#305 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#305

Eat mindfully

Most of us never do this and even those of us who have tried it a time or two don’t spend many meals engaged in intention but when you do… is a whole new experience.

Eating mindfully is frequently taught with a raisin. Sometimes it is referred to as an eating meditation -mostly because ALL of your focus is on the process – the entire process – of eating.

Imagine the raisin. Hold the raisin and notice how it feels in your finger; notice the ridges, the color, and the size. Intentionally, place the raisin on your tongue and let it sit there for a minute; noticing its smell, the sensation of it there, and perhaps how you begin to salivate. Move the raisin between your teeth and gently squeeze… notice the texture, the flavor, and how your mouth responds. Notice with each movement of your jaw – how the raisin changes – the change in flavor or texture or size. And finally, swallow the raisin – paying attention to the sensation of it moving across your tongue, to the back of your mouth and then down your throat.

Now do this for an entire meal. Same process with each and every bite.

Yes – it will take a long time to consume your food – and it will be good for you. The first time I had ate something other than a raisin intentionally I immediately noticed how reflexive it was to put a spoonful in my mouth and then immediately shovel the spoon back into my plate of food – prepping the next bite. That’s NOT mindful.

I was curious enough to persevere through an entire plate of Kung Pao Chicken but it was cold by the time I was finished and an entire hour had elapsed. I had visions of my father telling me to “stop fooling around and just eat!”

Out of all the people I’ve ever known, very few eat slow enough to truly ‘experience’ their food and my personal belief is that it is becoming problematic in our culture. We eat so fast, we don’t know when we’ve had enough to satisfy hunger and consequently, we frequently overeat. Mitigating that issue is easily rectified when we …

Eat mindfully.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#306 Meditate

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#306

Meditate

Wikipedia says that meditation has been “practiced since antiquity” – it’s the exercise of being still and directing all focus to a single object or thought. If you haven’t heard about meditation and its benefits, you’ve been living in a cage without WiFi!

Developing a ‘practice’ of meditation will reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It will increase your sense of calm, peace, and ultimately… happiness. When meditating daily for more than 30 minutes, one develops control over mind processes and is potentially able to reverse heart disease and well as other ailments that are caused by over-activation of  the parasympathetic nervous system.

Research in recent years has demonstrated that meditation may be significant in the reduction of anger, pain, stress, fatigue, depression and more. A well developed meditation regiment may be just shy of a magic pill for most of what ails our sick and tired, fast paced and distracted society.

Most of the time, I find that people who don’t have a regular practice actually misunderstand the process of quieting the mind. People say “I can’t stay focused” and “My brain is too active” – indicating that those elements must prevent them from having any success. Actually – we all experience those barriers when we begin.

I think of meditation as the art of noticing thoughts just like the lights that pop up on a peripheral vision test while I am focused on the white dot in the middle… I see – and stay trained – on the dot in the center, not allowing the other lights that pop in and out of my field of vision to redirect my attention. It’s not NOT having other thoughts that is the goal… it’s to NOT pay attention to those other thoughts that we work to accomplish as a beginner. I was once told that after 10 years of dedicated meditation practice, a teacher was excited when as much as 5 whole minutes passed without a recognized thought – 10 years!

Just keep coming back to your point of focus; and coming back; and coming back – without judgment about how well you’re doing or if you’re doing it wrong. Using an app like Headspace or guided meditations like those of Ron Seigel are great ways to begin. The challenge is to add dedicated time to your day in pursuit of meditation.

It’s like anything else though… what you prioritize – you WILL make time for. It’s a universal law. So think about what ails you and do a little research. I’m sure you’ll find that relief may be as simple as some still time. Set aside some time, get comfortable, find a focus, and …

Meditate.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#307 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#307

Take a Hike

The term ‘hike’ simply refers to a long walk and yet it instills images of heavy backpacks, rustic camping and ragged trails for many. Personally, the word conjures thoughts of burnt calories and heavy sweating on one hand and serene communing with nature on my other.

Truly, a hike can be a lot of things and it doesn’t have to be arduous or exhausting. In as little as 20 minutes on a trail behind your office park or around a community pond, a hike can be short and sweet. It can be a couple of hours along a creek in the country or along an old rail bed through a mountain gorge. And ultimately, it can be a trek spanning states or an expedition up a mountain.

Regardless of how it’s done, hiking is good for the mind, body, and spirit. It’s an activity that satisfies all of our basic needs for exercise, tranquility, and connection. A stroll through nature’s splendor highlights some of life’s most basic beauty no matter the environment; an ant mound that showcases the perfection of a natural community, views of countryside that extend for miles, or clear clean water flowing quickly over moss covered boulders.

