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

My goal is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#355

Jigsaw puzzles

I’m not quite sure why puzzles have such a bad rap. In my younger days we put puzzles together, mod podged them (wasn’t that the original use for mod podge?), and use them as inexpensive wall art. After all… we spent all that time putting it together and it felt sinful to instantaneously break it back into pieces and box it up.

I guess that’s one of the arguments against puzzles. Why bother if you are going to undo it? Furthermore, puzzles are like books for some – once you do it, there’s no enjoyment in a repeat experience so it may feel rather futile all together.

I may argue however, that puzzles are a great tool in the pursuit of mindfulness. They encourage our attention and concentration unlike television or reading. They allow us to simultaneously converse and engage. They provide a common ground and in some cases, allow for teamwork (“help me find this red piece”).

Having a puzzle ready for assembly is a great tool for breaking habits. When it sits out and is available as a distraction tool, it can replace energy that might otherwise be directed toward a smoke or snack break. It’s something that can be addressed five minutes at a time or in a five hour stint without recourse. Indeed, it’s a terrific – non-electronic – way to spend a rainy afternoon with a little Bon Jovi in the background and a glass of wine in the non-dominant hand.

In the UK at least, puzzles are making a comeback. So much so that puzzle manufacturers there are adding staff for the first time in decades. And, if you want to get REALLY serious… the big kids, the puzzle kings, the masters… have compiled this list of puzzles for the especially dedicated. The top one having 48,000 (!!!) pieces.

I suggest the use of jigsaw puzzles to clients who are anxious as a means of helping them to slow down, focus, and learn to quiet. As one might imagine, this suggestion is frequently met with resistance and lots of objections. “I don’t have time / space / patience…” – yada, yada. My rebuttal is a questioning  rise of the eyebrows to challenge the rote response. There is not a legitimate objection (in my mind) as we all could benefit from giving up 30 min of television or Instagram time in favor of some mindful moments with a partner or child searching for the ‘brown corner barn piece’ or ‘the inside of that pink flower’. Beginning your puzzle on a puzzle mat (a yoga mat works) so that it can be rolled up and tucked out of the way without disturbing your work typically nullifies the rest of the objections.

A simple way to increase your mindful activity, reduce anxiety, and increase family time is found in the pursuit of …

Jigsaw puzzles.

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

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

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#356

Keep a running list of to-do items

For years now, I’ve kept a running list of to-do items on my computer desktop. I keep it open so that it is easily accessible when I think of something to add. I add everything… even those things that are more wish list than to-do matters. When items are completed, they get deleted.

I acknowledge that this technique isn’t necessarily advantageous to everyone. I often suggest it to clients as a method to be more organized and I see varying reactions. Perfectionists sometimes feel too anxious to leave something open and undone at the end of a day. People who think more concretely may react to the inclusion of ‘wish list’ items as too indefinite.

The benefits out weigh the objections in my opinion. I think we all have had moments when we can’t remember what we wanted to do in reference to a particular project, or we’ve had the experience of doing one thing and then thinking we should have included another but forgot it had been a consideration.

I glance at my list when I head to Home Depot, the mall, or my local craft store… how many times have I returned from the home improvement store only to remember that I wanted to get spray paint for another project, a decorative knob, or a specialty lightbulb? On a rainy Saturday afternoon, the list reminds me to look for a misplaced necklace, clean out the junk drawer, or fix the torn seam on my coat.

While I do sometimes use it for my day-to-day tasks, this running list is more about those obscure details that sit under our obvious awareness and, because they are not common in our thoughts, are easily forgotten.

Truth be told… some of the items on my list sit there so long they become obsolete. I had the intention of making a window seat cushion for years in my old house… it never got done. I have items like that on my list now. They are wish list pieces that keep me motivated and focused. They may or may not come to fruition, but the ideas sit there and I don’t stress about them. In fact – I appreciate that I have a forum to keep them in my consciousness. Try it!

Keep a running list of to-do items

TTAH

 

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

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

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#358

Just do it

This is one of those little pieces of advice that I must remind myself of over and over again. It’s something I know to do and yet I am resistant much of the time for a variety of reasons. It has been the Nike slogan for thirty years now and we still see it subliminally on television and in print media. Additionally, it’s been the focus of a sticky note in my home through the years more often than not.

