So what would it be like to be really present today with a family member or friend whom you really love? To fully give your attention to that person without checking your phone (not even once)? The long-term benefits of spending some time each day fully tuning in to the present moment without phone distractions may just surprise you.
We have one day of the year dedicated to giving thanks. What would it look like if we practiced gratitude for even the smallest things 365 days? A recent study by Paul Mills of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine looked at the effects of gratitude on physical health and emotional well being. “It turned out the more grateful people were, the healthier they were. ‘They had less depressed mood, slept better and had more energy,’ says Mills.” For more details, check out the NPR story Gratitude Is Good For The Soul And Helps The Heart, Too.
It’s the New Year and we’ve all been asked about our New Year’s resolutions. Whether you’ve made a resolution or not, the new year can be a good time to pause and reflect on the changes you want to create in your life. Happier, healthier relationships? Greater career/work satisfaction? Getting more physically active? Creating more balance in an often stress-filled modern world? Here are some things to remember as you step into change.
1) Change begins with you. Waiting for other people or circumstances to change is putting your life on hold.
2) Long lasting change happens slowly. Breaking down a big goal into smaller steps generally leads to longer lasting change than trying to do it all at once. For example if your goal is to exercise more this year, start off slowly. Better to take one workout class a week than plan to be at the gym for an hour 5 days a week. Change takes getting used to and often abrupt changes aren’t sustainable.
3) Change your environment, change your behavior. Research shows that our habits (good and bad) are often associated with a cue. When we change our environment or daily routine we have a better chance of breaking a bad habit.
Go out there and make a small change each day!
Studies show that taking quick relaxation breaks throughout the day can increase productivity and reduce stress. How about taking 20 seconds to relax right now? Click on the photo (left) for a 20 second video escape to the ocean.
Interested in more ways to build in stress relievers throughout the day? Author and CEO Tony Schwartz explores the physiology of stress and tips to reduce stress and manage energy in a recent New York Times article: “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive”
Everyday thoughts swirl around in our head. Most of these thoughts are oriented towards the future – what is going to happen if… Sometimes we catch ourselves ruminating about the past. If only I had… Living in the present, in the moment is difficult. Yet, finding a place of stillness can quiet the fears for the future and the regrets of the past, giving us more peace of mind. It requires practice because in modern life it’s difficult to find moments of stillness.
Living with gratitude is not negating everyday stress and problems. Rather it is about finding beauty in our everyday world and taking a moment to give thanks. It’s about shifting the focus away from our problems and stressors for a moment and focusing on something that inspires or strengthens us. In the act of doing so we begin to reach beyond fear or regret. Making this a daily practice has shown to affect brain chemistry as contemporary neuropsychologists such as Dr. Rick Hansen and Dr. Daniel Siegel have written about.
What are you grateful for in this moment?