Make Happiness Top Priority

 

thumb_img_0793_1024What would change in your life if you decided make happiness your top priority?

Edwin Edebiri, thinks that happiness needs to be our default position and has declared himself the Chief Happiness Officer. Listen to his Ted- ex talk here. Happiness as a Default Position
He speaks to a core belief that happiness is a state you deserve to enjoy and everyone can find happiness. I agree that happiness is a state of mind that improves when you pay attention to what does make you happy. What I like about his talk is the idea that self-compassion or the ability to forgive your self is a key component to happiness.
I pulled a few ideas that appealed to me from his talk.

How to make Happiness your priority in life
1. Decide to be happy
2. Smile more and learn to laugh at yourself
3. Create a gratitude list, include what makes you happy
4. Create a list of all the things that make you unhappy and seek solutions
5. Eliminate some things that that contribute to unhappiness
6. Be active and make healthy choices for self care
7. Create a dream list and take actions towards your dreams
8. Play
Is it really that easy to become happier?

There is research that supports that idea of happiness linked to attitude and your focus on need satisfying goals. Remember that these are goals that nourish and support you, not just achievement goals.
Goals that nourish you can be long-term projects that you work on over time. Happiness comes from taking good care of your self in small ways.

What makes me happy?
I have small things that make me happy: hearing a bird sing, riding my bike instead of driving to the store, connecting with people on a summer walk, swimming and a quiet start to the day drinking tea. Consider the small things that you find pleasure in. What does make you feel good? It can be an activity or something you view or appreciate. When you pause at the end of every day and create a gratitude list, it gives you a reason to be happy. In hectic times the only thing we really can control is our attitude.

Look at the ideas above and find what fits your needs. Try one or two of them and see what happens.  Really it can be that easy to enjoy happy moments.
Need some other ways to check your happiness level? Schedule a call with Coach Gwen

Responsibility- Is this Mine?

When did I first learn that I was responsible?  Some where in the lesson of responsibility – I twisted up what I was responsible for. I took on the belief that I was responsible for all others first, that I was responsible for other people. That I was responsible for happiness, feelings, outcomes, being perfect, doing it all.

That other people’s feelings and needs came before mine. I used to think that doing things for others was important and I was not important.  Now I reject that belief and have let go of my idea of being responsible for the entire universe.  Are you really in charge of the universe today? Only when I ask myself that out loud does it sound silly.

Responsibility is a habit that is difficult to sort out at times. I am at heart a responsible person. It is the order of my belief that has changed. I cannot be helpful, compassionate or caring when I am overwhelmed or carrying the weight of all responsibility around with me. What happens if you pick up every task or problem that you see? How many of these problems or rocks can you carry and still keep moving without impacting your own health?

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On good days, I will gently hand you back the responsibility you attempt to pass over to me. On bad days, I will say yes to anything asked of me, and then get angry or upset when I realize I have taken on too much responsibility again. When I carry around things for other people, there is no space in my life for me. I am important. I need to be responsible to me before you.  Another lesson to be learned.

When I do forget and slip back into that outdated idea of what is mine, I am able to remind myself by asking better questions.  Is this really mine? Pause. Say no before yes. Who does this belong to? Why would you ask me that? Is this mine?

I am responsible.

I am responsible for my own happiness.

I am responsible for self -care, honoring my feelings, being kind to myself.

I believe that self- care is critical to self- development and growth.

I am responsible for me.

The Emotional Roller Coaster

The Emotional Roller Coaster- Cancer

What are your options when you know your emotions are running your life and you really need to find a center balance point to be there for your loved one?

How do you be the support person when your friend is upset and having difficulty dealing with loss or grief ?

I wish I could give you the right formula that would help you every time.

I can only share what I learned about accepting my emotions without letting them take over my life.

I now view my emotions as waves. Emotional waves can be large or small, expected or unexpected. You can learn to swim with your emotions by accepting them as just your feelings of the moment.

I hate crying, yet I have cried more the last 30 days than the last 30 years. I hate not having the answers, yet there are some questions that have no answers. I like having a plan and knowing what will happen next. Cancer of a loved one does not give you that option. Making plans is a waste of time and energy. Living on an emotional roller coaster is exhausting and unsustainable. So what do you do?

Most of us have tried two things, ignore your emotions or stuff them away to deal with some day. Some day never comes, so that is the same as ignoring them.

Ignoring emotions allow them to build up to a crisis where you are likely to explode over trivial things. Learning to accept and work with your emotions will allow you to accept them as an experience instead of a stress trigger.
Here are three ideas that have helped me stay steady and calm.

First: Accept the fact that you have emotions and they will show up unexpectedly.

