Posts for: June, 2016
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” –Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation
Proven Way to Joy #17: Deep elongated slow breathing
Life can throw some pretty heavy stuff our way sometimes. Whether it is work, family, or relationship related or personal struggle, tragic event, or health related, we will all experience hard moments throughout our lifetime; it is just part of life. It is these hard moments that have the capability of teaching us valuable life lessons and perspective changing realizations.
Sometimes things happen for a reason, even though you might not be able to grasp that right away. In the meantime though, during times of despair, depression, anxiety, and stress it is important to utilize our natural coping abilities and allow ourselves to heal and recover in a more organic and unforced timeframe. The breath is one of our greatest tools. Amit Ray said in his book Beautify your Breath-Beautify your Life that the, “breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.”
Practicing controlled breathing has a number of physical and mental benefits. The art of breathing has been the focal point of mediation and yoga practices, and for good reasons. Hana Matt explains that, “by doing abdominal breathing you activate the Vagus nerve, which triggers more joy chemicals to be released and the ignition of the relaxation response, which is necessary for your body to heal, repair, and renew. It counteracts the stress response. The increased oxygen supply to your body’s cells produces endorphins and serotonin.”
You can start by dedicating ten to twenty minutes of your day to conscientious breathing. Simply fill your lungs up so that they press against the inside of your chest cavity and release each breath slowly and with control. You can do this when you wake up in the morning, while you are sitting in traffic on the way to work, as you are taking a mid-day walk, or before you go to sleep at night; anytime is a good time. This practice not only will release joy biochemicals, but it will also help improve your memory, lower your blood pressure and heart rate, and boost your immunity. You might be surprised by where your breath takes you.
Thank you for sharing a smile with us this week.
Proven Way to Joy # 16: Light and Nature Therapy
Close your eyes and imagine walking barefoot down a cool dirt path that is canopied by ancient trees that whisper a wisdom that you might not have known that you were seeking. The air is dense with the perfume of the earth and the cacophonous sound of birds, morning cicadas, and leaves touching their neighbors. The sun shines down through the cracks in the canopy creating a hazy glow that is warm and inviting. You make it a point to step in the sunbeams as you take this walk. Imagine doing this everyday.
Stepping out into the sunlight and finding a moment to spend with nature are two of the most naturally therapeutic indulgences that you should grant yourself on a daily basis; even if just for 30 minutes. For a lot of us, we find ourselves confined to the indoors more often than we find ourselves outside. We have jobs, homes, families, exercise classes, and errands to attend to. We travel inside of a car, bus, subway, or plane more often than we walk or bike. We are exposed to artificial light, controlled temperatures, and barriers against the elements.
“Light therapy is the natural process by which bright light enters the eye, travels to the pineal gland, and alters one’s brain chemistry. It creates a more uplifted state of well-being by greatly elevating levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are energizing and activating.”-Hana Matt
There are so many opportunities to engage with nature in the energy of the sun, regardless of where you are. You might find this invaluable time together on the beach, on a hiking trail, in a park, in your backyard, on a bench underneath a tree, in a courtyard where you take a break from work…the possibilities are endless. Whether you are a city dweller, a suburban citizen, or an off-the-grid resident, you can find the voice of nature and the rejuvenating embrace of the sun openly offering their healing properties to you. You just have to be open to receiving them.
Henry David Thoreau once said, “I took a walk in the trees and came out taller than the trees.” When you allow yourself to return to the roots of our ancestors, who lived within nature under the sun rather than on top of her, you will find that there is a deep primordial bond that connects you to the earth. When you discover this connection with the natural world, you will find that your own light is more easily accessible.
Spending thirty minutes a day outside is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself, quiet your mind, listen to your inner voice, and let a peaceful joy shine through you. It is easy to forget to take these types of moments. Taking some time outside in the light of the day each day will have joyous consequences.
Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
Thanks for sharing a smile with us this week.