Allowing yourself to ‘attune’ to nature may nurture innate instincts that our brain rarely uses. Our internal wiring is still programmed to exist in the midst of natural habitats; to embrace the energy released by living organisms. A quiet walk in the midst of nature’s glory may be just the piece you’ve been missing. So get out there and literally…

Take a Hike.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#308 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#308

Take a bath

In a conversation with a friend yesterday, she described growing up in a home with ten people and one bathroom – without a shower. The only option for personal hygiene was the tub which, doesn’t sound especially pleasant. Once showering was a common household option for body cleanliness, the tub was for kids. And then Calgon enticed us to get back in the tub and the bathtub took on new meaning.

Indeed – taking a bath is good for your health on many levels.

Most importantly, relaxing neck deep in warm water for even a few quiet minutes can help your body dismiss built up stress. The warmth of the water helps to sooth sore or tired muscles. It can moisturize your skin. With a few drops of aromatherapy, it may offer benefits to your sinuses and/or respiratory system.

To make the most out of your bath time, turn the lights down low or light a candle and turn them off. Play some soothing music and grab a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Leave your book, magazine, or electronics in another room so that this time is dedicated to you and your thoughts. Quiet your mind by concentrating on the sensation of your body suspended in the water. Stay in until your fingers crinkle or the water turns tepid.

Understandably, you may not be able to indulge yourself with a 30 minute time out every day of the week but scheduling time with your tub on a regular basis is a great addition to your self-care plan. Surely, one of the most basic pleasures is to …

Take a bath.

 love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#309 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

 

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#309

Eat outside

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, it is finally beginning to feel like Spring and I am immediately excited for the opportunity to sit on the deck with a cup of morning coffee or fire up the grill and eat dinner outside. It seems that eating outside brings back memories of favorite childhood moments, or at least mimics those ‘feel good’ sensations.

More and more we are seeing restaurants claiming sidewalks, clearing patio space, and adding decks to lure us with the tantalizing option of eating outdoors. The Europeans have been doing this for decades and the trend – for public dining at least – is catching on here in the U.S. Outdoor spaces are offering propane heat, blankets, and in some cases fur coats so that we can embrace fresh air while dining and digesting our meals.

I imagine that we were born with the innate instinct to consume food in the outdoors. From the perspective of time, it’s only been a blip that we’ve taken to dining indoors. And while I don’t know the anthropological origin… I imagine taking our meals inside was a condition of cold weather and comfort more than anything else (rebuttals welcome). So, it’s in our genes to enjoy a meal in fresh air.

It doesn’t matter if it is a picnic in the park, a sandwich on a trail, a restaurant patio, or you own private terrace… dining alfresco is not only in style but perhaps intrinsic to our nature and at the very least… enjoyable. Summer is only budding here on the northern hemisphere so as you consider preparing your primary meal, think about gathering your peeps and taking it ‘on the deck’ to …

Eat outside.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#310 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#310

Paint your front door

What is the first thing you notice every time you come home? Does the entrance to your living space welcome you? Even on the dreariest of days, arriving home and entering through a doorway that is inviting and positively staged, can revitalize your energy.

It may be as simple as painting your front door!

When your point of entry “pops”, people (including you) are more likely to respond positively. Guests will feel welcomed and newcomers will be entering with a great first impression. Your personality can be displayed quickly and easily by using a quart size can of paint.

Think of a color that represents ‘happy’ to you and then step outside and imagine it on the rectangle that is your front door. Imagine how it looks with the brick, siding, wood, or stucco that covers your home… is there a color on that ‘happy’ spectrum that would be a nice compliment to your overall curb appeal? Is there a color that comes to mind that might strengthen your mood at the end of a long day?

I’m including a few before & after photos I pulled off the internet for inspiration and I’m sure we can agree that they are all fantastic makeovers – creating an inviting entry with personality and charm.

From the blog Bren Did

paint door_thumb[1]

From the blog Ginger Snap Crafts

Of course, there is a technique involved but with only a couple of pointers to keep in mind, the entire appeal of your home can be enticed. Using an exterior paint with a high gloss finish and a low nap (or foam) roller is most often recommended. Start with a clean door, lightly sanded, and primed. In as little as an hour the look of your home will be updated with your individual personality!

And remember… it’s only paint so go ahead and spruce up your entry by….

Painting your front door!

(I’d love to see the results if this post inspired you!)

#311 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#311

Explore

This is absolutely one of my most favorite things to do… contributing specifically to feelings of happiness, adventure, and at times… education.

Exploring can be so many things. It can be wandering through your neighborhood looking for window box or front porch decorating ideas. It can be a walk in the woods identifying trees or through a meadow looking for four-leaf clovers.