Second: Recognize your feelings and acknowledge them. I do that my naming them.

Third: Ask yourself “what do I need right now?” as a way to focus on actions that support you in time of chaos.

Self-care will take many forms. I thrived on reading, exercising and focusing on small daily routines that brought me comfort. Judith Oeloffs’ book Emotional Freedom was useful for my handling this sudden change in my life. She describes emotional freedom as a chance to become better. “ To make this a reality, you must begin to see each event of your life, uplifting or hurtful, earthshaking or mundane as a chance to grow stronger, smarter, more light-bearing. “ My definition has been simpler. Emotional freedom means to flex your emotional muscles on a regular basis until you accept them as part of you. Do your current strategies work for handling emotions? Reach out and start stretching those emotional muscles by connecting with other people, a trusted friend, a coach.

 

Do you Have Spring Fever?

What is spring fever? The common definition is restless and distractive behavior brought on by changes in weather and daylight. It seems that spring weather brings out my urge to clean out my closets, start new projects and reflect on how I am spending my time. I use the wild ups and downs of the weather patterns in Colorado to refocus, slow down and think. Some days we get clear sunny days and I just want to be outside. Then when it snows or hails again I get this urge to take massive action on projects and complete undone tasks.

 

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Why does the weather or longer sunny days affect our mood or behavior? I know there is a research-based answer; I am more interested in what longer sunny days can do for us. Do you feel like skipping work and spending the day outside? Is that an outrageous thought? Have you really looked at how much you work lately? What would it take to get you outside and enjoying the weather more often? Spring weather can be an opportunity to reflect, reassess and make changes that allow you to feel centered and happy with how you spend your time.

 

Is there a cure for spring fever? Yes. Get outside. Spend time on things just for you. Stop doing everything for others. Start doing things for yourself. Start with a change of pace. Slow down and pay attention to how you feel and what you really need. Then decide what actions will support you in this changing season. Short-term ideas are simple steps.

  • Create a change in your daily routine.
  • Get outside more often
  • Do something just for the fun of it
  • Be social
  • Take a trip for a day or longer
  • Be lazy and unproductive for a full day

A good solution to make a lasting change is to take a day to reflect and consider what you want from life. What do you want more of in your life? What do you want to spend less time doing? Dream big. Consider all options before you start making plans. Review your long-term goals. Break those down into shorter actions that you can do daily or weekly. Use this changing spring weather to create a positive space in your life for healthy change.

 

Why tracking success makes you feel better

Why does tracking your success make you feel better?
Do you stop and celebrate completed projects or successful actions ?
If you are like most of us, you are too focused on mistakes or failures to pay any attention to what you did accomplish this week, month or year. The habit of keeping failure or mistakes in mind negates our success and allows us to be discouraged about any hope of self development or improvement. This year try starting a new practice of keeping a success journal. Writing down your successes helps you become more empowered. Once you write something down, your subconscious reminds you that you are successful and accomplished. Celebrate actions steps as they get completed. The ability to acknowledge your self for a completed task reinforces the habit of getting things done.
Why is it important to celebrate success? Taking the time to remind ourselves of what we 4are proud of achieving builds self confidence and motivates us to strive for new goals.
What do you consider worth celebrating? That answer is very personal. Anything that you have worked hard on or been persistent in making happen counts. I make a year end list of everything that I have accomplished. My list this year includes reducing my paper files by one drawer, swimming twice a week, getting a twitter account and facilitating a leadership retreat for women. I am proud of one hike on a very high steep trail. If I had tried this alone, I would have turned around because I am not comfortable in high exposed places. I let friends help me through the tough spots. The reward was the most amazing view of the summer: once I could sit down and enjoy the view. Your list will be unique to you. Try this as an exercise. Sit down in a quiet space. Use paper or computer. Write for one hour everything that you can think of over the last year that you accomplished. Don’t censor it or analyze the list, just let your thoughts flow out. Enjoy the feeling of success as you read and review that list.
Here are some questions to help you with your flow of accomplishments.
What did I learn?
What challenged me?
What habits have supported my self care?
How have I contributed to my community?
What have you achieved that surprised you?
What smaller steps have you made towards bigger goals?
What are you most proud of?
Now decide how you want to celebrate all these amazing accomplishments. Do something just for you that is nurturing and rewarding. Paying attention to your success steps will build confidence and your overall appreciation of your skills and expertise. Enjoy and have fun with this new habit of celebrating your success.

How to manage your stress

stress does not have to wreck your day

stress does not have to wreck your day

Stress is a normal reaction to events that occur around us. How we manage or react to stressful situations is the key to stress being a positive challenge or a negative impact on our health. Here are some ideas to put into action so your life feels more under your control.

