Friday, September 27, 2013

Conscious Thinking

Conscious Thinking

It takes a bit of energy and focus, but conscious thinking can have a profound effect on your life and those around you. Deliberately being conscious of your mental and physical states throughout your day helps us break out from auto pilot. 

I have two specific things that I do for my mind and body to help positively program myself.
1.    1) randomly dance or do exercises anytime/anywhere if I feel the need to mentally or physically get in touch. Simple ballet exercises in my kitchen using a counter as a barre or dropping down to the floor and doing push ups or burpees. 2) For the mind I often take breaks by practicing ‘pause moments’ or deliberately doing and/or thinking things that help program me to be grateful.

Interestingly, while reading various news feeds on line today I came across an article on Huffington Post that listed several things one can do to increase their potential to be happy. You can read the whole article ’12 Things Happy People Do Differently’ at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-sokol-/things-happy-people-do_b_3869793.html  Of course, a lot of these are common sense and many of us already practice them frequently, but it is always good to be reminded.

My Commentary on the List of 12 Things to be a Happier Person:
1.      Express gratitude. – making a conscious effort to acknowledge everything you have good in your life by either telling those people or making a list is a step in the positive direction.
2.      Cultivate optimism. – The power of positive thinking is what comes to mind when I read this phrase, but a step further by taking action steps to actually cultivate the positive.
3.      Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – I’m guilty of this on so many levels. I’m an over-thinker for sure. What’s the hardest for me to kick is comparing my 50+ year old athletic self to my younger athletic self. I NEED to give myself a break, be kinder to myself, and allow myself to be the healthiest ME at this point in my life. Be your best self and don’t strive for perfection. We are human and attaining perfection is unrealistic and unhealthy.
4.      Practice acts of kindness. – doing things for others without any thought of what’s in it for you has a beneficial effect. Doing things for others really does make us feel better about ourselves because we feel fulfilled and useful helping others. Do some volunteer work, help a friend, neighbor or family member and see for yourself.
5.      Nurture social relationships. – ALL relationships need nurturing, including marriages. Don’t take any relationship for granted. It’s important to put time and attention into your various relationships so they continue to grow and flourish.
6.      Develop strategies for coping. – We are not in control of many things in life. Life is full of change and unpredictability. Although there are many things we are not in control of in our daily lives, we ARE IN CONTROL of how WE REACT to those difficult events. My mom used to say that experiences in life are all ‘character building.’ The important thing is to develop healthy coping mechanisms. So count to ten, think before you speak/react, and practice healthy stress reducing exercises to blow off steam. Physical exercise does wonders to make one feel mentally and physically better.
7.      Learn to forgive. – is a tough one. As a survivor of child abuse, it’s tough for me to easily forgive someone who does me wrong, and my natural inclination isn’t to give second chances. However, I’ve learned that to heal and be a healthy person, I need to find ways to work through the wrong done to me and come to peace with it on my own, and let go. I find it to be amazingly uplifting mentally which also reduces my physical stress because I’m not ‘carrying baggage.’
8.      Increase flow experiences. – This one can be hard to explain. I and others I know who are ADD have a tendency to actually hyper focus on a task to the detriment of other things. So temperance is key. The definition of “flow” is - a state in which it feels like time is standing still. One is so focused on what they are doing that they become “one with the task.” You're not hungry, sleepy, or emotional - you're just completely engaged in the activity that you're doing. NOTE:  many adults have super busy lives and having freedom to experience these engrossing escapism moments can be challenging.
9.      Savor life's joys. – I call this “Practicing Pause Moments.” Have you heard the expression, “stop and smell the roses?”  We have to slow down and savor the moments while they are happening. This is a prime example of practicing conscious thinking.
10.  Commit to your goals. – Making a conscious effort to fully commit to accomplishing a goal that you set, telling yourself there is no turning back or changing your mind. Fully committing to a goal provides a sense of purpose which in itself makes us happier. It’s a form of exercising control in your life.
11.  Practice spirituality. – Yes I know not everyone is spiritual. Some equate spirituality with religion, but one can be spiritual and not religious. Practice whichever one that fits you best. The concept is to realize that we are a very small dot in life and in the world. A good example for me is connecting to nature (air, water, trees, animals, plants etc.) Finding a connection may help you figure out what you are called to do in this life.
12.  Take care of your body. – Have you ever heard the expression “The body is a temple?” There is a strong mind body connection that has been proven in science and medicine. Being the healthiest, most fit person you are capable of becoming will put you in a good position to have mental staying power which will keep your mind and emotions elevated towards feeling good, positive, and happy. Exercise has been found to provide an increase in ‘happiness levels’ equal to that of taking an anti-depressant.**


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