“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air, and you.” –Langston Hughes
Have you ever laughed so hard that barely any audible noise came out of your mouth, that your face became contorted in ways that you can’t consciously control, and your eyes dripped tears from the slightest slits? Have you ever lost your breath? Held you stomach with the pain of a thousand sit-ups? There is something deeply therapeutic about a deep-seated laughter.
What makes you laugh? Do you appreciate sarcasm? Dry humor? Slap stick comedy? Utter and complete randomness? Observational humor? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The earth laughs in flowers;” we should find our way to a field of flowers at least once daily. When we laugh, we are building new endorphin circuits, which in turn help release endorphins. Endorphins make us happy.
Hana Matt explains that, “laughing releases fear and stress. Humor is a ‘rising above,’ a ‘stepping beyond,’ and a ‘not-being-captive-of’ our momentary condition. A sense of humor is the result of a true sense of proportion…without humor, we could fall victim to despair. If we put our attention on the emptiness and tragedy of our lives, we will remain caught in meaninglessness and apathy. If instead we envision our ultimate potential, remembering our larger identity beyond just the small self, we will begin to break the spell by which we continually shipwreck ourselves.”
Find what makes you smile, giggle, belly laugh, and cry tears of joyous outbursts. There are too many serious components of our lives to be serious all of the time. An added bonus of laughter is that it is one of the most contagious actions. When you laugh, you are potentially bringing laughter into someone else’s life. Thus, when you find joy, you are also helping to spread it.
"And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should calle very truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh." Friedrich Nietzsche
Thanks for sharing a smile with us this week!
Way #14: Observe your unpleasant feelings with nonjudgmental awareness.
“It is not worth our while to let our imperfections disturb us always.” Henry David Thoreau
We tend to be our own worst enemies. The way we physically and mentally view ourselves is often very different than how the rest of the world perceives us. We oftentimes will pass judgment or harsh criticism on our failures, shortcomings, or coping abilities when life gets tough. Most of us even have something disagreeable to feel about our physical appearance and body type. Why do we so often put ourselves down? What if we learned how to let these negative thoughts and feelings flow through us as part of us, but not as the concrete definition of us?
Life is not linear. We are not simple beings. Think of your journey as a colorful and intricate spiral graph. During the span of your life, you will nearly experience every single definable emotion. Your experience will be completely unique and relatively unpredictable. This is a good thing; otherwise imagine how boring your existence would be. The difference though between embracing the ride and constantly wanting to get off of it, is how you treat yourself. What type of relationship are you in with yourself?
Harvard professor Ben Shahar states that, “especially in the United States, there is almost a cultural admonition to be cheerful, to put on a happy face, and to look happy all of the time. The problem is, a diet of cheerfulness-for-every-meal leaves individuals ill equipped to deal with life’s unavoidable dark side-grief, anger, envy, sadness, and fear. The paradox is that when we allow these emotions in, when we don’t suppress them or fight them and instead are mindful of them as they are occurring, that is when they release their hold on us [eventually]. When you really pay attention to them and observe your unpleasant feelings with non-judgmental awareness, then the emotional pain, just like an itch, will go from dull to acute to cresting, and then fade away. To wait out an itch is to accept that nothing, not even the pleasant feelings will stay the same forever.”
The practice of mindfulness is the practice of acceptance. It is accepting how you feel physically and emotionally in the present moment, and rather than passing judgment on yourself you instead treat yourself with admission and respect. Cultivating mindfulness involves learning to be self-aware. By simply listening to your breathing, by acknowledging the way the wind feels on your skin, or just recognizing that your emotions come and go and do not dominate you, is practicing mindfulness.
When we make the conscious decision to practice being mindful, we are setting ourselves up to one day be able to subconsciously let the unpleasant feelings and events in our lives to pass through us with no attachment or residual negative after effect. It is learning to just ‘let it be.’ It is when we let go that we are able to learn and grow from our experiences rather than become defined by them. Feel what you need to feel when you need to feel it, and then move on. There is enough judgment being passed around us and onto us; it is time to stop participating.
Be kind to yourself at all times. A lightness, peace, and freedom will come from this decision. Joy is sure to follow.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” E.E. Cummings
Thank you for sharing a smile with us this week!