It’s all about the small things

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We all have experienced self-talk, which is an ongoing, internal narration of what happens any given moment in a person’s life.  Self-talk can take a positive, negative or neutral tone.  If left unmonitored, this inner commentary can work overtime to create different versions of reality that may or may not be serving you anymore.  What if your self-talk was always kind?  Imagine how good that would feel.  I bet your sense of Self would be very positive and secure, and your stress levels would be very low.  What would it look like if you never thought a negative thing about yourself?  Looks pretty good, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case for most of us. Over a lifetime, we slowly and subtly use more and more negative self-talk.  I see it in my three-year-old daughter.  Every time I hear her say something negative about herself I can’t help but wonder if I had taught that to her through my example, or if she had picked it up somewhere along the road of life. Regardless of how and why we develop negative self-talk, it’s important to me that I get rid of it for both of our sakes.

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It’s so easy to have all these pre-loaded insults just waiting in your head for a mishap. When you stub your toe: I’m such a wreck! Drop your pen: What’s wrong with me today? Forget something important: I’m so stupid.  Sometimes you just don’t like the way you are looking and all of a sudden:  I am always ugly.  You justify it with ;  everyone thinks like this.  It’s normal to think like this because I can’t remember not doing it.  It doesn’t affect me at all. In actuality, everyone does NOT think like this.  It does not have to be the norm, just because you don’t remember not doing it.  Even though it takes less than one second to totally insult yourself, the impact on you is abrasive, serious and lasting.  

Sure, those around you may not see that you are constantly down on yourself. But what matters is that you are seeing, hearing, and feeling that you are down on yourself because you take those hits and carry them with you 24 hours a day.  What if I told you that you don’t have to have negative self-talk anymore?  Could it be as easy as just noticing when you do it, then correcting it on the spot?  You catch yourself throwing this one:  Gah, I’m such a hot mess!  Instead of letting that self-talk sit, correct it:  Actually, I’m just tired because I stayed up too late last night.  I’ll get more sleep tonight.  

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These micro stories seem like nothing at all, but I challenge you to total them up and keep a tally for one day.  How many times do you belittle yourself in a week?  A month? A year? Your whole life?  Imagine if you were able to save all those insults from just one day, and instead of saying them to yourself, you were saying them to a six-year-old.  What do you think the impact would be on that child?  What if that six-year-old heard these things every day?  Well, that six-year-old is your inner child.  That playful, innocent side you have.  You have been telling that child all these seemingly small, negative things as far back as you can remember and, over time, this pattern has created a burdenous weight that gets in your way; yet, that child is worthy and lovable and deserves to hear the best things.

This brings us to our second challenge.  For the next seven days, I want you to notice every time you start to get down on yourself.  When you notice it, flip it to something positive, or just laugh at yourself.  If you are successful at doing this, you will see the true impact of self-talk as you start feeling better with all of the praise you’re showering on yourself and your psyche.  Have compassion on yourself, and you will have it for all those with whom you come in contact with.  Trust me, you’ll be happier for it, and others will be happier to be around a more confident, radiant you…  Also, drink more water. Your inner child is thirsty. cup-939479_640.jpg

White Lies

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I woke up late, plain and simple.  I had a massage appointment that I was supposed to be at in ten minutes.  The first thing that went through my head was whether I should just not call and go sit in a coffee shop to steal this time for much-needed work.  I’m always on time and dependable, so I can get away with it, is the story I began to tell myself.  Then I noticed a negative sensation in my body.  Nope.  Not doing that.  I’m going to go to my appointment, just late.  But what should I say?  Over the years, I have trained myself to be able to come up with many things to say in a moment like this. Sure, it was a lie, but a small one that makes everyone get along better… Traffic.  I was stuck in traffic.  That’s what I’ll say.  No, I needed something less generic.  My kid.  She made me late.  No again.  I had car problems.  It may be my battery or alternator.  No, I needed something more extreme.  I know what I’ll say.  I locked my keys in the car and am waiting for my family member to bring my other key!    My mind went on like this for some time.  But all this felt wrong in my body.

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What would I tell someone in my situation?  What am I always saying to people around me?  Tell the truth.  Don’t make up a lie.  Lies don’t feel good in your body. You never have to remember the truths you say, but you always need to remember the lies you told, so you can keep them straight.  It’s too much work to live like that.    My body was trying to remind me of something I already knew.  I didn’t notice all the stress and anxiety that I had created in myself until I had decided to speak the truth and say what happened.  I called, apologized to the receptionist and told her facts.  I was in luck. No one was scheduled after me and I wouldn’t have to pay the $50 inconvenience fee. It could have easily gone the other way, but I’d still be free of guilt.