The inner voice I hear that says “just do it” isn’t from a Nike commercial. It is a gentle and mostly loving – sometimes frustrated, innate reminder to move forward. It’s the message I give myself when I feel hesitation; when I know I am resisting.

The vocal persuasion of “just do it” when it comes from a known, inner, strong voice is significant. It’s more powerful coming from the self than from anywhere else if it is supportive and encouraging. As a dominant phrase in individual self-talk it can be a motivating reminder to stretch beyond your comfort zone, to try one more time, or to finish.

The next time you find yourself hesitating in a task, a creative effort, or an uncomfortable introspection be self-encouraging.

Just do it.

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

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

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#357 Sing

As children, we sing songs to learn things and to just have fun. We sing with carefree voices regardless of our tone. We celebrate our birthday, our school loyalty, and our patriotism through song. As we move into our teens and young adulthood we tend to associate songs with events such as first dates, key dances (prom), weddings, and fun times.

I recall singing along with favorite songs frequently in my lifetime, particularly when I was alone and happy. I never thought too hard about how good I sounded. I was just in the moment, enjoying the music, and expressing myself in unison with the beat; mostly.

When we sing, we literally send vibrations through our body and affect brain changes. Studies have repeatedly shown that people who sing experience less anxiety and have better quality of life. Think of the last time you saw someone in a car singing along to a song, perhaps alone and yet seeming to be in the process of intense enjoyment. Singing can produce higher levels of dopamine and oxytocin – both brain chemicals that are associated with happiness.

After a particularly challenging time in my life had started to settle, I spent a long weekend alone finishing a list of abandoned responsibilities that had been badgering my psyche. I turned on some calming music and set about the tasks at hand. Before long I realized that I was humming along to the familiar tunes and stopped for a minute because I realized it was the first time – in many years – that I found myself singing.

It was one of those things that you didn’t notice was missing until you found it. It was a moment of realization that I recall because it was proof in my own mind that the changes I had just finished making were in part, survival for me. I was singing again.

I don’t have a nightingale voice. Indeed, one of my vocal chords was paralyzed during Thyroid surgery a few years ago and since then, any ability I had to carry a tune has been impaired. Our brains don’t care about tone – they care about the act of singing – the rise in happy chemicals. The point is to sing, with or without other people; with or without accompaniment; with or without the right lyrics…

Just sing.

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

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

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#359

Sticky Notes

Use them everywhere! Students know this of course, and perhaps it was during my time as a graduate pupil that I discovered the absolute value of having a little piece of paper that would stay wherever I wanted it to be. Of course it was great for books – I used them as bookmarks for important points, to keep track of research, and to denote piles of reference materials.

A short note on the door to remember my keys, phone, purse, lunch, yada, yada… the usual.

And then I discovered that I could use them to remind me of ALL The things I wanted to remember or more importantly… learn.

When I wanted to be more kind to myself the sticky notes would be little notes of inspiration; “you’ve got this”, “do your best today”, and “don’t worry about it”.

If I was trying to turn my inner voice into more positive and encouraging self-talk, the notes would say “Just do it!”, “Your best is good enough”, and “Keep going”.

If I was working on a new mantra it would be posted over and over…. “trust”, “be still”, or “let go”.

There wasn’t just one sticky note. No… it was wallpaper. It was a whole pad of sticky notes displayed one after another in the places that I was most likely to see them several times throughout the day.

Over the kitchen sink.

On the wall in front of the toilet.

Near and ON my computer monitor.

The drawers in my closet.

The lampshade next to my bed.

Duplicates and bold colors to grab my attention.

Learning something new – retraining the mind takes repetition and time. I used sticky notes like hands free index cards and just glanced at them over and over until my brain automatically saw it without looking and I knew it was solidly in there.

It’s a technique I talk about often and I know many clients use it successfully… it’s pretty basic but it works.

Sticky notes.

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

 

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

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#360

Appreciate nature

So, maybe the ‘tree huggers’ were on to something. It seems as though literally embracing nature is good for mental health and fosters happiness. There is a certain homeostasis in the outdoors to which our internal barometers react positively. While it’s better to get outside on a sunny day to absorb as much of that Vitamin D as possible, studies tell us just communing with the great mother earth in any capacity will bolster our feel good rating.