My goal however, is driving along back roads and exploring the countryside, little towns, or city neighborhoods. My father instilled a love of exploration when I was a small girl. He loved to drive and hence, Sunday’s were for piling the fam in the car and taking off to discover what jewels existed along a route we had never taken.

It may have been a waterfall, an old schoolhouse, or a new ice cream store. It was often just winding roads and beautiful scenery – more Pennsylvania mountains or rocky creek beds and we were most often able to discover a roadside-rest where we could picnic.

I still love the adventure of not knowing what lies ahead, the discovery of a quaint little museum or an artisan haven. I’ve accidentally discovered a membership only ski mountain, dozens of hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon restaurant boasting amazing bacon or french fries, a bathing location of George Washington, and an Indian arrowhead museum.

I’ve wound up on dirt roads that traveled across fields that were more than likely private property, had to drive in reverse for a half mile after hitting a marshy dead end, and come up on moose watering in a pond that perfectly reflected the fall foliage behind it.

I’ve stood in awe of nature’s beauty more times than I can count simply because I took a chance on a road that looked less travelled and I’ve prayed what I thought were my last prayers as we traveled across a switchback moving us into a redstone canyon. I drove through a population of jackrabbits in the middle of the night that scared half the wits from me and along Eastern Shore roads that led to a rope ferry.

Of course, it’s helpful to know how to read a map and have a companion as you undertake this kind of exploration unless of course, you have flares, extra food, and warm blankets. Cell service is not entirely reliable if you’re out in the boondocks.

Finding treasures, locating interesting venues, and getting away from the routine of home lends to authentic joy, peace, and contentment. It’s as simple as learning how to …

Explore

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#312 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#312

Deep clean something

Some of you may already do this on a regular basis and it may contribute significantly to your level of happiness and/or good living. I do not. And yet, it definitely IS something that ends in total satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

I have a friend who deep cleans a room in her house each month. For years, she has committed to moving through a room – top to bottom & inside, out – re-identifying the need for and usefulness of everything it contains. With an eleven-room home, she gives herself the holidays off and then starts from the beginning – giving each room another do over. Organized drawers, filed papers, freshly caulked and painted woodwork, windows, light fixtures, etc. – once a year.

Oddly enough, one of my comforting childhood memories is coming home from school and finding my mother embedded in this process. The house smelled clean, the tidiness felt safe, and I knew she was taking pride in our home – providing an environment where we could flourish.

Personally, I’ve developed a comfort level with dust bunnies that may not be entirely healthy. I’m honest enough to say that I have yet to master this seemingly simple system but I strive to make it happen and can at least attest that the gratification of having accomplished one entire room has been amazing!

Some people I’ve known only deep clean when they move from place to place, others do a Spring cleaning annually, and my good friend found solace in creating a deep clean rotation. No matter the specific procedure or the direct timing, it always feels good once you’ve…

Deep clean something.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#313 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#313

Try new recipes

At the age of 12, I found myself responsible for making dinner for my family several times a week. My recipe collection was limited limited to the three things that I recalled my mother making… Tuna Noodle Casserole, Meatloaf, and Spaghetti with meat sauce. That’s it. Sadly, those meals went into a rotation that seemed endless. So much so, that my siblings still resist anything resembling those entrees.

When my children were small, getting them to eat was a challenge sometimes and so I leaned into the pattern of making the dinners I knew wouldn’t be met with opposition. They were mostly uninventive, predictable, mundane, and bland. Eating wasn’t much fun for the adults in the house.

 

Until I made an effort to try new recipes.

I’m not talking about exorbitant delicacies from Bon Appetite, but those from Rachel Ray or Ina Garten; maybe even a really simple – follow the picture – recipe from Tasty that proliferates our Facebook and Instagram feeds.

A great way to explore new recipes and flavor combinations is to use a meal delivery service such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated or the half dozen others that are now in the market. We’ve tried several and what they share is variety from the meals I’ve cooked for decades now. Using a meal service has allowed us to regenerate an interest in cooking again. We’ve been introduced to foods like Israeli Couscous and Lemon Risotto; using olive oil and lemon zest more than ever before.

The meal service allows you to try different recipes without committing to an entire package of something as they send only enough for that particular meal. If you find that lamb with mint jelly isn’t your thing then at least you won’t be throwing away an entire jar of it.

We challenged ourselves to introduce a new recipe into our evening routine at least once a week when we weren’t using a meal service and the intrigue continued, anticipating the preparation and new flavor combos. Who knew that stimulating our dinner routine was a easy as …

Trying new recipes.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.