5832764969_a82e5a6ae6_zIt is important to understand the risks associated with the dark side of storytelling. There are dangers that come with being stuck in that rut and using this powerful tool to evade the truth of a situation.  On the flip side, you can use storytelling to create many positive things in your life.  It is my hope that I can help you identify the difference between the light and dark side of storytelling. We’ll discuss that further in another post but, I’ll tell you, the best way to tell the difference is to know what is a positive or negative story and why you are telling it.  For instance, if you are telling a story to avoid a situation, it’s most likely negative.  But if you are using your imagination to overcome  a repeated story, a fear of public speaking perhaps, and you tell yourself that you can speak to a room full of people and not feel like a deer in head lights, even though it scares you just the same, then this is a positive story.

Things to remember for now

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  • See the situation for what it is.  Some people call this being present or stepping back from the situation.
  • Ask yourself, how does this help?
  • Eliminate negative self-talk from yourself.  I can’t, is no longer something you say or even think in your head.
  • Remember to take a deep breath.
  • Role play: What advice would you give to someone in the same situation?

How to Relax in a Modern World

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It’s no secret, relaxing is good for you.   But knowing how to relax is a whole different concept.   I used to think that I needed a cup of tea and calm music to relax at home. When I heard the word relax, I’d see my favorite camping spot near the river.   I never noticed how much I misunderstood the concept.   To me, there was only one way to relax, and it was a drawn out ritual. This mindset actually told me that relaxing was a hard thing to do because the conditions had to be just right.    Luckily over the years, I have learned a few things along the way that I would like to pass on to you.   Personally, I need facts before I can really get behind concepts.   So, here are a few beneficial things to know about relaxing.

Relaxing can:

  • Reduce stress hormones
  • Slow your heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Slow breathing
  • Increase blood flow to major muscles
  • Reduce muscle tension, which can help alleviate aches and pains
  • Improve concentration and mood
  • Lower fatigue
  • Reduce anger and frustration
  • Boost confidence

The great news is that anyone can learn to relax with very easy and simple techniques. You also only need a few minutes in your day to relax, but the effects are long lasting. Look, I know what you’re thinking.   You’re thinking it’s easy to say that it only takes a few minutes to relax and count your breath, but that you simply don’t have enough hours in the day.   You don’t have time to relax.    So from one very busy person to another, I will share where I have found the moments already present in my day, as well as quick techniques I use to relax when cultivating these moments.

Right after I park my car

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That’s right.  I find that it is important for me to get to work at least ten to fifteen minutes
early so I don’t feel rushed.  I close my eyes and count backwards from 20 down to 1.  While I do this, I imagine myself writing the numbers on in the sand, and erasing them before writing the next number.   Once I count from 20 down to 1, I just hang out in my mind and let it drift from thought to thought.   But, if I start thinking about the things I need to do, or things that I don’t find calming, I make a mental note and put it on a shelf in my mind so I can get it later.    After a few minutes, I open my eyes, show up to work early and am unfazed by the stresses life has to offer.   This whole process takes anywhere from three to five minutes. If you are worried about getting too comfortable, you can either make a voice recording with your mobile device of this process or download a meditation timer. My favorite meditation timer is Insight Timer.

I pay attention to my shoulders

They tell me very fast when I get stressed or uncomfortable.   When I notice that my shoulders are not relaxed, it tells me to pay attention to why they are not relaxed in the first place.   Once I identify that, I make sure I take deeper breaths and slow my breathing down.   I imagine that my slow deep breaths relax my shoulders.   I focus on the shoulders and notice how good it feels to have them not be tense. Once they relax I just enjoy a few deep breaths and go along with my business.   The more you try this, the easier it becomes do while you are talking to people.   They may not notice what you are doing, but if you watch them, they visibly relax too.   You can do this for any muscle tension as well.  Just breathe into the tension and will it away.

I remember a really, really good memory

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For me, it’s usually a really funny, relaxed, or loving memory.   Whatever it may be, I just recall everything about that really, really good memory.   I close my eyes and see it as if it was happening right in front of me for the first time.   I hear the sounds and feel the good feelings in my body.   At this point, I’m already feeling really good.   But it gets so much better.   Once I have locked on to my happy thought, I make the image bigger and brighter. Colors more vivid.   The wonderful feelings more intense.   I start to notice where the feelings are located in my body.  For me, it’s a warm feeling in the center of my chest.   It also spins in a certain direction.   So I make the warm spinning feeling spin faster and faster and notice that good feeling just intensifies.   By this time, I have a huge smile on my face, I’m feeling super happy, and super relaxed.   This whole process only takes a minute or two.   The feeling stays with me for a very long time throughout my day.

I’m all about finding the path of least resistance in my life.   Finding quick shortcuts to feeling calm and relaxed has been so beneficial and exciting for me.   When you do these exercises a few times and find a good routine you begin to notice how much time in the day was devoted to feeling stressed out for no good reason.   When you really think about it, it’s easy to see that we all have the power to transform a bad day into a good one with little effort.   To me, it makes the art of feeling good so much less intimidating because it means I don’t have to meditate on a mountaintop, or seek out a Zen master.   But both will tell you exactly this, you already have everything you need to be happy.