It can be a walk in the fog which offers a distinct visual perspective that ignites our sense of mystery and wonder. Perhaps taking a stroll in the rain that excites your auditory system from the sound of the droplets on an umbrella to the great rolls of thunder in the dense sky above. It might even be as simple as sitting in the center of your backyard as you watch the squirrels scamper across a fence or the branches of a nearby tree as you notice how the evergreens have sprouted new spring growth.

There is so much to notice and hence, appreciate about the natural state of our planet and its animal inhabitants. Even though I work diligently to keep them away from my kitchen counters, I easily find myself mesmerized by the workings of an outdoor ant colony and could make their trail the focus of a meditation without much effort.

No excuses here. Even city dwellers can step outside and look up. All kinds of birds allow us a window to the appreciation of one of Mother Natures wonders. The goal is to see, acknowledge, and appreciate the essence of nature and its interwoven magic.  Just a few minutes at a time; deliberate and with attention…

Appreciate nature.

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

Photo on Foter.com

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

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#361

Open your hands and let it go.

Coping literature and psychological dictates frequently make suggestions that are parodied into concepts which, insist we “just let it go”, “forgive and move on”, or “get over it”, to name a few. The idea/concept is great and truly I think most of us attempt to follow any advice that implies we will move away from something that instils emotional pain.

I’ve talked to hundreds of people over time that have certainly heard and/or read that advice but have failed in finding peace. Eventually, the question is raised “so how is it done? How do you ‘let go’ of something?”

There are plenty of strategies but the one that has worked the best for me when necessary and is reported to be a successful option by many of my clients is the practice of holding your hands open flat when imagining that you are letting go (literally) of the thing that you wish to disappear. I must admit to the absence of any scientific evidence validating the efficacy of this gesture and yet I know enough about the way our minds organize rational thinking to believe that it simply makes sense.

In a closed position, our hands are capable of ‘holding’ something. In an open position, they are not. Our brains just don’t make the correlation of ‘holding on’ if we imagine it in our open flat hands. One caveat… letting go is not a one and done thing. The trick is to open your hands EVERY time a thought / feeling you are attempting to diminish, presents itself.

Thought arrives > vocalize “let go” while opening hands.

As often as that thought shows up. Try it and let me know how you do!

Just open your hands and ‘let it go’.

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

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365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive; #362

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#362

One Deep Breath

Just one. A deep breath gives you a moment – often a necessary moment – to pause and collect. It can be used in almost every situation I can think of for that extra second, we may need to self-monitor.

Use a deep breath when you are a listener. Allow a breath to exist between the time a speaker stops speaking and your response. It provides the perception that you are intent on the speaker’s content as well as offers your mind valuable time to process what was spoken, fortifying your ability to respond well.

Use a deep breath to reset your adrenalin as you feel it increasing during an arousal state in an argument or political conversation. Anytime I sense my energy increasing at an inopportune time, I utilize one simple deep breath to reset it and get present.

The time it takes you to deeply inhale and slowly exhale provides your mind with an opportunity to organize thoughts. It’s an effective coping mechanism during a disagreement, a momentary memory lapse, or to calm an overwhelming flash. Our brain has an amazing ability to process tons of information in just those few seconds and can make the difference between over-reacting and staying silent.

Take one deep breath.

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

 

 

365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive; #363

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#363

Don’t interrupt

The majority of us learn a few basic social rules as we grow. We are told not to pick our noses in public and most of us remember this into adulthood. We learn not to interrupt someone speaking and yet we don’t master that skill. How can we be good at one but not the other? They are both rather gross habits.

Being a good listener depends on hearing the entire context of what we are listening to. When we interrupt a speaker, we cut short the speakers context. Often, we fill in the missing piece with a personal assumption as understood through our own lens, potentially misconstruing the speaker’s intent.

When we interrupt, we steal energy from the speaker, diminishing the value of their comment; implying that it is less important than what we need to say. At the very least, it is a show of disrespect for what they are sharing. It may validate a sense of “I don’t matter”.

If the speaker – more so than ‘what’ the speaker is saying – matters to you; Don’t interrupt. Even if the content is not your ‘thing’… if your interest in the topic is nil… if it is emotionally charged… if it is controversial… let the speaker finish an entire thought before you chime in. Imagine the respect that can be demonstrated in a conversation if the entire exchange is transacted with complete thoughts and implied value!

Don’t interrupt.

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