to believe?

For people who work from home, having constant access to lots of food can be tricky. Snacking can be good as it provides a quick energy boost or it could be a way to stall or delay some task we don't want to do. I had a looming deadline once for a big writing project. When I hit a dry spell and felt stuck, I decided baking a huge pan of brownies was the answer. It fulfilled the (perceived) need for chocolate chewiness, filling the house with a great smell and most importantly, a big diversion. I made 5 trays of brownies during the next two weeks to get through the project. At some point, I realized I wasn't really hungry for anything and decided to free myself from this habit.
  • Identify the reason for getting a snack. (hunger, frustration, boredom, diversion, stalling, stuck feeling, procrastination, etc.)
  • Decide if it was hunger, to have a healthy snack. If it is for any reason other than actual hunger, have a glass of something to drink and do a quick stretch
  • Put the snack into a dish so you can see how much you're having. I found that nibbling from jars (assortment of nuts) meant I had no idea how much I'd actually eaten.
  • Enjoy the snack and the feeling of freedom from overdoing it

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

July 7. Freeing Yourself from Negativity

Helpful Advice from those who care

Many of us have been in that position where we are about to take some step forward, whether in a creative venture, work, or even a new social situation, and that voice pops up telling us it's not going to happen. It reminds us of similar situations where it didn't work and it can leave us feeling doubtful we can achieve what we've set out to do. It can also represent the voice of others who step in with negative comments they believe are useful, helpful and appropriate.

I find that once these types of thoughts show up, they gain momentum (and to me, it feels like boarding a runaway train) and pretty soon they are taking over and robbing us of peace and clarity. It seems too challenging getting to positive thinking right away so here is what I do when this happens:

  • Identify that you are riding the Negativity Train and that it's attempting to take over your way of thinking. In a way, it is doing what it knows to do to keep you safe from unknown territory, potential danger, and impending doom.
  • Realize that you can change this by opening up to the idea of thinking in terms of possibilities.
  • Change your self talk and use the technique psychologist Ethan Kross wrote about here , where you address yourself by your name, and use "you," rather than "I."  Example: Alberto, you are on the Negativity Train to no where. All the passengers are bummed, yet ready to give you all kinds of "helpful" advice. You can decide at any time, to open up to new possibilities..what can you do now, to feel better?
  • Remember that you can manage your self talk effectively
  • Ask yourself questions in a new way. 
       Alberto, how can you benefit from this by looking at it in a new way? How can you make this easier for yourself? What else is possible? What can get you moving in the direction you want? What other people are available to you now? 

With a more peaceful mindset, comes clarity, followed by intuitive insight, new ideas and feeling better.

For today, consider the way you talk to yourself and be open to the possibility that you can let go of some of the need to allow negative thinking to get in your way.
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