  1. Practice gratitude. This one action alone has been linked to increased happiness. Start small with writing down one thing that you are grateful for at the end of every day.
  2. Positive self talk. Too often our internal self talk is negative and critical. How helpful is that to learning from our mistakes? Listen to your own self talk. Be kind to yourself and consider what you have achieved every day instead of what is left undone
  3. Learn to say no.  Stop saying yes to all requests or taking on new responsibilities. This is the path towards overwhelm. Stop and consider what each request really means. Does this request fit my goals? What will I learn? What will I have to give up to start this new project. Then only say yes if this new idea fits your needs.
  4. Plan ahead. Take the time to plan out your day or your week. You make better decisions on what is important when you are focused on what you need. Identify one most important thing for each day.
  5. Avoid negative people. You know who they are. These are the people who complain, blame and point out the negative of every situation.
  6. Reduce your clutter. I know why we get piles of things, there never seems enough time to deal with the  stuff on our desk or in a closet. Start small and take 30 min to sort out your piles.  See how it feels to clear out one area.
  7. Socialize with friends.  Being out with other people in a social setting gives you a different perspective on life. A strong connection with other people supports your own wellbeing and emotional health.
  8. Play. Play with your kids, your friends and your pets. Do something fun. Laughter and play are great ways to lighten your mood.
  9. Practice self care. Be aware of what you need to recharge or reenergize at the end of a busy day. Take the time to do something nice for yourself today.
  10. Appreciate beauty around you.  Sometimes we get so stuck in the clutter of our brain that we forget to focus on the external environment. Stop and notice the bigger things in life. Admire a sunrise, clouds, work of art or anything that grabs your attention.

Any change takes a while to become a habit. Try one of these ideas and see what happens. A healthy lifestyle is based on making small changes over time. Get started by takin this stress assessment. Do you know your stress triggers?

Lessons from the Colorado Trail

Lessons from the trail

I am fortunate enough to live in Colorado and spend time outside in the wilderness. What I love about back packing is my physical body gets challenged and my brain has to stay focused on the current situation.  A day on the trail is an experience in gratitude where I can embrace the sounds, smells and beauty of nature. This practice of being mentally in the moment is not that easy to accomplish in a busy hectic world of multi- tasking and ongoing interruptions.

Here are some lessons from my exploration of a passion that took me  step by step over parts of the Continental Divide Trail last month.

  • Self care is critical to your overall enjoyment  of the day
  • Self awareness  and immediate action  based on your needs will prevent exhaustion
  • You could miss the whole experience if you are too focused on the end result
  • You need food, sleep and good energy to tackle the tough challenges ahead
  • There is a mental freedom in doing the thing you most want to do for yourself
  • Preparation and planning are part of the process
  • You are the expert in taking care of your own needs- don’t let others tell you differently
  • Confidence comes from small steps of daily accomplishments
  • Ask for help and support when you have big projects
  • Be flexible in your goals
  • Celebrate what you achieve every day

My biggest lesson was in the power of monitoring my emotional, physical needs on a regular basis over many days. When you walk into the wilderness your safety depends on your physical ability to travel the distance and be mentally able to make smart decisions based on your environment. How does that translate into self care in a busy hectic world? Try asking yourself these questions every hour for one full day.

How am I feeling? What do I need? Then what actions can you take to get what you need for self care today? When you hit a big challenge- slow down and breath. It only takes a moment – yet that breathing exercise will allow you to keep focused on your path.

If you get exhausted by the end of a day-what do you need to do differently to end the day feeling satisfied and accomplished? I would invite you to spend time doing what you are passionate about. Allow yourself to fully embrace that activity. Enjoy the feelings that you experience in your own daily adventure. If you are struggling with your current path: ask me about coaching and how that could make your travels easier. Contact me for a strategy session on how to make your path simpler.

What do I Believe

What do I believe?

This is a question that many of us don’t slow down long enough to think about. We get busy doing things and moving forward reacting to events and situations as they occur. Let me explain the value of having clarity on your core values and what you believe.

Our internal beliefs guide our daily decisions, even when we don’t think about them.  If I have a core belief that working harder is the best way to get ahead- than I work long hours without thinking about it. That belief in hard work may override any concerns about having a balanced life outside of work.

Where do beliefs come from? Our beliefs are built on experience and information gathered from other people and situations.  Our beliefs can be based on the past and no longer relevant or helpful in the present. Some beliefs come from hearing repeated information that is not accurate. Can you think of some beliefs from childhood that are not useful to you today? How do you start to pay attention to your current belief system? My favorite method is to use an journal. A journal that asks you to pay attention to what is working or not working in your life, will give you some ideas on where to make positive changes.

creative-writing-reflective-journaling

Keeping a journal is a proven way to help you increase your awareness on how beliefs impact your actions on a regular basis.

What helps you sort and redefine  beliefs is the ability to open your mind to different perspectives. Learn from other view points. Be curious. Ask questions. Understand that there are a variety of perspectives on any given subject. Gather all the knowledge that you can. Then make decisions based on your own conclusions.  Ask yourself how your beliefs serve you? Where do they hinder or create obstacles for you?  When you have a basic set of operating beliefs they can make decisions easier.  Your actions and decisions feel right to you when you are operating based on your beliefs. If you are uncomfortable about a decision, explore what is really  bothering you. Here are a few of my basic beliefs.

  • I believe that I am responsible for my own happiness
  • I believe that it is my responsibility to speak up for my own needs and concerns
  • I believe in treating other people with kindness and respect
  • I believe that self care is critical to personal development and professional growth

I challenge you to create your own list of beliefs – then reflect on how they guide your actions.

Keep the beliefs that help you and toss out the old ones that just get in your way. Try an online journal for free with Spiral Coaching.  What you get is a private space for your own self development or an innovative way to interact with  Coach Gwen.

Sign up for a Free Journal

Are you a critic or a coach?

I have had clients who feel or believe that pushing themselves harder is the best way to get good results. They strive for perfection and are overly critical of the outcomes even when it appears that they are successful. I recently read a good description of this pattern in Leaders Playbook* by Reldan Nadler. Nadler asks if you are on your side or on your case?

Here are the consequences of being your own worst critic

  • You are never satisfied with your performance-which leads to low self confidence
  • You are disappointed in the outcomes which leads to feeling unhappy and miserable
  • You unconsciously –  treat others the same way you treat yourself- being very picky, negative and never satisfied

All of those results lead to a frustrating cycle with no end in sight. Consider how you could instead focus on learning and ongoing improvement acting as you own coach.

What are the indications that you are acting as your own coach instead of a critic?

A coach would focus on what you learned from the day along with your results. How could you improve is important but not the only factor. A coach is encouraging and challenging expecting your best effort to be something to be celebrated.  A coach expects you to reflect monitor and adjust your actions to keep moving towards your expected goal. As  a coach here are some questions to ask yourself that will develop the habit of ongoing learning.

  • What did I learn today?
  • What did I accomplish today?
  • Where could I improve ?
  • What to I want to focus my efforts on next?

Start by just being aware of how you talk to yourself through the day. Are you realistic or overly critical about your actions?

Check that your expectations and goals are realistic.  Be your own coach instead of a critic.  See how that impacts your feelings and ability to recover and move forward.

 

Inner-Critic

* Nadler, R. (2007). Leaders Playbook- how to apply emotional intelligence keys to great leadership. Santa Barbara: Psyccess Press

Extreme Kindness Week

Collegiate West CO Trail/ CD 12,548

I live in a mountain town, where extreme sports and outdoor adventures are common.

People will spend weeks and months getting ready for a local event because they enjoy the challenge and like to be in top physical shape. I enjoy outside exercise and it does reenergize me by just spending time outside. I think it is important to recognize and start any exercise program right where you are. Recognize that most of us are not and will not be top competitive athletes. So rather than compare our performance on anything to the top elite competitors, what if we appreciated ourselves for where we are performing right now.

What if there was a competition for extreme kindness?

What if you had to practice being considerate of others and kind to yourself every day to get ready for this event?
How would you treat yourself if being kind to yourself was the key to success?

I am going to define kindness as when you recognize all the positive things in your day and appreciate what you have accomplished. Unkindness would be to point out and focus on any mistake, disappointments or things not done exactly right. Then you would berate yourself for all of them repeatedly.

For extreme kindness week take up this challenge for yourself.

Be aware of how much of your talk is positive.

Can you rephrase things to point out the positive side first?
Listen to your self-talk this week and be aware of what you are saying to yourself.

How much of your talk is negative?

How much of your talk is positive?

Do you allow for mistakes and learn from them?

Do you review every mistake over and over again feeling worse each time your review it?

How would your treat yourself if extreme kindness was your only focus?

Take up the extreme kindness week challenge with a friend and see what you learn

Kindness is part of the ability to be optimistic. Optimism is a key characteristic of resilient people: those people who are good at handling stressful situations. Looking for the positive aspects in self and others is a way to build up your own internal optimism, while practicing kindness.

Amazingly when you focus on kindness  in your own life, you will find kindness does exist everywhere.

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